They come in different colours, white or pink single blooms are the common variety, but some come in such lovely shapes and colours that it’s hard to believe they are the same species.

The garden where I live has a perimeter of oleanders – great for privacy, but they have grown very tall and needed cutting down to size, and an annual pruning will encourage new growth.

Do you know, I started writing this article in all seriousness, but it seemed a bit dull and boring when I read it back to myself. So I will tell you the truth. Yes, I did cut the oleanders back, but my word, it took days, and each time I looked more and more dishevelled. On top of the effort of actually doing the job, was the protection I took, two layers of gloves (which didn’t make things any easier with regards to handling the secateurs), a hat (not my favourite piece of clothing at the best of times), long sleeves and long trousers. I would have looked more at home going up the jungle with a machete to meet Dr Livingstone.

I had three dogs to keep out of the equation as well, one blind as a bat who knew I was there rustling around in the bushes but didn’t know what for but decided to join in anyway, and two younger ones who thought it was a game of hide and seek and kept following me in with wagging tails trying to catch the lizards I was disturbing.

I will let you into a secret now – in all honesty, I hadn’t really read up much on pruning these bushes, I knew they were poisonous, hence the protective clothing, I had briefly scanned the internet for guidance on how to do it, and being the impulsive person I am, just pitched in with only a vague notion of what I was doing. It said ‘cut above a leaf node’ (what the heck are those)? I guessed it was where the leaf would appear, and chopped away.

As I worked my way round the bushes, there was a decidedly uneven appearance of where I had been working and where I hadn’t yet started the massacre. I had reduced the height by a good eighteen inches, which had been my intention, and most of the spindly suckers round the base were gone, a mostly inelegant procedure I might add, head stuck in, contorting myself to avoid getting foliage in my face with my bum (can I say that?) stuck outside the bush! There were some really thick branches in amongst the foliage, actually they looked like poles as they had no leaves (or leaf ‘nodes’) on them. I wasn’t sure what to do with them, so I left them alone, vaguely thinking they were strong and would help support whatever was left. (I read afterwards that they should come out too, being deadwood – another job for next year, it will need a saw).

Anyway, job is done, and happily new growth has appeared from the leaf nodes I had studiously cut down to, with a promise of flowers again. All is well in my little jungle!


Marilyn writes regularly for The Portugal News, and has lived in the Algarve for some years. A dog-lover, she has lived in Ireland, UK, Bermuda and the Isle of Man. 

Marilyn Sheridan