A Gardener’s Diary
In Guyana one can look forward to boiling hot days and sleepless night due to the heat, made tolerable only by slowly revolving fans. Plants are not quite so lucky. We must all be careful about watering our plants. If you have to water them during the daytime then do it towards evening, then any water going onto the foliage will not cause any damage through scorching.
This is not only unsightly but reduces a plant’s ability to manufacture food.
One of the great sights in Providence during October is the burning of the canefields and the rapid cutting and clearing of the canes afterwards. I was always distressed by the destruction of the water lilies during this operation, and it takes until the early part of this month for them to start growing back again.
The tomato, which I love dearly, rejoices in the Latin name Solanum lycopersicum. In Britain they consume something in the order of 20lbs per head per year. In Egypt they eat a whopping 150 lbs per head per year. In Guyana we seem to get through a great many although the amount is difficult to quantify, and the quality sometimes leaves a lot to be desired.
There are, however, always vast quantities on the market, of varying quality it is true, but they are there none the less. Tomatoes and their relatives all come from South America, and mostly from the driest parts of this continent, from Peru on western slopes of the Andes. They belong to the Solanaceae a family which includes the potato, capsicum and tobacco and many of our most popular ornamentals. Two more tomato species have recently been discovered in Peru to make the total heaven knows how many, but believe me there will be many more.
The rain forest of the Amazon basin can have very dry places as well as being incredibly wet. I have walked for miles through the forest when it has been bone dry and also when it has been so wet I have been waist deep in water and unable to make any progress for hours. However, the river system is so extensive that in only a matter of hours it is dry again. There are many groups of plants that have benefited from this. What is more they have developed to take account of it. Nearly all of the bromeliads have learned to survive off the forest floor, catching all the water they need in the urn formed by their leaves. Many insects and insect-eating plants have capitalised on this by using the water-filled urns as their homes.
In drier parts of the world other plants have adapted to permanently dry conditions by forming thick skins. Many of these adaptations are known by gardeners and used in propagation and basic care.
Seeds of many eucalyptus and canna plants are extremely hard. The latter is called the Indian shot plant for the simple reason that its seed can be used as missiles. The problem of hard seed is overcome by mother nature by natural fires which crack open the seed coats. These fires occur naturally in very dry weather in the bush before the advent of rains.
Soaking bean and pea seed and many other seed before sowing often quickens germination.
Meanwhile take great of yourselves and may your God go with you wherever you are in this most beautiful of countries.