Saturday, January 29, 2011

Japanese January is closing.

Only 3 days to go of my focus on the Japanese garden in January. This area was fairly well established with just a few tasks to complete, a couple of desirables and a few challenging problems to solve.
I know I am not going to get everything done. I have found that in decorating, and gardening, some problems are best solved in a more organic way and with serendipity in play. However, it has kept me more focussed than usual, got me researching and pushed me to get things done.

Next month I will focus on the mediterranean area near the washing line.

These were the tasks for this area of the garden-

1. Get some water features into the garden, as this is a crucial part of Japanese gardens.

I have moved my granite looking water feature to the Japanese garden, got power connected, a suitable pump and put in black pebbles. This is done I now have to blend it in a bit with some plants and a bamboo screen. I think I will move some azaleas to pots to add a bit of colour to the granite.

I have also bought a rectangular, fibreglass pot to use as a pond. I am heading out this afternoon to get some water plants, hopefully pinch some water lillies from my sister's garden. I will get some fish to live there on Monday (last day).

How I want it to look as seen and inspired in a garden centre

2. Find something arty but practical to put on the bare wall and on the table.

For the moment I have some banners (which I will waterproof), got these from the markets this morning. A bit corny but I like them. I read that Japanese tea houses have scrolls with messages on them so this will do for now. I'd really like a Japanese garden scene for this wall but the exact right thing hasn't turned up yet. I will also get a bonsai plant for the table this afternoon and I hope it will survive as it is fairly protected in that spot.

3. Put black mulch down.

I have already found this great black mulch 'forever black' which I put down to tidy everything up and give effect. It makes the plant foliage really stand out. It looks lovely when wet.

4. Find a plant to fill the pot that holds up the bamboo screen that hides the gas bottles. Also find a dramatic red plant to fill the gap infront of the screen.

I am thinking a big camellia with red flowers for the space or a rhododendrum or even a magnolia with burgundy flowers. I am hoping the right thing will jump out at me.

For the pot I am looking for something dramatic and special like a conifer but I will probably have to settle for bamboo.

5. Varnish the bamboo screens with marine varnish.

The books say the Japanese like things natural and weathered in their gardens but I think the screens will look and age better with a good lick of varnish. I am waiting for it to be a bit shadier to get in there and do this job.

6. Create the outer garden.

I have been reading how Japanese tea gardens often have an outer waiting room before visitors go through a low gate, past a lantern and water bowl, along a path by a natural woodland and to the tea house. I have the perfect area for this outside the gate to my Japanese garden. At the moment it is a dead space, next to a verandah. So I plan to improve the soil and structure of this area and create an extra area. I will keep adding good stuff to the soil before planting at the end of February. Keep you up to date.

7. Structures

Some other things just have to be put on the back burner for a while as well. I'd love to make a simple bamboo entrance at the far end and have researched one. Building has to wait until we get rid of some concrete sitting in the way and until it is cooler for digging holes. A letter box red one I think.

I also want to grow some wisteria or clematis to hide the ugly garden shed but have to wait until cooler weather and my husband has time to help me build a strong frame. I'd like to paint the shed wall black but I need to negotiate that one. From past experience wisteria are worth it but you have to contain their enthusiasm and vigour with a tough love approach.

8. Ground cover

Finally I think I will head over to my $2 plan shop to get some mossy looking baby's tears or native violets to fill in the little pockets between and next to the rocks.

Then I am looking forward to a deep breath and a cup of tea.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Bounty of flowers

Finally getting to spend a half hour in the garden paid off. The rose bushes look so much better and I got a little bounty to brighten up the inside of the house.

I had forgotten how many different coloured roses I had and how nice many of them smelt. I plan to put in even more this year, they are so low maintenance compared to what they give in return.

This weekend I scored some blooms from a very unexpected source. My bachelor, brother in law who is a dyed in the wool, brown thumb, has no interest in gardening what so ever. He moved into his house at least ten years ago and I was curious if the hydrangeas that had lived around the side of his house still existed. Well guess what!  With no extra watering, cutting back or feeding they were still thriving. I had tried hydrangeas last year several times with no success- maybe I had been too kind. These are the flowers from his neglected plant and there were alot more flowers on the bush.

If only my brother in law had known the plant was still alive and blooming all of that time. He could have saved himself a lot of money on his summer florist bill - not having to buy flowers for his many girlfriends over the years.

Friday, January 21, 2011

View from the window

Its a good thing that I gave some thought to what my garden would look like standing inside, looking through a window-because thats all I have managed to do this week. This has been a week filled with lots of bariers all beginning with 'B' e.g. dealing with books (for highschool),  braces (my daughter's new mouthful), completing boring, business bookwork and bloomin' hot weather. I have only managed to briefly read blogs, not write and have only got in the garden to pick up dog droppings and hang washing. Very frustrating.
From the study window.

Meerrkats & other animals keep guard over Sophie's view.

Out of the bedroom window.

I felt a bit like a combination of Darcey and Fudge the Italian Greyhounds and Lilly the cat when they are desperate to get outside. Darcey leaps about a metre of the ground, up at the glass sliding door and spins around and around in circles. Fudge just sits forlornly whining and looking at me with those big, brown eyes. Lilly just stares at the door handle like he  has special powers and as if it is going to magically open -strangely it always does.

 I read about someone spending a whole day in the garden and some one else who got into their garden everyday. I was very jealous and it seems the weekend is not looking any better for me. I need my garden fix.

The terrible trio not looking to go outside right now and not happy to be disturbed either.

Oh well, some weeks are like that, I will have to make do with the views from the window and stealing half an hour right now. I am off now to cut the last of the roses back so I can look forward to seeing the next blooms from my window.

Monday, January 17, 2011


I am addicted to watching the DVDs of ' Lost Gardens' with Monty Don and his team. I don't know where I was when this first came on TV but I can't believe I missed it.

 After slaving away in the garden on Friday & Saturday hefting rocks to remake borders and raking and wheelbarrowing three and a half tonne of gravel I thought I deserved this treat. Not to mention that my poor old back was also screaming at me to rest.

It has taken nearly four months to rebuild the driveway to the backyard after the pool excavators churned up everything in site; busting pipes, gouging deep tracks and squashing plants. The hard work is now done and it looks almost presentable. No more looking at dirt and mud, Yeah!

I really could have done with Monty and his team of experts, 30 volunteers and bag loads of money. I am really enjoyed the blend of history, gardening, art and story. My favourites are the restoration of the Coleman's mustard founders Japanese garden, the Victorian pleasure gardens and the sunken rose garden at Warwick. It is also inspiring to see their passion for gardens, watching them work despite all kinds of weather and their ambitious ideas actually come to fruition. I also recently read somewhere how Monty Don credited gardening with helping him through the challenges of depression.

Now I am on the hunt for 'Around the World in 80 Gardens'. For now my back is rested and I better get back to work in my pleasure garden, re-energised and reinspired (if thats a word).

Friday, January 14, 2011


I have been very touched over the past week by sad images of animals. Images are burned in my mind from the Qld floods of horses swimming desperately in a futile effort to find high ground, other horses resting their heads on the roofs of houses, the confused and soaked rabbit at Halls Gap, make do animal shelters, wallabies stranded and rescued and the Brazilian lady forced to let go of her beloved dog to save her own life. They are all so helpless in these times.

I seem to be encountering touching animal stories everywhere. In October our pool contractor Rob died in a tragic acident. We heard how his beloved bull terrier and mate 'Chuck' sat by the gate for three days waiting desperately for Rob to come home from work. Then in December I had to pull over and bundle 2 adorable puppies into my car before they got run over. They were oblivious to the constant traffic at a busy intersection and were certain to be run over sooner or later. I had to knock on doors and eventually took the pups to the local vet. They were collarless but fortunately they were microchipped. I left them there and the vet called later to say the owner had been found. Relief!

The puppies wouldn't stay still, even for a photo.
 Finally, today a more unpleasant animal encounter. First I am coming across quite a few redbacks in my garden travels- redbacks don't know that there are no redbacks in Japan, France, England etc. Then I get out of my car and am walking to check out a new charity store when an English lady and son come towards me pointing behind me. They are talking and pointing to a man with a broom in hand. It turns out that I had just walked past a brown snake- I must have been less than a metre away- I could have easily stepped on it.  The  man picked up the snake (at last 1.5m long & juvenile I think) and then stands for 15 mins trapping it on the ground with a broom. The lady says we have only been in Australia for two years and never seen a snake. 'Are they poisonous?' she asks. I say everything is poisonous in Australia. They must avoid telling migrants about our deadliest. The Mum & boy are taking photos to show Dad - I am staying far away- hence no real photos here. Ignorance is bliss.

Even looking at this gives me shivers. The real thing was a bit smaller and lighter.

I hate snakes, I stay outside the reptile enclosure at the zoo, normally I can't even look at them in books or on TV. Today though I almost feel sorry for the snake (at a safe distance) - I can see it would rather sneak away to be somewhere else. Instead the man eventually squashes it to death with the broom. I walk back to my car at a considerable distance, not convinced it is really dead.

Of course from then on I jump everytime I see a stick and recall all the horrible stories my 'country bred' husband has told me of snakes getting inside cars.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The last 6

As promised, here is the last 6 things to be happy about in my garden.

7. The lemon thyme planted between the sandstone under the clothes line, that has survived the heat and gives of an amazing scent when I step on it, as I hang out my washing.

8. The final roses before they get pruned back and the wait for the next blooms.

9. Lulu's cute, friendly and happy little head that pops through the fence to greet me and always cheers me up.

10. The Mulberry tree that the dogs go round and round has stopped dropping berries, the birds eat them, do ugly purple droppings everywhere that stain everything. next year I must get to them before the birds do.

11. Being able to use so many of the herbs from my own kitchen garden. When friends came over for lunch on Sunday I made a greek feast and used oregano, winter savoury, perpetual spinach, curly parsley, continental parsley, lemon balm and mint. I even used my own chocolate mint to garnish dessert . Recipes in a future blog- lamb souvlaki, beef kofta, my special invented mint salad and raspberry & white choc cheesecake

12. The electrician is booked and coming next week to give power to my water feature.
(amongst other jobs)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Fellowship of suffering.

I have delayed adding my 6 other items from my 'Things that make me happy about my garden' as thoughts of all the people affected by the floods in Queensland fill my mind and heart. I have relatives and friends in various parts of Queensland and although all say they are safe, it's hard not to worry. I sincerely hope all the bloggers are staying safe too. Tragedy certainly changes priorities.

Like many, it is times like this that we feel immense gratitude, to even have a house and garden. It is so confronting to realise that at any moment we are all just a breath away from suffering. It could so easily be you or I. We have the protection of distance but the stories of trauma, loss of life of adults and especially children (even animals) and the devastation of lifetimes of toil, is absolutely heartbreaking. I once heard someone say we are all connected in the 'fellowship of suffering' - we are not in control and none of us are immune from suffering.

The only gold in the darkness is that we have amazingly committed emergency service people and the generosity of Australians in tough times. We have several English friends who on migrating to Australia were astounded by the generosity of Australians in donating and assisting in the Victorian bushfires. They had never experienced this community spirit before. It gives you faith in the human spirit to survive and our innate capacity to rebuild. Nevetheless it will be a long and challenging journey for many. We never really comprehend all the big and small losses and the meaning they hold. There is so much we take for granted. This situation also makes us reflect and if necessary reassess our priorities and to remember that relationships are everything.

This Australia Day we will have lots to grieve, as well as much to be proud of .