Fourteen days gardening...

My Easter holidays come and go. I spend fourteen days gardening. Many initial plans and resolutions are agonised over and then ignored. Many other projects just seem to happen. As usual, I faithfully record every moment of self-realisation, every good intention, every deign inspiration. But then (oops) I have a computer glitch - so I end up writing an efficient summary of my Easter activities in the garden from memory.

 Out came the ugly patches of pink Watsonias, in went the favourite Iris confusa.
The Island Bed in april

Friday 29th March - Good Friday

I AM BACK! - older, sadder and wiser. Finally, I am back, in the gardening sense that is. It is 7 am and I AM ON HOLIDAY for 2 weeks. I have a cup of tea, a gardening mail-order catalogue and a garden to visit (my own!). As I look out the house windows I can see a lot of pink roses in flower - how strange - and the lawns are littered with gum tree leaves. I like to check in with my diary at such times, to record my feelings of anticipation on the first holiday day. I actually don't know how I will approach today - maybe I'll just wander around and potter. I hope I don't get overwhelmed by seeing too many big things to do. Being away from things you love is supposed to make you much more appreciative of them. It certainly works with people and cats. I will finish my tea and then Go OUTSIDE...

Morning tea time, hot coffee and toast, two barrowfuls of cleared vegetation from one very small part of one very small border, pots dried out and watered, plants thrown out, lilac phloxes ripped out (again!), sedums chopped back (sedum leaves covered with mildew).... Is it time yet to go for a drive and peep at the Easter plant sales? Hmm...

 Proudly wearing the new striped apres-gardening jersey.
Moosey and Taj-dog


My hands are really sore from clipping and ripping. I've spent about 5 hours working around the house, sorting out the pots (oops - a few casualties) and clearing gum debris. I now have new pot plantings and the big irrigation is going on later tonight. There have been a lot of dry winds while I've been away and one of the Wattles has come down over Rooster Bridge. Lucky that I went over there, because the rhododendrons were sulking - their beds had dried out badly.

My friend Astrid arrived mid-afternoon with a splendid striped knitted apres-gardening jersey. It has subtle stripes of greens and soft blues. There is a southerly due late tomorrow, so I will be able to christen it tomorrow night.

It is a bit overwhelming returning to the garden after a prolonged absence. There is really quite a lot of clearing to do, in every border, and tidying the pots takes so much time I wonder if they are worth it. I still have to decide how much raking of gum leaves I'm prepared to do on the house lawns. I can't remember so much mess before - the winds must have been quite something! O well - off to find my extra strength hand cream and to rest up before tomorrow. It's great to be back!

Easter holidays seem to come a little early, in the seasonal gardening sense. It's not quite late enough in the season to cut back and cover the beds with their winter blankets of rotted lucerne hay. There are many roses still forming new flowers, and so many things are still growing. One of the joys of this month is the near lack of wind, the calmness and mildness of the air outside.

 These beautiful heucheras are planted over the water race on the edge of Duck Lawn.
Heucheras in flower

The Rest of my Gardening Holiday

Week one was a euphoric week for me. Each day I set my alarm as if it were a normal work day, then leapt into gardening trousers and shirt and sat on the patio, with a hot cup of tea and a cat. In the early morning crispness I would start work on the house gardens, clearing and cutting. I even cleared the top of the Island Bed - an area which is usually ignored.

I tried to trick myself that important visitors were coming to my imaginary garden bed and breakfast, and so the immediate gardens around the house and driveway needed to create a good impression. Ha! Here lives a sensible, caring gardener, quirky but honest, not afraid to get her fingernails dirty.

Each evening I would put on flowery scent, clean white shirt and my brand new apres-gardening striped jersey, kindly knitted for me by my gardening friend Astrid. Then I would choose an old gardening book, curl up, and re-read it. Or I'd do some global gardening visiting of my own, or write to gardening friends. And of course, I'd write up my diary - every detail of the day, every battle, every moment of enlightenment...

 One of three recently reprieved roses.
Pat Austin

Easter Garden Sales

There were also the Easter sales to cope with. If I cleared at least three barrowfuls from a certain border I was allowed a quick trip to check out the bargain table. As usual I did the silliest things. One day I grabbed 5 planter bags of what looks suspiciously weedy - they were actually purple leaved Plantain - described on the label as a bog plant. Do I actually have a bog? No. I spent far too much on a group of hostas and heucheras, and bought two 'Gold Spike' flaxes.

And I was on no account allowed to purchase any roses. In fact, on the Monday of the first week I wrote up a set of rose resolutions, inspired by some feisty woman writing in one of my garden books. Roses which were not performing or not suitable were to be given the chop.

By the first weekend I had a huge pile of ex-roses ready to be burnt. I felt very guilty, though - perhaps I should have put the poor things in pots with a 'free to good homes' sign at the gate. Imagine the labels though - 'straggly dull pink rose, scruffy, black spot guaranteed' - no-one would have wanted them. So they were consumed by fire, and their ashes scattered on the Hump...

 One of three recently reprieved roses.
Unknown Honey Yellow Rose

Poor Roses!

I was extremely severe on all the roses in the garden. No matter the breeding (David Austin, for example, lost quite a few stragglers) or the price (full-price or free, there was no distinction), if I didn't actually like and want the rose, it was history. Goodbye Jayne Austin, Fair Bianca, and English Garden.

Many roses on their own roots were just not sturdy enough, so out they went. The Reine des Violettes roses, wich have such a stunning perfume, were bundled into pots for relocation on a fence-line. The Golden Celebrations ditto - they are going to be treated properly next summer, like the small climbers they are. I've gone off dark red roses, too, so several of these unfortunates were removed.

Week two followed naturally on, though I did spend a couple of days distracted by work. I started the week in the Wattle Woods clearing and re-organising paths. I had forgotten how much I liked it in here, with the waves of green foliage surrounding the strong and strangely leaning tree trunks. I raked around the Wattle Tree Garden seat in its sea of Renga Renga, and made plans for a gentle winding trickling stream to flow through here. Never mind that it would flood the pump house - a minor engineering problem.

 Which is now totally cleaned up - firewood sawn and stored, the rest of the mess burnt.
The wattle mess on Rooster Bridge

Gardens Over the Water Race

Then I summoned up courage to go over the water race and look around the gardens over there. I'd been putting this off, worried by the scruff I might see. Things weren't too bad (the thuggish Golden Hop was beginning to die off), and there weren't too many weeds to destroy the ambience. The Wattle tree which had blown down on Rooster Bridge took several long hours to clear and burn. I also remember spending a lot of time sitting on the garden bench facing the Cercis Forest Pansy listening to the sounds of the water race. Here a new project was clearly visible - I wished I could work out how to clear the opposite bank of (dead) long grass. Funny how there's always some garden feature which can lie low and invisible for weeks and suddenly totally ruin the picture. Hmm...

 One of three recently reprieved roses.
Unknown Yellow

Rose Resolutions

All roses on Moosey's property are to be put into the following three categories:

The last weekend of my Easter holiday was happily spent building new dirt paths in the Hump (the raised area between the house and the road, a wide shelter belt of mainly pines and thin straggly gums, plus self-sown Pittosporums and Ake Akes). Shovelfuls of ash from the dearly departed rose pyre and the remains of the rotting lucerne bales were spread over the surface, and then I floated around like a good garden fairy scattering seeds of variegated white honesty over the top.

I hope they germinate. Working in the Hump had quite a significance for me as Moosey the gardener. - in my very first summer here I tried to cultivate some plantings on the Hump, before the irrigation pipes were fully operational, and I failed.

 I love the brave self-sown Hollyhock which has placed itself in the middle of the steps. I haven't the heart to chop it down.
From the patio

An Older and Wiser Gardener?

Now, seven years later, those first agapanthus plants are still there, all leaves and no flowers, while the hebes and cabbage trees have grown huge. It really felt like the circle of life. Now I am an older gardener, but am I wiser?

Looking back now that my holiday is over I feel very proud of my achievements. I've worked in all the gardens from the Pond Paddock to the Dog-Path Garden. I've cleared at least 50 barrowfuls of mess out of the borders. I have rationalised my roses. I have been semi-frugal in the plant sales, and have resisting two mail-order catalogues completely.

I have been inspired one minute, totally dejected the next. I've raked wet leaves in the drizzle, sat with Big Fat Sifter in the sun, and dreamed about expanding, doing better, gardening smarter. And most of all - I love my garden.