The mornings are cool now that fall has arrived. The cool mornings actually arrived a week or so before the official fall date. There has been a frost down in the valley a mile away but no frost here yet which means that the gardens are still looking full and lush although there is decline in the air. The afternoons are clear, warm in the sun and cool in the shade, kind of days. When I step out the front door on these warm afternoons there is a loud hum. The oak tree anchoring the entry garden looks as though it has a bit of matted fur all over the trunk and limbs. Climbing high into the branches, English Ivy, Hedera helix, has made a home. Now before you get all excited, yes this plant is invasive and on many invasive lists but here in northwestern Rhode Island it has not spread by seed. Here, it just has climbed high and when it climbs high it flowers. The flowers of English Ivy are creamy umbels which have an incredibly sweet fragrance. Their sweetness is appreciated by the bees. I know there is more than one kind of bee enjoying the nectar. I can see bumblebees and I think there are honeybees but I have not taken life and limb in hand to climb a ladder into this bee haven. I am content to stand under this tree and just listen to the happy hum. These are not the only 'bees' in the garden. In July as I started to pick the climbing beans in the vegetable garden I heard the familiar and angry buzz of hornets. Looking for the source I realized that they had and were still building their nest in the top of the tutuer on which the beans were climbing. My first response was to back away and leave the beans right where they grew. My second response was to purchase hornet and bee killer. I thought long and hard about the implications of applying this pesticide in the vegetable garden. Hornets can be quite aggressive and if I had an allergy to bee venom I would not hesitate to remove these trespassers. But while hornets are not great pollinators they are great predators. Most of us have experienced hornets hovering over a soda can or descending upon the fallen fruit in an orchard but they also eat a variety of insects. I do think there was less damage on all the Brassica plants in the garden this year. The cabbage looper often etches a lacy leaf pattern on the brussel sprouts foliage which does impact the size of the actual brussel sprout. So, I left the nest and have watched it grow all summer long. It is really a marvel of engineering. These critters are doomed anyway since the first frost is imminent. Have you ever left a wasp nest alone just so you can observe what goes on in and around it?
As a gardener and in life, my focus is sometimes a bit catawampus. I completely ignored the tomato plants once they were planted in spite of all the work of starting them from seed, hardening them off and setting them out in the ground. June was cool and moist and not the best weather for tomatoes but it was good for travel. I traveled, to England on a garden tour and to San Francisco for the Garden Bloggers Fling. At home I focused on the borders which are less work than staking and weeding tomatoes which are out of sight anyway. Now that tomato season is here I am bemoaning the fact that I didn't stake them and they are lying in heaps on the ground fighting for space with weeds. Still, I am gathering tomatoes and no, I am not going to show you the ugly plants. I am going to resolve to do better with tomatoes next year. Next year's tomatoes will be perfect. I will adjust my focus a bit next year. Right now the Conoclinium coelestinum formerly known as Eupatorium coelestinium is in bloom right in front of the Persicaria amplexicaulis 'Golden Arrow'. I am not sure which of these to focus on as they are both very pretty late summer bloomers. Oh well, the focus must shift now and then both in the garden and in life. One sees more that way don't you think?