Melanie Dool’s gardening column in association with Orchardstown Garden Centre
MANY readers will remember John F. Kennedy’s historic speech, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country,” and I would say that in an Irish context we can, have done and are willing to do our bit but any further discussion on this will have to be continued elsewhere.
It is normal practice that many famous words or quotations get changed, altered and generally mangled around to serve a particular purpose. In this instance let us substitute the word ‘plants’ in place of ‘country’ in JFK’s speech and proceed from there. What I am saying is that often we expect too much from our plants and rely on them to solve problems that we have created. For the purpose of this week’s discussion this would not apply to traditional gardeners who instinctively provide what is best for their plants’ success.
There are many examples where plants are expected to solve a particular man made problem and a common one is where excavations are made into a hill to accommodate a house or driveway and what is commonly left is a steep slope of rock or stony ground and the throw away remark from an engineer, architect or homeowner is that we will get plants to cover that.
It is bad enough to have ground with not even subsoil but add to this that the house might be on an elevated site with a fine view or, worse, exposed facing the sea and by the way we have rabbits too!
This is, therefore, a difficult site and while not impossible to remedy, is by its nature going to take an improved infrastructure and conditions, all of which are to give the plants a supporting chance to grow. Planting plants into stony ground or wall with a smidgen of soil around the roots and expect them to grow is a big ask and mostly doomed to failure.
Chance a plant
The better the preparation and conditions you give your plants the more likely they will respond and grow away satisfactorily. Do not just dig a hole in a few seconds, shove the plant in and walk away but spend the time preparing the hole, even if it means delaying planting as you are only doing the operation once and hoping that the plant will thrive and last for a long time. Having said that, there are certain plants that will accommodate less than ideal conditions and these are sometimes fairly regimental but they serve a purpose and they are seen mostly on industrial or commercial landscapes.
If you happen to have some of the above problem areas, do get good advice and proceed from there and do not just throw away good money by planting some pretty flowers and shrubs and hope they will grow. Some of the commercial plants used for these sites include berberis, cotoneaster, euonymus, erica, genista, hebe, hypericum, ligustrum, lonicera (shrub form), potentilla, prunus (laurel type), rubus, salix, spirea and weigela. You can use some of the above in garden situations but there are others worth considering including ceanothus repens, cistus, cornus (alba type), hydrangea, osteospermum, rose ‘Magic Carpet’, rosemary, sarcococca and viburnum.
TIP OF THE WEEK
The planting frenzy is over with vegetables and flowers down to filling a few empty plots or containers. Of course, there will always be some plants available right through the summer and this is to help those who were not around or another reason why they need a few replacements.
It is important to get into a routine of keeping up watering and feeding if needed and after that it is just a case of making sure the plants are receiving the treatment they might require, such as trimming, taking off fading flowers and training.
If you have to head off for a few days, plants will survive without attention if you give extra watering leading up to the day of departure and take hanging baskets down and leave them on the ground in a less sunny position until you return.