My Favourite Window

November 26, 2010

More From Historic Oamaru

Whitestone Belle
"I thought this post was going to be about trugs," says Lady Mondegreen, with an air of disappointment... or possibly disapproval. It is. But I couldn't resist this illustration of what happens to children, who are dressed from the age of three in pinnafores and bonnets for heritage recreations: they develop their own historical personae.

But back to gardening: Bill Blair of Coppice Crafts makes trugs and other wooden garden tools using traditional methods, at his workshop in the Portside area of Oamaru. There, during the evening for a spot of penguin viewing, I was taken with Bill's spare but lovely plantings around his workshop. A mass of vibrant red geraniums (of the Pelargonium kind) warm the foot of a cabbage tree in full flower. I absorbed the trim hedge around the chimney piece without noting whether it was Corokia or Teucrium and maybe it was neither, but the effect of these plantings is whimsical as well as respectful of the area's character.
Bill takes orders for his products and offers a mail-order service.

November 25, 2010

A Change of Scene

Call it escapism; call it meeting a commitment.  I left the Secret Garden in the care of Lady Mondegreen and went on a road trip to Oamaru last weekend: a journey with three girls eager for the dressing-up opportunities afforded by the Victorian Heritage Celebrations; a journey to dance with fellow morris dancers; a journey ... without my Musician.  Although Kitty and I explored every little bridge and walkway and gazebo in the Botanic Gardens one damp evening, the garden that charmed me most was the little Harbourside Garden right next to the national Steam Punk Headquarters in the historic precint. It meanders down amongst plantings of seaside tolerant shrubs and perennials to a suggestion of a wharf just before the river passes out to sea. At this time of year almost all of the plants are in showy flower including a very light coloured Pride of Madeira and a shrub rarely seen in its wild form in New Zealand, the Guelder Rose.  The Harbourside Garden is a little oasis of refinement and colour under the looming fantasy of the Steam Punk HQ, and opening into the loneliness of shingle reaches populated only with wild fennel and rusting rolling stock.  Solitude whichever way you look.

Pride of Madeira  Echium candicans
Guelder rose  Viburnum opulus
(The cultivated form Viburnum opulus sterile commonly known as the Snowball Tree, has been evident in many of the floral tributes we have received over the last few weeks).

November 15, 2010

The Not-So-Secret Garden






Elwin's funeral on Friday 12 November, was a true celebration of his life. On a hot sunny day in our Garden, family and friends from near and far, wept and danced and sang. Sorrow and Joy writ large.


November 7, 2010

Death Comes to the Secret garden

Elwin died yesterday mowing the lawn on the new mower.
It was very sudden and we had so much to do together.
The Secret Garden has had more attention today, than we could have given it in a week. The lawns, which Elwin had just begun have been dealt to by a team of mowers and a whole daunting border full of cocksfoot has been weeded. I shan't post for awhile but intend to be back...

November 5, 2010

No Drama

The Earthquake inspectors came and prowled around the house in the pouring rain, peered into roof cavities and under the double-layered floor that Elwin cut open last night. With a little torch, the man with the practised eye explored all the cracks, noting their age by dust, cobwebs and even paint adhesion. Historical cracks aggravated was his diagnosis. In other words there will be no insurance payout, and really we are back to where we were before 4 September, except that the chimneys will probably have to be demolished and rebuilt. Time now to hire a structural engineer.

November 4, 2010

Cracked


Tomorrow.
Tomorrow the Earthquake Commission accessor comes to inspect the Skudder House. It feels as though everything - and nothing - hinges on this visit. We have not been made homeless as so many Canterbury people have. We are not living in a house crazed with uncertainty. The ground rules have not shifted our very foundations. Yet... if you remember the stairway to uncertainty (6 Oct) this is what it leads to. I am anxious, resigned, prepared for the worst - a demolition order.

November 3, 2010

Wild Things

The Secret Garden is full of wild things: I mentioned the hawthorn a few days ago and competing for attention is the broom. In solid blocks of yellow it dazzles in unkempt places. Our roadside is one long strip of vivid yellow but I manage its ebullience in the garden.  Another wild plant that runs rampant in this garden is the native vine, pohuehue. Here it has formed a companionable association with a Cherokee rose, both of them scrambling over an old acacia stump and flowering together: a lovely balance of the strong white roses couched amongst the soft green sprays of the pohuehue. Already the new growth of the vine is thrusting out from the flowering mass and will overwhelm the rose, but by next spring the vigourous habit of this rose will have benefitted from the vine's leaf-fall and redressed the balance.  Inside, the accumulating tangle is a haven for birds, the rose thorns providing protection from cats and the wiry vine a ready made base for nests.  Cats visit the Secret Garden. Lady Mondegreen occasionally threatens a predator-proof fence, but mostly we live around each other.  The visitors always remain aloof.  The Siamese cat considers us beneath him - I can tell.  How dare we expect to sun ourselves on the veranda while he is basking there. How dare we expect him to pose for photos while he is stalking lizards.  Doesn't he have a home to go to? In spite of statistics and the presence of cats, the bird life is rich and varied - no kiwi - they will have to wait for the predator-proof fence.   A few days ago a blackbird found its way into the kitchen: as it panicked against glass, I too felt a panic for its safety; gasped in dismay as it flew into the big front window and dropped to the floor.  For this blackbird has an identity and I have watched it and its forebears about the garden over the years. The White Family they could be called as there is always one with a patch of white feathers somewhere on the body. This latest one has a flash of white on one upper wing.  I had no idea that I felt so protective towards it until I thought it was going to kill itself. But it lay in my hand, as I carried it outside, and then flew off and I saw it the next day going about its business. Just about where the thrushes crack their snails open.

Broom  Cytisus scoparius
Cherokee Rose  Rosa laevigata
Pohuehue, Wire weed  Muehlenbeckia australis