Just how fickle is Mother Nature?
From days of blue skies and balmy breezes we went to the turbulent overtures of Hurricane Humberto.
He came, saw and conquered all in the blink of an eye — a quick and very painful scenario that was familiar to many of us.
It is something we live with constantly each summer; in all honesty you can do only so much to reduce the impact of the “finished product”.
A few weeks have passed since Humberto hit.
The major damage will have been to branches being twisted and damaged or broken, but it’s also necessary to check root systems to determine if they have been lifted or moved.
Leaf drop will continue for several weeks as foliage was pummeled by wind and salt spray, but little rain.
A branch, in simple terms, is the source of new growth from leaf axils which are formed on nodes (knuckle-like growth) along the stem.
Branch systems create the structure of the plant, hence pruning is important to good development and helps reduce the mass of foliage and branches.
Doing so will not stop new growth from establishing and should produce a few flushes of flowers.
When pruning, make the cut to an outward-facing bud, sloping away from the node; this encourages new growth away from the centre of the plant, thus creating its overall appearance.
Pruning to an inward-facing bud creates growth that can inhibit good growth and create foliage that is too dense, allowing it to become a host for pest and disease.
On shallow soils and where plants are not in a hole that allows the strong root growth necessary to anchor the plant, movement of the roots can create a problem.
Movement can also be exacerbated when top growth is heavy and becomes an obstacle to strong winds filtering through the foliage.
A damaged root system may not be immediately obvious and if left will have an adverse effect on the future growth of the plant, especially larger specimens.
Where roots are damaged, prune back to healthy tissue; in cases of “lifting” reinstate roots in a large enough hole to accommodate without overcrowding and backfill the hole with good soil, gently tamping down to firm around the roots.
In cases of greater movement, staking may be required to hold plants in place while the root system re-establishes new growth. Gently add water in after firming.
In the case of vines being damaged, prune back to healthy growth and outward-facing node and tie back to trellis; check root system as per above.
As far as cleaning up, remove all broken and damaged branches, foliage, etc, from site or chip and compost.
Do not leave them untouched as this could encourage pests and disease.
Check for this while carrying out restorative pruning check and spray accordingly — a fertiliser application of 18-12-6 or similar should also be considered.
If replanting to fill gaps or replace material, check container plants for any signs of root or branch damage; especially check the root ball to determine it is not overcrowding the container and thus likely to become strangulated, which will affect the plant’s ongoing growth.
When large trees show damage, take advice from a tree surgeon who will climb into the canopy to check for physical damage, weak spots, pest and disease problems.
• Malcolm Griffiths is a trained horticulturalist and fellow of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture in the UK. He is also past president of the Bermuda Horticultural Society, Bermuda Orchid Society and the Bermuda Botanical Society
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