My photo
I ran away from teaching to the country to grow veggies. There are also some chooks and a pair of troublesome goats who were so much trouble they had to go! My simple green life isn't always as simple or as green as I'd like...but I keep trying!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Sisters and gardens

The two sisters, corn and beans
are thriving together.
The beans are reaching for the sky
supported by their sister the corn.
The corn is loving the boost of nitrogen from the beans
and cobs are forming.

Now you may ask, what have hydrangeas
have to do with this post?
Fair on.

I posted these because they always trigger
a memory of my father who
was a fabulous gardener and mentor
to his four daughters...who all love gardening.
A couple of them have 'downsized' as they have
grown older but can all speak authoritatively
about plants and gardening.

Here is my dad's garden.

Perhaps it is more correct to say this WAS my dad's garden.
You will have to imagine it. 
What you can see is about half of the block.

Just in front of the house, there were two large maples
that kept the little house cool in summer
but let the sun in the north facing windows in winter.
Also a pergola on that front terrace roofed with an ornamental grape vine.
At the foot of the maples a garden/rockery
with prostate juniper.  In later years, a row of jonquils 
in an arc, popped up each spring along the front.

In front of this bed was the 'top lawn'.
It was a tough buffalo lawn
which gave you a rash if you sat on it
but was lovely and green most of summer.

Just where that remnant bit of plant is, to the left of the drive,there was a japonica that always shouted 'Spring' when it flowered on its bare branches.

To the left of this was a group of yellow box
supporting a rustic arch made from tree branches
with honeysuckle clambering over.
Walking from the top lawn through the honeysuckle arbor
you would reach the bottom lawn.

On one side there was a huge canna bed
which was a riot of colour when it flowered.
At the front of the block there was a hedge
with massed berries in the autumn.

To the right of the honeysuckle arbor 
 (our left in the photo but outside the frame)
was the 'May Walk' which was a curved path 
bordered with May bushes (of course) 
Elderberry and other shrubs.
I remember there were red hot pokers, 
and arum lillies in there...
 and salvia bushes and bearded iris.

Above the May Walk (ie towards the back of the block)
was a huge organic vegetable garden that kept the family fed.

Dividing the vegetable garden from the top lawn
was a climbing rose on some sort of support
and three crab apple trees,
one pink, one white and one red
which flowered in sequence in spring.

Behind the vegetable garden were some fruit trees.
Apple trees and a plum tree with huge 
purple-skinned fruit and yellow flesh.

Beside the house (to our left looking at the photo) was another hedge with an arched opening.  It had little pink flowers.  Once dad grew enormous cosmos in front of the house just there.  They were taller than him. I don't remember these, but there is a photo.

If you walked through the opening in the hedge, up beside the house, there was an elegantly wide curved lawn path with stepping stones set on the diagonal. Between the path and the house there was a snowball tree (don't know the real name but it provided a satisfying faux snow-fall when shaken)  and large lush hydrangeas....that's the link. This was always my favourite bit of the garden.

Up behind the house there was a clothesline and a lemon tree.
Behind these was a huge raspberry patch.
At the very back was the chook shed and the compost bays.
Along the back of the fence was a collection of trees...
some planted by Dad and others originally on the block.

Now if you look at this photo, imagine to the right of the drive an oak tree about a quarter of the way up. My sister HDW planted that as an acorn. It was about sixty years old, but never grew to its full potential because of the soil and competition from a tree next door.

Further up the drive, also on the right
was a huge Pin Oak, a Claret Ash, and a Golden Ash 
which combined to create a riot of colour in Autumn.
I feel sorry for the people in the unit next door.
That Pin Oak shaded their house in the Summer,
let the light in in Winter and provided 
something to look at as well as privacy...gone!

At the top of the drive, behind the house were
Cootamundra wattles and Prunus trees
providing colour in Winter and spring
as well as shelter for the wood heap.

When Mum and Dad bought the land
back in 1940 for 120 pounds
it was lightly treed with Yellow Box.
Typical of the open eucalypt bush in this area
with native grasses and wildflowers underneath.
Lots of the original trees remained in the garden.
Yellow Box take many years to mature
and some may have been a hundred years old.

That Dad established a lush garden on this land at all is amazing.  The top soil in these parts is poor and layered begrudgingly over stone and rock.  But with good gardening practices, lots of animal poo and compost and hard work he created a haven for himself and his family that was both beautiful and abundant.

Over forty years ago the block was sub-divided and
one of my sisters and her husband bought
the part where the original veggie patch was.
They raised their family there
and their living room windows look out
across the bottom part of Mum and Dad's garden.

The garden I describe here is the garden of my childhood.
Over the years it changed.  When the block was split,
the vegetable garden moved up to where the raspberries had been.
This will be the format remembered
by most of the grand children.

 Generally the garden deteriorated as age wearied the gardener.
  He has been gone for a couple of decades now
 and the garden was maintained by family
and finally by contractors...
 men with mowers and whipper-snippers
while Mum still lived there.

Some of the trees remained until two days before Christmas. 'Progress' came in the form of a team of men with chainsaws, climbing equipment, a wood chipper and stump grinder.

No tree or plant was immune.
The century old Yellow Box
and all the sixty year old trees planted by our Dad.
Including the two eucalypts I gave him
when I first started work.  Both tall and healthy,
one nested in by a Tawny Frogmouth. 
Both of these were in front of the set-back...
i.e. in front of where the developer 
will be permitted to build and would 
have looked great in the front yard.

My sister saved a particularly large Yellow Box
on the fence line. From her discussion with the contractor,
it would have gone too if she hadn't been there.

I am not against progress per se. 
We sold the a developer and obviously
had some idea about what he had planned.
As my wise Brother in law said,
Mum is getting the benefit of her asset.
She is being well taken care of in the aged care 
facility just down the road and the money from the sale
of the property forms the bond for her care while she
lives there.  It had to happen, but it makes me so
sad that it can be wiped out so completely
and with such little disregard in just a single day.

But if I have it bad, what about the sister
who lives next door and has to look at it all?
She has spent all but about four years
of her life on this land.

To add insult to injury, her garden was shredded by 
the freak storms that went through on Christmas Day.
Her garden looks just like Phoebe's at Ballynoe Cottage
which is just a couple of kilometres away.
All the disturbed top soil from Dad's
garden was washed away in the storm too.
It is probably somewhere near Phoebe's by now.

At least, when my sister visited yesterday,
 I was able to give her some seedlings
and plants from the greenhouse
to get her started again.

Isn't gardening a funny thing?
It is more than a hobby, I think.  
It can be such a joy and such a trial.
Vegetable gardening is a beast of its own.
There is something about growing food
and sustaining yourself and your family
that leaves its mark deep inside.

I wonder what will become of my garden
...and the gardens of all my blogger friends in the future?


  1. Hazel, I agree there is something in the growing of a garden that stays with you and when you have grown up watching and learning then it definately stays with you in your heart. Im sorry that your childhood garden has gone..mine did too...although we watched ours slowly change and become a mess when my dad got too sick to manage it...I loved that garden, it holds all my childhood memories of so many things...and although my families home was eventually bulldozed when my mum left, it actually didnt bother me, because I was glad no one else was moving in there ....into our home and our garden. I can close my eyes and see every single part of that garden and yard, just like you can..... remember what plants were where, the smells, the sounds, what games we used to play where....which fruit trees we climbed, everything....I loved this post...thanks Hazel...

  2. Hi Hazel, I don't get around blogs too much these days but I decided to pop by and thank you for commenting so frequently on my garden blog x Your dad's garden sounds so divine a garden of my dreams. You bought it to life so beautifully with your description. Thank you for sharing this. I love your beans climbing your corn too! Clever :)

  3. This is a lovely memorial post to the family garden. It just goes to show what a gift gardens are to the psyche and how humans form such emotional connections to the world around them. I can't believe that the developer was allowed to remove such large trees! I don’t know what Nillumbik is thinking letting such trees be removed. Aren't we the green wedge shire?!?!?

    The garden sounded wonderful Hazel. I'm sorry that I didn't do some stealth plant liberating before the developers came in... At least you all have the strong memories and you have the dunny door!

  4. Oh Hazel, oh Hazel I can't stop crying. You have done a wonderful job of describing the garden of our childhood, we had such great adventures in that garden. I can remember climbing that big yellow box beside the driveway and sitting high above the world feeling like I was in charge! It was such a big tree sixty years ago.
    I have lots of photos of Dad's garden over the years and I will make a digital visual diary for the family.
    Thanks for your post. HDW

  5. Hazel, thankyou for a beautiful melancholy post. I'm not sure what to say beyond that I'm very glad I read it.

  6. A very moving tale indeed - and described so poignantly! And you remember the planting in your Dad's garden in such detail too. To many people those things would have been just "trees", but you remember each one's name and character.
    Interesting to see how property values have changed over the years. I bet that plot is worth a good deal more than £120 these days!

  7. This post brought tears to my eyes. I can imagine your dad's garden, how it was. Beautiful.

  8. I have moved 6 times in the last 28 years and everywhere we have lived we have planted trees I still go past some of the gardens to say hello to them each tree is a memory.

  9. It's so sad when a garden that was obviously cherished is gone but your father's garden doesn't just live on in your memory...He has daughters who in turn have their own children and grandchildren who will always have a love of gardening that come from his wonderful garden. So I'm guessing that your childhood garden will produce many more, now and in years to come.

  10. my 1st memory is aged 2 and it was in my grandparents garden that was full of hydrangeas,they are still my most fav flower this post xxOOxx((hugs))

  11. I'm sorry... I am sure the decision was made for all the right reasons... progress, assets etc... but anyone... anyone who contributes to the splintering of a 60 year old tree... any tree of age, that still has health... and all those beautiful plants is wrong... wrong... wrong... come the day when it is an arrestable offence... See now this is what we do so badly... why not stick up some signs... plants free to everyone... come into the garden take the old roses the raspberries... the jonquils...

    This is like clear felling... yes coppicing takes time and care and yes probably more $$$$ but that is as it ought to be because our land is worthwhile not something to be ... 'raped' like this...

    What saddens me is there are children around who will never see a garden like that again... not one they are free to play, hide, seek, discover, delight in... not an old tree they are free to climb and feel like the king of the castle...
    Thank you for painting the picture Hazel... I'd love to try and paint with watercolours but i could never capture what you have in your heart... Your sister has grit to be willing to start again on her garden...
    (please excuse the rant) x

  12. Beautiful post. So sad. What a bloody shame.

    Strangely, I hated hydrangeas until very recently - they brought back childhood memories that somehow made me sad. But we have one growing in our garden probably planted by the old Polish lady who lived here for many years. When I started gardening I chopped it right back because I didn't like it. But of course that just helped it grow even more. Two days ago I actually picked some flowers and brought them in. I think I like them now.

  13. Thank you for your kind comments, everyone. I think this post was a bit self-indulgent...a personal catharsis. But your comments have made it more because they have helped me to see the situation in another way.

    It is the process of gardening and the use of the garden - the joy, childhood playground, beauty and education that it was important. It would be great if the garden still existed, but it doesn't, and at least my sisters and I and many of our children have memories of it.

    Enchanted Moments...the story of your childhood garden is parallel with mine really...and we both garden now. I love what you do in your garden for and with your kids. Maybe that is why your blog strikes such a chord with me.

    Phoebe is right..gardens affect the psyche. Missy hit the nail on the head too...we are a family of gardeners!

    The truth is that the garden I described had long gone before the this week's events. That doesn't take away the pain of seeing the demise of old trees.

    Veggiegobbler...I think hydrangeas went out of fashion. I didn't like them for years either but then grew back into them. LOL. If you put an Aspirin in the water, they last longer in the vase.

  14. Neither of my parents were gardeners, although my mum might disagree. Sometimes one of my parents might get the gardening bug but mainly it was grass and weeds. Maybe that's why I'm so half-hearted when it comes to doing things in the garden.

    I loved reading about your Dad's garden and I could see it all. Thanks.


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