To start a garden
Gardens are places of sanctuary, I have always wanted a beautiful garden of my own and now with our new home it is finally becoming a reality. I have chosen to ignore my brothers scoff at the thought of my becoming a gardener and have thrown myself into planning like a mad man, reading any book I can get my paws onto.
Harking back to when I studied Interior Design, the first thing they taught us is to really think about what the space will be used for, and so it is with gardens. So I started by asking myself what do we want from the garden space?
We only have a small space, we need a little grass for Oliver but he isn’t a big dog, so we don’t have to worry about him galloping about. I want the garden to feel private, like a little oasis you cant really see out of (since we don’t have a view anyway) I want to eat seasonally and be connected to the food I eat by growing some of my own produce. I also want to feel calm and enveloped by beautiful flowers when I am in the garden.
I began to pour over my gardening books for inspiration. Country Style magazine has recently released a country gardens special, where they have visited some truly lovely gardens all over the country, sometimes I can feel a little discouraged wanting a flowery cottage garden in sub tropical Queensland, but this book set me straight. They have some lovely Sunshine Coast and Brisbane gardens in there.
I decided I really wanted to create a beautiful and productive space, a cottage garden to complement our little house. That is when I came across Monty Don’s French Gardens, where he explores the potager gardens, which got me thinking about combining my flowers and vegetables.
Then I found Alys Fowler’s Edible Garden and was seduced by the notion of an edible landscape and love the idea of growing my lettuces amongst the cosmos. However it seems there is a strong traditionalist vein running through me and I am having a hard time giving up the rows. I secretly harbour fancies of a Beatix Potter style vegetable patch, like the one at hill top farm. So I think I will be playing around with how I plant my crops. (I don’t have a photo as I lent it to a friend it is such a great book)
Botany for Gardeners by Geoff Hodge is a great book for absolute beginners, it gets into the nitty gritty of gardening and helps you to understand a little of the science behind gardening and why it works a certain way. Which I found interesting. Plus it plays nicely to my current love for botanical images.
Luckily my friend the lovely Cathy, tender carer of her own beautiful garden, offered to help me get started. She suggested creating some ‘bones’ for the garden, so that I had a nice foundation to work from. Brilliant! As it is such a small space I wanted a simple structured approach that then gave way to billowing cottage garden beyond.
I needed to cover the ugly fences, so hedges she said were the way forward. Mock Orange Murraya are apparently very hardy to Queensland weather and give a beautiful scent when they produce their white flowers in spring and summer. We have left about one and a half meters between the murraya and the min-a-min muraya border for flowers, herbs and vegetables. This way even when the vegetable patch is a little bare we will still have something lovely to look at. Which is important in such a small space.
We have placed a tropical birch in the centre with its gorgeous bark, deciduous leaves and strong lines it will be a lovely focal point year round and provide dappled shade. To ensure the fence is hidden behind it and to frame the tree we have planted three spartan pines behind the birch.
The egding we chose is the corrugated iron from bunnings as it isn’t too visible, but we still needed something to stop the grass coming into the bed. It seems to have worked rather well so far.
All in all I am fairly happy with our little design and hopefully the growing pixies are on our side.
Here are some of the books I have found really helpful along the way.
I found The Little Veggie Patch Co series of books, which I borrowed from my local library, really informative and practical for the Australian gardener and their list of growing times poster is definitely on my wishlist.
For Australian gardens, My Garden Year by Shirley Stackhouse is fantastic as it has a month by month guide on what to do when. So helpful if like me you had no idea when the appropriate timings for anything in the garden is. She has laid it out neatly for us all under our different climates. (You could even be naughty like me and write in the margins extra notes from other books, so now all my timings are in one place) (I can feel the book purists shuddering from here at the thought of it!)
I was also lucky enough to stumble across 10 jam packed garden binder-books at a local fete. Hoorah, I scored them all for just $5, they are Australian and from the 80s-90s and they are so full of ideas and helpful hints.
And of course the Gardening Australia website is always helpful.
Small (large) disclaimer, I am not an expert gardener this is my first garden, I just wanted to record the things I found helpful and resources that I am using and some combinations I have tried. As a perfectionist it is hard for me to make peace with learning as I go along. I really think this gardening lark will help me practise patience, an underrated skill these days. So here I will track my success and failures on my way to ‘the good life’, well, at least a life where I have grown the odd salad.