If you’ve been following my social media posts you will probably know that I was bitten by the gardening bug three years ago. Since I’ve started this journey, I have learned many things about gardening.
The most important, perhaps, is patience and the ability to accept defeat with grace. I’ve grown many plants, some from seeds and some from nursery plants, and I’ve watched all of them grow and bloom with delight. I have also seen many of them die due to my lack of knowledge.
In this post, I will write about some of my most spectacular mistakes. Like in real-estate, the motto for gardening is “location, location, location”. If you meet all a plant’s environmental requirements, that plant will reward you with lush and beautiful growth, but failing to take it’s requirements into account will result in disaster. Here is a list of some of my disasters:
- Planting croton (“gold dust”) in full sun. This soon scorched it’s leaves and led to the plant’s demise.
- Planting a hybrid tea rose in sand augmented with peat moss and thinking that I could meet it’s nutritional needs with fertilizer — I lost the plant after two years to spider mites and aphids.
- Planting hibiscus rosa sinensis at the back of a perennial shrub bed consisting of cestrum nocturnum (misk el liel), ficus Benjamina variegata, and japtropha. These plants, especially cestrum nocturnum, quickly outgrew the hibiscus leaving them in the shade and causing them to die off one by one.
- Planting vinca in the same bed that contained the hibiscus. The shade from the shrubs and the water that the hibiscus needed quickly caused the demise of my vinca plants — although I did get about two years of spectacular blooms from those of them that had sufficient sunlight
- Not thinning peaches because it broke my heart to remove fruit and not spraying for aphids and spider mites, the former led to tiny, albeit tasty, fruits and the latter led to a severe attack on my tree that caused disfigured foliage and stunted growth.
- Planting pentas in partial shade, most plants kept blooming to the best of their abilities, but those that had more sun were bursting with blooms. Eventually, when I hard pruned the plants in winter, only the ones in sun came back, the rest died off.
- Thinking I could grow hydrangeas in Egypt. They are just not suited to our outdoor environment, the summer heat wilted my hydrangea several times. The last of these wilts was permanent. I lost the plant in less than one gardening season. North African deserts and hydrangeas don’t mix.
The most important thing I have learned so far, is if a plant is in its proper environment regarding sun, water and soil type, it will be resistant to stress and will reward you with blooms and fruit. If the environment it’s planted in does not suit it, it will be stressed and prone to disease and insect infestation. A good knowledge about the eventual size of plants is also important when designing your garden.
I’ve learned from my mistakes and hopefully my garden will benefit from the knowledge I’ve gained. I’m currently looking into converting my garden into a wildlife friendly zone, so I’ve taken up composting (in a bin on the soil, not in a tumbler), adding water features and I’m in the process of designing a bee hotel and bird houses.
So far, I’ve been blessed with lots of wildlife. I didn’t know that a desert location like Eastern Cairo had so mush insect and bird life. I’ll try to blog more about my garden and the new direction I’m taking in the future.