March 2014 In Your Cyprus

Garden

 

In memory of our departed friend Nigel Watson, the founder of North Cyprus Forum, we are bringing you the  most recent greenfingers article in the GreenGrass page and hope that in the future other members of this group will be willing to share their love of gardening with cyprusscene.com readers.

mrgreen sml

by greenfingers

March in your Cyprus garden

Still not much rain but the sunshine in February was most welcome and brought out the almond blossom everywhere. Bulbs are pushing through the earth even in coldest parts of the island and there is a promise of spring in the air.

There is still time to plant new trees and shrubs. Be aware that they may have become pot bound whilst sitting on nursery benches with the result that the roots have nowhere to go except round and round. A reader sent me a picture of a citrus tree which had been planted by contract gardeners some years ago and had never done well. He dug it up and found a mass of tangled roots which had just grown round and round, never producing the fibrous roots which feed the plant and stabilise the tree. Trees need planting holes that are large enough to take the root base with extra space for growth. Put some slow release fertiliser in the bottom of the hole and check the rootball. If the roots are growing in a circular way, gently tease them out with a daisy grubber or hand fork before placing the plant in the hole. Add fresh compost to the sides and firm in by stamping down the top of the soil. Water well if there is no rain.

At this time of year cacti and succulents look wonderful and are full of flowers. They prefer a gritty compost and don’t like to be too wet. Containers can be shallow pots or even wheelbarrows, as long as there is good drainage. Larger plants like Aloe ferox and Aloe vera do need space but look wonderful as their flower spikes reach skywards. They can tolerate poor quality soil. Smaller aloes make good ground cover. Agaves can also tolerate poor soil conditions. Don’t grow Agave attenuata if you live in a cold area, as their fleshy leaves cannot tolerate cold night temperatures. These agaves die after producing a long flowering stem, but reproduce new plants around the base area. Osteospermums cover the ground too with bright cushions of flowers amongst the bulbs, scenting the air with heavenly perfumes.

Iris albicans is one of the first irises to flower in spring time in Cyprus. They originally came from Yemen and Saudi Arabia but are now readily available here. They have a long history and have been in existence since about 1400 BC when mention was first made of them. The plants are known to have been planted around Muslim graves.

The lance-shaped leaves grow in a fan shape and can reach between 30 – 60 cms which is less than the other favourite iris, Iris germanica. They look attractive grown in large clumps and require very little attention, although it is good to split them up after flowering every several years and replant them in a sunny position with the top of the rhizome exposed to the sun.

The attractive flowers with white falls and standards and yellow beards are slightly fragrant and appear from late February onwards, but like most irises the flowers last only for a couple of days or so. They prefer to grow in full sun and are particularly drought tolerant, lasting for years. Slugs may be a problem and red beetles may eat through the flower stems and leaves. Propagation is by division, as the flowers are sterile and do not make seeds.

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