Not sure how to get your thumbs green? We’ve got you covered with some expert tips from Paul Rice, Belmond Mount Nelson Hotel’s head gardener:
1. Work to a schedule
Assign certain tasks to each month of the year, and each week of the month – mowing lawns, weeding, pruning, deadheading. ‘You can’t fall behind. Timing is everything,’ he says.
2. Don’t cut your lawn too short, especially in summer
The leaf surface feeds the plant and provides shade to keep its roots cool in the heat. ‘If you cut too short, you’re cutting off the plant’s food supply and the roots will bake and dry out,’ Paul warns. He cuts lawns as high as possible, although this means cutting more frequently.
3. Grow a hedge
Try Syzygium paniculatum (Eugenia) as it is robust and easy to trim and maintain. It attracts fewer pests and diseases and can withstand strong wind.
4. When it gets colder…
Plant cool-season plants in April and May to introduce colour for the forthcoming months: osteospermums, ranunculus, delphiniums, lachenalias and primulas, for example.
5. Stay fresh in the heat
It’s possible to keep your garden looking fresh in late summer after months of heavy heat. Paul deadheads spent flowers and feeds with organic fertilisers (though he uses small amounts of synthetic fertilisers too) in February to encourage plants to keep flowering, and replants key areas, such as the carpet petunias around the main terrace fountain, for a burst of colour.
6. Keep a record
Bad things happen to good gardeners: record-breaking rain, fungal infections, worms. ‘You may have a population explosion of a certain parasite and then you fail but it doesn’t mean you must give up forever. Try again, or diversify your operation,’ Paul says.
7. Whip out the weapons
Sometimes you need to spray. The Mount Nelson’s roses, for example, need occasional spraying against black spot. ‘We have to use some insecticide,’ says Paul, ‘but there’s no blanket spraying of toxic chemicals here. We’re very careful with what we use.’
For more on the gardens of the Nellie, see the May 2015 Travel issue of HL.