The Gardener as Deus Ex Machina

For those of you who weren’t English majors, “deus ex machina” is a literary device, often used by the Greek playwrights, to save the day at some point in the play.  Literally translated, it means “god in the machine.”

As a gardener, I often feel somewhat similar this time of year when I arrive home at the end of a very hot day to find everything drooping in the heat.  But after I take a little time to take care of the dog, and often to get a cold drink for myself, then its time to tend to the hot and thirsty plants–no “machine” involved.

The transformation, however, is often nothing short of miraculous.  Plants that were formerly wilting seem to almost instantly revive under cool spray from the hose.  Even the temperature around that part of the house where I’m watering seems to go down by a few degrees.

Another interesting phenomena is that the yellowjackets (or hornets, as some call them) also seem to know when I’m watering.  They will come to land on the wet leaves of the plants as if to drink from the droplets left there.

I’ve also seen them actually walk out onto the shallow surfaces of the water in birdbaths.  I’m not sure what mechanism allows them to do this–it’s not as if they have webbed feet!  They can they take off from they surface of the water.  It’s really pretty amazing.  This time of year when these stinging insects are still pretty tame they are truly fascinating to watch.



Here’s one–not drinking but baking in some hazy sun at the edge of my veggie garden.  Weeds in the photo below it; thyme in the photos above it.

Finally, if it’s not too beastly hot, a little pruning of any tired annuals at this point in the season is also a welcome refreshment for them. It can sometimes make them appear to be new plants. If only the gardener were refreshed as easily as the garden!

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