What should a garden be if not a green oasis of peace and tranquillity? Pests in such a haven are the last thing you want. Pests come in two categories: bugs and birds and suchlike and other people. The latter are far worse than the insect and avian pests, and take far more trouble to get rid of.
My garden is a very beautiful one and quite well known and therefore is at constant risk of infestation by the most persistent kind of human pest, Hortum amans or "garden lover". This species tends to attack in fine weather. There is a whole colony of Hortum amans in the district where I live and from time to time they will appear with requests that I open my garden "to the public" in aid of some alleged charity. Recently I decided it was time to deal with this nuisance once and for all.
On an appointed afternoon, which was on one of those lovely and still-warm days we get in Autumn, I opened my gate to a coach party of Hortos amantes (as they are known collectively) from a local senior citizens' club. I hurried them along (one tripped on her frame and fell into the goldfish pond) to see the new highlight of my garden, a beautiful solar-heated greenhouse. When they all crowded in to admire my exotics I locked the door. "It's sweltering in here," I heard one pest say, and of course on a sunny day solar panels really pay for themselves, don't they?
I keep an old electric fan in the greenhouse in case it gets too hot when I am in there potting or whatever and I called out, "Anyone too warm?" Although I couldn't decipher the squawks in response I activated the fan at the fuse box outside, having earlier set it to blow directly over a heap of specially rich blood-and-bone maturing in a corner of the greenhouse. Then I turned on the overhead sprinklers. You should have heard the pandemonium! When at length I opened the door it was like the scene my sister-in-law in New Zealand described to me of the flour mill in Christchurch where her husband worked when it was struck by the earthquake: garden-lovers caked in blood-and-bone, gasping and coughing, stumbling blindly through billowing grey clouds of fertiliser. And the language! - from respectable elderly people who should know better. I was quite shocked.
Those who could walk left at once and ambulances collected the others. I think I can now consider my lovely garden well and truly free of Hortum amans.
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What gives garden shade more delightfully than a leafy green upas tree (Antiaris toxicara)? It gives privacy to a garden as well and my readers will know how much I value privacy!
Upas groves are a pretty ornament to a garden and cultivating a upas orchard can make a relaxing hobby. When picking time comes, enlist a party of friends to harvest the upas fruit. The juice can be squeezed and used for preparing all sorts of cups, cordials and syllabubs. Like eucalyptus against a cold, fresh upas juice is rich in vitamins. Best of all, it has an instant effect on all sorts of irritants. A glassful will work wonders with tiresome friends or difficult business associates. Make sure you dig them in near the upas for abundant growth next season.
23 March 2012