The Garden, Oh the Garden – Part 2: The plants!


As I sit here lamenting another wet day in Sydney (it has seriously felt like it has not stopped raining in Sydney for the last year!) I take solace in the fact that my plants will be happy. If you read part 1 of this series, you will know that I have removed a lot of stuff from my garden – weeds. Now I want to talk about what makes many gardener’s hearts skip with joy: the chance to create a garden through planting.

Before travelling and having children I worked as a bush regenerator. It was a job I enjoyed and the study and practice of bush regeneration made me very snooty about anything other than native plants. Not only native, but locally indigenous. At my parent’s house (I lived in an apartment) I sought to create this bush garden paradise, but my parents sold their house and I never really got to see the garden established.

Now I don’t hold such snooty ideals. When I realised that after my labour of weed removal, I would be able to treat myself to new plants, I immediately set off to a commercial nursery, rather than the community nursery I would have once shopped at. Over the last year or so, whenever I go to a nursery, I am like a child in a toy shop. I have a skip in my step and I am simply overwhelmed by all the choices. I fill my trolley with all sorts of goodies and I have to admit, a lot of flowering plants. After I lived in a desert surrounded by nothing but buildings and sand, I really felt like having colour and beautiful flowers around me.  Unfortunately a lot of nurseries are a bit far for me to travel to, so a lot of my plants have been bought at the local Bunnings, where there isn’t the most amazing variety. I know that my husband always gets nervous when I tell him I’m going to Bunnings, because he knows that some hundreds of dollars will be billed onto the credit card!

I once used to scoff at gardens like mine as being ‘so typical’. Now I love these ‘typical’ features. I did try and rectify this recently by participating in my Council’s ‘Backyard Habitat’ program. I have to admit though that a lot of my native plants have been removed or not survived the 15cm mulch accidentally placed over them (more on that later).

So what have I planted? Christmas Bush (Ceratopetalum gummiferum), Magnolia, Cammelias, Star Jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides), some succulants, lavenders, roses, Rhododendron, kangaroo paws (Heamodoracae), Westringia, Grevillea, bottlebrush (Callistemon), some Cordylines, small ficus plants, and flowers like petunias and pansies. While this is not a comprensive list, it gives you an idea of the type of things I’ve planted.

Now that it is nearing summer, I have been able to observe the plants over the year and also the movement of the sun over the seasons. I now know where in my garden consistently gets sun and where it is always shaded.  I have an idea of the type of planting I want and where.

I do admit however, that I am not so good yet at all the things I have to do to maintain the plants, but as this is the first year, I think I will learn these skills in the years to come.

Here are some photos of before and after the new plants… if only it would be a little sunny, so I could go out and sit to enjoy these beauties!

Before – overgrown with sgraggly azaleas, privet and cassia


After – cleared out and more modern
Before – Front of the house
After – Pink Kangaroo Paw. Not all of my kangaroo paws have survived, but these are doing well.
This Ficus ‘alley’ was an investment, but it does make the entrance to the house look so much better than before.
These Rhododendruns are gorgeous!
My poor Natives corner has seen better days. This is my next project!


After – Star Jasmine likes its new spot. I had it somewhere else and it was struggling, then I moved it here by this fence…I think it’s happy!


Lavendar is one of my favourite scents. I just love the smell of lavendar and mine thankfully for now, are thriving.
The rainforest I’ve created under my lemon tree. This part of the garden is always shaded, so the ferns and bromeliades like it here.


The Garden, Oh the Garden Part 1: The weeds!

As I sit here nursing my ganglion cyst, I ponder on what may have caused this strange knob to appear on my wrist. While I know that these things happen – my theory is my garden!

My garden has been my project since moving back. While living overseas my father maintained the garden to a degree, by mowing the lawn and general upkeep. Before I arrived my mum spent hours trying to make it presentable to me.  Well once I arrived, I was initially pleasantly surprised. Soon however, the true nature of my garden began to present itself to me. The main culprit was the ‘un-killable’ weed – Peruvian Lilly (Alstroemeria aurea). It had never been properly removed and had taken over my garden, getting in all sorts of crevices, under paving, walls, bricks etc and so began my battle to correct this.

A pretty, but very persistent weed
I haven’t been able to eradicate the weed becuase its tubers are sometimes hard to take out, especially when they get tangled amonst other plant roots.

When I attended a composting workshop run by my local Council, the presenter (Peter Rutherford) encouraged us to enjoy the diversity of our garden and while this flower may look pretty in photographs and I might have one day even looked upon it fondly while walking the Inca Trail in Peru (or as some would call it the Quechua trail because the Incans never walked the trail, but were carried by the Quechuans), I knew that it had no place in my garden.

I have often wondered about what makes a weed a weed – like why did I have this reaction to this flower (my husband thought it looked nice – much to my horror!) and my thought is that weeds generally are not happy inhabiting their little niche area – they have to take over everything. Like this Peruvian Lily. If it was in a small part of the garden I would have not gotten so worked up, but no, it had to try and take over the whole garden and I wanted to do other things with those spaces and there lies my definition of a weed.

This weed spreads by these bobbules as I call them, which are water filled tubers. They break off easily and you need to get every damn one out, because each one is a new plant. Over the last year I have spent hours and I mean hours over weekdays and weekends tracing, digging and pulling this weed out. It has at times felt like the un-winnable war. Like there has been a standoff between me and this plant.  I have tried to like it – have tried to not care about it so that I may enjoy some time with my kids over the weekend, but I have always been itching to get to the garden to pull this weed out. I have dug, pulled, poisoned (does not work) and covered this weed. After nearly one year, I can claim some success.  It is still around, but much less so.  Some of the other weeds that have also called my garden their home include:

  • Privet;
  • Asthma weed;
  • Ochna;
  • Cassia (Senna pendula);
  • Turkey Rubarb (Acetosa sagittata) another killer weed I spent many hours digging up;
  • Tradescantia.

While all of these have presented their own special challenges (and still do), they are now manageable.

As I look across my mostly Peruvian Lily free garden, what do I see? Neater and tidier garden beds, vegetables and kangaroo paws and other native plants. So while I sometimes questioned my own sanity, I think it was worth the very hard work over the last year.

This is part one of my garden journey over the last year. Stay in touch to hear more from my garden adventures.

This was taken while my house was being rented. My previous tenants weren’t into gardening much. When I moved back, I have to say it didn’t look this bad – largely thanks to my wonderful parents. The weeds were there though, underground and lurking to pop up when given the chance!
I removed all the Turkey Rubarb, then planted with some hardy natives, mulched and scored these figurines from my mother’s old shop. Looks totally different to the way it once was.

I am yet to learn the art of taking care of roses, but a prune over winter and some love, organic fertiliser and much rain has yeilded me these beauties. They smell just like rose water and fill the backyard with such a beautiful scent. I say roses need to smell and mine do thankfully!