Gardening revolutions not resolutions in Canberra in 2022 | The Canberra Times

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“I, Jackie French, solemnly promise not to plant any more fruit trees in the coming year …” Except, of course, that resolution lapsed every time I made it. I have not regretted a single failure. If I hadn’t thrown out those resolutions I wouldn’t now have plumcots, which taste like apricots but resist fruit fly, or our native limes, nor would we have had our first crop of dates in the oven heat of 2018-2019’s summer, a joy and a wonder. Why on earth did I ever make a resolution to stop doing something I love? I am never going to keep up with the weeding and mulching either. I am a chronic tree and vegetable over-planter, who will never take quite enough care of what she plants. The solution has been easy: get help tending the garden, for which my back and left leg (most of which is now titanium and concrete) are grateful, as is my husband, who has spent 35 years worried that I might ask him to do some weeding. As he has never learned what parsley looks like when I ask him to pick some for dinner – though he can identify a lemon – he is pretty safe. A dear friend spent more than 20 years and thousands of dollars on her annual New Year’s resolution to have “a proper garden”, i.e. one with a vegetable patch and flowers. For the first decade she went on a spring rampage herself, planting, mulching, and watering, and then went back to work and never had time to do the “proper care” a “proper garden” needs. She then spent even more money buying instant lawn and advanced plants, installed by landscape gardeners, all of which also bit the dust. (The gardens, I mean, not the landscape gardeners. I hope.) If you have spent 10 years thinking you want a garden but not doing anything about it, like trying to cram 150 pots onto a small patio in danger of imminent collapse, then you are not really a gardener. My friend now has a “no care” garden that doesn’t do much growing but doesn’t die either – the “grass tree and tree fern” kind – and someone to mow the lawn, the only bit of the version of a “proper garden” that remains. Forget about “proper” gardens – and proper gardening. The following deserve to be more popular, or at least tried once. Garden in the nude, except for whatever protective gear is necessary for the job in hand, which might be quite a lot, or just a pair of boots, mozzie repellent, a hat and an apron to prevent obscenity charges. It might also be helpful to plant a hedge. There is, in fact, an official World Nude Gardening Day, though I don’t know who made it official or even when it is. In our climate, try nude gardening in the early morning, when the sun will provide vitamin D rather than melanoma, and the air is gentle. There’s something simple and luxurious about the early morning on your skin. It may even turn you into a gardener. If you’ve never tried nude gardening, perhaps wear a sarong to begin with, which can slip lower, and lower, and be quickly hauled up if you fear you might give the neighbours a heart attack. Neglect your lawn mower. Every time you don’t mow your lawn you are adding to the tranquillity of the street and the chance of grass seed for the birds. A neglected lawn mower is an honourable lawn mower. Learn to love shaggy lawns, your own and your neighbours’. Long grass ripples in the wind, as beautiful as any harbour, but is rarely seen in suburbs. Most lawn grasses are relatively tame beasts, and won’t envelop your house like Sleeping Beauty’s castle and, anyway, all grass stops growing in Canberra’s long winters. Buy a miniature cow or a share in a neighbourhood goat to eat the grass. Both animals aren’t much bigger than a medium-large dog, will provide milk and valuable manure, and don’t need cans of dog food. You can even take a goat or miniature cow for a walk on a leash, providing innocent fun for passers-by, or possibly a traffic accident. Stick to the quieter suburban streets for your cow walking. Resist the urge to have a paved courtyard yard just like the ones in “Gorgeous Home” type magazines. Paving may look elegant, but unless it’s covered by trees, pergolas or other greenery it also heats up your house, the street and the planet. If you do want paving, leave out every second or fourth paving stone and plant low-growing lawn thyme or ever blossoming alyssum or possibly golden marjoram, soften that will soften the severity but the kids can still tramp on when they play backyard cricket. Always give in to the impulse to plant something you fall in love with. Yes, there will come a time, possibly quite quickly, when it will need to be thinned, but by then you’ll know what you adore and what you’ll happily do without. Never feel guilty buying too many bulbs. There is no such thing as “too many bulbs”. Bulbs multiply each year, giving you a 100-400 per cent return on your investment, which is better than any reputable investment broker will offer you. Unless the bulbs die, of course, from nematodes or poor drainage or because you bought ones not suited to the Canberra climate. All investments hold a little risk. But double yellow daffs and nerines are gaudy shades to see you through winter are possibly the most secure way of ensuring you get maximum enjoyment effect for your dollars this year. Ditto any flowering or fruiting shrub you fancy. It’s amazing how cheap fruit trees and flower shrubs seem to be when you consider the fruit an flower “profit” to come. Abandon embarrassment and ask friends or neighbours or complete strangers for seeds or cuttings of whatever plants envy. You will get free plants. They will get admiration and the glow of being generous. Always, always ask. This is the year for more sitting in the garden, or sitting indoors watching the garden, while drinking something deliciously cool or warm depending on the season, and just relaxing. Gardens were invented to give us pleasure. Do not waste them. Don’t garden at all, if you don’t love it. Gardening is not a virtue. I find gardening peaceful and fulfilling. Others just get prickles and a sinus attack. Canberra needs a least 10 times as many trees and shrubs and ground covers to cool, freshen and moisten the air and add to the Canberra Contentment Quotient, but you don’t have to be the person that does that planting, or even the tending. Just keep imagining what Canberra might look like with every footpath, every car park, and every multistorey building covered in leaves or flowers. Gardens, public parks, and tree lined streets to mooch along are excellent places for the inspiration necessary to bring dreams to fruition. This week I am:


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