The sudden heat wave in the middle of May brought a quick end to the many annual plants that we can only grow in our short spring. Their roots are so close to the surface of the soil that they quickly burn and demise. There is always a bonus though and you can collect the seeds remembering to write their names on the envelope and sow them later in the autumn.
At the moment pink or white flowers of Echinopsis, a South American cactus, are blooming but each flower lasts only one day. Look around and you will find whole gardens dedicated to these wonderful plants surviving all but the coldest of weather outside. Maybe it is because the weather here closely mirrors the conditions under which they grow in their native habitats in some parts of South Africa, Arizona or California. Unsightly banks and walls can be covered in South African Carpobrotus edulis as well as the smaller leaved aptenia, whose pretty tiny red flowers attract visiting bees. Carpobrotus also goes by the name of the ‘Hottentot Fig’ and known here as ‘Aphrodite’s Tresses’. You can see the reason why it was given that name, as the ‘leaves’ look like layers of waved hair as the stems pour down a bank or wall
Species irises will have finished flowering by now, although hybrid irises tend to last a little longer, and the leaves will begin to die down. For both irises the treatment is the same. Irises need to be dug up, cleaned and replanted every two or three years. Pull off any dying leaves from along the rhizome exposing it to the sun, and replant the rhizome facing into the sun, which will bake it to form new flowers, although this may delay flowering for a season. Cutting down the other stems will also help expose the rhizome. The recommended feeding is bone meal but I have found that a rose feed twice year is a good substitute
Hanging baskets, crammed full of petunias and pelargoniums, will also need feeding regularly, so use ‘Phostrogen’ or ‘One’ in water every two or three weeks to keep them going. Keep the centre of the plants free from overcrowding, as that just encourages botrytis and scale insects that can make such a mess of plants. At the first signs of any of the tell-tale little white pests, spray if you can, although you may have to destroy the plant and scrub the pot if the infestation is too great.
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