The plot of land: is it yours?
Your garden, or is it? Simply put, is it really what you want or enjoy looking at? If not, why? Perhaps you have not thought about it more than being just a green space.
How often do you think about your garden? Have you ever really, honestly given it much thought as to what you would like and how it should look?
Does your landscape company discuss issues with you? Do you discuss your wants with them?
Have you ever thought, regardless of the time of year or weather conditions — whether in the full of summer heat or the cool of a winter’s morning — that the landscape company takes the same amount of time each visit?
Surely something is wrong with this equation and that, in my opinion, is the root of many a garden state of being.
Looking at some of the “whys” and “wherefores” of such a maintenance will throw some light on its shortcomings.
Why is the same programme carried out every visit regardless of the weather or at the same time of year?
Pruning is a constant exercise with flailing machetes creating rounds, squares and other geometric symbols that show little regard as to the state of the plant; at 8am, it was a floriferous bounty of nature and then it became a bedraggled edifice of spiky branches denude of even foliage.
Controlled pruning — based on an as and when required approach — will create, in the long-term, the best branch structure for the plants.
This includes creating “new growth” for pruning as required.
Controlling the shape of the plant not only creates a more attractive look, but also gives one the opportunity to notice any other problems.
Mowing, another ritual carried out throughout the year whether required or not, has little if any value during the non-growing season or during periods of drought — except to create dust storms in the latter.
Thatch, that “brown carpet” of dead looking grass found between the root zone and tips of the grass blade, does nothing for the benefit of the health of the lawn.
In my opinion it does just the opposite, in that it can act like a sponge, holding water and thus stopping the downward movement to the root zone, where it is required most.
Just because mowing is in the contract does not mean the grass should be cut on every visit, especially if it is a drought situation or blades are under stress from mowing too close to the ground.
Pest and disease control is often seen when it is too late and skeletonised foliage becomes the tapestry of the week.
When one insect is seen you can be sure there are many others around.
Therefore, it is best to use an insecticide at the first signs of a problem, whilst also checking the extent of the spread in order to control as wide an area as required by the spread of the problem; the same can be applied where there is disease.
Clearing up of debris — leaves, branches, etc — is also important in the control of pest and disease as it can become a host for breeding prior to spreading to the rest of the garden.
It seems that “observation” in the garden is perhaps the most difficult exercise to teach as it is applied to all gardening aspects: when to mow, when to prune, pests and treatment.
Be on the constant lookout for problems; a disease or a pest not seen will flourish and, by the time of the next visit, may be too late to control.
The garden is an asset, neglecting its needs allows it to deteriorate and allows the demise of what is a first impression.
• Malcolm Griffiths is a trained horticulturalist and fellow of the Chartered Institute of Horticulture in the UK. He is also past president of the Bermuda Horticultural Society, Bermuda Orchid Society and the Bermuda Botanical Society
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