Quote of the Month

There can be no other occupation like gardening in which, if you were to creep up behind someone at their work, you would find them smiling.

~Mirabel Osler

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

AGC November Presentaton : A Report

Tuesday November 13th
Presentation on Aloes, Agaves, Succulents and other drought tolerant plants 

by Andrew Sloan

This was one of the most articulate presentations I’ve heard in many a year. The fluency of the descriptions was reinforced by the lovely photos that were displayed on the white screen in timely fashion by Andrew’s lovely wife, Margarita.

Andrew &  Margarita have lived amongst 2 acres in Alhaurin El Grande for 15 years and their garden had developed like most of our gardens – bit  of this here; couple of those there; some of those a friend brought round over there and all these here that we “liberated” from friends’ gardens….. The contents of one’s garden can often tell the story of our time here in Spain.

They followed that excellent advice to install the irrigation before planting the gardens, thus ensuring minimum disruption to young plants.
The growing realisation that they needed to husband their water supply for the sake of the purse and the state of the planet, meant that they decided to remove thirsty plants and redesign their gardens so that they held drought resistant plants.
Andrew conceived a passion for Aloes and has rapidly become an expert – through his reading, Internet research, travels and conversations with people all over the world. 

He freely admits that he learned more from his mistakes than from his research (like all of us).
He is active on Facebook where there are different groups for various types of plants, all called Planet.... He especially likes Planet Aloe & Planet Agave where he interacts with and receives advice from other members especially from California and South Africa.

(He also emphasised how useful the MGS forum on the internet has been for him. 
The MGS is much more than a very interesting journal every 3 months  Mediterranean Garden Society) 
Andrew's  photos told the graphic story of the replanting.

A trip to the gardens of Israel proved most informative as did visits closer to home – the Cacti Gardens in Casarabonela (which AGC members visited earlier this year) and Parque La Paloma in Benalmadena.
La Paloma hosts a 2-3 day Fair each July when one can buy specimens from as little a €2.50. 

(I see an AGC “Jolly” coming up….)

We were given many a handy tip on propagating and nurturing the plants – such as:-
•    To create a “water basin” around and under each new plant so that one could pour in 20 litres of water that would slowly seep down into the earth – making a moist path for the roots.
•    To use a sterilised medium into which to plant the seeds. He would microwave or cook the growing medium in the oven for 50 mins at 325 degrees F.
•    Seeds are inexpensive and available on line from www.koehres-kaktus.com
      & www.made-in-afrika/com )
•    Whatever one does, the importance of ensuring that the soil is well drained (add river sand) and that one knows which areas are alkaline and which are acid.
•    Aloes don’t like to be in large pots – 6” (15cm) is the maximum for young plants
•    Recommended is a book called The Dry Gardening Handbook (which can be found in the AGC Library! ) 

Whilst awaiting your turn to read it – visit the author’s website www.jardin-sec.com
•    One of the really valuable elements of the book cited above is the Drought Resistance Code Number attached to the description of each plant. Andrew aims for those with the designation from 4 to 6 – this is roughly equivalent to the number of months the plant can survive without water.

We then diversified

Learning about the 114 Olive trees on their land. 
The enjoyment they get when friends come round to help with the harvest and go away with a litre of the golden elixir of life!
All of Andrew's olives are hand harvested and his trees are not battered like so many are around the Cómpeta region.
Andrew emphasised the importance of bi-annual pruning so that (in the Spanish way) a bird can always fly through the branches in any direction…
One can judge the age of an olive tree by its girth. If a man can just  put both arms around the trunk – it is probably a hundred years old.
Many of Andrew’s trees required four people to cuddle them!

Some of the precious plants in their garden were attacked and eaten by the wild rabbits. 

They were advised to collect human hair (preferable that which the hairdresser had cut off and saved for the purpose.)
Andrew obtained some old tights from Margarita and stuffed in the hair. 

“Sausages” of these were placed around those particularly precious plants and the depredation halted!
The Members where then treated to a refinement on this strategy when we explained that wild boars can be kept off one's property (even the vegetable garden) by a man urinating on the aforementioned bags of hair! ................ It works even without the aid of the hair bags.
(Indeed, so efficient is the production of Brian that this writer's garden has never endured a single porcine trespass!)

Andrew had introduced the concept of Lunar Planting and Gardening – first described by Rudolph Steiner and a system adopted by almost every older village gardener, presumably handed down through many generations.
The moon’s cycle of 28 days – waxing, full moon and then waning – affects the cycle of plants. Different stages of the moon exerting a force on a different part of the plant – some days are good for the growth of leaves; others for roots. Some days are beneficial to fruits, others to  flowers. 

 It is possible to buy the Lunar Calendar. Andrew had the Spanish version Lunario 2012 (www.lunario.es).
An AGC member, Gill, buys her English version (complete with wall chart )  off the Internet. http://www.lunarorganics.com/

We all agreed that Andrew should come back in five years time and bring a new set of photos showing the development of his gardens. 

(He originally thought ten years would really show the maturity of the landscape but we felt that 10 years was likely to outrun the “maturity” of some of the members…..)

The morning certainly proved fascinating and was marred only by Cindy demanding money for the annual subscription – albeit without menaces!

Membership Subscriptions due now. €10 each
Contact Cindy
cindyjones19 @ hotmail.com

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