Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Formal Lines

 This is not my garden! But I do yearn for some structure in the garden – just a little.
The informality that swept into Australian gardens at the same time that sexual freedom swept through much of society has been embraced with such fervour that many – like nature – abhor a straight line.
Our front path is 7m long and Euclid-straight  – to J’s dismay. (So many people, including those who love bushland, bar themselves from liking any formal lines in the garden at all – except sometimes in the edible patch. Similarly puzzling, some lovers of native plants do not admit exotics into their garden - unless they’re edible. (The plants, not the gardeners.) I can’t understand this – to me – double standard. Flowers (and berries, leaves…) are just as important as vegetables…or more so, depending on your focus.)
Along the front path are a double row of dwarf lillypillies, easy, `self-shaping’ balls for giving, long term, green structure to the beds of (otherwise) mainly perennials. And an edging of groundcovers too of course, bugle (Ajuga `Jungle Beauty’ the best) and cranesbills, when the wallabies let them expand.

My only other formal area is my circular lawn, 6m in diameter, which sets off the garden beds so beautifully. It’s never watered but soaks up the hot sunshine in summer, cooling the garden literally and spiritually (for want of a better word); besides, we can sit out here in spring sunshine and autumn; and play boulles here with friends. It’s winter now and those pretty garden beds are almost empty of green; just clove-brown iris stalks, biscuit rose bushes, chestnut mulch. Originally this was meant to be the winter garden! Epacris, hellebores, winter Crocus: all have been tried. Either El Nino dry or La Nina wet years have defeated them all. (Struggling winter roses with barely a flower yet are decidedly unimpressive.) So…a solution is the classic hedge, a dwarf one, to make it all seem deliberate and to hide the ugliness a bit; this is unquestionably `out’ where J is concerned; a pity, I would have had my roundel. But I think I’ve found a great compromise: a circle instead, of Corsican Winter Rose (Helleborus argutifolius) to give neat greenness all year with those handsome serrated leaves, grey-green, veined cucumber-green; above, those apple-green flowers almost winter-long, starting before all the others. Closely planted to create a lush continuous circle in slightly raised soil to aid drainage (our soil is wet, wet, wet every winter) adding a little bugle (Ajuga), perhaps, at the very edge of the lawn.

This is not enough, however, the beds require more! I love winter-blooming purple wallflowers (Erysimum), charmingly scented, so a few shall be added, and perhaps some early Viburnum too. (These plants are not chosen at random of course; they are not delicious to Ms Wallaby and scampering 45cm-high joey which nightly nibbles the best species cyclamen under the veranda.)
Winter flowers are precious but good structure in the garden – green, for me – is vital (not grey or brown which just depress; silver foliage should be used with care).  If my circle of green winter roses works (well fertilized to give height and lots of leaves) I will have structure of sorts, and it will never need trimming, an ideal situation for this lazy gardener.  

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