Monday, August 13, 2012

Without the Gardener...

Nature will always find it's own way to take control.

A plant that is only borderline hardy for a particular location will perish without the gardener giving it ample winter protection...

Cyathea australis...or what was one
Does a plant have to be alive to be featured? Of course not, like this tree fern, Cyathea australis which perished a couple of years ago due to a combination of harsher than usual winter and failure to establish. Unlike Dicksonia antarctica which is able to re-root even if it was chainsawed off from ground level, Cyathea australis needs to be dug up with a good amount of root ball intact in order to be transplanted elsewhere with a good chance of re-establishing itself. But just a trunk with little or no root ball at all, it stands almost no chance at all of re-rooting. It relies on its reserve of starch in its trunk to sustain some visible growth for awhile but is actually on a terminal decline from there.

Much like this one, it had very little root ball but despite the extra care it never really re-rooted properly, and a harsh winter two years ago saw it off for good.

But even if it did re-root, would it have survived that winter? Maybe, but more likely not, it would have died anyway. Not without a thick layer of insulation wrapped around it and perhaps some gentle supplemental heating too on the worst periods of winter. But left on it's own, no chance. It needs the help of a gardener. It is not as hardy as the more common tree fern available here which is Dicksonia antarctica.

Although I wouldn't say that Dicksonia antarctica is 'hardy' either (what is 'hardy anyway?). It is however, the only tree fern that stands the best chance of sailing through winters planted outside for large parts of the UK, certainly in the south. And not just sailing though winters, more importantly, thriving. And if you have it on a sheltered spot, you probably wouldn't even need to protect it at all (with one eye still looking at the weather forecast of course, and some frost fleece on stand by, just in case...).

Some plants, left unchecked and unattended by the gardener, will simply just take over...

Like this climber, which I'll just conveniently refer to as bindweed (although I'm not too certain it is bindweed as such, as the leaves are much smaller, relatively not as vigorous and much easier to control). Well, this plant is definitely capable of growing on pure chalk and is fast smothering the sack barrow we left on op of the pile just a few weeks ago. It makes for a good photo subject anyway.

Gardening is about controlling nature, and without the gardener, nature will always find it's own way.

Mark :-)


  1. Excellent thoughts. I just returned from vacation and it's amazing how plants do their own thing when the gardener isn't there to keep them in check :-).

  2. I suppose that their ephemeral nature is one of the things that makes gardens so special. They exist in time and space for a time like the performance of a beautiful piece of music and then fade into fond memory, seldom outliving their gardeners.

  3. We have lots of Cyathea latebrosa here. Love their green fronds ;-) You have wonderful tree ferns! Ferns are great survivors. They are plants from the Mesozoic era!

  4. True Gerhard, even though you were only away for a week the difference in noticeable :)

    outlawgardener, it is indeed their ephemeral nature that makes the entire thing as a whole special :)

    Stephanie, love tree ferns too! Wish we could grow Cyatheas permanently outside here, such beautiful plants!

  5. You are so busy with your pond that it would be easy for something to get away from you, but what a monster that vine is already.
    Cher Sunray Gardens

  6. How true! I always joke that if I turn my back certain weeds would swallow the house and me in it. We have plenty of bindweed, but our greatest curses are kudzu, bamboo, and, forgive me, English ivy!

    My red banana is marginally hardy here. The leaves will die back with frost but hopefully a thick layer of pine straw will protect the rhizomes.

  7. Cher, it's a vigorous climber, but seems easy enough to control if you pull it early enough or use weed killer early in the summer.

    Debs, all those plants can be naughty indeed. So lucky that red banana is marginally hardy in your area!

  8. Great post.
    Yes, I have a photo of my bicycle being 'eaten' by one of the vines out back. Funny to see a parallel universe from across the world! I often wonder if I were to NOT garden would my tropical garden take over and (gasp) look better without me. It's a humbling thought. At least I brought the players to the stage for the show.

  9. I am surrounded by the proof of what happens when a garden is neglected for a couple of years. Somewhere that, by all accounts, was always immaculately cared for is now full of rampant ivy which conceals steps and walls (I have the bruises to prove it), and over grown shrubs which are choking their neighbours. How much work a gardener is prepared to do, however, is a whole other question! For instance, much as I love the tropical lushness of many of the plants you guys grow, I have neither the energy or patience to lovingly wrap anything in insulation for the winter! Glad you do though, I can admire from a distance...

  10. Yes you are very right and it is is geometric in pace when in the tropics, you know that very well isn't it Mark? But that big tree Australian fern is so 'sayang', i feel so sad for it! I imagine it would be more difficult for your garden during winter as you have mostly bigger plants than usual. I saw others covering or wrapping theirs, so how will you be able to do that with yours?

  11. I just love the pink sack barrow with the climber, although I'm not sure the average macho white van man would be happy making his deliveries with as sack barrow this colour! Makes a great garden feature though.

  12. When a gardener is on vacation, the weeds will come out to 'play'. The weak ones perish while the strong ones take over. It is always interesting to see the end result.

  13. I only have to miss an area for a few days and the wretched bindweed has spiralled its way up numerous stems. And it loves my chalky soil too!

  14. Mother nature does step in even if the gardener is around and despite a gardener's best efforts. I lost my tree fern as well. I think it was the summer heat that finally got to my tree fern. No fleece counterpart for the heat, right? :-(


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