the garden report

Here it’s the day before the anniversary of 9/11, a perfect time for an attack designed to ‘shock, awe and stupefy.’

It’s always the day before something.

Here it’s also the first week or so of Spring. The drought hasn’t broken but three inches of gentle rain have softened the ground, bulbs burst through the soil, all plants and creatures releasing from winter’s grip. Fragrant Hyacinth, Daffodils, Snowdrops already in flower while Bluebells are yet to come, and most are under the canopy of TreeFern fronds.

Griff Hamlin releases another ‘4 note blues’ – it was his youtube video which prompted me, in my late fifties, to undertake the learning of the 5 ‘blues boxes.’

Up until then I’d never even contemplated learning lead guitar. It’s  been enough to know some chords and play rhythm which then enabled me to write and sing simple songs. Perhaps a happy mix of circumstance that I’d run out of desire to play those songs which, coupled with a hazy realisation that I have the 4 fingers to go with those 4 notes, gave me a lightbulb moment and so ‘Give it a go’ became a mantra. It’s worth watching his short video whether you play or not.

Music – as opposed to singing songs - opens up for me and in order to play that 4 note blues with anywhere near the skill or finesse needed require that I start using a pick, learn ‘patterns’ which are what those ‘blues boxes’ contain, recognise root notes. Playing along to backing tracks, no ‘licks’ as such, becomes possible and absorbing. Much to learn, much to enjoy, doesn’t have to be brilliant.

The birds of the garden, the Satin Bower birds, King Parrots, Eastern Rosellas, all with beautiful colour, have become friendlier due to a cold winter and me providing food and drink. They’re a daily delight as are the antics of the Magpies, Currawongs and Wattle birds. I’m not so fond of the pigeons who eat with a single mindedness that leaves a table quickly bare nor with the Sulphur Crested Cockatoos who are the casual vandals of this area. They destroyed some woodwork here – part of a window frame and a door jamb - just because they could or got bored. They behave like a surly teenage gang. Very cool to look at though – white feathered with a yellow crest on their heads and muscular bodies, a bit like dwarf chickens with attitude.

‘Shoot ‘em.’ suggested my neighbour in a blunt no nonsense manner.

This isn’t America and I didn’t want to ‘blow ‘em away’ so I became the proud owner of a ‘lock and load’ Star Wars water pistol. They recognise that it’s meant for them - whenever they appear. It doesn’t deter them, just makes them a bit more cautious. It’s taken months.

It’s a luxury to have the time, capacity and inclination to get close up and personal with this year’s crop of Bindii which appear now, in amongst the grass, as soft, beautifully shaped small patches but which, if left to develop, produce sharp miniature thorns which make  barefoot walking unpleasant. Most just poison them but that still leaves them in place and, for me, it’s only a matter of a few hours each year. It’s pleasant.

There is so much happening in the wider world which is of grave concern that it’s easy to forget gratitude for what I have, for the relative peace and serenity which a home, a quiet place in the world provides.

This is a garden report. It’s over twenty years long.

A perfect day here, a mile high in the mountains where Winter comes early and Spring arrives late. The Port Wine Magnolia blooms a month later than it did twenty years ago. I’ve been able to watch the change, I’ve had that luxury.

Sixty or so slow growing TreeFerns live here, along with three fast growing TreeFerns. To give some perspective on ‘slow growing.’ This variety of TreeFern increases its crown of fronds by two outbursts each year. Although the fronds can be as tall as a man, the height of the main trunk only increases by a matter of inches. So the three largest that I transplanted, all those years ago, are still only ten feet high plus the fronds but they’re spectacular to my eyes.

Such a remarkable tree. Is there any other tree which can suffer being sawn off at the base and then being transplanted with success? They achieve this by having the whole trunk act as a root system so, being generous with the depth of the hole and with the sawn off piece knee deep in the hole - the transplanted tree will recover while the remaining stump may well decide to put out other ferns around the circumference of that base.

They’re an ancient tree, at home with dinosaurs and also with man, they’ll stand solitary while others produce more TreeFerns from the underlying rootball which can later be separated and given their own place in which to be splendid. More unusual still is the beautiful TreeFern which decides to grow other ferns from off its trunk – much like a mother and child relationship.

It’s in that sense of family or tribe that I see these TreeFerns. Some solitary, some happy with siblings close by and some who delight in closer family. They’re a warm and graceful tree and yet are generally tough enough to withstand heat and drought in a way in which my fast growing TreeFerns can’t. Their coarser fronds brown off and wither under stress and I wonder at the difference between the fast and the slow.

The lush aspect of this garden, the late summer displays of orange Tiger Lilies and the multi coloured Canna lilies, standing high as my chest, are months away as are the long lasting Petunias with their riotous, gorgeous colours.

While I’ve placed all the TreeFerns, the fruit trees, created spaces, planted bulbs, it’s then that nature takes over and I just have to maintain its creation.

It’s the day before something, somewhere.

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