Nelson Leader : April 25th 2013
23 THE NELSON LEADER, APRIL 25, 2013 GARDENING The magic solution for a warmer, drier, quieter home Enjoy significantly reduced condensation, more efficient heating and cooling, fewer damaging UV rays, plus peace and quiet thanks to MagicSeal. Boasting all the benefits of double glazing at a fraction of the price, MagicSeal is a discreet second layer applied to existing window frames using a magnetic sealing system. The MagicSeal secondary glazing is fabricated from premium quality, UV stabilised acrylic with the frame colour-matched to existing joinery (even timber finishes). It is fitted to the inside of the window to trap a layer of still air between it and the pane of glass. This trapped airspace reduces the rate of convective heat loss, and also acts as a baffle to reduce sound transmission. 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Photo: STEPHEN MCCARTHY After the bad drought and the effect it has had on the garden and the region's water resources, perhaps we should look to growing plants which are not so dependant on copious supplies of moisture by artificial watering. As global warming really gets going scientists are warning us that extremes of weather, including droughts, may be the norm. Given this, it would make sense for us to alter our style of gardening to suit. There are many plants which are drought-tolerant, mainly originating from the Mediterranean, Australia, Africa, and the drier parts of the Americas, but the ones we usually associate with dry gardening are the succulents. They derive their common name from the ability to store water for a less-rainy day in modified leaves which usually have a waxy or densely felted surface to help reduce transpiration. Plants with this ability are called xerophytes and very many genera of these plants go by the common name of succulents. Succulents come in a great variety of form and colour, making them a very valuable addition to any garden. Because of their adaptations they are particularly useful plants to use in dry areas such as sunny banks, rain-shadow areas such as under wide house eaves, porches and verandahs, or even inside as container plants on window- sills. Succulents are well- adapted for windy sites which would dry out other plants and their waxy or hairy surface usually protects them from salt burn on exposed coastal sites. Good air circulation is necessary for these plants as it dries the surface of their leaves, which will not stand too much wet in colder seasons. Succulents are very easy plants to grow because of their modifications, requiring very little attention apart from an infrequent watering. Although they often grow naturally in quite poor soils they will do better with a little attention to their meagre requirements, but overwatering and too much rich food is definitely detrimental to their growth. Very poor soils can be enriched with an addition of richer topsoil or very well decayed compost and even a light dressing of slow-release fertiliser. Succulents come from naturally arid parts of the world. Therefore they are not made to cope with soils which are poorly drained and will usually rot in those conditions. Heavy soils can be lightened by incorporating quite large quantities of coarse sand and gravels. Fine gravel or stones make a good ground cover around a planting in order to keep weeding to a minimum, or even a mass planting of some of the smaller types of succulents. In Nelson's inland areas heavy frosts will damage or kill most outdoor succulents and it may be necessary to provide some overhead shelter to keep off the cold and excessive moisture during winter. As potted plants succulents really come into their own, thriving in conditions other plants would consider total neglect. This means no more having to get the neighbours to water your pot plants while you are away on holiday. When potting succulents remember that good drainage is essential and use a very free draining mix with added slow release fertiliser. It is also necessary to ensure that the pot has sufficient holes in the base to allow excess water to drain away freely. Luckily succulents do not usually suffer much from pests or diseases and usually those that do attack them are easily controlled. Leaf biting insects and slugs and snails may damage the leaves but these can be deterred by spraying with some insecticide or applying pellets. Most succulents are very easy to propagate with many doing it all by themselves with even fallen leaves taking root. They usually divide easily and often cuttings are very successful, making them ideal plants to bulk up for a massed display at very little cost. Next week we'll go into their propagation a bit more fully.
April 18th 2013
May 2nd 2013