The only way that maintaining a 20 acre property was going to work was with a strict demarcation of labour between Murray and me. Consequently, Murray has responsibility for everything ‘inside’, and I have responsibility for everything ‘outside’. Although I am very pleased with my allocation of duties, it seems that I have responsibility for 19.8 acres of our property and Murray the remaining 0.2 of an acre. And so my days are quite busy.
My focus is mainly on maintaining and enhancing the extensive flora throughout the property. When the property was first established large swathes of pristine bushland remained untouched, with small clearances made only around the two retreats and the main residence. For obvious reasons, we have deliberately kept it this way. Each of the three dwellings on the property, however, feature surrounding gardens which is where most of my efforts are concentrated.
The Australian bush is incredibly hardy and resilient. There are few climates in the world that are as changeable and extreme. We suffer long periods of drought, broken occasionally by short bursts of damaging rainfall, usually causing flooding. And the long hot summers are contrasted with short frosty winters. In such conditions, the only plants which really flourish are those that have evolved with this extreme climate over many centuries: Australian natives.
I therefore mostly plant natives around the property because of the low survival rates of any other plants, also to respect the natural bushland, and due to the wide range of fauna that natives attract.
My main limitation in my gardening endeavours, however, is that my knowledge beyond digging a hole and dropping in a plant is extremely limited. And so recently I welcomed a visit from the Wollombi Valley Garden Group. Usually the Group members make a monthly visit to mature and extravagant gardens presided over by knowledgeable horticulturalists, so you can imagine my surprise when their President asked to visit ‘Somewhere Unique’. I agreed, but only on the basis that they view the property as a ‘work in progress’ and that I could seek extensive advice from the members.
The Group arrived on a sparkling autumnal day and I led the 30-odd members on a tour of the property. I asked every question that entered my mind and fastidiously recorded their answers. The Group members, all locals, understand the particular climate conditions of the Wollombi Valley and have each had to find solutions to their own gardening conundrums. Each Group member was generous, gracious, and incredibly knowledgeable. As we walked we discussed mulching, composting, pruning, planting, watering, layout, companion planting, disease, fertilising, climate, pollination and, of course, the arch nemeses of every gardener, weeds.
As a result of their visit, I have greatly improved my knowledge and my confidence as an apprentice gardener. I am also the newest and proudest member of the Wollombi Valley Garden Group! I now understand that the Group visit local gardens for inspiration, motivation, and innovative ideas. I also understand that successful gardening, involves being part of a network of cooperative enthusiasts readily exchanging ideas, suggestions, tips, and cuttings. I also appreciate that gardening is a relaxing, rewarding and beautiful experience. And my ongoing goal is now to ensure that the gardens around ‘Somewhere Unique’ continue to reflect commitment, contentment, tranquillity and beauty.