Today is a serene and beautiful clear sunny day, peaceful and still after the early morning cool and not a cloud in the sky. The sun shines, and the day is expected to be hot, a perfect summer day. Alas, like all things in nature, just when you thought it was time to enjoy the great outdoors, we are hit with the latest plague of insects to wreak havoc on the gardener and all who attempt to enjoy the garden.
After the floods, the mosquitoes almost carried us away, but they have lessened, and it was lovely to work outside in the garden without as much protective gear on in recent days. Now, just a few days later, the air is thick with wasps. Yesterday in the garden cutting back palm tree fronds and clearing up, there were a few wasps about and plenty of hornets buzzing past like miniature helicopters. They usually are not anything to be concerned about, preferring to go about their business and leave people alone, and I have never worried about them. Later in the day, my husband was stung by a swarm of wasps whilst mowing the lawn. Since then, I read that they dislike the noise and vibration of lawnmowers and edge trimmers, considering them a threat to their nests which are often in the ground, and they will attack and sting multiple times. Also, they have a jaw motion that allows them to actually bite so a pest to steer away from if possible.
Today I cautiously watered the garden as usual in the early morning but from a safe distance on the verandah because I had noticed many wasps hovering over the lawn. By 9.30, sure enough, they came out in thousands as the day warmed up. I made a hasty retreat indoors and have given up any gardening or hanging washing out for today. Several hours later, they were not flying around as much, so perhaps the extra water this morning was the attraction.
Rural living can be harsh sometimes, and the impact of the weather, the seasons, and nature is often very extreme. Insects arrive in droves rather than scatterings and, as time will tell, can be gone just as quickly as they came. For the time being, I certainly hope that is the case with these wasps – they are so aggressive. Nature has won this round, and our lawn may remain long, with the edges a bit shabby, until the wasps decide to move on.
On a brighter note, many of the roses have buds forming after the summer prune, and some are slowly opening again with bright new red growth in the foliage. I’m away again from the summer garden and visiting several more botanical gardens in Australia over the next week, but I’m anticipating an impressive display of roses on my return.
This time of year, naturally, one’s mind turns to planning for the next season, as the reality of what worked for Spring and Summer in the garden will be evident by now. Over the next week, as I wander through many gardens in Adelaide, Hobart and Melbourne, I’ll be looking for inspiration and ideas for various aspects of the garden that I can improve upon during the coming winter.
Last year, the floods created an out-of-the-ordinary season, and very few Lavender bushes survived the deluge. I’m still determining whether to replant and what would be a suitable replacement. I miss the soft greyish-silver foliage of Lavender that went so well with roses. However, Lambs Ears, Artemisia Powis Castle, Salvia and Sage, Stachys byzantina Lamb’s Ears, Helichrysum, the licorice plant, Sea Holly and Lychnis coronaria, or rose campion are also good contrasts.
On the other hand, most of the Rosemary plants did survive even though they are also a more dry garden Mediterranean plant that dislikes excess water. Rosemary in all her varieties and styles, may come to the rescue, being; hardy, fragrant, evergreen, frost hardy, colourful and disease resistant.
When viewing gardens, parklands and botanical gardens, I’m looking for inspiration and ideas for perennial borders, underplanting options, and ideas for garden beds with many roses. Gertrude Jekyll was a master at planting, and in her garden designs, the plants appear to be in a natural arrangement rather than designed. Still, it does take more thought and planning than it first appears to achieve this natural look.
Gertrude Jekyll is said to be one of the greatest, most famous garden designers who was a highly talented artist, writer, gardener and horticulturist. She trained in the science of optics and colour and was curious about the world around her, which she attributed to her father.
Gertrude Jekyll had a degenerative eye condition which meant she saw colours as blurs, and her designs were more like artistic paintings, often reminiscent of Turner. She used large drifts of colour in her herbaceous borders with wildflowers in the distance, plus she would spread seeds via a shotgun to create the natural looking landscape with clever colour schemes that moved from cool whites and blues through to warm oranges and reds then back again.
She designed hundreds of gardens and was also known for her talent for using texture and groupings of colour in the garden in broad masses that blended to produce a harmonious whole.
Gertrude Jekyll’s legacy thrives around the world today. Her 400 gardens live on, as do her many books and designs, plus the 1,000 articles she wrote and her work in propagating many dwarf shrubs, including Munstead Lavender. Her design philosophy encourages innovation through experience by trying out different flower combinations, keeping track of what survives and when, and bringing in as little outside contrivance as possible. I am in awe of her abilities, tenacity and legendary green thumb- most likely the world’s best.
Title quote Michael P. Garofalo
Content Di Baker 2023
Images Di Baker 2023