Garden Update #6 – Feb 2014

As I mentioned, I haven’t done any gardening to speak of since November – so once again, I’ve found myself with a very overgrown and weed-infested garden.

And because I also haven’t written anything for this blog since then, I only remembered to take “before” photos once I was halfway through the clean-up. How quickly we forget!

Grass, Rhoeo Edging, and Heliconias

The grass has spread from the beds into the paths, and some paths have all but disappeared as the rhoeo edging has flourished with all the rain we’ve had:

Grass-covered path

Weeded rhoeo to the right, and grass-covered rhoeo to the left

Narrow path

When you turn the corner at the end, there is actually no visible path

Unweeded bed

Overgrown bed

Once I finish weeding, I’ll be reshaping the paths by pulling out a lot of the rhoeo. I’ll use some of them to replant areas where the rhoeo has died, or been eaten by snails:

All chewed up

All chewed up

The heliconias are also migrating into the path – I’ll dig those out when I tackle the rhoeo.

HeliconiasMealy Bugs, Pawpaw, and Frangipani

One thing I did do, was to continue weekly spraying for mealy bugs with Amidor, and other than the frangipani and pawpaw which were both way too tall to spray, all plants are now free of it.

Last week, I decided to cut the pawpaw tree down to about 5 feet to make it more manageable.

Mealy bugs

Mealy bugs

Chopped pawpaw

Pawpaw trunk

There are already signs of new growth around the trunk.

I tried “drenching” the frangipani with Amidor, which involves pouring the diluted Amidol on the ground around the tree. It gets absorbed by the roots, gets into the tree’s sap, and kills the mealy bugs when they suck on the leaves.

It didn’t work, as the frangipani is underplanted with bromeliads, and not enough of the Amidor penetrated the soil.

Square Foot Garden

The final thing that fell prey to the mealy bugs were my vegetables – nearly everything got infested with it, and as I didn’t want to spray edible plants with poison, I pulled it all out.

At the moment, I’ve only got oregano, mint, thyme, spring onions, and strawberries left, and have been using the bed to propagate cuttings instead.

After I poison the grass and weeds that are growing in it, I’ll get out my seeds, and start from scratch.

So sad!

So sad!

Dracaena Marginata

I also cut the these down to about 4ft – they had grown too tall and were hidden in the frangipani tree. Also, they were covered in sooty mould, as is everything else under the frangipani. To quote The University of California website:

Sooty molds don’t infect plants but grow on surfaces where honeydew deposits accumulate. Honeydew is a sweet, sticky liquid that plant-sucking insects excrete as they ingest large quantities of sap from a plant. Because the insect can’t completely utilize all the nutrients in this large volume of fluid, it assimilates what it needs and excretes the rest as “honeydew.” Wherever honeydew lands—e.g., leaves, twigs, fruit, yard furniture, concrete, sidewalks, or statuary—sooty molds can become established.

Bloody mealy bugs!

I’ve got the tops of the dracaenas soaking in a bucket of water in the hope that they’ll root, and I can replant them in the driveway bed. I’ll also have to wipe the leaves individually with warm, soapy water to remove the sooty mould.

Again, bloody mealy bugs!

Dracaena trunk

Pruned dracaena – it should sprout a lot of new growth soon

Dracaena

Dracaena “cuttings”

Sooty mould

Sooty mould

I’ve transplanted a third dracaena from a pot to the driveway bed – I took three 4-inch cuttings from a friend’s plant a couple of years ago, rooted them in water, planted two in the ground and the third in a pot.

The ones in the ground were over 8 feet tall before I chopped them back, and the one in the pot might be 2 feet tall if it’s lucky. Huge difference!

Gardenia

I’ll be moving this to a new spot, as it’s growing over the path:

GardeniaI don’t know whether it will survive the transplant, but if it doesn’t, I’ve got a lot of cuttings on the go.

And having it closer to the house means that the perfume might drift up to the patio. Lovely!

Mulberry Tree

I had a lot of mulberries – but as I had to spray the tree with Amidor, I didn’t get to eat a single one!

After a recent visit to the Bagatelle Shopping Centre, and seeing these planted all through the carpark:

Tibouchina

Close-up of the flowers

I’ve decided to replace the mulberry with a tibouchina tree.

They’re gorgeous!

Vaneron Garden Centre in Trianon sell them, but at rs4500 for a 1.5m tree, I think I’ll shop around for a better price! So if you’ve seen them elsewhere, please let me know.

Anyway, that’s it for now – just a bit more weeding to do, and then I can move on to more interesting things.

I couldn’t work out how to start writing this blog again after Alf died, so almost didn’t.

Now, I’m glad I did – it’s brought a sense of normality back into my life, albeit in a small way.

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!

Making the Beds, and the Gardener

Designing the Beds

In keeping with the tropical element of the garden style, I wanted a lot of curved paths that would entice the visitor to wander through and marvel at the beauty of it all.

But my drawings looked stupid.

The house is very angular, the driveway straight, and we’d had a rectangular raised bed built.

So I ended up with predominantly straight lines, with a couple of curves snuck in.

Before I did any digging, I marked the corners of the beds with solar lights to help me better visualise the final result, and to give me points to dig between.

Then I sat and looked at it for a while.

It’s a good thing that I have a fertile imagination.

Edging the Beds

I wanted to keep it soft, so chose clumping rhoeo.

I’d already begun my collection by taking cuttings wherever I happened to be. They grow like weeds here. That’s not an excuse. And no, it’s NOT stealing! It’s pruning. And besides, sometimes I asked permission.

I dug (those damn rocks!) the first few trenches by eye, then fortunately remembered watching the builders running string lines to get things straight.

With the string lines, I only had to run upstairs to check on the shape of the curves.

I was very lucky that, although there were three places with GIANT rocks, there was enough topsoil to plant the rhoeos without having to get a man in to dig out the rocks.

The Gardener

I don’t like getting outside help. Labour is cheap here, and, with a few notable exceptions, you usually get what you pay for.

Plus you have to keep buying new plants to replace those that have been pulled out along with the weeds.

Or trampled on because they are magical, and can make themselves invisible whenever the gardener walks by.

Or pruned to within an inch of their lives because the gardener thinks it looks nicer that way.

I won’t mention the path that appeared when I wasn’t looking (on the positive side, he did work really fast!) and that I had to dig up and put in the right place.

Am I venting?

The beds in the making:

bed in the making

bed in the making

garden bed