This is my last garden post. It has been fascinating for me, going back through what we did at Greendale. I’m so glad I had enough ‘before’ photos to see the difference. I thought this would be a good place to answer some questions.
Where is this place?
Do you have a map of the property so we can see what went where?
Wasn’t it high maintenance?
No, it wasn’t. The original intention in many of our projects was to reduce maintenance. No more having to brush-cut steep slopes, no more manoeuvring between groups of trees. Sure, we had to edge, but that was part of mowing.
Although we had to do some weeding, especially in new gardens, I used Peter Cundall’s philosophy that if there’s a plant there, a weed can’t grow. It worked. I used perennials and shrubs, and never lifted bulbs (unless I wanted to divide them). Apart from the on-going labour of love of filling holes and replacing failed experiments, the main tasks were pruning and mulching, and that was once a year. And part of the enjoyment of the garden was wandering around in it, maybe pulling a weed here, dead-heading a rose there, trimming a branch somewhere else. That sort of maintenance is invisible.
Did you do all the work yourselves?
Not absolutely everything, no. We brought in a contractor to lay the cobbles for us, and to build the formal pond at the front of the house, and the circular planter in the terrace. Peter constructed the fence at the drive side of the terrace, and the little fence at the fernery, but we hired a contractor to build the long fence that stretched around the back of the terrace around to the end of the back border near the kitchen door. I painted all the external woodwork at least twice. Peter’s oldest daughter helped me with mulching the forest, and she did the western border by herself. I was eternally grateful. Everything else was done by us. It was our home, and our hobby.
Wasn’t water a problem?
Yes, it was. I tried to use plants suited to their location, so the Med garden and the Terrace and rockery all had natives or drought tolerant species. We also set up watering systems – underground soaker hoses in the Med garden, overhead sprinklers in the shade house and fernery. We put in a recycling septic system so we could reuse the water on the garden. And we tried drilling for bore water. Other people in Greendale had been successful in finding reliable underground water. But it wasn’t to be. The contractor went down four hundred feet to find even a bit of dampness, and beyond that depth it would have cost a fortune in pumps. We didn’t water often, but as the drought tightened its grip, we had to consider the thousands of dollars’ worth of plants. It was worth buying a few truckloads of water, or carting water from Greendale’s communal spring. But we only watered the gardens close to the house. Everything else was left to fend for itself. From 2003 onward I recorded all our rainfall every day. The graph below comes from those figures.
Wasn’t it hard to leave?
I’ve heard this expressed in a dozen different ways, and I understand the sentiment. The thing is, life changes. We moved there with a mission of sorts – finish the place, inside and out (because while the garden was being built, things were happening inside, too). Then around 2005 we were hit with enervating health problems that required multiple visits for tests to hospitals in Ballarat and Melbourne, and appointments with Melbourne specialists. Eventually, one doctor told us to go and sit on a beach somewhere and veg out. So we went on a week’s holiday in Queensland. We got home on a cold, dark Victorian night. Next morning, wrapped in woollies, I took my cup of tea out on the deck under a grey sky and gazed at the forest, remembering the glint of sunlight on water and warm sand between my toes. It took me back to my younger days at the beach in Perth. A few moments later, Peter joined me. “You know, Gret,” he said, “I think we should retire somewhere warmer.”
And that was the beginning of the end.
Greendale was too big, too steep and too remote for an ageing couple with health problems. We put the house on the market in Spring, hoping the garden would sell it. Mind you, the house had plenty to offer – 4 large bedrooms with built in robes, 2 bathrooms, separate study, formal lounge, formal dining, meals area, family room. But even so, Spring went, Summer arrived and passed. And we didn’t even get a visit. The place took over a year to sell. By this time we’d cleared all the junk, had the garage sale, thrown away the hundreds of accumulated plastic plant pots, and sold a few things we wished we hadn’t.
It was a great experience, something I’ll cherish. I really enjoyed putting these posts together, reliving the work we did, and basking in our achievement. But time doesn’t stand still.
We closed the door behind us without regrets, and moved on to a new life.