I’m sure every gardener has a spot where they put plants waiting to be planted, plants they can’t bear to get rid of, potted plants that need recuperating, cuttings to be struck and so on. My spot is the drying court. It is also home to my herb garden which is planted in terracotta pots recycled from previous gardens, my bell collection, the worm farm and various other bits and pieces that can’t be used in the rest of the garden. And… oh yes there is also the clothesline! Sometimes it is quite tricky finding room for the sheets but I do manage to line dry everything, expect on the wettest days of winter.
The courtyard is actually tiny – 3.3m x 1.8m with one corner truncated. It is on the north east corner of the house so it gets lots of morning sunshine in winter and is protected from the afternoon sun in summer by the house in the south (single storey) and the west (two storey). The two other sides of the courtyard are formed by boundary walls with laneways on the outside. Bougainvilleas are planted on the outside of the walls – more than a sane person would plant but my husband loves them and the thorns do act as a form of security. In summer they send out tall arching boughs laden with flowers which provide some shade but each winter they are pruned back to the top of the wall. Actually I do sometimes feel as though, triffid-like, they will take over and, if left to their own devices, I’m sure they would.
Of the herbs I use most (both in quantity and frequency) the parsley and coriander need to be regularly replenished as they go to seed, the basil lasts from spring right through until the middle of winter, the mint goes a bit dormant in winter but bounces back in summer and the chives just keep going all year. There is always rosemary, thyme, sage, oregano, lemongrass and chillis on hand but I can’t get tarragon or dill to thrive. I planted Mexican tarragon as a substitute for the French one and it is thriving but I have to confess that for some reason I’ve never used it – perhaps the very strong smell of the leaves puts me off. I do like the bright yellow fruity smelling flowers though. Another pretty little herb I have is the prostrate winter savoury which gets smothered in tiny white flowers. Golden oregano is used as a ground cover and there is a caper bush in a hanging basket but I really only grow it for the beautiful flowers it produces. Occasionally cherry tomatoes will grow from the worm compost but it really isn’t an ideal position for them.
I had thought that maybe the courtyard should be given over to just herbs and edible plants but then where would the Camellia ‘Yuletide’ with its red, delicately perfumed flowers go? And what about the other camellias won at the garden club raffle, the rescued branch of frangipani, the other cuttings that I couldn’t resist taking, the Cymbidium orchid which is in an ideal spot, and the hydrangeas which were bought as gifts when covered in glorious flowers but weren’t used and wouldn’t survive in any other part of the garden. The 4 o’clock plants (Mirabilis) that germinated from seeds I collected will be transplanted into the laneway but no doubt their place will be taken by other seedlings.
Worm farms aren’t the most attractive of things but they have to go somewhere. The little plywood beret keeps the midday sun off while allowing ventilation so that the worms don’t cook when the temperature hovers around 40 deg C. I use the diluted worm juice on the whole garden and the flowers really do seem to have more colour and the plants appear healthier.
My bell collection has been in various positions in the main courtyard but when the courtyard was renovated there was no longer a suitable spot it so it ended up in the drying court. The bells are currently hung on odd bits of wire because someone (I won’t mention names) pruned the bougainvilleas with a chain saw and managed to cut through many of the more decorative hangers! Rehanging them is one of those jobs that will move to the top of the list when they are moved. I actually I quite like having them where they are because as I peg out the washing the movement causes the bells to ring. At other times they just tinkle in the breeze so I hear them when I’m in the laundry. Hanging out the washing is always a pleasure for me but I think you can see where my priorities lay.