Garden Update # 2 – Mar 2013

The weeding is well under way – four beds down, and two to go. Plus the verge.

Driveway Bed

I’ve finished planting the ruellia hedge and moses-in-a-cradle along the driveway, as well as two more golden cane palms. The planting in that bed is now finished:

Driveway Bed

Driveway bed

Driveway bed

Ignore the pile of weeds in the path!

Shower Bed

The small bed next to the shower is also finished, but the bamboo is a bit out of control:

BambooI’m too scared to prune it without advice from someone in the know, as last time I pruned it, it grew even bushier. It has certainly enjoyed the massive amount of rain we’ve received in the last couple of months.

Until I find someone to advise me, I’ll be tying it up a bit so the plants under it can get sun and water.

House Bed

I’ve finally finished edging and planting up the bed that runs along the house:

House Bed

Lime tree

Newly planted section with potted lime tree

At the end of the bed, I’ve “planted” spider lily bulbs which I found lying on the ground when I weeded the lemon tree bed – I initially thought they were some sort of weird mushroom, but realised what they were when I noticed a couple of them had roots. I didn’t know which way up to lay them on the soil, but I’m sure Mother Nature will rectify any mistakes I’ve made! They’re the white dots lying around the place.

I looked on the internet, and according to all the websites I looked at, the only way to propagate spider lilies is to dig up the existing clumps and divide the bulbs. Well, the lilies in Mauritius don’t know this, because the bulbs I found were produced on the flower stalk, fell on the ground, and started to root:

Spider lily bulbFree plants – I love it! Definitely one plant you shouldn’t deadhead over here!

Lemon Tree Bed

One of the cordylines died, as did a couple of ruellia plants – they were all next to each other, so I may have inadvertently poisoned them when I was poisoning the grass. Oops!

Lemon Tree Bed

Aerial view

Other than that, everything’s growing well – especially the pawpaw tree that I planted from seed (it’s about 8 months old) – it’s currently standing at about 7 feet.

I need advice about pruning the top of the tree so that it doesn’t grow too tall – the last pawpaw tree we had grew to about 20 feet in two years. The only way to pick a pawpaw was for one person to shake the tree, and a second person to catch the fruit (or try to – mainly, they just went “splat”!). We cut it back to about 5 feet, but instead of sprouting new growth, the trunk rotted and the tree died, even though we covered the cut to stop rain from getting in.

Things I’ve Learned

Madagascan Frangipani

They fall over if they get to tall, too wet, or if it’s too windy (a bit like bananas!). That’s probably why, when you see them growing in Mauritians’ gardens, they’re usually against a wall so they receive protection from the elements. I never noticed until mine fell over.

Anyway, I gave them a radical pruning (I cut off about a metre), and tied them up.

The rash I got all over my arm from the sap is almost gone. I’ll be wearing long sleeves and gloves next time I prune them!

Ruellia

Buying tall plants is not the bargain that it seems – they’re too leggy, so they lean over, and new growth sprouts along the horizontal stems.

I imagined that my hedges would look like this:

Ruellia hedging

From a street in Quatre Bourne

Instead they look like this:

Ruellia Hedge

Ruellia Hedge

Ruellia HedgeHaha!

I’ve since noticed that Mauritians plant ruellia against walls for support.

I need a Mauritian gardening friend!

So, all the ruellia plants will also get a radical pruning, and I’ll tie them up until they get bushy enough to support each other.

Rhoeo Edging

Some sections are growing very unevenly – I think I may have bought different varieties.

Rhoeo edgingAs it stands, all the time and effort I spent ensuring that I planted in perfectly straight lines, or in sinuous curves, was wasted! I may as well have just plonked them in any old way!

Rhoeo edgingSo I’ll be replacing the uneven parts.

Even when they grow evenly, the 1 metre wide paths I planted have narrowed somewhat:

Rhoeo pathI’ll have to continually thin them out. Free plants, anyone?

That’s it for now – I’ll probably make a few more discoveries as I tackle the remaining beds, and see what’s happening under the weeds.

But I guess that’s what this whole process is about – learning how to garden in a tropical climate with a range of plants that I haven’t used before.

Hopefully I’ll finish the remaining beds in the next few days, in between weeding, poisoning, and re-sawdusting the paths.

Still, for a garden that’s less than a year old, I’m thrilled with the results so far – it’s grown so fast!

Most of it is as I imagined, and the bits that have gone wrong and that I need to fix will just make me a more knowledgeable tropical gardener in the future.

How’s that for positive thinking!

Planning the Planting

All the experts say you should plant in odd numbers or symmetrical pairs.

So I decided on groupings of three, single specimen plants, but most of all, paired, symmetrical plantings because that’s what I like best.

I also like hedging.

The experts also say that you shouldn’t have too many different plants.

I decided to ignore that.

Instead, I bought all the plants I liked, and used repetition of select plants to unify the beds.

I chose ruellia hedging, golden cane palms, daylilies, and cordylines as my repeat plants – one or more of these is in every bed.

Having decided on the plants, I drew their positions onto my drawings of the beds.

I looked at the drawings for a couple of weeks, changing things around until I was happy. Much easier to do with a pencil and rubber than with that monster hoe thing.

I had to think about what each bed would look like at both ground level, and from our 1st floor balcony.  And how they would look as you walked around them.

I also had to imagine the plants in flower and how the colours would all look together.

You need a good imagination when you’re looking at weed-infested grass.

Finally, I had to guess at how big and how quickly the plants would grow, and leave enough space for them to grow into.

I’ve spent so much time imagining what the garden would look like when it grew, that sometimes when I look at it I see thick hedges, and tall palms waving in the wind.

I’m quickly brought back to earth when the only comment our visitors make is, “At least it looks better without all those bananas”.

Still a long way to go!

There are many plants I’m not familiar with, and information on the internet doesn’t tend to be written by people living on tropical islands.

Things I’ve planted back in Perth turn into giant mutant versions of themselves here.

These dracaenas were planted less than two years ago:

Old dracaena

And this is them now:

dracaena

This was the frangipani tree when it was first transplanted three years ago:

old frangipani

and now:

frangipani

Anyway, I decided less is best – even if some things don’t grow as big or as fast as I’m allowing for, or don’t spread as quickly (eg daylilies), I can always buy fill-in plants. Easier than digging stuff up.

And if they get too big, I can always take a leaf out of my ex-gardener’s book and take a machete to them.

Take that you mutant giant!