> Ravishing Rascal

First published in the Riviera Times/Monaco Times/Riviera Insider (10/2015)

Now is the time, to get to grips with Oleander

A plant of motorways and hedges, Nerium oleander is so common along the Med, that this flowering shrub seldomly gets enough attention. However this southern symbol adds a lot of joy – with suitable location, sufficient nutrients and good pruning.

Twiggy shoots say: wrong location. Oleander wants full sun, always. He dislikes slopes, but loves lots of water when young. Visible basal roots show: something’s wrong. Mr. O. is tough, but he’ll frown at that. Compost is a solution. As a swift grower he needs regular formative pruning. Dead wood must go – all the way down, diseased branches are cut back to healthy wood by about three leaf nodes – a cut slightly above the node keeps diseases off.

Sharp, clean secateurs and loppers are a must; hedge trimmers and machines? No way! Clean quality tools and fine pruning give plants beauty and health. A showy oleander needs training right from the start. Five to seven main shoots form the structure over time. For a little tree one to five upright growing shoots are enough. Water sprouts and basal shoots consume nutrients; criss-crossing or rubbing branches attract diseases, so hence with them. Shoots can be cut back by one third. That makes the rascal healthy and gives him good shape. Oleander accepts heavy pruning in the south. Shrubs getting their correct treatment now, will again look fabulously in spring. A scoop of compost rounds off this autumn therapy.

But why a „rascal“? Oleander is beautiful, but poisonous in all parts. Even when burnt! Gloves and a dust mask are needed when renovating him. Kids and pets may not ingest pruning remains! However, feel free to compost him.