"Touring the garden"

It's exciting to see the garden again after being away.
Sunday, 05 December 2021     

Mopheaded Hydrangea

Recently we went away on an interstate trip for the first time in more than two years, to attend a family wedding. It was a delightful holiday. But I had forgotten how exciting it is to get home from such a journey and to do the 'tour' of the garden to see how it had got on during our absence. This is something I have always done, sometimes conducting the tour by torchlight if we arrive home at night. I like to peer at every garden bed in detail as I walk slowly round my garden, deep in thought. It always amazes me how much can happen in a garden in the space of a week or so. In this case, our trip coincided with lots of rain in Sydney, which accelerated the changes.

I had departed from a late spring garden, but I returned to one that was well and truly in early summer mode. There was an abundance of lush, green growth - especially on the lawn! The dainty-flowered annuals, perennials and shrubs had gracefully bowed out and in their place were the dramatic rounded heads of Hydrangea macrophylla and Agapanthus. Probably due to all the rain and generally cooler weather, the Hydrangea seem the best they have been for years - with numerous heads so full and plump. The Agapanthus also seem particularly floriferous this year and it's satisfying to see the kewpie doll-shaped buds open into blue or white starbursts.

Warm-climate perennials such as Dahlia and Canna had begun to bloom in earnest. I love seeing the fresh, new foliage of Dahlia as they emerge and fill in, and then watching the buds unfurl. I found quite a few flowers as I did the tour. This year I have a couple of new ones, courtesy of a friend, which added to the thrill. Dahlia and Canna make such a statement in the garden all through summer and come in such an enormous range of hues to suit every colour scheme.

Bold, self-seeding summer annuals have also taken centre stage: most noticeably the tall Amaranthus species and Cleome hassleriana. I also have many self-seeded plants of Salvia splendens in colours of pink, red and purple, and though treated as annuals, they form sturdy soft-wooded shrubs that bloom all summer and into autumn. The gorgeous blue-flowered Browallia americana are also starting to flower. It self-seeds throughout my garden and will flower until winter.

Warm-climate foliage plants are also in full swing now. Before I left on the trip, they were just starting to get going again - they tend to sulk in the cooler months - but now they are robust and healthy, and providing rich shapes, colours and textures to the garden. Some of my favourites are coleus, Iresine, Strobilanthes dyerana, Plectranthus argentatus and Alternanthera. They provide interest for months on end and give many possibilities to create 'colour echoes' in the garden.

My little veggie garden had also romped away over the week, with the beans climbing to dizzying heights, and zucchinis and cucumbers covered in baby fruit and many flowers. The plants themselves seemed to have doubled in size! I find myself more and more intrigued with growing edibles as each year passes and sometimes dream of converting the whole garden to them!

I was also curious to see whether the various plants I had hastily planted at the last minute had got on. I had tried to reduce the number of potted plants in my propagating area prior to our departure and in the end was just shoving them in any old space I could find. Normally, I agonise for ages wondering where is the absolute best spot for them. The more spontaneous approach can result in some unexpected successes, though it always makes me vow not to strike so many cuttings in the first place to have to find homes for before going away on a trip!

There are usually some less pleasant discoveries in the garden tour - places where the brush turkeys have dug up the soil (and often plants); the growth of huge weeds, due to all the rain; and a proliferation of hideous black stink bugs on our lemon tree. Also, sometimes seeing the garden with new eyes after being away makes you realise some plants are definitely in the wrong place and need moving - if not now, then next autumn or winter - or else they are not really thriving at all and maybe should be removed altogether. It's worth doing the tour with a notepad in hand to record your thoughts.

Reconnecting with our gardens after being away is one of the joys of gardening, and makes us realise how much our gardens mean to us!

 Reader Comments

1/15  Janna - UK Monday, 06 December 2021

I love the reconnecting walk too! Glad you managed to get away. Can't believe how early things are (Dahlia???), even allowing for the six month difference. It all looks fabulous! Thanks, Janna. Yes everything is very advanced this year as we have had lots of (too much now) rain. Deirdre

2/15  Shaun - 2075 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 06 December 2021

A delight to come home to!! 'mes mauvais herbes' (WEEDS!) are also in lush tropical growth after that La Nina bounty!! and on it goes, Shaun Hoping we might get some sun next week! Deirdre

3/15  Jude - 4560 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 06 December 2021

Lovely to hear of your garden reconnecting, Deirdre! No flowers yet on my hydrangeas in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland but I'm so happy they've survived! They were very old and woody when we took over this garden two years ago and I wasn't sure what to do. Tried hard pruning, which resulted in some green leaves and a few flowers. This year my husband sawed them off at the base. We expected to have to dig them out later, but instead we have two fine bushes! Happy 2022, and thanks for your blogs. Great result for your hydrangeas! Deirdre

4/15  Janice - 2069 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 06 December 2021

Thankyou Deirdre, I look forward to sharing with you again next year. Janice 2069 Thanks so much, Janice. All the best. Deirdre

5/15  Kerrie - 2104 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 06 December 2021

Spoken like a true gardener! Your blog made me smile :-) Thanks, Kerrie! Deirdre

6/15  Margaret - 2113 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 06 December 2021

Really loved this tour or your garden, as I do all your articles. Have a wonderful Christmas and I look forward to your blogs in the new year. Thanks so much, Margaret. Deirdre

7/15  Georgina - 2076 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 06 December 2021

Thank you Deirdre for another wonderful year of information and reflections on gardening. I look forward to next years articles. Have a great Christmas . Georgina Thanks so much, Georgina. Deirdre

8/15  Jean - 4035 (Zone:11A - Sub-tropical) Monday, 06 December 2021

Deidre, you have a beautiful garden! I love it! Thank you, Jean! Deirdre

9/15  Pam - 2159 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 06 December 2021

Deirdre, I always do a tour of the garden when I return home too. Yes, the hydrangeas are beautiful this year after the rains. I too get Stink Bugs on my citrus trees, but vacuum them off with the handheld part of my vacuum cleaner with a tube attachment attached. It is an excellent job for my husband to do as he can reach further! We dump them out into the red garbage bin, spray with fly spray and close the lid. Try to do each morning for a week or so. Such a good idea re stink bugs; we are doing the same thing this year. Deirdre

10/15  Hanni - 2134 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 06 December 2021

Dear Deirdre, you write exactly what most of us gardeners feel! I do the same thing coming back from a trip, suitcase still unpacked, walking around in the garden, surprised, delighted, sometimes disappointed, making mental notes of what has to be done . Thank you for all your well written blogs and the myriad of information you give us so generously! Have a wonderful Christmas and a great new year! Thanks so much, Hanni! All the best. Deirdre

11/15  Sue - 2074 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Tuesday, 07 December 2021

It's always nice to come back to the garden after a break and yours looks lovely. The rain has certainly made a difference to many plants - the hydrangeas in local gardens are stunning this year. My white is the best it's ever been with ginormous heads. Thanks for your enjoyable blogs for 2021, wishing you and your family a happy Christmas. Thanks, Sue. Yes I have seen some enormous hydrangea heads in gardens this year. Deirdre

12/15  Margaret - 2122 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Wednesday, 08 December 2021

Love meandering in the garden as well, there is always something to find, sometimes unexpected, sometimes a treasure. The rain has made all plants grow so well, with the liliums, hydrangeas, cannas, dahlias, buddlejas, and snapdragons, beans and cucumber all performing well. Your garden must be a picture, Margaret! Deirdre

13/15  Carmel - 2219 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Wednesday, 08 December 2021

Thank you so much for all your lovely blogs. I really enjoy them so much. Best wishes for a very happy Christmas and a healthy New Year filled with garden joy! Carmel Thanks for your kind comments. All the best. Deirdre

14/15  Betty - 3104 (Zone:10 - Mediteranean) Wednesday, 08 December 2021

Still experiencing cool weather in Melbourne so the Hydrangeas love it. Recently went to the Wimmera - Mallee area of Victoria and have never seen so many roses - every garden had them in abundance - many in standard form. Thank you for your 'blogs' Deidre and Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year to all! Thanks so much, Betty. Those roses sound wonderful! Deirdre

15/15  Valerie - 2121 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Friday, 10 December 2021

It is raining again as I write this which is wonderful after those years of heat and drought, even in Sydney. The hydrangeas this year seem to be larger and more intensely coloured. And yes, the weeding goes on. Thank you for your year of blogs Deidre. Best wishes for a happy Christmas and New Year in your garden. Thanks, Valerie. I agree this is a wonderful year for hydrangeas (and weeds!). Deirdre

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