The best time to plant a tree was 20 years ago. The second best time is now.
There’s something intrinsically satisfying, for me, about watching my garden grow. I acknowledge gardening is not everyone’s cup of tea. For many, it’s something to be out-sourced along with the annual tax return, but I love it. I’ve come to realise that it feeds my soul.
I know when I’m getting difficult to live with, because Hubs will suggest, gently and kindly, that I spend some time in the garden. It picks me up and calms me, it grounds me and balances me, it fixes me. While pruning, I lose myself in my thoughts. While weeding, I ponder ideas. While planting, I make big decisions and plans. While carting soil I resolve to be a better person.
We bought our place in the country just over 8 years ago. 4 years ago we extended the 2 bedroom fibro cottage and then I started planting out the garden in earnest. With limited funds available post renovations, I scrounged together cuttings, self-seeded plants and rejects from other people’s gardens. Gardeners are inherently generous I’ve found, when it comes to sharing plants. They’re more than happy to give you a cutting or even strike one for you.
One of Mum’s friends gave me a sack full of over 100 iris plants. Another of her friends gave me a dusty prink chrysanthemum which, after some time I transplanted elsewhere but it didn’t survive the relocation. Just this morning, Judy arrived with a replacement. I’m not joking, but yesterday I thought about that chrysanthemum, not realising that one was being potted up for me that very day.
A couple of years ago Judy also gave me a self-seeded peach tree (which is about to provide us with its second bumper crop), and a couple of native violets.
So you see, to begin with my garden was a mish-mash of various plants. There was no grand plan. I stuck things in the ground to fill the space and to stop the weeds taking over.
A chance meeting with an old friend from Sydney at the Gloucester Farmers’ Market some 18 months ago, has helped me bring some structure to my garden. Rob now runs a garden design business and wholesale nursery out of Gloucester. He’s given me a basic understanding of planting design and his knowledge of plants has helped me choose things that are beautiful and colourful, that don’t need too much maintenance and that can survive our harsh summers. Another good friend of mine has now joined forces with Rob and is running a wholesale nursery on the Central Coast. I have some of his plants in my garden too.
I love that I can look at these plants and be reminded of friendship. They make me smile.
The one thing I have really struggled with is knowing where to plant trees and which trees to plant. For me, planting a tree is a massive decision. You know they’re going to be around for 20 or more years and so you want to make an astute decision about their placement. You’d reckon with 100 acres to play with, it wouldn’t be too difficult a task to stick a few trees in the ground? Well, it’s taken much deliberation and simply too much toing and froing.
Over the past few years I’ve now planted 2 weeping willows (on the bank of our swimming dam), a Chinese tallow, a flowering ash, a crepe myrtle, 2 chanticleer pears, 2 Capital pears, a line of 5 Snow pears, an Edgedell Edgewood pear, a grouping of 5 tropical birches, 3 Kalamata olives, 2 Manzanillo olive trees and a ‘Sunburst’ gleditsia. We inherited a few newly-planted jacarandas (one of which is apparently white, but it has never flowered?), one of my all-time favourites. And then of course, there are the trees planted in the ‘orchard’, but I’ll save them for another post – both the successes and the failures.
I am surprised by the level of joy I get from our trees. I watch them with great anticipation, sometimes daily, monitoring the new growth, the increase in height. I measure the new branches as they start to form. Is that weird? I love seeing the new season’s glossy leaves unfurling and the deciduous trees coming back to life after their winter dormancy.
I get immense pleasure from inspecting our trees. I admire them, gaze upon them and wonder at their ability to set down roots and take hold, to start to belong, to look like they’ve always been here. I shouldn’t have worried that they wouldn’t look right, that they’d be badly positioned. They are assuming their place in this landscape and I think as they do, so do I. Perhaps I’m sending out roots too? It is an unfamiliar feeling for me, but I think I like it.
You can see more photos of my garden here.