It's the Summer Solstice - the longest day (and arguably the start of summer, but us Australians deem the first of December have this honour - when it's usually been hot and dry, already, for weeks. Usually, now, it's the end of the second half of spring, the hot half, full of perennials and roses, coming to a hot roasting end; so different to the first half of spring when vernal bulbs appear in the cold early months of August and September when winter starts to tentatively shrug off it coat.)
But this year has been very different; this long, glorious spring seems never-ending. Mostly cool weather, loads of rain, masses of flowers, countryside still, remarkably green, and, perhaps best of all, no bushfire danger as yet in my home in the hills (on those dragon-breath days that make us flee to the city - just in case). And as I look at some old photos I remember Cup weekend at the start of November, with the sheets of wildflowers (pink chocolate lilies, bright gold bulbine lilies; and white milkmaids (pictured) nearer home) north of the great divide. Incredible!
We've now had 2 years and 2 months of (mostly) wallaby-nibbling-free garden growing time (but who's counting?) so I'm pretty darn pleased with my garden within its wallaby-proof fence.
Roses (those prickly customers I introduced into the garden after 20 years - hey, they're colourful), perennials, shrubs, wildflowers, clematis (left) (Clematis in December! - lots of them!); it's all giving me a joy that's new to me and I can't wipe the smile off my face. Flowers may be looked down upon, a bit, but there's a lot to be said for both plants that change with the seasons, and ephemeral effects; and flowers tick both boxes. As long as there's lashings of green, to boot, to remind you that you are in a garden...(I can't handle those `Gardens of the Year' with wall to wall flowers like spilt paint boxes or badly painted children's pictures, all colour, garish, with not a leaf in sight; is it a garden or a display of how to torture annual plants?).
Christmas may knock off the cool weather. How can the summer holidays be other than scorching, sun-burning, blistering, gasping, withering? Then the spring flowers, extended so wonderfully, will come to an end. I wonder how many summer-blooming perennials and other plants I have to give the garden a bit of interest - Dahlias (below)? Agastache? Hydrangeas (mainly oak-leaf)? And tiny Cyclamen purpurescens (a tiny garnish, as it were, for decorating by the front door).
Is it time to toss more salvias in everywhere for the hot months?
Jill Weatherhead is horticulturist, writer, garden designer and principal at Jill Weatherhead Garden Design who lives in the Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne, and works throughout Victoria (www.jillweatherheadgardendesign.com.au)