Each week for the past eight weeks, I have checked the weather report anxiously on a Thursday, checking to see how it will be on the weekend. Each week, it has been the same: some version of raining, stormy, windy, and cold.
Not that I am complaining: parts of Australia are in severe drought, and farmers are suffering. When it rains here, I feel thankful that we have it, and hope that some of it is heading the way of the farmers and animals that need it.
However, it has meant that each weekend – the only days that that I have a chance to garden – has been scuppered by truly terrible gardening weather (good for the garden, bad for the humans that want to be outside gardening). I love gardening, but even I have my limits. I am not going to freeze my parts off to dig around in the mud and rain. I am just too old to cope with that level of rain soaking into my bones.
Last week though, the weather report was a cracker. Two perfect days: 18 degrees, sunny, cloudless. I planned to spend one day in the garden and the next painting ceilings in my daughter’s bedroom.
Sod that for a joke – there was no way I was going to waste the first fine weekend in two months indoors painting a ceiling! Instead, we spent both days in the garden, and it was a joyous experience. Our main task was eight weeks’ worth of weeding, which sounds terrible, but was actually very fun (I have been told I have a weird idea of fun, but whatever). When the soil is damp, weeding doesn’t have to be painful. It also gave us the opportunity to look closely at the garden to see what had changed lately. Answer: a lot.
I have been waiting for the crocuses we planted last year to return. I admit, I have been impatient to see them again, as these rate along with sweet peas and violets as my favourite flowers. As I had not seen even the leaves come up at all this year, I thought they were not coming back. But suddenly, here they had arrived! Most importantly, my very favourites, the Pickwick Crocus, a purple and white stunner with a bright orange stamen, had arrived in its glory. Crocuses do not make good cut flowers and you cannot buy them in florists. They have a brief lifespan of only a couple of days, so to see them you really need to grow them. I was so excited to see they had arrived again. Now that I have seen their return, I look forward to many years of lovely crocuses. I also have white and yellow crocuses. The white crocuses also came back, but no sign yet of the yellow.
This year I planted a Daffodil called Erlicheer, which is really more of a Jonquil type Daffodil. It is a really lovely mini-Daffodil with a clutch of cream flowers on the end of a long stem. I planted ten bulbs, and I am looking forward to an annual display. I won’t cut these to bring inside, partly because I love them in the garden, and partly because Jonquils have a strong scent that make my husband and daughter sneeze.
Also in full flower were the many types of lavender across the garden, single and double Violets, Calendula, Harlequin flowers (Sparaxis), and Star flowers. The Ranunculus, Anenomes, and sweet peas I planted in Autumn are getting ready for their spring display, and the Nigella (Love-In-A-Mist) that has self-seeded from last Summer is looking like it will be lovely. The only disappointment so far is the Drumsticks (Allium), a striking bulb that I planted in Autumn, and that I cannot find has grown at all.
After weeding, we cut back the oregano and mint that was looking a bit ratty. Since we first planted a prostrate style oregano when we moved here three years ago, it has spread rapidly. We do use it for cooking, but it grows faster than we can ever eat it, dry it, or give it away. We also have a lawn that we hate – I call it a ‘lawn’ but really it is more a flat green collection of weeds. Whatever lawn variety is there was taken over by clover and other weeds a long time ago. My husband has tried various methods to weed it, feed it, mow it, and keep it going, but I think at this point we are ready to give it up as a bad job and try again. But today we had the bright idea to dig up clumps of the oregano and transplant it into the lawn. I am hoping that it will take over there and grow into a prolific herbal lawn that we can mow just as we mow the weed-lawn now.
We also decided we needed another tree in our front yard. We already have a Mulberry Tree (black English, the best kind), an apricot (Trevatt), a sad baby lemon tree that is struggling mightily, a pomegranate, and a bay (laurel) tree. We also have a large and rambling Nelly Kelly passionfruit climbing over an archway. However, I wanted something else to add more structure. My mother gave me a lemon myrtle that has remained happy in its pot, but it is a full sized tree that really should be given the room it deserves to grow. We decided to plant it in the lawn. If we don’t succeed with the oregano lawn, at least we will have a beautiful tree to distract us from the weed-lawn. Lemon myrtles are also native trees and attract bees.
So far our little lemon myrtle seems very happy. In the background of this picture, you can see hollows in the lawn where I have planted clumps of the oregano.
My daughter came home while we were in the middle of our weeding and tidying up. She spent a little while trying all our sensory plants. We have planted a range of herbs and plants that she can visit when she wants to feel or smell or taste something lovely. We have Lamb’s Ear to touch, violets and climbing roses to smell, and fun herbs that trick the senses, like Passionfruit Daisy and Pineapple Sage (pictured below). It makes the garden a welcoming and relaxing place for her.
The next day was focused on the backyard, where our winter veggies were keeping company with a lot of nettles and mallow weeds. While my husband was on weed duty, I turned the compost and tried my hand at trench composting.
Trench composting is very simple. Dig a trench, and fill it with organic matter. I used a mixture of weeds and some of the organic material from my compost bin that still needed to break down further. Then cover with soil. I am trialling this in different spots in the garden, and then I will plant my summer vegetables there. I am going to test whether my vegetables do better in the trench composted areas, compared to my usual method of cow manure, mushroom compost and homemade compost.
Next fine weekend, it is time to start tomato seeds for planting out in October. Next weekend is predicted to rain however, so I guess I can’t put off the painting any longer.