On holiday!

I AM ON HOLIDAY! OK, so it's Friday night. Not much gardening happens mid-winter on Friday nights, though I do have a couple of new gardening magazines that I'm saving for later. I feel very happy thinking about tomorrow. I feel inspired to write a list tonight, which is probably very silly. I hope the weather is kind - I wonder if the tree rubbish will be able to be burnt? I wonder what plans I should make. If I didn't have my garden to look forward to I reckon I'd shrivel up.

 A view of the sleep-out taken from the Hen-House Border, with its flaxes, Toe Toe and rugosa roses.
winter foliage

I have two weeks in which to garden my heart out. There's more clearing of tree damage to do and the path through the Hump needs extending. There are more stones to collect, roses to possibly prune, and the border by the laundry to be totally redesigned - it's full of shasta daisies and ericas, original plantings from when we first moved here. My feeble new plantings include red chrysanthemums (nice) and bulbs (ditto), but lack style... Tomorrow I will go outside as early as the temperatures allow. I will start my garden dreaming now by retiring to bed with a magazine, which I will read slowly. My holiday has started.

Saturday 29th June - Day 1 of my Winter Holiday

I have been up since 6am watching cricket and reading my gardening magazines. Three hours later and I'm ready with first cup of coffee to go outside. I also have a cold. The magazines have wound me up a little and my head-cold makes me feel rather sorry for myself. But honestly - when did the towering spikes of cabbage trees ever contrast joyously with under-plantings of white lychnis? And where's the joy in a green groomed garden, uncluttered by a profusion of flowers? Those writers should ask some real gardeners - white lychnis is a welcome self-seeder, and will contrast with anything that is not white lychnis. Green and groomed implies brushes, scissors and a total lack of weather - how tedious.

My Glass-House :
I like pottering in the glass-house - when I'm in there I always make zealous resolutions to create more plants for the garden.

It's later, and it has been lightly drizzling all day. I've spent a couple of hours in the glass-house sorting things out and planting up some pots. I have also sown pansy seeds in little pottles - is it too early? Don't think they mind. This year I have the tables full of frost tender cuttings, and I am sheltering a lot of the potted succulents. I just wish I felt better. This is not how the first day of my holiday was supposed to go.

Later again...

I am about to go apres-gardening anyway and put on my flowing white shirt, even if most of today's gardening has been inside my head. I have also made a holiday resolution to be elegant at all times. This basically means I will brush my hair every day and endeavour to be colour co-coordinated, even when cold (though I am allowed gardener's fingernails). And if winter forces me inside, I will always find something intelligent to do. So when I return from my shower and hair-brushing session, I will set out all my seed packets and make a sensible list as to what extras I need for the coming spring. The weather forecast for the next few days is for rain, so I will need self-discipline.

Sunday 30th June - Day 2 of my Winter Holiday

This is the second day of my holiday. I haven't gone outside yet, but hey! I've sorted out my seeds and there is more cricket to watch (New Zealand is going rather well, hmmm). The sun is almost up, and looks like the day will start fine if a bit muddy. As soon as I go outside I am resigned to getting quite dirty, so I have lined up spare things (like dry socks, clean gardening shirt) on the back doorstep. Hope the dog doesn't cart them off and bury them.

I enjoyed my seed sort-out. It seems I will not have to buy any heirloom tomatoes until the next millennium. What can I have been thinking of? My attempts at tomato growing have always been feeble. I see I have 6 packets barely used up and 4 packets yet unopened - a striped tomato, a small yellow tomato, a pink tomato, a purple tomato. I reckon I buy them for the colours. Maybe this summer I WILL STAKE THEM PROPERLY...

Later, apres gardening...

The same routine as yesterday - it's near 4.30 and the sun has already sunk behind the neighbour's pines. Again I am in flowing white and hopefully smelling nice (well, nicer than I did). I am at desk writing up the second day of my holiday, with glass of smooth (i.e. gutless and watery) red wine nearby. I intend to drink each dusk to see if I am a suitable person to have my own small vineyard.

 These are one of my favourite self-seeding plants, with beautiful glaucous blue-green foliage and small bluey-purple flowers
cerinthe seedlings

Well, what have I done today? I've been gently clearing leaves and weeds from the house driveway borders. I have successfully lost my brand new secateurs (probably mulched in the Hump). Hopeless. Wonder why I only ever buy the ridiculously cheap pairs? I've been pottering for close on four hours, can't really see a great difference, but I know in my heart that things are tidier. I have also made a quick trip to the nursery to get large bag of potting mix, a large bale of compressed peat and a bag of seed raising mix (the last home-made seed-mix I used killed off all seedlings with a nasty fungus). I will use the bagged stuff as a base.

So when the next wet weather comes (i.e. early tomorrow morning) I will be ready for a day under cover in the glass-house. I wonder what cuttings I will wish I'd grown later in the year? It's really hard to get the supply and demand right. I mean, how much do I actually like penstemons? And I never grow enough cerinthe plants - I love them.

Monday 1st July - Day 3 of my Winter Holiday

This morning I woke up thinking I had to get up and dress for work. Then - joy! - then the weather check - rain - o well, there's cricket to watch until 9.30. If it's still raining I will retire to the glass-house with hot coffee to potter. I am determined to be a proper gardener this winter, with no dramatics. It's just a question of being fully prepared. Like yesterday I will lay out non-muddy clothes on back doorstep, and carry all my bags of stuff into the glass-house before making my hot cup of coffee. I have my new permanent marker pen and scissors in pocket of polar fleece vest. I will be organised.

I am inside briefly, having eaten a late lunch and drunk a powerful lemon and honey concoction for my sore throat. It's breezy and cold outside, but not wet, and I've done quite a lot of clearing and chopping by the glass-house. Nearly all the neglected spring bulbs (which were sprouting in plastic bags) are now in pots. I need to do perhaps two more hours work, possibly in a different location. Then I will be allowed to go apres gardening and read some of my book. I think I will just wander around raking and wheeling barrowloads of rubbish to keep warm. Back soon.

Later, apres-gardening...

This is the third evening I been in flowing white, with a glass of red wine, at dusk. So far so good - I haven't gone silly, or fallen asleep, or spilt wine over my shirt. I quite like this as a winter gardening routine, and I may investigate that small vineyard further.

 In the low winter sun.
Frosty Flax

Water Race

I did some quick clearing over the water race before the wind and the failing light got too much. The lawns felt very boggy underfoot, but things over there were generally OK. I found a small lavender rhododendron which possibly needs shifting, and there is a rather large scrambly rose which has never flowered and is going to be removed tomorrow. I've pruned some of the roses, carefully wearing gloves, and the Reine Des Violettes in the Elm Tree Border is also to be dug out. The glass-house is swept out, and the cuttings and tender pots are looking snug in tidy rows. It's a funny time of year. There shouldn't be so much to do, and yet every border is crying out for major attention. There are soggy leaves everywhere, and the lawns look dreadful. Should I make a list? Or just let each holiday day unfold? Suspect the latter.

 Well worth growing.
Variegated White Honesty

Tuesday 2nd July
Day 4 of my Winter Holiday

Different routine this morning - first check my mail, then sign in to my diary, then off to early morning coffee with work friends. On the way home I can maybe check out a trailer load of compost and be back before lunch. I have vague plans which involve raking the smaller rubbish out from under the Wattle Woods and trying to burn it. Then I will sprinkle a bucketload of white variegated honesty seed pods all over. I also have two new red flaxes (oops) which may go in pots for winter on the decking. There are strips of blue sky outside, which is a good sign.


I've pulled a lot of weeds out today, resulting in my hands being very sore. I've located the intensive care hand cream, but it might be time to find my gloves. I started a detailed clean-up in the Wattle Woods and have nearly decided to do some major replanting. Two large striped flaxes are leaning sideways and I'm going to shift them out. The Iris confusa looks dreadful. The Renga Renga needs breaking up and dividing, and perhaps I need another path. Over all the whole area needs a new design. So far I've cleared a lot of weeds and wattle rubbish out. There will be more light in here, but the soil is often dry and the Wattles take a lot of goodness out.

 This is one of the remaining Wattles by the hen house - it suffered in the snowstorm, losing many of its branches
old wattle tree

It would make a good major plan for tomorrow, but the details need thinking out tonight. Some sense of structure would be nice - or perhaps I could try large drifts of mass planting. I have some rhododendrons which I could shift in. I like the idea of a path - can one have too many paths? Not sure. Actually I don't feel very confident about this garden area. It was planted in stages and kept on being extended back towards the Wattle trees.

There are a lot of Rugosa roses near the glass-house who lose their leaves in winter and are extremely see-through. It's hard to remember that in midsummer this area is full of colour and foliage. There is a lot of Ajuga on the ground. Do I like this? Still think that the answer might be in the paths. Anyway, I'm beginning to enjoy my winter evening routine (wine, white shirt and well brushed hair). Tomorrow is another garden day. Retirement is an appealing prospect.

Wednesday 3rd July - Day 5 of my Winter Holiday

I think I have decided how to proceed in the Wattle Woods. First I have to persuade Stephen to do a little more sawing, then I am going to make the following transformations...

Garden Plans :

This will keep me going all day. The new small red flaxes can go in there if I need focal points. As for structure - a small garden arch for the path to go through and the rugosas to lean on - Ha! I am thinking ahead to spring.


I am a legend! Not only have I done 100% of the above, it also looks great - such an improvement on before. Thank you snow storm! I have actually left the old path in place, but built a new one which gently curves up to meet it. The hugest patch of Iris confusa has been removed, and immediately the grasses and rhododendrons look neater. I now have a curved triangle shape (yes, I am a maths teacher) which looks good, and has interesting little plants like pulmonaria, bergenia and variegated carexes encircling a hebe and a new red flax. You can admire their small details and contrasts from the Wattle Woods Garden seat. The two large striped flaxes are down by the water race and a rhododendron named Vivian Richards has been lovingly installed. There is a good place for the rose arch, should I get around to erecting it. Wattle Wood logs form the edge of the new path - very topical.

Iris confusa :
This is a useful foliage filler plant, with the prettiest spring flowers.

Tomorrow I will plant the wheel-barrow full of Iris confusa in the Hump. So are new gardens formed with nothing but love and initiative. I am not going to break up the Renga Renga, since it now lives on the wild side of the path. Tomorrow the remaining bulbs will be dumped in, and rotten straw mulch put down, then a photo session. Wonder what colour the new rhododendron is? Hope it's not dull white like the last ones.

 Taj-Dog doesn't seem to mind having a cold bottom.
Frosty Dog

A Dog's Life...

After my triumph in the Wattle Tree Garden I went for a walk with the dog. Then I had a semi-successful fire to burn more of the tree rubbish. Again, I am wined and white-shirted, and have started to think seriously about retirement. I do this every winter. My goodness - imagine how long and detailed my gardening diary would be then!

Thursday 4th July - Day 6 of my Winter Holiday

I have been reading over old diaries. I am embarrassed - in those days I had very little to say. I missed days out. I said things quickly, in short sentences. Two weeks worth of entries took up as much space as one day does now. Is it possible that as one gets older one has more of value to say? Or do gardeners get more obsessed with their gardens as both mature? Or do older people just prattle on about nothing? Don't answer that.

Anyway, I am off outside now to be amazed and astounded by yesterday's new path. That's the plan anyway. It's grey and quite cold, but hey! I am a gardening legend, even if I plant things too close together and have too much to say.

For the second day running I am a winter gardening legend. Today I worked around the house borders weeding and clearing, then moved into the Pond Paddock and started on the Apple Tree Border. The big mountain/fountain grass is very very large and may be removed. I ended up having a small fire and poking and prodding at it until I noticed it was dark. I have mulched alongside the new path and I still like it very much.

Garden Visitor

A friend came to visit and I walked around the garden with her. The oddest thing happened - the gardens seemed far too small, the tour over in no time at all. Luckily we were joined by cats Sifter and Jerome, so I had an excuse to do a second circuit and take in a few more of the paths. The Hump path went very well - I must get in there tomorrow with the Iris confusa and plant a patch of it. I could plant some of the potted-up flaxes in there too.