about this blog



This blog tracks the ongoing changes of my garden, and the wildlife I try to attract to it. It's a nature blog. It contains my thoughts and musings about anything and everything to do with nature - gardening, book reviews, philosophy, travel, science, history, art, design, politics.
Catmint is my signature plant because it has all the qualities I value in a plant: resilience, beauty and the capacity to spread prolifically . Unfortunately it's not indigenous. If I was starting again I'd probably choose an indigenous plant.

Monday, 27 January 2014

midsummer heat


It's so hot it's breaking previous weather records. When it's over 40 - that's 104 in fahrenheit -  it's too hot to be in the garden, let alone do anything in the garden. It's too hot to go to the beach. And the water in the local swimming pool is so warm you might as well stay home and take a cold bath.

The effect of this summer is that the evolution of the garden is even more uncertain, experimental and transitional than before. When I look at the garden, I see it in one of its possible future forms: filled with indigenous and other plants, well adapted to a hot dry climate, forming a romantic picture.





I have no desire for a lush green garden that can only be achieved with lots of summer watering. I am drip watering selected plants. In their first summer plants need help establishing a decent root system. Other plants are on their own. If they die, it means they are either unsuited to the climate, or in the wrong position.


When people visit the garden, they see it as is now, not as it might be in some potential future state.  A. hadn't seen the garden before. He said he liked it, and found it very austere. Nobody has ever called it austere before!  H, who is in her early 90s, walked around the garden with a puzzled look. She didn't want to upset me by saying anything negative, but she kept saying: 'It's very dry, isn't it?'







Further afield, bushfires have already claimed houses and human lives. Lives of wildlife affected by the heat are not accurately counted. Not far from here is a colony of flying foxes. Hundreds dropped from the trees, either dead or dehydrated, in the last heatwave and another hot week starts today. Apparently when they're stressed flying foxes tend to cluster together, and end up suffocating each other.

There's lots of heat to come, so this is a midsummer snapshot. A long summer is forecast. That means autumn will be late coming.  Watch this space to find out what survived in the garden and what went to compost.






42 comments:

  1. I feel your pain. It is the same here during our summer. The best thing you can do for the wildlife is keep that water out. As for the garden.....because you and I both have basically the same type of zone, I have gone to all native shrubs specifically to reduce our water bills and help out the wildlife. As the temps continue to climb, the garden becomes a trickier place to maintain. When you write this, I feel your pain.

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    1. thx Chris, for your empathy. It's still hot, but I'm feeling a bit less paniccy now.

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  2. Flying foxes are big bats is n't it, horrible they are dying by drought. And the garden, so painful to see all those plants withering. I love the colours of the lorikeets. In our part of the world it's cold and very wet, soil in the garden is soaked, but even here temperatures are mild for the time of year, we have not got any frost until now.

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    1. Hi Janneke, I visited the colony today, apparently about 1000 died in that really bad week. There are still thousands there. I'll post a photo soon - they look amazing.

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  3. 40 degrees is hot. I can imagine that no one wants to garden when it is that hot. Is it more bearable in the morning? Do you have a hosepipe ban? I am curious to see which plants can stand the drought and heat. I see there is still a lot of green in your garden. Oh, the birds are beautiful.

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    1. Dear Denise, it's better in the morning, unfortunately I'm better in the afternoon! We don't have a watering ban at present, luckily, but apparently people are using so much water, we might need one again. There is a lot of green in the garden, as I wrote to Chris, I panicked and saw the worse. Thanks so much for caring.

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  4. Wow, that is hot. I hope that things moderate soon for the sake of the animals and plants. Here in the northeastern USA, it is unusually cold, even for the middle of winter. Some nights it has been going down to around zero Fahrenheit (about -18 Celsius). Other parts of the northern US and Canada have been even colder. It seems like a time of extreme temperatures in many parts of the world.

    I tend to agree with the approach of finding plants that can endure hot, dry temperatures rather than trying to keep everything alive and lush by massive watering. For one thing, I would think that everyone trying to keep their yards and gardens green would use so much water that it would be a considerable strain on the total water supply.

    Those birds are so beautiful!

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    1. Dear RPS, we certainly are experiencing extremes of temperatures! I'm glad you agree with my approach. It has worked so far for about one third of the garden. I don't think I'll live long enough to work out how to drought proof the whole garden. But that's to be expected, isn't it? Gardens are never finished, but gardeners are (lol)

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  5. My heart goes out to you. We have had our share of scorching dry summers with temps like you describe. The year my oldest child was born, we had 15 days in a row of 100 degree plus heat. Those days are long forgotten now as we are experiencing a very cold (for us) winter. We have been in the single digits (about -13 C.) a couple of times this month with more on the way. We may even get some snow! By the way, those birds (parrots?) are amazing!

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    1. hi Deb, 15 days in a row over 100 is worse than I've experienced. And being pregnant or with a new baby too. If I'd known you then my heart would have gone out to you! And now - it's freezing worse than I've experienced! Maybe I shouldn't complain (but sharing it makes it feel better). Those birds are called Rainbow Lorikeets, they're native to Australia and quite common round here.

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  6. I am so sorry that you and your plants are suffering in the relentless heat. And so sad about the poor animals. Summers here in the Valley where I live are very intense so I can understand some of what you are going through. We are in a record drought year, and the outlook doesn't look good for gardening as I have known it. I do hope you have some relief soon!

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    1. hi dorothy, A lot of the plants in my garden are from California, they seem to be suitable for the way our weather is shaping up and for what I'm trying to do. As Chris said, gardening is becoming quite tricky ...

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  7. How sad about the flying foxes! I'm assuming it's an unusual occurrance? I agree with your idea of going with what doesn't need to be pampered. Sorry that it has been so hot and dry for you. We had a similar drought in our summer of 2012, although probably not as severe as yours. But it was horribly unusual for us. Tonight, we will break a record for this date: -21F (-30C), with wind chills of -45F (-43C) ... quite the opposite of your problem. I don't enjoy either extremem. Maybe we can share just a bit of each other's extremes to balance things out a bit. Take care, Sue!

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    1. hi Beth, that week was unusual and although since then although it has been hot, it hasn't been nearly as bad. The flying fox colony is still very large and strong - and amazing. It will make a great post when I get myself organized. Sorry your weather is so cold - must be hard.

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  8. We all seem to be suffering from some form of extreme weather. How sad that your wildlife is dying because of the heat. I think you are right to try and find native plants that will survive with no added water, water is so precious, it can't be used for watering a garden. We , on the other hand, in the UK, have floods everywhere, and have had them for the last 2 months or so. Plants in the garden again are having to cope with their roots sitting in water, there will be losses.

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    1. Hi Pauline, I was shocked today hearing about the extreme wet weather you have been having, breaking all previous records. I wonder if there are more plants that don't mind the dryness and the heat compared to those that mind having their roots sitting in water? Both extremes are interesting horticultural challenges for us, just in case we are in danger of getting bored - as if!

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  9. Ouch so hot there and so cold here...lovely birds visiting your garden. While you will reveal what has survived in your garden, I will be revealing much the same here after this winter.....stay cool...wish I could send you some cold air to cool you!

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    1. Hi Donna, luckily it hasn't as bad since that awful week. I wish I could send you a bit of heat to warm you up.

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  10. We are having a slightly odd January. Days of high thirties, then overcast cool rainy today - which is kind to the garden, but not what we expect. My March lily burst into bloom, then withered when the sun blazed back.

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    1. The plants, and us, need to learn to be really resilient in this age of extreme and unpredictable weather.

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  11. I think I recognize Nigella/ "Love in the Mist" and Poppy seed pods. The birds are new to me... 104F sounds like a summer day in Texas. It was 28F here today, too cold for me and no snow... I like snow, occasionally. Letting a garden evolve is the best thing any of us can do - why plant something that you will have to pamper and pet? For me, discovering what will work in a Fort Worth summer (and winter) is part of the fun. Yes, I still wish for 'an English country garden' - not even sure if it exists anywhere except in my mind. (Lots of flowers, a bit of fruit and veg, and Colin Firth and Alan Rickman wandering about.)

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    1. Hi Joy, I think my aesthetic is changing, I now love the subtlety of the Australian bush, and that is very hard to replicate in a garden. But I guess we all have some kind of ideal garden in our head that doesn't exist and never will, and as you say, is part of the fun (usually) but sometimes part of the frustration.

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  12. So sorry to hear of your extreme heat and drought. I'm sending you cool wet thoughts your way!

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    1. thanks og, if I close my eyes tight and concentrate hard, I can almost feel the dampness.

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  13. We occasionally get to 104 here, too, although never for an extended period of time. This has been a year for extremes. 100 year records are being broken in England for the wettest year, in my area the coldest Jan, and the western part of the US is drier than it's ever been in recorded history. I would have a very hard time not watering everything. How has the weather affected the wildlife that comes to your garden?

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    1. Hi Tammy, I've seen two dead possums, not sure if died from heat or cats. Surprisingly I've seen dragonflies and butterflies, I would have thought it was too hot for them. The birds are around, they drink at the bird baths a lot. Thank goodness the 104 plus for a whole week was only on one occasion - so far. After that experience, temps in the 30s seem cool.

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  14. Yes its been a little warm! I look forward to this time of year for all the great character of Summer/heat stress of everything in the garden! It is quite remarkable the many who cannot cope with the look of a garden when it does not display all the hallmarks of human intervention. I regard our southern Hemisphere Summer look to be our equivalent of the N.H. Winter look! I am loving this Summer!

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    1. thanks so much, Billy, your sensible comment helped to snap me out of my self pity and panic. I realize I love the burnt look in the summer, green look unnatural.

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  15. Sorry a typo!
    The only good that I can see coming from 40° heat is it might just about dry my garden out here in the UK!

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    1. perhaps we could find a wormhole to send some heat to you and some water to me!

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  16. 40 plus is hard to cope with. Hope it cools down soon and you can start to enjoy the garden again.

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    1. thanks Alastair - I'm enjoying it again - that week was unbearable but I can't stay out of the garden for long - might get withdrawal symptoms. Thanks for your good wishes.

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  17. And another hot weekend has just ended. My mother told me that it was so hot outside she found it hard to breath. She also told me that wile various plants are feeling the effects of the heat, the wisteria (much to her chagrin) is flourishing!
    Bye for now and stay cool,
    Kirk
    PS
    Here in Germany we are having such a mild winter that it is almost akin to a winter in Melbourne. We should be having snow but instead I have put away my long winter coat. We are all wondering if we are going to suffer for this in late February but so far nothing and we are keeping our fingers crossed.

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    1. sounds like you are having a pleasant winter in Germany, Kirk. Last week people with asthma were told to stay indoors because it was hard to breathe in Melbourne because of the smoke from the bushfires. I hope your mum is OK - wisterias are monsters unless they are exactly in the right location and well supported. I've learned that lesson too late and sounds like your mum has too.

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  18. Flying foxes! I had to google them. Look kinda like bats except maybe larger? Sorry you are having such a hot dry summer. In USA, we still have 5 more weeks of winter and the northern states have had a very rough winter. Southern states are starting to see hints of spring. You had 2 photos of a very dry looking plant with balls on it. Thought that was interesting.

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    1. Hi linda, they are large fruit eating bats. Those balls are the seed pods of the annual wildflowers, the nigella and the poppies. There's nothing much else to photograph that looks interesting. Certainly few flowers.

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  19. I wish we could send you some of our excess rain from England.

    I'm following a tree again in 2014. Would you like to do the same? I'm having a bash at using a Linky box on my blog for people who'd like to keep in touch with each other's trees.

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    1. Hi Lucy, even within Australia, there are places that have floods and other places that have droughts. I think there's room for an invention to transfer water to different locations. Or make rain. Probably easier to find plants that thrive in these conditions. I hadn't forgotten about tree following, just having difficulty keeping up blogging all together. But I'll definitely check out your Linky box.

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  20. I just love the birds you have there. Hot and dry, really opposite than we have here in WNY. Hope you get the rains, I know you easily get fires with the dry climate as we have seen it on the news. I feel for the wildlife, they don't have the choices we have to get out of the heat.

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    1. Hi Donna, the wildlife really suffer with the heat and the fires. Most of the birds in my garden are not colourful, but the lorikeets make up for it.

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  21. We are facing the same hot weather here. Like you, I pity my plants. Some days, I water them twice a day - one time in the morning and another in the evening. The other day when I was not in town, a few potted plants dried up. Btw, whether indigenous plant or not, I think no difference when plants are grown in pots.

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    1. I agree, Steph. I try not to have too many pot plants because you really do have to water them. In the terrible heat I didn't water the bay tree that's in a pot because it felt too hot to go outside. All the leaves dried out and shrivelled up. Later I cut it right back and watered it and now it's shooting strongly from the base.

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