Awake, thou wintry earth –
Fling off thy sadness!
Fair vernal flowers, laugh forth
Your ancient gladness!
~Thomas Blackburn, “An Easter Hymn”
I travelled in Tasmania and Melbourne last week and saw the magic combination of a wet winter and warm days arriving. Blossom and color filled the air, peacocks sunned themselves in Launceston and cyclists hummed along Beach Road in Melbourne. The pale faces of the locals told the story of a long winter and the welcome sunny days. Our climate friends at the BOM tell us we are seeing the end of a long La Nina but we havent slipped across to El Nino, so the weather is unpredictable and could be wet or dry, very Spring!
In the garden we at savewater!® have been developing some interesting plant material with our colleagues at Yarra Valley Water. The savewater!® plant selector already has a good range of water efficient plants including both native and wonderful plants from around the world but Yarra Valley Water wanted to extend the concept. One of the great things about working with water is seeing how water contributes to our quality of life everyday and Yarra Valley Water wanted to express this in a plant way. We are developing descriptions and lists of plants you can eat, for the Spring and Summer vegetable garden and also plants in your garden that provide habitat for garden visitors – birds, butterflies, frogs and lizards. The lists will be designed to be easily accessible and have additional resources to explore further.
When we were looking at the habitat needs of butterflies and frogs one important bit of advice was not to use herbicides on your garden. Popular herbicides are toxic to animals if they get into water in ponds or drains and will wipe out fish, frogs and insect life. Coincidentally I met with David Low from the Weeds Network last week as well. I was expecting a discussion about rogue Agapanthus invading the interior but David was also talking about herbicides, which are the main control for weeds. Herbicides are often highly toxic in water, to both animals and humans, and have significant implications for water quality. David works at Monash University and runs a website called the weedsnetwork.com which is worth a visit and includes research on more sustainable weed management. This discussion has been going on since Rachel Carson‘s famous book in the 1960’s ‘Silent Spring’ noting that chemical pesticides (then DDT) had had a devastating effect on wildlife in the US. The message is use herbicides and pesticides according to the instructions, keep them AWAY from water and think about natural weed control such as mulching, weeding and weedmats or biological controls.
In the meantime, have a cup of coffee in the garden, smell the flowers, think about encouraging butterflies and frogs and enjoy the vagaries of spring weather.