Sunday, December 2, 2012

The honeymoon is over

It has been quite a lovely spring, but the honeymoon is over, and there are many ways every gardener in Sydney knows that. For starters, there was yesterday... if being billed as 'December 1, first day of summer' wasn't enough, the weather gods threw us a stinker of a hot, humid day with temperatures approaching the old century made worse, much worse, by stifling, muggy air. However, my sense that the honeymoon of spring had well and truly ended was with me before then. The finks have arrived in numbers. 

When you see ants farming aphids, you know the honeymoon is over and the hard work of gardening in this mostly beautiful climate has begun.

This bunch of new leaf shoots on my potted
Thai makrut lime is busy with the activity of
ants bringing black aphids to feast on the juicy
new shoots. The unpleasant fact that the ants
then 'harvest' the sweet body fluids from the
aphids is almost enough reason to detest their
heartless efficiency, but for me, it's the way they
are damaging a perfectly healthy and happy
lime tree that really gets me! Finks. 

Over in the Tahitian lime tree there's another honeymoon-
wrecker at work: stink bugs. I did a little posting about these
sap suckers a few weeks ago, when they were coloured in the
vivid orange which gives them the other name of bronze orange
bugs. Now they are adults and they're coming in waves, and
these adults are much harder to see than the colourful kids.

Who has the perfect climate for gardening? No-one. Sydney is a wonderful place to grow so many plants. It's so mild here where I am, fairly close to the coast, that we never get frosts in winter. Rainfall is pretty steady, year-round, and a quick glance out the back door any day of the year and all you see is lush greenery.

So my complaints about the honeymoon being over are merely an annual regret. Spring is such an energising, enjoyable time in the garden. Everything grows like mad, the pests only come in dribs and drabs, and most of the gardening stories are happy ones. 

What lies ahead in summer is still a lot of fun, but all plants now have uncertain futures (just like us). Pests and diseases are always on the agenda, bad summer storms can end a plant's career in 10 minutes, and so gardening becomes a bit more of a battle, yet I'm happy enough to get out there and do my bit.

Instead of finishing on that lamentable note, I really should keep things in balance by saying that almost everything is still happy and thriving. New flowers are appearing, the first flush of spring crops has already been harvested and the second set is up and growing, and the revamped succulent patch is getting into stride very nicely. So here are a few happy images of the kids in the backyard to finish. 

Plectranthus 'Mona Lavender' had a rough winter; I actually
fell into the bush at one stage during garden renovations, and so
I had to cut it back very heavily, but now it's starting to do what it
usually does for most of the year – flower its head off.

At the base of the plectranthus, a row of little gomphrenas
(little annual flowers) are matching the bigger plant behind
for enthusiasm in putting on a pinky-purple show.

Next door to the plectrantus is a potted
Tibouchina 'Groovy Baby' doing a purple thing.
And in a sunny spot these daisies are beaming innocent cheer.

OK, summer, bring it on! We're ready for whatever you have in store. (How about lots of sunshine with rain on Monday and Thursday nights? Too much to ask? Thought so).


Missy Piggy said...

Wow, I had no idea that ants carried the aphids to their dining spot of choice...I've noticed ants on my zucchini plant but haven't (yet) seen anything untoward happening.

patientgardener said...

your honeymoon might be over but I am still jealous as we are now entering a cold and grey winter.

Jamie said...

Missy Piggy: yep, wherever you see ants scurrying up and down plants, watch where they go. They're often up to no good. I actually admire ants, but I don't trust them.

Helen: you're right, I have little reason to complain here in mild old Sydney. I hope your winter is a bit less grey and a bit less cold than usual.