“I’ve always felt that having a garden is like having a good and loyal friend. ”

I love inspiring quotes. At times I’ll come across a quote that rings so true to me, and is exactly the sentiment I had thought of but not quite been able to express. This quote by garden author C Z Guest says it all, and in a similar vein to columnist and landscape designer Ann Raver when she says

“the garden, especially in the summer, comes in and out of the mind like a love affair. The knowledge that something’s waiting for me when I get home.”

Having a garden is like a having a person dear to you in life, a child, a lover or a loyal friend. Someone that is always in your thoughts or someone with whom you are preoccupied with, who takes a huge amount of your time and attention. You can very easily worry about their wellbeing and wish, as with one’s children, you could eliminate their problems and avoid illness and suffering for them. On the other hand, they are loved, nurtured and give you an abundant sense of fulfilment, peace and contentment.

This aspect of having a garden is so unexpected and fascinating. I find that in 1894, Celia Thaxter who wrote, ‘An Island Garden’ at that time, speaks the same truth.

“As I work among my flowers, I find myself talking to them, reasoning and remonstrating with them, and adoring them as if they were human beings. Much laughter I provoke among my friends by so doing, but that is of no consequence. We are on such good terms, my flowers and I.”

Twilight Glow Bud opening 2019

Talking to plants is not part of my day, but I am aware of what is happening in the garden, and I know all the roses by name. Unfortunately not all the perennials except by family names like lavenders, salvias, nepetas, thymes or other herbs.

And like when one’s child is sick, a problem arises in the garden everything must stop so you can focus on the solution. The only thing is, at the moment, we can’t do much about it sadly. Rain is what is needed, but It does not look like that’s going to happen for some time.

“ I am hoping for better times. That’s how you know us hapless gardeners ………..by our dirty fingernails and our absurd, unquenchable optimism about next year.”

The sentiments expressed by Mary McGory in the quote above could have been written life in November 2019 in Australia. For the weather, this season is taking its toll on just about every person I come across, gardeners, farmers and everyone else as well. The dust, smoke, threat of fires, high winds and hot, dry temperatures, and lack of rain are serious challenges.

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The only thing that keeps me going in the garden is the thought that one day, hopefully soon, the dust storms will once more be replaced by rain. The garden will not be waiting for water, and the plants can stretch roots down into the earth for moisture, and we can go back to enjoying the outdoors again free of smoke, dust and tiny flies.

What the roses should look like

Roses are tough and let’s hope all of them can hang in there until Autumn when we may have rain again. Obviously, the garden gets watered, but there is nothing better than rain.

Dry weather brings so many problems apart from lack of rainwater. Some of my roses are under attack from two-spotted mite or spider mites. Suddenly when looking at a rose I’ll notice it doesn’t look right, the plant has a brittle look and no new growth or may have defoliated in parts. After inspecting the leaves’ underside, tiny almost transparent spiders and bronze coloured marks on the leaves indicate spider mites or two-spotted mites. They may be small, but the devastation is not. The mites suck all the goodness, and essential plant fluids from the leaves and the roses will defoliate quickly and eventually die if mites are not moved on.

Spider Mites

My garden has these on many, many roses evidently common in hot, dry weather. The experts say to try, and high pressure hoses them off as they do not like water or moist conditions so watering the plants from overhead may help. I’ve tried this and had reasonable success. Once removed or eliminated the plants rapidly begin to shoot, which I found encouraging.

Best to handle this type of infestation with organic means because these mites will easily become resistant to chemicals. I use Neem oil and in a few days, when according to the weather report, it will be only 26 degrees. The life cycle from eggs to adults is only a week, so they will rapidly increase if not handled quickly. Evidently, it is necessary to repeat the treatment of your choice every 5 days. The mites are in the arachnid family and feed on the leaves’ underside, sucking out the good from the plant and causing severe damage. 

This year has been devastating for many people who have lost homes in NSW and Qld’s extensive fires. The drought and long periods of little or no rainfall have made life extremely difficult for thousands of Australians directly or indirectly through water shortages in towns and farms, resulting in poor quality crops. Severe water restrictions in some country towns mean people cannot keep their gardens alive. It has been a rough year in the rural community. The air is dry and the landscape barren except for those who can irrigate or water from underground bores. I feel fortunate that the drought has not damaged my garden badly because I have access to water. Despite the anticipation and work put into the garden, it is not at all as expected. I have a few perfect blooms, and the designed colour scheme has not manifested itself quite how I envisioned. However, I try not to be disappointed by focusing instead on keeping the roses alive through the rest of the dry spell and higher temperatures ahead. I remain optimistic and will continue to work with nature in balancing the garden’s environment and provide, water, nutrients, care and attention. Next year will be better.

I feel fortunate that the drought has not damaged my garden badly because I have access to water. Despite the anticipation and work put into the garden, it is not at all as expected. I have a few perfect blooms, and the designed colour scheme has not manifested itself quite how I envisioned. However, I try not to be disappointed by focusing instead on keeping the roses alive through the rest of the dry spell and higher temperatures ahead. I remain optimistic and will continue to work with nature in balancing the garden’s environment and provide, water, nutrients, care and attention. Next year will be better.

“Nurturing, decisive, interfering, cajoling, gardeners are eternal optimists who trust the ways of nature and believe passionately in the idea of improvement.

Images in this post by Unsplash, wheat field  Federico Respini, rain  Frank Albrecht, garden shed  and pots Annie Spratt, fence post anne-marie robert, sunlight on weeds Valeri Terziyski, small roses  Xiaolong Wong, Vintage chair on verandah Jørgen Håland and the image below David Klein

Content by Di Baker 2019

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