Amazing garden creations are possible...

The long awaited and desperately looked forward to Spring holidays start. Amazing new garden creations are possible. There is always a new area to develop. But who knows? - Perhaps there will just be gentle pottering, with a hand digger and few good books to read.

 These are an amazing deep shade of blue.
grape hyacinths

Friday 20th September

I'm trying to be subtle, since there are people in my house who are almost leaving for work, but... I AM ON HOLIDAY!!!!

It starts a day early, thanks to a bit of sneaky management on my part. I set my alarm for daybreak so I could enjoy the planning and dreaming process. Now I am just waiting for the others to leave, before I make a hot cup of fresh coffee and go to sit outside on the patio. The only problem I foresee for today is that I have lost (probably mulched) my hand digger. Right! The car is about to leave. I am off to wave goodbye so I can feel even better about being on holiday. I will write a small list.

Small List :

Now it's lunchtime and I have done some unexpected things - like clearing the Toe Toe from the Island Garden (wearing thick gloves but still managing to get my arms scratched). I have planted out some pots, mainly in succulents and pelargoniums, and put them on the morning decking. I have pulled a barrowful of weeds out of the house borders and clipped the edges.

 Early flowering in the spring.
White Polyanthus

There seems to be much to do, and I am struggling with my usual panicking obsessive thoughts that it all has to be done at once - namely today. So I am making myself take a lunch break with a book and a cup of tea, and I will go find a seat somewhere and have a good rest. Then maybe I will peep at the above list and take some notice of it. Annoyingly I feel quite tired.

Day Two of my Holiday (Saturday 21st September)

The weather changed to rain just after my leisurely lunch yesterday - impeccable timing. Today I have been up since 6am - raced down the stairs in favourite green gardening shirt and warm socks, all ready to zoom out the door, then noticed that it was still very wet. Have retired to the diary to write lists and holiday resolutions and timetables and short and long term goals (typical school teacher).

There's a nice balance in garden work at the moment between maintaining the existing borders and developing new areas. Obviously I will run out of the latter, but for now there is hope. There are two major areas which are ready for expansion, and a two-week holiday is the perfect time to start on one such - the gardens by the Oak grove. I have more than a dozen relocated roses in pots straining to be let loose in a newly dug garden. I have loads of newspaper to help with weed suppression. This should be my first work of the day - perhaps two hours digging as an appetiser. My seedlings are growing well in the glass-house, reminding me of how much I really do enjoy raising annual flowers from seed.

Perennials :
Have a peep at my favourite perennials.

Last year I went all staunch and perennial-ist. This year I will get back to my roots (and jolly well remember to water them). I also need to continue my burning clean-ups. This might be a good thing to do first while the sun is still low in the sky. There is still a huge mess by the Pump House, and the path which encircles the pond is blocked by fallen gum tree branches. I will drink my coffee on the patio and contemplate the second morning of my holiday.


A huge day of digging and wheeling my wheelbarrow around and doing edges. I am really tired and really happy, too. I have spent nine hours pottering and poking around. I've dug a huge new area of land, laid in newspaper and mulch, planted four roses, shifted a Deutzia, placed stones, burnt rubbish. It's restful working by the water, and all the gardens over the water race look great. Many of the self-sown pansies are brightly flowering in shades of blue and yellow, the Dogwoods are in bud, and my one dollar Magnolia Stellata has lots of bright white flowers. The Gunnera is staring to unfurl its silly leaves.

 Jerome the grey.
Gardening Cat

Cat Company

I actually had to visit the garden centre to buy a hand digger. It was full of old men in gardening trousers - must be the seed potato buying season. I bought a small bag of Red Rascals and some Neem Oil. I've enjoyed the second day of my holiday very much. But I miss Sifter the cat - three cats don't quite seem enough. Jerome has been keeping me company for most of the day, and every now and then I think I hear Sifter's squawk coming from the next paddock. Wonder if we'll ever see him again...

Day Three of my Holiday (Sunday 22nd September)

What a crazy day! I raced downstairs at six o'clock again, and noticed that the wind was blowing quite hard. Went out full of high hopes about 7.30 and tried to work in the new garden. Huge nor-wester winds gusted over me and occasionally through me. The noise was deafening, and twice my wheelbarrow full of clods of dirt blew over. I decided that the ambience wasn't quite mellow enough. Returned later about midday when the wind had died down, continued digging and planted five more roses and a flax which had outgrown its pot.

I don't seem to have accomplished much but still I have that happy tired feeling. I've brought more pots out of the glass-house to sit on the patios, and watered everything thoroughly. Now as the sun sets and the gentlest of breezes is blowing I'm think seriously about wind in the garden. Apparently tussocks and grasses look wonderful with the wind rippling through them. Maybe so, but the books I read never say how frighteningly noisy the wind can be. This morning I took shelter in the glass-house for about one minute - the rattling and creaking of panes of glass and whooshing of the Wattles overhead did not make for a pleasant atmosphere.

Tomorrow will be better. I will be more organised and may even make a list. I will enjoy the repetitive tasks like fetching buckets of water for the glass-house. I will bring the last hay bales from the hay shed to use as mulch on the new rose garden, and I will try and have noticeable results. I hope the wind doesn't blow!

Day Four of my Holiday (Monday 23rd September)

The weather looks settled, and there is cloud cover. This means I will be able to dig harder and for longer without getting too hot and bothered. I am about to go out with cup of hot coffee. First I will walk around and see if anything new is blooming. It's funny but I've forgotten in real terms what the garden looks like in flower. Of course I can look at past photos, but they look strangely distant. Sometimes they are unrecognisable (particularly when I had a surfeit of pink lavateras and they were planted absolutely everywhere). Pink paradise.

 I love the foliage contrasts in this garden.
the water race and Rooster Bridge

Morning Tea Time...

I have been clearing over by Rooster Bridge, along the water's edge. It's been quiet and peaceful, with little wind. This is a magical foliage spot, with the Gunnera starting to unfurl and the spring bulbs dancing and bobbing in the breeze. Hostas are shooting, the spotty Ligularias are looking neat and tidy - as if they haven't even had a winter. I am going back just as soon as I've had my coffee. I never meant to work in this area, so it feels nicely random. I may even get into the water, get my gumboots wet and clean the steep water race edge.


It is 6.15 and I am watching cricket. I have had another great day, and have finished it off with a quick tour taking photos. Many of the daffodils are now past their best, but there are patches of grape hyacinths of the deepest blue I have ever seen. I am amazed at how beautiful everything looks - how green and full of promises the gardens look, how lush the freshly mown lawns look (sweeping lawns according to my new garden book are what give a large garden a sense of peace). Hope my photos give these feelings.

Thinking about the work I've done, I feel a little lazy. I've only cleared about one tenth of the water race, but that only means that in nine days time it will be completely done. I didn't do any digging today, nor did I burn the rubbish, but hey! How can one measure the happiness gained by a day's gentle pottering? Time for a wine, some pasta and some relaxing cricket.

Day Five of my Holiday (Tuesday 24th September)

Today I have been brilliant. All I have done, very slowly and calmly, is clear along the water race. I am now past Middle Bridge. I have barrowed ten or more loads over to the fence-line where my latest rubbish is going. I have hand dug out weeds, spaded out bigger ones. I have almost fallen in many times. It's a big job just clearing things out. Someone further upstream must be clearing too - various bits and pieces have innocently floated past (mainly pinecones and small pieces of tree, plus a bright yellow bucket that I saw too late and couldn't catch up with). I'm not totally sure what the steep bank will end up looking like - I may try some weed mat and plant small flaxes etc. in gaps. Perhaps I could relocate all the ligularias. Not sure.

Day Six of my Holiday (Wednesday 25th September)

This morning I have to go in to work - last night's rain has left things very wet, although the sun has started to shine, so this is perfect timing. When I get back everything will have dried out ready for me. It's a good time, though, to reflect on my garden progress to date and make some fresh plans.

Pansies :
Pansies are such beautiful little annuals. I like them to seed themselves in my garden.

I have noticed a lot of areas of bare earth in the gardens - obviously my programme of sowing annuals is needed. Also I need to root some more perennial cuttings before it's too late. One never gets the supply and demand right in these situations. How many pots of new pansies am I going to wish I had? I know that the simple annuals like Viscaria and Salvia Hominum are never wasted, but do I need batches of fifty? Or eighty?

And the steep sloping edge of the water race needs a lot of thought. It needs a uniform slope, and laying some form of weed mat may be the answer - but how will this look? Mass plantings of suitable plants may do just as good a job - but this means I will have to buy, purchase, spend money on them (could be fun). Small flaxes, tussocks, spotty and normal ligularias, hostas, this is a marginal plants dream - is it? Trouble is that I can't visualise it at all well. All the pictures I've seen have been on level or gently sloping ground, not at a gradient of 5 to 1. Ferns? I'd need to buy at least a hundred ferns, that probably stops that idea. I'd prefer the budget plus harmless relocation approach.

The new rose garden has been well watered and mulched, but as strictly rose gardens do it looks pretty silly at the moment with a few sticks (roses) in it (for once I have tried not to plant too closely). I must resist the temptation to fill up too many of the spaces, though, particularly with anything tall. Perhaps I could have a small lavender hedge? This area is strictly sunny and very much out in the open.

I'm now wishing that I could stay home and get muddy this morning. It's interesting spending days and days purely on maintenance and clearing. It's a part of gardening which is deeply rewarding but which doesn't give much feedback.

 I love the purple honesty which fills this border every spring.
the Pond Paddock side border

Day Seven of my Holiday (Thursday 26th September)

Today I have had three friends visit! In between cups of coffee and work gossip (why do teachers always talk shop?) I have cleared the water race from Middle Bridge to the sheep fence - that's halfway to the Plank. I spent the last hour in the water, leaky gumboots and all, slicing off low lying weeds and pulling the clods of muddy vegetation off the stony bottom. The water was pretty cold - ten minutes in a hot shower produced an interesting temperature gradient. I have now emerged apres gardening, feeling virtuous and refreshed, with the pinkest cleanest feet in the gardening universe.

The Plank :
The Moosey cats are quite happy to walk across the Plank.

Tomorrow I will work really hard to reach the Plank. I will find a dumping place for all the muddy clods, and then have a serious think about planting schemes. I will recommence the grand holiday dig and clear more burnable rubbish from behind the pump house. I will also sow some lettuce seeds - all my usual self-sown lettuce plants have failed this spring. Maybe I expect too much?

Day Eight of my Holiday (Friday 27th September)

Today I must make every moment count. It is almost the end of my first week of garden holiday. It would be nice today to do some more planting and nurturing, too - so maybe I'll start off in the glass-house doing some more seeds.

 Tidy at last.
The Water Race is Cleared


Well, a few things have gone wrong today. Firstly I walked into a tree branch and whacked the bridge of my nose. I cried like a baby. One of my legs is sore and it doesn't seem to go sideways properly (hmm... important for a gardener). My hands are getting rough and sore after hours of daily use. All day I've dug and cleared, so the muscles in my arms and across my shoulders are sore. My goodness I seem like a grumpy old lady!

When I look back to today's accomplishments, though, I feel better. I have dug and cleared and cleared and dug many barrowfuls. Stephen has organised the Plank so that it does not wobble. The burning pile has grown (too windy today to have a fire) and the water race is now clear from Rooster Bridge to the newly stabilised Plank. A local nursery has a sale (30 to 50 percent off all stock) starting tomorrow. Perhaps I will bulk buy some marginals. I wish there was a gunnera which only grew to one metre. I will definitely allow myself to buy in some new plants - if the price is right.

And now I intend to find my extra strength hand cream and watch Australia play cricket (semi-final of the ICC competition - they play Sri Lanka). I will even get some perfume and put on an elegant (and new) apres gardening shirt. This is my reward for another hard day working in the garden.