Saturday, 3 January 2009

pollination issues

The first several pumpkins on my vine shriveled up and fell off.  That usually means they weren't pollinated properly, and so I took over hand-pollination.  Which is working fine, but did make me realize that I have almost no flowers in my yard.

In my zeal to plant fruits and veggies, I may have neglected those all-important little bees.  A lot of what I grow doesn't need pollinators - herbs and lettuce you eat before they flower, tomatoes and chilis self-pollinate.  But still, bees are important for fruits and some veggies.  So I took a trip to the garden centre and bought some marigolds for the back garden.'re pretty cute, I like the rusty-orange colour.  And it's my first venture into the annuals, flowers that are around just for a season of show and then they're gone.  You can see the pumpkin vine to the upper-left corner. it also made me think about a narrow bed near my back veggie patch.  It's got a row of dwarf agapanthus and cordylines, courtesy of the previous owners.  I really don't like the cordylines - those purple things. To me they looks sruffy, they always seem to be covered with spiderwebs and aphids, they turn that nasty shade of yellow on the older leaves.  The contrast is very striking but well, the cordyline don't DO anything.  You can't eat them, they don't make flowers, and they're ugly.  They aren't exactly earning their keep. I took another trip to the garden centre and came back with lavender.  Lavender is great in this climate.  It's quite hardy and once it's established it takes the drought really well.  And in the spring and summer, it's covered with flowers that bees just love.  The variety I got is an English type called Munstead that should say pretty small and compact.  No, it doesn't look like much now, and here's why.

I needed four of them but at my local, lavender is between $10 and $20 each.  But they had a few in the $5 "budget" section.  It's where they put the ugly plants, the ones that have passed their beautiful flowering stage.  Some plants never recover, but many simply go through a cycle of ugly before re-growing or re-blooming the next year. I scrounged these four scruffy lavenders.  I was quite happy they even had four of the same type.  But as you can see they are all past their prime and never got a proper grooming either.

So I sat down for a relaxing half-hour doing what I like best in the garden - pruning.  I cut off all of the flowering heads and most of the lanky growth.  Some of them had quite a lot of dead growth too, and all of them had little buds of new growth just waiting for their turn.  So when I was done they looked like this. not pretty, and with a bucket full of trimmings.  But they'll get another flush or two of new growth this year.  Maybe even some flowers.  And certainly next year they should be fully flowering.  Not bad for $20.

I do sort of regret that they're not the dramatic contrast that the dark purple cordyline were.  They'll be more of a compliment to the agapanthus, rather than a contrast.  But I do think that eventually they will look quite lovely.  And of course, they'll do a very important job supporting my fruit and veggies.