Not Invited to the Garden Party

Spending time on the back deck on a hot day is something I dream about in the winter, something I await in anticipation. I like to surround the patio furniture with herbs, cacti, and succulents. The only thing I don’t love about lounging, reading, and chatting on the deck is bugs. With one surprising exception.

Wasps build nests under our deck and in the eaves every year. They like to drowsily sweep over and around us as we lounge. It honestly doesn’t bother me. Neither my children, my husband, or myself have been stung by a wasp in the backyard. Though one flew up my dress and stung me rapid fire last summer down by the library lagoon. I’m not exaggerating when I say it was close to a serious disaster. But in my backyard, they’re chillin. (It seems like there’s something to be gleaned from this anecdote…)

Anyway, other bugs are less welcome. Like mosquitoes and flies and gnats so small that my friends think I’m seeing things while I attempt to swat them away as they loll back into my face in slow motion like itsy bitsy zombies. Ahhhhhh!!

Many of our plant friends out in the garden can help to repel buzzing little biters, and in Napa, most are perennials. Planting them around your front and back doors, patio areas, and keeping them in pots on your deck can serve as an excellent way to guide these summer bugs elsewhere. If you don’t live in Napa, but some of the colder USDA zones, you can plant some of these choice beauties in pots and bring them inside with you before the first frost hits in the fall.

It takes time and patience to cultivate the sort of home and garden that is best for you. For me, part of this process has been putting on the breaks when it comes to houseplants. For the last couple of years, I’ve stopped purchasing houseplants. Instead, I’ve chosen to invest my energy in the ones I have, and keep spaces open when they die in order to make room for anything I may want to bring inside from the deck at the end of the summer season.

Small decisions such as these, that involve putting the brakes on sensation-buying and viewing the health and beauty of my home as a whole and intentional system with a rhythm all its own, create a more stress-free and nurturing space for my family. Here are some green friends that can help bring harmony to your outdoor living space.

Some of the plants that deter mosquitoes are: basil, mint, marigolds, floss flowers, lavender, catnip, rosemary, lemongrass, lemon thyme, and of course citronella grass. All of these are perennials in Napa, with a half exception in marigolds. There are a few perennial varieties of marigolds, but they’re generally annuals. As an added eco-bonus, all of these except lemongrass are in the range of somewhat to very drought tolerant. 

Bay laurel, basil, and catnip keep away flies, while lavender keeps away gnats. Chrysanthemums, bay laurel, and catnip keep away cockroaches. And petunias and alliums keep away aphids. There are many other accessible garden beauties that help guide pests away from your outdoor living spaces. 

Making conscious choices about cultivating useful plants in your garden can keep you from having to apply sticky bug spray or lighting smelly candles. Happy Outdoor Living Season! May the bugs celebrate elsewhere.

Photo by JR Harris on Unsplash