Saturday, March 31, 2012

Makeover madness

Hello everyone. After a longish absence from blathering on about our garden here at the Garden Amateur blog, Pammy and I are back, because we finally have something to talk about. Our much mused-over, and still undecided, garden makeover has begun. Slowly.

Today was Day One, and the theme for this day has been 'destruction': chopping, cutting, hacking, heaving, digging and a lot of sweating.

While we haven't, as such, actually decided on what the new garden will look like, we do have some firm opinions on what we want to get rid of. Pammy's hit list is a bit longer than mine "I don't like this, never did like that, why don't you take some cuttings of that and start again from scratch, etc etc". I just hated the big creeping fig covering our neighbour's garage wall, and I think I'll start with that story, because Huey the rain god came to my rescue one dark and stormy day...

Here's the creeping fig in its heyday last year. Lush, green, vigorous as a Latin Dancer and as unruly as a bus full of footy fans. What a workload keeping this monster tamed! The constant clipping was bad enough, but doing it on ladders was worse, and then I discovered that wasps thought it was the perfect place to build several nests. Was it on my hit list? Oh, yeah!

Here's the creeping fig today, and I never laid a finger on it, your honour. It was Huey the rain god, back in February. After a few shocking days of torrential rain and strong winds, the big, bad, unruly creeping ficus, weighed down with tonnes of water and blown from side to side, lost its grip on the wall and came tumbling down in one solid lump. Fortunately the sturdy little garden shed took most of the weight, and the lemon tree, though sorely leaned upon for half an hour, was quickly rescued by yours truly in the driving rain.

Top of Pammy's hit list was the Grevillea Robyn Gordon, which admittedly has had several long illnesses in recent years. She saw it as a mercy killing. Next door to the grevillea was the most rampant rosemary bush in Marrickville, and that's the one about which she helpfully suggested striking a few cuttings from to start all over again, this time in a pot. So both these have 'gone' this afternoon. The clean-up truck comes on Monday to haul the proceeds away.

Looking south this is how the cleared bed looks.

And this is the view looking north. A lot of bare, ugly brick and steel walls and fences exposed for a while, but reform is needed.

While we were at it, we decided to trim/get rid of/move/start again with several other plants. This large money tree (a Crassula) in front of our potted curry tree is a disgraceful story of neglect. It's one of those cases where the roots of a potted plant found their way out into the soil, and the plant went berserk with happiness.

The pot itself, and the base of the plant, was hidden from sight behind a dense thicket of culinary sage and as it was the most easy-care plant in the garden, never needing watering or feeding, I never took much notice of it. It must have burst out of its thin little green plastic pot a couple of years ago, and since then it has grown into a very sturdy monster. I'm not going to touch it right now, but in a month or so, on a cool day I will transplant it somewhere else, digging it up to take as much of the root ball as I can find, then moving it to a better spot. It's such a tough thing I think it'll be OK, but this plant's condition is just about the slackest disgrace in our garden.

Meanwhile, all the succulents, which normally live where all the felled shrubs are now lying in a heap, have been moved over to a 'parking bay' across the other side of the garden. The plan for them is (probably) to take them out of their gaggle of pots, and create a proper succulent garden bed were they can live and compete in sunny peace.

All sorts of gnomes, hidden from sight behind pots, shrubs and other thickets of greenery have all been discovered in the clearout, and the parking bay definitely has a party atmosphere raging on at the moment. "How have you been, long time no see!"

Though the overgrown money tree is a bit of a disgrace, several other plants which I have been neglecting for months on end seem to be doing better without me, like this haworthia.

And this lemon thyme...

And the truly wonderful Plectranthus 'Mona Lavender'. Let me put in a plug for this plant to any gardeners in a climate like mine. This thing is only a year old, and has flowered for three quarters of that time, has grown like mad in a spot that gets no morning sun and only a burst of afternoon sun for a few hours each day. I don't feed it or water it, but admittedly with Sydney's unbelievably wet recent summer, nothing much has needed watering this last soggy year.

So that's the makeover on Day One. Just a whole lot of destruction and nothing much else. Still no firm plans that we can agree upon, just a pile of corpses waiting to be hauled off to the plant cemetery.

My main aim is to make the garden a lot easier to maintain. It's too much work for me now. I have fairly persistent back problems, and a major episode of sciatica immediately following the 14-hour non-stop plane flight from San Francisco to Sydney last November put me completely out of gardening action all the way through to the New Year. At that stage it was too hot to do any work, and even now I'm still very wary of doing much heavy work. I want to make the garden much lighter and easier to look after. That'll mean fewer vegies and annual plants, more perennials and shrubs I suspect, but we'll see.

Over the 21 years we have been here we have completely remodelled and rejuvenated the garden three or four times, and each time it was a thrill to do it. I remember with previous makeovers that some friends were actually a bit shocked at the major changes we made, as things always look a bit stark in the first several weeks after all the replanting is done. However, each time things grew back quickly, as they always do in Sydney's lovely climate, and the lushness and vigorous good health of new plants is always a vivid thing to behold. So that's the plan. Stay in Sydney and it'll all grow back fast, no matter what we do!

Wish list? I'd love a frog pond, just like Lanie's!