We are now in the countdown to Spring, which means a focus on the garden – quite a contrast to my first sleepy mid Winter in residence here in Kandos.
The last few weeks has since me increasing my time outside – weeding, clearing, pruning, feeding and mulching and, of course, planting. The Convent will be on show for the Centenary Celebrations over the long weekend in October and again for Cementa_15 in April. To ensure the garden makes an impact, I’ve been planting out existing beds and creating a few new or extended areas.
For anyone who saw the place last year, the startling difference will be the privet demolition – not sure if it will have started to strike shoots by October. The roses were also so new before. Hopefully they will now get a kick-along and be a little showy for the garden opening.
I kept seeds from last years’ flowers and am sewing these in the hope of some success. The garden work is substantially different from this time last year when it was hard graft digging and laying new garden beds and so much planting. This time around, there’s still some planting but to a greatly reduced degree and really mainly focussing on now filling in the “in-between” areas. However I wouldn’t underestimate the work in pruning, clearing up, mulching and feeding. I always wondered what people would buy the ginormous 10k buckets of rose food and now admit I’ve turned into one of those people. I think I’ve already used 6 bales of straw mulch – and I only use that on some of my garden beds. I’m also up to around 5 large bags of Eucy mulch and reminder for next year – at least 6 large bags of pine bark mulch for the back bed. There’s also probably half a dozen bags of Dynamic Lifter in the garden, much to the dogs’ delight!
The dogs love being out in the garden with me and all have their different interests. Tango oversees hole digging, to the point that I can only put the shovel into a hole once and then have to move onto a new area. She’s making sure she doesn’t miss out on any of those tasty grubs! Roxy just plonks herself down where I’m working – not near, actually on. If there’s freshly turned turf, newly planted areas or newly mulched areas, she’s lying there. Popcorn is an expert at the kissing attack. If he sees me kneeling in the garden, you can bet he thinks I’m fair game for a set of sneaky slobbers. He’s also King of the Diggers and, as a big dog, can dig some mighty holes. Of course they all love Dynamic Lifter and act as Hoovers when it’s spread in the garden.
It’s so rewarding to see the plants start to come back to life. Some of the plants I’m yet to see any growth on as they were almost dormant when I planted them, so to watch them through a leafing and flowering period will be exciting – a little like your children’s milestones.
In the meantime, some of the bulbs are doing their thing – mainly the snowdrops, delft blue hyacinths and Erlicheer daffodils, with a few yellow daffodils beginning to sneak their way in.
This Blog is now becoming useful to me as a diary to see what the garden was up to last year and when I might expect to see plants in action. I’m hopeful there will be surprises and delights in store that hold on through to April next year.
The garden clearly has required attention post Summer as veg like tomatoes and zucchini have died down after their premium fruiting period. Some of the other veg have limped along with the hazards faced over a difficult Kandos Summer with hail, followed by a massive dry period and strange bugs. Anyway, over the last month I have cleared out the old veg, extended the colorbond fence bed and replanted with vigour.
In regards to the non-edible but beautiful beds, I have gone to town with bulbs. Last year I invested in daffodils around trees (small and new as the trees are), snowdrops, grape hyacinths, as well as some normal hyacinths. The old cottoneaster had a healthy planting of grape hyacinths and many freesias. This year I have added to the beautiful deep Delft Blue Hyacinths, probably more than doubled the freesias under the cottoneaster with another 180 plus bulbs, added 100 bluebells to the garden (no idea why I didn’t plant any last year!), planted ranunculus and anenomes in the front circular garden bed, whilst adding Autumn crocuses to completely fill out the edges, given the success of the incumbents and supplemented another 100 plus of the hard-working grape hyacinths. The high profile bulbs are the 40 saffron crocuses I’ve added, which I hope will at least provide some saffron to the kitchen larder.
The veg beds are mostly cleared (some I don’t quite have the heart to pull out yet) and I’ve taken advantage of the significantly extended colorbond fence bed, to plant: lots of beetroot (I tend to hedge my bets with seedlings and seeds, which I can claim to be staggering planting but is more due to lack of confidence- and dogs), carrots – several varieties, mini cauliflower, broccoli, onions (red, brown and white), garlic, celery, celeriac, turnip, swede, parsnip, radishes … and probably more. Anyway, I’ve done my best in preparation for Winter veg. Beds are cleared, weeded, topped up and planted.
The flowering beds have been weeded, mulched and fed. A little more mulch is required to finish off, but otherwise I’m pretty happy with the garden.
The next garden challenges are to finish off the front garden bed along the wall. It looks great now but that’s because the salvias are at their best. These will soon die down and currently make up the middle layer of the bed. The roses and shrubs near the wall will hold their own but the smaller front layer of ground covers and smaller plants is non-existent. I need to put some thought into what will go here and how it needs to look good during the different seasons. I also still have the privet hedge to continue restoring and a small tree grove to establish. I’m not even thinking of the vacant block next door at this stage!
The garden is always a challenge but always fascinating and rewarding in how it changes and the opportunities it presents each season.
I’m nearly over my first Winter in Kandos. I’ve been told it was very mild and I believe that. It was particularly kind to me given I don’t have proper heating organised. I’ve learnt my lessons about the frosts and will be better prepared next year, and anticipate my plants will be better established and more protected by surrounding growth (I will not prune until the end of Winter).
The bulbs have been incredibly rewarding. I’ve been really happy with all of them. They certainly respond much better here than they do in my North Shore garden with barely a failure (well, maybe the Nerines were a tad disappointing. Bugger! I just checked and bought 18 but only had two flowers). The deep blue Hyacinths (Delft Blue) have been the highlight – I had no idea they would be so deep and vibrant. I’ll get some more of these next year, as well as Bluebells which for some reason I didn’t buy. I’ll also try to buy more of the Saffron Crocuses which are a bit on the expensive side, but I like the thought of growing my own saffron. Strangely enough these are all blue flowers! I’m yet to see the Freesias flower but they look as though they won’t disappoint. I’m not tempted to try tulips – just yet. Most of these bulbs came from Tesselaars. I’m also hoping they multiply happily from hereon.
The side bed near my bedroom verandah seems to be a success and the blues work well with the white primula (which I am loving – cheap cheery plants that go on forever with such pretty little flowers) and the lovely groundcover Fairy rose which is becoming a firm favourite. So much so that I am extending the bed right down the side of the house and repeating the colour scheme of pink, blue and white with the Fairy rose being a constant, combined with white ground cover camellias and filling out with bulbs and perennials for colour, including Acquilegia’s (another favourite), salvias, primulas, blue sages … I just thought – I should move some of the Cornflowers that are totally overcrowded from me tipping way too many seeds in near the Grotto and circular garden bed!
The Front Wall garden bed is making gradual progress. The wall runs maybe 40 metres long and I’m making the bed several metres deep so there’s a lot of digging when it’s all covered in weeds and grass (Kikuyu!), but each weekend I make a bit of progress, plant an area and cover with mulch. The old railway sleepers have been ordered so should provide some much needed structure. The wall has a Southern aspect so I can plant more shade sympathetic plants close to the fence but also climbers to scramble over the top, which is the job of the roses. The Wall is very plain and stark at present from the street (not even a tree in front although the Council are providing three pink prunuses to match the rest of the street). Camellias, Azaleas, roses and ornamental Maples as well as two Lilacs are dominating at present.
I’ve commenced tidying up the Church side of the back wall with two rambuctious Mr Lincoln’s being added with at least one more to come. The bold red should work well with the incumbent Ivy. I’m endeavouring to wind back the rose planting, although am tempted to add a few more Saint varieties.
The old pruned roses are starting to shoot already. Hopefully I get some good strong new branches to kick them along and put a bit of life back into the old bushes.
The garden veg are great. Lamb shank casserole this weekend with all homegrown root veg – baby carrots, parsnip, turnip, swede, celery, parsley as well as broad beans. The broccoli and beetroot have been topped up with a second planting. I also was shown “where the wild asparagus grows” and hope to get some in the next few weeks. The thought of fresh asaparagus from the garden is too good to resist.
All in all, we’ve survived Winter well and the garden is in good shape for the Spring.
The bulbs have been great value. At a time when so little else flowers, the bulbs are not just cheery, but always a surprise and at times spectacular. I look forward to adding more (why didn’t I plant any Bluebells?) and seeing my foundation bulbs naturalise and multiply over the years. I’m also starting to see the importance of colour placement. No mistakes so far, but it is rewarding when colour schemes work in practice.
This week the Hyacinths flowered. Last weekend there was just a hint of colour in tight tucked-up buds. This weekend was a spectacular show. They must have popped up so quickly. I bought these from Tesselaars and deliberately chose blue but had no idea how deep and vibrant they would be.
The Daffodils are growing and many are flowering. I chose a few different varieties which all seem to be thriving. The Snowflakes are always a delight and have been the first up and are still going strong. The Freesias all have lots of buds but are not quite there yet. I’m looking forward to them as they are spread under the Catoneaster.
As for the roses, well after pruning all the old ones back hard last weekend and planting six standard Icebergs, this weekend I planted eight new roses, mainly from bare root stock (yes, I’m learning terms and actually doing this stuff). Most are classics and I try to keep the list updated on an earlier Rose Blog. I’ll slow down on the roses soon, but still need to get a few more “Saint” ones to finish off the collection (at least for this year). I can’t imagine i won’t always have new ones I want to add as I learn more (two serious Rose books are on their way from Amazon).
I’m also ready to commence planting the long awaited ‘taties. This weekend I only started with Desiree in a potato bag, but also have Pontiac ready to go. You need to have some growth from the ‘eyes’ and I’ve left Nicola, Kipfler and King Edward potatoes in a nice protected sunny spot in the kitchen so hopefully can get some more bags started.
The other notable editions were two Asparagus crowns and two Rhubarbs in the side ‘Pumpkin Patch’, which is now a healthy mulching zone.
I’d like to think I will slow down soon, but know that I really want to get the front wall garden bed more established … and the weather is so good, it’s easy to spend time out in the garden. The dogs also spent all weekend outside with me, although I tend to think that Tango was more interested in the Dynamic Lifter. I know the roses will be rewarding just like the bulbs in that the new growth and flowers are so obvious to watch develop. I keep being told you can’t kill a rose. Fingers crossed I won’t be the exception to the rule. I look forward to the time when I post the blooms from each of these.
As we head towards rose time, I’m getting my roses in shape (and ‘in’). This weekend I took the major step in pruning the original Convent roses. These roses seem to be pretty old bushes and aren’t in the best condition. Playing it safe (in case I do damage with a hard prune), I’ve taken cuttings.
Not being very experienced with roses, I’ve been watching and getting advice from neighbours. In Sydney most of the roses would have been pruned at least a month ago, but I’ve been wary of the heavy frosts. Anyway, after being given the go-ahead from one of the Kandos rose experts, I took to them with gusto. I’ve also given them a good feed. My neighbour, D, who has in the past stepped in to look after them in periods of neglect, gave me the thumbs up.
I gave some of the roses I planted last year a light trim but left the climbers as I was under strict instruction not to prune these for the first two years as it would inhibit growth.
I also added substantially to the rose collection by planting six white standard Icebergs along the front entry path, which I must say I am delighted with and think will set the front off really well. I’m trying to find a balance with not cluttering the front yard yet softening it as it was quite harsh and bare initially (and moreso since I pulled out the scruffy shrubs).
Focussing on the garden is a good distraction whilst all the tradesmen work on the Convent and I’m keen for the Convent to see lots of garden life come Spring.
The garden bed at the front wall is gradually filling in and taking shape, although I’m only putting in the bigger plants like Camellias and Azaleas and avoiding smaller ones given some of the fatalities I’ve had with frosts.
In the meantime, the bulbs are starring and doing exactly what I had hoped. The Grotto garden is starting to fill out and is framed with flowering bulbs. It now has four climbing roses in pinks and whites that should look stunning when (if) they take off. My favourite Heartsease have also come to the party and are flowering their hearts out in a rewarding corner near the Chapel.
I’m hoping in around two months I’ll be up here most of the time as I put my Sydney home on the market, in which case I will be able to enjoy the rewards of my labours rather than just labouring for the few days each week I’m here.
Probably one of the first “records” we ever owned – an EP of Peter, Paul and Mary in the ’60s. My parents (and my brother and I) loved them, but as we grew a bit older we became a little frustrated with the claim that Bob Dylan ruined their songs. My brother and I loved Bob Dylan and perhaps had a little more appreciation of the roots of these songs that my father so deeply denied.
I think of that now in deep Winter when there are so few flowers showing. I’ve never thought of myself as a big ‘flower’ person. I like trees, shrubs, veg/fruit – productive plants, and love herbs. I like a bit of colour but haven’t thought much more than that … ’til now. Probably because I have more potential for flowers. Also I loved the earlier part in the year when I could fill a few vases. I’m missing going into the garden, seeing the mixes of what’s coming into flower and observing subtle hazes of colour in different areas.
Anyway, there are a few glimmers which let me know what I need to do more of next year. Hint … bulbs. The bulbs are working hard and have provided a good basis for me to add to. And the Gazanias – you can’t kill these plants with a brick or stop them flowering. Whilst they had originally taken over the back garden when I first arrived and looked horribly scruffy and unkempt – like a pack of dreadlocked feral squatters – they are now fresh and bright and flower all year round and are considered a valued and welcome incumbent.
Bulbs are expensive. Most of mine come by mail order from Tesselaars who have a wide range which has been reliable in surviving me. Whilst an investment to begin with, at least bulbs self-propagate reliably and a good initial stock can quickly expand in years to come – at least I’m hoping so. I love seeing banks of bulbs provide colour in Winter but this will take some time to develop at the Convent. For now I’m just enjoying my first bulb season here at Kandos. Some of those planted so far include many favourites: