Late-summer garden brings joy and pride

My gardener Steve works in my Belair garden.

It’s best to be honest about my garden which spreads around my newish home in Belair. Probably, it’s about 600 square metres in size and gives me immense joy.

However, I must quote words from Charles Barr published in a little anthology Up The Garden Path by Laura Stoddart where he is quoted as saying:  “The best way to get real enjoyment out of the garden is to put on a wide straw hat, hold a little trowel in one hand and a cool drink in the other, and tell the man where to dig.”

It sounds like me in my garden. Certainly, I am not a digger. But I do potter in my garden alongside my gardener, named Steve, who has nurtured and maintained my garden for five years since my husband Olivier, passed away.  As I wrote in my memoir Farewell My French Love, Olivier was  the green-fingers gardener, but his garden was largely destroyed when we bulldozed the old 1950’s cream brick house to make way for the new retirement home. Unfortunately, Oli only lived for eight months in the new house – just enough time to organise workmen to complete the landscape designer’s “bones”of our garden – pathways, retaining walls, steps and driveway.  He was still with me when she planted small shrubs of varying foliage and habits and one gleditsia tree, according to her plan.  The rest was left as a blank canvas.

But, I was not the gardener.  My own life was draped in grief  at the time and yet, somehow I needed to find inspiration to inject colour into the patches of bare earth surrounding the new home.  Olivier’s memorial garden began the day I received his death certificate in the mail. There was a mail-order rose catalogue, too. Despite the waves of sadness sweeping over me, I opened the catalogue and chose a dozen roses by their names to reflect our life together.  “Wedding Day”, “French Lace’, Tour Eiffel” and “Amazing Grace” were a few.

A friend, who loved irises, gave me a few bags filled with irises ready for replanting and someone else offered a bare-rooted rose.

Then two of my green-fingered friends arrived with baskets of cuttings of herbs and seaside daisies and myriad other clippings I had never heard of.  We three women spent a long afternoon poking greenery into the soil.  The upper garden was a tough stretch of earth, but sea daisies and lavender were hardy enough to take root.

Five years later, I have a late summer garden which fills me with pride and as I snapped its various corners, I felt waves of joy at my accomplishment.

Yes, the garden has been a costly budget item, particularly the water bill, but there’s no doubt it creates a peaceful environment for a retired lifestyle.  It is a very big job for Steve who works every three weeks here clipping the hedges, planting, transplanting, weeding, watering and training  plants up trellises and cutting back rampant variegated ivy.

My garden is now six years old and it’s time to share my green masterpiece. I snapped Steve this morning hard at work in my upper garden and although  the photograph is fuzzy, it captures his role over the years.

Late summer southern garden

Pines, wisteria, pond and statue create peace.

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