Trudi Staeheli has a gorgeous garden oasis located in the Currumbin Valley. She also shares some of her garden experience in the form of a beautifully written diary entry.
First of all how would you describe your garden?
My garden is a “plants woman’s” garden, as I like diversity. Leans towards the cottage garden. It is not a manicured garden with lawns. I also grow a wild garden with native and exotic bushes and trees as wildlife refuge and for butterflies and bees. I grow many bulbs, my forte are Hippeastrums which I grow from seed and I also like cottage Gladioli. A big part of my garden is dedicated to Bromeliads.
My vegetable garden is very important. It provides the vegetables I use in the kitchen. I also grow an extensive orchard with many different varieties of Mangoes and other tropical fruit, Rollinia, Sapote, Persimmon and many more. Also Pecan nuts, quinces and tropical apples, pears and so much more. It is a little like a garden of Eden! My garden is 1 ¼ acres in the Currumbin Valley, which is sub tropical so there is no frosts where I am.
How did you get started in gardening?
My mother had a big garden. I always liked plants and planting something. I gardened all my life and was lucky to have a garden where ever I lived in the world. I am 75 now and hope to garden for another 25 years.
What motivates you to get up and garden?
I am an early riser and I do not have a special motivation to go out, there is always something interesting to see in my garden. I like also photography and the morning light is a great time to snap some pictures.
What were some of the unexpected hurdles in your garden? How did you deal with them?
My biggest hurdle was when I moved from a cold climate garden to a subtropical garden. It was a big learning curve, everything was different. I learned from books and garden magazines, as the Internet was not available. It was not just the climate – The plants and planting time was different. The climate was also much drier at certain times and wetter at others than I was used to. I wanted to know so I learned as I gardened.
What were some of the unexpected benefits from gardening?
There are so many benefits actually nothing was unexpected.
Is there a gardening moment that stands out for you?
This entry is from my diary, Under a Hotter Sun in 1974 when I lived on a grazing property in Northern NSW.
Planting a vegetable garden, one is very much in the hands of the gods!
In autumn when the sun retreats its fierceness and spreads out a golden mellow light, is the time for new plantings.
Most vegetables do very well over winter. Some have a standstill in the coldest month like July and August. All year round vegetables are growing; harvested and planted again, it is an ongoing job.
Herbs do well, mostly all of them all year round. Basil seeds itself. Lavender and Rosemary bushes are planted in the vegetable garden for use and for beauty Italian and curly Parsley and in autumn Coriander self seeds. A big bush of Lemongrass its long sharp leaves gracefully weeping waiting to be used in cooking and for cool drinks.
I had a very hard job to prepare the garden beds for my autumn and winter plantings. The soil had become hard and compact over the hottest summer month from the rain pelting down, compacting the soil. The unrelenting heat of the sun baked my poor garden beds so hard, it was ready to cut clay bricks from it.
After a lot of sweat and hard work the soil became crumbly again and spread with my coveted cow pads I had collected. Then came the easy and nice task of planting the tiny vegetable seedlings.
Lettuce, the snails liked the tender leaves just as much as we did. Cabbages and Broccoli, the beloved food of the larvae of the white butterfly. Beans were most of the time trouble free, if the weather was not to wet. Actually with everything I planted I was challenged by a myriad of insects, birds, possums everybody wanted a slice of my plantings.
I had to learn to share, which is hard when you rely on the vegetables or fruit planted. Very seldom I lost everything and then mostly because there was a bad hailstorm. Hailstorms were rampant in this flat land area.
I was scanning the sky when I saw the ominous band of blue-green clouds settling like a bruise. When the cattle started lowing and collected to wander up into the bush I was sure something was up.
I have experienced one very devastating hailstorm. The vegetable garden looked at its best. The beans were ready to harvest. Tomatoes, Capsicum and eggplants were already showing off their beautiful colours lacquer red and deep purple, plump and shiny in between the foliage. Melons were filling out, everything was at its peak looking healthy and perfect. The sky was now shrouded with boiling blue green and black clouds. Then came the hailstorm, jagged lumps of ice. Big as tennis balls were falling from the sky hitting the tin roof of the house with a noise not imaginable. It did not relent until all the trees and shrubs were stripped of leaves twigs and flowers. The vegetable garden was devastated, everything was smashed and pulped. It is quite strange the reaction one feels seeing all the devastation of ones work happening in such a short time.
Then the sun emerged, it slashed through the clouds and eerily a beautiful rainbow stretched its colours along the horizon.
What has your garden taught you?
Never give up. If someone says this won’t grow here, try it anyway.
If you were a fruit or vegetable, what would you be?
I would like to be a Banana!
What tips would you offer first time gardeners?
If something does not grow the first time it will the second time . Never give up, the results are amazing.