Malcolm Griffiths

Work out how to get ‘wow’ factor

  • June was a rainy month with high temperatures which caused heavy blooming and vegetative growth with oleanders

What is your garden worth to you? Do you really like your garden? Do you spend time admiring it, partaking in its maintenance needs and tweaking those areas in need of refurbishment or, simply, change?

Do you consider that the amount spent on its design, implementation and upkeep is worthwhile?

It is often the case that less is more, especially in the garden when you can’t see the wood for the trees. Whether the garden is large or small, the creative use of plant material can make the difference between a “wow” and a mindful glance.

There are some factors that should be taken into consideration when it comes to design and plant selection. Is the garden exposed or protected? Is it overlooked or well hidden? What size is it?

Bermuda’s climate is, in reality, summer and winter — though actually relatively warm in comparison. The two climes dictate the periods of growth and dormancy and affect the extent of the maintenance programme.

I always recommend that maintenance should be carried out on an “as and when required” approach — remove a weed when you see one, prune only when you need to and spray for pest and diseases when you have a problem. This approach requires observation — a skill learnt with time. A quick walk around the garden, especially at this time of year, will yield much information, which will be an indicator as to actions required.

Summer weeds should by now be showing their presence, while “winter” weeds should be virtually dormant. Weed and plant growth should have ratcheted-up and will continue to do so until late October and early November. If you are able to sustain a relatively weed-free lawn, consider reducing the number and size of flower beds while increasing the size of lawn. This will give just as much visual impact and spatial dimension as a “cluttered” design, with a lower maintenance programme if plant selection works in suppressing weed growth.

Looking at the flip side, less lawn and larger or more numerous beds can also stimulate the senses if designed correctly.

As previously mentioned, location dictates plant selection.

Simply put, exposed areas require hardy plants to survive whereas protected areas will increase the palette of plants with more choice.

Beware of fast-growing plants especially in small areas. They will outgrow the area quickly and look totally out of place and have to be either constantly pruned back or, in the best case scenario, removed.

Having knowledge of the spread and height of a plant assists decision-making in the design process.

Similar to a jigsaw puzzle, develop a site plan to a scale — say one-eighth of an inch to one foot — starting with small trees followed by shrubs, then ground covers using different colours and sizes for each plant species.

June was a rainy month with high temperatures. The combination produced good growth and, on some plants, excessive growth; it was especially noticeable on oleanders with heavy blooming and vegetative growth.

As I left the island for vacation, most oleanders were coming to the end of this blooming cycle. This opens the opportunity for pruning, to encourage new growth and further flowering later in the year.

Lantana and pentas are, by their very nature, floriferous and should also be pruned immediately after flowering. This will affect a surge of new growth followed by another flowering period which, if repeated, will produce at least another one or two flowerings.

It really does pay dividends to know what is happening in the garden if only to be aware of the changing face of nature’s palette.

You have purchased plants to beautify the garden; keeping it weed free, that will be the end product. Remember the garden adage: “One year’s seeding means seven years weeding!”