Sheltering in the woodshed...

It's already April, and the weather patterns start to change. A southerly storm sneaks in and the woodshed full of firewood becomes a favourite shelter. Mud gardening, drizzle gardening and even rain gardening become more and more normal - so does sitting warm and cosy inside peering out windows at the Autumn colour.

 One of the many loads of fallen tree rubbish going on the fire.
Autumn Burning Session

Sunday 6th April

I did do some work in the garden yesterday - honestly! - before it started raining. We had our first big Autumn bonfire - at least three trailer loads of old tree rubbish went up in very satisfying smoke. As usual on these coolish burn-up days I started off well clothed in thermal layers and ended up in shirt and shorts with an extremely red face (and a slightly sore arm, but that's just a minor niggle). I am also being sensible and am wearing my protective gardening super-gloves (gauntlets). Anyway, I look most professional.

 This rose has two distinct flowerings.
White Iceberg Roses

Today I am about to boss Stephen around to help with this morning's burning session. Imagine if the two of us could get absolutely all the rubbish cleared and burnt from all the fence-lines! Imagine if the sadly neglected paths and gardens by the pump house could be totally cleared - how proud I would feel! I could then reward myself by posting my $120 plant order from the mail-order catalogue. These desperately needed plants will be arriving in my school holidays. I have been rather expansive - ordering three of this, three of that - hey, I know the design rules! Odd numbers, and all that..... Back soon.

 I think this is the David Austin rose John Clare.
Pink Rose - John Clare?

Morning tea break, it's drizzling lightly down on the bonfire. I've raked quite a lot of the pump house rubbish, but am getting a bit wet (and very red faced). Time for a quiet rest inside with hot coffee and a snack. Peeping at my mail order - can I justify blatant over-ordering by the fact that I have a large country garden? Too right I can. I have also ordered some cabbage tree hybrids which look interesting (though seedlings of the species green variety pop up everywhere). Right. I am wasting precious burning time prattling on here. My coffee is finished. I am off for another hour of damp smoky delights.

Hydrangea :
As long as I remember to water these shurbs in high summer, Hydrangeas bloom on and on for me.

Later, apres gardening in midnight blue needlecord, I am pleased to report that I had two more burning sessions. Each time I was driven inside by rain, but I've cleared a lot of mess from the edge of the Wattle Woods. All around there are reminders that winter is coming - the big Nicotianas are going to seed, the Hydrangeas are blooming madly, as are a lot of the dahlias (though the drought hasn't been all that kind to some of them).

 This rose has many different colours, depending on the time of the year.
Nancy Steen Rose Bud

Lovely Roses

Some lovely roses are flowering again - for example the yellow climber on the pergola. I love being out in the garden at this time of year - There is now a heavy rain warning for Canterbury - it's good that the groundwater aquifers are being recharged (that comment clearly influenced by hydro-geologist daughter).

Friday 12th April

It's the start of my Easter Holiday. Although it is night time (i.e. dark and quite cold) I want to officially announce the start of my April Holidays. I have survived both being sick and then being back at work, and here is my reward - two weeks of gardening and reading books, with a small tramp into the mountains next week as a challenge. I have the Easter plant sales to look forward to. Maybe I will even buy some new roses. I will try to make every moment count.

Saturday 13th April - at Daybreak

Finally! Last night was the temporal start to my holidays, now they have physically started. I am possibly waiting for more light and warmth (it's quite ridiculously early), so have decided to check in with my diary.

What should I do first? I'm not at all sure, and I'm not even sure if this matters. The only thing that matters is that for sixteen days I can be in my garden (apart from the days when I am tramping). Dirty fingernails! Muddy knees! Smokey hair! I have to make a list, quickly, before I forget anything...

Start of Easter Holiday List

This is a deceptive time of year. The days can be warm, and inevitably windless, but the angles of the sun are much lower, and there is little warmth after four o'clock. Frosts are not so far away, and it is delicate timing knowing when to move the frost tender pots into the glass-house. In preparation, the glass-house needs cleaning out. Lots of cuttings also must be taken (pelargoniums, daisies, etc.). Where are all the lettuce seedlings for winter lettuce? Where are the parsnips? The dahlias are late, because of the drought - should I stake them? They will all too soon get cut down by frost. It is a little too early to put the borders to bed. Hmm...

I'm back, prematurely, before I get seriously dirty-muddy-smoky, to report that I haven't done anything yet except accompany Stephen to get a tractor to mow the long grass in the middle paddock. But I am about to! I almost need an opening ceremony.

 Keep on working!
My Wheelbarrow

Later, lunchtime...

I have totally cleared and tidied the glass-house. All the plastic pots are in like-sized piles, and some succulents have already been moved in, keeping a chilli plant company. And I have burned about five barrowfuls of rubbish.

It's been hot work, and with the excuse of a slightly sore arm I have retired for lunch, a shower and a change of clothes. I am allowed to return to the garden this afternoon and get the second set of clothes as dirty as I like, though. I've just checked with my list above - I've actually done rather well.

The lawnmower man has gone off to a Hazelnut growers' field day, and he is also responsible for organising new mulch. The big Easter sale doesn't start until Good Friday - I hope they have some flaxes and grasses going cheaply.

Much later...

I have just come in from burning in the moonlight. I fell asleep in a chair late afternoon. My first holiday day has been wonderful - I've done no weeding or digging, but am satisfied.

 These lovely New Zealand birds follow gardeners around, zooming around finding flying insects to eat.

We are going on a small tramping trip up a river valley next Tuesday, where I will see the real New Zealand rock gardens - flaxes and hebes in their natural places. In my garden here I need to trim the hebes - but is it too late in the season to do so? I am looking forward to the arrival of my $120 worth of mail order plants. The Frisbee Lawn has gone almost green. The Cornuses are starting to change leaf colour. All is well.

Sunday 14th April (early)

I think the first thing I'll do today will be to cut down/pull out all the big Nicotianas. The next southerly will flatten them, anyway, and they are all hugely into the seed production part of their growing cycle. I will wander around the whole of the garden doing this, before I start some more burning. I wonder whether burning could become totally addictive - is there a time in the autumn garden when there is absolutely nothing left to burn? Does the addicted gardener then start pruning hebes out of season, chopping back lavenders far too close to winter, just for the satisfaction of smoky hair and a red face? Serious thoughts - and I need to get some mulch - I should check the paper. Back soon.

Daffodils :
I love planting the big bags of mixed daffodils - my garden could never be too full of these beautiful spring flowers!

I'm back at my diary after three hours clearing down the driveway, slurping a cup of welcome coffee and a small snack (which could pass for lunch). I haven't exactly cut down all the Nicotianas yet, but I'm working on it. There was no suitable mulch for sale in the paper, but the local daffodil farm is advertising big bags of 1000 mixed bulbs. My plan is to go out there for a drive, maybe right now while I am still in a resting mode. I love their daffodil shapes and colours.

I am inside, apres gardening in duck-egg blue, the proud owner of - oops - 3000 new mixed daffodil bulbs (they were on special, 50% extra if purchased before Easter). I have also managed to create a medium sized volcano of ash from my burning pile by the water race. I have definitely made every moment of my holiday count so far, and am feeling very satisfied.