GARDENING: GROWING A LIVING FENCE

Updated 31 Jul 2020

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Petunia | Photos by the writer
Petunia | Photos by the writer

Creating privacy may be something people have had more than enough of over the last few months, as they self-isolated in trying to avoid the coronavirus. But thinking long-term to, hopefully, healthier and better days, luxuriating in the privacy of a garden will be back in demand.

Building walls is, of course, one way to create ‘instant’ privacy, but planting hedges — hedges in which birds can nest and entertain you with their songs and squabbles — is a much nicer, far greener, way of achieving this. Although with security in mind, erecting walls and then screening them out with hedges may be a sensible combination to have.

Either way, a hedged-in patch of privacy is a living ‘emerald’ to aim for and, although the monsoon may be thinking of fading away fairly soon, you should still have time to plant the hedge of your dreams.

Suitable hedging plants/shrubs — no conocarpus please — include the following: Lantana, clerodendrum — dum dum, eranthemum, jatropha, mehndi, kamni, Chandni and bougainvillea which can all be trained/pruned/clipped to a suitable height and width and can — this is particularly recommended — be interspersed with other, not too tall, flowering shrubs/small to medium-sized fruiting trees to add variety, interest and to attract wildlife.

Sweet William
Sweet William

Take a fresh look around your garden space, envisage hedges to create/improve privacy or low hedges to divide space, and then off you go to your favourite nursery wish list in hand.

Planting hedges is a much nicer and far greener way of achieving privacy

This month’s seed sowing suggestions:

The flower garden: Forward planning is a gardening must if your garden is going to burst into bloom this coming winter and spring as, while some seasonal flowers can be in bloom in just a few weeks from sowing their seeds, others — hollyhocks, sweet William and antirrhinums being prime examples, need a few months before they are mature enough to reward you with colourful blooms. The latter three, all by the way favourites of mine, should be started off now, but do remember to protect the seedtrays/pots from late monsoon rains and then the seedlings from that inevitable blast of heat in late September/October.

Growing green
Growing green

Other suggestions are an assortment of petunias in as wide a colour range as possible, in single and double forms and with both bush and trailing habits. Dahlia seed can be sown and dahlia tubers can be planted too. If dahlia seed is self-saved, you will be in for a variety of surprises as the new generation is highly unlikely to resemble the parent plants. Then there are begonia, gazanias, salvia, carnations, pinks, gerbera, phlox, scabosia, rudbeckia, geraniums/ pelargoniums and cineraria. Freesias and ranunculous are surprisingly easy — and fast to grow from seed — this can be sown now for flowers next spring or, if you prefer, you can wait until late autumn when their bulbs/corms, and many other bulbs/corms, appear in the stores.

The vegetable garden: Making a start on sowing cool season veggies is a must if you want to reap — and eat — a massive reward. Broccoli, calabrese, Brussel’s sprouts, cauliflower, cabbages of many kinds, collard greens, red Russian kale, Italian dinosaur kale, curly kale, giant kale and purple kale are a good selection to start with. Remember not too sow more than a few seeds of each, at two to three weeks intervals on through until the end of November, for an extended harvesting period, instead of sowing all the seeds at once and ending up with an impossible-to-deal-with glut.

Other tasty ‘greens’ to sow include Swiss chard/leaf beat, spinach, lettuce, baby leaf salads, mustard, mustard mizuna, giant red mustard, endive, bok choy, radicchio, mesclun mixes, Chinese cabbage, Japanese mustard greens and more. Onions, green onions and leeks can be sown, plus beetroot, carrots turnips, swedes/rutabaga, radish, winter radish, celery and plant a potato barrel too. Finally, another lot of tomatoes wouldn’t go amiss; they need a bit of extra care, such as protection from the vagaries of the weather over the next few weeks but — especially if you sow cherry tomatoes — the rewards are worth the time and effort required.

Shrub of the month: Frangipani
Shrub of the month: Frangipani

The herb garden: Herbs to enhance every aspect of your life can be cultivated over the coming weeks and months and you can make a start of sowing them now. Mint, all the varieties you can find, never goes amiss and neither does coriander. Then there are chives and garlic chives, borage, lovage, agastache, thyme, nasturtiums and calendulas. Lemon balm, oregano, echinacea and monarda all have their culinary, medicinal and cosmetic uses, plus the bees and butterflies, along with other beneficial insects, absolutely adore them.

Shrub of the month: Frangipani/ Plumeria /champa. This perennial shrub, well known for its gorgeously perfumed flowers, is a must-have for any garden in the plains and coastal regions (although wind protection is recommended). Can be slow to get established and needs plenty of water during hot weather. This lovely shrub prefers light shade over full sun and bears flowers that can be pure white, pale to dark pink, red, apricot or yellow. It is not at all fussy about soil type as long as it is well-drained. It can be propagated from seed but will then take quite a few years to reach flowering size. It can also be multiplied by taking tip cuttings during the summer months, the resultant plants being reasonably fast to flower.

Please continue sending your gardening queries to zahrahnasir@hotmail.com. Remember to include your location. The writer does not respond directly by email. Emails with attachments will not be opened

Published in Dawn, EOS, July 31st, 2020