The garden at New Town had several overgrown fruit trees and some very fertile soil, but it had been neglected for years and was overgrown with thorny prunus, long grass and mud. The first thing I did was to dig out the huge prunus root, leaving a big hole in the ground that became the vegie patch.
The area outside the potting shed had some ready-made beds which I planted with herbs. Later additions included climbing frames and a vigorous Cecile Brunner rose.
The front yard consists of a strip of dirt just over a metre wide between the verandah and the footpath, and when I moved in, grass was the only thing growing, although later in winter the snowdrops started to emerge.
I planted several bare-rooted roses against the picket fence, which bloomed in their first spring. A couple of them (Eiffel Tower and Oaklahoma) are still going strong.
Much later I planted climbing iceberg roses to cover the new front fence.
From the vegie patch along the back of the garage and down the path to the gate was planted as a herbaceous border. In the first few years, annuals and perennials here included foxgloves, delphiniums, Asiatic lilies, a pineapple sage, sunflowers, gladiolus and the occasional vegetable. Fuchsias grew well in beds down the side of the garage.
A terrace was cleared of overgrown fruit trees leaving an established walnut tree (pickled walnuts became a regular feature of summer). New fruit trees – apricot, plums, lemon, quince and nectarine – were planted, along with beladonna lilies and spring bulbs.
A small area under the walnut tree behind the shed had stone retaining walls but sloping ground, so I excavated it out to form a level courtyard. Paved with the bricks from the kitchen chimney, this spot was the focus of many celebrations over the years, as there wasn’t much room inside the house for entertaining.
Alex trying on my new fins
Mum, Harriette, Kiri
Kiri, Harriette, Dad, Alex
Potted and seasonal colour is always useful and welcome in the garden. Early on, Mum gave me some pots of my Grandfather’s cymbidium orchids. She complained that they had never flowered for her, but they thrived in my garden on a diet of neglect, and continue to do so.
When the time finally came to renovate the house, much of the back yard, and the garden, had to be cleared, and doing so was bittersweet, reflecting on the many joys the garden had brought, but knowing the new arrangements would provide a background for many more.