Saturday, November 19, 2011

Flowers From My Grandmother's Garden.

There is an enduring memory from my childhood in which a letter would arrive in a fat airmail envelope; with an Australian stamp and my Grandmother's beautifully old fashioned handwriting on the front.

My mother would read it through a couple of times, and then I would be allowed to have a go at deciphering the beautiful handwriting.

It was like unlocking a secret code.

I remember they would go something like this...

"...I am watering the garden every day now... " and she would go on to describe what was flowering and what was looking its best, and there would be all the minutiae of a gardener's life there in the detail.

Evey now and then there would be something like ...

"...Stephen killed a brown snake today and hung it on the fence..." which would keep me interested when descriptions of the colour of the dahlias had become a bit tedious.

Forty years later I am composing letters in my head to my Australian Aunties.

As every new rose appears and every new hydrangea flowers, and the Granny asks me to dig the potato patch and she plants the tomatoes, and we plant some more sweet peas to climb the frames that the beans climbed last year.

And they go something like this...

...Dear Doreen and Kathy,
it rains at least a couple of times a week at the moment, and the equinoctial winds blow outside our shelter hedges.
The clothes dry quickly in the meadow and some days the grass lies almost horizontal.
But inside our shelter belt of hedges, it is relatively calm.

All the roses have begun to bloom.
I pruned them, fed them and mulched them a bit and it's worked wonders.
I really thought they were on their last legs when we came here at the end of last summer.

The climbing hydrangeas have burst into flower and will be perfect as shady umbrellas in the summer.
We plan to put the Jesus table out there under the biggest one under the walk way.
The Jesus table was a lucky find in the local antique shop in Eltham (The Bank).
Barb had all her religious icons displayed on it when we came in out of the rain one Sunday and bought it for the Granny annexe.
It is a rustic French looking affair, round, and the perfect size for breakfasting on or taking outside on summer evenings.
It shall be forever known as the Jesus table.

The Granny cuts the blooms as they become completely open, and fills our collection of little china jugs with beautiful velvety roses.
The kitchen is filled with the scent of them when you come in from outside.

I have never had such a collection of reds, russets and black-burgundy roses.

In my other garden I favoured old fashioned roses in pastel shades.

Here I have bushes and bushes of healthy iceburgs lining the walkways and the sweeping down the driveway alternated with lavender.

They have just burst into flower and have the prettiest hint of pink when the buds have just opened. They fade to white by the time they are ready to be picked.

And yellow. I have yellow roses!

I don't have any stories of snakes to tell. Only cats who plonk themselves in the middle of a patch of catmint and roll around in ecstasy.

What is it about catmint that makes them love it so much?

They follow me around with the wheelbarrow up and down to the compost heap.

This is where we'll put the Jesus table in the summer.

The Granny fancies sitting under the climbing hydrangea with a glass of wine.

And I have to confess I got a "man out from town" to cut the hedges.

Well, actually it was a man and a girl.

The Granny and I went round afterwards with the secateurs and the hedge cutters and evened everything off and neatened it all up.

And sweapt the paths of buxus cuttings and put them into the compost pile in the paddock.

It is early morning here now as I write this and the birds are all starting to wake up.

The sun has risen over the mountain and has left a red tinge on the snow line through the cloud.

The wind has already started. The branches in the tall trees shift outside my window.

Today I will be mowing and weeding and digging in compost for the Granny's potato patch.

And hoping for some sunshine.

In your gardens you can take that as a given; but not here.

Not even in late November.

But I think I would trade that for the possibility of finding a brown snake amongst the



  1. What a lovely blog you have. And I love quilts too, I've made a few.

    Emma xxx

  2. What a lovely post i can just imagain you as a little girl sat reading those letters. Its always nice to receice a letter but they seem to be a dying out now since emails and texts arrived. You have an amazing garden it looks huge and i love your roses. Enjoy being in there today, dee x

  3. What a stunning garden, it's just beautiful. Enjoy it, after all that hard work you've earned it!

  4. Oh I do love your enduring childhood memory & your lovely "letter" tale. I'm not sure that I am familiar with climbing hydrangeas..could you give us a close-up sometime? It is the strangest little phenomena the cats & catmint affinity..quite pongy really I think to myself. Love your "Jesus table" label. That's fun to have a new Granny venture to acquire lovely things for. Much love Catherine xox0..that ones for the Granny ; )

  5. l've really enjoyed my visit to your blog your header is gorgeous as is your garden and it's so beautifully kept. l wonder which part of Oz your gran and aunts were from, l'm from Victoria. Have a lovely week.

  6. What a magical place and so different from my snow banks and below zero temps........I hope it warms up soon , at least I can come enjoy your beautiful garden photos......just beautiful!

  7. what a great blog has made me yearn for the country life again...and your place is stunning.

    can't wait for more space the day that i can move out of 'cement city' and breathe that fresh air again...


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