Strawberries in the Desert

Story telling from Australia

That was close

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.

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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?

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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.

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

16 comments on “That was close

  1. monsoonwendy
    May 29, 2014

    Any garden with an edible fig and a blueberry bush is worth sticking with and yours sounds like it is becoming beautiful Deb. What is lacking, I feel, maybe garden art. For when those deceptively dark corners need colour. A mosaic perhaps? Gaudi did it. A Broken Hill junk sculpture? When your creativity is not coming easily in words or plants, this may call. Looking forward to a cuppa in the garden one day.

    Like

    • debhuntinbrokenhill
      May 30, 2014

      Aha yes, and I’ve still got a box of broken pottery just waiting for the right moment – do please visit and inspire me! I dreamt of using all those fallen chestnuts to build a picture of a tree the other night… x

      Like

  2. Pamela Parr
    May 29, 2014

    I know the feeling Deb we are battling rabbits which eat EVERY thing I
    plant,and with the many droughts over the years I had given up on my once beautiful garden (flowers & vegies ) but this year with the help of my new partner we are slowly reserecting the garden the job at present fixing all the fences around the garden to try and keep the rabbits on the other side,over the years a few holes have appeared in the netting.,my greenhouse is once again full of cuttings collected over the past few months,in the hope that come spring we may have beaten the rabbits,( and wombats )so heres hoping we both have beautiful productive gardens come next year,

    Like

    • debhuntinbrokenhill
      May 30, 2014

      Good luck Pam, with the garden and the new partner. Hope the rabbits stay away and your cuttings thrive 🙂

      Like

  3. Eliza Waters
    May 30, 2014

    Love this! Words of wisdom as you come to awareness, acceptance and yes, gratitude. Lovely post!

    Like

  4. bkpyett
    May 30, 2014

    Your garden sounds as if it is doing very well! Nothing like fresh figs!
    It is certainly worth cultivating every spot. Sydney sounds as if things grow faster than down here in Victoria. Love the photos too!

    Like

  5. candidkay
    May 30, 2014

    I’m so glad you’ve decided to work your magic! To create something out of nothing–that’s the best reward. But I also hope you visit those lovely ladies at the community garden . . . they sounded too nice to ignore:).

    Like

  6. Maggie Wilson
    May 30, 2014

    This is an inspiring post on so many levels. Thank you, and enjoy the fruits of your efforts!

    Like

  7. Val Lord
    May 30, 2014

    So loved this post Deb, once again felt it come to life before me. I have a very good friend in Glenfield who is a gardener, but in her 80’s now, but have sent her a number of your posts and will certainly be sending her this one! She will thoroughly enjoy reading this and feeling like she is right there with you in the garden (as I did) x

    Like

  8. Jane @ Shady Baker
    May 31, 2014

    Those figs look perfect Deb, happy gardening!

    Like

    • debhuntinbrokenhill
      June 1, 2014

      Thank you Jane, they were delicious! The less you have, the more you appreciate it I suspect. There is one left to eat… 🙂

      Like

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This entry was posted on May 29, 2014 by and tagged , , , , , , .

I'm a writer based in Australia with a passion for gardening, remote places and people with a story to tell.

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