Glasses in the garden

Sunday, 13 September 2015

It can be fun to look closely at flowers and bugs

I have never liked wearing glasses, even when it became obvious I was as blind as a bat. I never was able to adjust to multifocal glasses so I still do only put my glasses on when reading or writing. So I have never worn them when in the garden. However, this week I did have occasion to put them on to help me wage a war against the dreaded flea beetle, and found out lots of positives about wearing glasses in the garden!

Flea beetle on Salvia semiatrata

The flea beetle is a really horrid little garden pest, which every year at this time attacks my many Salvia plants, disfiguring and eventually actually destroying the leaves, making the plants very unsightly. The same beetle also attacks other plants in the same broad plant family (Lamiaceae) as Salvia, including basil, mint, Lepechinia and coleus. The beetle jumps like a flea when disturbed and is seemingly impervious to most insecticidal sprays, which in any case, I am trying to avoid using. My new strategy is to trap them, by creeping up on them and flicking them into a container of water mixed with some washing-up liquid, which appears to kill them instantly. It is a rather tedious process, but by trapping them daily, I am hoping to win the war and disrupt the life cycle of the beetle in my garden. The problem is actually trying to find them, as they are quite cunning, hiding in nooks and crannies of the plant. This is where my glasses came in, and with them on, I was suddenly a lot better at finding my foes. It may appear to be a mad pest-control strategy, but the numbers definitely seem to be decreasing!

New leaves on shrubby Bouganvillea

With my glasses still on after my trapping was finished for the day, I made other wondrous discoveries in the garden. Tiny leaves were appearing on the shrubby Bouganvillea I had moved from one place to another in winter - it had never flowered in its previous too-shady spot so now has been given a much sunnier place. It looked very miserable when I transplanted it, shedding all of its leaves and looking basically stone dead; however, this week I could see its baby leaves along its stems: such a joy to know it was still alive.

Self-sown Amaranthus caudatus seedlings in the garden

I also saw that the first leaves of some of my herbaceous plants were starting to appear, also a source of anxiety in case snails get to them whilst they are still young and vulnerable. Echinacea purpurea, for example, disappears completely in winter and comes up only now. Peering with better vision, I found its pointed foliage emerging, which was very reassuring. I also found the petite self-sown seedlings of Amaranthus caudatus (pictured above) in my borders - though I pull out 99% of these each year, those that remain grow into fabulous 2m specimens with long, cerise, tasselled flowers all summer and autumn, and I always worry that one year they won't come back.

A colourful bug on a Persicaria flower photographed with a macro lens

Whilst I won't be wearing my glasses for normal gardening (as they are reading glasses, I would no doubt end up tripping over my own feet), I will certainly put them on whenever I am doing my walk around the garden to check on things. Being able to see the first signs of insect infestations is key to getting on top of them. Looking closely into the intricate formations of flowers (and insects) that I usually only see while using a macro lens on the camera is also delightful!

Most of the time, however, it IS great to see everything as something of a blur, without one's glasses, so that the weeds and gaps aren't so visible and just the 'big picture' is apparent, with flowers merging into a colourful melange like an Impressionist painting. A final point to make about glasses in the garden is that as with wearing sunscreen and hats, it's advisable to wear sunglasses to protect your eyes from the harmful effects of the sun.

Reader Comments

  • By Trudi 4223 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Sunday, 13 September 2015

    I was very apprehensive about multi focal glasses. About a year ago I had made up a pair especially for the garden and shopping. I must say the new ones have not bothered me from the beginning. I can see now far and near in the garden. I think today the multifocals are much better, especially if you invest in the very best Nikon lenses for your glasses. I could not be without them anymore! Thanks, Trudi. I know I should try to embrace multifocals. Your advice gives me hope. Deirdre

  • By john 2261 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 14 September 2015

    Glasses in the garden are like binoculars to bird watchers! They help you see things you didn"t know we"re there!!. I have been wearing mine for a few years now and hate it when I don"t have them on as I can"t see clearly from the opposite end of the garden. Enjoy discovering new things! I can see I need to do this! Deirdre

  • By Lynne 2479 (Zone:11A - Sub-tropical) Monday, 14 September 2015

    Multifocal"s take a bit of getting used to, but they are worth the perseverance Deirdre. Also, worth it are contact lenses - they don"t fall off when you bend down! Thanks, Lynne. I feel encouraged to give the multifocals another go! Deirdre

  • By margaret 2122 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 14 September 2015

    I"ve worn glasses for years, so am used to them, but they do present some problems, such as being scratched by plants, and blurring from rain. However, for me, they are a necessary evil. Your solution to the flea beetle sounds time-consuming, but effective, must apply it in my own garden. I didn"t think about those aspects, Margaret! I guess they do provide protection for your eyes from those scratchy plants, though! I feel I am winning with the flea beetles as there are definitely less of them today! Deirdre

  • By Ron 2065 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 14 September 2015

    Question from a novice - why can"t you spray for flea beetle with washing up liquid and water? I am sure it is worth a try, Ron. Thanks for the suggestion. They do jump away very quickly when disturbed so I just don"t know how much spray would actually get on them, whereas with the jar they can"t get out once flicked in! Deirdre

  • By Christine 2429 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 14 September 2015

    Hi Diedre---looking forward to the Kariong Plant Fair - G/Clubs in this area have organised a coach for the trip--a long way return but should be great. Yes, good eyesight in the garden would be a bonus - have decided to get some prescript. sunglasses for driving etc. too - wonder if they could be bifocal? Can"t count the number of magnifying-type glasses (and secateurs) that I have lost in the garden -- certainly can"t see them anywhere!!!! We need rain badly on the Mid-North Coast. Hope you enjoy the plant fair! I have even lost sunglasses in the garden - they turned up a year later in the compost heap, mangled by the heat of the decomposing material! Deirdre

  • By Betty 3104 (Zone:10 - Mediteranean) Monday, 14 September 2015

    Dear Diedre, I made up my mind to accept multi focal glasses and did not have any trouble with them at all. Make sure you have the lens "that turn into sunglasses when outdoors". Wonderful when in the garden, in fact, anywhere outdoors. Highly recommended. Sounds the perfect answer to my problem, Betty. Deirdre

  • By Alain 4370 (Zone:9 - Cool Temperate) Wednesday, 16 September 2015

    Hello Diedre, I also curse at having to wear glasses to catch flea beetles. I had the problems with those critters eating potatoes and eggplants and making a mess of it. A good solution is powder, such as diatomaceous earth or fine wood ashes broadcast all over the leaves to kill the beetles and around the plant to kill the larvae. it is organic and doesn"t have detrimental effects the chemicals would have. True and tested. Thanks so much for this tip, Alain. I would like to try it. Catching them by hand is proving rather time consuming! Deirdre

  • By Bren 2540 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 11 September 2017

    Well I only use reading glasses and when I have worn them accidentally in the kitchen or bathroom I am always horrified by what I see. I will try wearing them in the garden; I am sure it will be a more pleasant experience. I hope so, Bren!! Deirdre

  • By margaret 2122 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 11 September 2017

    Glasses can be a nuisance, but a necessary one, if you need to identify pests and diseases on the plants. I must be one of the lucky ones, I have not seen flea beetles in my garden. However, I do have some of those triangular-shaped, green or white sap suckers, which are difficult to catch, even if you do sneak up on them. I use "Eco-oil" to try and prevent their landing on plants, with some success. Hope the Eco oil works on those sap suckers. I haven"t found it too successful on my flea beetles -- great you don"t have them! Deirdre

  • By Joan 2154 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 11 September 2017

    I would recommend wearing safety glasses in the garden mainly for the safety of your eyes. I bought 2 pentas plants in the autumn, but I did not realise that they do not like the cold (we had maybe 3 extremely light frosts) and now one looks dead - the other one looks very sad but I hope will survive still has a leaf or two. I wish I had bought and planted them in spring. I have given them seasol. Any suggestions- to maybe rehabilitate them? I did put a sugar cane mulch at planting. Joan Pentas are not growing much yet -- they do not like winter much, but usually survive. It is not wise to prune them until about now in Sydney. The Seasol is a good idea. Just wait a while and see what happens. Good luck! Deirdre

  • By Joan 2154 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 11 September 2017

    Deirdre do you any have suggestions - I caught a very small grub on my precious frangipani - which is really only a cutting - maybe 2 years old - the grub has eaten the new little sprout at the top - that grub has of course been squashed and I am on the look out for any more - but have not seen any - should I spray with organic oil to discourage more grubs??? My knowledge of frangis is virtually non existent. There is no sign of any more little sprouts on that tiny branch. Joan You could try Success spray, which is an organic spray to combat grubs, and keep checking and squashing! Deirdre

  • By Ruth 3185 (Zone:10 - Mediteranean) Monday, 11 September 2017

    I can see lots of pests in my garden, specifically white fly, which seems to be early this year. Any suggestions on how to eliminate them/drastically reduce them, cheers Ruth

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