The humbling

We’re lazy gardeners in Australia.  If we were willing to work half as hard as English gardeners to overcome the disadvantages of our climate while really celebrating its overwhelming advantages, we’d have incredible gardens.

Part of the issue is that it is so easy to garden that we’ve never been fired with the ‘sieze the day’ mentality that harsher climate impose.

In both France and North America I’ve stumbled on flower markets like this in early summer (image above) – full of stuff at the point of bloom, which they cram into their gardens/pots/hanging baskets for the few frost-free months of summer and early autumn.  The attitude is that if we can only get a few months of colour, then nothing other than a floral orgy is going to cut it.

At Niagara-on-the-Lake it’s teeth-shatteringly cold in winter.  Nothing much wants to grow there then.  But in autumn, it’s berserk (above).  OK, you don’t want your garden looking like that, and neither do I, really, but you simply can’t underestimate the difficulty level of these effects, or the sheer determination it takes to achieve them, and then wonder what we could do if we were prepared to work that hard…

At Butchart in October, I saw a team of gardeners shoving in loads of bare-rooted chrysanthemums in full bud.  They’d been grown on out near the carpark, then lifted, lightly shaken of soil, and transplanted.  I questioned whether it was at all worthwhile, when frost was surely just around the corner.  They looked at me as if I was talking abject nonsense. “If the weather’s favourable, we’ll get a good three weeks out of these!”

That’s my favourite kind of humbling.


  1. Saw your new book at Berkelouw’s in Paddington – looks gorgeous. I’ll be adding it to my Xmas wishlist. Also adding you to my blogroll. Cheers.

    1. Hey, thanks! Plum (Pan Mac) have done a lovely job with it. It has been a long time coming, but all the better for the extended gestation period..

  2. And to think all these years I assumed the English could come up with those magnificent hanging baskets because of some quirk of climate. You mean to say it’s actually something they work at???

    1. Oh yeah, they work at it alright. In Victoria, BC, Canada the outrageously explosive hanging baskets, the contents of which are touching the ground by the end of the season, are watered with a dilute liquid feed every….single….day.

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