Wednesday, February 23, 2011

GARDENING. SURVIVAL of the strongest

ot much can escape a cyclone, but there are some plants that just don't cut it in the tropics, writes KIM MORRIS
Just when you thought your garden was the way it should be, all of a sudden it is besieged by cyclonic winds that either demolish the substance of the landscape or at very least cause superficialdamage.
Cyclones are one part of gardening we tend to overlook unless we are cleaning up after it.
Mind you, gardens should not be exclusively designed and built for a cyclone, but there are certain uses and applications of some plants that are worth looking at in terms of how they hold up (or not) to strong winds and cyclonic storms.
Having said that, few gardens would stand the direct onslaught of a category 5 cyclone in any case.
Tabebuias (trumpet trees) have not fared well again in this cyclone. This is one tree group that fits smaller spaces and is a showy exotic, but snaps and twists inwind.
The same can be said of figs as the root system reveals when toppled on their side there is little of it as the superstructure becomes too heavy with foliage and water.
Seeds of african tulip that have been allowed to grow in some cases to large trees (20-30m tall) are a hazard and need to be removed if they haven't already been culled by nature. They snap branches and are generally a pest near a house.
Similarly, gums or eucalypts have a dangerous habit of a thing called "sudden limb drop syndrome" at any normal time, but during high winds their thin skinny branches are likespears.
Shrubs that have been tipped over in wind will be OK. But prune them back by half their size. Add a stake and tie if required. Likewise palms that have a distinct tilt can be pushed back to the upright and guy roped. See if you can remove some of the bottom fronds to lighten the load. After straightening shrubs and tilted palms and small trees, drench the soil in Seasol or a fishemulsion.
Be ready for an enormous flush of growth as cyclones and large storms that precede the event bring huge amounts of nitrogen in the air created by lightening. So this accounts for the idea that everything grows really well afterrain.
Finally, looking at the bright side, think of the enormous amounts of compost you can make with garden foliage waste rather than dump it in the street.
In a month, you won't recognise your garden as it will look just terrific.

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