A Paradise in Gardening

Lovely tangle of green

Lovely tangle of green


Now that we had a few drops of rain with the heat in retreat, my attention has gone away from watching the spinning electric fan to the outside world. Watching a spinning fan is not as riveting as watching a petrol bowser ticking over, but someone has to do it.

Heat does that to you. It befuddles and temporarily anesthetises the brain. My Dutch cool climate gene is not helpful. Watching the protestors in tropical Thailand, all in turmoil, shouting and waving flags by millions proves it. Heat doesn’t slow them at all. That’s why in the cool west we protest by doing gardening. Nothing relieves the tension of a terminal protestor or the eternal curmudgeon than observing the growth of an ‘Ice-berg’ lettuce. Has anyone ever read the books or seen the gardens of Sissinghurst Castle in Kent created by Vita Sackville-West and her husband Harold Nicolson?

the 'blues'.

the ‘blues’.

Our son bought us a couple of carnivorous plants. They are supposed to eat insects. Our grandsons were fascinated by them and roamed the room seeking to kill flies. They finally got one and fed the poor blighter inside their trumpet like plant foliage. Nothing happened and I said that they weren’t very hungry yet. When they went to bed I took the body of the fly out and told the grandsons next morning that the plant must have had a very nice evening meal. “I even put some salt on the fly for taste, I added.” Lately they have been suspicious of my silly answers but what can you do? They are growing up. Already at the mercy of lying adults! My grandsons are learning fast from their duplicitous grand-dad! Anyway, those plants do devour insects by some kind of acidic process. It’s not as if you can actually hear them chewing. You can’t feed them mice or a King rat for instance.

I remember my dad doing the gardening in Australia. The merciless heat and rock hard soil. He would hack away at it for months, years. The parrots and rosellas laughing in the background. The drone of insects and then droughts. My mother saw gardens more for relieving the stress on her wallet. She was forever hopeful of free vegetables. If a flower did finely rear its head, out came her knife and into the vase and on the coffee table it went.

DSCN2874

His tomatoes had worms and so did the cabbages, as well as anything else that happened to survive the parrots. He threw nets over the fruit trees with complete scaffolding all planked out in case the fruit-fly dared to lay its eggs on the flowers. Week-ends were spent on spraying expensive potions containing arsenic looking green liquids. The parrots would calmly and defiantly land on the nets and eat his fruit through the netting. It was all so bloody hard.
Poor dad.

Our garden is Helvi’s domain and what a world it has become. Paradise would not even begin to describe it. We were fortunate that previous owners hadn’t cut the large bay trees that hides the boundary-fence and gives us a feeling of a natural enclosure, a safe and secure protection against elements. Not that we expect a bow and arrow wild man to appear but it does give an aura of a boundless nature plot, a jungle, however small it actually is. Things are allowed to grow without restraints or discipline.

The result of liming the acidic soil helped together with tons of bark-mulch and shredded sugar cane with chicken poo added over the three years that we have lived here.

Milo has his eye on you!

Milo has his eye on you!

One great bonus has to be the alertness of our JRT ‘the one and only called ‘Milo’. Not a single rosella or parrot, crow or myna dares to even think about landing here. Milo is there his beady eyes skywards with strong intent to murder. All the birds know and warn each other. Possums, the same but at night. Milo is there on watch. There will be blood on the streets or grass. The word has got around.

If dad would only have had a Milo, his garden would have been a great success.

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13 Responses to “A Paradise in Gardening”

  1. petspeopleandlife Says:

    Really enjoyed reading about the “fly trap” and telling your grandson a little fib. But where oh where are more photos of Helvi’s garden? I wish you would do more about the garden and all the kinds of plants that are growing there. Three photos merely whet my appetite for more of the beauty. Nice post, Gerard. I liked this one a lot.

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  2. Andrew Says:

    I love gardening but I just don’t have green fingers. The tropics are nice but really tough on some of my favourites, hydrangeas, roses and honeysuckle. A JRT seems to be the perfect gardener’s tool. Well done Milo.

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    • gerard oosterman Says:

      We are fortunate to live 800 meters above the sea. So a rather cooler climate to say Sydney. We are also blessed with a normal rainfall and lots of soft downy fogs rolling down and over the hills.
      Honeysuckle thrives here. I gave Milo an extra chicken neck compliments from Andrew and Hong Kong.

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  3. Lottie Nevin Says:

    Now that we have a Colin Snout in our life (a spanish version of Milo) I can quite see why Milo is so excellent at getting rid of non-invited guests. C.Snout is constantly on the alert for any bird, cat, dog, insect that so much as puts a foot, paw or wing into our yard. What a shame that your ma and pa didn’t have a dog, it would have saved them a lot of trouble. I’ve not been to the gardens at Sissinghurst, but I’ve heard that they are very beautiful. I’ve read quite a number of Vita Sackville-West’s books though, I admire her writing. Andrew is right, the tropics are wonderful for growing plants but when we lived there, I did get homesick for roses and honeysuckle, it’s funny how even in paradise there are things that we miss. I hope that Helvi’s garden continues to blossom and grow, it looks enchanting and keep feeding flies to the plants! You are wonderfully duplicitous Opa!

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    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, while we lust after warmth and sunshine, the tropics is not for roses or honeysuckle. We are higher up and have the ideal climate for gardens. We don’t grow roses. They have flowers for a short time but the thorns keep ripping you up when weeding or even walking past them.
      H has mainly grown our tiny plot by grabbing bits from other gardens on our daily walks and sticking the branches in some water till they root.
      We are not too fussed with trimming and ‘tidying’. Your garden on the photos look lovely.
      My parents did have a dog, a cattle dog. They want to chase cattle and not birds or possums.

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  4. hilarycustancegreen Says:

    It looks fabulous. I do feel great sympathy for your parents and their gardening. Even in my parent’s lush south England garden, we’d be de-bugging our greens as we ate them. And I can still remember the stink of the potions my father sprayed on the roses.

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    • gerard oosterman Says:

      Yes, to start a garden fresh, like my parents did is very hard. I don’t think a single tomato was ever grown without a worm nor a cabbage that did not have some kind of worm or serpent crawling about within the leaves.
      When they went back to Holland he had a small ‘folk-garden’ that many in Holland can hire cheaply from the local council and was far more successful in growing things. It was so much easier

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  5. berlioz1935 Says:

    I’m a city boy and gardening is for…..well, for others. We have tried but the plants we seeded or planted have gone quickly to the big compost heap in the sky. Nothing growth that I touch. Just in case it gets over the first hurdles the fruit flies laughing their heads off. We know what your father went through. But everyone told us you only need to but a stick in the ground and it will grow. Not so.

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  6. gerard oosterman Says:

    Gardening in Australia is a difficult thing to achieve. We seem to spend more on potions and soil improvement products than we ever get in what the garden produces.
    Here in the Highlands things are a lot easier, very good volcanic soil and less bugs or flies. We have almost all the herbs we need for cooking. We love sitting in between all the greenery. It is heaven!
    A good dog is essential too.

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    • auntyuta Says:

      It does indeed sound like heaven, Gerard.
      Peter in his comment makes it sound as though nothing at all is growing in our backyard. But as I probably mentioned before, we still have a lot of plants and trees surrounding us, a bit like part of a jungle. We like sitting outside in the shade of the trees. I call it our little paradise. But Peter is right: When we plant something that needs a bit of cultivation, such as good soil preparation, constant watering and so on and we get into trouble, for we never take enough care of what we planted. Or maybe we are sheer unlucky that any tomato plants or herbs are going to thrive for a very brief period only. Apparently neither Peter nor I have a green thumb! But Peter spreads worm poo from our worm farm everywhere! That is why or shrubs and trees grow for ever and ever and Peter needs constantly to do a lot of trimming otherwise our house would completely be taken over by the vegetation!🙂

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      • gerard oosterman Says:

        Yes, Auntyuta,
        I always see your photos depicting greenery and I am sure you both enjoy looking at nature. The easiest is to let things grow, especially native trees. It can get out of hand though.
        We are getting a professional tree contractor in to cut down the tops of some trees that are towering over our roofs. They are Manchurian pear trees that grow fast and very big. They are deciduous and turn a lovely golden mauve in Autumn.
        Our bay trees are also as high as the roof but they don’t grow any higher and give us good protection. They keep the frost away from things that grow beneath them such as the Clivia.

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  7. kaytisweetlandrasmussen83 Says:

    Love the idea of Milo standing guard in your beautiful garden. We finally got a few drops of rain (the first this year) yesterday, but it is gone again. Our garden is in sad shape from the bitter cold a week or so ago, and now it is Spring weather. Maybe I’ll plant rocks.

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