Early on a summer morning

Sunday, 21 January 2018

This Strobilanthes dyeriana wilts dramatically during hot days but is beautiful in the early morning

For me, one of the real downers about our ongoing heatwave conditions is that I feel as if I have lost touch with my garden. When the sun is beating down and the temperatures are in the high 30s (or more!), the last place in earth I want to be is in my garden. Apart from the physical discomfort of the conditions, I find it painful to see my plants wilting so pathetically under the onslaught, which seems to happen even if I know they have been watered reasonably well. Frankly, it breaks my heart, and I can't bear to look.

Garden work, too, goes by the by, as for me it is impossible to work in the heat. With garden visitors expected next month, I do have a fair bit of tidying, weeding and trimming to be done, and I am really getting a bit behind schedule now!

Fuchsia Ambassador spangled with dew in the early morning

A solution came with a friend telling me she gardens early in the mornings during summer, and that the garden is delightful at this time. Not a terribly organised morning person - I tend to dillydally for quite a while before I achieve much in the mornings and need numerous cups of tea before I feel even vaguely human - I decided to try out the suggestion this weekend. Even though I didn't get outside at the crack of dawn as hoped, I did find I had an hour and a half in very pleasant conditions before the heat of the sun drove me back inside, and felt I had achieved a huge amount: yet it was only 8.30 am!

Dew on the velvet foliage of Tibouchina multiflora

And indeed, early morning in the summer garden is wonderful. The air is crisp, fresh and deliciously cool. There is even a smattering of dew on the lawn and on plants, providing a pretty sparkle. All is quiet and peaceful, with just the sounds of myriad birds, cheerful and chirpy at this time, not yet driven to find shelter as they will be as the sun climbs in the sky. The plants are perky and standing up tall, not lolling and frazzled as if about to expire at any moment.

I observed flower spikes on the gold-leaved Liriope Pee Dee Ingot

I managed to do a whole section of my garden in comfort, all the while moving my hose around to give nearby plants a good drink at their roots, buoyed by the knowledge that this was a good time of day to be doing so. I was able to really look at my plants, seeing how they are going, checking for pests and disease problems as well as admiring flowers and foliage at my leisure - which I certainly haven't been doing much of lately, having spent so little time in the garden. I spotted a flower spike on a giant bromeliad that has never bloomed before and the first purple wands on my golden Liriope 'Pee Dee Ingot' (none of the Liriope specimens I grow have turned a hair in the heatwaves, I noticed).

Echinacea purpurea can be admired better in the early mornings

It came back to me that my mother and grandmother had both used this very same strategy of early morning gardening - for my mother it was the only time she had spare in her very busy life; and for my grandmother, it was to beat the heat as her garden was in country NSW where unrelenting summer weather was already the norm 60 years ago! I can picture them now, moving quietly through their gardens at this pristine time of the day, when all is well and the garden is at its very best.

I hope to make this a habit of my own whilst this horrible weather continues, maybe even getting up much earlier to accomplish my goals. This early morning caper has a lot going for it!

Reader Comments

  • By Bren 2540 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 22 January 2018

    Yes, I try morning gardening too, but by 9 it is getting too hot. Then I have to wait until 4:30pm to start again; the evening also is beautiful in the garden, and I have found it to be the best time to water. This heat makes me think sometimes that finding the right place for the right plant is the most difficult thing about gardening... Yes the evenings can be nice; I have quite a few mozzies, however, that annoy me then! Finding the right spot for a plant is a challenge, made more difficult by our current extreme weather conditions. Deirdre

  • By Barbara 6025 (Zone:10 - Mediteranean) Monday, 22 January 2018

    Ah, early morning has always been MY time, for the garde and for me, myself, I . No kids, no hubby demanding attention, just my plants and my garden. It is 3am now and I can"t wait for the sun to be up. I might not achieve much as far as hardcore gardening goes but I do "my garden rounds" visiting my "babies". At least I know how they are doing. I am this old lady of the neighbourhood doing gardening in her pjs . Happy early morning gardening people.Yes I do often go out in pyjamas too! Early morning is just such a gorgeous time in the garden. Deirdre

  • By Shaun 2075 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 22 January 2018

    I"m one of you too, an early waker waiting for 5.30am, then just out there, yea PJs, watering calmly, talking to my bees and plants, then I self water with tea! Joy of being solo and doing, unplanned! all about me and my garden. Happy daze! It"s wonderful to have that time of solitude in the day, isn"t it! Deirdre

  • By Sue T. 2566 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 22 January 2018

    I"m sure that your garden visitors will not mind a few weeds. I"m not a morning person either so lately any gardening I do gets done after 6.00pm as even at 4.30 it is still too hot. It certainly is often still too hot in the late afternoon to do much on these very hot days. Surely we will get a change soon?? Deirdre

  • By margaret 2122 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 22 January 2018

    Early morning is certainly the time to garden, especially in this horrid weather. The morning is usually mild and fresh, with not many distractions. You can get on with your jobs in relative peace. I have covered my more vulnerable plants with old sheets, which look as though they will be a permanent fixture for a few days yet. At least they afford some protection from the searing heat. It is such a peaceful time of day. The sheets are a good idea. Deirdre

  • By Gillian 2119 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 22 January 2018

    Thanks for your blog, oh dear! sadly I can relate to everything you say. It totally distresses me to see my garden baking in the midday sun even when I have watered in the early morning. My elm has grown taller and changed the micro climate of my garden, hence camellias are being scorched.The water bill is horrendous but I cannot let my garden suffer. Keeping plants alive is my main focus. I am longing for the cooler days. Early morning and late afternoon is my gardening time of choice as well It is very trying. I too am yearning for some cool days. Deirdre

  • By Sue 2074 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 22 January 2018

    I agree mornings are so good. I too am a PJ gardener and waterer, even in the front garden close to the street and get to say hello to all the early morning runners. I guess this weather shows us which plants can take it and may make us rethink things. I have many aqua spotty umbrellas over hydrangeas and my veggies, so it looks very colourful even if there are brown tree fern fronds in the creek area. Hope your open day goes well, we all understand weeds - not a problem. I do think we may need to rethink some of our plantings as some plants are way out of their comfort zone with these very high temperatures for days on end. I like the sound of the colourful umbrellas! Deirdre

  • By Valerie 2121 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 22 January 2018

    Commiserations! I"m going through the same experience, watching the garden self-edit under these extremely trying conditions. I like your photo of the Echinacea plants. They look as though they are thriving. I think I"ll have to "go forward" into 2018 with Westringia in some parts of the garden. Just as well I like it. I do find those North American prairie plants like the Echinacea do well in Sydney and seem to stand the heat OK. Deirdre

  • By Debbie 2323 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 22 January 2018

    There is a shared understanding that gardeners hold in just how difficult it is to watch your plant fry in extreme heat. I read this post nodding away, as I did reading your posts this time last year. I feel it is now time to have a change of mindset. Summer is not just the season to keep the water up to plants but it"s the season to get out early and continue to enjoy the ups and downs of gardening. Thanks so much for your writing. Thanks, Debbie. I am going to try hard to use the pleasant times in the morning to be in my garden. Deirdre

  • By virginia 2125 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 22 January 2018

    How I sympathise and admire your efforts to get out early. I too am not a morning person and although I have good intentions haven"t managed it yet. Late afternoon and evening is my time. I am particularly enjoying my shady back garden. I agree that shaded areas of the garden are so welcoming at this time of extreme heat. Deirdre

  • By margaret 2067 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 22 January 2018

    Don"t worry too much about the weeds Deirdre. I hope to be one of your visitors and I know exactly where you are coming from. I cover the hydrangeas with sheets up till Christmas and then relax a bit more as the summer goes on. I am getting more shade in some parts of the garden with a large magnolia and an enormous white crepe myrtle. Thanks, Margaret! I think we will all appreciate some more shade in our gardens after the experiences of this summer! Look forward to seeing you soon. Deirdre

  • By Norman 2653 (Zone:8-9 - Cool Temperate to Alpine) Monday, 22 January 2018

    Thank you Deirdre for all the effort that you put into these gardening blogs.Thanks for your kind feedback, Norman. Deirdre

  • By noeline 2081 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 22 January 2018

    I also love the mornings wandering with a cuppa.The heat has made me give up on my back lawn and I have decided to tear it out and put natives in instead I have tried for years to keep the lawn going but as soon as the summer gets going each year it turns to a dust bowl if I am not constantly watering Wish me luck as I explore Kangaroo paws, grevillea and grasses I hope they withstand the heat more than the lawnand I may see more wildlife from the patio too. Hope it all goes well, Noeline. Deirdre

  • By janet 2322 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Tuesday, 23 January 2018

    Hello Deirdre! I understand your dilemma & used to have the same problems in hot summers but this is the first year that my Portwine Magnolia has spread its canopy & accompanied buy an old variety of crepe myrtle I am truly blessed with shade, that"s not to say some of my plants have suffered so its a case of water, water, water Lol. Roll on Autumn my favourite time of year. Good luck with your open garden which I"m sure will be a great success. I am really appreciating my shaded areas this summer. Like you, I long for autumn; it is my favourite time of year too. Deirdre

  • By Janna UK Tuesday, 23 January 2018

    And I"m over here thinking, "too early, too cold, better just wait another hour until it"s bearable to be outside"!! So hard for us to imagine right now! Deirdre

  • By Barbara 6025 (Zone:10 - Mediteranean) Wednesday, 24 January 2018

    Ha, ha Janna, I would be in my winter sleep if I were in your part of the world, I will take mid 30s any day to your storms, wind, dark and wet. I bet you are couch gardening in anticipation of Spring. Let"s us know how it is going. I wouldn"t mind a few storms with real rain right now!? Deirdre

  • By Shaun 2075 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Saturday, 27 January 2018

    Deirdre I note you have Brillantasia in your garden. I would love a cutting or two, don"t think I"ve fathomed the Request system yet. My two Summer Red and especially Buckinghamia are spectacular this year. I"ve created a bit o"bush in my back yard over past 8-9 year and thrilled with its response during this droughty hot time. Hi Shaun -- go to the Plant Share page and request a Brillantaisia cutting and perhaps someone will be able to share one with you. You might also try the Royal Botanic Gardens nursery or the Collectors Plant fair in April! Deirdre

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