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Moving House

Text and photographs by Freda Cox

For the full article see The Mediterranean Garden No 42, October 2005.

Freda Cox moved house last spring. Serious and painful decisions about plants had to be made - what to keep and what absolutely must go - as her eight acres in Shropshire became one. She took cuttings, divided herbaceous plants and bulbs, and collected seed...

A compensation was the new, long-desired conservatory. Full of happy enthusiasm, Freda dashed off to a small local nursery where she had been ogling citrus trees for years. She returned with a calamondino (Citrus mitis) a lemon tree (Citrus limon) and a tall, delicate Acacia dealbata.
Two weeks later, on another foray, Freda was entranced by a huge, rambling vine, swarming into the rafters, trailing down in all directions, smothered with a profusion of small, creamy- white, bell-shaped flowers: Pandorea pandorana. A small pot containing a large plant was wrenched from the border where its roots had gone down to Australia (from where the plant originates). She envisaged it thrusting heavenwards into the roof of the conservatory, twining the spans to create a beautiful, shady bower in summer, dripping with huge clusters of white blossoms in springtime.
Ah well, one can always dream. After the feast comes the reckoning.
Suddenly the citrus trees in the conservatory hatched a good crop of scale insect and the lemons were bloomed with white mould. Leaves on the Pandorea pandorana browned and dropped off. New shoots emerged, but slowly they too succumbed and before long it was denuded of foliage, baring unsightly, skeletal stems. She swept up leaves by the bucketful. Within a matter of days, red spider mite invaded and devastated the conservatory. Small webs appeared in the leaf axils. She sprayed frantically with soft soap solution. The plants hated it, looking worse than ever. The red spider mites seemed to enjoy it well enough though.
The Pandorea was pruned back to a few inches of stumps. The local nursery recommended a bug spray, though they were sceptical as to whether it would eradicate the mites, which they thought would happily over-winter and return again next year, and the year after that... Freda cleared the plants from the conservatory, washed everything down, sprayed every nook and cranny, and then the plants, one by one.
Thank goodness gardeners are forever optimistic, convinced that one day we will finally, once and for all, get on top of all the weeds and bugs that threaten to swamp us. Freda plans to pop down to the nursery tomorrow and see what plants red spider mites don't like. She is very tempted to try a bougainvillea - and what about some of the tender species of passion flower... and a gloriosa vine?

Summarised by the editor, Caroline Harbouri.

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