My Garden by Elaine Johnston
First of all how would you describe your garden?
My garden is a relatively small cottage-type garden with vegetables scattered in between flowers and trees.
I live in a cool climate and at the moment many bulbs are in flower, such as tulips, bluebells, freesias, ranunculi, daffodils, orchids, snowdrops, tritonia, alstromeria and iris. My Meyer lemon is very productive and the orange blossoms on the Murraya Paniculata tree are about to burst into flower.
I am also growing roses, alyssum, kalanchoe, Californian poppies, hydrangeas, fuchsias, tuberous begonia and many cacti, just to mention a few. In between I have planted rhubarb, broad beans and many garlic bulbs. At the last count I had over 200 pots to water, so it is impossible to detail all plants, as I would be writing a book instead of a story.
My vegetable plot has more garlic, snow peas, onions, tomatoes, silver beet, N.Z. spinach, pak choy, wombok cabbages, purple cauliflower, potatoes, carrots, dwarf beans and I have just finished bottling beetroot chutney, as I had a great crop of beetroot.
How did you get started in gardening?
My father was a very keen gardener, so I guess I followed in his footsteps.
What motivates you to get up and garden?
I don’t need any motivation to go out into the garden, as I just love every minute of it. Every day I inspect my plants and try to do an hour’s work to keep them happy
What were some of the unexpected hurdles in your garden? How did you deal with them?
At first, the lawn was very difficult for me to mow with my hand-mower, so I dug it all out, laid down papers and replaced it with red mulch. Other problems are the citrus gore wasp on my lemon tree, which I cut off, put in a plastic bag and place in the normal rubbish to help keep numbers down. Also the dreaded onion weed and oxalis are a headache, and the only thing to do is to dig them out and try to get as many bulbs as possible.
What were some of the unexpected benefits from gardening?
I did not know any of my neighbours until I started gardening and because I am always out there working I have made numerous friends. It is also wonderful to eat your fresh produce and share it with other people. Another benefit of being in the garden is your health. It keeps your body very active as long as you are sensible and bend your knees whilst lifting and keep your back straight at all times. Last of all I adore watching all the birds, as they dig for food or suck nectar from the trees.
Is there a gardening moment that stands out for you?
One unforgettable day was when a small child was admiring my goldfish, slipped, and almost fell into my pond which was located in the front garden. Fortunately I grabbed him by the jumper before he hit the water. To avoid any more accidents, I relocated the fish and turned the pond into a garden bed. He is now at secondary college and reminds me of the day I saved him from drowning.
What has your garden taught you?
I have learnt a great deal over the years. When I buy plants or receive cuttings from friends I always do research on them to find out what it is that makes them happy and healthy.
If you were a fruit or vegetable, what would you be?
If I was reincarnated as a fruit or vegetable, I would come back as a strawberry because everybody would love me. My strawberries are planted in holes in plumbing pipes and look very attractive when they hang over the edge in bunches.
What tips would you offer first time gardeners?
My tips for gardening would be first of all to buy good quality tools for your work, as cheaper ones never last and don’t do a great job.
Cut off spent flowers to keep them producing and cut back perennials after flowering.
A compost bin is very necessary for good soil as well as a worm farm and I always mulch the garden with sugar cane mulch.
You cannot put plants in and think that they will look after themselves, as they need lots of TLC. Therefore – LOVE YOUR PLANTS.