Notes from the Garden of Jury – September 13

The little sights in the garden can bring me delight – bluebells and narcissi against the twisted trunk of a giant eucalyptus

I am feeling the pressure of opening the garden again after seven years. All I can say is that if you want to see it, you had better come this year to the Taranaki Garden Festival (October 30 to November 8) because they way I am feeling, we may not open again.

We maintain the garden all the time to a level that keeps us happy but that is not the same as the level needed to reopen after such a long time closed. With seven weeks to go, there seems to be so much to do. We will get there – we are experienced at this – but it does take away some of the pleasure of early spring.

Spring has long been associated with anxiety in my mind. For seven years, from the age of 15 to 22, it was the time of major exams that could change the course of my life. I had nightmares about it all for at least two decades after that. Then spring became a pressure time for us when we were in business with the garden open, retailing plants and the never-ending demands of nursery production work. The last seven years have been bliss. Bliss, I tell you. With no external pressures or expectations of us, we have been free to take all the time we want to enjoy the daily sights of spring abundance and beauty. Whether we continue to reopen after this year will depend on how much we enjoy the festival and sharing the garden with visitors. It will have to be quite a lot to reward me for all the effort going into it right now.

A daily routine here but I admit that the photo was taken earlier when temperatures were warmer. Mark is not one of those hardy men who wears shorts all year round.

Emerging lilies. You won’t see the detail if you are reading this on your phone, but front right is the one rabbit-chewed shoot. In the past two years, all would have been attacked by now.

Regular readers may recall my despair at the rabbit predations this time last year. Mark and I were out sprinkling blood and bone after every rain to try and deter them. The auratum lilies are all coming through again and I am checking every morning. So far only one has been chewed off. This is testimony to Mark’s ongoing efforts with the gun. He has shot nearly 50 so far this year and that in a limited area of barely 2 acres. There are still a few around that need to be cleaned out and we dare not take our eyes off the ball – or the fluffy tails – because those few can increase exponentially (not unlike Covid, really) but man with .22 rifle appears to have the upper hand at this stage. In case you are wondering what we do with 49 dead rabbits, there is not much that the dogs enjoy more than fresh rabbit for breakfast.

I have tried cooking rabbit before – both casserole and pie but the only recipe I have really enjoyed is for rabbit and pistachio terrine (a recipe courtesy of Alistair Boyce) and it takes a bit of effort and pre-planning so I don’t make it often.

Lloyd in the process of compacting the base layer of pit metal. We borrowed the compactor from an obliging man up the road but they can also be hired. 

We bought this little orchard tractor over 20 years ago and it was already old then. It has done a lot of work in the years since.

We have laid the base course of pit metal for the paths in the new summer gardens. I say ‘we’, but that is in the royal sense. This has been Lloyd’s project. It took about 19 cubic metres and he did it with our baby tractor and wheelbarrow. We had thought we would get a bobcat in but Lloyd pointed out that the paths, though appearing generous, were just too narrow for the bobcat and some of the turns too tight so he thought it better to take the time to do it himself with minimal disturbance.

When it rains heavily, this path becomes the natural water course

An off the shelf solution but it needs precise installation to make it work for the best outcome

He is only half way there. There is still the top layer of crushed limestone and shell to be laid but we are letting the base layer settle first. Heavy rains highlighted a problem: in one area, the run-off from downpours naturally flowed down one path and scoured out the newest set of steps every time. We can get away with quite a bit because our volcanic soils are very free draining and surface water is absorbed quickly (this never happens in clay soils). But our rains can be torrential and when that happens, the run-off will find its natural path. Lloyd is, by nature, a problem solver. He decided we needed a drainage channel in front of the steps, one that is safe to be walked on. Fortunately, this is an off-the-shelf solution. He has laid it with an imperceptible drop to one side (this is a man who makes a spirit level his friend) and then connected it to a length of holey, plastic drainage tubing hidden just below the mulch to disperse the water more widely. We are waiting for the next downpour but we expect the problem to be solved.

Magnolia Athene against the bright blue sky yesterday

15 thoughts on “Notes from the Garden of Jury – September 13

  1. Angela

    We feel your pain regarding rabbits. Our 1 acre garden has many mini fences around new or slow growing plants and, sadly, almost permanently around our “pretties” part near the house. We’ve used black fencing 450mm high to try and make it as recessive as possible. Would love to do the blood & bone trick instead, but our cocker spaniel would hoover and lick up the lot. As to the “expectations” of your visitors during the festival there are a selection of expletive words I would use. Wishing you well.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      I even bought some rabbit bait once. Mark put it out at night and went out first thing in the morning to gather it up and Dudley Dog raced ahead and was eating a bait as Mark arrived. That was the beginning and end of poisoning efforts. Really, rabbit proof fencing or reducing the numbers are the only long term solution.
      To be fair to garden visitors, 99% are charming, gracious and appreciative. These expectations are the the standards I am imposing on myself!

  2. Pat Webster

    Seven years without opening the garden — those years have obviously given you and Mark lots of pleasure. I’ve closed the garden this year, for obvious Covid reasons, but anticipate opening it again next summer. Which in many ways will be a shame. Like you, I’ve enjoyed simply being in the garden, not worrying about the detailed maintenance. I’ve tackled major projects that I couldn’t find time for before, and that has given me enormous satisfaction. But sharing the garden is a big part of my pleasure, too… so next year I’ll be back to worrying about details, I’m afraid.

  3. Pat Webster

    Failed to mention how much I like the first photo. Those are the details of a garden that touch me most.

  4. Jane Allen

    The thought that you might not open the garden again after this year is too awful to contemplate. I hope you have such gasps of admiration and +ve feedback from this year’s visitors that you immediately start planning for the 2021 festival. After your mention of rabbit nibble on the lilies I rushed out to the garden and, sure enough, two have already been chewed (I went to Sydney fir a day) can’t take your eye off the ball for a second! And aphids have appeared overnight. Spring is grand!

  5. Paddy Tobin

    Oh, goodness, Abbie, opening to the public is something which is beyond me. I simply could not do it. We have had members of our local garden clubs visit on occasions but these were people we knew as we also were members but the public! A shiver runs up my spine even at the thought. I would be overwhelmed by the desire/need to have everything perfect on the day. The pressure would be too much for me. I admire your bravery and send very best wishes.

  6. tonytomeo

    I have been away from the farm for so long that I do not even know the condition of the gardens. They may not open to the public for a long time. The landscapes where I work presently looked great this summer, but because of the ‘situation’, no one was here to notice. More recently, some of the lodges housed firefighters who were only here at night. Now, some of the cabins will house some of those who lost their home to the fires. As pretty as it all is, it is not like home.

  7. Tim Dutton

    We can well understand the stress involved: every day we feel we don’t have enough time to do what we want, even just trying to get our garden how we want it without the public visiting. And as the days get longer and warmer the rate of plant growth is phenomenal, as is the rate of weed germination. Our fear about your wonderful garden Abbie is that COVID will strike again just in time to mean the cancellation of the Taranaki Garden Spectacular and we won’t get to see it at all. I am sure that you’ll manage to get everything how you want it by the start of the festival and those of us who love gardens and gardening will appreciate it.
    Lloyd seems to be doing a wonderful job on the paths, even without exotic machinery.
    Remember to take time out each day to enjoy what you have: maybe I should heed my own advice!

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      Thanks Tim. I am guessing we can probably go ahead as long as we are in level 2, though that would kill the coach trips. There is no problem in social distancing in the garden, though I would need to put some thought into how to safely manage the workshops. If we are back at a higher level, the fate of the festival and garden opening may be the least of our worries! Fingers crossed for level one. Though the cluster of protesting conspiracists in Auckland could be the downfall of the whole country if Covid gets loose in that lot.

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