Well at least I hope it has. Winter has taken its time departing (not that I’m complaining as a wool shop owner!) but it would be nice for the rain to ease off, winds die down and sun to show its face.
The last week has shown some promise and the garden is starting to respond, although it seems the grass always responds first and is badly in need of mowing. This is the third year here permanently and about four years since I first set my eyes on the Convent and discovered Kandos. It’s also the first year where I can see the plants doing what I had hoped they would. Roses are bursting with growth, some of the plants that had struggled seem to have found their feet, vacant spaces are beginning to fill, trees are beginning to fill out and climbers are, well, starting their climbing journey.
These are just the first touches of colour coming into the garden and I’m anticipating some great displays through Spring, Summer and Autumn. With expanded veg patches, I’m also hoping to be well fed by my garden – the chooks are certainly enjoying spinach at the moment and rewarding me with lots of eggs.
I have some more plants to put in and I’m eager to play with my water plants with my new fishpond, which is yet to have fish introduced to it.
Let’s hope the weather is now on the improve (not that I mind regular rain) and the garden continues to flourish.
It’s been three years since I discovered the Convent and nearly two years since moving here. For the garden, this means that some of the plants are now hitting two years of planting and beginning to show themselves as future garden champions. Some have surprised me in how they have taken off and others have been, quite frankly, a tad disappointing. I’ve also had my share of losses and learnings with my first large garden, establishing plants from scratch and adapting to what is often a harsh environment.
I’m finding that it’s taking at least two years to get the garden beds in a healthy condition, given none of them were here and I’ve had to clear and build the beds from scratch. The plants are much better in matured garden beds that have been well fed and mulched and left to settle over a period. This means that in some of my garden beds, plants are really just starting to kick off.
The roses (which will have their own posts) are now feeling at home and many are showing signs of strong growth, thickening and are more bountiful with their buds (which I hope will give me a great display). I should know by now that bare rooted roses aren’t my strength and no matter what I promise myself, they won’t be getting planted within days of delivery! Anyway, the old ash fence at the front is now not so exposed as plants begin to show over the top and a few of the rambling roses are working their way over it.
This post displays some of the plants that are showing great promise early in the garden’s development.
Spring is such an exciting time for gardeners, with the dormancy of Winter passing and watching plants spring to life almost overnight. It’s even more fascinating for me, given so much of the garden is new. For some plants, I worry that I’ve killed them. Others have been planted whilst dormant and I’ve never seen them have any sign of life. There are a few plants that didn’t seem to survive the first year after planting and have skipped a year to be resurrected this Spring
Right now, trees and shrubs are blossoming – albeit briefly for trees like the Manchurian Pears. The apple trees seem to take a bit longer but every day the trees are quickly changing. The Maples seem to leaf up in one or two days.
The one I’m ridiculously proud of is the self-seeded peach tree which has sprung out of my compost. Not sure how long it will take to fruit, but it is growing well and looks an attractively structured tree. The house rule is that unless something is an unseemly weed, it’s allowed to stay where it is and grow, which is making for some interesting plants in interesting places.
I’ve just finished my first grass mowing exercise post Winter – hopefully mows after this will be easier. I lost count of how many catchers of clippings I removed. But the garden now looks so much better. I’m finishing most of the major chunks of work around the garden in terms of more plantings, pruning, feeding and mulching then will move on to some of the finer details and maintenance. We’re still getting a bit of frost so new tomatoes, zucchini and cucumbers have taken a bit of a hiding. Otherwise, the garden continues to develop well with the roses looking as though they’re pretty settled and kicking along with their growth. I’ll post photos when they’re in flower, which shouldn’t be too far away!
We’ve had an unusually cold Winter – not that I’m complaining. After opening a wool shop in Summer, it was Serendipity to have a really cold Winter, including uncharacteristic snow and lots of frosts.
In Kandos, Winter frosts mean that you can’t prune back in Winter – you leave all old growth so that new growth isn’t encouraged that will be burnt off by the savage frosts. All extra coverage also helps protect other plants and as my garden is mostly all under two years old, the plants need all the protection they can get.
However this also means that come end of Winter/the dawn of Spring, there is a mega flurry of activity to cut back, prune, feed, plant and mulch – not forgetting lots of watering for new growth during a very dry period.
The last few months have been tough with family, so it’s therapeutic to get back into the garden with gusto (or more) and put some effort into activities that will richly reward in months to come. The roses have already started to burst through and are sprouting, so pruning is a priority. There are seven old established roses that need lots of pruning, but the other roses (well over 100) are all new and need much less effort. I’m not sure why I ordered another 22 from Treloars or where they will go – yet another job on the list.
What I am recognising is that I’m making lots of work for myself. The Convent garden for decades was a formal showplace – but the nuns had a gardener and lots of locals and schoolboys who all helped with gardening duties. I have just me, and my plan to turn this back into a beautiful traditional established garden is now dawning on me. Two years in and it’s a lot of work with well over half an acre (nearly an acre if you include the block next door, but that’s not on the agenda this year), although in fairness, this is the few weeks that most effort is required and should give the most returns if done properly.
I don’t have a real style yet in attending the garden – there is sort of a priority list – prune roses, fix a single area – but I find myself pruning a few areas, feeding a section, trimming a few lavenders, weeding another and then wandering off to another section. I guess it all contributes in the end. I’ve never had a garden I felt was mine, let alone such a substantial one (and one that is in “Creation” mode) so much of this is new to me and there are plenty of mistakes along the way. I use the internet and books all the time to check simple things like when to cut lavender, when to plant beans, when I can start cuttings of certain plants, but it is so exciting when it actually works!
Anyway, anything I do does make a visible difference post the ravages of Winter. Given roses are starting to spring forth with life, pruning is priority No. 1, particularly for the old original roses. I don’t think the locals would forgive me if I killed these as the Convent was well known for it’s wonderful rose display and I’ve only been left with a small sample of the original bounty. Priority No.2 is to get some veg into garden beds as I want to be able to harvest plants to eat! Other than that, it’s good housekeeping, with the key driver being Kandos Gardens Fair on 2 and 3 April 2016, given the Convent will again open her doors to the public and put herself up for display. The last time the Convent was open was for Cementa_15 in April this year and with the numbers of people through the gate, I like them to see changes to the newly established garden each time. I’m hoping by Autumn we will be in pretty good shape and the roses in particular look just a little more established. The 20 kilos of rose food bought today might just encourage them a little!
The weather at the moment is glorious (although very dry) so I’m hoping today is a mammoth garden day and I get to make an impression on a few areas.
It’s that magical time of year for gardeners where everything is growing and flowers burst forth. It’s particularly exciting in such a new garden where many of the plants haven’t flowered before and any growth seems so dramatic. You also start to see how the plants blend in with each other and their individual growth patterns.
I’m thrilled to see so many plants responding, not just in terms of growth and flowering, but also the abundance of self sewn plants from letting the plants go to seed.
It’s a treat now to go outside and pick bunches of flowers and enjoy them inside as well. One of changes I need to adjust to is that when I let the dogs out in the morning, it’s often over an hour before I make my way back inside for breakfast as I wander through the garden inspecting changes and doing some never-ending weeding!
A few weeks ago I was terrified that there would be no growth in my garden come the Centenary weekend when the Convent will be open to the public. A little rain, some wonderful sunny weather and maybe a bit of the TLC kicking in has made a huge difference.
Remembering that I only bought the place second quarter of last year and have only been here permanently since November, most of the garden is new and many plants have not flowered or even had leaves on before, so it’s hugely exciting to see plants come up, flower and leaf for the first time. Some of those that have already been in for a season are not disappointing and it’s astounding to see all the new growth.
I already have some emerging stars. The Daphne Genkwa is stunning – just full lilac blooms and no green in sight. It will be finished before the garden is open, but I’m learning to enjoy the plants at their peak rather than wishing they would hold on for a few more weeks. I’m sure there will still be delights in the garden for the October long weekend celebrations.
In the meantime, much will be up to Mother Nature – I can only assist with watering, feeding, weeding and general cleaning up duties at this point.
It’s been barely a year since the first plants went into the garden (which was many months before the property officially became mine) and after all these years, I’ve still astonished and delighted by how a garden changes with the seasons.
Over the next few weeks, I’ll be clearing out some of the shaggy growth – predominantly the sweet peas, which will give the salvias space to come into their own, and the cornflowers which are now all over the place and looking worse for wear.
Two harsh hail storms in less than a week have done their damage, predominantly with the leafy veg. I’m removing damaged foliage as well as some of the plants that are now pretty much finished – the broad beans (after freezing over 4k of beans) have been replaced with heritage carrots and leafy greens. The fennel has been removed (it was like uprooting a tree!). Next on the agenda is celery, which was a tad disappointing.
The cherry tomatoes, which I now have so many varieties of now, thanks to supplements received via Diggers, seemed to have survived the hail onslaught and are being tempted back to growth with spray supplements of Seasol, Powerfeed and Charlie Carp. The Salvias all look like being the next series of stars as it appears to be their “time in the sun”. The berry bed is going crazy with new growth and the begginnings of berry crops. These are currently being collected for a mixed berry sorbet. This bed was fortuitously protected from the hail by the bird net that had been erected a day earlier.
The garden appears to be enjoyed by all the dogs. Roxy has always joined me whilst Tango has has her frequent “visits” with us. Popcorn loves the space but at present also needs company, so having me in the garden is best of both worlds for him.
Anyway, we are close to saying farewell to the first Spring at the Convent, and it has been an enormous one, with participating in the Kandos Gardens Fair and permanently moving our lives here to Kandos.
The Kandos Gardens Fair is now rapidly approaching, meaning that most of my time is spent in the garden. The other gardens on show are well-established, but given the Convent garden only really started this year, I’m eager to have something to show visitors.
There have been a few disasters. The bare root roses I planted in a prominent position in front of the established roses at the front of the Convent, did nothing – I mean nothing, other than perhaps die. I’m not sure if they are still alive or not but looked very sad, bare little sticks. I’ve now taken the step of replanting them together in a more protected area which I am hoping is a plant hospital rather than a rose graveyard.
Also taking advice to spray for lawn weeds wasn’t the smartest move. I did it well in advance – maybe around three weeks ago. What I didn’t bargain on was my lawn being all weeds, which means I have large expanses of brown. Or more accurately, very little green areas. It’s also been very dry so I’m now watering like crazy to get some green back.
Otherwise, there are areas I’m really happy with and the garden is positioned as “in progress” which cuts me some slack. I think the roses peaked too early and the lovely original old rose bushes have already finished their main flush of flowers, although I’m deadheading them and feeding, hoping to get some more flowers for the viewing.
In the meantime, the roses that were planted throughout the year are now coming into their own and look like they will be winners. It’s exciting to see plants grow and flower for the first time. Hopefully they will be doing their thing for the visitors we are anticipating.
In the meantime, my days are filled with digging, mulching, weeding, pruning, planting, watering and feeding!
As Spring springs into action, I’m discovering so many new things – either with the old garden or with my new plants which are welcoming their first Spring. Here are a few more favourites coming into flower for the first time.