Garden work

In the wind-down to Xmas I have only one teeny paid job to do, plus my tax (I hate doing my tax, even though I always get a little tax bonus). This wind-down has been perfect for my mental health as it allowed me to slow my work down gently, and not crash me into boredom and frustration – is anyone like me, and very goals-focussed? If I don’t have something to work towards I’m a screaming wreck. Meanwhile, before we head south for the summer (I know, who goes south when the heat is in sunny Qld?) there are still plenty of things to do in and around the garden.

Tropiscapes have been and gone, not without some dramas for them regarding our recalcitrant arborists, who caused no end of delay and frustration. Landscaping is not cheap, let me assure you, and I made the hard decision to do the remainder of the work at the front of the house myself. I moved some granite rocks to improve the size of the garden beds at the front of the house. As previously mentioned, this is the area that gets nearly all day sun, so I wanted to put in mostly food plants with a couple of decorative bushes for funsies.

On the most humid and hot day of the year, prior to a rather large rain cell developing in the afternoon, I personally moved three cubic metres of soil off my driveway onto the waiting garden beds. Oh! And I did sweet FA about preparing the beds. The earth was so compacted I just gave up and decided to lay the soil straight over the top. Of course there was rather less fresh soil on the old bed. Y’all, I had to fill that new bed! I survived the day – just.

This was at about midday. I thought I would never finish the job, and because rain was forecast, I had to get that dirt off my driveway before it ran off the driveway into my new garden beds….
Surprising how far 3 cubic metres of soil can go – for a hot minute I thought we’d ordered too much. Amazing what a bit of rain can do to damp down the beds. As it turns out we had too much cypress mulch so we used it to spread over the rest of the front garden on the chookie side. Cypress mulch is amazing as it repels termites and keeps the earth super cool and damp.

Once I had laid the soil I went and bought some plants from our local Bunnings. Turns out they’re low in stock right now, so I ended up buying lots of different thyme, some rosemary, lemon verbena and lemon balm, a perennial basil, some oregano and sage, a chilli plant, some curry plants, even some samphire. These plants act as ground cover and low bushes and make great cover for the beds, and all are great herb plants that love full sun. For small trees I planted a miniature lime, a rosella hibiscus and a warm climate nectarine. I do not believe for one minute we will get any fruit off them before the possums chomp them, but it’s an ecosystem. Gotta live with the little beasties. For decorative plants I bought two different Coleus (love those leaf colours), some Dragon’s Breath, Dichondra, a Persian slipper and a hot pink hibiscus. Hubby was getting a little too eager to spread the remaining mulch and I had to get the plants in the ground before he went psycho with the shovel! So I flung them into the ground at speed. I removed all the Brazilian wandering iris and the grass plants prior to digging up the beds, so I put them all back to grow amongst the food plants, and I can safely say nothing has died yet. The persian slipper plant had to be moved last week – it was in full sun, and its leaves were literally burning, but even that has revived nicely now that it is in the shade. The wonky hedge thing on the right of the image below is a fun white Powder Puff tree. It was already there and makes a super cute flowering hedge, sitting in between two mature golden cane palms.

We need now to do something about the chookie side, but we’ll leave it until next year, once we have done some carpentry work to keep them confined to one section of the garden. The basic plan is to move the rocks out from the left side by about a metre, build out the bed there and plant some basic bitch plants there to support the chookies and give them some fresh plants to eat and shade under. This side as you can tell is rather rudimentary but now that the Waterhousia tree (from the Lillipilli family) has been trimmed, the Murraya hedge is going great guns and even my lemon tree (not shown) is fruiting like crazy. Let’s also of course assume the possums will eat all the little lemon buds. This is not as awful as it sounds as the plant is not yet big enough to support all the lemons it has already budded. We also have an azalea or rhododendron in the corner nearest the house – not my favourite plant – but it thrives and we’re keeping it for now.

So two weeks later and I decided to buy a blueberry bush because 1/ it was available and 2/ it’s not a raspberry bush with prickles and spikes. I planted it where I had left a big clear patch at the front in preparation for a rubbish bin plinth we hope to build next year. We have just had a week of torrential rain and it looks like summer will be cool, wet and super steamy. It was so wet that the rain moved some of the mulch away so this weekend will be about moving the mulch back where it came from and sugaring the nut grass that has decided to spread amongst our Little Dugald side hedge. I tell you what, though, the plants have grown like CRAZY since we planted them – with the the native thyme and lemon verbena more than doubling in size and the rosella hibiscus the same. Amazing.

Still too wet to mow the lawn! We will be replacing some of the lawn with stepping stones but again that’s a job for 2022. The powder puff bushes need some pruning and it’s amazing how messy it all looks after a week of rain, but also how heartwarming it is to see all the growth.

Out the back all the major work has been done, but the hubby and I have decided to expand one of the garden beds as we can’t grow lawn there – which was made very clear when the rains came this week – the area turned into a mud bath. We will be moving the smaller rocks out by about a metre, filling the expanse with new soil and cypress mulch, and moving some of the smaller plants forward. We’ll also add some more of the plants Tropiscapes selected to give that bed more consistency with the other side. We also bought a few metres of grass/ sod that has really taken, so I think we may end up adding more once all the building work has finished and all the water tanks and veggie beds are in, etc.

See the bare patch on the left of the picture above? That’s where we will expand the garden bed. Shade loving tropicals will love it there. The grass in the foreground is lovely thick sod, and the remaining grass you see (same colour, different grass, plus weeds) is probably not actual grass, so we’ll lay some more sod next year once we’ve done the building work.

So here’s the thing I’ve discovered about myself: that I really enjoy working in my garden, creating a beautiful, welcoming tropical vibe there. Here’s an image of the garden at night – we had set it up for a birthday do just a few days after finishing the front garden:

I think once all the main work is done I will buy some festoon lights and have more garden parties like this one. It looked perfect and even though I knew the grass was patchy and the working side of the house was ugly, this still looked just sublime on a perfect summer’s night. And isn’t that exactly the point of a beautiful garden?!

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