I am often asked to give an opinion on the health of a fern called Polypodium aureum popularly known as the Breadfruit fern ( because the shape of the leaves is similar to those of the Breadfruit tree).  It is enormously popular for growing in hanging baskets, on walls and as ground cover in shady areas.  Gardeners are worried about the fact that the leaves get hundreds of light brown spots on the underside which have been mistaken for a severe attack of scale insects, and have often sprayed regularly (and unnecessarily). The ‘scales‘ on the underside are nothing more dangerous than the ‘seed’ produced by the fern, which is more correctly known as spore cases. These carry millions of spores (seeds) which are released into the air when they are ripe. Gardeners will often take off these leaves and place them (spore case down) on an old log or a clay brick in a damp shady place so that when the spores are released they fall onto the damp surfaces rather than are allowed to blow away. It’s an interesting thing to try with children. It’ll probably take a bit of time before new plants start showing (perhaps not so much fun as growing mustard and cress), but worth a try.

Now from plants preferring shade like ferns to sunshine plants. Walking around you will notice many succulent plants including cacti growing in open sunlight. Succulents are plants which have generally fleshy stems used for storing water. They are to be found throughout the world with the exception of cacti, which are confined to the United States, and they grow in areas of very low rainfall, some getting as little as an inch or two every two years. Some only ever get dew, and they have developed very thick skins to reduce water loss. The very last thing they need is some kind person giving them more water than they are used to having. It’s difficult to lay down hard and fast rules, but I can tell you that the cactus I have get not much more than a teaspoonful of water every two or three weeks and they are perfectly happy. Just to confuse things, the succulent Euphorbia called ‘Crown of Thorns’ which grows in exceptionally arid regions of Africa is unquestionably happy growing in Guyana with all the rainfall. Funny things, plants.

Where humanly possible even the smallest garden should have a tree in it, not only for using up the carbon dioxide in the air, but as a home for birds and a shady place to put your chair and sit down.  Small trees with bushy heads are ideal for birds to nest in, especially as the dense foliage will protect the eggs and youngsters from predators. You may have seen pictures of Venice or even been lucky enough to visit the city, but you will have been lucky to see a tree.  Unlike Georgetown, Venice is a sterile place as far as trees are concerned. Trees put oxygen into the air and if they didn‘t our life on this planet would end. So if you have a tree or trees take care of it or them, and yourself, and may your God go with you.

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