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Gardening with Gael - Meander up the garden path


Gael jap holly(copy)Incentive is always a great motivator and at the moment I have many.

There is the weather. Clear beautiful days perfect for planting, followed by a couple of days rain to water them in. A couple of frosts a couple of weeks back cooled things down a bit but generally once the days warm up it is still t-shirt weather and I am sure the ground temperature is yet to really drop.

There is the imminent visit by my eldest son, Nick, who is arriving from the US for a week. He has not seen the house on the Block and it is a while since he has seen the garden. Naturally I am keen to present it at its best. Plants that have been languishing in the shade house are being thrust out into the light of day. I have been potting up clivia seeds for a couple of years and it is time they had the opportunity to flourish in the ground.

Daylily borders, made tatty by rust, are being removed. I am pulling off and burning any leaves with any sign of rust and cutting them back. ‘Summergarden’ of Whangarei, who specialise in daylilies, say on

their website that garden hygiene helps deter the rust and there is a variety of sprays. I have decided not to have them mass planted but to break up the plantings in the hope that the rust no longer spreads. The most prone ones I am throwing out and the ones that appear to be more resistant I am dividing up.

The bulk of the day-lilies formed a border along the front of one of the terraces. They looked beautiful the first cou-ple of years before the rust hit but since have looked really scruffy. In their place I am plant-ing a border of Japanese holly, Ilex crenata helleri, a small compact shrub similar in appearance to

box hedging but with a naturally more rounded shape. Like box it can be pruned to form a dense hedge. They like sun or partial shade and a slightly acid soil. There is little variation in their appearance throughout the year. Their flowers and berries are generally quite insignificant.

At the cottages the gardens have been reformed. Wooden walk-ways have gone, replaced by gravel and shell. I am relieved to be rid of the wood. Endless ‘wetting and forgetting’ except there was no forgetting just wetting. I was always on guard check-ing the state of slipperiness. Some of them had started to rot as well. The gravel looks so much better and winds in and around the trees.

I have decided to call it my Serpentine Meander because of its shape and also from a suggestion in a book I am reading called ‘The Rose Grower’ by Michelle de Kretser.

The book is set in the time of 1789 in France, a time when clipped formal gardens and parterres were popular. This style I love – the wife in the story, however, loathes parterres and symmetry of any kind. Her dream is A Serpentine Meander and she sets about trying to create one in the formal garden she inherits. “I have a Serpentine Meander,” I thought to myself. That is exactly what we have just created and, incongruously, it ends in the only formal part of the garden, the clipped peace garden.

Safety is obviously another incentive. Nick and our guests will be able to follow the Serpentine Meander with confidence.
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