SARAH THE GARDENER

It’s been unprecedented

Firstly…  we’re ok.

There has been an extraordinary amount of rain in our neck of the woods this week.  So much so the word unprecedented has been bandied about quite freely.  But it isn’t everyday you see people wading through the airport up to their knees or water cascading over motorway barriers like a infinity pool or sloshing about inside buses.

Gloomy conditions

The water filled sky has been dark and gloomy, most of time for days!

Sadly this has been a devastating event, affecting a really large region, taking many by surprise before sliding further south to wreak havoc in more communities.  The amount of rain broke records.  The highest number was at the airport which recorded 249mm in 24 hours!  The worst part of it all is lives were lost and homes have been destroyed.  It was …  well….  Unprecedented.

Weather station

I think this is the most rain I’ve ever seen…. Just as well it wasn’t accompanied by harsh wind – that would have been all the more disastrous!

For us we were ok.  It isn’t like we didn’t get the rain, we got 150mm in that period, with 50mm coming in an hour in the middle of the night!  This is where living on sand is such a blessing.  We had surface water for a while but it was gone not long after the rain stopped.  At our old place in the swamp the water would have lingered, mixing in with the water from the previous outburst.  There it can take a week or more to drain away, but not before levels get so deep it becomes a flood.  We’ve seen some aerial footage from that neighbourhood in the news and it would seem that is exactly what has happened – the flat farmland has become an ocean with the tops of fence posts barely showing through the murky water.

River plume in the ocean

The plume of muddy fresh water from the Waikato River can be clearly seen in the ocean out the front of our place.

We haven’t come out completely unscathed but it is barely worth mentioning in the face of what everyone else is dealing with.  We had to put buckets out to catch a few drips from the ceiling, but not really anything to bother the insurance company about…  But it did prompt us to do something dramatic…

Wall repairs

Well this isn’t something we had been expecting to do this weekend, but we are so pleased we did.

Our house was built in the 1930’s and has suffered the indignity of being relocated twice!  Each trip, ten years apart were about 200km each.  House removal is a wonderful way of saving an old house from destruction for a very good price so was a great option for us.  The thing is our house is stucco, with a solid cement coating which, in general, protects us from the worst of the wind in this harsh environment.

Rain gauge

During a break in the weather I went into the garden to check things out… it would seem my rain gauge is woefully inadequate!

The thing is, with the moves, the stucco has picked up some cracks along the way.  For the most part this hasn’t been a problem.  A regular coating of paint keeps the stucco in good condition; however we haven’t painted the house at this point.  Firstly, we were distracted by other things…. Maybe a garden… and then we took ages to choose a colour.  Then we thought we’d do it ourselves, but never found the time.  Then tracking down a tradesman has proved to be next to impossible, so there have been delays.

Shifting sand

The pumpkin vine was buried in the shifting sand, but it was easily freed.

This storm, while being a terrible disaster and without being glib, it was a bit of a blessing as it made us notice all was not well on one of our external walls.  We pulled off the gib board and pulled out the insulation and exposed the frame and were shocked to find some wet patches on the inside of the outside wall.  It wasn’t bad, there was no mould or rot, just wet – possibly accentuated by the unprecedented amount of water.

garden path

It must have been like a river as the water raced through the garden from the surrounding hills.  It’s nothing that can’t be fixed with a rake when things dry out.

We consulted with our excellent kiwi architect friend, who just happens to live in America, who coincidentally was being visited by another friend of ours who was also a great architect.  So, with the best advice given to us by our trusted source over the internet we feel confident in fixing this ourselves.  Considering we probably aren’t the only people ripping gib board off their sodden walls right now I expect the hardest bit of the project will be sourcing new gib board when we need to put it back on again.  Once again this hasn’t been caused by the storm, just highlighted by it, so its not an insurance thing.

Driveway

The driveway must have had quite the torrent race through, as it was on the verge of become a washout near the bottom. Our lovely farmer neighbour has since shored it up with his handy tractor.

In the meantime, the garden is ok.  It is quite soggy but I’m not doing much until it all stops as there is no point.  It is always best to wait until the weather calms downs before attempting to make repairs, to avoid causing further damage.  Besides, it’s still raining and I don’t want to get wet and that is ok.

Come again soon – hopefully normal summer will resume soon.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Epic visit

This is not how I meant to start the year.  I have dropped the ball and started to fall by the wayside.  But I had a very good excuse.  I somewhat foolishly decided it would be a good idea to open up my garden to the general public so they could see what I had done.  I had no real plan – a sort of ‘invite them and they will come’ and ‘she’ll be right’ philosophy.   So the open day was advertised on Facebook and in the pages of Kiwi Gardener Magazine.

Zinnia

The zinnia put on a welcoming display

Then I threw myself into sorting out the garden.  It was in a bit of a post-holiday state.  Since I took on my handy helper in May last year, the garden has pretty much constantly been in restore mode because somehow it got a little out of control.  It would seem the opposite of do a little and do it often quickly escalate even the most orderly garden into a state of complete disorder.   For a while there I didn’t think we’d get there, it seemed like there was too much to do.  And I needed to allow time to rest so my MS didn’t rear its ugly head and overwhelm me.

Globe artichoke

Even the globe artichoke put on its best finery for the visit

It was a massive effort, but we got there.  The day before the visit I was able to pack away all of the tools and stand back and admire a lovely garden that I’ll happily share with others.  To mark this rare occasion when the garden is at its best, we threw the drone up and took a photo. One I should probably print out and frame as a reminder of what is possible should it get out of control again – which it could and probably would.

The garden from above

The garden from above

For now, going forward it is easy maintenance.  With the sector system,  where the garden is divided into 5 groups, at this point it only takes minutes to tend to a sector of 7 or so raised beds.  There is a lot of kitchen gardening in my future as I held back on the harvesting so there would be things to see in the garden.  No one wants to see a garden of bare earth and told ‘you should have been here last week, this is where there was an abundant crop of x,y and z!’

Beetroot

I have some pretty big beetroot to process in the next few days

I honestly didn’t know what to expect with the open day.  I thought maybe 30 people – 40 at a push!   But we happily greeted many, many more than that.  We were so busy we forgot to count people and we forgot to take photos.   I had the Teen Lad directing traffic, Hubby the Un-Gardener managing parking, for which he seems to have a hidden talent for, as we were about one car short of a parking crisis!  My wonderful Mother-in-Law was serving cups of tea, and my Handy Helper was greeting people at the garden gate and inviting them to join the tour.

Sickly tomatoes

I left the sickly tomatoes in situ to show honestly that not everything in a garden goes well sometimes. (The sight of them still makes me want to have a little cry.)

I wasn’t sure how the day would pan out, but I ended up starting at the point of the garden closest to the gate and making my way around the garden.  As people arrived they joined the tour and were advised that when I seemed to be repeating myself they had reached the end of their tour – sort of like a hop on and off tour bus, and they should head on down to see the ocean view and have a cuppa tea.  Every time I looked up it seems like there were different people in front of me with the size of the group expanding from a few to a lot.

The newest garden

The newest garden was looking its best ready for the big day.

As we wandered the garden with me explaining everything and offering hints and tips and answering questions along the way, it took about an hour to do a full circuit. Most people had travelled for almost an hour so I didn’t want their travel time to be longer than the visit!  The weather was magnificent and everyone seemed happy enough and I ended up going around the garden five times – chit chatting the whole time, with my Handy Helper handing me regular drinks and enforcing a lunch break half way through.  I have to admit I was a little exhausted at the end and a touch sunburnt in places I forgot to apply sunscreen!

Fennel the cat

Fennel the Cat was checking out the merch.

It was a little like being a bride at a wedding, as much as I hate to say it, I was – after the garden itself, the centre of attention for the day and people had come far and wide – some folk had travelled 2 and a half hours to come and see the garden.  But like a bride on a wedding day, there is very little time or opportunity to really talk to the guests and gardeners are the nicest people and I would have loved to have sat and had a good chat with all of them.

The garden

And now, as I stand in my garden it feels a little empty and quiet. It is hard to imagine so many people passed through just days ago.

As much as there were a lot of people in attendance there were many more who couldn’t come so I made a virtual video tour of just what it would have been like if they had been there in person.  It is a little long, but I wanted it to feel like people weren’t missing out.

I must be a little crazy because the next day I was discussing how we would improve things for NEXT TIME!  It was a huge undertaking, but I will most likely do it again at some point so folk can see my wonderful garden as it is wasted on just us looking at it – especially me – I just see what needs to be done!

Come again soon – for now it is just me and my well maintained garden.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Caught between two storms

I am determined not to moan about the weather this year, but to be honest it leaves me no choice.  We got home on the 4th of Jan, and it has done nothing but rain or be gloomy and bleak.  To be fair yesterday was nice and today was nice-ish, but the weather is closing in as cyclone Hale is heading our way.  Hopefully it will be ex-cyclone Hale by the time it gets here.  So, my chore for the rest of the day is battening down the hatches.  Normally when we make a point of tying down potential projectiles it turns out to be a storm in a teacup and a good tidy up is never wasted.

Okra

With good support the okra should go on to give a fab harvest this season.

In spite of the poor weather, I have embraced the conditions and focussed on what the garden needs.  I have an open day here on the 21 January where people from all over will be coming to visit the garden, so it needs sorting out.   It is too far away to tell what the weather will be like, but I’d say chances are it will have cleared up by then…  surely?!

List of things done

I’m off to a good start with my list of things done. Hopefully I can keep it up!

I was given a lovely day by day diary for Christmas and so I have once again started off with gusto to fill in the days with everything I did in the garden.  Historically I’m terrible at this and end up going through my photos to try and remind myself what I did.   I can say with great pride, I’m 5 days in and doing well.  Each page is filled with little notes I think future me might find useful and I’m even making a note of the weather.  Yesterday I wrote ‘sunny + lovely’ which made a nice change from all the other entries that said, ‘wind and rain’.

More blueberries

From behind their gilded cage the blueberries ripen in peace.

I’ve been quite productive, with the garden open day and the blank pages of the diary staring out at me, alongside the holiday neglected garden calling to me.   All three of the major sectors and rooms have been taken care of and are weed free, tied in, pruned and cleaned up.

cucumber

I need to check the cucumbers thoroughly every day as they seem adept at hiding.

I am determined not to waste the harvest this year, so a few drops (a deluge) of rain won’t get in my way.  And I may have got a little soggy picking my first blueberry harvest that was a delight on top of ice cream last night.  There is still more to come, which is quite satisfying knowing my makeshift cage worked well.  Next year will definitely get an upgrade.  I also had my first okra for the season, which I discovered while building a support structure to keep them upright.  I didn’t have enough bamboo canes so got a little creative.

Tromboncino

Tromboncino – yeah nah

The other first to harvest was the tromboncino and I have to say, I’m not sure I’m a fan.  It seems a little marrow-esk in flavour and there is a lot of it in each one and the plant is loaded with them.  I may have to gift it to friends…  sorry friends.  But maybe they can have a cucumber and some eggs to go with as both of these are in great supply in our garden.

bottle gourds

Now these bottle gourds are prolific. I just hope the storm doesn’t mess with them as they are already weighing down my arch!

Gloomy weather aside, the garden is doing ok…  except the tomatoes, but I don’t want to talk about that just yet, it is still a little upsetting to the point I considered not bothering again, but a summer garden without tomatoes isn’t really a summer garden at all….

Come again soon – hopefully this incoming cyclone will spare us.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

A new start?

In the Northern Hemisphere, the opportunity for a fresh start seems to make more sense.  It is the middle of winter, and everything is dormant or done and as the year gets going things wake up or are restarted.  Here, down under, we are in the swing of things.  My garden is full, as is my life.  I couldn’t be busier, but we take a break in the midst of it all and while away celebrating the calendar new year we do a bit of navel gazing to see what improvements can be made.

Stunning summer weather

Fortunately for the most of our camping time was spent basking in days like this!

I guess I shouldn’t grumble, as it can be a good idea to make assessments and decisions to change things while it is in front of you.  You can see if you have taken on too much or need to do things differently to remain in control.  Any good intentions that had fallen off along the way can be scooped up and begun again without missing too much of a beat.

Cover of the Kiwi Gardener Mag

The year is off to a great start… the garden is a cover girl!

So, with a garden full of life and a burgeoning calendar that already is full to the point the first resolutions on the list are ‘Don’t take on anything else’ and ‘Don’t Procrastinate!’   However, 3 days into to year an opportunity too exciting to refuse has presented itself and so ‘Don’t Procrastinate!’  is now at the top of the list.  My year is like a house of cards, and I can’t afford to make any slip ups or the whole thing will come crashing down.  I need to keep my eye towards the end of the year as I am super excited to take my garden trip again next year, hosting another group of garden enthusiasts around this fine country.    But aside from that being the major event, the year is punctuated with deadlines and opportunities I can’t afford to miss. So, this year I need to hit the ground running.

Pickled Gherkins

I think it is a given to come home to a mountain of gherkins in need of processing!

And so far so good.  We did the typical summer holiday thing and lay in the sun reading until the sunscreen wore out and left a rosy pink glow, and the kids swam and hiked until they could do it no more.  Then we did the obligatory premature exit from the campground to beat an encroaching storm to avoid packing up wet canvas in a howling gale.   Fortunately, this year we only lost a day camping, but good for me, I gained an extra day in the garden.

Seed sowing

The first seeds of the new year – succession seeds for a continued supply.

We had a lovely house sitter, and things were well cared for, although as an un-gardener the watering could have been a touch deeper, but to be fair it is a large garden and to do a full watering can take an age!  There was no rain while we were away, so things were just beginning to wilt.   I had only been out of the car for moments before I began re=saturating the soil.  Even with the storm on our heels, there was no guarantee it would have been a satisfactory thirst-quenching affair, and besides, the plants needed water desperately and couldn’t wait.   I’m pleased I took the time as the storm seems to have reached us with more wind than water and the plants that were looking unwell are now full of vigour and able to face the weather better than they would have before.

Sad plants in new pots

All going well these sad and neglected plants will perk up and begin to thrive again.

Then I harvested a mountain of gherkins and have since processed them into pickles and took the marrows that were once been tender young zucchinis and peeled and sliced them and soaked them for an hour or two in a salad dressing and popped them in the dehydrator to make some crispy marrow chips.

weed free corn

It does my heart good to see a weed free area beneath the corn, even if I had to do it in the rain.

As I was watering the garden I made a note of any gaps and have since sown some more kidney beans, beetroot, spinach and salad leaves.   I’m not sure what happened to my beans but there is some premature aging going on in one area.  I will get a harvest from them, but there is still plenty of time to get another crop going.   It certainly helps that we don’t get frost.   While I was in the greenhouse I repotted a few plants that had outgrown themselves.   Finally, I went through and completely weeded sector three, which to be honest looked the easiest and was the biggest compromise between doing something productive and procrastinating in the midst of a storm.

Zinnia

Even when storm bedraggled the zinnias still bring joy.

In the meantime, I look forward to something resembling a normal summer so I can make the kind of progress I have created multiple lists to accommodate.  Although the extended forecast doesn’t look very promising.  I suspect my raincoat will become my new best friend in the garden.

Come again soon – this is a year full of exciting things.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Joy in the garden

Today is the longest day and finally I have something to be joyful about.  The weather seems to have turned.  It is sunny and warm; the sky is blue and the cicadas are singing.  Now that is kind of summer I’ve been looking for.

Summer feels

Now this is what summer should feel like!

The garden is bursting into life.  The plants are putting out tender new leaves, accentuating their old weather weary leaves that wear their torn, battle-scarred damage like a badge of honour.  They made it.  But not all did, and there are a few gaps in the garden I’m hoping to fill with new replacements, so long as the garden centre still has them.  I suspect I may be saving souls in the clearance section.

The garden

It took a long time to feel this way but I can finally say I am happy with my garden this season.

Up until recently I didn’t enjoy going into the garden, it brought me down.  The only things flourishing were the weeds.  But the tables have turned, and I find myself out in the garden inspecting things in the new morning light, while the dew is still heavy on the ground.   A day with warm light filtering through young leaves gives a sense of promise.  The energy being absorbed can only result in healthier plants, abundant growth and ultimately a plentiful harvest.  I’m excited what my garden will do rather than being fearful of what it will become.

Zucchini

You have to get a bit creative with zucchini – especially when you have four plants which is three and a half plants too many!

A garden bathed in sunshine is loaded with potential and my creativity is unleashed from the gloom that was holding it back.  An early harvest of zucchini is on the way to becoming a sweet and spicy pickle, to capture some of this much appreciated sunshine and release it when things are gloomy again in the winter.

Onion

In honour of of that old wives tale to plant onion on the shortest day and harvest on the longest – this onion with its bent over top telling me it was good to go, was planted on the shortest day and was indeed harvested on the longest!

And with Christmas and the summer holidays just days away, my handy helper and I chipped away at the weeds removing most of them.  It looked a little impossible to do in the time we had, but with friendly chit chat filling the air we soon restored order to the garden.  Had we left it, by the time the holidays were over, and we turned our attention back to the garden, these weeds would have been the dominant plants with a stranglehold on all that is good in the garden.   

Sunflower

With its back supported by the windbreak the sunflower holds its head up to the sun.

Knowing the garden is in a good place and the weather is right, it allows the joy of Christmas to wash over me wholeheartedly, rather than me trying desperately to get the feels.  There is still a chance of more rain, but rain waters an unattended garden better than any other method.  And the potential for a productive season can clearly be seen. 

Glass Gem Corn

Although the Glass Gem Corn is somewhat bedraggled, it is doing fine and we should be in for a good harvest.

Finally, after months of planning and preparation the garden is doing what it should – giving me immense pleasure and happiness.   It is always better to go through life feeling joy.  There is a lightness in your step and in your heart.  All things seem possible and effervesce with a bubbling excitement.   It removes the drudgery and even the most arduous chore becomes an opportunity for a blessing.   I always try to look for a bright side, even in the darkest days, because if you look hard enough you will always find something to bring a moment of joy.

Joy

Look for the joy in everything thing – it is always there somewhere.

And with that I have come to the end of my brief little series on advent.   I hope you noticed that the Hope, Peace, Love and Joy in the garden reflect the values I share in my life.  I may have mixed the order up a little, but the intention was there.   The garden is a great teacher, and it easily mirrors life with the lessons being taught.   And if you look closely you can see the hand of God unfolding in a blooming flower, the intricacy of a spider web or the strength and support offer by a tendril holding on as the plant grows towards the sun.   Or even just witnessing the miracle of a seed bursting into life and growing into a magnificent plant.

Tendrils

In the face of the tumultuous winds we’ve had the tendril plants hold on tight!

So, with that, knowing the garden is in good shape, and will be in good care with the house sitter, and the weather improving, I can take some time to enjoy Christmas festivities and spend time with my family.   I want to thank you all for your support and encouragement this year, it has meant a lot.   I wish you all a Merry Christmas and a safe and Happy New Year.

Sarah the Gardener

I would like to wish you a very Merry Christmas.

Come again soon – I will be back in the new year with more gardening goodness.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Love in the Garden

The weather is still being weird.  It is still gloomy but the nice days are fighting for their right to shine, so we have had a couple of days that offer the promise of summer.  But for the most part this struggle of the seasons are showing themselves as hot and humid with bursts of rain temporarily cooling things down.  The garden is coping well enough.  I wouldn’t say thriving as it really needs the sunshine to go with the warmth.  I’m checking regularly for fungal diseases because that would be so unfortunate to lose everything before they get going.

Artichoke

A pop of bright colour always lifts the mood on a less than ideal summer day.

With the weather being so strange, it makes gardening become a bit of a chore.  The weeds seem to love the weather, so they are doing well.  Today I went through most of the garden pulling out anything that isn’t supposed to be there.  It was early in the day so it wasn’t too hot to start with, but the humidity got more and more intense that you could feel the rain before it came.   But I managed to harvest peas, zucchini, strawberries, a couple of tomatoes, asparagus and coriander seeds before the heavens opened.   I probably would have stopped at that point anyway as a wasp was a little unhappy with me disturbing it when I was picking the strawberries. 

Strawberries

Strawberries are the candy of the garden and taste amazing!

Normally I know my garden intimately, having nurtured everything from seed and watched over it with care as it grew to take its place in the garden.  This season, I don’t feel like I know it as well as I was out of the garden for a month, and then the weather held me back while it treated my plants poorly.  So there has been harm and loss, as well as a bit of a disconnect.  But it is my garden and my responsibility, and I need to fall back in love with it.  I would be completely lost without it.  It occupies my time and I wouldn’t know what to do with myself if I didn’t have to look after it.  It is also my muse, that allows me to create content, some of which pays its way and allows me to spend time in a garden all day. 

Cherokee Purple Tomato

I was surprised to see a Cherokee Purple Tomato ready already in the garden. It is a little battle scarred from the storms and a bird attack, but there it is… ready early!

Love is a strange thing.  There is the instant love at first sight, like when a beautiful flower emerges and it looks even more amazing than the label suggested and has an intoxicating fragrance.  Then there is the intense love that is experienced when eating a sun warmed strawberry, straight from the garden – with its deeply rich flavour that you find you can’t stop at just one, and end up eating every single one right there in the garden.

Coriander seeds

It may have taken a while to harvest the coriander seeds, but it will save us some money this year as ground coriander is one of our most used spices. The good thing is there is plenty more out there ripening, so there is no disappointment when my leafy coriander bolts!

However the best love is the one that comes with a sense of comfort and familiarity.  You know the garden will always be there, but you need to contribute to its well being, even if it means a bit of hard work in the chill of winter, because you know the reward will come when the garden begins to flourish and offer up a harvest in return for all you have done.    This is the kind of love I have for my garden, although sometimes in the moment, it can be challenging, and I chide myself for wishing it away or complaining that is it demands too much of me.   

Lush Garden

Looking for a bright side, the leafy greens are loving the damp gloomy weather!

Sometimes I just need to look past all of the activity that is required and just sit and be.  The garden wraps itself around me in a soft green, fragrant embrace and reminds me to look at what we have accomplished together.  I just need to take the time to be still in the company of my garden and appreciate it and be reminded exactly what it means to me.  The chores can wait, nothing in a garden is urgent

Come again soon – I do love my garden, but at times it does feel like a petulant child!

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Peace in the garden

After days and days of the wind whipping through the garden and whistling through all of the gaps, tearing at the windbreak, requiring repairs, it stopped.   It was kind of abrupt in that I went to bed with sound of the wind knocking on my window and awoke to birdsong.   It had gotten to the point that  I thought it would never end and I was trying to work out how I could manage the garden in spite of the wind.

Sun rays

When I was a kid I had a picture book about the life of Jesus and one of the illustrations showed the suns rays like this and in my childlike understanding assumed that it meant God was looking down between the clouds…

However, I have learnt… the hard way, that trying to repair damage while the wind is in full swing can do more harm than good.  It is really hard to wait so on the worst days it is better not to look at the garden, for fear of what will be found.   The wind is one of the prices we pay for living here in such a beautiful place.  Fortunately, the high winds in the grand scheme of things aren’t that frequent and we get just as many days with no wind at all.  Most of the time there is a breeze that is barely noticeable and in the height of summer when it comes straight off the ocean is welcome.

The windbreak is broken

The windbreak is broken and will need urgent repairs.

But it is strange without the noise of the wind, it is so peaceful. It isn’t like it is completely silent, but there is a more joyous noise.  The air is thick with the chatter of the birds, and we can hear the waves crashing on the shore.

Tomatoes

There is a hope and a promise in the green tomatoes flourishing in the garden

The sense of anxiety and stress is gone.  It is almost like it was pressing in on all sides and without it there is a liberation.  I knew when we were in the midst of it that it bothered me, but until it was gone I didn’t know just how much.   And it is now, in this time of peace and calm that I can assess the damage and make my repairs.  It is easy to see what needs doing when everything is still.

Poppies

Even in the the weeds, beautiful flowers bloom!

But also, in this calmness I can once again see the hope and promise for the rest of the season.  I can dare to plan and dream again.  In the windy times it is almost too much to begin to think of the future just in case all is destroyed.  The worry itself can be quite exhausting.    There is a lightness in the peace, the garden fills my tank with goodness and even if I’m not doing anything except sitting in it watching the life slowly grow, I feel a sense of joy and happiness.

peas on the earth

There is nothing more satisfying than peas on the earth  (excuse the pun)

It still isn’t warm yet, although the weekend did hint at the possibility.  Once the sun arrives and radiates over us with its love and welcoming heat then we can hold onto the sense of peace and joy the garden offers, so long as the wind stays away.

Come again soon – the forecast is still all over the place so I need to do what needs to be done when I can do it!

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

Hope in the garden

Today is the first day of the meteorological summer, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it.  The forecast suggests that the temperature won’t rise above 18°C and I’ve gone back to wearing a scarf.  The wind hasn’t settled down and is howling a hoolie.  I have taken a quick look at the garden in between the showers and there have been casualties, but nothing that can’t be fixed or restored.  I still have my spares so I can replace those poor plants that are beyond help after this particular burst of bad weather.  I’m not sure how much longer I can keep reaching into my spares as they are starting to become worse for wear in their small pots.   If we get another storm like this one I may just have to cut my losses for some of the plants.

broken tomato

I am sad to report there has been some damage to the tomatoes… nothing that will kill the entire plant, but a limb here and there is still disappointing.

The long range forecast is suggesting scorching temperatures and dry spells for this summer which at this point being warm and dry sounds amazing, but ask me again when we’re in the middle of it.   They are also saying the rainfall might be more than average for our area.  So it is supposed to be hot and dry and wet?!  I guess the rainy days will come as a relief from the hot and dry.   The other aspect of the hot and dry is we have so much water stored away that keeping the garden hydrated won’t be a problem so one less thing to worry about.

collapsed corn

It is hard to tell which way the wind was blowing when I found these young corn plants in a fallen embrace.

Although we are at the start of a new season, we are also at the start of the run up to Christmas.  For me this is normally just a mad panic two weeks out from the big day, but this year I am determined to be more intentional about it.  If we look at advent, which I realise I’m about a week late to start at the right time, but I’ve had a few things going on; the first stage is about Hope and as a gardener I am all over this one.  We start the season with hope that this will be a good one and even as we start summer with a dark and gloomy day I still have hope that there will be a bright future ahead for me and my garden.

Californian poppy

The weather is so gloomy all of the daytime opening flowers are barely showing their faces, like this Californian poppy

If it wasn’t for hope, the life of the gardener would be trepidatious as there is so much that can go wrong, from the wind snapping your plants, to the pests and diseases that silently invade and destroy.  It would be tempting to say why bother when the risks are so high.  But the rewards are worth it and as gardeners we spend the whole time fixated on the end result.  In the depths of winter we can visualise the harvest and imagine the beautiful blooms.

GARDENA Aquabloom

I have more than enough water to keep the GARDENA Aquabloom busy hydrating my container plants with its solar powered pump.

In the spring we work hard to set the wheels in motion for the bountiful rewards and push past the blisters on our hands and ache in our back.  Summer is where it is at, and we appreciate the warming summer sun kissing our plants and giving them life.

gherkin flower

The wind bashing hasn’t deterred this brave gherkin plant from hanging in there and behaving like tomorrow is a given. I have no doubt I will be pickling gherkins in the very near future.

And as we head into autumn as the sun fades away, we linger in the glow of what we have achieved and look forward to trusting and hoping that next season will be just as marvellous as all the hard times are banished from our memories.    A constant hope is what keeps gardeners going.

pepper plant

In spite of everything this pepper plant is doing well and full of hope and promise with its many flowers that will turn into an abundant harvest before too long.

And with that I’m going to head into the greenhouse to sow some succession seeds because if we just take from the garden without giving back then we run out of good fortune.

Come again soon – it has to get better – hopefully.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

This is not what I was expecting

Coming back to the garden after such a long time out of it feels weird.   It isn’t helped by the weather.  We are just three days away from the start of the meteorological summer and to be honest it feels like the early days of spring.  Instead of slowly raising the temperatures and increasing the sunshine, the season seems to be stuck in some kind of holding pattern from early spring.  As I write this the temperature gauge only just moved to 17°C and I’m still wearing socks, a warm jumper and a scarf.  I’ll probably shed most of them as the day wears on,  but I certainly won’t be switching out for shorts and a tee-shirt anytime soon.

The view

The view from the office is encouraging, there is plenty of life out there to be seen.

The garden is doing its thing and growing.  There are obvious signs of change since I left the garden.  You can’t miss the blush starting out on the first tomatoes and when looking out the office window there is more green from the foliage than brown from bare earth – I must get onto mulching.

Red tomato

I wasn’t expecting to see red tomatoes so soon!

But it is the mindset I am struggling with.  My brain is telling me it is nearly summer, and it should be warmer and nicer.  But confronted with the reality of the weather, my default is it is too cold and miserable to possibly garden and the temptation is to sit it out until the weather improves.  But then I need to remind myself that just a month or so ago, I would have relished this kind of weather.  It would have made a break from actual cold weather that was closer to freezing than anything remotely considered warm.  In the early spring I would have valiantly raced out between showers, making the most of the moments of good weather.

blueberries

Some things just carried on regardless if I was there or not, although I will need to net these blueberries to ensure I get a harvest when the time is right!

So, in a slow and steady approach I will find my feet again, in spite of the weather, and reacquaint myself with this wonderful garden I have created.  I will greet each plant and inquire how it is doing, so that the familiarity like an old glove returns.    There isn’t much needed to restore order, thanks to my Handy Helper, for which I am extremely grateful.  So, as I head into the new season this garden will once again become everything I need it to be, for my own wellbeing but also to the benefit of my family as the storehouse slowly refills with seasonal goodness to be saved for a truly cold and rainy day

Come again soon – the weather may be strange, but I need to ignore that and carry on.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

I didn’t intend to leave you so long

There has been a lot going on since I last chatted with you.   Just re-reading my last post, brought back all the feels – the nerves, the determination, the long, long list of things to do, and the excitement.  There was so much ahead and a lot of it was unknown.  But now it is all behind me and I look back and wonder how I did it all and remembering with fondness that I had an absolute blast.  So, to bring you up to speed….

The garden all planted out

The garden all planted out and reluctantly left to cope alone.

Firstly, I managed to get the garden and my office clean and tidy and planted out in good time. This took me a little by surprise because while in the midst of it, it didn’t seem possible!   I kept back a spare set of everything for just in case and then offered all of my other spares to the lovely gardeners from the garden club that arrived by bus to visit my garden.    Any spare seedlings at the end of day were given to my neighbour, who will probably end up with a better outcome than me, however his garden is further back from the coast and much more sheltered.  Besides comparison is the thief of joy and I’m just pleased my little green babies went off to a good home.

Chantecler

Chantecler was the kind of garden where it seemed everything grew magnificently in a perfect microclimate.

All the while, I was also preparing for my big trip that was to whisk me away from the garden for 20 days.  There was a lot to be done as I was to take up my role as a botanical tour guide for Botanica World Discoveries, hosting our travelling garden loving guests across the country exploring the best gardens New Zealand has to offer.  There were two tours under my care – the Taranaki Garden Spectacular & Private Gardens tour and the Private Gardens and Landscapes tour which ran back to back.

Barewood Garden

The fabulous Barewood Garden with its beautiful hawthorn walk in full bloom.

Ohinetahi

There was a great used of magnificent structures in the garden at Ohinetahi

All up over 20 days we visited 34 absolutely amazing gardens and travelled the length of the country, starting in Taranaki, down to Wellington, Marlborough, Christchurch, Dunedin, Queenstown and then up to Hamilton and Auckland.  The interesting thing is each garden was different.  I was worried that I would get ‘cathedraled out’.  When I was a lot younger and did my OE in Europe we saw so many cathedrals.  The first one was awe inspiringly majestic, but towards the end they all seemed to have a same same familiarity about them.  But with the gardens, it wasn’t like that at all.  And to be honest I would be hard pushed to name a favourite.

Castlemaine

Castlemaine Garden was one of my many favourites. There was such a welcoming peace about it

There were some stand out gardens though.  The stunning weather with classical music piped through the garden at Castlemaine Garden near Lumsden had a peace and elegance about it that we were all reluctant to leave.   The Italianate styling of Casa Rossa just out of Christchurch was so full of life, it felt like you were being embraced in a horticultural hug!

Cassa Rosa

Casa Rossa was a garden full to the brim with stunning vistas

But it wasn’t just the gardens that made it special, but the gardeners themselves, many who generously hosted us with a guided tour through their life’s work.  You could just feel the passion and love beaming from them as they spoke about their gardens.   Notable hosts were having lunch with the fabulous Josie Martin from the Giants House in Akaroa where her art blended fabulously into the garden, and dining in style at Larnach Castle with the elegantly graceful Mrs Barker who also showed us around her magnificent garden perched on the top of the windswept hill.  But everyone else was also so lovely, but that goes without saying as gardeners are the nicest people.

The Giants House

Mosaic sculptures at The Giants House burst with life in the garden packed full of interest at every turn.

Upon returning home, we were supposed to head back down to Wellington for a wedding, however dreaded lurgy I’ve been trying to avoid for the last few years came knocking on my door.  Fortunately, I wasn’t struck down too badly, but it did mean my poor garden didn’t get the homecoming love it deserved, but rather my absence for yet another week.  Having said that, had I been well, it wouldn’t have been any different as the weather was just persistent and torrential rain for the full seven days I was required to stay at home.

Larnach Castle

It was a joy and a pleasure to share a meal at Larnach Castle

Larnach Castle

It was even more of a pleasure to be escorted around the castle grounds by Mrs Barker who pointed out everything she loved about the garden.

The combination of the bad weather and the dreaded lurgy meant the open garden day I foolishly planned for the first weekend home had to be cancelled.  It was probably just as well.  But as there was so much interest, we’ve rescheduled and so the new date for the open day is the 21st Jan 2023.  There should be just the right amount of time after the summer holiday to restore order and have the garden looking its best before the season turns and things start to wane.  I am a sucker for punishment really.  But with a deadline there remains a need to keep the garden looking its best and you can’t beat that kind of panic driven motivation to stay on top of things.

Trotts Garden

The brightly painted accents really made the plants pop in the red border at Trotts Garden.

Ohinetahi

There was a great use of magnificent structures in the garden at Ohinetahi

The weather now is easing, but as I write this it is still a bit blowy straight off the ocean.  I took some slow and tentative steps into the garden with my Handy Helper and we did what we could to begin to restore order.  To be fair it wasn’t really that bad, nothing that a bit of pottering about in the next week or so won’t fix.  The garden is resilient, and the season will be what it is.  Each season is different and an opportunity to learn and grow and even after all these years, it is good to let the garden show you something new.

My Garden

And home to my Garden, which seemed to cope well enough without me, which came as a great relief.

And so there you have it, the last few weeks have been a crazy whirlwind and now it is back to normal as we head into Christmas and all that the festive season brings.

Come again soon – sometimes a normal ordinary routine is just what is needed.

Sarah the Gardener  : o)

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