The winter months have been marked (I was going to choose the word “tainted”, but decided it was too dramatic) by the presence of gnats. I unknowingly brought them in when I prepared the pelargoniums to overwinter indoors. I’m saddened to say that I have lost most of my plants, I suspect, due to a lack of water and the presence of these unwelcomed roommates. I first placed them on top of the fridge, so they were out of the way – we don’t have much room for extra plants. However, when I noticed some of the leaves were crisping up (probably due to the heat coming from the fridge) I took them down to give them some water and I disturbed what looked like a family of these annoying insects.
A positive outcome of all of this was that we adopted a house spider as a pet. Charlotte made a home for herself on the patio doors and earned her keep by catching flies in her web. She was so successful that she had babies, who also helped out. I, in turn, honed in on my hand-eye coordination, dispatching flies on a daily basis and displaying praying mantis traits according to my husband.
Another effective method I employed was spraying the compost surface of the pots with soapy water. Over time, I noticed the spots where the flies would hide, so I cleaned the windows and door hinges a couple of times with much success. (This is starting to read like a post-apocalyptic diary entry, but I cannot express how much I’ve hated these flying nuisances)
The key to this, I have found, is consistency. The numbers have fallen considerably, and I just recently put the remaining plants in the cold frame. Pelargoniums are tender, so should really be kept inside until the danger of frost has passed, but we’ve endured this for 4 months and I’m at a point where I want to go out in the garden first thing in the morning before I go to work to see what’s growing, instead of spending 10 minutes trying to decrease the gnat population.
In other, more positive news, the Attar of Roses and Cola Bottles cuttings have done well. It was my first time propagating cuttings, and we had a 60% success rate. I have given about half of them away and I have placed an order with Fibrex Nurseries for some new plants. It has been a treat to see the cuttings create new shoots, leaves getting a little bigger day by day. I can’t wait for them to the be in the garden, enjoying the sunshine and releasing their pungent, rosy scent.
During the winter months it is difficult to continue to garden when renting, as there isn’t much to do – especially if most of your plants are in pots like mine. Should we own our own home I would have invested in compost bins, water buts and bird boxes. I would have tried to come up with a redesign of the garden. I have kept a gardening journal since we moved into our first rented home with a garden. To that, I have added a folder where I keep magazine cuttings with how-to’s, design ideas and plant combinations I would like to try.
There still has been winter interest, however. The hellebores have been in flower since Christmas, the primroses have flowered for what also feels like months, and the pulmonaria came out in bloom in February. I haven’t seen any pollinators in the garden just yet, but I hope the plants have been a source of food for any early risers.
I say this every year, but I am very excited about this growing season. This is the first house we have stayed in for over a year, allowing me to plan a bit further. We love this house, and hope we can stay here until we save up enough to buy our own place – read, a long, long time.
As I type this, it is the beginning of March, and I have had a snoop around the garden doing a bit of a tidy. I am cautious not to do many drastic changes, I found a very sleeping moth caterpillar yesterday which I tried to keep snug until it’s time to wake up; but I have cut back some of last year’s dead growth, and I am delighted to see new shoots emerging, gets me every time. I am always surprised to see life after the long winter months. But then I remind myself that it’s nature’s way of recharging.