Another Open Garden weekend has come and gone. We have been opening our garden here in Mole Creek, Tasmania, for over 10 years now and we love it. Although our garden opens on a regular basis anyhow, it is the Open Gardens Australia weekends that we enjoy the most. Because we have done it so often and because our garden is fairly remote, we usually try and enhance the opening with a special event of some sort, and the first weekend in December has become our annual ‘Art in the Garden’ exhibition for this reason. For many years, we ran the event ourselves as well as getting the garden prepared for hundreds of visitors, but these days we have become a little wiser and asked a local gallery owner to do the honours.
We love these weekends – the atmosphere in the garden is really relaxed and for some reason people give themselves more time on these weekends than when they visit our garden normally. Lots of people bring a picnic lunch and sit by our creek, and we really love that they feel comfortable enough to do that.
Even though we have done this so many times that we should have it down-pat, the lead-up to the days is pretty full-on. Because spring in Mole Creek is mild and wet, getting the lawns mowed in time can be a real juggling act. Obviously, the aim would be to do them the day before – but the weather doesn’t always play fair. This time, we had to mow a couple of days before and then again after our last visitor left on Saturday so everything looked OK for Sunday.
Before the opening, the edges need doing as well. Thankfully, that is a ‘boy job‘ now that it is done with the brush-cutter. What used to take me days and days with old-fashioned crutching shears (bear in mind our garden is 2½ acres and is full of big, sweeping borders) now only takes 45 minutes. And as it is boy time, I don’t count it anyhow. Our simple cut-grass edges are the one thing that people ask about most.
How does he do them? Here I will try and sound as if I know what I’m talking about from experience, but really I’m parroting what I have heard him explain countless times. He never asks me how I get the finish so perfectly on the icing on a chocolate cake, so I figure I really don’t need to know all the technical details about how he does the edging. Anyhow, if I act too interested, what is now a boy job may end up being a girl job – I’m not totally stupid. Ignorance is bliss.
Firstly, he doesn’t use the safety guard. I’m sure this would send the manufacturers into a tail-spin, but that’s what he has always done. He undoes one of the two bolts at the base of the brush-cutter shaft with the allen key, as well as the loosening the locking screw that runs through the shaft, and then turns the brushcutter head to the left so the cord is cutting on a vertical plane rather than a horizontal plane. After tightening the aforementioned bolt, he slowly walks backwards (this takes a little practice) and trims the inside edge at half speed. Providing this chore is done before the mowing, what gets flung out onto the lawn then gets mown over and hey presto – fabulously neat edges. We’ve always thought that providing the lawn is mown and the edges lovely, people won’t see the odd weed or rose that needs deadheading. It also sets off the garden beautifully, but doesn’t become a feature in itself, which we wouldn’t want. For us, the garden is about the plants and the design of the beds.
So anyhow, once the lawns and the edges are done it really is a matter of making sure the hedges are neat (another boy job!) and that there aren’t any weeds. Sometimes we discover a huge one that has been masquerading as a plant in amongst the overflowing beds – and that only became visible once the tell-tale flower materialises. And sometimes, even if it’s tiny, you can be sure that a little old lady will spot it and make it her mission to let you know in front of a group of people. These are the stories we dine out on at the end of the day over a glass of wine, so it would be a shame to be perfect and miss out on that opportunity.
All in all, the lead-up to the weekend may be relatively intense, but the satisfaction of waking up on the Saturday morning knowing that the garden looks as good as you can make it is pretty great. Once the distinctive yellow and green Open Gardens Australia signs are up, the urns on and the front gate made pretty, there’s no going back anyhow.