Idly perusing some old blogs recently, I came across this one from March 2013, wherein I described a new garden bed at the side of my front garden that had been created by the removal of some diseased pine trees. I waxed lyrical about the excitement of having a blank slate to plant up and described what I planned to put it. Nine years later, I can report that exactly none of what I originally planted, based on those plans, still remains in that bed! The garden had its own ideas.
The position proved too hot for the camellias that I put in - well, blasting westerly sun wasn't such a great proposition, in retrospect, and the soil was not rich enough. TheDichroa also found the position too hot and dry. Salvia 'Timboon' grew too tall and took up too much space so was removed to a different spot. I ended up putting a pink Hawaiian Hibiscus in as a replacement, which enjoyed the heat and light soil. I added in a Rhinacanthus as another tall shrub, along with Tibouchina 'Blue Moon', Lepechinia salviae and Brillantaisia, which also provide background height and look good with the Hibiscus. A deep pink Pentas in front of them settled in and expanded sideways enough to swamp all the underplantings (daisies, Watsonia, Pelargonium etc) that I had put in, and any spare space was taken up by a multitude of self-sown pink Salvia splendens, which form a wonderful mass that I could never have imagined myself. They all began with one seedling from a friend and they keep themselves going from year to year with fresh seedlings; I dig up many of the excess to give away. There isn't a scrap of bare ground to be seen and the bed gives pleasure all year round.
My not understanding the conditions of particular areas in the garden is clearly one reason that the garden has had to correct my foolish notions. A herb garden I had planned on paving near the house was doomed because of poor drainage in this area, despite ag pipes being installed; moisture-loving plants took their place and were accepted. Another way the garden exerted itself was with my deluded ideas about climate. In my early gardening years, my head was full of dreams of English cottage gardens that I had garnered from a diet of gorgeous coffee table books that were all the rage in the 1980s and 1990s. When I moved to this garden in 1993 and had the front garden terraced, I meticulously drew up diagrams of how my borders would be planted with perennials and roses, with little circles representing the different plants, to create the garden of my dreams, based on a trip to England in 1987.
The garden had its own ideas. Not one single feature remains from those plans except for the Murraya hedge that formed the backdrop. The plants proved unsuitable to the warm, humid Sydney climate, languished, then disappeared. The roses were all eaten by possums and plagued with black spot. I had to start all over again, this time inspired by the tropical garden fad that was sweeping England.
I still loved the look of a profusion of flower borders I had seen during my trip to England but now I started to experiment with warm-climate plants. The garden approved, and added its own ideas. Soon, some of these plants began self-seeding from year, like the Salvia splendens, including the statuesque Amaranthus caudatus that furnishes my garden from summer to winter each year, the clouds of blue flowers of Browallia americana, scarlet Ruellia brevifolia and the plush silvery-leaved Plectranthus argentatus. They often place themselves in spots that are just right but that I would never have thought of.
The seaside daisy (Erigeron karvinskianus) appeared in my stone steps early on - I certainly didn't plant it there nor did I have it elsewhere in the garden! - and continues to soften them with its haze of dainty flowers every year. I can't imagine my garden without it, even though it does self-seed and has to be reined in! Ferns I have never grown regularly sprout in the brick retaining walls to the garden, and flourish better there than in the garden. It remains a mystery how they get there.
The garden also liked various warm-climate rhizomatous perennials that I introduced and encouraged them to spread far beyond the area that I had allocated to them. For example, Ctenanthe 'Grey Star', which I fancied as a 'decorative clump' steadily grew and grew to cloak the difficult dry shade between below some trees, where I never imagined it could have thrived. A large fern (possibly the kangaroo fern, Microsorum pustulatum) popped in one corner near some Clivia grew lustily amongst them to form a tapestry of foliage I admire every time I pass by.
False cardamom (Alpinia nutans) from my mother's garden was accepted into the garden and forms a huge, immovable clump in a shady spot where little else will grow, providing lush, tropical-looking foliage and a haunting scent when the leaves are brushed against ads I walk past. A small plant of Colocasia 'Black Magic' grew to huge proportions, dominating its bed and becoming the central feature instead of just being one part of the scene.
When I planted two 'shrubby' lilly pillies (Syzygium australe 'Aussie Gem') in a sunny area with hot-coloured blooms at the top of my plot, the garden decided that these would grow into tall trees instead, turning the area into a shady glade, and requiring a rethink of all the plants, now wanting shade-loving specimens. The garden certainly keeps me on my toes! I do have some influence, but not as much as I once thought I wielded!
Early morning in the May garden
22 May 22
Much can be seen during a stroll in the garden now.
15 May 22
I enjoy seeing carpets of fallen leaves and flowers in autumn.
Happy Mother's Day
08 May 22
My mother's garden has been hugely influential for me.
Jewels of May
01 May 22
Some lovely flowers bloom this month
24 Apr 22
Scented leaves can evoke memories and uplift the soul.