Wednesday, April 21, 2010

When you can’t see the forest for the weeds…

In my time, I’ve written quite a few garden features. Enough so that I can tell a gardenia from a geranium, a bromeliad from a begonia, a weed from a … well, you get the idea. I’m even winning my ongoing battle with the compost bin, having nurtured a struggling camellia with a good dose of rotten stuff today. Lots of smelly goodness that should see it right.

All I’m saying is that my thumb is a little bit green.

In the Big Smoke, The Builder and I created a garden from scratch. Not a courtyard with water feature, a bit of paving and a potted Agave, but an honest-to-goodness garden. Not a big garden, for sure, but a garden nonetheless. It took years. We knew the names of all our plants, and agonised over the survival of each and every one. To the point where we still drive past our old house on visits, just to see how the Magnolia is doing (nicely, thanks for asking).

Our Fibrotown garden is a whole new ballgame. It’s twice the size and about 27 times more established. Many years ago, somebody planned it all out so that there is something flowering in one corner or another all year round.

We have two huge Murrayas – one at the front, one at the back – that fill the Fibro with heavy perfume on summer evenings, no matter which way the wind is blowing. We have the most enormous, deepest, reddest roses that bloom through summer – and are obviously confused by current warm weather patterns because they’ve just coughed up another flush of colour. We have camellias for winter, banksia roses for spring, salvias for autumn.

We also have some serious territory to weed. During an interview with Sydney landscape designer Peter Fudge – one of my great, go-to guys for garden advice and information back in my House & Garden days – he told me the one piece of advice he always gives beginner gardeners: weed little, weed often. He doesn’t walk down his front path without looking for invaders and eliminating them.

I thought about this today as I worked my way around half of our front garden. It took me two hours. It will take a trailer to remove the green waste I removed from our garden beds. It left me with an aching back, groaning hamstrings and ingrained dirt in my knees. And I still have the other half, plus the backyard, to do.

Clearly I have not been weeding often. Once every two months or so is not often enough. So now I have to weed a lot.

If I was clever, I would patrol the grounds each day, keeping an eye on my cleared patches and ripping out new weedy growth the moment green shoots appear.

But I probably won’t. Instead, I’ll stop to admire the burgeoning buds on my camellia. Or check to see if the photinia is unfurling new red growth. I’ll ignore the ugly undergrowth and focus on the beauty right in front of me.

What would life be if all we saw were the weeds?


  1. I can practically smell those roses. I wish I had a green thumb, or at least a Peter Fudge-like neighbor or friend to offer up seeds of wisdom and motivation from time to time.

  2. I am green with envy. Yes, pun intended. I have no garden - just a tiny square of yard. We may build a roof terrace so we can grow a few things up there.

    Your garden sounds delightful. It sounds like it brings you great joy. I worked on a BBC TV programme for quite a few years about gardening and I even semi-ghost wrote a spin off book of the series for the TV gardener (well, he talked in a room and I wrote down and edited his thoughts so ghost wrote is maybe stretching it)when I knew zero about it.

    I would have a magnolia, and wisteria and definitely stocks and roses. Did you really work on H&G? I worked on something very similar in UK called Good Homes.

    Happy weeding!

  3. A beautiful description of your garden - it sounds a little like mine, with lots of camellias and natives.

    I have no green thumb. Or anything green at all. I just like looking at and being in the garden, but I don't do anything to help it along. Luckily, my husband LOVES gardening. His idea of a great day is to mow the lawns, weed, plant, trim things back, etc. etc.

    So much so that every time we go out, I have to almost force him from the garden into the car. He definitely does that 'weed little, weed often' thing and, while it drives me insane when we need to be somewhere, I'm so grateful because it means I don't have to do it!

  4. My garden is like day of the triffids. But I only battle with weeds when the motivation strikes...which is rarely!

  5. I really like this message. It's easy to forget isn't it? And whilst I say I have NO GREEN THUMB AT ALL, I'd like to think that maybe one day I will. My parents were devoid of green thumb and then five years ago they started gardening. Their garden won an award last year. Here's hoping I get one too. Because weeding and caring for my plants sounds really lovely. The way you describe it anyway!

  6. Such a good idea. I've been trying to do that - taking a break from the computer and getting out and weeding for five minutes, very therapeutic.

    Love, love, love Peter Fudge. He designed our backyard which was an unusable sloping bunch of weeds and bushrock and is now a gorgeous oasis.

  7. Nope, no green thumb here :( Good for you though.

  8. I retired my green thumb. Well, it got lazy and the weeds won. My next plan (long term plan) is to not have a yard and to have ubertons of ground covers and other delights. To hell with weeding. Weeding ruins the fun.

  9. Oh, I wish we had more flowers in our garden. When we had our backyard landscaped, we asked for flowers we could pick all year round. We have gardenias and a few magnolia trees, but one of the plants the landscape artist suggested was the Iris.

    Well. How disappointing. It would flower for about 3 weeks of every year (although, I'l admit the irises looked gorgeous during this time)...and then... gone. The leaves would grow so wild, it ended up looking messy. We'd cut back a bit, but the same thing year after year. Eventually, we removed little by little until we had no more.

    I love fresh cut flowers.

    As for weeds? That's hubby's domain. I've got enough to do *inside*!


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