I haven't given any update on our front garden since first setting sail with this blogging space way back in June! I think I'm a little overdue, don't you?
This photo above is where I left you on the Front Garden page, with the fence painted, the Lilly Pilly Hedge just planted along the fence line and the large pile of mulch from what was here before had been raked over the garden.
So, before we roll into more of our Christmas Festivities, here's what's been going on over the past twelve months and where it's at right now...
Towards the end of last spring (2013) we weren't anywhere near ready for planting but I found it impossible to resist so I gathered a couple of half wine barrels and some pots and cultivated a few little summer essentials.
By autumn this year (March 2014) those summer crops had served us well and it was time to shape up some beds. This huge front area consists of about 8-10 centimetres of fairly workable soil. After that layer it becomes a fight between the rocks and the clay. We have begun breaking up the clay with gypsum but it's going to take some time. Towards the end of autumn we got our first load of mushroom compost delivered and that was the beginning of putting our design into action.
Winter was busy. We shoveled barrow loads of that compost around, mapped out the central circular area which will become a pond with some sort of urn or something rising up out of the water. Surrounding this we are planning for rockery and a mix of water plants - mostly edibles. Over this summer (2014/15) we will finish shaping the beds with edging. That is one painstaking task for we have to pre-tap the 3 millimetre trench with a concrete scraper before very carefully slotting the edging into place. Once the borders are in, we will continue to build up the soil to create a raised bed on top of the clay and rocky ground beneath. I love the idea of staying connected to the earth but still being able to give our future edibles something more than clay and rock to take root within. Perhaps over time and with the help of more gypsum we might be able to transform those layers of earth underneath into something more agreeable. There are a lot of lovely minerals in clay if one can break it apart for drainage.
Surrounding those beds will be gravel pathways interspersed with a few salvaged pavers. I quite fancy the idea of decorating the pavers with mosaic patterns and will definitely have some pots spread around too. Towards the end of winter, while the trees were still enjoying their sleep, we planted our very first fruit trees (not counting the Lilly Pillies). There are two dwarf cherry trees in those barrels pictured above and over by the shed we planted a mulberry (which you can just see along the left hand edge of the shot). The mulberry, however, will be relocated out the back come next winter. We (or that would be Me - errhum) kind of buggered up and chose the "Hicks" variety for it's delicious fruit and preserving prospects as well as it's drought tolerance, but I overlooked the size it will grow once matured. Actually I didn't really overlook it, I was aware that most people choose it as a major 'feature' tree and that it can take up a whole front yard, I just chose to ignore that detail and naively convinced myself that I could prune it to size. I really wanted that variety you see and since I have a very patient husband who holds great faith in my research skills, he went with it but we have since decided to transplant it to a more suitable spot out the back. Or maybe, it might have to be re-homed altogether but I will try all other options first.
Moving on to spring (I'm changing the subject off the mulberry - subtle?) where construction of the beds came to a standstill - umm something to do with budgetary restraints and more immediate maintenance issues interrupted our flow with that over winter. But now that those expenses are dealt with, this summer, we will be able to pick up where we left off.
The two photos in the middle down below are our Lily Pillies. Check out the very last image on the Front Garden page to see how much they have grown since we put them in. They have taken such a while to recover from our heat waves of last summer and we saw very little life from them through the months since. There was hope their efforts were being concentrated beneath the surface, but, we had resolved that if by spring they had not shown signs of growth then we would regretfully pull them up and start over.
Lo and behold, during these most recent months those beautiful plants have filled us with relief and reassurance. They are full of life and new growth and I swear, they have at least doubled in size since the final weeks of winter! Another few turns around the sun and we will indeed have a thick healthy hedge which, as they continue to thrive, will once again give back our privacy from the street.
The strip along the drive will be planted out with rosemary that will grow up into a lovely fragrant border meeting the Lilly Pillies at the top fenceline and a rustic wooden arbor positioned over the slate path at the opposite end. The three wine barrels you see around that upright frame will remain but be tidied up with gravel and bricks underneath. This is a necessity as we have learned from our friendly eco-pest control company that the termite colonies existing nearby (but fortunately not within the house - note aforementioned "immediate maintenance issue") love to chow down on the wine soaked timber used for the barrels. The gravel and bricks are not a foolproof preventative but are certainly better than having the wood sitting on the ground. Using that upright frame, we will rotate climbing crops according to the season. Oh and the arbor I mentioned will also support some sort of climbing crop. Those two empty barrels you see there will be positioned with the other three to create a nice cluster.
In the garden bed surrounding the trampoline, we have plans to plant natives and the bed on the other side of the driveway is in need of building up with one more row of posts to make the barrier higher, then a load of lovely soil and fresh compost before it too is ready for planting. A second arbor will eventuate to frame the visitors gate over the entry path. I'm sure we will grow something over that one as well but quite what is anyone's guess at this stage.
And now, just a few more photos will bring you completely up-to-date. These were taken yesterday and is where we are at right now in the early summer of 2014.
Those potted aggies were yet another gift from my inlaw's downscaling efforts and will be positioned somewhere soon. Agapenthus thrive in our South Australian climate, they love the summer heat and are drought tolerant. When everything else is hiding under shade cloth or frizzling up, the aggies are in full bloom and stand strong. If you've ever tried to dig one up though, their root structure tells you how they do it.
The concrete trough was here when we moved in only it was living in the shade house and overgrown with ferns. It was lovely there but that area is where most of our 'damp' issue concentrates and where the screened 'window vent' for the cellar is situated. Opening this area up and drying it out overtakes any thoughts of keeping the trough there, plus it is rather a perfect fit for positioning on the other side of that shade cloth wall. The bamboo trellis was a gift salvaged from a hard rubbish pile by my in-laws who are very familiar with the things we like to repurpose. Planted in that trough at the moment, I've got a mix of sugarsnaps (peas) at the back for climbing, and radish with nasturtiums at the front although I'm still waiting on those to grow.
Over the next few seasons I intend to install a matrix of drip lines that will be attached to timers on three separate garden taps. Imagine a fully productive food forest that can be watered efficiently by the twist of a tap. That's my goal you guys.
So you see, our front garden is a happening place. So many plans, dreams and actions coming about. It is a work in progress and I am certain ideas will change and evolve as time goes on and our knowledge deepens. More mistakes will be made (umm mulberry anyone?) and successes celebrated.
For now, I will leave it there but now that you are all up to date I will be sure not to let it lapse so long next time. Stay tuned for our progress over the coming season. How I am looking forward to that.