Editors note: Sara blogged about her gardening at Ashcotte in Bendigo on LiveJournal in 2004 before moving to Tasmania in February 2005. In April 2005 Sara began blogging about the restoration of the garden and house under the banner of the ‘Nonsuch Project’ on her Victorian Flower Garden website  before starting the Nonsuch Kitchen Garden website in July 2009.  These entries can be found in The Old Diaries

March 31st, 2004

Looked out the garden out the kitchen window – planning.

Last week the man for the rough came round and took out some 15 shrubs. He’s on anti-coagulant therapy for serious blood clotting – and he didn’t look pretty after the roses had complained bitterly about being removed. The tree dahlias complained too, but they have no teeth and couldn’t bite.

But now I have space for the new roses (not hedgerows, never again), and the tree peonies, and all the new clematis I’ll be able to buy come spring.

It is almost autumn – once Easter has arrived, then so will the cold nights and, hopefully, the rainy days. Ashcotte had its first rain in over 3 months last Monday and today was the first of my allowable watering days (serious water restrictions) when I didn’t have to water.

The fridge crisper is full of several score tulip bulbs which will be planted out in a few weeks, and I have several hundred gladioli (cottage) and ranuculi to plant.

And on Friday – to the nursery to buy a yard or two of manure to dig in over Easter. I have to do that. The man for the rough refuses.

The garden is holding its breath after a long summer and two years of water restrictions. I hope we manage good autumn rains, winter rains, and, most importantly, even better spring rains. I don’t know who to write to in order to complain about the rains no show. I wish I did. There’s some serious complaining to be done.

Visit some pictures of Ashcotte’s garden. These pictures were taken two years ago in spring. Now it is autumn, and the garden is considerably less pleasant … although the back of the house is now smothered completely in clematis … and Martin, the best puss in the world, now rests under the foxgloves.

April 2nd, 2004

A younger man for the rough just left a ton of cow manure in my driveway, as well bags of fertilizer and potting mix – much joy. This weekend I can start to prepare the beds for autumn planting. I need to shift some arums and the triffids that a friend gave me several years back. These triffids try to masquerade as minature canna lilies, but once they got to 12 feet and started to poke their heads in through my bedroom window at night I had to chop them down. Now they’re growing again, so I’ll shift them to the side fence to keep my neighbours away.

Also need to shift the aquilegia and some more restrained lilies.

I planted some black arums yesterday. I had left the tubers in the library buried under some boxes of seventeenth century indentures for several months, but they still seem cheerful enough, so I hope they’ll grow well. I know they stink, but togther with the triffids that means they should keep the neighbour well at bay.

Soon I can start to sow the poppy seeds.

And now to clean the house, and perhaps even manage some work, so I can spend the weekend in the garden.

April 3rd, 2004

Here are a couple of regular breakfast guests helping themselves to a bit of a feast in the garden this morning. (Editors note:  galah image was unable to be located in archives). Now I’m off to do some work …

1125 Taking a break from the arums. Many are replanted. The rest, I’m afraid, will have to die (well, go into the bin where they’ll take over the rubbish tip). This afternoon I’ll tackle the triffids.

1357: The triffids moved themselves. I explained politely that I had a lovely new spot for them where they wouldn’t have to compete with the agapanthas and so they upped roots, climbed into the wheelbarrow, whistled cheerfully as I wheeled them to their new spot, nodded politely at their new neighbours (the oyster plants and a scrappy jungle of ancient canna lillies that have been here since the house was built and that’s 120 years), then snuggled down and yelled at me to water them in, which I did. (With fermented plum water from the rainwater tank – a few years ago a bunch of plums got in there and have been fermenting ever since.) I hope the triffids like their new home – I have no doubt that within 8 months they’ll have invaded next door, concrete garden or no. Sooner, if they get aggro on the fermented plum water.

Then I potted up the cotttage glads and felt I’d done enough for the day.

As I type this I can see out across the way at the Manor House where the New Lord is doing something strange with what seems to be a batch of dried out corn. I think the corn is winning. At least his young plane trees have managed a water at his hands. The New Lord has only just moved in and isn’t used yet to a few hundred acres of land and plants which actually need watering. The Old Lord and his Lady put in the young planes trees and for months the New Lord forgot to water them. Then there was a flurry of concern, and the hose was passed in their general direction, and now each of the trees has exactly eleven leaves.

Warm weather for the new four or five days – at least 28 degrees celcius which is just what I don’t need. Tomorrow is one of my allowable water days so I’ll have to spend 4-5 hours hand watering the garden.

Tomorrow? Perhaps shift some of that ton of cow manure. At the moment it is gently steaming six feet from my other neighbour’s front door.
And their bedroom window.

April 4th, 2004

0930: Watered. Such a simple word for an activity which took hours.

Tore out the patch of ginger lilies. Had to finally admit they were as ugly as sin and needed to go. Have dug in compost and will relocate bearded iris there later.

The triffids and the arums look well after their first night in their new homes. Hopefully they will take well. Must remember to plant out the ranuculi …

1250: So I decided the montbrettia had to go as well … and then a bit of (dead) lawn went as well, and lo, I had a new bed into which I dug a whole heap of compost and then replanted with a variety of bearded iris (including the lovely pale violet heritage iris which have, over 120 years, inched their way garden by garden down the hill from where, 130 years ago, was an iris farm). I sitll have a few of the iris to shift, but half the day has gone, I haven’t had any lunch, and there’s a life to be lived. So the rest of the iris can wait for … perhaps tomorrow, perhaps later in the week.

The ranuculi … *sigh*

The jonquils and daffodils are inching their way up already. Autumn is upon us … but the summer just refuses to let go.

April 6th, 2004

Been too busy working at my desk to go near my own garden, but I did, for some other friends, put up a page of just a few of the 200+ images I took of the Chelsea Physic Garden in London in 2003. (Editors note:  page of images was unable to be located in archives).This is the ancient apothecary’s garden of London – the second oldest living garden in England. Beautiful!

April 8th, 2004

Yesterday I watered. Much. Weather is still very very warm. The arums, iris and triffids are looking fine after their transplant.

I keep thinking of all the gardening I have to do over Easter, and all the other life to live besides, and wonder where I’ll find the time.

April 9th, 2004


Relocated last of the bearded iris – and tossed those I couldn’t find room for.

Wish it would cool down …

April 11th, 2004

Watered. Garden very dry – subsoil never sees any water.

Shifted about half a ton of manure onto the garden – will wait for a cooler day before I dig it in.

Shifted some lilies.

Let the young cat chase some bees.

Found a dead fish in the pond. This one died suddenly – none have seen to have been sickening over the past few days. I fished him out and tossed him in the rubbish bin.

Prepared five large tubs for the tulips currently in my fridge crisper. They’ll sit in mostly manure – the last time I did this I had a magnificent showing, so am hopeful for splendour this spring.

Turfed some of the succulents. They were really, really too ugly. Besides, I needed the tubs for the tulips.

The belladonna lilies are starting to show their leaves, so I spread fertiliser around their patches and watered them in well – as also fertilsied and watered the patch of arums that I have left undisturbed.

More daffodils are starting to rise. The ones in the pots I fertilised and watered well – this is their first drink in about 7 months.

And now I stink of manure and I think I need a shower. Enough for today. Tomorrow I’ll shift some more of that manure and might even dig some of it in.

April 12th, 2004

Yesterday afternoon I had just managed to sit down in the garden with a glass of wine when I remembered that one of my tasks was to oil the outdoor wooden furniture for the winter. So gave the table and bench a slap of oil and sat there watching the insects get themselves stuck.

This morning, early, dug in half of the manure into the front garden. Now I have an aching back and am feeling tired, but have to manage the rest of it later today. But I still need far more manure. Another yard at least. All that digging. *sigh*

Perhaps I’ll try to get the ranuculi in … or maybe even move the hyacinths …. perhaps even pot them. I still have potting mix left and a few scrapings of manure.

1215: Have shifted the hyacinths. Have been meaning to do that for years, so am now quite proud that I have actually managed it!

I have also put up some pictures of the Museum of Garden History in Lambeth, London. One of my favourite spots … (Editors note:  Museum of Garden History images were unable to be located in archives).

1300: in a burst of activity dug over the second half of the front garden – there is still some manure lying in heaps in the back garden where once grew the hedgerows, but I think that can await another day. (If you’re wondering why the frequent entries – I go out, do a burst of work until something pops, then I come back in for a sit down.) While digging in the front garden I discovered a patch of some rather large and mysterious bulbs. I think they’re probably jonquils – so up they came and I potted them in the remaining large terracotta pot with the last of the potting mix and some scrambles of manure. It will be interesting to see what they are.

Oh, I slapped the last of the oil over the garden furniture – now it is gleaming nicely and should survive the winter frosts. Maybe I’ll do something about the ranuculi. I am really feeling guilty about them.

This afternoon, a sit down in the back garden with a glass or two of wine and perhaps a book.

Or maybe just enjoy the autumn sunshine. In the end, this is what gardening is all about.

1330: Guilt got the better of me. I’ve planted out about half the ranuculi (about 150) among the bearded iris patch. The rest will go as fillers in throughout the rest of the garden. Soon. I promise.

Now for the wine in the sunshine!!

April 14th, 2004

Watered. Bloody watered … in between checking out the real estate in Hobart. Can’t stand this warm weather, nor the water restrictions. Watered. Chatted to local plumbers (on the time I was paying for) re their business collapse. Watered. Watered. Watered.

April 16th, 2004

Watered. *sigh* Cooler, and it did try to rain, but the rain evaporated before it hit the ground. Terrific.

April 18th, 2004

Watered. Planted out the last of the ranuculi. Cut back some of the overhanging vines.

Much cooler now – but still no rain. The ground is dusty dry, I have the horrors every time I dig down.

April 25th, 2004

Watered. Hands were so frozen afterwards I had to soak them in warm water for 15 minutes. All of the winter plants are now sprouting and begging for water – when I dig down it is just dust.

Planted out three rose scented tree peonies. There should have been 12 … but for some reason I was only sent 3.

Planted out 140 tulips, crowding them into 4 large pots. They always look best when crowded (and grow far better).

April 28th, 2004


The first of the winter violets is in flower – they love the frosty mornings. The daffodils are rising.

The lost tree peonies arrived yesterday, and today the fountain grass and seaside daisies arrived (just before the legislation declaring all seaside daisy a noxious weed and a target for flame throwers).

So I went down to the local nursery and ordered another yard or so of compost … and was told the nursery is closing down. Terrible! I felt bereft. The owner died and his family don’t want to keep it going. How am I going to get my compost now? (I can’t compost myself the ten tonnes or so I use each year.) Where my potting mix? My pots? My bird nets?

Perhaps I’ll get just another load of compost from them before they close in a couple of weeks …

This weekend much digging and planting.

Still no rain, but at least now it is frosty.

May 1st, 2004

Rained! A pitiful amount, but still, it rained. Enough to dampen the top 2 cms of soil …

Planted out the remaining 8 tree peonies. Will cart manure and dig about the rest of today and then perhaps start to think about where the fountain grass can go …

May 2nd, 2004

Yesterday afternoon I shifted the astilbe – I hope they succeed in their new position. They’re tough, so they should. If these fail, then that patch is just staying bare ground … or it becomes a compost heap.

Planted out fountain grass where the astilbe once were. Shifted a whole heap of manure and dug it in. Today I hope to shift a bit more and to perhaps create a new space for the garden bench, as well dig out that triangular bed in the front garden ready for … perhaps roses, some more fountain grass and some seaside daisy.

0930: I relocated the siberian iris that were in the front trianglular patch – dear God, those suckers were firmly implanted. They did NOT want to go! But now they’re happpily tucked inbetween some arums and a line of tree peonies in some lovely rich soil, and everyone is chatting happily, so I think it will turn out well.

Dug three wheelbarow loads of manure into the triangular front bed patch. It can still take some more but I’ll let this lot settle frist.

And now for the morning’s excitement …

When I went back to the manure heap for the third wheelbarrow load I discovered a peregrine falcon trapped in some trellis work right next to the dungheap. It had probably been diving after a sparrow, the sparrow made an exit through the trellis … and the falcon, straight after it, got stuck. (He was actually small enough to go through, but one wing went through one hole, another wing went through another hole, his head through a third … and I’m sure you get the picture)

So I unstuck the peregrine falcon.

Very, very, very carefully – no way did I want my fingers coming within striking distance of those talons or beak! On the other hand it was a rare opportunity to study one of these beautiful birds. He came out of it no worse for wear (save for his pride) and did a quick and dignified exit stage sky.

As I walked back towards the house past the pommegranite tree overun with happy wanderer I heard the sparrows chattering away in a mixture of excitement and fear. I don’t imagine they’ll be coming out of the shelter of their home for about 3 hours

May 3rd, 2004

Yesterday afternoon I finally consigned to the compost heap a fuschia which has struggled and in its place planted some 6 fountain grasses. I toyed about with the garden bench placement but my heart wasn’t in it.


May 5th, 2004

Bad Moon Setting  Don’t you love this picture? (Editors note: image of setting moon was unable to be located in archives). There was a lunar eclipse this morning, at 0552 local time, so of course I had to get up to see it (I love lunar eclipses) and it was stunning – the moon turned a deep rust red – and so I took a picture, but, it was so cold many degrees below freezing, and there I was in my inadequate dressing down (with a cat wrapped about my neck for warmth), and so I have about 6 moons my hands were shaking so badly!

I tried to get more compost from the nursery before it closes at the end of this week, but even though they have the compost they no longer have the means whereby to transport it, so I am left compost-less.

Except that I remembered I had a compost heap brewing in a forgotten corner of the front garden. I took off the tarp that covered it, and it has cooked gloriously. I can use some of that.

Need to rake leaves and use as mulch … and I need to water. *sigh*

Yesterday I washed and brushed and packed away the great big market umbrella that lives in the garden during summer. Now all I need to do is find a place to store it …

May 8th, 2004

I’m taking a break from gardening and having a well-earned cup of thickly creamed coffee. Yum.

Am planting out the triangular front bed with a free echinada (is that right or have I confused it with a food?) that a gardening supplier gave to me. Anyway, a great big 6 foot by 6 foot thingee with tall spikes of pink flowers. Kind of like an oyster plant only … not. Hardier. Silver leaved. And at the moment only 2 inches by one. I am assured it will grow.

I surrounded it with fountain grass and blue seaside daisies.

Several weeks ago I tipped the blue curls coral succulent thingee and the rootless zorro deep red cabbage-like succulent thingee out of their pots and told them they’d have to die because they were too damn ugly and I needed the pots.

Of course they didn’t die, and so I took pity on them and re-planted them in front of the fountain grass … which they will not doubt eat in due time.

Once I’ve sufficiently recovered I’ll tackle the great big terracotta pots. I do mean BIG – they’re about 5 foot in diameter and 4 foot tall … an absolute nightmare to shift. I’ll plant them out with seaside daisies … mainly because they’re in the front garden and in the path taken by the morning newspaper as it hurtles over the front fence, so I dare not put anything tall there.

When I was digging in the triangular front patch I found a clump of pink arums I thought were dead – but there they were, just about to spring … so I replanted those in the back garden.

Weather – cool but oh so dry. Tomorrow I’ll have to water deeply.

LATER: potted up the seaside daisies, and plonked a fountain grass in the centre of each pot. Now my back aches like crazy so need to cease for the day. Tomorrow I’ll scout for spare leaves around the neighbourhood to use as mulch. Will I look too weird collecting leaves from the street?


I amused myself while potting up the huge pots by keeping a weather eye on the house next door where a tradesman was engaged in painting the roof (these are old Victorian houses, so the roof was very very high). He’d roped himself to a none-too-stable chimney stack, and I more than half expected him to come tumbling down every time he heaved on the rope to lift himself up a few more feet. Of course, I imagined myself downing potting tools and dashing to his rescue, but of course he never came down, and so I left him to it, utterly bored.

(Undoubtedly he came down the instant I walked out of sight. Even now he’s likely lying half dead on the crazy paving hoping against hope that someone comes on by. Perhaps I should go look …)

May 9th, 2004

Watered. All day. Ground so dry. Unbelievable. Managed to find the time to scrounge up some leaves for mulch, but no time for planting.

May 16th, 2004

Watered. Deeply. Still no rain. I live in the breaking weather news forums …

May 17th, 2004

Intriguing compost information.

So here I am, sending myself to sleep at night by very slowly reading through Bayley’s 5 volume History of Middlesex published between 1811-1816. Currently I’m up to p. 26 in volume one (but fair to say I’ve only been at it for two nights). The initial portion of volume one is taken up with a voluminous description of farming and market gardening practices in the country area of Middlesex (now mostly covered by London). Most of this is absolutely fascinating, but none more so that the description of manuring of the market gardens.

Manuring was extensive, about 150 cartloads per year per acre (and those carts were loaded high as the farmers paid by the cart load rather than by weight or volume). The manure was largely obtained from London, and it consisted of stable litter, dry material from privies, the sweepings of streets (dry street-slop), offal of animals slaughtered for the meat markets,raw, boiled and burnt bones, horn shavings, coal ashes, leather dust and trimmings, the scrapings of sheep’s trotters, calves’ feet and cow heels, woollen rags, hog’s hair (the wetter the better) and spiced soot (soot mixed with ashes and earth).

And I thought my mushroom compost was exotic …

May 19th, 2004


We had rain yesterday. Real rain!!! 24 mm (or one inch) recorded in Ashcotte’s garden, confirmed with other weather watchers nearby.

Much joy – although we need followup so badly it hurts. The ground is still bone dry, even with that rain.

May 22nd, 2004

Am into a slow period in my gardening now. Mostly gathering leaves as they fall and mulching the garden beds with them. I’ve realised the group of large bulbs I found in the front garden bed and which I dug out and potted up are in fact snowflakes and now jonquils. They’re such HUGE bulbs for such tiny flowers! Originally I found them embedded in rock-like clay and shale in the shaded side bed of the house – they’d been there for at least 100 years. Over several hard hours of inching them out (you try digging up bulbs from almost-rock) I retrieved most of them without harm and put them in the front garden. Now they’re potted up into a rich compost – I bet they haven’t had it so good in a hundred years!

We’re due for another big rain event early next week – am keeping my eye on the weather charts and radar sopes. Our inch last week only increased reservoir levels by 0.1% – not quite nearly enough.

May 23rd, 2004

Watered (which is a damn shame, but I’d kept an eagle eye on the radars, and what rain was approaching looked very light). Topped up some pot plants with compost. Pulled some soursobs. Raked leaves and put them on garden beds. Went inside – too dismal to do much else.

May 29th, 2004

Still sweeping leaves and mulching. I really should rouse myself sufficiently to do a big prune, but this can really wait until winter has settled in and all leaves have fallen. Spring bulbs rising well.

Many of my fountain grasses have died – too much rain? Maybe my plants are rain-sensitive!

June 4th, 2004

Too difficult to sleep so am playing about on the computer. We’re now on severe water restrictions. It doesn’t matter much now, in winter, but I dread to think what might happen come summer …

In part compensation two magnificent rainbow lorikeets landed in my garden this afternoon. (Editors note:  lorikeet image was unable to be located in archives). The photograph to the left is a bit smudgy – but I dare not get too close, so this was taken at some distance.

June 6th, 2004

Planted out some foxglove lilies. I’ve never had much luck with these previously, and they’re damned expensive to “not have much luck with”. Hopefully in a new position they might actually … grow. These certainly looked more vigorous than the last lot I planted.

Note how, even with ghastly water restrictions, I don’t give up planting! I know the water board wants us to kill our gardens, but I just can’t.

June 19th, 2004

Must manage some gardening this weekend … I haven’t done much recently because of the deep cold and wet. This afternoon I might dig out some garden ready for some coneflowers, and add compost. I’ve a whole heap of lilies to go ion … but I need space. Maybe one or two of the oyster plants will have to go. They’re way too vigorous. Oh, and I have some dwarf canna lilies, a new clematis, some glads.

Best to do a little bit of pruning as well.

Still waiting for my roses to arrive. But where to put them?

June 20th, 2004

In a burst of activity I managed to dig out two large clumps of oyster plants (they resisted the fork but succumbed to the spade), dig in manure into the spare space and plant out there some salmon cannas as well a poor forgotten bunch of jonquils that have for the past 4 years at least, been sitting unwatered and unloved in a pot under the eaves of the house. Every year they struggle to survive … and today I finally remembered them, planted them out in rich soil and hoped they’d eventually forgive me. I also pruned back the penstemons.

I also planted out the clematis under one of my apple trees which needs some livening up. I hope it grows well there.

Later, perhaps, plant out some more glads and some other bulbs whose names escapes me, as well a whole bunch of lilies.

Yesterday I planted out the coneflowers, the last of the fountain grass and some more of the seaside daisy – all went into a particularly difficult area. I dug in much compost as well cow manure, so I hope they will do OK. I also planted out a marge miller camelia into a pot. I have never had any luck with camellias previously, so will see how this one goes.

Now I am having a cup of tea and am allowing time for the parrots to get back to their feeding tray – earlier they were upset when I’d decided to dig right by it and shrieked insults at me as they flew off.

July 17th, 2004

It’s been a while – but that doesn’t mean I haven’t been gardening – just forgetting to update this journal. Generally I’ll remember the instant I’ll shut down the computer, which isn’t any help.

But see, now I’ve remembered, and the computer is on, and I’m slowly thawing out after a few hours in the garden surviving a freezing antarctic wind.

Mostly I’ve been concerned over the past weeks with winter upkeep – thinning out plants, moving plants to new and better positions, planting out summer bulbs, planting out a mass of roses, weeding, weeding, weeding, mulching, mulching, mulching. The Tree peonies are doing well – all have leaves out and a couple have what looks suspiciously like flower buds.

Today I spent the morning on a new project – new and very different. I’m having a cat adventure park/enclosure put in – all the cat walks will weave among pergola and vines, through trees, and there will be play areas on top of the pergola and throughout the garden. So today I was clearing a path for the catwalks (thank God I thought of having this done in winter when all was bare – summer would have been impossible), cutting down vines and wrestling one 35 foot branch of the wisteria tree of the trunk, off the top of the pergola and out to the back of the garden where, for the moment, it rests until I have the energy to chop the thing up. So now there’s room for the bones of the adventure park to go in – I can’t wait. The poor puss who has been confined to indoors since I got him a year ago can now go outside, and the outside puss will just have to get used to increasing periods spent enclosed.

The man for the rough was about yesterday – he raked off all the mulch from the wisteria vine that was about a foot thick atop the pergola – what a bounty!

Oh, my fingers are too sore (having now thawed) so will leave this for the moment.

August 9th, 2004

I have indeed been gardening – mainly planting out lilliums, a vast quantity of swan river daisies, some roses (I never …) and, of course, the endless weeding.

Oh, and then there’s the catpark which is the current excitement. You can see it at Ashcotte’s Cat Adventure Playground.

August 20th, 2004

Fish Pond Hell

So, yes, I have been working in the garden, but how many entries can you have on weeding, weeding, weeding?? There has also been some planting, planting, planting, and still more to do, but mostly over the past week or so I have been consumed by fish pond hell.

To bring you up to date: about 5 years ago a friend and I dug out a pond (through hard shale, you have no idea …) in a beautiful spot in the garden, bounded by rocks and weeping elms and wisteria (OK, so I know that deciduous plants about a pool isn’t so hot an idea, but I’m prepared to flush out the leaves in leaf-fall time). Lots of rock features and a waterfall later (and also a garden fire, but that’s a long story), we dumped in some fish, and sat back to drink champagne (which is when we inadvertently set fire to the garden), gorge on brie and enjoy the water feature …

Of course, 5 years later the pond is full of scum and algae and the fish have grown from half an inch to about 7 inches each (how they have survived I have no idea). Over the past weeks I have done some serious research, have done some serious purchasing, have had the electrician out to do some serious re-wiring, and I now have faith that crystal clear water is but a week or less away.

I have discovered UV clarifyers. I have discovered biological filters. I have discovered serious pumps. I have purchased and have had all delivered.

I have also realised I need to keep pump and filter going 24 hours a day to keep the bacteria alive. Note to self … do not turn off the equipment. Please God we don’t have any power restrictions this summer.

Of course, only half the filter made it, which had caused me much angst, but today the missing parts arrived and the system is working (all save the UV clarifyer as I have to pressure test its chamber for 24 hours). The entire pond has been totally re-organised. On the weekend I am going to dump some of my arums into it (I hadn’t realised before that arums are great water plants) and maybe even the Japanese iris (which I must remember to take out for winter) which is currently languishing on one of the cat enclosures (not the best place for it …).

Al I need now are some new nets (to go over trees and pergola, entirely enclosing the pond space; said nets have been ordered) to keep away the Much Hated Bendigo Stork and I, and the fish, will be set.

I am a happy girl.

August 22nd, 2004

Fishy Hell

If my fish ever forgive me, then bob’s my uncle. (Actually, he was my father, but there you go.) I spent several hours this morning cleaning out the pond – almost completely emptied it (left but a few spare inches in the bottom for the fish to struggle through, which is why I think they may never forgive me) and got out as many leaves and sludgy bits, as well all the rocks on the bottom, as possible.

It was FILTHY work. I stink now of Dettol and disinfectant – Christ alone knows if I’ll come down with some dreaded bacterial infection. Clothes are being washed in disinfectant.

There was a nasty little surprise waiting for me about halfway down – one of the largest fish had got stuck between two rocks and had died there. Fortunately, it was a relatively fresh corpse so it didn’t disintegrate when I tugged it out (oh God, the horror of having to grasp a slimy cold dead fish and TUG … you have no idea how disgusting it was …).

So now the pond is full of fresh and relatively clean water – it is very cloudy with suspended sludge particles, but some Clear Pond should fix that.

I potted up some arums and tossed them in as well. Tossed … well, very carefully placed pots atop bricks. I’ve ordered some iris and snails and stuff to add to the entire effect.

I hope those fish bloody well enjoy it – although … having to endure a half hour of existing in 3 inches of sludge wasn’t any fun for them.

I’m getting a pond vacuum cleaner. I really, really am …

September 3rd, 2004

Well, still working away on the pond. The water is now very, very clear, if not quite crystal clear – both the Clear Pond and the biological UV Clarifyer have truly worked wonders. I can see fish!

Worse, they can see me, and now constantly beg for food whenever I walk past the pond.

Yesterday some water iris, some pond buttercups, and some Azolla-A (I think it is) floating pond plant as well as some ranshorn snails arrived in the post (totally amazing what you can order over the Internet). The snails and the Azolla-A have gone in while the iris and butterbup are sitting in tubs of water until I can find the time and the courage to plunge back in and plant them.

One of the tree peonies has a massive flower bud on it – I’m sure that when it opens the flower will totally overbalance the still tiny shrub, but we’ll see.

Many of the tulips are almost out, and the daffodil display (esp the Winston Churchills) this year has been better than ever.

Still desperate for rain – but I purchased some reinforced 32mm hose from the pond supply people and now can get grey water from the bathroom to at least half the garden, which will be a huge help.

September 4th, 2004

The fish pond saga continues. This morning I spread nets over the trees and over garden arches, completely enlcosing the pond from the Much Loathed Bendigo Stork. It is a prettier option than having a net stretched over the surface of the pond. But, oh, getting that net over branches and twigs … much patience and resolution required. This afternoon, even though it is damned cold, I must plunge into the pool to plant the iris and giant buttercups.

I hope I don’t step on any of those new snails …

And once all that is done, I have promised myself an evening in front of a roaring fire with a beer.

September 5th, 2004

Moving on from the pond…

The pond has been planted out. I don’t think I stepped on any snails, but am not sure.

Oh, it was SO cold. Had to have a brisk rub down afterwards and a beer or two.

But now that the nets are up, and the plants planted, at least I can leave the pond to its own devices for a while.

The ranuculi are out – some of them, at least. In fact, the garden is looking very good – just getting ready to spring into magnificence once we get a stretch of warmer weather. All the roses are leaved … well, save one. I think that one may not have made it.

All the clematis are growing – even the one which is bog-bound and which I thought was dead. The garden is smothered in pale pink – petals from all the plum trees. Very pretty – but I loathe the stuff when it gets tramped all through the house. The fish like to eat plum petals, but they can’t cope with this inundation.

Now I have to start to think seriously about mulching. Yesterday I also organised the runnoff grey water from the bathroom. A much better system this year with larger diameter hoses so that the water runs away better. I can even get it to most of the front garden!

September 12th, 2004

I simply must show off a picture of my fish in their new crystal clear water. I am totally thrilled (the fish less so, as they enjoyed the security of their sludge). Yah fish!!


Editor’s Note: This is where the Ashcotte Gardening Journal ends. Between this time and April 2005, Sara bought and moved to Nonsuch in Tasmania. The story of Sara’s gardening and restoration exploits continue in The Old Diaries which originally appeared as the ‘Nonsuch Project’ on her Victorian Flower Garden website (April 2005 to June 2009).