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Gardening with Gael - Being led up the garden path


Gaels garden(copy)Last week my sister Heather Ann came to stay. While I was out one day she took a wander around my garden at the cottages. I have a wealth of excuses why the cottage gardens on the portion I have retained look so wretched. The Block garden which is still in my favourite state – that is, one of development – is one. The heat is another. The effort put into the bit I sold to get it looking pristine for sale while neglecting my half is another. The idea that it is now half a garden lacking the original form and plan is another.

“I think,” she said to me after spending some time in it, “that I would like you to come and have a walk around your garden.”

“Well,” I began, excuses falling out of my mouth, “it doesn’t feel like the garden any more. It feels like it has lost it’s heart. The focal point was the big lawn and the pool, and the fence that divides the property makes it difficult to walk around.”

“Come with me,” she said. “I think you need to look at it through my eyes and take a fresh look.”

At this point I will mention that she has a degree in landscape architecture so actually knows what she is talking about.

“The garden is still there,” she said. “You have sold the lawn and the pool but not the garden. The structure and the interesting bits are still here. All that is missing are new focal points. There is still a garden for guests to enjoy. Some paths, now cut off by the fence, need a bit of redirection, stone steps need clearing and areas where the fence can be seen need camouflage plants. The new focus is one of a garden of discovery. Places to find where the guests can sit and relax. The paths could now twist back on themselves to secret areas.”

We wandered up a shell path to a concealed area surrounded by weeping cherries and camellias.

“Look,” she said, “imagine a little table and chairs here, the existing seats scraped back and painted and there is a lovely nook to discover and enjoy.”

She was right. All I needed was a fresh set of eyes. The bones of the garden are well established. Camellias, palms, giant strelitzias and native trees provide a solid and interesting background. Once it is weeded, edges defined and some interest in focal points the garden will come alive again. More importantly I have discovered a fresh interest in the garden.

I have some guests coming from the UK mid March. ‘We are interested in looking at the garden’ they wrote. ‘Oh dear’ I had thought when I read that. Now I have a plan and something to aim for. I want to rediscover the beautiful NZ native orchids I know are growing up a set of stone steps overgrown by five finger and muehlenbeckia. In the knoll garden, plants have completely concealed the wooden seats.

“Expose them again,” said my sister, “and paint them bright colours. Reclaim the area. The guests will love it.”

FRESH EYES: With some new ideas I now have a plan to renew my neglected garden.

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