Archive for the ‘Up the garden path…(random stuff)’ Category

Have had some wonderful blog posts all formed in my mind, but they have stayed there… It happens when I’m gardening. Beautiful words and thoughts form as I weed and plant and till the good old soil. What I need is to write it then and there, because by the time I finish in the garden, I don’t want to go on the computer. They don’t go together well for me. When I’m all doused in nature, the call of the keyboard grows faint and is easily ignored.  Oh well.

This spring is so full of growth – I have watched the cherry blossoms burst into intense pink glory, dissolve into a carpet of pink snow upon the path, and now rot into brown mush. Must be time someone swept I guess. Under the cherry blossom and extravagance of old bearded irises sings loud and bright, there were sweetest lily of the valley before, sending wafts of perfume everywhere.

this iris bud fell into the fallen blossom. After the photo, I placed it in a water bowl, it opened and shone for a couple of days before shrivelling into a crinkled, crepe thing.

I have picked the largest rose I ever saw, a Mr Lincoln, and more are coming. It’s of course a classic velvet crimson thing, and was a gift to me from Patsy Hollis, who loves roses and words, and to whom I mentioned my fondness for Mr Lincoln. The roses I grow are all gifts, except my Iceberg, which I bought because I was feeling left out of Hobart’s obsession with iceberg roses. Coming along is Pierre de Ronsard, recent gift from the garden of a wonderful friend who thought she was moving, so gave me her roses, then changed her mind, but lets me keep them. Two x Pierre to adorn the brand new rather raw fence, and a couple of David Austens about to reveal themselves.

Soon I go to India. Some travellers are coming to mind house and garden. I hope it can be their

Light on Columbine

haven for a while, and that from its kind welcome they can go out exploring Tasmania, returning to the gentle realm of the garden. There will be raspberries soon, and the goji berry has flowered! We will see if it comes to anything.

The fence is also about to be clad in PEAS, which are climbing nicely and will feed the houseminding travellers, and hopefully Scarlet Runner Beans, the shiny deep coloured seeds of which are planted, but not yet up. Will they come through before I go?

I have a million photos to show you, am just uploading a couple. At least I have written.




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Somehow it’s already the 1st of July and in Tasmania that means DEEP WINTER. The garden is mostly dozing, although some wonderful self-sown things are coming up in masses. Namely, some obscure greens I picked up from the herb lady at Salamanca market last spring. One is called Miner’s Lettuce, which our always helpful friend Wikipedia tells me  is Claytonia perfoliata, also known as winter purslane. It has most delightful round leaves and tastes green and earthy. I let it go to seed, as I do so often, and as autumn fell into winter, a million green dots came through. I left them of course, just in case they were friends and edible friends at that. Sure enough, I can now go with my scissors and snip masses of the wee cotyledon sprouts, like mowing a lawn with snippers. Elsewhere they are growing with more room, and so becoming shapely and wide armed, though tiny arms of course.

Meanwhile across the way in another bed the healthiest crop of corn salad is glowing from the soil, such deep green glossy and perfectly formed beautiful leaves, and next to it, land cress is taking over, no need for flowing streams of water cress, though of course, that would be divine. The rocket is also bursting out of the ground wherever it can, keeping me supplied with peppery sprigs. There are still dandelions to keep me extra healthy, and lo, the nasturtium rounds of course! All these kindly leaves are there for the picking, with no effort from me, just as the parsely, chives and other standbys are really finished. Sometimes it’s worth doing nothing much. Let the seeds fall, and let the seeds grow. Nature understands itself much better than we do.

The garlic is also spearing through the surface, as are old faithful broadbeans. I am having fun with new beds as I have a fab new fence which I neglected to tell you about. It’s amazing construction was one of the things that kept me preoccupied outside and away from this blog. My fab new fence means that I am inspired to keep its lovely boundary lines clear and the best way to do it is with gardens, so in they go. More landscaping is underway, with rocks and sleepers and helpers.

A  little Eucalpytus leuhmanii is planted just above Charlotte. Charlotte’s nest is now underground, she died in April. The tree is a special one, it was a birthday gift, and now it is a memory tree. She grows well, and Charlotte rests well. I posted photos of her on Facebook, so that’s where you’ll see her.

Another tree planted this winter is a fig – took the cutting from the other fig, which has had misfortunes but was also a gift a few years ago. And a new border is at the front of the property, edged with marvellous rustic bits of the old fence. Look out for bits of the old fence everywhere, including in the fire that burns us warm inside these winter days and nights. Will do photos that show these things shortly. The new border was a great effort of mine, a great frenzied effort of dividing and digging and watering the holes and planting the divisions, all the way along the street edge. The name of the plant escapes me, it’s one that always does. Gets a starry blue flower followed by blue berries arranged along an arching and slender stem, it’s a native plant with clumping abundant leaves and it’s name is… tell you next time.

Now it’s me that dozes, have had a long and productive day working up an idea that maybe one day I’ll be able to report to you happily about! It’s a garden thing, and a writing thing, so it’s allowed on this blog.

Subha ratri – that’s Nepali for good night xxx.

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Well I’m back from my Garden Writer’s Tour of Northern Tasmania with stories to tell! But more recently I’m just in from my own garden with dirt under the fingernails and a belly full of berries. All that driving and visiting left me soil and weed deprived, but now I am content. You see,  I reclaimed a path which got lost while I was in India (see blog 1 Paths are for People…). The path, which runs between two veggie beds, had been left in the care of one teenager and one ex-teenager.  I refer you to blog 2 (concerning the resemblence between teens and nasturtiums). I scraped away weeds, I discovered hidden gifts, spread satisfyingly old compost, and planted bright new broccolini seedlings, which sit there now, full of hope and wonder at the feel of the endless earth beneath their tiny roots.

The gifts were a sweet surprise. Last winter a kind friend gave me some Lloyd George raspberry canes. I had just been reading up on varieties and had LG marked out as an old fashioned one to look out for, then having been in my thoughts, they suddenly arrived in my life. I didn’t expect fruit this year but little bursts of flowers have been appearing and this is my second taste of raspberries that collapse like an offering of  pure flavour and softness in the mouth that is blessed with their arrival.  Then low and behold I lifted up my new gooseberry bush which had developed an unplanned lean and there hung a shiny round fruit! I had always thought they needed cooking with sugar and then chilling with custard to be edible but I sucked out the smooth innards of this one and it was very good! Maybe next year we’ll make gooseberry fool like my mum used to, when the bush is better grown and my picking bowl is filled.

I haven’t nearly finished all there is to tell but I must away to an opening. It’s of interest to you – a new book shop in Hobart – Just Tassie Books. All books are by Tasmanian authors. It’s an authors only event, so I got an invite and Bob Browne is doing the opening honours. Speaking of books, if anyone wants to buy Beyond Organics, I have quite a few box fulls and am a lousy distributor but good at filling orders when they do come in. I sell them cheaper than the shops… let me know if you need any… it’s still a good book.

A bientot, will be back tomorrow with photos and travel tales.

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This is a very quick one to say welcome to Gardening with Helen. I have an actual deadline for an actual magazine article so I can’t write a proper blog just now. But as I just ‘launched’ the site by  emailing many unsuspecting people in my address book, thought I’d better  post a post. More in the next few days…Will report in next week about my Northern Tasmania tour to visit Susan Irvine and Marjorie Bligh.

PS It’s 36 degrees in Hobart today, and the watering is under control.

I’ll be back soon… (photo by PipStar)

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Nasturtium peaking through the palings...

If you have nasturtiums in your garden, you will know what I mean when I say they are a plant requiring a relationship with their gardener.

I am a great fan of the nasturtium, but let’s just say they regularly test the friendship. They are a sort of teenage plant – lots of life, energy and beauty, but unsure of their boundaries. Or perhaps more accurately, uninterested in their boundaries.

It’s my fault, I know. I planted them in the first place. Just like I had babies in the first place, before I had teenagers. I wanted them (the nasturtiums that is) to fill empty corners with their brightness, to ramble eagerly and a little carelessly over edges and up bare walls, to spread, inhibition-free, under the canopy of fruit trees. They have done all that I wanted. But when my back is turned, they can’t resist a bit of creativity. As with teenagers, my back is turned too often.

On the move...

The garden shed for example. The gap under the door is a bit big. The long-armed, sun-loving nasturtiums like to explore (like teenagers, I hear you think). In under the door they slide, feel their way in the dark, careless now of the sun-loving label, and make their stealthy way up the bench to check out all the tools that need putting away. Higher and higher they reach, somehow finding support, somehow living on darkness, though they grow pale and dull in there, like teenagers on too much night-life. When finally found out, they look repentantly sick.

There is another patch by the veggie bed. As an organic gardener and nature conservationist I believe in having a ‘living mulch’, maximising the habitat, protecting the soil, growing biomass etc – I’m sure you know the reasons. But as with teenagers, so with living mulch/nasturtium. The relationship must be interactive to achieve best results. Neglect means loss of influence (otherwise known as control), blurred boundaries, the need for a firm hand at a later date. Recovering the veggie garden from the enthusiasm of nasturtiums is more an act of archaeology than gardening.

Perhaps under the fruit trees is the best place for our teenage nasturtiums. They can burst out zealously in all directions, lounge around, be a living mulch par excellence, attract the buzzing bees to their abundant nectar and be unceremoniously clipped by the passing blades of the buzzing lawnmower every so often. I can pick their flowers for salads, their leaves for chopping onto scrambled eggs and pull their soft stems back from the tree trunk as I pass.

Nasturtiums again... taking over....

It is a relationship I know I will never perfect but will continue to enjoy and indulge. There are so many charming things about this cheerful, easy-going plant. I couldn’t bear to grow them in a straitjacket. Better to let them take their own form, find their own way as you keep half a loving eye on them and administer occasional discipline. Just like… teenagers.

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‘Paths are for people’ has become part of my gardening philosophy. You see, they are easily taken over by border plants, by scurrying ants, by moving earth and by… slime. Or variations on slime, such as moss, which looks like fairyland so we are tempted to keep it, but we don’t live in fairyland, so ultimately, when it starts to take over and mud happens and mess happens, it has to go, because paths are for people.

Welcome, be led up the garden path...

It’s mid-summer where I live in Tasmania. Throughout winter and spring it rained and rained and rained all over again. It was wetter than tears, and the ground filled up with this wet, bringing  joy to roots tired of the decade-long drought. Now the sun is out and the days are long and bright. Ground full of water + days long and bright with sunshine = excited plants growing madly in all directions!  This of course = paths overgrown with arching branches, abundant leaves and opportunistic grasses. They all reach longingly into the wonderful open space that paths represent to them. Tender-hearted gardeners are prone to being romantic about the freedom of this rambling plant-stuff, but this will not do, this will not do! ‘Paths are for people,’ you must keep repeating, as you take the shears and slice through, as you take your little machete and hack through, as you take up your nicely sharpened and beloved secateurs and snip through. Whatever your tool, whatever your armoury, follow up with rake and broom, and see the welcome results! Let the path lead you, as this is the purpose of all pathways.

Paths are for people

Paths are the definition and the navigation. Let them be a lovely shape all of their own, the plants can help create this shape by your judicious and systematic pruning and restraining. Keep the identity of the paths clear and the garden will communicate with you.

I was recently in Sydney. Now that is a city with a lush climate. I was helping care for an ill relative. Part of this ended up involving path clearing, as the sick person could no longer cut and sweep, and others who were able were too busy caring. All in all I ended up clearing 3.5 paths belonging to all manner of relatives. Two were veritable bush tracks, one had the all-important job of guiding dhobi wallahs to the clothesline – heavily laden with the basket of wet washing, one needs a clear path, a clear entrance and the line itself, needless to say, needs the sun that comes with clearing. The 0.5 was not so much a path, because that courtyard garden is too small to have a path, but it was an edge, a boundary, and in need of definition.

Then I went to India, where I swept the paths of sacred grounds, and where I stood with my feet in the great flowing pathway of the Holy Mother Ganga. Finally I came home, to find that some kind friends had done clearing for me, just as I had cleared for others. And this morning, as I swept the path at my own front door, I heard a rustling in the leaves which made me pause. It is a sound I have come to know. I had disturbed a fat blue-tongue lizard, who ventured out and strode away along the path to hide again. Paths are for people, but fat lizards are also welcome.

Gateway to the holy Ganga, India

Pathway to the holy Ganga, India

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