WHEN AND HOW TO PRUNE BACK BOTTLEBRUSH PLANTS


Bottlebrush plants - Callistemon species and varieties, are among the most exotic of all hardy garden specimens. However their unusual growth habit mean that most gardeners are reluctant to cut into the wood in case their shape and following season's blooms are affected.

To be fair, bottlebrush plants are usually low maintenance and will require little or no regular pruning. That being said, some forms can easily grow to large for their allocated garden space and will need cutting back one way or the other. Like conifers, avoid cutting back into the inside branches where there are few leaves as you may not see any regrowth.

How to prune back bottlebrush plants
The best time to pruning is from mid to late spring, but if you miss this opportunity you can light prune at the end of the summer. Removing any weak, crossed, rubbing, diseased or dying stems back to the trunk, and remove any suckers from the base as soon as you see them. Rip them from the trunk rather than cut to reduce the incidence of regrowth. This will be the same action for specimens grown with a single trunk but only do this as the suckers emerge. Shoots longer than a few inches will need to be cut. The best results are from rubbing away emerging buds with your thumb.

To guarantee that next season's blooms will remain unaffected and to just generally maintain a shape, lightly prune immediately after flowering - usually just a couple of inches from the growth tips and removing the spent flower structures.

If you are trying to reduce the size of an overgrown specimen, cut back down to size in the spring making sure that this is done well before the new seasons bud form.

In drastic situations, it is not unknown for mature specimens to grow back from being cut down to the ground. However this should only be done as a last resort.

Image credits - Simon Eade gardenofeaden@gmail.com

SWISS CHEESE PLANT - Monstera deliciosa

The Swiss Cheese plant - Monstera deliciosa

Before I start I should mention that the Swiss Cheese plant is neither native to Switzerland and has nothing to do with any dairy product. It is in fact native to the tropical rainforests of southern Mexico and has proven itself to be one of the world's most popular foliage houseplants.

Swiss Cheese plant fruit
The species name 'deliciosa' means delicious referring to the edible fruit which are said to taste similar to a fruit salad, the genus name is derive from the word 'monstrous' and related to the huge size that this plant can grow to - over 10 meters feet in many cases.

Monstera deliciosa was named and described by the Danish botanist Frederik Michael Liebmann (1813 - 1856).

Although often shrubby in habit, Swiss cheese plants is in fact a climber whose native habitats are usually the understorey of tropical forests. They are technically classed as a hemiepiphyte meaning that it will spends part of its life cycle as an epiphyte (a plant that grows on the surface of another plant and derives its moisture and nutrients from the air, rain or from debris accumulating around it)

To explain, the seedlings of Monstera deliciosa would have germinated in the ground like most other regular plants. Then unlike most other regular plants grows away from the light, which usually helps them to find the nearest tree trunk, up which they begin to climb. As they mature they produce aerial roots and can eventually lose all connection with the ground!

As a climber and under favourable conditions you can expect the Swiss Cheese plant to grow to up to approximately 20 metres high. The large, leathery, glossy, heart-shaped leaves are 25–90 cm long and 25–75 cm wide. the characteristic holes within the leaves are an adaptation to its low light level environment. By producing holes within the leaves each leaf is then capable of attaining a larger size therefore making it more efficient at capturing sunflecks and occasional shafts of sunlight.

Monstera deliciosa bloom
The flowers are self-pollinating and are composed of a special bract known as a spathe which enclosing a spadix.

Monstera deliciosa bloom will perform best high humidity and shade with between 20–30 °C and requires. Growth will stop once temperatures drop below 10 °C. You will only be able to grow the Swiss cheese plant in subtropical climates or warmer as it has no tolerance to frosts. This is why it can only be grown as a houseplant in northern European and Mediterranean climates.

Monstera deliciosa bloom image credit - rjones 0856 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/deed.en
All other images credit - Simon Eade gardenofeaden@gmail.com

PERFECTLY TIMED DOLPHIN PHOTOGRAPH

Perfectly timed dolphin photograph
Although nothing to do with gardening, I couldn't help but post this image I took yesterday at Loro Park, Tenerife.

This gorgeous dolphin looks as though it is hanging out to dry on a washing line after a hard day's entertaining. However it is just a badly timed image that tells a story different to reality. What actually happened this. The dolphin was captured mid flow during its successfull jump over this line.

HOW TO GROW FALLOPIA BALDSCHAUNICUM

How to grow Polygonum baldschuanicum


Commonly known as the 'Russian vine' or 'mile-a-minute vine', Fallopia baldschuanicum (previously and still widely known as Polygonum baldschuanica) is an extremely vigorous deciduous climber native to most notably China, Russia and Kazakhstan. It is widely grown for ts ability to quickly hide unsightly fences and other garden structures, and can look particularly attractive when trained into trees, old stumps and bare banks.

How to grow Polygonum baldschuanicum
Under favourable conditions the stems of Fallopia baldschuanicum can reach an impressive 12 metres long, with pale-green, ovate to heart-shaped leaves.

The small, white tinged pink blooms are borne in conspicuous, crowded panicles throughout the summer and autumn. Once pollinated the blooms can turn increasingly pink, followed by small, shiny black fruits.

Fallopia baldschuanicum will perform well in any type of soil including shallow soils over chalk. Aspect is not really important as it will simply tolerate where its or grow to more favourable conditions. That being said, young specimens will appreciate a certain amount of shelter until they become established.

Main image credit - Simon Eade gardenofeaden@gmail.com
In text image credit - Jan Samanek https://www.forestryimages.org/browse/detail.cfm?imgnum=5256087 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/us/deed.en