Garden helpers

This is my last weekend in the garden for a few weeks. Last weekend was splendid and I managed to simply sit and read and marvel at the spring colours. Well, I did do some raking and transplanting – couldn’t help myself. However, I had some helpers too. 

   Albert cat was watching me or was he watching the chickens?
  Johnny Silver was watching him and anything else that moved.
  It was comforting to be with them in the sun – enjoying a brief reprieve from the business of life. Our weeping cherry is just beginning to blossom.
   
  I will miss my mountain garden for the next few weeks. We begin a sort of discovery tour of Prague – 16,000 kms from home. Sounds daunting. 

  However, I will have my trusty helper with me, all the way. My garden will continue to bloom and wait for our return. Hopefully, my garden helpers will not miss me too much nor I them. Wish me luck and enjoy your garden – where ever you may be. I might be lucky to visit some Prague gardens too!

Go to the back of the block, sit down and stop

As any one with a large (or even not so large) garden knows, there are always jobs to do: extensive seasonal tasks like pruning and planting as well as weekend jobs such as raking and weeding. With so many tasks we are often left with little time and energy to simply sit and contemplate our efforts let alone the stillness and solace a garden can bring. So today, after we finished the mowing (well, Colin actually did that), the raking and the wheelbarrowing I have decided to spend some time at the back of the block, simply sitting and contemplating.

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Though quite rugged and unruly, the back of our block extends to the next street via a series of steps. Flanked by rhododendrons, emerging, acanthus it winds its way down and up the hillside.

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It can be a wild old place, this bush land but the newly mowed pathways help.

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These little moments of quiet in our frantic world seem few and far between. The habits of keeping busy, keeping time and keeping track suffuse those little moments when we allow ourselves to stop, sit and listen to the rustling of the leaves in the breeze, chirping of the birds and the buzz of the insects. That’s what I’m doing now sitting on these old chairs. Join me for the outlook.

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Here on the Mount it can be up to seven degrees cooler than in the city. The cool weather and the altitude can also impede our time outside. In my first few years here I used to garden in mid July wearing two pairs of gloves and two pairs of socks – on my feet, that is! By the time Spring came along I could sit back and enjoy my hard work. Some of those rewards are still evident in this cold climate garden.

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The first iris of the season

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The clematis searching for sun
Sitting here in the sun, I am reminded that the garden offers us such peace if we allow it to show us how to slow down and discover what it wants to tell us. How does the garden speak to you?

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Share your gardening comments with me, I’d like to read your thoughts and suggestions for utilising both tasks and down time in the garden.

Garden Gratitude Theme: Pink

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.

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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.

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If you look carefully you can make out our rooster’s tail feathers in the background!

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.

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Some of them only briefly make their appearance.

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Others linger to create carpets of petals.

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At least one of our weeping cherries survived!

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With this vision of abundance we marvel at nature itself: its glory, its veritable magnificence which reaffirms our own existence.

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Are you “pinked” out yet?

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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.

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One last flourish before I go (pardon the pun) – happy gardening, contemplating and appreciating!

Garden Gratitude Theme: Yellow

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….

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The obligatory golden daffodils…

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Creamy Camelias

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A blazing bush….

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The first tulip to bloom – you guessed it – it’s canary yellow!

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Add a touch of “jonquil” to the mix

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And an emerging magnolia

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Let’s finish off with a compilation

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?

Those special garden features

Father’s Day at a heritage listed mansion, Rippon Lea, built in1867 yielded its many treasures both inside and out. If you’re looking to upgrade your garden feature any time soon, here are my top ten suggestions

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A Romanesque pool

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With extra fountain!

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A lady in waiting…

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A thatched gazebo

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A wind powered water source…

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Some wagon wheels – strategically placed, of course

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A pot or two …

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A little lake.

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With a foot bridge…

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And a lake house…

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Some rock feature..

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To top it all off, a tower from which to view your vast garden empire!
I think I overshot my photos to twelve top garden must have’s.
We had a lovely day sitting in the sun – our first warm day and just in time for spring. Happy Father’s Day Dennis!

The Peony Farm

Having just arrived back from the sub-tropics, I was reminded that some plants are unique to the colder climates. One such beautiful specimen is the peony. No sooner had I got back last weekend that I recalled I promised to go to the peony farm with our neighbour, Alex. We packed our baskets, secateurs and hats and headed for Spring Hill Peony Farm Open Day. Colin was our patient and appropriately attired driver – the pink shirt was a fluke!

Peonies really are a most superb flower and indeed an ancient one. They are revered in China and I have recently read on a site call “Peony Passions” that peonies are the traditional flower for a 12th wedding anniversary and also the floral emblem of Indiana! They come in various shades of pink and white. Our garden has two little plants, one of which has only flowered once- a stunning yellow specimen but it resides under the shade of large overhanging trees which might explain why it hasn’t flowered the last few years.

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The growing conditions for peonies require cold and an open sunny position. As you can see by this field it is in an exposed, open area and quite rough really but the peonies are very happy indeed.

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20121201-095011.jpg We came away with twenty stems for twenty dollars and they after a delight to behold.

The farm also boasted an old church which could be used for small weddings. Here’s the pink shirt followed by the delights of picking peonies!

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20121201-231413.jpg I arranged my collection in vases on the back deck. I guess I will have to move the two little plants which I have in the garden into a sunny spot if I am to achieve anything as brilliant as this.

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Happy gardening and dreaming – if you are on the other side of the world, remember that winter brings its own joys and treasures. For me, it will be back into the garden for lots more weeding, raking and burning off prior to the fire season. Isn’t nature remarkable. Enjoy every day in your garden.