In Australia and New Zealand, people consider the first day of any season to be the first day of its month, not the date marked on the calendar. It weirded me out at first. Does the equinox suddenly jump three weeks forward? The hell? I might kind of get it now though. First day of September, and there’s flowers on trees, bulbs popping up out of the ground, and the nurseries are chock full. The switch has flipped, and I’m feeling this nauseating sense of pressure to put my garden plans in motion. It’s spring, y’all.
When I think over my dream garden, I think: native, temperate-coastal, drought-resistant, low-maintenance. With a bit of modernist order. Not so heavy-handed that it becomes a sterile space, just enough to keep things relaxed and calm.
This garden is rad. It’s native-oriented and lush in an un-fussy way. Without necessarily looking exactly like this, I’d want our space to feel like this.
So yeah. I’ve got garden ambition. I’ve got new garden plans. But that’s gonna take money, and time, and brute strength, and I don’t always have those things. We are probably not going to make our garden totally awesome this year, or even in the next, and that’s okay. Right now I’ve got to clean up the overgrowth and clear all the unwelcome plants.
I’m not gonna win friends by admitting this, but: you see all those established rosebushes, and that giant rhododendron? Gone. This is why we can’t have nice things. I know, some people really like roses and will treat them right, but I’m not one of them. I’m okay with that. I can own my decisions.
Jamie’s sister helped me dig out all 17 (!!) rosebushes in our front yard, and when I say “helped”, I mean, she brought all the tools and confidently jumped right in, while I tentatively followed her lead and got one bush out in the time it took her to remove three. There were some big ol’ rosebushes in there too. Good thing the ground was nice and soft after a few days’ worth of rain, or else we might still be hammering away at those rosebushes.
I’m not like, a monster though. Every one of those rosebushes was carefully dug to preserve its roots, then wrapped at the base and donated to various folks we know. Jamie’s sister claimed a few for herself, including a big bad yellow rose she was keen on. Others went to family friends in Dunalley, who lost their own established gardens in the January bushfires.
That ute looked like a nursery truck. So many roses.
Here it is, the look I want for the time being. A blank slate.
As for the mega rhododendron, it wasn’t looking too hot, and I didn’t want to deal with it in our yard forever and ever. The End. The two of us gave it a very hard prune and began to dig at its roots, but couldn’t get it out without an axe. Corpse Tree is still here, but we’ll get it out this week. Promise. Sorry, neighbours. It gets worse before it gets better.
This tree in the corner is clearly an Australian native, a bottlebrush. It was looking pretty scraggly and overgrown, so I trimmed off a bunch of undergrowth and some ivy that was taking over at the base. Hooray! It looks like a real tree now. I like its twisting, leaning trunk and branches.
There’s two of those cypresses (or arborvitae?) and, I don’t know. They seem a bit old-fashioned for the place. If we had a colonial-era, sandstone English home, they’d be well-suited, but… I’m just not feeling them here. I’m much happier living in a city than in the country, like, times a million, but suddenly I wish we could get a tractor out here and make short work of these trees.
There’s also this full-grown cypress. A single tall skinny spike against a squat ranch house. Huh.
Some shrubs would fit nicely to the right of the cypress, and here’s what I’m thinking: pepperberries! Tasmanian mountain pepper, that is. Pepperberries are an interesting bushfood. They’re spicy, versatile and they turn your food purple. Fun. Anyway, the bushes themselves need a cool, shady position, and they come in male and female forms which means I’ll need two of them. Unfortunately, there’s already a plant taking up some of that pepperberry space.
Hey there, hebe. It’s a ‘Beverley Hills’ hebe, if that means anything.
The hebe is not the first, nor the last, New Zealand plant in this garden. I’m not gung-ho on having an all-native bush garden, no. New Zealand and Tasmania can practically shout at each other across the ditch anyway. (Hi Wellington! We used to live in you, but you are super uncomfortable and windy, xo.)
Once again, I’m tapping Jamie’s sister to help me out with transplanting the hebe. It’s well established, and we’ll have to baby it a lot more than the roses. Minimal root disruption, soaking wet soil and such. We’re honestly unsure if the transplant will take. She did take a heap of cuttings and strike them, though, so even if this hebe kicks it we’ll have 10 little replacements to choose from.
There’s also this bitty sapling next to the two cypresses out front, which I think is a silver leaf banksia. It has spiky, leathery leaves, like holly, but the backs are silver. This one will also need to be transplanted with kid gloves. No root disruption whatsoever. Thankfully it’s still quite young, so we have half a chance.
Here’s where I want to move the hebe and banksia: the mixed border in the back. The previous owners put a lot of work into this. They even took out the giant Hills Hoist in the yard and installed retractable clotheslines, all because the Hills Hoist was a massive eyesore that wrecked their garden view. My kind of people.
The mixed border has got some neat plants in there. So far I’ve ID’d an African bush daisy, pittosporum/lemonwood, euphorbia, cypress, camellia x2 and some variety of gum tree. The euphorbia is going to take over the lot one day, but I don’t mind, its freaky prehistoric spikes look cool.
Blooming things. Camellia, euphorbia.
Now with fewer weeds! The garden beds used to have old chain-link gates in there, used as latticing for pea plants, but ugh no thanks. Eventually I’ll plant some grasses (bamboo or elegia) against the fence.
Like I said, I want a garden that’s low-maintenance. It took hours to clear the garden beds because they were that densely matted in weeds, and it fills me with bile to think about re-rolling that particular boulder up the hill again and again. Same goes for mowing the lawn. I’d love to go lawn-free, because among other reasons, Jamie gets bad hayfever, and so does his family, and every summer get-together involves at least four people sniffling and popping antihistamines like Lifesavers so it’d be nice to cut down on their misery if we can.
One day I’d love to turn the grass into a dichondra lawn, like this dude here. There’s other options, but dichondra is native, it withstands moderate foot traffic and it only needs a mow once a year. Sign me up. The lawn conversion is going to be a very gradual undertaking, but hey, goals.
Along with clearing the garden beds, I did a heap of pruning in the backyard, lopping off spent euphorbia spikes and stuff. One unpleasant surprise I found here, and in the side yard: blackberries.
These things! They’re noxiously invasive. Suburbs, rural paddocks, doesn’t matter, they will find their way into your yard. They explode in growth and they’re hard to kill. They take root, and then re-grow from every little fragment of root left in the soil. On top of all that, they’re covered in thorns and brambles. Awful.
These ones were still smallish, but I uprooted as much as I could, then hit any remaining stumps, roots and surrounds with Roundup. And I’ll be doing this on the regular all spring and summer. Hate youuuu.
Not every surprise was bad, though. Deep in the mixed border, hidden in all the euphorbia vines, I caught a glimpse of purple and crouched down to have a look. What the…?
Hellebores! Hi cuties! I wanna transplant the heck out of you! You’re too pretty to be hiding out here.
We also inherited plenty of plant pots, scattered all over the property. I just rounded them up and dumped them in the one spot for now. The purple flax, I bought a few months back, but the rest came with the house. More on the pots another time, but if you want geraniums, talk to me, I’ve got geraniums for days.
So that’s a look at the yard right now. Lots to do. Hello, spring.