31/366: coriander quest

Recently our French friend Leslye, who was staying with us before her roadtrip, made a great hot and tasty Asian soup, garnished with coriander. I had never really experienced this herb before, and it was delicious, so I decided to add it to my herb garden.

However, when I was purchasing the seedlings from Bunnings, a lady warned me that as it is the middle of summer here in Melbourne, the seedlings were likely to bolt to seed because it would be too hot. So I bought them anyway, and have tried to plant them in a few different areas to see which might be the most successful.

30/366: elsa karga azalea

The Elsa Karga Azalea is a stunning dark Spanish red azalea with a medium double bloom on a small to medium bush. According to Don Burke, author of “The Lazy Gardener” and celebrity gardener on a now-defunct television show “Burke’s Backyard,” the Elsa Karga is one of the hardest azaleas to grow in Australia.

While mine has now passed into Azalea Heaven, in its heyday it was brilliant, and I was very proud of it, particularly after I had watched that episode and was told it was difficult to grow. I thought I must be a pretty good gardener, but in retrospect I think I was just lucky to have found the right spot for the right plant. That’s very often the secret to good gardening, as I have discovered over the years. Just choose something that thrives in the area you plant it and suddenly you are a “good gardener.”

29/366: never promised you a rose garden

Thank you, I have my own rose garden, although it needs a little more love and care than it has been getting. Along the border of the garden I have three white flower carpet roses, that produce many roses, but of course that means there is a lot of dead-heading to do. If you trim off the spent blooms before they form pods it means that more nourishment can go towards producing new flowers.

I own a couple of different types of secateurs, but none were really suitable for the job. The other day I was in Bunnings and they happened to have a pair of floral snips for half price, and they have been perfect for this task, requiring very little effort on my part.

For the first time in a very long time I have managed to deadhead the entire set of flower carpet roses. I might even treat them to some rose food. They’ll think it’s Christmas, though in fact it is late January.

28/366: off to pond heaven

Some years ago we decided a pond in the backyard would be a great idea. However, this pond ended up looking more like a lake. (My husband gets a little carried away once he starts digging).

Unfortunately the following couple of years heralded droughts in Victoria, with many water restrictions necessary. With some sadness we came to the conclusion that the pond must be buried. It had a leak that meant it required constant topping-up of water, and in seasons of little or no rain it seemed very wasteful to try to keep it full, when that water could be better used sparingly elsewhere in the garden.

There were already rocks around the edges so it lent itself to filling in with soil and then topping up with rocks.  Time no longer need be spent cleaning and repairing filters. So it was that another stage in our garden was laid to rest.

27/366: recycling a pillow

You may wonder what pillow recycling has to do with the garden, but I have found a great use for old pillows. Rather than throwing out a pillow as soon as you have bought new ones, I use them for kneeling on in the garden.

It provides a lovely soft surface for the knees, plus it also protects the back because if you are planting or weeding you are not crouched or bent over. This way it is a much more ergonomic way to work.

These pillows eventually make their way into the rubbish bin, but not before they have served a very useful secondary existence.

26/366: Aussie barbie

As we celebrate Australia Day I wonder if everyone knows why we do? It started out as a commemoration of the landing of the first fleet of eleven convict ships to Sydney Cove on January 26th 1788, captained by Arthur Phillip, first Governor of New South Wales. Nowadays, it tends to be a good day for family and friends, generally heralded by a barbecue since it is a Public Holiday.

One of the reasons to have a nice garden is to create a pleasing setting for entertaining friends, and ours is big enough to incorporate two barbecues. We have a portable gas barbecue under the pergola and then around the back in our other entertainment area there is a bluestone purpose-built barbecue that is attached to the mains gas, so you never have the problem of the gas bottle running out. In the vernacular, bewdy bonza! To translate, it roughly means great, mate!

And no, it is not a regular custom to “put another shrimp on the barbie.” Sausages, steaks and hamburgers are our traditional fare.

These days I have also noticed we sell a lot more Australian paraphernalia. Perhaps this indicates a greater degree of patriotism? As well we should. Happy Australia Day everyone.


25/366: cats keeping company

Obviously I enjoy being out in the garden, judging by this blog, but it is always a delight when my boys keep me company while I am out toiling in the soil or weeding the green.

I’m happy to be distracted by Shadow and Zorro if they come up and demand some attention, be it a pat on the head or a scruff on the tummy. These boys are now thirteen years old, so I treasure my time with them, because you never know when they are near the end of their days. That extra weed can always wait a little longer to be extracted.

24/366: the very first vegie patch

Our first foray into growing vegetables took place in 1986, with a rectangular raised bed and tomatoes. It was situated way up in the back corner behind the shed, which used to be the place for locating the “vegie patch.” We were inexperienced so just assumed this was what one did.

Now I have decidedly different notions about where to plant vegetables. Why do they have to be up the back? They can be very attractive plants anyway, and if they are located a little closer to the house, it is more likely that they will be tended to and picked when ready. Also, rather than the obligatory rectangle, these days I prefer curves and softer shapes which are more aesthetically pleasing. I sometimes plant them amongst other plants in the garden, so it isn’t necessarily specifically zoned for vegetables. We have no demarcation disputes here, as it is an equal opportunity garden.

23/366: one section at a time

Sometimes I look out at the garden and feel slightly overwhelmed, as there is always a lot to do, but then I remind myself to tackle it bit by bit. Remember how to eat an elephant? – one bite at a time.

Long ago we planted a little cutting of ivy as a ground cover and of course it has taken over in some areas. However, nice greenery is provided by this ivy, so I am keeping it. Just like giving our kids boundaries, so too must we limit where ivy can grow. We don’t want obnoxious, spoiled children, or excessive ivy.

I remember many years ago thinking it would be lovely to buy an established house with an overgrown garden in which you could make wonderful discoveries, and now here I am in my own garden uncovering personally-designed treasures!

In this case, the upper steps with bluestone edging look quite striking when they are neatened up, and provide a grand entrance to the top tier.

22/366: one man went to mow

Originally it took us three hours to mow our property. There was the nature strip, the front lawn, and that huge expanse of grass in the backyard.

Our very first major purchases for outdoor use consisted of the shed, the barbecue and the lawn mower. Almost 27 years later we still have both the shed and the mower, with that particular barbecue having long since gone to barbecue heaven.

I remember these three items in total cost approximately $1,000 in 1985, but we have certainly had our money’s worth. The mower is a Rover four-stroke mower with a Briggs and Stratton motor and is still going today. Admittedly, we have considerably down-sized the amount of mowing in the preceding years, between extending the house, adding a garage, various garden beds and concrete and paving.

Now it only takes TEN MINUTES to mow all our lawn, including the nature strip!