decorating / homefront · out and about

The incidental gardener

Being fifty-something, I love the joy of exploring a well-loved garden even though my own little piece of the great outdoors is much-neglected.

You see, I’m an incidental gardener.

I wish it wasn’t so. But it is.

Most of the year my garden fends for itself, passing from season to season with very little attention. I like to think of my patch as Darwinian, where only the fittest survive. My plants know the drill – adapt to the neglect … or die. Many of them do keel over. Hardier types like the silver birch trees thrive under my laxity, growing tall and strong, and marking each turn of the season with precision.

I know many avid green thumbers who have a solid routine, gardening weekly (even daily) to ensure everything is dead-headed, weeded, watered and nourished. And I can see the results are worth the effort … lush, verdant lawns and flowers in bloom year-round in a coordinated (and perfectly colour-matched) display.

Green Elephants Garden Sculpture Photo by epsos.de on http://www.flickr.com

My parents were great gardeners. The Yates Garden Guide was pretty much their bible and they managed to balance fruit and vegie production with a fine (and varied) display of bush roses and some of the neighbourhood’s most spectacular hydrangeas.

My lack of gardening prowess was (I’m certain) a disappointment to them. I remember once, when we were leaving on a holiday, Mum asked who was going to water our garden. I just looked blankly at her … no one ever watered our garden when we were home, so no one would need to fuss over it when we were away. (I suspect she snuck by from time-to-time to secretly prolong the life of our shrubbery with a shower from the hand-held hose.)

Hose Pipe Photo by 3rsphoto on http://www.flickr.com

My garden is more patchy than Mum and Dad’s ever was – straggly, unpruned roses and overgrown clumps of daisies. There are ferns growing feral in dark corners and clutches of unidentified creepers creeping from paver crevices and sneaking up brick walls.

My garden suffers from a lack of planning … and good timing. I have never managed to get the sweet peas sewn on St Patrick’s Day or the daffodil bulbs in by Mother’s day.

I tend to just wake up one day and decide it’s a gardening day. It’s an incidental urge that happens without reference to moon-based gardening calendars or, indeed, the Yates Garden Guide. Such “incidental” days occur every few months and usually involve a trip to the nursery before wheeling the giant green wheelie-bin-of-no-return to a nominated spot in the yard, ripping out something-that-once-lived and replacing it with something fresh and alive with the promise of blooms and foliage.

Today was one such day. All it took was a sniff of sunshine on a midwinter morning to have me outside seeking out the patch-of-most-neglect.

I didn’t have to search too far. The lavender hedge that lines our front verandah has grown woody, weedy and rangy. It always needs replacing every three or four years (and could well be a season or two behind that already). In fact, the whole verandah needs a makeover … but more about that later.

Today was incidental gardening day, and nothing would get in my way.

Off to the nursery.

Fill the trolley with healthy lavender plants.

Dig out that sad old excuse for a hedge and replant it anew.

At the nursery, we picked up a couple of additions to the herb garden. And some of this (for which I have a dastardly plan *insert evil laugh* ):

My day of incidental gardening is done. All but the lavender hedge will have to fend for itself until the incidental urge to garden kicks in again (in another month or two).

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