Often when I go outside, I’m not looking for a Big Garden Job – spreading trailer loads of mulch, laying paving, getting up in a tree to take out the dead-wood. Most of the time I drift about in a happy daze doing a bit of this, and a bit of that. And if I think about what I’ve done later that day, none of it seems remotely impressive. I mean, only another gardener would appreciate that I’d taken 45 minutes to wash and rearrange the pebble mulch on my succulent pots. But that doesn’t bother me because I suspect I’m not alone in what I get up to. I think there are many of us who open our doors, sniff the air, and with a dreamy look on our faces head out into our little green worlds, stumbling across bits and pieces to do. Here’s what I get up to…
Furniture arranging: When I step out into my back garden it’s through the door that leads onto this deck. Which is why I often do a little creative furniture arranging. And before you say, “But that’s not gardening!” I’ll say yes it is, and that’s because it’s the garden that dictates how best to set up the furniture each time. My kit consists of a table, teak bench and a few school chairs, as well as some soft furnishings that I stow out of sight behind the couch in the TV room. In this version (just below) most of the sitters have their backs to the house, faces to the sun and a view of the pond (out of sight at left). In the next one below, the table has been wedged under the kitchen’s serving window. This is a better option for when the weather is warm, the window can sit open all day, and the food and drink can be handed through.
Sweeping moss: A major part of gardening is about maintenance. I think of it a bit like house cleaning outdoors and luckily, I like cleaning. I’ve been doggedly cultivating moss between these round paving stones (below) for several years now – collecting fresh moss from between the cobbles of the laneway behind our house to fill the gaps. The trouble is, when I’d later sweep the pavers, I’d end up undoing all my hard work. Until I found this Vietnamese grass broom. It’s so soft and yet it picks up every stray leaf. (I now use one inside too, for the dust bunnies under the beds.)
Miniature maintenance. I like losing myself in this little job. This (above) is the dolls house garden that I planted years ago so my two girls would have somewhere to take their dolls-house families for some fresh air. The dolls houses are now at the back of their wardrobes, but the garden grows on with regular maintenance from me. Not that there’s much to do and most of it can be done one-handed with a cup of tea in the other. Note the strange tweezers: they are the best tool ever for picking out the dead leaves and I keep them hung ever-ready from the ‘branches’ of the jade plant ‘tree’.
Garden ornaments. I have two nieces who hang out in my garden and when they’ve left I find evidence of the time they’ve spent. My watering kettles will be filled with nasturtium petals; my beach finds organized as part of some game. And before I know it, the way they experience the garden has infected me and I find myself carefully sweeping the log seat (above) and making my own arrangement while I sit in the sun. Here below is another example of garden ornamentation… a collection of things that are rubbish to some but treasure to me. A succulent in a shell, two shards of blue & white pottery dug up at some point, a horseshoe, a potted Amazonian nut. They sit on a narrow shelf I made in a minute by nailing a short plank to the railing of our paling fence.
Wind gardening. Ok, that’s just a fancy name I’ve made up to explain why I hang things that make noise in the wisteria that covers the front veranda. I’ve clusters of oyster shells that rattle in the breeze, a tiny Japanese prayer bell that sounds a wistful note, this sheep’s bell from Greece (see below) and the flattened cutlery wind chime that my father gave me. Gardening is all about enjoying dimensions of experience and I’ve added sound to my garden’s colour, scent, light and shade.
Simply digging. What’s the first thing you can remember doing in the garden. Digging around in the soil? Looking for the little critters that live in it, or maybe you were just enjoying turning things over so the dark dirt ended up on top? That’s what I still like to do and what I plan to do in a minute when I’ve finished this. I’ll walk out my back door, across my back deck, and head off into the veggie patch where I’ll pick up my Asian hoe and start scratching. Yes it keeps the weeds under control but in my tiny raised-bed patch it’s more about letting my mind drift off happily for a few minutes…