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Watering and visiting

Catherine Stewart

Catherine Stewart

November 6, 2011

I started out this morning with some garden watering, as Sydney’s usually dry spring has driven some plants in my shallow, sandy soil to a nodding wilt. It’s time to make use of those 10,000 litres of rainwater collected from the amazing Sydney downpours that we both love and hate. We’ve got 4 tanks scattered around the house, which are all connected so that each gravity feeds into the main tank with the pump, as that water gets used. A lot cheaper and simpler than 4 pumps. I always use a proper water breaker head when I’m watering, not one of those useless, silly ‘twist and get 15 different patterns’ things. The closest thing in your local Bunnings will be a Gardena spray head that has small holes all over the face. Heads with lots of settings will only have holes around the rim, so there’s no water in the middle of your spray, making it much harder to evenly distribute the water over the garden.
A true water breaker gives largish droplets so they’re heavy enough to fall and not get blown away, but not too concentrated, which scours the soil and can’t soak in. You can probably buy one at your local nursery, though they’re harder to find now, thanks to NSW legislation requiring all watering heads have to have a trigger. This is also a silly thing, when they’ve all got a clip so that they will stay on without needing you to keep squeezing anyway. And never water your garden with a concentrated jet of water. I was told of somebody once who always watered that way as otherwise she wasn’t sure it was “getting in”. The poor plant roots must have got pretty battered about!
I love hand-watering, and I’m yet to be convinced that it’s not the best way to water. While I’m watering, I plan and design, and check for pests, and weed, as the earth is nice and soft, and afterwards I re-mulched with wood chip from a blue gum we had to get cut down last autumn. I like my garden mulch about 50mm (2″) thick.

Gould garden Chatswood

Gould garden, Chatswood

When it got too hot to work, it was time to enjoy someone else’s garden. As a selector for Open Gardens Australia, I get to see some pretty amazing gardens. This weekend, some gardens local to me in Chatswood had their opening. And what special places they are, and both so different.
First I saw the Gould garden, with its tapestry of foliage shrubs and enormous koi pond. There are several other water-features around the garden too, and each plays a different sound. Rush, gush. Gurgle-bubble. Tiddly-plinky plonk. I can see that the Goulds have cleverly chosen each water feature for the sound, not just for its appearance.

Lingellen garden, Chatswood

Coachwood in Lingellen garden

Prunus cerasifera ‘Nigra’ as a clipped hedge at Lingellen

Lingellen is a wonderful big traditional garden, dominated by the best coachwood tree, Ceratopetalum apetalum, that’ll you’ll ever see in captivity. Right now it’s covered in creamy blossom and abuzz with bees, and as Christmas approaches, the sepals behind the flowers will become brick-red, just like its smaller cousin, NSW Christmas bush, Ceratopetalum gummiferum. Although Lingellen has many traditional plants, its no stock-standard garden as the owners are always experimenting with new ways of using plants, like an unusual Prunus cerasifera ‘Nigra’ hedge, clipped to about a metre high. Design and plant combination ideas are everywhere – paths curve just enough through taller plants so that the end is out of sight; a clipped dwarf oleander hedge borders some tall, narrow pear trees, and today there are photographs around the garden so you can see what flowers in different seasons too.

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