Just another week in the Garden of Jury – late spring, umbrellas and bird’s nest or two

Umbrellas are a part of our lives here. We own quite a few of them and use them often to move around the property. That is because it rains quite a bit and the rain can often be torrential. We get 150cm a year (60 inches). I try and keep the respectable brollies that are in good condition tucked away for when visitors need them, confining us to the somewhat derelict ones. When I say we own quite a few, I mean getting up towards 20 of them and I don’t want to end up with 20 old, crusty brollies. Here I am, drying out some of the better ones to put away again after a garden tour last Sunday.

The tour was a small group of British and American gardeners, led by a tour host whom we particularly like, which is why we agreed to their visit when the garden is otherwise closed. It is a very different dynamic to host tours with a knowledgeable leader and plenty of time for a leisurely walk around followed by morning tea. We really enjoy their company and that has not always been true for garden tours down the years. The more you get, the less personal the experience and, I am sure, less rewarding for the visitor too. The rain didn’t even matter much and it stopped soon after it started.

The English visitors felt right at home as soon as we reached the park and they saw the meadow although one of them marvelled, looking back and seeing our native tree ferns growing amongst the trees – they are self-sown here but very highly valued in the UK. Though truth be told, the most common tree fern grown overseas is the Tasmanian species, Dicksoniana antarctica.

Iris sibirica, Stipa tenuissima and common fennel in the morning light

I showed them the progress on the new garden area and those from colder climates were simply amazed at the growth rates we get here, it being a mere sixteen months since I started planting this area. The other side to that coin, of course, is that while we get a quick result we have to start thinning and managing the growth much earlier. The Iris sibirica are looking particularly good this week and stand well above waist height. We only have three different forms of this iris – the deep ‘Caesar’s Brother’, a white form and the one above which may or may not be ‘Blue Moon’. If I see other colours being offered, I would be tempted to buy more having found how spectacular they can look when massed as single colours.

The simple charm of a grey warbler nest

Behold a grey warbler nest. These are exquisite, small creations that hang from branches but this one had broken off in the recent winds. The migratory shining cuckoo is entirely dependent on the grey warbler for its continued survival because it pressgangs in the warbler into fostering its egg and then the hatchling. I asked Mark how the cuckoo, a larger bird, managed to get its egg into the nest. He is fount of considerable knowledge on these matters and he tells me the cuckoo enters through the hole, lays its egg and then forces its way out the side. The little warbler then repairs the nest and hatches out the cuckoo’s single egg with its own eggs but the larger cuckoo hatchling pushes the baby warblers or warbler eggs out of the nest. Before you worry too much about the warblers, it is the second clutch of eggs they raise that can be supplanted by the cuckoo in the nest and the warbler population is not under any threat at all.

I have a collection of birds’ nests and have been wondering how to display them. I have at last found a suitable tree skeleton that I think can be severed and brought under cover so I can tie the nests to the bare branches. Whether I can do it without it looking terribly naff remains to be seen.

Gardening is a wonderfully cyclic affair. Is there anybody as finely tuned to the seasons as the keen gardener? Yesterday was the first pick of the roses for the season. All but two of these have such scoury foliage that they have been banished to Mark’s vegetable garden (a large area that he refers to as his allotment) so the only reason they still survive is for the cutting of the blooms. Not only is gardening cyclic, it can also be distinctly ephemeral. But often those ephemeral pleasures can be the most charming on the days when they are at their best.

The roses used to grow in borders surrounding the sunken garden before I cut my losses on their awful foliage and stripped out the area for a more sculptural simplicity 

I think it looks better now for the simpler appearance

6 thoughts on “Just another week in the Garden of Jury – late spring, umbrellas and bird’s nest or two

  1. tonytomeo

    The Australian tree fern is the common one here. Tasmanian tree fern is more resilient, but does not get as big and bold. Gardeners do not trim them up nicely. Their trunks are always so thick with stubble.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      We have debated this. Tree ferns really only need tidying up *nicely* when used as plants in suburban or highly manicured gardens. Some of our ferns have evolved to form skirts of spent foliage around their trunks which have their own charm.

      1. tonytomeo

        Oh, they don’t leave skirts. They just cut off the fronds, leaving long petioles. It is so STUPID! I mean, either leave a skirt, or cut the petioles to the trunk; one or the other! It is like leaving stubs when pruning oak trees. We have the same dilema with palms. Some retain their long beards of dead fronds. Others get pruned of beards, but left with stubble of petiole bases. Others get peeled or shaven to expose bare trunks. For palms, it really depends on the species, although Mexican fan palms are adaptable to any of the three options.

  2. Tim Dutton

    Only 150 cms per year Abbie? Luxury! We’ve only ever had 2 years out of the last 23 that dry: 190 is our average. Anyway, its nice to see the sunken garden not flooded like it was last time you provided a photo of it and it does look very nice with the grass all grown around the outside.

  3. Wynne Price

    In relation to your birds nest collection: I have, over the past three weeks, been watching the starlings in my backyard stripping leaves from various herbs (which are all growing in pots), and flying away with great beaksful of greenery. They have attacked the parsley, sage, and mint, but their absolute favourite is the marjoram, which is still very lush and has not put up any flowering stems yet. I have never seen this behaviour before, yet I have been growing herbs in pots for over 40 years. We can not decide whether they are weaving the foliage into their nests, or are perhaps feeding them to their fledglings. Have you seen this yourself, Abby, or do you have any idea what might be going on here?

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      Pre-seasoned? I don’t know, Wynne. Starlings are more likely to eat insects or sometimes grain rather than leaves so maybe they are weaving them into their nests. Can you see there they are nesting so you can check later in the season?

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