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Preparing for Winter in Spain

by Lindsay Blyth
photographs as aknowledged

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

For most gardeners in the Mediterranean region, last winter (2004/2005) was a shock. Lindsay Blyth's garden, in the mountains west of Malaga, is 300 metres above sea level and is on a north-facing slope. Here, the worst damage was caused by a harsh north-east wind and on two occasions the temperature dropped to -8°C.

We now have a new phrase in our gardening vocabulary: "root hardy". Nearly all the damaged plants in Lindsay's garden have come back from below soil level - Thunbergia grandiflora, for example - while herbaceous plants were not affected. Plants did not recover until the night temperatures rose; as there was a cold late spring, recovery took some time.

Dombeyas were badly hit. D. tiliacea which flowered early was hit after flowering but D. x cayeuxii was cut to the ground when full of flower buds. Likewise, Erythrina coralloides, which forms its buds after Christmas, was desperately vulnerable and was damaged above the shelter of the pergola. The spectacular winter-flowering Pyrostegia venusta was quite all right where it was protected by orange trees but was badly hit on the top of the pergola where it was totally exposed.

In the UK gardeners would use fleece or bracken to protect low-growing plants from frosts. Plastic is not an option in Mediterranean climates because of the heat of the sun. Lindsay recommends palm branches, which can be easily moved on and off. She believes those of the Canary and other date palms would work best although pruned branches of washingtonias could also be used, either entire or without the stalks as a sort of deep mulch. Shelter can also be provided for small tender plants by surrounding them with tougher, hardier bushes.

Summarised by the editor, Caroline Harbouri.

Thunbergia grandiflora
Photo by Michelle Torres Grant

Erythrina coralloides
Copyright Joseph Dougherty

Pyrostegia venusta
Photo by Forest & Kim Starr (USGS)

Pyrostegia venusta
Photo by Forest & Kim Starr (USGS)

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