My Garden – Priorities in the garden

I find myself cursing my landscape designer (me) at this time of year.  Who suggested you could save money by not installing an irrigation system and putting in a swimming pool instead as the temperatures start to rise and it seems like weeks ago since the last rains? Me?  Really? After all it rains for at last 8 months of the year here. We get up to 4 metres of water annually – sometimes up to 600mm – that’s two feet of water in one day. But during years when we get 4 months or so of no rain, it’s really hard work here trying to keep things alive.

And is it really so great having deep rich volcanic soil which is so well drained that after a few days of no rain the plants start to look a little crinkly and dry?

And really – roses????

Landscape designers never have enough money to do their own gardens – the search for perfection is expensive.  But do I really have to push the boundaries and grow plants that are really not totally comfortable with our sub-tropical climate here in the Cairns hinterlands?  Yes, but only in my own garden.

So I opted to hand water and now I’m paying the price.  I’m sick of lugging hoses around every hour or so. My life is divided into one hour segments – move sprinklers (make tea), draw , move sprinklers (play with dogs, make tea), draw, move sprinklers (more tea, skip throwing ball for dogs or maybe skip tea, throw ball)etc. Not a good routine – I just get into someone else’s magical garden in my head and then it’s back to reality, the train of thought is interrupted and off I wander again to lug around hoses (and get distracted). And stressed – have I missed anyone – did they all get their weekly allowance of water? It’s always that one little special specimen that somehow gets missed.

I’ve done all the right things that I told my customers to do to reduce the need for watering. I’ve spread over a hundred bales of mulch hay, I’ve fertilised with organic fertiliser, my soil is in perfect condition, but…every morning at 5am I start lugging the hoses around and trying to work out some method of keeping enough water up to those plants which I insisted I could manage. Yep the roses look glorious (though we still need to work out how to find the funds to get that retaining wall in front of them happening) and yes the Azaleas love that soil with its regular addition of the special Azalea and Camellia fertiliser and the new Cannas do seem to be peeking out where I actually manage to get water to them regularly enough (though there seem to be less  Azaleas than I’d realised – a few gaps in that bed), but as I set my life into one hour segments to stop everything and move sprinklers around, I realise that even in one of the world’s wettest places – a sensible irrigation system would be nice. OR I could take my own advice and grow plants that are suited to the climate – the baby bottlebrushes (Callistemons) are still surviving with no water at all – not cruelty, just an experiment – I don’t have favourites – much….

Attempting to work whilst you keep your garden looking reasonable is a sobering way to learn what your customers go through when you have to try and jiggle the usual normal commitments of work and family with the demands of keeping your garden alive and thriving – which is what your customers expect when they try to decide if you are the ONE who can be trusted to design them their dream garden.

I often get asked to design low maintenance gardens (in fact there are very few customers who don’t at some point during our initial brief mention – however casually – “Oh yes and it needs to be low maintenance”).  My number one recommendation (this week) would be – CONSIDER AN IRRIGATION SYSTEM. HAND WATERING GETS BORING AND LOSES YOU MONEY. I always put off doing the automatic system, because, well who needs an irrigation system when you only use it for four months of the year?  I DO!!!

On the positive side – spring is a glorious time of year and the roses (though few in number) do look wonderful, despite being so demanding and the Agapanthus are about to flower……..

Cairns landscape design-country garden-1