Ready for autumn inspection

I could never be in the Open Garden scheme.  
All that angst about people coming to inspect my work would put me in such a state of anxiety, I’d take to my bed – and not the garden sort of bed.
It’s one thing to love and be proud of  your garden, quite another to put it out there for judgement and scrutiny.

My sister called last week to ask if she could bring her  friend Joyce up to look at my plot. Joyce is a keen and active gardener and reads  the Grapevine and would love a butcher’s hook.

I was both excited about having a new “green” visitor, then nervous about how the place would pass muster. Ok, this was a curious and trusted friend and she was sincerely interested in how my garden grew.  But on another level, I felt insecure about my gardening credentials. I operate on a gut instinct and so much of my work outside is a hit and miss approach, I get a rush of blood to the head and poke things in, often without doing the regulation prep, ph soil testing,  planning height and texture, sun position, colour, spacing etc.

I sort of sense a corner or a patch needs some bushiness, or stringiness, or white or bright dazzle and dredge up a memory of seeing something at someone else’s place or in a book or a glance from my car window and apply it to the contours of my place. Mostly it just works as I push and pull it into shape, but the why and wherefore  is hard to articulate with any sensible botanical vocabulary. So I hoped Joyce wouldn’t quiz me too much.

I also don’t imagine my garden is one to die for or  is heart-stoppingly gorgeous,  or even unusual. I hoped my sister hadn’t over-egged the pudding.

So I did a lot of last-minute metaphorical  ” sweeping under the rug”, stuff, just the same, cos we all like to look our best for visitors, don’t we?

Needn’t have worried. After charming compliments during a thorough “old lady” walk, touch, feel and smell around, the lovely Joyce helped me to see my plot with fresh eyes.  When you move among the familiar surrounds of your garden every day, it takes an outsider to observe it differently and define the effect it has.

For gardeners less botanically inclined, it actually isn’t about how horticulturally correct or how good the ratios and  balances in a garden are. It is about how it makes you feel as you walk around it.

Joyce said it felt warm and inviting and busy. Can’t ask for much more than that.

We traversed the paddocks,  solved some identification and pest issues along the way and enjoyed coffee at the front yard table under the poinciana.  Joyce even found what she called  wild greens, collards, growing  near the creek bank.

She gracefully said she picked up some great ideas about pot planting after seeing how many and varied I have,  and collected a heap of cordyline, iris and chrysanthemum cuttings to transplant at her place.

Importantly, she instructed me about helping do the the bees’ reproductive work in the garden, transferring the pollen on the passionfruit and pumpkin flowers by hand.

“See,” she said, holding one on top of the other.  Apparently , there aren’t enough bees around at my place right now, so you have to lend a hand.

Sex education in the garden. It really is all about the birds and the bees.


Some weeks back, I took some cuttings of Carphalea from my new neighbourhood bestie, Jeannie,  hoping to strike some new specimens for spring planting.

Success rate zero.  Happily, almost the same day I chucked the sad, dead twigs the cuttings had become, I discovered potted Carphaleas at the local Bunnings. So in I swooped and one is now planted at the back of the pool enclosure, right where I can see it from my kitchen sink window. I can already imagine the thrill of seeing its glorious crimson flowers as I look out in spring.  A flaming beauty by name, the carphalea is flaming hard to strike. You win some , you lose some.


Watching Jane Edmanson talking to a gerbera grower on Gardening Australia programme this week enlightened me about extending the life of cut flowers. Put bleach in the vase water. It kills bacteria which affects the blooms.

I had heard of putting sugar in rose vases. But the bleach tip was a newie to me.

Any other ideas?


 Meanwhile, in the veg patch,  the eggplants are ripening, the rocket is having second wind and it’s a battle between me and curly grubs on the heirloom tomatoes. The herbs are going gangbusters –  and just right for the soup pot, now a firm fixture on the stove  ( except for the pernickety sage which is going to the naughty corner with the aforesaid wretched coriander).

Also recently harvested the first two ruby grapefruit from a tree I planted  four years ago. They tasted great. Won’t win any yield awards, though.

And one plump offering from the uninvited, but very determined guava tree. A bird dropping started this tree about 10 years ago. Hearing it was a drawcard for fruit flies, I have cut it back brutally and tried to kill it several times, but it returns Lazarus-like every year. Gotta give it 10 points for effort.

Enjoy the autumn in your garden


1 Response so far »

  1. 1

    Thanks for this last post. When I saw “ready for fall inspection”, I said “what?”, but I see you’re in Australia. I’m new to blogging – how on earth did you find my post. You obviously have many, many years of experience in the garden behind you – I’ll be following your posts!!

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