Rain forest plants need shade, moisture

When I was still a youngster I was introduced to my first encyclopaedia of gardening which was written by TW Sanders.  It was the standard work of its day, and by any standard that might be used today a really first-class piece of work. It is set out alphabetically and is surprisingly up to date even today, in the nomenclature sense.

2009091004gardenlogoI wonder if there are many of you growing hydrangeas in the garden.  Quite a popular plant in some of the islands, particularly Trinidad and Barbados. They belong to the family Saxifragaceae, and produce really large magnificent heads of flower. It is popular in Europe and I suspect that its presence in the West Indies indicates that it was brought here from Europe and perhaps more especially from Britain. 

A dear friend of mine in Queenstown is rejoicing in the display of his bougainvilleas and also in the production of avocados by his tree.   Some of you may remember I mentioned his gardener had driven six-inch inch nails through the trunk which, according to an old superstition would galvanize it into fruit production.  Well the fact that it is now producing fruit in quantity has nothing to do with the nails, and more to do with the good growing conditions he’s providing.

I know that there are many of you that have many rain forest plants in your collection. Providing that they are provided with comparable rain forest conditions – shade and moisture particularly – they do not give too much trouble.   They do occasionally need to be potted up as they hardly ever stop growing completely. The one thing that they never need is regular or copious amounts of fertilizer. 

Most of us grow these forest plants in nothing larger that a five-inch diameter pot, in which case potting is really nothing more than repotting into the same size pot.  This involves nothing more than knocking the plant out of its pot, removing some of the compost from around its collar and at the base, and teasing out the roots that have grown thickly together.  A pot of the same size is then prepared. It can be the same or a different colour to give variety.   It is usual to put some pieces of old clay pot into the base of the pot to assist in drainage and then cover them with some really good open compost.   But not compost that is rich in fertilizer or compost.  They do not need it.   Then the plant is placed into the pot, carefully trickling compost in and firming it as you go along.  Give the pot a firm tap on the potting bench once the potting is finished in order to settle the soil around the newly potted plant, and then give the whole thing a thorough watering.

There are some forest plants which many gardeners wish to grow to a really good size in the home, and they can add immeasurably to the look of an interior. These will also need to be looked at occasionally as far as potting is concerned. The treatment of these involves a bit more work which I will deal with next week. Until then may your God go with you.

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