The transitioning of seasons
September, though still hot and humid and open to hurricane activity, will start to show signs of a slowing of growth and flowering. This makes it a good time to assess what attention should be given to the garden.
Activity will have been significant in all areas, with growth noticeable in trees, shrubs, vines and weeds.
Pest and disease will also be present though not perhaps as obvious as, in many areas, they will be camouflaged by the extent of growth. Attention to detail now will certainly be beneficial to future growth and pest and disease control; in the case of the latter it will reduce and control any infestations, especially aphids and caterpillars, which relish in feasting on new growth.
Such assessment should cover the gamut – pruning, weed control, watering, fertilising, staking, removal and addition and pest and disease control. Simply put, continuous maintenance!
The importance of a plant’s root system cannot be overemphasised as it is the structure that determines success or failure. It is the anchor for holding the plant in the ground during hurricanes, it is the conduit for the movement of water and plant nutrients from the soil to all parts of the plant; it is the life support system, regardless of external circumstances. When neglected, the signs are obvious and often too late to resuscitate!
Be systemic in the approach to the programme to be followed. For example, weeding disturbs the soil surface and, in the process, exposes weed seeds and thus new weed growth; the more footfall in a bed the more the disturbance.
Leave the weeding till last whilst concentrating on pruning and dead heading of flowers. Whilst pruning, check for pest and disease problems and treat accordingly. When weeding I would suggest using a Dutch hoe – a “pushing” tool with a bevelled sharpened edge that glides through the surface of the soil removing weed growth. If large weeds are present, remove them by hand while making sure to remove the root system to avoid regrowth.
Pruning in September allows new growth to be initiated and established before temperatures drop to the point of reduced growth activity. Pruning also dictates the shape of the plant and, of course, the new growth that will need to be pruned in the years following.
When it comes to replacement planting there should be an understanding that there needs to be regular watering until the plant is well established. Assessing existing plants for health, especially those with an ageing character, will keep the beds looking fresh and vibrant.
Plants, by their very nature, will age with time losing their vigour and appearance. This is often followed by a decline in growth and flowering.
New plants should be selected with the intended planting area foremost in the decision making – will it fit the space and have room to grow, will it impact on its neighbours etc? Such factors are crucial to the success or failure of the exercise.
The garden is a place to see and enjoy. it should give a feeling of quiet yet still be seen in its own arena whilst complementing its surrounds. Its value is in the product of visual enjoyment. But value has a price tag – in this case maintenance. If not carried out correctly it can reduce the visual impact while increasing the labour and therefore cost of the ongoing maintenance and depreciate as an asset.
To quote the venerable bard, Shakespeare: “To be or not to be, that is the question.” The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune – and labour – were a lot cheaper in those days. After all, the proof of the pudding is in the eating.
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