Unfinished business

I often feel embarrassed about our unfinished garden. Of course, no garden is ever finished, but some of our garden has never really began. We moved into our property almost 5 years ago, and at the beginning we didn’t really have that much spare time to do anything because we were both busy working full-time, commuting long distances and studying uni part-time. I don’t really have any excuses anymore. For the last 12 months I have been working full-time at a local trade nursery where I can pick up an amazing array of plants at trade prices, I don’t commute long hours anymore and I have finished my degree. Although I did have lagging energy, which I recently found out to be very low levels of iron. After having an iron infusion, I now have my energy back and therefore no more excuses.

Eremophila oppositifolia 'Lemon Butter'
I would love to add some more Eremophilas to our garden, like this E. oppositifolia ‘Lemon Butter’

A few years ago when I began this blog I drew up a rough plan of how I envisaged our front yard to be. We have removed a large weedy Cotoneaster tree and some other nearby shrubs and replaced them with a line of Leptospermum ‘Copper Glow’, along with some plantings of Mottlecah (Eucalyptus macrocarpa), Pig Face (Carpobrotus rossii)(white flowering form), Acmena ‘Cherry Surprise’, Grevillea lanigera ‘Mt Tamboritha’, Westringia ‘Jervis Gem’, Creeping Boobialla (Myoporum parvifolium purpureum), White Correa (Correa alba), Acacia cognata ‘Mini Cog’, Tar Bush (Eremophila glabra)(grey leaf yellow flower form), Creeping Saltbush (Rhagodia spinescens) and Showy Honey-myrtle (Melaleuca nesophila). Beside the driveway, we have converted the majority of the lawn to garden using the newspaper method. Some of this garden has done well, especially the bed of kangaroo paws (Anigozanthos ‘Big Red’ and Anigozanthos ‘Yellow Gem’) surrounded by Coast Tussock-grass (Poa poiformis) sourced from our local indigenous nursery. Other parts are lagging – either because I didn’t look after the plants enough whilst they were establishing or because I planted mostly tubestock and so I need to be patient whilst I wait for them to grow!

Carpobrotus rossii (white flowering form) with a visitor
Carpobrotus rossii (white form) – a recent addition to our garden

There is still a large section of lawn that we want to turn into garden in front of our house. At the moment we have a monstrous Liquidambar styraciflua and a sizeable Pittosporum eugenioides variegatum in the middle of the front yard, as well as a weedy Sallow Wattle (Acacia longifolis), which I am sure was not planted by any previous owners or tenants. We also have a couple of Glossy Abelia (Abelia x grandiflora) bushes in our front yard. One still looks quite nice, but they don’t really fit the look of the native garden, so I think they will have to go. The Melaleuca nesophila will probably overgrow one of them anyway. Originally we wanted to get rid of the Liquidambar but after enjoying its shade every summer and making great compost out of its leaves, we have decided that it is going to stay – even if we can’t really grow much underneath it. I also want to remove the Pittosporum despite my late grandmother’s pleasure at seeing the tree when we bought the property.

Autumn leaves (Liquidambar)
I used to resent our Liquidambar tree, but have now grown to love it

Yesterday I began a new list of all the plants that I wouldn’t mind having in the front yard once some of the old vegetation and lawn is removed. The list is a big one and I think one of my biggest issues with getting the motivation to do more is that there are so many plants I like, but not enough room to plant them all. I will just have to figure out what I like best, take into account the different foliage and flower colours I’ll have, how big they will grow and then work from there. Picking a couple of small trees (3-4 metres in height) will probably be the hardest decision for me and one which I’m not quite sure on. I would like to plant habitat trees and also ensure that there is enough sunlight filtering through the trees’ canopies to ensure success of the understorey planting.

It is all very exciting and at least I know that if I do end up “finishing” the front garden any time soon, that at least a garden is never really completely finished and that there will be plenty to do as the garden continues to evolve. And at least then I will no longer have to be embarrassed about having an incomplete garden when I work at a plant nursery and volunteer at several plant-related organisations!


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