Does Gardening Success Confirm Graduation to Grown-up?

Many a green-fingered guru would scoff at the title of this post I'm sure. But those of us who have tiptoed around the edges of growing greatness, with much trial and error and more mortal memories than those of succulent success would agree I'm sure, that it's a journey worth some reflection.

The first weekend we spent after arriving at this lush and sprawling patch we now call home, was up to our elbows and knees in foliage and vegetation. Marked with an epic couple of outdoor days, I now know that this was my first real foray into feeling at home amongst the dirt, debris and delightful discoveries that constantly reveal themselves in natures kingdom. The property had been left mostly untended for at least a year we believe. We could definitely see signs of the earlier planning and preparation invested here but due to the changing circumstances of the previous owners, it was only a quick sweep over with the neighbours tractor-led mower around the orchard that kept the whole place from completely disappearing amongst the wilderness.

In that one weekend, from the boarders surrounding the cottages alone we literally removed a truckload of weeds, bright yellow daisies that had almost reached head height and many a stubborn and deep-set Arum Lilly. While previously presenting a pretty, rustic and rambling picture, once removed revealed well considered, carefully planned and beautiful cottage gardens. Many varieties of old fashioned roses dotted through, which I've since learnt from those more in the know than I, are prized, not only for their uniquely coloured blooms, but their deep, sensual perfume. With head bowed and eyes softly closed, (why is it that our natural reaction when smelling a flower is to close our eyes? Such a lovely natural preparation.) with nose delicately buried in their cool velvety petals, the fragrance instantly tweaks lips into a smile and transports mind and soul to a beautiful place.
'Tending the roses' is a regular exercise that, for some reason makes me feel like a true grown-up. I don't know what it is but I guess roses conjure up sophistication to me and maybe there's something about the stark juxtaposition of their astonishing beauty and thorny armour that demands a certain level of respect. I've learnt much to my delight, that if they receive a little maintenance at frequent intervals, most varieties here will respond with perpetual blooms. So tending the roses has become almost daily, snipping of spent flower heads and removing the odd black spotted leaf. Who knows if I'm doing things right but the plants are sending positive vibes so far.

The previous owners obviously had well established green thumbs and summer is when this becomes very apparent. Amongst the Roses and Hydrangeas, the warmer months welcome a brilliant display of deep pink Dahlias, I've never really been a fan of pink but these architectural star bursts have won me over. Completely non existent in winter, they emerge like summer showgirls, heads bobbing in the sun and their candy coloured sweetness very hard to ignore. It's a great example of mass planting and all we have to do is cull or reposition the odd multiplying tuber to avoid a total takeover.
It's absolutely true that I can't really claim any true gardening success yet, all I'm doing at this stage is marveling at the goodness we have before us and doing my best to assist it's growth. Apart from the aesthetic gifts we've been bestowed, there are also bucket loads of edible bounty to be enjoyed. Most fruit trees in the orchard, we guess are still relatively young. There was very little fruit to be harvested in our first summer, but autumn compensated big time, with more juicy sweet figs than we've ever had the pleasure of setting our eyes on. A number of blog posts have been dedicated to these luscious beauties and my indulgent fig paste has impressed and been gobbled from many a cheese platter throughout the year. I've also written before about the citrus celebration here which continues to flourish long after a typical winter season. Lemons just get larger and more juicy on the tree and my preserved lemons have proven simply the best way to extend the life of these zesty jewels.

This summer however, we've become aware that our timing could not be better. Early spring blossoms burst forth from a somewhat baron winter with promise of harvest potential and so far those blossoms have delivered true to their word. First, we plucked fat, sweet peaches, warm in the summer sun we relished their treacle juices dripping and slurping with each bite. Our very own homegrown peaches - what a treat! Now, everywhere we look there seems to be fruit forming on the trees. Nectarines and apples of many varieties, at least three types of pears and just as many plums. And then there's the smaller trees that are yet to divulge what treasures await for future seasons.

This is all not without some casualties however, we're definitely finding a need now for those gardening guides, botanical encyclopedias and A to Z of the plant world. These previous op-shop purchases have been stored on the bookshelf in anticipation for our imminent lifestyle move, their time is now. With leaf curl plaguing some of our stone fruit trees and woolly aphid appearing on the odd apple tree, we're educating ourselves on the best techniques for pest control while avoiding unnecessary chemical invasion. This, we're learning will take time and seasons to pass before we can gauge our success. Meanwhile it's the bumper crops on other trees that have us researching the art of thinning and trimming.
Since owning our first home, we've always had a vege patch and have enjoyed many a homegrown meal. The credit for this sits firmly with Joe and his natural ability for nurturing seedlings to towering tomatoes, crunchy capsicums, leafy lettuce and much more. I have been willing watcher, learner, keen cook and regular weeder - yes, the weeds and I have a very close relationship, although one that I'd rather not dwell on.

Despite the vast selection of well established fruit trees here, it may seem strange to note that it took us almost a whole year to cultivate even a small corner dedicated to vegetables. There is relatively good reason for this but I'm happy to report we're now plucking fresh greens, herbs and the beginning of our ripened veges from our first ever straw bale garden. The ins and outs of this experiment are destined for a blog of their own but I'm proud to say I was involved in this one and the results are great!

So, the title of Head Gardener is probably a bit far fetched at this stage but in reality, I'm probably the closest thing to it around here due to my availability and the way our roles are defined for now. I'm naturally rather impatient in life, never one to sit on the sidelines and wait for things to happen. However having walked into a property that ticks so many of our environmental wish list requests, I now find myself grateful that the hands of time play a huge part in the cultivation of gardening gratitude. Everything is just hitting it's stride around here and I need time to grow with it, time to experience the seasons and learn how I can be a better caretaker. I'm thankful also that I have time to plan for preservation and creative ways of sharing the bounty as I get the feeling that very soon, we'll be harvesting much more than we know what to do with!


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