Garden Update #3 – Mar 2013

Pots and Pot Stands

I found el cheapo plastic pots for the top of the stands, which I sanded, applied two coats of terracotta paint to, tiled and grouted, then applied a third coat to cover the grout, as it was much darker than the paint. They’re the right shape, but a bit smaller than I wanted. In Mauritius though, beggars can’t be choosers – you might end up waiting forever if you hold out for something specific.

Red potFinished potsUnlike when I bought the small pots, this time, I actually measured the pot stand so I’d know what size pots to buy.

Pot Stand

Perfect!

However, I made the fatal mistake of only measuring one of them:

Stupid pot stand

!!!!!

I’m starting to develop a serious dislike for those pot stands!

I’ll be planting the pots with ivy geranium, (after drilling holes in the bases – why don’t pots have drainage holes anymore? We have a drill, but I’m sure lots of people don’t). Hopefully, the geraniums will trail down and disguise the size problem!

Anyway, on a more positive note, I love paint – instead of ugly red plastic pots, I now have two lovely “terracotta” pots.

Even if one of them doesn’t fit! Grrrrr!

Moving on…with the pot stands, I’ve still got to apply rust converter and primer, and then spray them with either white gloss or matte black – I’ve yet to decide, though I’m leaning towards black. But I’d better do it pronto – with all the rain we’ve been having, they’re getting rustier by the minute – bits will probably start falling off soon!

Weeding the Beds

I’ve weeded the final two beds, and the only problems hiding under the grass were:

Easter Lilies

I have two plants – they both died back, but one is showing signs of new growth. My friend, Robin, said that you’re supposed to dig up the bulbs each year, store them, and replant them the following season.

Afraid not – I planned a low maintenance garden, and am not prepared to do anything like that – I’ve got enough to do! I’ll see how they go, and perhaps replace them.

Day Lilies

They haven’t grown at all (nor have the agapanthus). Maybe if you live in a tropical zone, you should stick to tropical plants! Having said that, the red ginger plants haven’t grown much either, so who knows?

Ruellia Hedges

I cut all the bushes back hard. However, I think it’s too little too late – most of them are growing sideways, and I can’t see them ever turning into the gorgeous hedge that at the moment exists solely in my imagination.

So I’ve stuck about 20 cuttings into a jar of water, and will start from scratch when they root – it will only take a couple of weeks.

This time, I’ll plant more of them, and reduce the spacing between them, so that as they grow, they can support each other.

Also, I’ll prune them regularly so that they become bushy, and turn into a low hedge instead of a tall, straggly mess.

The weeded garden:

Driveway bed

Driveway bed

Lemon bed

Lemon tree bed

Mulberry tree and front beds

Mulberry tree and front beds

House bed

Bed running the length of the house

House bed

Ditto

Side Bed

Side bed and passionfruit in the raised bed

Grass

The paths have been weeded and poisoned, and the grass in the new paths has been cut and poisoned, and the paths covered in sawdust.

The type of sawdust we get varies, depending on what wood the cabinetmakers are working with. So you end up with a patchwork effect when you first spread it as you can see from the above photos.

After a while, it fades in the sun and all looks pretty much the same colour.

The paths I’d already poisoned and covered were relatively easy to weed – it was mainly grass that had spread from the adjoining beds, so the roots were shallow and pulled out easily.

Half-weeded path

Half-weeded path

So to that extent, the sawdust mulch is working. Any grass that grows from now on will be promptly Roundup-ed or pulled out.

However, the grass in the beds is going to be a huge ongoing problem – the roots are very deep (even where I’ve previously poisoned), and it grows back very thick. It also grows back very fast.

Newly-weeded bed

Newly-weeded bed

Weeded two weeks ago

Two weeks’ growth

Half weeded bed

What I can expect in two months

There’s no point in just covering it all with mulch, as the grass will grow through it.

I don’t want to poison the beds as I killed some plants last time I did that – plus it takes forever as it’s too windy to spray, so I have to use a paintbrush. And it’s obviously not very effective.

I googled “weed mat” – the general consensus was that the soil underneath gets very dry, and because it’s loosely-woven, weeds/grass still grow through it. And it frays, so you get little bits of black plastic floating about the place.

Instead, I’ve decided to look for hessian (jute or burlap) fabric, and lay that on the beds before mulching.

It’ll let moisture through, and the grass and weeds will have to try pretty hard to get through both the hessian and the mulch. Any that do make it will be easily seen as the mulch is black, and I can poison them immediately. By the time the hessian rots down, the grass should all be dead.

Theoretically!

It will probably take a while to do, as I’ll have to cut the hessian to fit around the plants. But if it works, it’ll be time well spent, and I rather do that than face a future of eternal weeding!

So much for low-maintenance!

(If you live in Mauritius and know where I can bulk-buy cheap hessian, please let me know.)

Step

I downloaded an English gardening program called “Lovely Garden” by my all-time favourite gardener, Alan Titchmarsh, and in one episode, the garden owner had planted a tiny square of lawn in an otherwise brick-paved area. It was a bold statement and it made me laugh.

(As an aside, how is it that despite their terrible weather, the Brits are such fabulous gardeners? You can’t beat them!)

Anyway, initially, I thought that I’d buy some turf for the step by the front gates – this would be the only lawn in our garden.

However, after our problems with the grass and weeds, I’ve since changed my mind.

I HATE grass!

Instead, I cut some astroturf to shape and used that:

AstroturfIt doesn’t exactly look natural (or pretty – it’s a weird shade of green and is all sparkly in the sun – like Christmas tinsel!), but at least it’ll stop my shoes from getting muddy and the weeds from growing. Hopefully, down the track, I’ll find something better.

Well, we’re off to Perth for two weeks soon – lots of eating, shopping, and catching up with family and friends, leaving our house and Tipsy-the-cat in the capable hands of our housesitter, Amy.

Thanks, Amy, and enjoy Mauritius!

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!