Friday, June 12, 2009

Nanna's garden

Last Sunday I went over to pick up my wife Pam's mum, Val, to take her to a birthday celebration for one of her grandchildren on the other side of town. Though it was a grey and overcast afternoon, there was just enough light to take a few snaps, and so I thought for a change of pace, instead of blogging about my little patch, I'd celebrate Nanna's garden, and a very good garden it is, too. It's mostly a front garden, one which all the passers-by in her area enjoy every day.

Val loves to bring garden blooms indoors to pop into vases. This is a doddle to do in the warmer months, as her garden flowers prolifically, but in winter it's not so easy. So here's three cheers for camellias – the mainstays of so many winter gardens here in Sydney and elsewhere.

Val's garden provides a lot of pleasure to passers-by, as the street where she lives always seems to have someone walking past – commuters heading for the bus stop, elderly Chinese couples from the nearby new townhouse development getting some exercise, plus mums and dads walking the dog. There are lots of friendly calls of 'hello', 'hi' and 'how are you doing' exchanged around here.

Around the western side of the house, in a spot which gets full sun, this bed has been self-seeding itself for many years. In summer it's filled with colourful daisies of various sorts, plus succulents, pelargoniums, gazanias, chrysanthemums and a few other interlopers who've made a home for themselves there.

I think these dramatic, spiky plants are yuccas, and they say a lot about Val's willingness to try new things and see how they go. They're going OK, too!

At the back of Val's house the zygocactus are in bloom. These hardy plants, which are almost invariably grown in hanging baskets, flower here in May and June, and their colours are almost fluoro in their intensity. Val's favourite colour is a slightly more subdued salmon, but alas my photo of that one is a blurry travesty taken in too-low light, and so the best I can manage is this dazzling pink person.

There isn't just one basket of zygos at Val's. There are several, and in combination the effect is tropical in its intensity, a welcome burst of warmth in late autumn and early winter.

Out near the letterbox the last of the autumn daisies are still catching the sun. With a light clipping back they'll return next season.

Many of the beds at Val's are very easy-care, as they are based on succulents, whose foliage colour provides a year-round blend of fresh green, earthy red and bluish-grey.

The elderly Chinese couples passing by approve greatly of Val's long line of 'money trees' (Crassulas) as they are said to bring prosperity to the house and its occupants.

Foliage plays an especially important role in winter, when the flowers are not so plentiful. This sight out near the letterbox greets the postman every day.

And of course there are gnomes in Nanna's garden!

The reason I took my camera to Val's was a request from Pam to take some photos of the Japonica (the flowering quince) in bloom. Unfortunately I was too early and this was the sole flower I could find. These plants flower on bare stems in winter and look quite impressive for several weeks. They're an old-fashioned plant found in many Nannas' gardens, and Pam wants one. I don't have space for this size of shrub in my own garden and wondered how I could fit one in. Then I read that japonicas can make an excellent bonsai specimen, so that is a little assignment for me to add to my list.

And so that's a quick lap of Nanna's garden. There are all sorts of tired old jokes about mothers-in-law, but the fact is that Val and I are very good mates. We share a love of gardening – a love of Pam! – and a love of food, wine, movies, politics and art – but, alas, not the same music! She's a jazz fan from way back, yet she doesn't just listen to the old stuff. Her CD collection is full of young jazz musicians' work, and she's always keen on seeing live music when the chance arises.

She's an amazing person who does a huge amount of community work, and she's a living legend in her local arts scene. She knows more mayors, MPs and politicians than any other little old white-haired Nanna I've ever met, that's for sure. She's always complaining about how terrible it is to be the mother of children aged in their mid 50s, but the best thing about Val is her amazing zest for living. It's there in her personality, and it's there for all the world to see in her garden, too.

1 comment:

Titania said...

A lovely tribute to Nanna and Nanna's pretty garden. I enjoy a lot the crassulas with their soft pink starflowers...I have one growing...I will plant more and then I check my purse! Winter is a nice time with the Camellias flowering but the leafy greens and reds are a good substitute for flowers.