‘Volunteer’ helpers in the garden

By Beatrice Hawkins

I love volunteers! Where would we our community be without them? Those helpful ones that make life better and fill in the gaps!

Well, my garden is full of volunteers. Not the two-legged human variety that help weed or mow lawns or landscape and tidy my yard, although from time to time I certainly do have that help, but a variety of volunteer plants!

Even with this awful dry that continues to beset us and the horrendous, but necessary, water restrictions that are decimating gardens, I have a range of wonderful volunteer plants that keep popping up in unexpected places.

The only water my garden has had for months now has been the very limited rain we’ve received and the grey water from my washing machine. However, each time I look I find something new to marvel at and anticipate the flowers that will appear over the next few months.

The first of the daffodils that I planted a few years ago are flowering at present. I really thought, when I saw the leaves poke through a while back, that that would be all I would see this year, but last week I saw flower spikes start to emerge and now I have a beautiful sunshiney yellow bloom with more to come over the next few days.

Sweet Alice (Alyssum) is everywhere and continues to self-seed and fill in the gaps even in the driest beds.

The spectacular peony poppies my granddaughter sent me some years back from WA, are covering spots with lovely grey green foliage and promising a show later on and a feast for the bees. They have spread, thanks to the wind, to other beds so should provide a lot of colour this year. I found on the internet, and bought a while back some different colours but have not put them in due to the dry. Maybe I should risk it now that I see so many red ones coming up. I have white and an almost black variety that would look stunning amongst the deep red.

The Hippeastrums that I rescued from certain destruction in a bed that was being bulldozed at my son’s house, are once again pushing green foliage up and promising a red and white display later on.

Filling in some other gaps are numerous little white miniature chrysanthemum daisies and even some petunias.

The day lilies are still surviving along with the lavender that is attracting lots of wanderer butterflies and bees. While they can’t really be considered volunteers, they delight my heart with their sheer tenacity and persistence… they qualify as true Aussies in my book!

The spectacular “Black and Bloom” salvia that I planted a few years back is sending up new shoots when I thought all hope of survival was gone. I am certainly learning what will survive and give me joy in this climate in such a dry time.

Over the last many months nurseries would all be out of business if they were relying on me for custom as I have not bought a plant and doubt that I will until we get some relief from this dry and water in our dams. It is a delight though to see all the things – the volunteers – that are appearing in my garden with the very limited amount of water and care that they have been given.

One thing we, as gardeners, must not forget, is to make sure there are some containers of water about for the bees, butterflies and birds. Even the crows have been coming to my birdbath for a drink each morning!

Don’t forget the forthcoming garden competition and spring flower show in October and remember that everyone is in the same situation as you are with regard to water, so don’t be afraid to plan to enter. I know that unless we get rain soon, my lawn will look as terrible as it does now, but I am hopeful of having some colour in the garden beds by then. A nice green lawn is a great foil to a garden bed full of colour but that will not be a possibility without substantial rain in the next few weeks.

As I am going to be away (again!) for quite a while visiting family in WA, the volunteers will have to keep working for me and I will definitely be continuing to pray for rain as my garden will not even be receiving the washing water.

Wild flowers will be out while I am in WA and, as I am taking my camera with me, my long suffering grandchildren will have to put up with many stops in the car when I see something that I just must photograph!

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