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!