I have had the luxury of spending quite a bit of time in my own garden this Christmas and I thought I would share a few photos. I have planted 50 new plants over the last fortnight, thanks to help from my wonderful parents who have been staying – my mum, who has far more resilience for digging holes in 30 degree heat than I do, and my dad, who somehow manages to pull large shrubs and small trees neatly out of the ground, upon request.
The first photo, above, shows the back of the garden, by the old gum tree. Yes, we do have kookaburras sitting there, as the song goes, although this morning I spotted a group of galahs, all pink and fluffy! I thought they blended fabulously with the pink Crinum and burgundy Loropetalum!
The shrub growing underneath the gum and wrapping around the trunk is Indian Hawthorn (Rhaphiolepis) – I can highly recommend this for a difficult, dry spot. We also have a couple of Angel’s Trumpet (Brugmansia) trees in this part of the garden; one white, one coral. I adore their flowers.
In front of the coral one, you can just make out a Grevillea, with finer leaves. This is Grevillea ‘Orange Marmalade’, a subtropical Grevillea, and one of my new plantings.
I love the large, bright, subtropical Australianness of the flowers! I have also planted lots of kangaroo paws; a group of yellow Anigozanthos ‘Bush Pioneer’, which give height and division without creating a solid boundary and a mixed group of A. ‘Ruby Velvet’ and A. ‘Amber Velvet’, in rich oranges and reds.
Another new plant I have put in is Protea ‘Little Prince’.
Not a native, but it blends in wonderfully and gives a lush contrast with its large, bright green leaves. My soil is very sandy, and whilst I add as much compost as I can to help with water and nutrient retention, choosing drought tolerant plants avoids me becoming a slave to watering. It is very possible to have a low maintenance garden that still looks very green and lush, even with soils like these.
In a quiet section, near the cabana, we have a double tier birdbath.
We love to watch the birds here – mostly lorikeets, kookaburras and native mynah birds. We have a permanent kookaburra nest in the Canary Island Date Palm (Phoenix canariensis) at the back of us and it is particularly fun to see the young chicks learning to fly the short distance between the palm and gum tree each spring.
Dietes irises are a real favourite of mine. The photo below shows how the pure white flowers dance over the vertical foliage, just like little butterflies. They are wonderful for a very narrow border, requiring the smallest patch of soil but branching out in every direction. As long as they have sun, they will flower and flower all year round, particularly after rain, tolerating almost total neglect.
At the side of the house, we have a small water feature, which we look out on from the family room. The sound of the waterfall is very relaxing and we enjoy watching the fish swim past. Unfortunately, the kookaburras also enjoy the fish, but we have finally resigned ourselves to nature and take a visit to the aquarium shop a few times a year!
The front of our house is south facing (which means north, to anyone in the northern hemisphere!) and although small, has a large crab apple, established Camellia and a huge brush box (Lophostemon confertus) street tree increasing shade levels.
I have therefore planted lots of shade loving plants; different ferns and philodendrons, hybrid clivias and Aspidistra, selecting species that can best cope with the dry conditions. In the margins of the trees, where there is a little more light, I have planted for colour, with daylilies (Hemerocallis), Kniphofia and Crocosmia, all of which happily oblige in giving me flowers. These are all shades of deep yellow and orange, tying in with the 1890s orange tiles on our front verandah. The purple Liriope flowers and white Acanthus help soften the effect and bring the look into the 2010s. It is really a subtropical take on a woodland garden.
I will bring you more photos as the new plants grow and fill out, but for the time, wish me luck with the watering and newspaper tent provision for the new plants over the hottest parts of summer. I know, I shouldn’t be planting now, but sometimes you just have to seize the only window of time you have seen in months!