It’s now been 18 months since we arrived in Australia and I thought it would be a good time to reflect on the ‘gardening’ I’ve been able to do on the other side of the world.
It doesn’t feel like real gardening for a couple of reasons;
- The seasons are all wrong – not only am I upside down and the wrong way round with my seasons but even more confusing is that a lot of ‘summer’ crops are grown in winter as the summer can be too hot for them. Also things we normally grow as annuals, like the chillies, are perennial here.
- We are renting for the first time in our lives. This means trying to beautify what’s here without being able to change it. Boy does it need changing! The standard ‘yard’ is rough grass, poured concrete terraces and bonded metal fences. So I have been trying my best to become an expert container gardener and not getting my hands in the soil at all.
I started out with a few natives
Quickly adding some citrus – here you can see a lime and half a grapefruit
After 6 months we moved to a nicer rental nearer the beach. We’re lucky to have one neighbour who has let their patch get away from them. Most of the houses have been rebuilt over the past decade which has left poor outside areas. It’s lovely looking out the side windows at a tropical garden – and the privacy that offers.
View from the back of the second rental
Our second rental property has placed us right next to the sea. Which is beautiful but comes with salt spray – a condition I haven’t had to manage before. Initially I wanted the citrus plants to live on the balcony but the wind and salt upset them so much they needed rescuing. They dropped all their leaves and had to be nursed in a special area out the back dubbed ‘HDU’ (medical term high dependency unit for patients requiring more intensive care)
The second attempt was some native coastal plants – but that too didn’t work. I think the heat behind the glass balcony was too much for them so they withered and dried up. The newest attempt consists of succulent coastal plants and they’re doing amazingly well.
New rental overlooking the sea with some challenging conditions
I have a peach and nectarine trees growing in pots and they’re flowering at the moment. Very excited to get a crop off of these.
Having almost killed these citrus trees, on more than one occasion, I am really pleased with how they are coming out of winter. I treated myself to one each of lemon, lime, grapefruit, and orange. We’ve had a crop off the lemons and made some delicious lemonade. They started as young bushes but I wanted to train them into standards – dreaming of an Italian terrace arrangement at some point. The grapefruit below was the only one not pruned accordingly as it was much smaller than the others. Unfortunately we had an extremely windy day which managed to snap it in half. I was very glad not to have pruned it beforehand otherwise I’d have had no-one else to blame. It is recovering very well and actually looks healthier than all the others – just goes to show you should prune immediately after planting and reduce all shrubs by half. However the clusters of flowers are different to the other citrus so I’m a little concerned that it may be the rootstock flourishing – time will tell.
The half grapefruit
I have a few more updates in the pipeline. Less gardening and more garden tourism but I hope you enjoy them.
Posted by crthompson2013 on 24/09/2016
Times are a-changing for MPB.
My wife and I are moving to Australia in the new year for some adventures Down Under. For the first time in our lives we are at a point where all our professional training is over and we are working independently. As of August this year I have been self-employed and looking forward to the next stage of our lives. What this means is that we are leaving behind our lovely cottage in Devon for at least a few years.
It’s odd gardening in a garden you know you won’t be in come spring. I have hyacinths, daffodils and tulips going in but anything later in the season has been cancelled. I’ve given my seeds to my mum for next year and put the potting bench to bed.
I’m really glad I started the blog last year. Looking back on the projects, posts and changes in the garden is quite nostalgic and I wouldn’t have this record of the year without the blog. I’ve also been in contact with lots of readers and bloggers and it’s been thoroughly enjoyable. I’ve also enjoyed following your progress over the year and I’ll continue to do that.
Over recent months the blog has been second place to ‘real life’. This year I’ve completed my training, set myself up in business and married my beautiful partner of 10 years. One regret I have is not posting as often as intended at the outset.
I’m starting a blog charting the process we go through to get ourselves to Australia and into work. I’m not sure what form gardening will take in Oz but there’s always the option of a MyPottingBench: Down Under!
Monday is the first anniversary of my MPB blog and it seems a good time to be coming to an end.
Posted by crthompson2013 on 22/11/2014
The second holiday we had this summer was to the Sorrento peninsula for a family wedding. I had never been to this part of Italy before and apart from a quick weekend in Venice some years ago I haven’t seen much of this country. Monty Don’s programmes on gardens around the world, specifically Italian Gardens, were my only exposure to the gardens to be seen.
We stayed in a hilltop village called Sant’Agata sui Due Golfi just south of Sorrento town. My wife and I took a long walk around the hills and back streets of the villages in the region. What struck us was the vegetable gardens attached to each of these rural villas and even within the villages themselves. I turned green with envy watching row after row of plump tomatoes ripening outside.
Private garden near Sant’Agata sui Due Golfi
Coastal grasses near Torca
The town of Sorrento doesn’t have much to offer as a horticultural holiday but the views over the bay to Naples are lovely and the small cloisters where the wedding ceremony took place in was beautiful.
View from Sorrento over bay to Naples
St Francesco Cloister
By far and away the highlight for us was a trip to Amalfi and Ravello. Having spent the week gripping the steering wheel of a fiat panda doing hairpin turns around the steep hills of the area it took some courage to plan a trip to Ravello. Our guide book stated it had 2 open gardens and a quiet square with cafes for lunch but was 90 mins away from where we were staying and located at the top of a hill. It was worth the journey.
Villa Rufolo is charming but the main attraction is the iconic view down over Amalfi. We had a tourist ticket that included all the sites of Ravello so we were able to stroll around the village and peak into any one that took our fancy.
Amalfi coast from Villa Rufolo
Villa Cimbrone was our favourite. It was a pleasant walk through narrow streets up the hill and out of the main part of the village. I recently saw the garden featured on Alex Polizzi’s new TV programme. It has a variety of different areas including lawns, rose garden, arbour and an ‘infinity’ terrace. I have never been stunned to silence before but the view from here stopped me in my tracks. Breathtaking. I can’t wait to go back.
View of Amalfi Coast from Villa Cimbrone
Posted by crthompson2013 on 13/11/2014
Firstly, I must apologise for radio silence on my part. It’s been a busy few months for us in Devon with a change of job (becoming self employed), getting married, a holiday and a Minimoon. The garden has suffered from this neglect and my blog was the worst casualty. So to make up for this I thought I’d brighten the rainy Autumnal weather of late with some sunny pictures.
My new wife and I went to Marrakech for a short break after the buzz and business of wedding mania. Having never been before we used a Top 10 guide book to direct us around the must see gardens and sites. It was wonderful. Despite being a desert climate, the city is undergoing a ‘re-greening’ with rows of orange trees and roses being planted along the highways making it a verdant modern city.
Probably the most fashionable and famous garden located to the north of the old city and walkable from the new city. It was originally laid out by artist Jacques Majorelle (hence the name) but rescued by fashion designer Yves Saint-Laurent in the 80s which elevated it in popularity.
It is a jungle-style garden and a lush relief from the arid surroundings. The searing blue of its walls has become iconic.
I found it rather small and a little disappointing. The plants were wonderful but poorly labelled and felt like it was trying too hard. Being three times the price of every other attraction in the city didn’t endear it to me at all and it felt more style than substance.
Sitting at the feet of its namesake Mosque, this public park space has roses bordered by topiary hedges and flat-topped Orange trees. It’s a calm, free, space near the very centre of the old city and worth a wander on the way to Manoumia.
This rather grand hotel (a favourite of Winston Churchill) has 17 acres of beautiful gardens stretching out behind it. It’s free to enter – just make sure you’re not wearing shorts and T shirt as there is a dress code and you will be turned away at the gate (as we found out). Once suitably attired you can swan through the plush lobby and out the back into the gardens. These were my favourites in Marrakech. Probably because it felt familiar as it draws on The English Garden for its inspiration.
Here you can see roses, olive and citrus trees and even the vegetable garden. Beautiful. They even do fantastic cocktails on the terrace.
Posted by crthompson2013 on 23/10/2014
My reinforcements are starting to produce their first flowers. (Credit must go to the Dartmoor Chilli Farm)
My Lemon Drops are at last starting to look like they might come to something this year.
Others taking part in a chilli challenge;
Allotment in my garden
Posted by crthompson2013 on 01/06/2014
So this is a reminder of what greeted us back in February after the storms here. I had only just said to the other half how nicely things were coming on and how it looked like this year it was really going to shine. Unfortunately Mother Nature didn’t like how things were going so decided to squash the border with the help of the neighbours’ fence.
After waiting a few months for the neighbours to get the boundary reinstated (For a while it looked like our our temporary fix with a wooden post, some wire and removing the top row of bricks from the damaged wall looked like it was going to have to survive another winter) we were greeted by the following sight;
Hmmm… remedial action needed. Not trusting the integrity of the replacement I decided not to attach supporting wires to the new fence – instead I’ve put posts and wires up. That boundary needs green!! My week of annual leave seemed the perfect opportunity to spend some quality time in the garden and really crack on with the repairs.
The fence posts went up (much to the relief of the climbing rose doing its best impression of ground cover).
Here’s a selection of new plants bought to fill the gaps. The landscaper took the view that in order to successfully put up the new fence he had to cut off everything in the border to 30cm from the ground and stand on everything else. So we had a few gaps. We’ve gone for a selection of white flowering plants from Hill House Nursery to bring some light into this part of the garden that tends to be shaded by the barn. There’s a jasmine, Geranium phaeum ‘alba’ and a white lupin. We also have put in a viburnum and a rambling white rose.
This is the finished result. The box balls have been tidied, damaged and flattened plants have been either pruned or supported. The climbers are once again climbing (although most of the roses are facing the fence at the moment but they’ll get themselves sorted in the end.)
Posted by crthompson2013 on 31/05/2014
Posted by crthompson2013 on 21/05/2014
It’s time to prune my box balls. These are a really strong feature of our garden where they provide winter structure and a rhythm that bounces through the borders and between the two main areas. I cannot take any credit for them as they were here when we arrived for which I am very grateful. This is the first proper trim they’ve had since we moved in.
I was given some sheep shears for Christmas last year and they’ve waited patiently in the shed for when the time is right. It’s quite a shame to have to prune the balls as I’m quite fond of them in their shaggy state. They remind me of a furry pet but even fluffy dogs get trimmed now and again.
The rest of the borders are frothy and disorganised and the shaggy box balls look like they’ve been joining in the fun of the rest of the crowd. However peer pressure has led these plants astray and they now look like a policeman caught dancing at a music festival. It’s time they got back to work. After their haircuts they once again look like responsible citizens; keeping order in the beds whilst the party goes on around them.
My Box balls are nowhere near perfect spheres, but I have neither the skill nor the time to turn them into such. As it is I am rather pleased with my Box dumplings.
Posted by crthompson2013 on 18/05/2014
It’s been ages since I’ve posted an update on my efforts to grow some chillies this year. I’m nearly ready to admit defeat with my own chilli plants grown from seed. They’ve been back in intensive care for a few weeks now and apart from putting out 2 true leaves between them they’ve not come along at all.
I think I may have been over-watering them and the nighttime temperature may have been too low. Together, these factors have caused hem to stall and I’m not confident they’ll pick up.
At my recent day out to the garden festival I came across the Dartmoor Chilli Farm stall where I purchased two seedling plants from the nice chap. One called Fairy Lights and one called Portugal. For only £1 each they’re quite a bargain. I’ve potted them on into a free draining potting mix to keep them healthy. At some point they’ll go into the raised bed in the greenhouse but I want them a little larger first. Part of me hopes they will spur the others into growing – show them how it’s done.
So my chilli adventure continues just a little differently to how I planned.
Others taking part in a chilli challenge;
Allotment in my garden
Posted by crthompson2013 on 06/05/2014
Yesterday was the first Toby Buckland Gardening Festival held at Powderham Castle in Kenton near Exeter. It’s been widely advertised in the local area and was generating lots of excitement on twitter this week.
Powderham Castle is a beautiful setting looking out onto the estuary and surrounded with acres of parkland. It’s also home to Toby Buckland’s nursery. I took my mum and the other half to have a look around yesterday.
It was great to see so many stalls attending the event and quite a few were showing off what the south west has to offer. Hill House Nursery were there and Ray did a talk in the morning. Heucheraholics had a good selection but the prize for most colourful stand goes to Avon Bulbs .
The site is easy to find on the A-road between Exeter and Dawlish. We were able to park in the disabled area but still had a bit of a hike up the hill into the castle itself. For everyone else there was a good 10 minute walk through the grounds from the parking field. Although if you’re steady on your pins it’s a great walk past the lake in the sunshine!
Below is Hill House Nursery on the rose terrace.
There were lots of stalls on the lower terrace offering furniture and some informative stands on composting and other topics. There weren’t as many gardening sundries stands but I see this as only a good thing. My attention was on the plants and often find novelty sign stands an irritation. There were loads of good food outlets available. We were really lucky and arrived at a vendor when there was no queue and a table available – within 2 minutes of tucking in there was a queue. We all joined in with our favourite chorus of ‘timed that right’.
As well the nurseries there was a speakers tent where a program of talks was delivered. We caught part of a question and answer session with Anne Swithinbank and Jim Buttress.
My 2 companions went away happy with bunches of cut flowers from The Good Flower Company. I was very restrained and bought 2 chilli plants from the Dartmoor Chilli Farm to replace my failing seedlings. Overall it was a great afternoon out, lots of good food, fantastic weather, and a great selection of local and national nurseries.
Posted by crthompson2013 on 04/05/2014