A much needed cheery sunny day here on the mountain – perfect time to fill a vase or two.
It’s time I went back into the garden. Our rambling garden is never too far from my thoughts even when I am away. However, despite its low light and chill, winter is a special season here. It was during this time we found this garden – glistening in the late afternoon, beckoning me. That was twelve years ago, in July.
During winter our mountain garden seems so still and silent. It sleeps, quietly now, nurturing its progeny. As the temperature drops and with the June winds abated, each garden bed is preparing to reveal its private secret.
The mid-winter garden is always remarkable – it is a profusion of colours. Tall, pale pink and scarlet camellias arching their flowers to the sun. Short squat ones caressing the ground. Oversized faces turning to catch the light. The slow emergence of bulbs – tulips, narcissus, daffodils and the garlic. Nodding hellebores are now making themselves known, their burnt summer leaves gone, replaced now by new, vivid, green serrations.
As the temperature drops, I can rely on three certainties in the garden: an abundance of colour, a stillness and peacefulness and, my favourite, winter rosella adorning the leaf-less trees. Mid-winter wonders, indeed.
As the temperature drops, I can rely on three certainties in the garden: an abundance of colour, a stillness and peacefulness and, my favourite, winter rosellas adorning the leaf-less trees. Mid-winter wonders, indeed.
I’m not sure why this blog has been silent for six weeks, but I do know that in the blogging world, that’s too long. Maybe it’s been the short winter days, some busy weekends or maybe I’ve been chicken or just plain lazy but I’m back to chronicle our garden’s ever changing moods, here on the Mount. I’ll begin by reintroducing you to our chickens – our particular Plymouth Rocks – Long John Silver, his four girls and their Isa Brown and Australorp friends.
It always amazes and delights me to see so many plants beginning to emerge and flower in the midst of winter.
The days here on the Mount are cold and yesterday was particularly foggy until lunch time. Today we had some bursts of sunshine enabling us to wander down and discover some new winter wonders.
Ten winters ago I was tending a tropical garden. Although I loved the bougainvilleas and the bromeliads, winter was a time to grow vegetables and trim the palms. Now there are so many tasks in winter – pruning, planting, planning for the changes and simply assisting plants to survive. However, these specimens need no assistance at all.
No, not the popular female singer but the crimson colours of the camelias! On this unusually sunny morning and the walkways strewn with pink petals, it never ceases to amaze me how these trees push forth their abundance.
In our decade here on the Mount, we have experienced drought conditions, heat waves, strong, hot northern winds and torrential rains. As a consequence, we have lost our fair share of important trees – a weeping cherry, the year we went to Italy; an established magnolia, the year of the drought and along with it, a magnificent pale pink rhododendron, odorata. With these significant losses we have tried to keep our mainstay trees alive during summer. Perhaps our lovely neighbours’ example of abundant watering makes sense! Our rewards are many.
My gratitude really must go to the previous own of this property. She was a remarkable woman. Raising her four children alone and working as a nurse by night, she had a grand vision of the colours in a garden. Painstakingly planting camelias, rhododendrons, azaleas, lilacs and magnolias she created an English garden beneath a canopy of gum trees. In this season, however, it is the camelia which takes pride of place.
The English poets knew their landscapes. William Wordsworth wrote of paths and country meanderings. John Milton wrote about “those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world”. For me these are all found in a garden.
This week end, while I endeavoured to complete my weekly rituals of checking the chicken house, scrubbing their water trough, replenishing the water and reorganising the straw, I sat for a moment to give a little thanks. I say ritual because these repeated acts, like a garden itself, gives me a sense of order and gratitude. Once completed, I can move on to the other areas of my day in need of attention.
This week end, though, I stopped for a lengthier time to notice how many colour combinations had appeared in the garden. There were too many to commit to one post, so I am compiling them into themes. Today’s snapshot theme is yellow – all that is pale, primrose, amber, golden or creamy has a special place in this post. So, let the show begin….
With all its simplicity in a complicated world, let us give thanks for gardens in all seasons – they are the rituals that soothe our souls.
How does your garden grow – is it a metaphor for how you live?
Ten years on the Mount and what a winter we’ve had. Last weekend we tried to burn our ever increasing pile of winter debris, to no avail. Instead we set about trimming the abundant camellias – one of which shot over the roof of the house! I salvaged its ruby blooms.
It’s been a winter of mists, fogs and log fires. Nothing new here really, but this year every weekend brought with it the wonder of winter! In early August, I raced up to the Mount when I heard there was “snow on them there hills”! I have done this a handful of times over the years, much to the bemusement of friends and family. The last time we had snow on the back deck was August, 2008 but each year, the Mount, at elevation 1013m, is dusted with the soft, white ice. We are 750 metres, so often we just get sleet.
Top five mountain garden tips for winter
1. Weed, weed and then weed again
2. Rake those leaves and clear those paths
3. Watch the bulbs emerge
4. Visit the camellias or pay homage to any floral friend – they love to be admired!
5. Smell the clean, intoxicating air
But there’s one more
Head for that log fire at the end of the day!
The beauty of winter can be seen in every turn. The sparsity of foliage is countered by the abundance of those beacons of colour; those buds and blooms that wink at us around each corner of the garden. We can only be in awe.
Thy knowest, winter tames, man, woman and beast. William Shakespeare’s, The Taming of the Shrew.
As we prepare for a few more chilly days, wear our coats, scarves and gloves, may the wonder of winter be kind to us!
Up here on the Mount, winters are very interesting indeed. While the rest of the surrounding area is bathed in sunlight, here we wallow in mist and cloud cover. It’s not so bad really. I love the cold and especially the distinctive half-light of the mountain. Ten years ago it was during July when we first saw this house and garden. It was the the shimmering droplets of rain on the trees and winding pathways which attracted us the most.
However, the mountain is ever changing. Just when we think it cannot get any greyer, the garden invites us to admire its unexpected colour. In deep winter, bursts of colour illuminate the low light.
Further down the path, this giant, pink camellia has burst into bloom.
How’s your summer or winter experience?