This is an article I wrote for Gardenista, must-see site for anyone who loves gardening.
I tucked euphorbia and cuttings of geranium and rosemary into pockets of soil and let them battle it out.
Coming from London I was starry eyed at the prospect of growing lemons, olives, figs! I built a long bed against my high front fence and planted the trees in half barrels to give them some depth of soil.
Fragrant pittosporum and oleander line the fence, tough enough to survive. Since I planted for my neighbour at the same time I put a paulownia in her slightly deeper soil and against the odds it has grown healthy and tall.
Gardening is always the art of the possible, and some of my sentimental choices have not survived. One week of Sirocco-like winds reduced my thirty foot clematis armandii to a bizarre wall of death, bronzed intact like a baby’s bootee. A New Dawn rose struggles but rosa mutabilis chinensis is rampant.
Gophers wolf all the bulbs except for freesias, which have multiplied (taste no good?).
My cosseted kadota fig remains biblically barren, but a mission fig rescued from a dumpster gives abundantly.
Many of my plants started as cast offs and cuttings – iris corms, gazaneas, euphorbias – I am part of a local trade potlatch. Thompson’s grapes, not roses, twine around my front door.
I propagate and pilfer, take in spent orchids, hoard seed. In that sense I have a cottage garden, thrifty, haphazard and productive – just like me, and that is what it comes down to.
My garden and I are compatible, intimate and interdependent. Handing it over to a landscaper would be like renting out my children.
It roots me here, soothes me when I’m homesick, creates continuity with past gardens. I pickle my own olives, give away tomatoes, cut my own herbs.
So I planted Queensland Blue pumpkin too late this year? I still have seed. Do I feel jaded? Water and weed. Feel like splurging? Buy more manure!
There is a dead branch outside my kitchen window but I won’t cut it. That’s where the mockingbird sits.