Tobago

Tobago
Horizon at Sandy Point

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Home in the bush!

In Italy, in Holland, in England, spring and summer gardens are wonderful places. Even the woods in these temperate zone countries are comfortable, relaxing places to walk. The pine forests of the Carolinas in the USA and the high woods of the Appalachains and Catskills - Virginia through upstate New York and into Canada - are breathtaking in their autumn glory. Spring blossoms in Italy in mimosa, forsythia, magnolia and and hundreds of flowering trees more colourful and dramatic than in the tropics.

Try to have an ordered garden in the tropics, and you toil endlessly against "the bush." In the rainy season especially, there seems to be an overwhelming wall of green everywhere you look. The knowing eye will differentiate bamboo from cassia, mango and pommerac from poui - which after its brief flowering in April May - blends into the backdrop of northern range forest.

What then is the challenge for the tropical gardener - whose very raison d'etre is to order and control according to his or her artistic eye. It means being handy with a cutlass, and being willing to cut back determinedly and unflinchingly as necessary. If you want tall trees around your house, how tall are you willing to let them go so they don't endanger your roof? If you have lawn - large or small patch - how often are you willing to mow? Some tropical gardeners choose plants that they can control - maybe a single large shady tree and beds or patches of ground cover, small bushes, or several different types and colours of the same species - hibiscus, or orchids, roses, anthuriums.

My choice has been to co-exist with as many large tropical species as possible. After all, my house displaced a bit of Northern Range forest in Santa Cruz. So nearby there is bois canot and bois flot, which are now tall enough for the corbeaux to land on and spread their wings like judges robes to the sun. The three cassia grande which bear small pink flowers and long seed pods are now over thirty feet tall. Even the live fir trees planted from different Christmases are shooting straight skyward. Barbados Pride and Shower of Gold are interspersed with banana clumps, mangoes and the wild trees. I don't think I am much of a gardener since I am loath to cut anything down. Though I may have to chop back the ficus which looks like it wants to take over the hill.

In the rainy season, there are few flowers, but the diversity and complexity of  green leaves, branches, stalks and leaf litter are amazing. It's a jungle out there! Bats, toads, insects and without doubt, snakes too, love it! I enjoy a visit to the temperate woods and gardens, they are so easy to walk in, so calming. But the bush is my true home.

1 comment:

  1. I have lived an equal number of years, in each of these, the temperate and the tropical.

    In the temperate climate, Western Canada in my case, you have to start early, in-doors, and transplant a near-to-blooming plant, once there is no longer the risk of freezing! Your time to enjoy the fruits of your labour is short, so you had better sit out in your yard as often as possible, and enjoy their beauty! The number of days where this is possible, becomes shortened by either the coolness of the evenings,the rain, or the mosquitoes!

    But there are more hardy varieties that will last long into the fall, and some that will come up when the time is right, by themselves. Your best bet is to rely quite heavily on the evergreen foliage that will remain green, no matter how much snow falls!(In Alberta, where I grew up, it has snowed in every month of the year!)

    In the tropical climate, you have a variety of slugs, and pests and insects and molds and diseases that can stop your lovely plants dead in their tracks. Bougainvillia is one of the more hardy plants, but this year even they were attacked by some sort of caterpillar, for the first time that I have seen.

    I have planted a variety, and just watch what happens. The hardy ones take over the others, and that is just how it goes! All my attempts at rescuing the weaker varieties, fail eventually.

    There is a quote I am trying to remember.. that paints a picture of the jungle as someone who is always waiting to get in! You can't keep the inside in, and the outside out, without great effort. And if you only weaken, the jungle is there waiting to take over, first your yard and then your house.

    The ficus, which I have planted all around our house, needs watching! It is an agent of the jungle, and moves in yearly, and by the foot..lol...

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