February 9, 2012
There was a time, not so long ago, when I had grand designs for this place. When Elwin and I took it over in July 2010, I was more than ready to remodel a tired old homestead. After all I had been dreaming and planning for the last thirty years.
There was to be a Tudor rose garden with steps down to the dry stream. There was to be a wide shrubbery and herbaceous border with nine 10 metre repeats of predominantly winter flowering species. There were to be cloud-pruned hedges, and broad, meadow-sown terraces drifting down from the Skudder House. There was to be a knot garden of Maori patterning below an upstairs window and a sub-alpine sweep of domed hebes and spiky tussocks.
Dock and Roses ('Matawhero Magic')
This was to become a way of supplementing income because it was what I could do. Events of the past 18 months have changed what I can do. I no longer have a technical advisor-cum-handy man companion, with a salaried income. And I am no longer a fit young gardener: my arthritis dictates how I work these days.
Scarlet pimpernel amongst bedding plants
It is a surprise to realise how right Lady Mondegreen has been:
to let the garden show me the way. It gives me great pleasure as it is, and as I move around remembering the past, considering the future, I have been noticing the wild flowers that have gained a foothold amongst my garden plantings over the last year.
Yarrow and Thalictrum delavayi 'Dainty Blooms'
But the creative urge is still with me, that need to tweak nature: to make my mark. Even now I am seeing new possibilities, where clearings can be made or focal points changed.
Gladiolus 'Holland Pearl' amongst foxglove seedheads and flowering hawksbit
I would like to harness the successful and flamboyant weeds that grow here and use them in a shockingly grand border.
Hemlock and pot marigolds
I will continue to plant Ashley River kowhai trees in a grove along the stream. I will use existing snowflake bulbs to outline a braided tributary (have you noticed around old farmsteads, how spring snowflakes still outline vanished paths and fences where they were planted so long ago?) I will find just the right place out of the wind to plant a set of six handkerchief trees; maybe I could still have a dancing greene!
And regretfully, I will continue to control the old man's beard.
Dock Rumex spp
Scarlet pimpernel Anagallis arvensis
Yarrow Achillea millefolium
Foxglove Digitalis purpurea 'Foxy'
Hawksbit, Smooth hawksbeard Crepis capillaris
Hemlock Conium maculatum
Pot marigold Calendula officinalis
Traveller's joy, Old man's beard Clematis vitalba