More a tussock walkway than tussock lands, with a postscript on nativity scenes

What to do with this new space? The end by the shed will be screened with a hedge of Camellia Fairy Blush but that must wait until autumn now.

A nearly blank canvas! I thought I had done with these when I planted the last of the summer gardens. Then we created a new space when we moved both the propagation shed and Mark’s plant treasure house. What to do with this area?

Sometimes it takes time for a plan to become clear. We cleaned up the area for the garden festival, covering up the bare ground with wood chips and I looked and thought. And looked several times a day and thought. It is an access way and we have decided to leave some of the building supports in place to hold the lapagerias up. The lapagerias – Chilean bellflowers – suffered shock when they were suddenly exposed to bright light but they are putting on fresh growth now.

Looking back the other way from the shed. The railway track concrete paths should be lifted in the next week or so.

I found a hearth belonging to the previous house on the property – a single bay villa from the turn of last century. Mark vaguely knew it was there but he couldn’t remember the exact location. It seems to be the site of the old copper for boiling up laundry so is more likely to have been a detached wash-house than the actual residence. Somehow it seems to have some historic interest though I am not sure yet how to incorporate that.

The twin concrete paths are a legacy of the propagation shed and will be lifted, possibly broken up and used in crazy paving elsewhere. There is screening hedging to go in at the end nearest our big shed but that will have to wait for autumn, now. But what to do with the rest of it?

The empty space runs behind the summer borders
Flanked on the other side by the freeform bee and butterfly garden we call the Iolanthe garden

It wasn’t until Friday that my plan became clear. We favour complex plantings but this transition area needs a simpler solution. On one side, it is flanked by the twin borders which are controlled complex plantings. On the other side, it is bounded by the Iolanthe garden – the bee and butterfly garden with its wilder, free-form complex plantings. What we needed, I decided, is a simple breathing space in the middle.   I have written about green breathing spaces before and their importance in garden design. We don’t want mown lawn in this space, but we will go with grass – or grasses, to be precise. Not green grasses, though. Tawny brown grasses.

More tawny than bronze, Carex comans ‘Bronze’ looks better to my eyes when each plant has its own space rather than growing together

Enter our native carex, also referred to as sedges. I happen to have both Carex comans ‘Bronze’ and Carex buchananii which need lifting and dividing. They grow quickly and have a tendency to seed down but that will be fine in this situation. I measured a C. comans ‘Bronze’and I can tell you that it only takes two years to get to around 80cm across when given space. I plan to plant at metre spacings to give each plant room to stand in its own place and I figure I have enough to cover about 30 square metres. C. buchananii, being an upright grower, needs to be planted a bit closer but between the two, I am hoping we can cover most of the area. There will be no formal definition in layout – the paths will be the same woodchip as the mulch around the plants so it will be seamless to the eye.

Carex buchananii also looks better with more space than I have given it here

Mark referred to the potential experience of walking through our own tussock so I looked up and indeed, in NZ, tussock refers to a number of our native grasses, including carex. We won’t have a green breathing space, but we will have a small tawny brown tussock grassland. Now I just want to start planting and get it done. Watch this space.

Hilary’s nativity scene in natural materials

Further to last week’s post on nativity scenes, a reader sent me photos of her natural-styled nativity scenes. Her first was freeform, her second designed to last more than just a day to two. I was delighted to hear from somebody else motivated to create their own.

If you, too, find nativity scenes an interesting diversion, google ‘cats in nativity scenes’ or click here. I like cats, even though we made a decision, based on environmental concerns, not to get another cat when our Buffy came to the end of her days. Determined cats photobombing nativity scenes rival cats destroying Christmas trees.

I will restrain myself, however, from sharing the edible nativity scene that came down my Facebook feed. A dinner table centrepiece, it was constructed from… frankfurters and bacon. Even for a heathen like me, it was perhaps a step too far. But it was funny.

4 thoughts on “More a tussock walkway than tussock lands, with a postscript on nativity scenes

  1. Tim Dutton

    We grow both those bronze Carex in our swamp garden (above the water level), very successfully, as they self seed in profusion in the beds and the gravel path that meanders through the middle. We have to weed out hundreds of them. Interestingly the green Carex comans varieties don’t seem to cope as well as the bronze with the very wet conditions they have to put up with and we lost a lot of them over the winter. We also grow a third bronze one, Carex flagellifera, which is doing very nicely for us and to my mind is a tidier looking plant than the C. comans bronze, whilst being very similar in form and colour. In our conditions the comans is smaller, maybe only 50 cms across, whilst flagellifera is nearer to 80, as is buchananii. We look forward to seeing the photos once it has become established.

    1. Abbie Jury Post author

      That is interesting. I haven’t tried carex in damp conditions. I just looked up flagellifera, wondering whether we had that not comans, but it seems to have a more upright centre, which our plants certainly don’t have. I will have to see if I can find a plant of that locally as week.

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