The days are getting longer

Spring is finally sprung, even the view of the mountain is veiled with the spring blossom of the flowering dark leaved prunus that grows up in front of the bedroom window. Each morning I look out to see the wee silvereyes flitting amongst the branches finding breakfast morsels

Mountain spring blossom

The camellia japonicas are in full flower. I inherited a bulky shiny green hedge of four plants along the front of the bedroom windows, one huge red semi-double, one ethereally simple white ( I suspect it’s a seedling), one lovely very formal pale pink and one single coral (another likely seedling). They have to be clipped away from the house wall and windows to avoid damp but I’ve never quite been able to bring myself to remove them as their profusion of flowers is rather satisfying and they provide privacy from the street. They are massively vigorous and promiscuous with seedlings popping up all along their skirts, plenty of material for a Camellia hedge!

Another healthy happy camellia grows on the other side of the path to the front door which produces loads of double white blooms spattered pale pink. These unfortunately turn to bruised brown mush puppies and refuse to leave their perch, not such a pretty sight!  I did plant a row of lovely single white sasanquas to break the view of my parked car from the living room window but they have never thrived the way the inherited japonicas do, in fact they have been an abject failure, a constant disappointment, I can still see my car quite clearly!

I blame this partly on the limey washout from the concrete driveway that was installed some time before my tenure. I have since infilled with a smaller row of Sarcococca confusa cuttings — very successful, glorious scent in winter but won’t achieve the required height — and a single Choisya ternata.

The front garden is an awkward space that I’ve never felt happy with, and having to accommodate two vehicles  limits the possibilities. Early on I developed a nice little shady area in front of the mature wall hugging camellias for  specially favoured hellebores (optimistically ignoring the differing acid requirements) . They have failed to thrive, martyring themselves to black spot type afflictions, and since then the area has been colonised with three eagerly spreading Dicentra formosa / eximia /peregrina (or hybrids).  I recall that I bought one as Bacchanal,  another as Percy Picton, and the other, a lovely white flowered grey leafed one was dug up for me after I admired it in a someone else’s garden. These make a charming ferny groundcover over summer but disappear in winter, so I have added a trio of el cheapo white azaleas, and finally a nice big Daphne odora, currently being harvested for indoor scent. Unfortunately two of the azaleas also seem to consider the area too dank for their liking ….

As August has rolled on into September with alarming speed each stroll down the garden path offers little chunks of joy, like this pristine fellow supporting himself with the bare branches of a tree peony.

Fritillaria meleagris alba

More delightful bulbs are popping up with their sunny yellow smiles, Nanty, Spoirot, Fenben, Snipe, Angels whisper, Tete a Tete. Of those only Tete a Tete has been set free to romp in the grass, the others are carefully cosseted in pots. The hellebores are in full swing — it happens so quickly! —  together with the little creamy wildling freesias that seed themselves about.


Special joy promoted by the unexpected flowering of this gorgeous ghostly Iris tuberosa, (previously known by the wonderfully evocative moniker Hermodactylus tuberosus), the little bulbs were only planted last spring. I love the default olive green colouring but this uncommon silvery grey version is especially charming.

Iris tuberosa

Major chopping has been achieved with the help of a strong young man and a chainsaw, a bare stemmed and prickly Acacia derwentiana was removed from the far creek end of the garden, an ageing and mostly dead Weigela florida ‘Aureovariegata’ was dug out ready for replacement with a screening Lilly pilly, (specifically the inelegantly named Syzygium ‘Big Red’, because it was the only one at the nursery and I want to maximise spring growth), limbs were removed from the burgeoning tea tree hedge in the front before they knocked the top layer of bricks off the front wall and, with much anguished hand wringing (from me, not the young man), the top removed from another  unidentified Lilly pilly.  This lovely tree , a seedling from a tree in a previous garden,  screened my view of the neighbour’s clothes line. However it had been damaged by a bullying branch of an inherited Photinia (very) robusta, leaving three feet of bare Lilly pilly trunk two thirds of the way up its height.

I had hoped that removal of the Photinia branch last year would encourage side shoots from the Lilly pilly but so far nothing. Hence the dramatic lopping to encourage new growth from below the bare trunk level. Lastly same young man dug three deep holes by the creek and plopped in three mature Dicksonia antarctica that had been thinned out from a relative’s garden. I’m hoping they will recover from spending the last month lying in my driveway elegantly draped with an old horse rug to retain moisture. All in all a very satisfactory morning.

Species peonies are pushing ahead, the gorgeous  rotund buds of Paeonia ludlowii and the delicate pale pink Paeonia kesrouanensis blooms

Paeonia lutea and P. kesrouanensis

Another winter/spring iris, the simple Iris lazica,  starting into flower a little later than Iris unguicularis but equally charming with the bonus of shorter, neater foliage

Iris lazica

The last month has seen all the anticipatory fun of swelling buds and now tiny unfurlings of the freshest new leaves. I’ve been regretting the dearth of evergreens in the garden over winter, too many bare sticks, but now I’m happily  watching the deciduous shrubs and trees wake up

The Spotted dog coming out of hiberationzoro-stretching-copy




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2 Responses to The days are getting longer

  1. Jacqui says:

    They are all beautiful Susan. Gorgeous hellebore colours. When I was a child my mother’s modestly nodding green and white hellebores were amongst my favourites in the garden, along with the snowball tree, velvety dark red rose and pale pink camellia flowers, which we used to float in bowls like waterlilies. I never saw coloured hellebores in those days and find myself wondering f they were available. Certainly much was unaffordable and my mother and grandmother used to exchange cuttings with neighbours or discreetly nip from bushes overhanging front fences. Somehow your posts remind me of that time. Thank you x.


  2. Susan says:

    The hellebores of my childhood were also greenish white, sometimes spotted, or muddy maroon, now we have wonderful clean colours thanks to the original Ballard and Strangman breeding programs, and the fabulous Tasmanian Betty Ranicar double. They are a much loved sentimental plant for me too. Other favourites from childhood are Banksia roses, Honeysuckles and the wickedly thorny ‘Mermaid’


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