Since some of you were not here a year ago when we featured the Gardening Column, we thought we would repeat the series. You will discover that not only is Paul Andruss is an exceptional writer, he also has a very great knowledge of plants.
About the Gardening Column
Bill & Ben the Flowerpot Men (with little weed) BBC-1952
I was flattered when Sally offered me the Gardening writing position. Then I got a nervous thinking what I could usefully say. Gardening advice columns tend to be local.
Smorgasbord has a huge readership spanning the world north to south and east to west.
Readers and contributors are not only based close to home across the UK and Eire, and within mainland Europe, like Germany, but are as far flung as Australia, Thailand and South Africa, to say nothing of Canada and the entire width of the United States. How do you cater for all?
To give an example, if you transplant a cherry tree from England to Singapore, instead of deciduous tree producing blossom followed by lush fruit it will become evergreen and never flower. It is not for nothing gardeners the world over say it’s all about getting the right plant in the right place.
As Sally can attest from when she lived in Spain (hills outside Madrid), and I know from Turkey (both areas are roughly the same latitude), winter is short and mild. although Turkey gets cold Russian winds from the Steppes often bringing snow down to Istanbul. In Bodrum, the cold winter winds would see off most of the garden that was thriving a week before.
For us winter lasted from the last week in December to the middle of February, when the hillsides were alive with spring flowers. The big dead time was the height of summer. It was so hot and dry most foreign plants, no matter how much water they had, simply gave up the ghost.
English Garden plants that flowered all summer long in the UK would be flowering within weeks, live for a month and die. By November their seeds would have grown and be flowering until the winter winds cut them down.
This so called Mediterranean climate is found in California, South African Cape, Chile and the Southern Coast of Australia. Yet even in the Mediterranean, no two Mediterranean climates are the same. If you look at North America, California’s Mediterranean climate is not reflected in other states lying between the same latitudes such as Virginia, South Carolina Utah, Kansas, Colorado, Arizona and Kentucky, just to name a few.
So how do you know what to grow and how to extend the variety of plants in your garden?
Here is a table of plant hardiness zones based on minimum winter temperatures.
But as you probably guessed that is only half the story. For example some Mediterranean, South Africa and California plants are quite happy with the temperatures in a cold greenhouse, almost 700 foot up a hill in Wales: although none survive outside due to the wet. Winters here are mild, reaching 11C the past few days (or 52F) mostly staying above freezing and only betting below -5C around (21F) once or twice a year.
But my plants suffer from lack of sunlight in the short dull days; too little or too much water or sitting in cold damp soil, even though they have thrived in the same soil all summer long. Others rot when the damp greenhouse warms up during the day and a cold dew forms on the leaves at night.
So given I’ve not put you off gardening for life… when I talk about plants think about your local conditions. See what available in local market and garden centres.
And if you decide to go a bit more specialist there is plenty of information on the internet.
For example I grow some South African plants as annuals, either grown from seed or bought as plug plants from the garden centre each year because I can’t keep them alive over winter and I would rather use the space for plants I can nurture through.
Speaking to friends, I find they are scared to buy plants because they don’t know what they are. Hopefully this column will help you feel more comfortable with a wider variety of plants, so that when you see them for sale you will recognise them and want to give them a try. So let me tell you about different and unusual varieties of plants to brighten your garden and home. Shine some light on their romance and history so they become memorable.
And as for finding the right plant for the right place, plant families are pretty broad and many plants look similar, so if one particular plant won’t thrive where you are, there are bound to be alternatives.
©Paul Andruss 2018 Images.
I hope you are as excited as I am to be at the receiving end of Paul’s extensive knowledge and it is a timely reminder for me to get going on my recently created borders to the new lawn.
Find out more about Paul Andruss, his books and previous posts: HERE
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