>What my garden taught me, part 2


A couple more lessons from the garden:


I suppose our gardens have been no different to most people’s. I couldn’t help, when I walked into our garden in Pymble, seeing so many things that needed doing. The gum trees rained down a constant flow of debris. Little weeds were always finding their way through the mulch. The stake of the pittosporum would give way and tip it against the fence. There were dead fronds on the big palm trees.

And that was without the projects. There was the pebble mosaic I wanted to do at the entrance to the Japanese garden. I was planning a new bed around the frangipani. There was the whole section where I had been squirreling building materials behind the shed “just in case” – it was overflowing and desperately needed rationalising.

This constant flow of things-I-oughta-be-doing was, in fact, keeping me from seeing truly the upside of our garden. What I realised is that I needed to PAUSE. Suspend the inventory of jobs. Then, instead of seeing the sticks and the leaves, look up and see the tall and casual elegance of the blue gums’ trunks against the morning sky. Instead of thinking the lawn needs mowing, feel the soft give of the turf under my bare feet. Overlook the debris collected around the bromeliads and see the startling brightness of the red feather that emerged since the last time I paid attention to that plant. Forget that mulch has blown onto the stepping stones, and slowly and deliberately step on one, then the next one, and the next, and take that slow and revealing journey through the things we had been nurturing and tending, without appreciating what they were giving us back.

We get so busy with do, do, do, do that we can lose the point of what we are doing things for. It’s no surprise about the cliché “stop and smell the roses.” Walk into your garden, with no to-do list; pause; let it give something back to you.

Joy of the unknown

We bought a new house in Leura, specifically for the garden. The garden sold us the house but we first saw it at the end of December, and moved in mid-February. There were hydrangeas out, lots of them, and some roses. Except for the profusion of Japanese windflowers, the rest was pretty much green. Autumn came, and with it the brilliant red of the leaves on a large tupelo out the front. Just about everything in the garden was deciduous, and by the end of June all looked stark and bare. There were some green shoots poking up here and there as July progressed. I realised that what I had taken for tree roots in the lawn, and relentlessly mowed over, were in fact daffodils, and I ceased mowing them just in time.

We had been advised not to pull anything out until we’d seen what it might be. As winter faded, the show commenced. A tree burst into beautiful pink blossom. A wonderfully fragrant daphne made an olfactory assault. What I thought was onion weed was a bevy of spring stars. As one blossom tree faded another came into flower in a display of serial beauty. Last of all some alpine phlox carpeted the ground with purple and white broadloom.

Spring is just about done now, verging on summer, and the trees are back in foliage or close to it, and the perennials are flowering. The whole spring experience was one of discovery. Our expectations were vastly exceeded. The biggest kick was that most of it was unanticipated.


I just had another lesson this morning, with my dear dad rushed off from the nursing home to hospital with a very gloomy prognosis. While I tried to sort out my emotions about that on paper, the climbing rose outside the kitchen window looked in at me with about 200 flowers that weren’t there two days ago and probably won’t be there in two days time. They have bloomed and flourished and will pass away, but their beauty will have had meaning during its time. My garden will keep teaching me for as long as I take time to learn from it.


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