Story telling from Australia
I almost gave up. I dismissed this garden as unworkable and I was ready to abandon it in favour of a community garden around the corner. Why? Because the grass was (literally) greener: the community garden had more space and more sunlight, it had better soil and thriving vegetable beds. There goes that damned search for perfection again.
I thought I had learnt that looking for perfection is pointless. People – including me, especially me – aren’t perfect and neither are gardens. As Peter Ustinov once said, “Perfection has no personality.”
So what went wrong?
The problem was comparison. When I compared this Sydney back yard with the garden we had in Broken Hill I came close to despair. Where was the sunlight? Where was the space? Where were the mature peach trees – the plum, the apricot, the nectarine and the pomegranate? All that space we’d once had to plant sprawling pumpkin, fast growing zucchini and spreading melons; the rich soil that fed strawberries too numerous to eat; tomato plants that towered over me, broad beans in dense rows, dark green cabbage… oh I could go on and on.
Now all I’ve got is a concrete yard overshadowed by high walls and houses either side, where even the beetroot has failed to thrive in skinny raised beds that never get enough sunlight. Is it any wonder my attention was drawn to a garden that looked more appealing, a garden that looked like it could offer instant results?
Oh me of little faith! There are no instant results in gardening. Hours of work from many people must have gone into making that community garden thrive and I was willing to swan in and grab a piece of the action, leaving my own garden to shrivel and wilt while I looked elsewhere.
I’m lucky to have any kind of garden in inner Sydney, never mind one that boasts three magnolia trees, a magnificent frangipani and a Moreton Bay Chestnut (which is what I finally found out the seed shedding monster at the front is called) – not forgetting the two huge hibiscus.
We’ve been here less than twelve months and I was willing to turn my back on it, not only on the plants that were here already, but all those I’ve added that will surely grow come next spring.
So last weekend, when CC was in Broken Hill, I got down on my hands and knees and cleared the weeds from the front garden, discovering as I did so that the tiny plum tree isn’t so tiny any more and it needs pruning. It won’t produce any edible fruit (unless I ‘bag’ each blossom to protect against fruit fly) but it will look pretty in spring. The hydrangea from Kate’s garden is struggling but that’s because it’s in the wrong place. The answer? Move it. None of us thrive in the wrong environment – plants or people.
And the back yard I muttered so darkly about isn’t that dark. Tucked down the side of the house that little fig tree I planted six months ago produced four tiny fruits that swelled and ripened to perfection, and I savoured every mouthful.
It’s the same story everywhere I look: the blueberry bush has grown and it’s not susceptible to fruit fly; the David Austin rose is taller than me; the lemon tree is over three metres and the honeysuckle is heading for the top of the fence. The garden is doing what gardens do – slowly establishing itself.
I’ll still visit that irresistible community garden, but not at the expense of my own back yard.