A Gardener’s Diary – Don’t water foliage in hot weather

At sea level gardeners are generally blessed with the most glorious weather, and especially so in the islands many (but not all) of which have a Mediterranean-type climate. Here at home we cannot claim to have the same climate as Barbados. We are wetter. We do not have hurricanes, and apart from the occasional gentle long-distance shake, neither do we have earthquakes. We are especially fortunate in being able to grow almost anything. You can almost see plants growing. Seeds start to germinate within hours of being sown. Naturally we need to give protection to our plants. Protection from the blazing sun, the drying winds and the heavy rain, but gardeners here mostly know all about these things.

In my opening paragraph I said that in England there is a saying that when the March winds do blow we shall have snow, but we also have snow. Or at least I do. My Snow on the mountain flowers perversely in March, whilst the same shrub flowers over Christmas in Barbados and most of the islands. This plant which is correctly called Euphorbia marginata or E. leucocephala, is one of the great sights in the gardener’s year. My own plant came from a seedling collected in Barbados, and it has never flowered over Christmas as its parents in Barbados have always done.

It was one of thousands of seedlings, and this brings home the point about seedling variation. In much the same way as our children show some of the characteristics of their parents (good or bad) so it is with plants grown from seed. So my plant of Snow on the mountain looks like its parents, it is the same size as its parents, has the same flower colour as its parents, but doesn’t flower at the same time. It does produce seedlings which will come more or less true, but not necessarily identical with mum and dad. Some may even flower at Christmas if you have the patience to try several hundred.

One way to make sure you get a plant which flowers at the same time as mum and dad is to propagate it from cuttings. In this way there is in fact no difference whatever. You must make sure that the cuttings are taken from healthy stock, and are free of any imperfections or disease. This applies to cuttings taken from any plant species which can be propagated from cuttings. Take cuttings from the sunniest side of the plant which are strong and healthy, rather from the shaded side which might be weak and prone to disease.

Watering during dry weather is very important to the survival of your plants. It is vital that you get this right. Plants lose a lot of water through their leaves, and plants in pots lose it from the pots in which they grow, which means from their roots as well as their leaves. Plants which are
drying out always give you warning when they’re suffering, generally by the way their leaves start to droop. In hot dry weather the last thing you should do is spray the foliage, which is just asking for it to be scorched. The plant needs soaking at soil level. Let your hosepipe trickle onto the ground around the plant until you are sure that it is well soaked. Then make sure that you have a layer of compost around the plant to prevent it all evaporating. When dry, give potted plants a good soaking. If necessary immerse the pots in a bucket of water.

Take great care and may your God go with you wherever you are in this glorious country.