Posts tagged agapanthus


Long lasting Phalaeonopsis orchid

Long lasting Phalaeonopsis orchid

LIKE all the best procrastinators, my to-do list ever lengthens and the best incentive to pay it proper attention is mention VISITORS. The likelihood of people calling in to cast a reckoning look over the house and garden moves me faster than a dose of salts.

I go regularly to garden calendars with monthly chores listed and cut and clip them with good intentions to the wheelbarrow or potting bench, but, alas, I am a distracted rather than a dutiful gardener, so the best laid plans to systematically tick off the jobs go astray when I dream up a new rose bed to plant or start reorganising the courtyard colour.

But anticipating friends dropping by on the weekend swung me into action 24 hours beforehand and I amazed myself at how fast I could scrub mould from pavers, clean out a water fountain, spruce up the bird baths, trim a scruffy murraya hedge, thin out and replant a bed of iris and agapanthus, weed out a vegetable tank garden. And just for insurance, I had the smell of a freshly baked parmesan herb loaf wafting through the windows when they arrived.

Garden whimsy can make up for its shortfalls

Garden whimsy can make up for its shortfalls

My ruse, you see, so their noses might lead them unseeing  past my scruffy driveway gerberas that are long overdue a dead heading and weed-pocked paths and other gardening shortcomings.

Because these visitors were real gardeners; organic, experienced, diligent, fastidious ones. They are not want to stop at the gate and gaze about, mouthing platitudes like” lovely” and “gorgeous”. They head straight to the “problem area”, click their tongues, plunge their hands into the dirt, pulling and pushing and picking with a furrowed brow and a solicitous air. They are the  kind that can tell you spontaneously to the exact ml how much sulphate, lime, phosphorous or other you give troubled specimens and have a wikipedia of successful germinations in their head they can reel off  at a moment’s notice. Who can tell exactly which pest is making holes in any leaf you point to, what its life cycle is and what to do about it. Who colour-code  their garden tools and store them in alphabetical order, religiously clean and sharpen -even polish  – them on the same day every week and whose food scraps are always pared to regulation size for perfect decomposition. They also roll up their hoses every day! Would never get the kinky problems I curse at when the water sputters at the bends and blockages my sadly neglected ones develop.

Welcome wheelbarrow with pansies

Welcome wheelbarrow with pansies

As we walked the outside inspection, which I both love and fear when in the company of garden royalty, I made myself shed my insecurity, drop the excuses and apologies and just opened my heart and head to accept their freely and lovingly given advice and encouragement. I always take in information better  face to face than any other means. It is the  ” I do and I understand” principle.

I learnt I should be laying newspaper around the base of my potted Ceylonese spinach, so the dark seeds drop on to a surface that I can see to collect and save them for later germinations. ( Assuming I start germinating, of course) my bush lemon tree doesn’t need too harsh a pruning punishment for not giving me more than a handful of fruit this year. Lemon trees have off years like all of us, so I will give it a small cutback and cut it some slack til next year.  My variegated hibiscus is shooting base stock dark green leaves and to keep it true to its graft, I have to cut these right back. And the grub that is a perennial headache for hibiscus can be sorted with Mancozeb. My roses aren’t covering themselves in glory because they don’t get enough sun and my powderpuff plant ( calliandra) is competing with a rogue lantana bush that a bird dropping spawned in its midst.

I also learnt Condy’s Crystals ( potassium permanganate) are a strong oxidising agent and hence are garden magic.

Potted white alyssium

Potted white alyssium

Never having been able to grow comfrey in any volume, I have kept a small patch of it in a polysterene planter box. I have heard this healing herb  is a fast-growing, abundant rich source of composting material and has wide ranging permaculture uses. But try as I might,  I have only been able to sustain a sparse few plants. And have also been tearing off the leaves for the compost, when they should be cut instead. Now, following new advice,  I am going to plant out a bed full of rich compost material,  transferring the plants cut back to ground level. And be patient.

Justicia in pink glory

Justicia in pink glory

My garden report wasn’t all “could do better”, though.

I was praised for my blooming violas, my pretty welcoming entrance wheelbarrow of pansies, my alyssium pots, long-lasting chrysanthemums, justicia, vigorous peas, cabbages and rocket, watercress and basil and my funny old cane chair-turned potplant for a tumbling .

I was reminded that a garden doesn’t have to be spectacular or stunning and reevaluated the worth of the solid and reliable elements of mine that stand and deliver each season come what may. Like the jolly nasturtiums, the florid bougainvillea, the bromeliads, crucifix orchids, azaleas and lowly vinca.

Raindrops on pink calliandra

Raindrops on pink calliandra

And the star turn was a long-lasting pink phalaeonopsis orchid which even the herb loaf couldn’t top.

There’s an African proverb that says: Visitors’ footfalls are like medicine. They heal the sick.

Too right.

As they drove away, I felt all was well with me and my garden.


Funny isn’t it, the buying fetishes we develop in some subliminal Stalingrad of our psyche. A part of us believes we will be cut off from all supplies like the embargoed Russian wartime city and so, just in case,  we stock up – and up and up  – on some item we think we just cannot imagine being without. One friend gets all twitchy if she doesn’t buy toilet rolls every time she shops. Whole cupboards of her house are stacked with them. For another, it’s frozen peas, someone else keeps buying underpants, another tinned tomatoes.

If the world’s markets close  tomorrow, I will have cane mulch bales for half the country. Cannot stop buying – and spreading  – them. Wonder what straw will break this camel’s back.


The Queensland Sunshine Coast town of  Nambour is nothing if not totally behind their annual garden expo, which draws thousands of visitors from all over the country for the three-day event.This month, the local Uniting Church even gave up signage space normally reserved for delivering scripture to passing motorists  to offer parking  options.

The way, the truth and the parking

The way, the truth and the parking

Maybe  it was a clever way to pass the plate around.


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Bauhinia galpinii  in full bloom

Bauhinia galpinii in full bloom

I HAVE a cup that reminds me to smile and be thankful every day. It has a quote from philosopher Cicero across it, saying: “If you have a garden and a library, you have everything you need ”.

It’s true. I do have everything. I have a beautiful space to walk and play in and books in abundance to enjoy, re read and share.

But therein lies the rub. The two are in conflict.

Cicero cupMy love of reading, when I am really indulging it, keeps me out of the garden. Don’t give the plants a thought. Cannot seem to split my day between the two. It’s all or nothing.

I have barely stepped outside lately because I am lost in Tudor England, following the fortunes  and misfortunes of King Henry VIII, Anne Boleyn and Thomas Cromwell in Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies. The thought of putting aside how Cromwell brought the ill-fated Queen to trial to put my hands in the soil  is as unthinkable as marrying six times.  Before this, I devoured IBM and The Holocaust and then Voltaire’s Coconuts, followed by Marching Powder. Once it hits, the reading binge is like a  drug fix. I can’t stop nor get enough. Like a smoker  joining one cigarette to the next, I ”chain read” and suffer acute withdrawal symptoms. Nothing outside gets watered, tip pruned, tidied or  even glanced at.

Pink frangipani

Pink frangipani

The Christmas-New Year patch does it to me every time. No scent, sight or shrub can lure me from one couch  – the one on the deck – to the (other) couch, that is, the lawn,  while I’m absorbed with the new Christmas books.

And it is starting to show, oh dear. The recent hot summer winds have parched some beds, wilted plants, shrivelled the potted plumbago, blown leaves all over the paths and pool, knocked over a papaw tree, withered the cabbages and browned the bromeliads. And all while my back was turned and attention caught between the pages of other people’s lives.

Now that I have surfaced for air and looked about the place, I am viewing it like  a glass half empty/half full. I see so much in the garden that needs help and support, is not working and looks terminal thanks to my latest inattention. And it exasperates and flattens me.

Then I look again and see what is  blooming, flourishing and trying hard to please me, despite my neglect and indifference over the recent weeks and that cheers and lifts me.

Ruby mandevilla  in pot and white bleeding heart vine on  pool fence

Ruby mandevilla in pot and white bleeding heart vine on pool fence

It’s all in the mind.

But it takes some re charging and re focussing when you have interrupted the thread of activity – like any pastime – and some renewed zeal is called for to throw yourself back in again. And the energy-sapping heat of sub tropical summer doesn’t help. Lemon, lime and bitters on ice and a comfy sofa with Ian McEwan versus the bending, mulching and trimming ( with blunt clippers)  along the fenceline. Hmmm. Sort of  a no-brainer.

But I have ventured back to feel the luuuv, and counted a score of happy, colourful, healthy plants that I am thankful for; like the gorgeous scented pink and cream frangipanis,

Heavily scented frangipani

Heavily scented frangipani

Reliable pleaser bleeding heart vine

Reliable pleaser bleeding heart vine

that continue to perfume the morning air; the brazen and blowsy pink bleeding heart vine and its nearby white sister, twining around the pool fence and offering bundle after bundle of blooms for the vases. There is the sumptious ruby mandevilla trailing out of its pots and the demure white vinca holding up the shabby little patch near the water tank. Thank you.

I discover that by moving the basil and mint about 20m closer to the house, they have shrugged off the grasshoppers that plagued them and grown plenty of  rich green leaves unhindered – also in the lunch salad,  thank you.

The cape honeysuckle with its bright orange flowers pushes courageously on after a brutal trim by a storm earlier in the summer and my variegated hibiscus have shed their pest-borne disease and and are stretching and glowing with healthy red blooms. The tomatoes, shallots and cucumbers are doing well – just had them in our lunch salad – and some new lettuces are in train for picking weeks to come.

There’s a crop of brilliant blue and white agapanthus to cut for the table and the tangerine blossoms of the hardy driveway bauhinia galpini waving gloriously at me, seeming to say: “When you’re ready; no hurry. Would love a visit.”

Does this “slackening off” happen to other gardeners? Am I not a true practitioner, merely a distracted dilettante?

I slip on my gloves and boots, slap on the hat and all is well.

Happy 2013 in your garden.

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