It’s the ‘feel’ of my established garden that I dream about. I want her to nourish bodies with food; soothe souls with pretty and fill minds with wonder.
While the winter weather is so grim, and rain has been preventing access to my new garden, I have at least been using the time to study and plan for dry winter weather and future tasks. It’s an opportune time too for a review, since the front bit is almost one year old and the back bit coming up to 3 years old.
Starting with a completely cleared site has been such an advantage. I’d had a garden here before the earthquake, so understood from experience where the troublesome spots were. In the ‘old days’ the ground was on a steep slope, uneven and treacherous in some places . Planting was erratic and there were numerous inaccessible spots occupied by chunks of historic debris too large to safely move.
Now we have terraces and multiple retaining walls (4 are large, significantly engineered ones). The old ceramic piping, ancient metal posts and builder’s rubble are gone.
The site is divided into two zones a flattish one on the front about 14m x 14m (angled ) shared with the new house and a back garden up a slope behind the house about 14m x 14m. Setting up of the back garden was started in spring 2017 and the front portion was started in spring 2019, after completion of the house. It is the front bit that I have focussed most of my energies on this year.
I envisage plants oozing confidence in their spots; partying extravagantly in the sunshine and sheltering wildlife in the cold and rain.
I dream in colour and texture but moderate this with pragmatism when it comes to choosing the plants. To thrive, they have to be matched with the correct growing conditions. Ultimately nature will take this design where it needs to go but I’ll maintain a gentle hand ensuring ‘carefree’ doesn’t become ‘chaos’.
So in the last year what did I achieve?
- Contouring of the land with straight lines and angles that visually work from all aspects of the house: the approach from outside and when looking out and down at the garden from all windows within
- Levelling and terracing planting beds with wooden macrocarpa sleepers
- Defining some edges with Euonymus emerald gem hedging
- Setting up pathways (incomplete)
- Improving soil structure (ongoing)
- Planting small trees for visual height and to promote some areas of individual microclimate
- Planting carefully considered perennials to attract bees and beneficial insects – for pollination of the fruit trees and to keep pests under control
- Foraging for and applying mulch where possible
- Growing some vegetables
- Researching and purchasing suitable fruit trees*
- Learning permaculture principles
List of Fruits planted so far
(I don’t have at hand the specific varieties)
- Apples dwarf and columnar varieties x6
- Black-Currants x3
- Blueberries x2
- Cape Gooseberry x1
- Cranberries NZ x5 for hedge
- Feijoa x3 for hedge
- Fig x1
- Gooseberry x1
- Lemon x2
- Lime x1
- Nectarines dwarf x3
- Peach x1
- Pears x2 – one red, one green to espalier together
- Pomegranate x1 dwarf
- Red-currants x3
- Rhubarb x2
What comes next?
- Accept there will be trial and error – study ‘what is working?’ and learn to adjust for ‘what is not working?’
- Find ways to attract more birds and provide food for them over future winters
- Establish beneficial insect habitats for all year round
- Rethink my attitude to weeds
- Collect seeds and propagate more plants from seeds and cuttings (so far I have purchased from plant stores)
- Put into practise pruning fruit trees and espaliering techniques
- Add structural height to the garden design and encourage vertical plant growth
- Intensify my understanding of pests and diseases – identifying such and coming up with workable solutions for managing them
- Sort a rainwater collection system, as soon as funds allow
During this time period I have also had 4 long periods of time out of the country with my parents in South Africa (putting in new gardens for them!) I’ve also had a rare heart attack which has required some recovery, but in the end has not stopped me doing some hard physical labour – in fact I’m sure gardening has helped my recovery.
In review I think the garden thus far is going really well 🙂