Saturday, November 21, 2009

Wind and Flowers. (Vent et fleurs)

Windy day today, our view from the front of the old post office.

Wind rushed and shushed and made shrubs go ratta tat on the window as black night gave way to gray dawn. The cat flap rattled, and the roof creaked. It was hot, we were restless, Ginger wanted breakfast, so we got up. The temperature climbed to 22 degrees Centigrade by mid morning (71.6 F), but plunged to something much lower in the afternoon as a wind change brought cooler air.

Oamaru Victorian Fete, 2007

The thought was that we would go to Oamaru for the day, see mum and dad, and visit the historic area of the town. There is a Victorian Fete in Oamaru this weekend, and all sorts of entertainment and amusement is planned. Penny Farthing races, traditional crafts, street performers, all manner of affordable fun. The good folk that organize the event do a terrific job. We got packed to go, but, in spite of my best attempts to ignore it, a migraine developed and I was not well enough to travel. This was most frustrating, as I was greatly looking forward to a proper day off today and a change of scene. I have been a slave to work for far too long.

A lovely Iris, and some lupins too.

Near the middle of the day, the pills and a sleep had helped, and I determined to at least walk around the garden with the camera.

A young lupin flower, growing like a candle.

We have a fairly wild garden here. Birds, insects, young children, and people who still believe in magic and good faeries, enjoy it. Those who manicure their lawns three times a week, spray everything for disease prevention, and remove daisies and buttercups, and trim all their shrubs to tight round balls, click their teeth and look uncomfortable.

Lupins bending, waving, moving with wind and with sun.

The flowers around the old post office are Laura's great achievement. When we bought this place 20 years ago, there was a car park behind the old post office building that consisted of compacted gravel about a foot thick. Under it was sour solid clay. On each side of the building were two strips of grass. The exciting thing was an area behind the car park where the ground rose up towards our boundary. This area was covered with wild plum trees that looked truly beautiful when covered in blossom.

Where once there was car park, now flowers do grow!

We had almost no money when we came here, so we didn't put in raised beds and buy in topsoil. Laura just set to work with a little hand trowel. She loosened the stones around the car park. When ever we emptied the teapot, the tea leaves went on the garden, and our vegetable peelings too. In between the stones, Laura planted her flowers.

Fragile and purple and dancing in the light!

Many struggled. Some died. Some grew and became beautiful. Few were like the flowers on the seed packets, or the huge well fed ones in the gardens with lots of good soil, but they grew anyway, and gave us pleasure.

Doves-round-a-dish, grannies bonnets, Aquilegia. What lovely names the old flowers have.

A year or two after we bought the place, we had a phone call from a lady who had discovered that she owned a piece of land next door to us. It was a scruffy unimproved half acre of poorly drained boggy ground, with a bit of dry hillside. The lady offered the land to us very cheaply as she had no use for it. I will always appreciate her kindness.

Elderberry flowers.

I wanted to plant New Zealand native trees on the land. I tried, but frost and poor drainage turned most of them to compost.

In pools of sun and damp there are buttercups.

After realizing the folly of my purist approach, we found a nursery where we could buy year old trees by the hundred. In the boggy parts I planted Alders. I had to put down wooden planks to wheel the wheelbarrow out over the saturated land. I slowly dug a shallow drainage ditch, scooping up heavy clods of the clay soil into little islands, and planted the alders into the squishy clay.

Alders. I planted 7 varieties, Grey and Black Alders were the most successful.

The alders took. Most survived, but the frosts hit even them quite badly in those early years. I added many other varieties of deciduous trees too. It was hard to know what would grow and what would sulk. Oak trees have actually done well here, most of them obtained from acorns that my nephew Anthony grew by mistake. He had collected some and put them in his school lunchbox, which he then lost for a while. When it was found, the acorns were discovered to have sprouted. So Uncle Peter gave them a home here. Now, many years on, those oaks have young ones of their own!

The double trunk of a willow. Once a twig picked up on a walk, now a large tree.

Sometimes, when we were out walking, we picked up twigs from willows and poplars, brought them home, and pushed them into the ground. Most of these are big trees now.

Hemlock, farmers don't like it as it is poisonous to livestock, but it is a thing of delicate beauty with its ferny leaves and tiny white flowers.

We planted hundreds of trees in the half acre. It took about six years for the "forest" to grow taller than the long grass and docks and actually look like it might be something intended.

Cordyline australis, cabbage tree. The world's tallest lily.

I have managed to get some Native trees to grow now. It is wonderful what the deciduous trees have done with their leaves and with their roots. We have a layer of rich dark soil now, and the tree roots have helped break up the clay pan and improve the drainage. The trees have brought many more birds to our garden. We also occasionally find huge stick insects too. Wonderful prehistoric looking things.

Kiln chimneys. I rather like the industrial revolution look in the garden!

From time to time we need to take out some of the trees when they die or blow over. I have been able to use them to supplement my firewood that I have to buy to fire my kilns.

It has been a different day than what I had hoped for here, but it was good to walk around the garden. We are very fortunate to have it. It cost us very little in terms of money to plant what we have. It is a friendly place for those who have eyes to see it, and beautiful too.

We can enjoy what is simple.
A little flower.
A young tree.
A windy day.
These gladden the heart.
These are life.

Nous pouvons apprécier ce qui est simple.
Une petite fleur.
Un jeune arbre.
Un jour venteux.
Ceux-ci réjouissent le coeur.
Ce sont la vie.

16 comments: said...

Peter, you should truly write children's books. This was lovely to read!! You should find the book Miss Rumphius by Barbara Cooney, you would like it. My sister in law teaches first grade and she gave it to me some years ago because I reminded her of Miss Rumphius,

Angie said...

What an amazing garden you have devloped over the years ...your photos and verbal tour made it so real ..I now feel I have actualy visited your magical place.

Maybe you could help me identify a tree I have in my garden looks very like the Cabbage Trees you have gave forth one huge flower last year, made of many tiny cream heads that turned to berries. This year there were three and the aroma was so strong and unpleasant, we had to cut them off. Where a flower was, a new head of leaves emerged and so what looked like an ornate spikey parasole has become a huge pom-pom.
My tree is only 9ft tall ... so far .....any ideas? There are quite a few around here in Fife but no one seems to know exactly what they are !!!!

Jewels said...

Hello Peter! Laura’s garden is gorgeous – amazing that used to be a parking lot! The lupines are spectacular. Kudos to you two for choosing a more natural approach and for planting trees for the wildlife. The garden and your forest look like perfect places to relax and reconnect. I hope you are feeling much better now and you are able to attain a healthier balance between work and the simple things that gladden the heart. : ) Thank you for sharing your beautiful place with us. Have a wonderful weekend!

cindy shake said...

Peter, I agree with Tracey!! We have the lovely Lupin here in Alaska! I was so surprised that last year and this year that my huge Delphinium's were completely replaced by a rogue patch of Lupin! Oddly, both were bluish lavender! I also love the look of the Chimneys. Seeing all of those lovely plants and flowers makes me want to get the sketch book out ;o)

doug Fitch said...

Thank you Peter, that was beautiful. I sympathise with you for your migraine and am envyious of your lupins! The slugs always eat mine.

Doespins said...

Hi Peter, Sorry about the migraine, it would have been lovely to see you both at Oamaru today. I'm absolutely whacked as it was so busy in the shop and street today. Some wonderful costumes and performances by choirs, bands, dancers etc.
Didn't sell much though despite doing so much talking and demonstrating.
Your garden is looking really photogenic.

Arkansas Patti said...

What a beautiful place you and Laura have carved. She wields a mighty trowel.
So sorry about your migraine. They really can spoil a day. I had them for 10 years before I "out grew" them in my 50s.
I hope you outgrow yours.
I loved you expression of the plants "sulking."

ang said...

hey pete lovely shrubery..we're fully safe here at the mo, no bushfires near home, i think it's going to be one of those seasons though...

Peter said...

Thank you everyone for your lovely comments, I'm glad that you enjoyed a tour of the garden. Laura, in particular, spends quite a bit of time out there enjoying her little world of colour, scent, and form.
Thank you Tracey for the reference to "Miss Rumphius" by Barbara Cooney. I had a little look on line and loved the illustrations that I saw. I will try to get the book out of our library. I think that being thought of as a Miss Rumphius, would be quite a compliment! As far as writing children's books goes, I keep getting tripped up with the "what shall I write about?" question! Silly isn't it!

Hi Angie, I can probably help you with the cabbage tree question. Your description does sound similar. Our ones are getting close to flowering so I will take a few photos in the next few days and put them on my blog. Our ones do have a fairly strong scent, but I do not find it unpleasant. The scent is very much that of a lily, sweet and honey like, and strongest on a still evening after a warm day. I expect that cabbage trees would grow well for you where you are, as they are quite hardy. In New Zealand there is a difference between the ones that are native to the North, and those that are from the South. The southern ones have broader leaves and retain the old ones as a thick coat over their trunks to keep themselves warm. The Northern ones have thin leaves and shed their leaves, I think they are both Cordyline australis, but they really deserve an extra label I think! The trunk of a cabbage tree is quite distinctive, it has a rough, slightly spongy texture, and the colour is a bit like porridge that has dried out in the bottom of the pot! If you have any photos of yours in flower, in seed, or as they are at the moment you could always Email one to me at opogallery AT blogspot DOT com (you'll have to change the AT and the DOT for the usual email ones).

Hello Jewels, glad you enjoyed the garden tour! It is quite a haven for all sorts of things. We have lots of bees at the moment this year, which is really great to see, and they certainly enjoy the wild approach to gardening. I was watching a bumble bee earlier feasting on nectar from 3 or 4 varieties of flower in rather the manner that a teenager tackles one of the "all you can eat" smorgasbords, that seemed to be very popular a few years back! Nice to see them having fun.

Hi Cindy, I really should get my sketch book out too. Do you find much time to do any drawing? I've completely got out of the habit these days, and really should do something about that, as I am sure that drawing or painting can feed the other creative processes. Maybe a drawing of 3 chimneys is a good place to start!

Hi Doug, nice to hear from you. Wouldn't it be good if slugs ate migraines and left the lupins alone! We don't seem to have much problem with slugs here. I was quite shocked at the size of the slugs that my Uncle in Oxford had in his garden. I think they may be bigger in the UK than the ones here (could it be the result of nuclear power!!??)

Hi Doe,
Sorry we didn't manage to catch up with you in Oamaru, it would have been fun. Sad your sales weren't so great, those events are such hard work too. Enjoyed looking at the photos that you have put on your site of the Saturday parade.

Hi Patti,
I think the only "out growing" I am doing is adding more inches to my middle (rather like Ginger the cat has done to his). It will be interesting to see if the poor old braincells to get rid of some of their aches and pains as they get older. It is a nice thought! Plants "sulking"... they certainly do possess a great range of emotional states, especially when growing on our bit of ground!

Hi Ang, good to know you're OK over there. I realize that bushfires are a fact of life in Australia, but I do worry about friends and family at times.

Armelle said...


Your garden is really beautiful. I love the iris and lupins and also the elderberry tree, we have a lot of them in Belle-ile, too. No more flowers, but fruits, we can make marmelade with them.
We have also a lot of willow and two kind of them in my garden, red and green one. Is there any privets ? I love the smell of these flowers in the spring.
I wanted to add new photos of the tempest in my blog, but my PC doesnt want to take them. The wind is so strong that it transforms the foam in "cotton", as big snowflakes flying.

Nice little poem.

Kind regards


Linda Starr said...

Wow, that first photo and your view is beautiful. I just love the lupines, blue and yellow, the geraniums, the columbines, and the elderberries. Laura has done a wonderfull job with the flowers all around. Some of those same ones grow wild in many areas of the Sierra Nevada mountains here and remind me of when I used to live there in different locations. We have white alder here and I planted some at my last house in a poorly drained area, they grow so fast. There is nothing prettier than a somewhat wild garden. After many years I like it when plants start to sprout on their own. I think that is when you know you have succeeded in creating a garden when the plants start to come of their own volition. Beautiful post and lovely poem too. Take it easy Peter and enjoy your gardens.

Ang's plant sounds like it could be a yucca.

Peter said...

Bonjour Armelle!

Do you have a recipe for elderberry marmelade, I would love to make some. I have had a drink made from the elder flowers, and elderberry wine also.

There are some privits in New Zealand that were grown to make hedges. Sadly they are regarded as a weed here so most people have got rid of them. I think some people are allergic to the pollen.

As to willows, we have several varieties here, all introduced to New Zealand. The weeping willows, we are told, are propagated from trees that were planted over the tomb of Napoleon on the island of St. Helena. This might be true, as, in 1838,there was a French settlement established in the South Island of New Zealand in a place called Akaroa.

I can imagine the "tempest" that you describe, with foam blown into the air like snow. The sea is magnificent in all its moods!

Hi Linda,
It is wonderful when plants do start to sprout on their own. I was beginning to wonder if the alders ever would, but there are some that are starting to multiply. I have young oaks by the 100, and plum trees too! You may be right about Angie's plant, I did wonder Yucca thoughts myself, especially because she said that it didn't smell nice! I think we need some photos to be sure either way though.

Angie said...

Tried to send photos of tree but I kept being told that my delivery has failed ???

Peter said...

Hi Angie,
Sorry about that, I wonder if you have my email address as it should be. You could try sending an Email without picture attached and see if that gets away OK. If it doesn't, than there is definitely a problem with my address.

(just replace the AT with a @ and the DOT with a full stop and it should go all right).

If still no joy, you could post a photo on your site and I'll hop over and have a look.

Best Wishes, and good luck with sending it (I'm looking forward to seeing what you have growing there!).



Peter, thank you for the lovely comment on my blog. I was delighted by your story about the roosters. I have a soft spot for poultry, as you can tell. I have linked to your blog on my site and would be honored if you would link to mine, as well. I enjoyed spending part of my Sunday poking around your blog looking at your past posts. You have an interesting site and make beautiful work.

Peter said...

Lovely to hear back from you. I will be delighted to add Henhouse Pottery to my links, as it was a real treat to discover your wonderful blog the other day and see what you are up to with pottery, poultry, and bees! Best Wishes, P.