The Block Island Times

Of violets, hedges and planting trees

By Fred Nelson | Oct 19, 2013
Photo by: Frederick Nelson A privet hedge.

It certainly is interesting to see how fast the season is changing from summer to fall. This is particularly true as I see my tomatoes decline due to diseases and dry weather. While the top of the vines are still green, the rest of the plant would be barren if all of the infected leaves should fall off. Due to the lack of sufficient green leaves, the remaining tomatoes are significantly smaller than those that were produced when the plant had full foliage. Even the cherry tomatoes are smaller — about the size of good-sized blueberries — but they still taste pretty good. It won’t be too long when we shall lament the loss of fresh, off-the-vine tomatoes. Next July certainly looks like a long time to wait for another fresh crop.

A killing frost is not too far in the offing and so it is time to make adjustments for cultivating indoor plants. One plant that is time-honored is the African Violet. The grocery stores quite often receive a shipment of violets with an array of varied colors. As great as these plants look they are also, in my estimation, cheap —like $3.95 or so. At this price it is hard to resist buying “just one more.” The violets perform best in an east window where they receive morning sun. South windows tend to become too hot with sun almost all day and windows facing west likewise tend to be warmer. North windows receive no sun and flowering plants need this necessary environment to flower.

We have a violet that we purchased last winter and it is seldom that there is not some stage of constant blooming. I attest this to two facts: one is regular watering and the second is regular feeding. I have been using Miracle-Gro Liquid Houseplant Food (8-7-6) at the rate of 20 drops in one quart of water for all watering needs. It works for us; just be careful that you don’t overwater. The soil should start to become dry between waterings.

Edie Blane has brought up the subject of the extensive use of privet hedges and their location along roadsides. Privet (Ligustrum amurense) has been used so much around the island that it has “escaped” in some areas and one day may be added to our list of invasive plants.

There is no question that privet makes a good hedge. However, it is most effective when it is planted a sufficient distance from the highway so that it doesn’t block activities such as walking and biking — to say nothing about passage of automobiles. I can remember homes back in our neighborhood in Connecticut where privet hedges were quite common. Different from Block Island maintenance, these were kept trimmed at a height of about 3 to 4 feet — no higher — year after year.

How was this accomplished? They were trimmed at least twice a year and not allowed to grow any higher. Without any trimming privet can reach a height of 15 feet. At this point it is most difficult to do anything to make it attractive. One drastic recourse once a hedge has grown out of control is to cut it to the ground. This can be done during the winter. As the new growth emerges in the spring, start trimming to encourage the resulting new growth to fill in. The recommended style of trimming any hedge is to maintain the base of the hedge so that it is more broad at the base where the lower branches can receive sufficient sunshine to develop a more dense growth. Once the desired height is achieved continue to shear it at this level without allowing it to creep up a few inches each year.

The Land Trust is proposing to accept donations of memorial trees to be planted at the Nevas property on Cooneymus Road. Selections must be approved by the Land Trust. A variety of trees from their selection would add interest to any land. One note of caution in this endeavor is the supervision of correct planting in a well prepared hole, sufficient spacing to ensure that there won’t be competition from mature trees and the early maintenance to ensure the establishment of the trees. Newly planted trees require ample watering during planting and at least weekly watering during the first year and perhaps some watering in the next year or so, depending upon rainfall.

When the 23 memorial trees were planted at the American Legion grounds, they were watered regularly for the first two years and then as needed for the next year or so. Not one tree was lost in this planting. One essential requirement for newly planted trees is that they must be protected from deer where their rutting practice can severely damage young trees up to the development of at least three inches of trunk diameter. Stakes or plastic guards are most effective to prevent this damage.

“Gardening is... an outlet for fanaticism, violence, love, and rationality without their worst side effects.” — Geoffrey Charlesworth, “A Gardener Obsessed” (1994)

Comments (1)
Posted by: Clarence Casper | Oct 24, 2013 20:05

Unfortunately some on Block Island are using privet as a privacy screen and blocking existing vistas of their neighbors, Instead of screening only a small area they are attempting to screen their entire property, screening even their views of stone walls.

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