Archive for January, 2012

Family branches everywhere

After receiving a delightful yarn from Brisbane friend Beez ( see comments) — about her 80-year-old neighbour giving her some “Zillie lily” cuttings whose ancestors she had taken from her Zillmere State School garden 70 odd years ago — I pondered how much of my garden was begged and borrowed from friends and family.

Beez said she felt privileged to be the recipient and historian of this lily descendant, subsequently uprooted by her elderly neighbour from her mother’s garden when she married 60 years ago, and planted in her first home plot, which she still tends today with her octogenarian husband. ( The Zillies have a botanical name but am waiting to have it verified. Watch this space )

Every picture tells a story. Every garden transplant has a sentimental trail that spurs living memories of its origins..

My four frangipani trees  come from snapped branches of our former home in Brisbane, a tree under which our babies slept and played; a climbing white bleeding heart vine that flowers and trails around the pool fence  was struck from part of a bouquet given to my daughter on her 18th birthday; my sun jewels and bromeliads started in another friend’s yard; our towering and spreading  paddock fig tree was a potted house-warming gift when we moved here 23 years ago; the gorgeous leopard tree that is home to our bird dynasty, came from an uncle who was going into a retirement village and didn’t want to plant his free council tree at a property he was selling.

Two perfumed gardenias have special places at our front entrance –  gifts from dear friends when my mother died.  The day they came, filled and planted out the pots, after which we toasted Mum’s life and their work with chilled bubbly, is etched deeply in my heart. The gardenias’ delicious blooms each year remind me what I have lost, but also what I have – thoughtful and  loving people who held me up and comforted me when I needed  it.

And so it goes. My tomatoes’ great-great-great-great-granddaddy came from a friend’s patch and was saved from the   scrap bin after we ate a Greek salad she brought one Sunday lunch visit. The papaws and bananas started on Stradbroke Island. The iris patch was snatched from up the road along a  neighbour’s driveway; the hippeastrums plucked from a friend’s trampled garden during house renovations.

I walk around my yard and have a photo album of past and present loved ones always at hand. Like a keeper of the flame, I tend their gifts and look forward to passing the torch on.

My friend Moya tells me the first thing she sees through her home office window each day is the row of  striped agaves she took from here for her fence line and the satisfaction it gives her defies description.  Even common old vinca and nasturtiums that spread a blaze of winter white and gold cheer across our lawns, are doing likewise now for friends who snaffled cuttings on visits here and I am told I’m in their thoughts when they do.

The whole philosophy of sharing is well watered with gardeners.

The ABC Gardening Australia programme is exploring this agenda more this year with soul and soil man Costa Georgiadis in the show presenter’s role. He has initiated an On the Verge project in his street, where neighbours cultivate footpath gardens as community meeting spots to swap plant knowledge and stories and just get together. He hopes to push the movement country-wide.


No one seconded  a warning I flagged last week about planting around the base of my old gum, where I moved  some agapanthus a few weeks back. With all the deluge, they seem to be taking root and gaining a good toehold. Fingers crossed. I have tied a showy orange orchid around the tree’s trunk to keep them company.


Subscriber Leafy Dreams was asking the Grapevine about what she could use to create a wall of green to hide a messy alley between sheds (see comments). I think the murrayas ( mock orange) are hard to beat —  fast growing, fragrant and hardy — or a callistemon cluster that will bring the birds, as will a row of lilly pilly ( Syzygium Cascade is a recommended variety as it doesn’t get the pesky distorted foliage).  If  it’s a semi-shady spot, try camelias. They need a bit of feeding and watering to get established, but the tougher new varieties are staunch and resilient. I have one that thrives with a regular dousing of our grey water sprinkler. I also love the spreading nature you can train bauhinias to adopt with judicious trimming.


Chrissie is seeking some topiary trimming wisdom. Hers are getting straggly. If you can add to this wisdom, reply to her comment. If they are expensive specimens, I would get a topiary expert in, I think. They are boutique plants and so need special shaping skill. It would be like the difference between me cutting my hair and my hairdresser. Pudding bowl or Prada style. Keep roses well fed with seasonal doses of blood and bone. That keeps them healthy and more likely to resist disease and pests.


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Grass and corruption

All I want for January is a mower repair man.

The ride-on gave up the ghost mid-job a couple of weeks ago and despite best efforts of kind and usually proficient  neighbour,  it has remained, to be blunt, very dead. Faulty piston or carburettor seems the prognosis. The local mobile mower miracle worker is booked out for some time, so in the meanwhile, it’s like Oklahoma here; (” the corn ( read grass)  is as high as an elephant’s eye… ”

And no matter how schmick everything else outside is looking, straggly lawn is like an unmade bed. And the long, unruly paddocks  depress me. I can’t even see the resident  roos. I suspect a few snakes are basking happily there too.

I tried concentrating instead on spreading some agapanthus cheer. Haven’t they bloomed wonderfully this summer?

This week I divided several clumps and replanted around the base of a large gum tree in my front yard. It’s a spot in my direct line of sight through the lounge windows, so hopefully they will thrive and bloom for next spring/ summer. Someone did warn me about planting things at the base of eucalypts, saying they sucked all the moisture and nourishment from nearby specimens. Has anyone found that to be the case?

Aggies are one of my favourite plants, even when they are not out in beautiful lavender, violet and white profusion. I love their strappy glossy green leaves and they way they wave,  feather and droop over paths and borders.

At a friend’s place the other night, we were admiring what  gorgeous cut flowers they make. Even their petals fall gracefully and artistically to the surface around the vase.

About 10 years ago I bought what I was told was a mixed box of lavender, deep blue and white, which I subsequently planted en masse into a large earthenware pot at my front entrance. They turned out to be all white, a disappointment at first, but now I am truly grateful for the stark and dazzling display they give me every year when they flower on long thin elegant  stalks .

That’s gardening, isn’t it.  Starting out with one plan, then changing and adapting as you go. The plants you buy are usually not quite the colour and shape their picture promises or your cuttings end up growing differently from the mother plant in your friend’s garden. But they form their own personality and memorable image at your place and you forgive and love them for their difference. A bit like children, really.

I am thankful for those friends who are now following this grapevine and look forward to hearing some good garden goss.

Emma has thrown me a garden challenge which I hope you can help me with.  Watch this space.

Happy gardening.

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