In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
March, 2012
Regional Report

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My poor Monstera deliciosa has known the hand of cruelty!

Garden Woes

What the hard frost earlier in the season was not able to achieve, my landlord has. I have a magnificent Monstera deliciosa growing downstairs in the planting bed at my office building. The plant survived the freeze, the lack of water, the drunks from the bar next door, but was not able to run fast enough to get away from my landlords clippers. He has chopped the cart wheel sized leaves in half to expose the rock wall. I can't for the life of me imagine what he is thinking.

The landlord and I have been waging war over plants that hang over the stone wall ever since I have moved in here, which is about 13 years now. My beautiful mother ferns (Asplenium bulbiferum) are all hacked and ragged. The maidenhair ferns (Andiantum) have been shorn beyond recognition. The five-finger fern (Andiantum alcuticum) still hasn't recovered from the chop job it got last year. The Asparagus meyeri and Asparagus setaceus have both been butchered beyond redemption. I guess the fronds on the A. meyeri looked too much like snakes and the tiny spines on the A. setaceus were a hazard to the building tenants. The clivias, which are just beginning to bloom, have also been attacked. The dark green strap-like leaves which were pristine and perfect are now scarred and hacked. Even the big aeonium that was present when I first moved in is not immune, nor the aspidistra that I planted recently. God forbid that any stray leaf should touch the stone along the top of the walls.

The Artistry Involved
There is an art to reducing the size of ornamental foliage plants, and it does not include the use of hedge shears. Ferns should be pruned from the inside by simply removing the faded, weak or dead foliage. Just before they begin to grow in the spring you can cut them all the way back to the base and then fertilize, but I find that any hard pruning puts them in decline for a few years. Cutting the leaves in half is not an option. It's best to remove the entire frond at the base.

Plants that grow as vines should be pruned gently, untangling the vine you wish to remove from the main body of the plant either by cutting it out in pieces or first making a cut at the base and then following the vine up the plant, removing the pieces as you go along. Some vines can be pruned all the way to the base, but not, it seems, my beautiful Asparagus setaceus, which was doing so well. Hopefully it will recover eventually.

I don't know what I'm going to do about the clivia. If I remove all of the damaged leaves I will have a one sided plant with a stalk of flower buds sticking out the front. This war of the wills between me and the landlord sort of takes the pleasure out of gardening, but it also presents a challenge. I guess I need to keep a pair of clippers in my handbag and shape my garden before the landlord beats me to it. It seems that beauty is in the eye of the beholder -- and the holder of the clippers!

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