Ground-cover plants provide protection against water loss

When there is a lot of dry weather around one’s thoughts should go to conserving moisture in the ground, and here the application of rather heavy mulches is the order of the day for really precious plants. Mulches can be several inches thick in some places.   Black plastic sheeting can be used on the ground as a mulch, which is a very effective method of reducing evaporation loss, were it not for the fact that black plastic – well always looks like black plastic.   Low-growing, ground-cover plants provide much needed protection against evaporation loss, and probably the best known of these are the grasses, but there are of course many non-grass types of perennial and shrub which hug the ground, seem impervious to prolonged drought and don’t need to be mulched. It is the taller shrubs and trees that really benefit from, and reward you, for mulching them.

There are a number of crepe jasmines worth a place in the garden, for example, Tabernaemontana coronaria flore-pleno and Tabernaemontana cumingiana.  The former has flowers very much like a gardenia, is often known as the West Indian gardenia and is scented.  The latter produces lots and lots of smaller star shaped flower and is not scented.  Both shrubs are worth a place in any garden, and are tolerant of sun and fairly dry conditions. They can get several feet high and in time can outgrow their space but can be moved quite successfully if great care is taken and certain guidelines are followed.

Some weeks before it is essential to move, sever the roots about eighteen inches from the stem to give the plant time to recover from the shock, and encourage the production of fibrous roots.   When it’s time to actually start the serious work, a small trench is dug out around the plant and just outside the line of the cut you have made.

This will enable you to start cutting away at the main anchor roots growing straight down.  It is done by angling the spade in such a way that the underneath cutting starts at about twelve to fifteen inches below soil level.  The soil taken out is piled to the side of the hole, and eventually the plant can be rocked and then rolled on its side whilst sacking or thick polythene is folded in half and then pushed under it. The plant is then rolled back onto its other side and the sacking brought out, wrapped around and tied in place so the plant can be lifted.  A couple of buckets of water should be poured onto the sacking to keep it moist until planting occurs.  Large plants or semi-mature trees are heavy, and there is no easy way for one person to manage to lift and replant alone.  It’s a two-person job, and the simplest way of going about it is to secure the pole to sacking and stem, tying it securely so that the whole plant can be lifted easily. If the ground has been prepared beforehand (probably the best way in the tropics) the plant is lifted straight into its next homely hole.

This should have already received a generous helping of compost forked into the bottom of the hole.  Good compost should be mixed into the excavated soil at the new position for use in filling to give the plant a good start. When the soil has been firmed well (with the feet) then the plant must be watered, and watered frequently until it is re-established.   This may all sound a bit like hard work, but it isn’t really if you take your time, and take plenty of breathers. Plants are far more tolerant of delay than humans.  If the shrub seems to have too much top, then it is perfectly alright to reduce it a little by some judicious pruning – shaping, removing dead wood by cutting back until you are into sound wood, and so on.  Judicious, of course, means careful. Don’t go at it like a butcher.  Until next week may your God go with you wherever you may be.

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