Editors Note: Sara blogged under ‘The Nonsuch Project’ on Victorian Flower Garden website after she moved to Nonsuch in Tasmania in early 2005, before she created the dedicated Nonsuch Kitchen Gardens website in mid-2009. These entries were referred to as The Old Diary. 

14th January 2006

I’ve had landscape contractors crawling over the garden this last week, ready to put in tenders. I really really hope I can get this moving soon. I’ve ordered over 10,000 bulbs, numerous peonies and clematis, a few score bay trees (to use as a hedge) and I just don’t want to even want to think of potting all these through winter.

I am having a six foot fence put in along the historic hawthorn hedge to keep out the dratted dog at back. This dog has given me so much aggravation … well, its owner has. She’s a perpetual hand wringer. Can’t do anything about anything, let alone the dog which she claims in untrainable. God alone knows how she manages to draw breath. I thought that might have been too difficult for her, too.

My gardener, the fearless D’Wayne (not a hand wringer), cut a swathe through the jungle behind the walnut tree yesterday – so now I can see some of the space there. He also cut the weeds which masquerade as lawn – suddenly I have space again! Just being able to see space again is incredible – and now I have a real idea of the space available once the jungle behind the walnut tree comes down.

22nd January 2006:

Very hot today – to reach 37 Celsius, which is a bit hard to bear for Hobart. So have shut myself inside a cool house and am fiddling with web pages. I have added a link to a current weather page to this page and to the front page.

I have settled on a landscape contractor, and hopefully work shall begin by late February.

Last week I had a very tall security fence installed along the back of the property to keep out the invading damned dog. At last I have a secure garden and my cats are safe from the beastly thing. If I can keep my bcats from roaming, I can’t see why she can’t keep her dog from roaming.

23rd January 2006:

In the end it reached 40C, which was almost unbearable. Thank god I didn’t have a garden yet to survive it! (But the weeds coped very well.)

My sister will be down soon and we are off out and about around Tasmania for a week. I wonder what I will see to inspire me in the garden?

6th February 2006:

Well, my sister and I have been all about Tasmania, and … oh, the wilderness! I have never seen anything like it! I have never been a great fan of tree ferns, nor have I been a great fan of tropical gardens … but now I am a true disciple of cool rainforests! I have been wondering what kind of woodland to have in the area behind the walnut tree – now I know … an English woodland/Tasmanian cool rainforest. Some birch trees, a few of those wonderful giant rhubarbs, a score or more manferns, and underplanted with foxgloves and cyclamen. I was absolutely inspired by a boat trip up the Gordon River.

Tenders are back from the landscapers. They are astronomical! One was twice as much as anything else (the breakdown of his costs included $5,000 to hang a gate!). So in the end I went with the cheapest ones – they seem fine, and they don’t charge $5,000 to hang a gate …

17th February:

Contracts are signed for the garden! I may not have a start date but I do have a completion date (7th June). So, hopefully, within a few months I will wave goodbye to my sloping block and wave hello to my beautifully sandstone-terraced garden!

15th March 2006:

Been a while – mostly just waiting for the landscaping to start. But I am getting back into the garden. Had to pot up 300 Meadow Saffron that are now happily flowering. And am clearing out a rose bed (really, the roses had to go) so the house painters can actually get to the house to paint. Many many bulbs have arrived.

I have been buying some decent gardening equipment – a builder’s wheelbarrow, good spades and forks and hoes etc. I am so desperate to use them!

My back is aching. I am not used to garden work! It has been almost a year since I have done any serious work in a garden, and now I am suffering for it.

Nights now distinctly autumn. Mornings cold.

More plant catalogues have arrived – one with giant Rhubarb and some lovely Angel’s Trumpet in it, both plants I have coveted for a long time.

I have arranged for the gardener to clear out the side garden – I need space for some of those lovely shrubs.

24th March 2006:

The landscaping started on Monday! Thus far (Friday) the front garden has been entirely cleared and levelled to a gently sloping gradient down to where the bog garden will be. We’ve discovered a water pipe (thankfully still intact) and we’ve discovered a phone cable (thankfully still intact) and we’ve discovered that the down pipes from the roof, far from emptying into a storm drain, instead empty into the garden. Very badly – mainly because the old clay pipes were mostly broken and blocked. So these downpipes have now been attached to pvc pipes which drain down to the bog garden area … which will now become highly boggy indeed. I may even be able to grow water lillies in it!

25th March 2006:

Now that the landscaping has started, thus have I started. Over the past week I have planted out into tiny nursery pots about 200 foxgloves, 30 St Bernard’s Lilies and 60 Monkshood. The latter will need to be forced in the fridge and freezer in order to make them germinate, but before then they need 4 weeks of warmth.

17th April 2006:

Oh, I ache all over. It has been at least 18 months without any serious gardening work, and now that I’m back to digging, and planting, and turning over … there are days when I have ached so much I have been reduced to lying full length on the muddy ground in order to put those last few hundred in.

The worst thing in planting bulbs is that you can see nothing for your effort. Over the past few days I have planted about 4,000 bulbs – there is bare earth to start with and bare earth to finish with (save for a scattering of plant markers) and a lot of pain … but I guess come spring I will be happy enough.

Landscaping is going okay – I am just sick and tired of the mess and the noise and the mud. Some of the sandstone paths are down, sandstone walls are going up.

The house painters are also here. Can you believe it? The place is crawling with men wielding very loud machinery. The painters have set the house on fire three times, the landscapers have gonethrough the water pipes. Fortunately not at the same time.

7th May 2006:

So much has been happening.

On the grand scale Nonsuch is finally ‘coming together’. I have been here just over a year and in that year have had works of some kind constantly going on here. For many months – eight or nine – nothing ever seemed to be happening, save that mess accumulated atop mess. Now, in the past 2 or 3 months, it is all coming together.

The roof has been replaced, the verandah has been completely rebuilt and restored, the house has been stripped of 130 years of accumulated bad paint jobs and then repainted. It was the repainting that did it – suddenly people were knocking on the front door and saying how wonderful it was to see the house restored. Cars slow in the street, pedestrians stop and stare.

Nonsuch is looking gorgeous. Nup … it is looking spectacular, considering the state it was in when I purchased it.

But of course we still have some mess! The landscaping! Oh! Great mounds of dirt everywhere! The landscapers seem to have got stuck in the mid-section of the garden where the most work has to be done – many paths, big dry-stone retaining walls, raised garden beds, drainage, excavations. I have my front garden to plant, and now I have a bed in the mid-section. No sooner have those chaps finished a section than I am in there planting. And, of course, just about every day the postman arrives with a truck load of more waterproof cardboard boxes filled with young plants. Already one bedroom of my house is piled high with bulbs that desperately need to be planted – now I have tube and potted stuff everywhere as well.

It is slowly going in – over the past few weeks many more bulbs, iris, hydrangea, acanthus, peonies and clematis have gone in. Many more wait their turn. I dread the arrival of the roses and the monstrous giant rhubarbs, not to mention the lilies and the salvias and the mop-top robinias.

I am so OVER planting bulbs! I planted 800 yesterday, and there’s another 1000 or so waiting for me today. It is getting to the point where I look at the bin of bulbs, then I look at the wheelie bin, and I wonder at what point I am going to break.

There is a local nursery that when I ring up and say I want another massive load of compost there is a sigh the other end of the phone, and some tired voice says, “This is a Nonsuch order, isn’t it …”

18th May 2006:

Planting, planting, planting. There are days when I grow to loathe the trowel. As for carting compost everywhere …

More plant orders placed, though. Perhaps 100 dwarf cannas to go in a central raised circular bed. They will flower for at least 9 months of the year and will look fabulous – two shades of pink. Most of the peonies have been planted … but yesterday I ordered more. I need some butterfly bushes – must find time to order today or tomorrow. I have some bog plants, delivered last week, but still haven’t found time to plant them.

Landscaping work continues. I believe (through psychic contact for little is exchanged verbally) that the landscapers are about to start the rose arbor. The brick causeway is all but complete, and is just fabulous. It uses reclaimed bricks so looks as if it has been there a hundred years already. I planted a curry hedge along its length last weekend. I’m not too sure of the scent of the curry with the scent of the peonies behind them, but time will tell if it is a scented disaster!

Next week my gardener (sadly lamenting the total loss of his lawns) will come and rip out the garden by the side fence so I can replant that.

30th May 2006:

Well, D’Wayne and his side-kick arrived and cleared out the side garden for me – more space! More planting opportunities! All that is left is one manfern doing fairly well (but will be moved to the woodland/rainforest area eventually) an old lilac and a rose that needs pruning soooo badly.

The landscapers continue. Nice lads, but I wish they’d go.

Bog plants planted. Butterfly bushes ordered.

15th June 2006:

The landscapers are still here, but, please God let it be, close to finishing. The garden hard landscaping is wonderful – hardly any plants in (will need more stuff yet!) but within 2 years, once everything has grown, it will look spectacular. Already it is a good place to sit in the evening with a glass of wine. I am vaguely on top of planting – still very much to do, and still many orders to be delivered, but we’re getting there.

19th June:

I have manferns! Ordered much compost from Chandlers, and asked them somewhat diffidently if they also had some manferns. They did, and I bought out their entire stock of 12. Should be able to get some more from one of the salvage firms who go out into the rainforest ahead of the loggers.

No landscapers. Apparently they will be back on Monday. *grump*

23rd June

Canna lillies, as well regal lilies, arrived today. I planted out the dwarf cannas and the regal lilies in the oval stone bed, dumping much compost, fertilizer and gypsum into the soil. The other cannas, as well daylilies and perennial phlox and the foxtail lilies have gone into compost storage until I get the chance to plant them out.

Over the past few weeks I have been carefully pricking out foxglove seedlings into individual pots to grow on. I must have close to 200, which is fantastic, and have seeds for some glorious reddish ones. Will plant those out soon.

27th June:

The landscapers are driving me nuts! They are almost finished, but have now started on another job somewhere else and have drifted away from Nonsuch. Damn their eyes. They have a contract that stated they had to be finished on the 7th of June – hello? Look at the date! They are now into the financial penalty stage … but it doesn’t seem to be bothering them. This is frustrating beyond measure … I do not recommend this firm to anyone – walking off a job and leaving a site in disarray ‘because they’ve overbooked’ is too unprofessional for words.

30th June:

Oh well, when landscapers drive one nuts, the only thing to do is to go order 5 tonnes of organic compost and revel in the satisfaction. Of course, the shifting and digging isn’t all that much fun, but still satisfying. All of this is going into the soil where the rainforest will be – the soil there is very poor after decades of neglect.

More plants and bulbs ordered. Also two gorgeous teak rocking chairs for the garden.

It has been so cold at Nonsuch this winter with heavy frosts that we just didn’t get last year. Some mornings it has been difficult to walk outside because of the thick coating of ice on the ground. I have cut-in-half soft drink bottles covering the more tender of the new plantings, but still I have lost some.

Almost no rain – cold and dry. Unusual. We’ve gone months without rain, and it is strange to be watering the garden in the middle of winter!

4th July 2006:

A complete nightmare with both landscape architect and landscaper. Very, very frustrating.

Have been erecting new cat enclosures, and have finally managed to get my hands on some 6 foot manferns – hopefully to be delivered this morning. Once I’ve popped in the remainder of the cat tunnels through the woodland area I can start to plant it out, which will be a relief. Less pots about the back door for me to fall over.

Very cold, very frosty and damp, but not good rain.

5th July 2006:

The manferns just arrived. They are … gigantic. The delivery man and I barely managed to get them off the truck. Definitely a job for D’Wayne the Intrepid Gardener and his Strong Assistant to plant. There is no way I could get these in!

Here they are sitting in the back driveway looking … gigantic (they are almost eight feet tall).

manferns

Also good news is that my mop-top robinias are awaiting me in the local nursery. Trunk heaven for me this week!

And it is raining!

The cat enclosure system is gradually taking shape. Hope to have it connected up (at least stage one) by this weekend.

6th July 2006:

Didn’t rain much. 2.9 ml.

Very sore left shoulder, upper arm and wrist – it has been sore off and on for weeks, but yesterday’s exertions really offended it. Oh dear. So much work to do … and yet I should try (I suppose) to give this wrist and shoulder a rest.

(Later) Well, I rested this morning, then was determined to do something. Planted two of the small manferns into the cat enclosures and secured them (seeing as they will be used as scratching posts). Then down to the local nursery (fortunately only a block away) and dragged home six seven-foot mop-top robinias and heeled them down in some soil until I can plant them out.

And then the landscapers suddenly turned up, climbed over the huge manferns in the driveway and started to build me some compost bins.

So bad start to the day, and my shoulder, arm and wrist still ache, but some tasks managed. Will not get the cats into their new home this weekend, though.

10th July 2006:

I did get the cats into their new home this weekend care of much effort and dint and risings at 0400 to work by torchlight. The cats are enjoying life so much they now refuse to come back inside! I have also planted out the mop-top robinias, and suffered much angst over the fact I’ve not had the time to plant much else.

D’Wayne and Dave are coming by this morning to plant the manferns.

I hope they’ve taken their strong pills.

Weather has been almost spring-like rather than deep winter. Warm winds, gusting ahead of what the forecasters promise to be a significant rain event. Well, I’ve heard all that before, but will be keeping a close eye on the north-west sky. Rain destined for Cornelian Bay never seems to manage to get over the central mountains of Tasmania.

The landscapers have built the bones of the compost bins, and have dug out a trench for some new drainage. Not a vast amount of work done, but at least something.

Shoulder and wrist are still sore, but at least they consent to work from time to time.

15th July 2006

Well, D’Wayne, minus his manful aide, came on by and planted those monoliths all by himself. I didn’t expect him to survive the experience, but he battled on, and now I have a wonderful avenue of tree ferns and a woodland starting to take shape.

Have spent most of the week planting, and tilling, and spreading out and digging in compost. I know I have another huge order of plants arriving early next week so need to continue to clear out some of the tube stock still awaiting a planting.

No sign of the landscapers this week.

Shoulder now barely painful, but wrist still needs TLC and support.

17th July 2006

12 boxes of plants arrived today – hundreds of lilies, hostas, some paper birches, anemones, much stuff indeed. About half of it will go into the woodland area.

I spent the weekend carting compost, also planting out the last of the manferns, planting some acanthus into the woodland area, plus I put in some anemones and a foxglove (the first of the hundreds of foxgloves to go in!).

And this morning the landscapers turned back up. Good day. 🙂

19th July 2006

Have been planting out hostas, and pink arums, and fairy fishing wands and anemones – all in the woodland, of course!

I really must try and think about the rest of the garden … or expand the woodland …

27th July 2006:

Unbelievable … unable to accept it … the landscapers have finished. When they said to me yesterday, “We’ll be finished this afternoon” I just stood there, gaping.

Well, they did finish, and they’ve gone. The garden is mine again. I celebrated by ordering in another 3 yards of compost, 10 bales of lucerne hay, and some raspberries and gooseberries.

Have been planting, planting, planting. The phlox is now planted out, as are most of the roses. Some of the lilies have gone in. What else? There must be ‘else’, for it seems as if have been doing nothing with my life but planting (and carting compost!). Oh yes, as the vegetable beds were nearing completion earlier this week I set out seed for silver beet, radishes, several different kinds of lettuce, more peas, broccoli, and others which now I just can’t dredge to the forefront of my mind. I can’t wait to get the potatoes and shallots in.

The local clock man is trying to sell me the idea of a huge old church clock for the garden. I am somewhat receptive to the idea, but I hope to God it isn’t a chiming one because otherwise the neighbours will turn against me once and for all!

30th July 2006:

Very tired and sore – carting and digging, and there never seems to be an end to the work. I really should get the last of the lilies in, and I need to transplant the hydrangeas. Cold, blustery weather.

I have bought, and set up some of, some garden solar lights. The ones already up work very well, even though we still have some 14 hours of darkness each day (fourteen hours! No wonder I am so sick of it!).

I have also spread out about 15 bales of lucerne hay as mulch – the front garden is very weedy and needs to be mulched out.

Today … more carting, I suppose. *sigh*

2nd August 2006:

Well, here we are at August. Everything still aches abominably, there is still a mountain of work to be done … but … the other day an extra order of climbing roses arrived and I managed to get them planted out the same day. Amazing!

Site inspection has been done. There are still a handful of things to be tidied and fixed, but mostly I guess the landscaping is done. For me it is the end of almost 18 months of various builders and building work going on about me – the peace and quiet that beckons is too seductive for words.

Many of the hyacinths are out, some of my special daffs are on their way, some of the peonies are sending up bright red shoots. (And some are not, which is a worry …).

Currently I am in the midst of a manic planting out of some 500 lilies (I have left them almost too late, and they have 2 inch shoots on them) – might plant out some of the paper birches today and plant out lilies about them.

The tree gardenia hedge is planted.

I am desperate for spring and for things to grow!

Here is my recently completed vegetable garden. Note the compost bins!

vegieJuly06-01

Later: I watered this morning, and took off the caps of straw from the manferns … and look! Four or five of the manferns (and two of the big ones) are uncurling huge fronds! The ones in the picture below are each the size of my doubled fists. It is moments like this you remember why you do all the damned, hard work.

manfern-unfurling

6th August 2006:

Tiny, tiny signs of spring, everywhere. I am at that stage now where I travel the garden each day, fingering branches, checking soil, looking for that first flush of green, that initial flurry of life.

I love it.

Everything is, of course, still mud or mud and 6 inches of lucerne hay. But still … there is something in the air … if this were a horror movie (the jury is still out on whether or not this enterprise actually is!) then by now you’d be hearing the throbbing hum of eerie music in the background.

But it is a garden, and all I have (thankfully) are gently uncurling manferns. Hydrangeas who are starting to spring way too early (for a gardener who needs to plant them out), the birds are everywhere.

I lay down atop the lucerne covered mud in the front garden yesterday and took this shot:

winterHycainthsSMALLer

You don’t see the mud, but … somehow this is actually starting to feel like a garden.

What have I done this week? Well, still constantly planting. Yesterday I planted out more windflowers, and the remaining two giant rhubarb. All the lilies are in. Much of the front garden is mulched. All the fairy wands are in. The paper birches are in. Many of the clematis are in. All the chocolate vines are now in. The cat enclosures have expanded. Oh, and over the past 2 weeks I have also put in some solar garden lighting which looks lovely, but whose wires (for the path fairy lights) is constantly being ripped up by my wheelbarrow or the hose!

And the manferns continue to grow …

WinterManfernsSMALLer

That is, I think, the most lovely shot. Beautiful sky, the bare walnut branches, and the ancient manferns uncurling …

13th August 2006:

Spring continues to tease – and it is getting nicer and nicer working in the garden. Somehow having the sun shining makes all the difference.

I looked about yesterday and realised that most of the garden is planted – there is still so much to do and to cram in somewhere (if I don’t start transplanting those fox gloves soon then they are going to die on me) – but the garden is more planted than not, and while the end is not in sight (no garden work is ever ended) at least now I feel as though the garden is more friend than foe.

The manferns just continue to unfurl – I adore them. Much planting over the past week – more roses, Lily of the Valley, Solomon’s Seal, Jacobean lilies, some of the clematis, asparagus, vegetable beds dug out and compost dug in, weeding, mulching. The woodland grove now looks like a woodland grove, albeit one in its early infancy. I wish the walnut tree would sprout and green up – even though the temperature remains very low – about 12 Celsius for most days, the sun is very strong.

No rain – unbelievable. This year has been incredibly dry.

16th August 2006:

Another forty hostas in, some thirty of about two hundred foxgloves planted, thirty Japanese iris into the bog garden, as well some zebra rush (or reed), odd bits tied, staked and cajoled onto lattice, much watering done.

I was thinking yesterday that I feel as though I have spent the last five months climbing a massive fence. Now I have finally got my leg over the top, one arm, and I can glimpse the other side.

I like what I see.

Although gardening is by its very nature never ending, I can now see a finality to this initial stage of mad, rushed planting.

Many daffodils out, the hyacinth path looks just glorious, seven of the ten giant manferns are now sprouting and the other three are definitely thinking about it, while about half of the smaller ones are sprouting. The clematis are waking up, the chocolate vines have discovered the mesh of the cat enclosures to crawl over, the weeds have been mild surprising in their mostly nonexistence, and I haven’t seen a snail for months.

Life isn’t too bad right now.

20th August 2006:

Planting continues.

Very strong winds, constant, for three days last week – some wind damage to new and tender plants, but mostly things survived, with a little propping up, fairly well. Still extremely dry.

There are a few photo opportunities though: The new mint grows well in sunshine, and a very windblown daffodil seeks shelter in the corner of the sandstone steps and a pot.

mint02

blowndaff02

27th August 2006:

bestdaffsmYou know, I had thought that I had my leg over that damn fence and any moment now I’d be over the other side … but I think I’ve slipped back … need to concentrate on hooking my leg over the top again …

Spring is here. The paper birches and silver birches and the robinias are definitely budding. The raspberries are greening up. The clematis are taking off (yesterday I spent all damned day putting together some flat pack frames for them – what a waste of a day. Two frames assembled and one strained right arm and not much else accomplished). My peonies are growing *relief*. The walnut tree is budding, and the manferns are just exploding. I need the walnut tree to green up to provide some shade for the mystic grove – at the moment it is way too exposed.

But then so too are the weeds exploding. So in addition to the planting, which is just never-damned-ending, I must also squeeze in weeding and mulching. I am looking forward to the day when I can do some sitting and enjoying, too.

The vegetable garden is starting to take shape – currently I have many onions and leeks in (finally I found leek seeds!), the potatoes are set out to sprout and I will plant them in cages hopefully within a couple of weeks, and the seedlings are doing OK.

29th August 2006:

Today is good day – the old silver birch and the ancient hawthorn hedge have produced their first faint sheen of greenery – spring is officially here! Now all the young ‘uns must catch up.

3rd September 2006:

daffyshowVegetables now getting more of my attention – today I am planting out the potatoes in cages rather than in the ground – good use of space when the vegetable beds are already a tad crowded out with salad and onion crops. This will be the first time I have ever planted them this way … so will be interesting to see how they go. I’ll pop up some pictures once they are underway.

Weeding and mulching now a priority. I have run out of lucerne hay, and need to order some more … but in order to do that I need to shift a massive pile of compost sitting in my driveway! Oh well, I guess it needs to be shifted.

The garden is still in its utter infancy, but I think I will do OK over this summer. Rain still desperately low – at least we don’t have water restrictions! I need to concentrate this year on getting the garden established before we have any hint of water restrictions.

Need to think rainwater tank …

The manferns are doing splendidly – you can just see their tops in the pic to the right, looking over the temporary lattice windbreak. Daffodils are just about all I have out at the moment, but the peonies are mostly growing on strongly. I have most of my tube stock planted out, but I still have many, many foxgloves to go – maybe today if I can get away from the computer.

I wish the walnut would hurry up and leaf – the hostas underneath do not like the sun!

11th September:

tomatosmMuch weeding and mulching, the final tube stock plants either potted on or planted out, and now I am starting to scatter seed about willy nilly to fill up spaces. Mulching is not going according to plan – mainly because there is almost no mulch available – I have had to bed pea straw and lucerne out of suppliers. Hopefully supplies will start to flow again soon. I’ve done almost all of the garden that really needs it, but there are still spots, and I’d like to spread out cardboard and compost and hay down the west side of the house, over the lawn, as a no dig solution to eventually planting it out as a new garden bed next year.

Have started my tomatoes – here they are, just conceived, sitting on their heated incubator in the kitchen where, hopefully, I won’t forget to water them as I need to reach over them five times a day for tea or coffee! I have currently planted two varieties – Tommy Toe and Tigerella, but may plant more as the season progresses.

The walnut tree is finally starting to leaf up, the robinias are all sprouting and showing signs of distinct life, the hostas are springing, the potatoes are still fast asleep in their cages and the seeded vegie beds are just looking … like bare soil, as are the recently seeded herbs. Hopefully something shall start to appear soon.

I tidied up the potting bench and area yesterday. Somehow life seems so much more hopeful when the potting bench is clean!

One of the horse chestnut trees, grown from a conker from my old tree at Ashcotte, is going well. I just have no idea where to plant it …

16th September:

thisoldhouseSMALLFor weeks I have been admiring a neighbour’s beautiful tree peony and wishing I had one just like it. Well, today he held a garage sale, and he had 2 of the peony’s children for sale! Definitely a red letter day. Also, the very first of my asparagus spears are emerging – I can’t harvest them this year, but next I will be able to take a few spears.

The horse chestnut can go into the front garden, I think. Either that or to shade the side verandah for summer, although that would block the view. Front garden almost definitely – I can use it to shade the bay window.

Have connected up the final two enclosures for the cats – will set up a page for the enclosure system soon.

Most of the seedlings have sprung in the vegie patch, the walnut tree is finally showing signs of life, the manferns are spectacular, one of the peonies has buds which I shall reluctantly have to pinch off, and all the robinias have burst into leaf. One of the paper birches is being very slow …

And, finally, this week I oiled the verandah!

The pic is of the view of the house from the front gate – silver birch out, ancient camellia doing its best to avoid the chop.

17th September 2006:

I had put up a series of pages on the cat run … rather, the cat empire!

The stevia have germinated, for which I am most grateful.

21st September:

All is coming along swimmingly – save for the wind, which is too swimming for its own good! great blast over the past few days, and snow on the mountain today. But at last some rain, for which I am very, very grateful.

The vegetable patch is really starting to look the part now. Most seeds have germinated – I’ll give them another week of growth before I start to thin them out. A few days ago I stocked up on huge pots for the tomatoes and climbing cucumbers and gherkins – no more room in the beds! The tomatoes are already germinating in seed trays (Tommy Toes and Tigerellas), and hopefully I can pop them out in late October (it being, so I am told, the correct time in Tasmania to pop your tomatoes into the garden in Show week which is in late October for Hobart). Below is an early morning shot of the market square (as I call the vegie garden). The green leaves in pots are not edibles at all, but meadow saffron, waiting patiently in pots until they die back for me to plant them out into the garden. For the moment, however, they lend the Market Square some greenery! Note my over indulgence in watering cans …

market

29th September:

The first of my roses is almost out – this is an ancient and unnamed rose that I pruned back savagely in autumn – it has responded with a burst of new growth and a multitude of rosebuds.

This morning a much anticipated package of blue Himalayan poppies arrived. They will be going into the woodland-rainforest area.

rose02Much weeding done, and last week made a trip down to a hardware store and bought some you-beaut sprinklers for the woodland – no more hand watering in there for me!

The walnut tree is teasing in its slow revelation of leaves – they are almost, almost out – a delicate tracery of olive green all over the tree. At least it is now casting some shade.

Many savage and gale force winds this week. The robinia trees do not like them. The manferns have lost a couple of fronds, but haven’t done as badly as I’d feared. The good side of the weather has been that we’ve finally managed some rains. Not heavy, they have nonetheless been most welcome.

I need more vegetable room – I think one of the flower beds will be dug out this summer.

8th October 2006:

How has it managed to get this far into the month without an entry?

nonsuchrose03smBusy, busy two weeks, and little of it in the garden.

Weeding, planting – I took delivery of a bunch of woodland and bog plants, as well thirty Himalayan Blue Poppies and six fuchsias – watering, and wrestling with 80 kilos of rapid set concrete that … set too rapidly. *sigh* So this weekend it is back to the mixer and some more concrete and many admonishments to be a bit FASTER this time.

All of the trees now growing on, and most well. The mop-top robinias are all thriving, the ordinary robinias are doing okay, but they really don’t like the wind we’ve been having, the baby silver birches are doing very well, and the paper birches are thinking, somewhat sulkily, that they might make an effort at surviving.

To the right my first posy of flowers from the garden – nothing from what I have planted, but a compilation of the previously unidentified but now re-named Nonsuch Rose, some of the very old lilac, and a sprig of hawthorn for a real touch of spring sweetness.

15th October 2006:

What a week. We’ve had the most gruesome hot weather, coupled with unbelievable winds, and bushfires – one night I could lay in bed and watch the eastern shore ablaze. A scary but fascinating sight. And then – a cool change, and snow this morning on the mountain.

roseviewAnd most things have survived (although a few were gasping during the heat wave). Even the Himalayan poppies produced a good stiff upper lip and pulled through. Some of the roses had some leaf burn, some of the Lavatera had to be resuscitated half way through the day, and my beautiful horse chestnut babies had most of their leaves stripped off (even in a sheltered spot as they were), but overall, I don’t think I lost anything.

Last week I managed to find some pea straw (and had it delivered last week, thankfully, as I am now wondering if the supplies went up in the fires) and have been busily and happily mulching. Yesterday I drew up a watering schedule, without which I am always hopelessly lost.

View to the left is standing beside the potting shed looking north. Both the rambling roses which cover the shed and the view are stunning. This was taken the morning after the bushfires … the night before these hills were ablaze. Then, just after I’d taken this photo, the clouds scudded in, and rain and snow arrived. Weather!

I’ve decided I want a rose garden. I can’t believe this. When I first started gardening seriously about ten years ago I swore I would never have a rose in my garden, mainly because I hate the hybrid tea horrid shrub. But now that I’ve discovered the ‘old’ roses, I am a lost woman. I think I will turn the sunken area into a rose garden with herbaceous perennials, peonies and such like. Lilies, too, perhaps.

26th October 2006:

I am currently trying my best to aid two terribly incompetent blackbird parents raise their equally silly young, but in the face of all this incompetence and silliness … God knows if the two chicks will survive. The parents pushed the chicks out of the nest too young, still a couple of weeks to go before they can fly, and so now they’re living on ground level among the outdoor pots outside the potting shed. If I put them in a nice warm box they escape.

Another fifty bales of pea straw this week, and this will, hopefully, complete my mulching. I want to mulch out the side garden which has not yet been touched to get rid of lawn and weeds, and then plant it out next winter/spring.

The Russell Lupins are forming great spikes – wonderful! They are doing so well at the edge of the bog garden that I’ll save seed from them, grow on, and transplant into all the other wet hard to grow areas of the front garden.

All the trees continue to green out, although two of the paper birches are not doing so well (but I have hopes, I have hopes) and the perennials continue to clothe themselves for summer. I wish (for the six hundredth time) that I could just fast forward several years to see a mature result.

29th October 2006:

Well … the cats ate the blackbird chicks. Darwinism at its best, I guess.

Been weeding … thought about decanting the meadow saffron from their pots to plant out in the garden for their autumn flowering, but they had such strange shapes … so think maybe they need a little more maturing in the pots.

Strange, strange weather. Snow and ice over the past few days. Only light snow here, and the garden has been fine – but who would expect snow this late in the year, and after the raging bushfires of but a few weeks ago?

I have finally planted out from tubes into pots my 400-odd bay trees. I sitll am not sure what I will do with them … the tree gardenia hedge is doing poorly, so I may end up planting them out as a hedge as I originally intended.

4th November 2006

Yes, I know, I’ve shifted the site again – sorry. We’re fixed here at the Victorian Flower Garden now. Really. Promise. (July 2009: an evil chuckle at moving the site AGAIN!)

The potatoes are doing spectacularly – currently growing at over an inch a day – my life is spent packing them with straw. I hope I have a bumper crop of spuds – love the things. The vegie garden is romping ahead as well – now I can eat my greens off it each day – they taste just spectacular.

The birds are doing well (save for the blackbird chicks, which the cats ate). When I first arrived here the garden had very few birds. Now I am inundated with blackbirds, Indian doves (which take up residence in the pea straw … I find them curled up asleep in the stuff!), sparrows, rosellas. By late summer we’ll be getting the great sweeping raucous crowd of sulphur crested cockatoos as well, come to eat the walnuts and shit on the cats. Oh my Lord, can these Nonsuch birds shit! Never have I seen such great piles of excrement! It can’t be all the solitary chicken … the others must be responsible as well.

This weekend – pack in more straw about the spuds (done). Compost and straw out the side garden. Weed.

Hopefully this year will be the worst for weeds – so much of the bought-in compost had weed seeds in it, as well this garden simply hasn’t been weeded for over 20 years, so I am dealing with the previous owner’s sloth. If I can get on top of it this year, it won’t be so bad next year. This is what I keep telling myself, anyway.

7th November 2006

On the weekend I commenced the final slaughter of the remaining patch of lawn. Currently this runs up the western side of the house. It is a lovely wide patch, and sheltered, and will become a wonderful flower garden … oh, the plants I can put in there!

But first I must slaughter the grass. I have been saving cardboard and newspapers for weeks, and so spread them out thickly, watering them in, then piled masses of pea straw atop that. Unfortunately I ran out of newspaper and cardboard not even a third of the way in, and so the slaughter of the final two thirds shall need to wait until I have accumulated more paper and cardboard. I’d been awaiting the delivery of a large parcel yesterday, and was sure that it would come wrapped in cardboard, but it came wrapped in useless plastic. The grass celebrated.

I don’t know why people like lawns. I loathe them. what a waste of garden space! People carry on and on about lawns, but they invariably are full of weeds, take many hours of care, and just look … suburban. Why anyone would want a lawn over a garden bed or wonderful herbaceous border I have no idea.

My tomato seedlings are inching into life. Perhaps in a couple of weeks I can plant them out into their final pots. They’re already doing well in the outside, but need to be a tad bigger before they dare the big pots.

13th November 2006

lawndeath

Death to all lawns, I say! I can’t understand the Great Australian Fixation with lawns – they are hideous (usually), ugly (usually) and time-wasting (always) affairs. They get in the way of a garden.

To the right you see the final patch of lawn on a half acre block in its death throes. I am laying down thick swathes of paper and cardboard and then adding a thick layer of pea straw mulch atop that. Hopefully in about 6 months I will have no lawn and a big new area to turn into garden.

It is a good area – it may not get any morning sun, but it does receive lots of afternoon sun and is sheltered from the terrible winds we get rolling in from the north-west.

Now … what shall I plant …?

19th November 2006

A tired day today, and wondering why I can never ever find an end to the weeding … it isn’t so much an end to the weeding, but finding the time to do it. Today I was certain I’d have an hour or so spare – the front garden desperately needs a weed, but the food garden also needed attending, and seeing as that feeds me then that got the attention and not the front flower garden.

Radishes now all mature – sown more today. Should have done it weeks ago …

Also planted rocket, more spring onion, more carrots.

Took out some of the lettuce – planted far too many. Took out some of the bloomsdale spinach that was starting to bolt – had a lunch of spinach from the good leaves, and fish. Yum. It gives me great satisfaction to be able to eat from my garden.

I have finally planted out all the tomatoes – plus I walked down to the nursery and purchased a couple more varieties. Now I have about 16 plants … hopefully I will get a good crop from them.

While I was at the nursery I bought a lemon tree. I have never liked lemon trees, but this one looked quite pretty and it begged to come home with me … so now it, too, has its own little pot among the tomatoes.

My strawberries are nearing maturity! I haven’t netted them (more a lack of time than anything else) so pray the birds won’t get to them. I’ll definitely plant more strawberries next year. Also I ate a small meal of raspberries the other day.

Suddenly I have food!

Next year, an apple tree or two. Possibly down the side garden?

11th December 2006:

Ah, where has the time gone? Weeding, that’s where. All that lovely compost I dug in was riddled with weed seeds … never mind, It will be better next year. I hope.

The garden is starting to look very good – shortly I will put up more photographs of it. I have plants growing here that I simply could not grow in Victoria – foxtail lilies, himalayan poppies, peonies .. .and the dragon arums. They flowered about 10 days ago. Oh, the stink! For about a week the front garden stank of rotting meat, but the flowers were spectacular.

I am in the process of finally finishing off the cat empire. I was waiting for two small pieces to arrive, which they eventually did, but then I was busy elsewhere, and so last weekend was supposed to be the final fix weekend. But it turned out to be both hot and humid, and working outside was so horrendous that I simply didn’t bother overmuch. I have done a bit – erecting the final two enclosures, constructing one of two overpasses, but that is as far as I go. Perhaps I will have some time later today to get some work done. Once it is finished I will do a new series of photographs for the empire pages – with all the growth in the garden they now look very different.

Vegie garden is doing very well. I really did plant out too much lettuce. I have pulled most of the broccoli – they bolted and flowered before I had time to eat most of them (they were not supposed to do that!). One of the best tomato plants was snapped over by strong winds a few days ago – my fault, I’d delayed tying it into the stake. the tomatoes are still tiny … but then the garden seems to be so far behind most other gardens … even my foxgloves are only just now beginning to think about flowering.

The weather has been nasty, but at least now, after almost two years in the house, I have the windows in order. The previous owners, for reasons best known to themselves, had painted, screwed and nailed shut most of the windows. Their sash cords were broken, the lead weights dropped down into the basement. So over the past few months I have been chiselling, scraping, unscrewing and un-nailing the windows so they could open, getting in someone to repair the sash cords and affix the weights, and about ten days ago I had full length security mesh screens fixed (the good sort, not the diamond mesh sort). That means I can throw the house open on warm nights and really enjoy the air! Previously there was just one window I could open at night, and it was awful.

26th December 2006:

I needed to get back in here before the year ran out on me. I have been ill over the past week with what appears to be a bad case of the summer flu … but at least it has kept me away from the weeding, for which I am grateful.

The garden is looking good. It had really grown over the past month or so, particularly the flower borders. I can’t get over how much later everything is here – the foxgloves are only now thinking about flowering. I must get some images up, but at the moment I can barely think let alone cope with uploading images.

The trees and larger shrubs need another couple of years before they really start to make their presence felt on the garden – and I need more. The tree gardenia hedge has failed utterly – I have no idea why. Perhaps it felt oppressed by the mountains. I have now the option of planting out a bay tree hedge there (the said bay trees coming along nicely in pots) which would be okay, but a trifle boring, and very slow to grow (I really need to block out a purple house and a dead lawn). Or I have the option of planting out a border of large shrubs … Lavatera and buddleia, and some pillar roses. That would look gorgeous … if only they grow and don’t die. This winter, before planting them out, I must work the soil over well. I ordered a mass of heritage roses yesterday while snuffling and moaning over my computer – my Christmas gift to myself.

Talking of winter work. I have decided to just concentrate on a few areas this coming year. This past year, trying to keep up with 90% of the garden has exhausted me, and left me hating it for long periods. So there are two raised beds I will dig over and replant, as well the long line of dead tree gardenias, and perhaps the side street garden, which I have layered under with much cardboard and pea straw to kill the lawn and improve the soil. If it all gets to much then the side garden will be the one to keep – I can just layer down more straw and leave it for yet another year.

I have finally finished the cat empire – see the new tour here.

Christmas has seen a blast of icy weather arrive from the Antarctic. I hope my tomatoes have survived. I can’t bear to go look.

And I have finally realised the reason why it is so windy here … Tasmania exists slap bang in the middle of the Roaring Forties! Doh! Well, both I and the garden have now learned to live with the wind, although it took some adjustment.

Do I feel well enough to restart the weeding today?

No, I don’t think so. I think another day in front of the fire.