about this blog



I started this blog in 2008. It started mainly as a way of tracking the evolution of my dry garden, and that led to an interest in photography and in the creatures that live in the garden. It's still about the garden and wildlife, but now my passion is thinking about how we humans can learn to co-exist with wild animals and plants, especially in urban areas.

Friday, 27 November 2015

the fig and the phlomis



It's summer. Already there have been terrible bushfires and some very hot days. I continue my practice of watching, mulching but not watering. If plants die, there's no decision to be made. They just couldn't cut it. Wrong plants for this particular ecosystem, for this particular climate.

Unimpressive Correa lawrenceana 

The problem is with plants that don't die but don't thrive either. I have to decide how long to wait before I ditch - or rather compost - them. Sometimes it's easy to get rid of them because I'm not particularly attached, but other times it's a wrench because I had great expectations for them.

For example, the fig tree. It's special, an old heritage variety called St. Dominique Violette. This fig has barely grown since I planted it about three years ago. I know it's not in a particularly sunny spot but I didn't think it would be so fussy. I think it's an extra dry spot because it's near tall plane trees with hard-to-imagine deep root systems that suck the soil dry. During a recent hot spell this puny fig tree even dropped its leaves. Wimp! Now the leaves are growing back but it's still not getting any bigger.

Pathetic Fig St Dominique Violette

Near the fig I planted Dodonea viscosa, a Hop Bush from New Zealand with burgundy leaves. Unlike the fig, thankfully they seem to be doing okay in this difficult spot and are growing larger by the day.

Dodonea viscosa - New Zealand Hop Bush

It's a very difficult spot. There's a mature wattle growing there. Wattles are not particularly long lived. When this one dies I'll leave it to provide habitat for wildlife. When its roots die maybe the soil will improve ...  yes, I know, such sentiments are wildly, naively optimistic...

Another disappointment is the Phlomis italica in the front garden. I fell madly in love with this plant and bought a couple, also about 3 years ago. I thought they would be tough. Admittedly they did not have an ideal start. They got moved around quite a few times before they were given a chance to establish themselves. Maybe they lost their trust and are paying me back. They are now barely larger than when they arrived and they're supposed to grow to a metre. They've never flowered. I'm getting impatient. I know us gardeners are supposed to be patient - so much for stereotypes!


Phlomis italica, a sad specimen

I'm linking this to Beth's Lessons Learned meme in her blog Plant Postings. At the end of each season gardeners all over the world share what they learned. So what did I learn during the last 3 months? I think I learned more about the challenges of garden time and transience. I'm not gardening for now. I'm not into instant gardens. I love it looking 'potential' and watching the vision evolve into the picture I envisaged, or into a different and unexpected picture. But when everything's low and there's not enough height and variety, it's easy to forget that it's all transient and ever changing and it's easy to get discouraged.

So the lesson is: don't forget that nothing lasts. When the garden's looking gorgeous, the gorgeousness soon fades and when it's looking crappy it's only a matter of time before it becomes gorgeous again. Except when it doesn't - as in the case of  the fig and the phlomis. 





20 comments:

  1. That the exciting thing of gardening, you never get bored because you are never totally sure if plants will die or thrive. You just have to go around your garden to find a better place for your fig, try it again and may be you are thrilled after another year when it´s finally growing.
    Success!
    Janneke

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    1. Hi Judy, I agree, that's why gardening never gets boring.

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  2. if you are expecting fruit from the fig
    you may have to treat it as a food crop
    and give it (grey?) water.
    Our Porterville fig trees flourished on mulch and grey water.

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    1. And I thought figs once established are drought proof - one drip!

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  3. Valuable lessons! I know we all struggle with whether or not to let go of particular plants when they don't do well. I have to admit I'm a rather optimistic gardener and will leave plants for ages and ages hoping they will improve. I have just as many successes as failures with that approach.

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    1. I'm getting more patient but basically with unhappy plants and boring books, I tend to think life's too short ...

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  4. You're so right, we don't garden for "now", we are always thinking of how the garden will look in a few years time, this is what keeps us going, the garden is always changing and manages to surprise us time and time again!

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    1. I find this dilemma very interesting. We can plant closely for soon, if not now, or put up with boring views while we're waiting for plants to grow. I recently visited a special garden and they filled gaps with annuals. I can't be bothered doing that.

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  5. Ah, I enjoyed your conclusions at the end of the post. Very thoughtful and well-written! Thanks for joining in the lessons learned meme! I'll have the entry post up tomorrow. Happy summer to you!

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    1. thanks beth, and happy winter to you ...

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  6. Wow! There is a few plants that I have not heard of yet. Now I know. Great post :-) TQ.

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  7. when it's looking crappy it's only a matter of time before it becomes gorgeous again. (Except when it doesn't) I really like that. Instant gardening, I kind of get it, to my shame, perhaps its my age, doesn't stop me replacing stuff I don't like though.

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    1. Hi Alastair, I think replacing stuff is fun, active gardening and an example of the kind of decision making that ensures gardening is always interesting.

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  8. Catmint - The fig tree looks very healthy. Before you compost it, move it into full sun and see if it improves. We have very hot, humid summers in Florida and our fig tree is in full sun where it thrives.

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    1. Thanks for that, Linda. I have a spot planned for it but won't move it until it drops its leaves in winter. Hopefully it will grow there. It's a bit shady but there's more light than where it is now.

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  9. I didn't used to have the attitude that if plants don't hack it then they must go and used to go to extremes to give unsuitable plants the best chance in the opposite of your conditions, currently shady and wet. Experience including plenty of disappointment over my early years taught me that with the vast number of plants available it is very possible to have a decent display without trying to grow those which will not thrive.

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    1. Hi Rick, I agree, I feel my whole gardening experience has been about trying to find plants that will naturalize and just grow without fuss. But with more extreme weather conditions, like wet for you and hot and dry for me, that can become more of a challenge.

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  10. I hear what you say, 'The problem is with plants that don't die but don't thrive either.' Those that hang on and take up space, and aren't of any wildlife value....that is how I am looking at plants in my garden these days.

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    Replies
    1. yep, they have to earn their place, don't they?

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