There were five things in the front garden when we bought our house. An enormous liquid amber, thirsty for the water in our sewerage pipes, a hyacinth tree which made me think of Elvis Presley films, a magnolia tree which was magnificent in bloom but otherwise twiggy and sticky, an expanse of lawn and some brownish deadish azalea plants.
Nine years later, nothing remains. The tree went, removed following speedy Star Chamber style trial and conviction by a jury of two on the charge of trying to pull down our front fence with its pushy roots.
The lawn died, also murdered by the tree (and truth be known, by the drought we have had for years).
The azaleas had to go. I don't care what anyone says. I am not having them in my garden until I am over 60.
And the hyacinth and magnolia were at the end of their lives, so they went off to sunny plant heaven.
This is our attempt at a drought resistent desert garden. We are no longer fighting nature and our environment, but working with it. A lot of these ideas we actually got from travelling in New Zealand, where they seem to have a lot of grassy gardens.
We planted blueberry ash around the border of the garden and also lots of grassy plants and little bumpy plants (called Hebe), craned in two huge rocks, one for pointing to the sky (see shot above) and one for sitting on with a glass of wine in the evening (out of shot) and built a low stone wall for small children to run along over and over again. We then put down a pale browney yellow gravel to replace the lawn, which needs ocassional zen raking.
And most importantly, we planted 8 rather large grass trees.
They are also known as black boys, but I believe one is no longer allowed to use that term.
These plants grow native in many parts of Australia. I have noticed them on the drive from Melbourne to Adelaide and also at my mother's farm.
They are sensitive souls. They suffer replanting badly. To address this we planted them, still in their little bags, in a raised pile of soil. That way they don't need to suffer the indignity of immersion in Someone Else's Ground.
They are so happy in this garden, we cannot believe our luck.
I secretly thought they would die within 6 months and yet here they are, growing away (2 millimetres a year - they live forever, like turtles or Californian redwoods), flowering with their pointy bit, and generally enjoying life in Melbourne.
Now I need to work on the verandah which looks over the garden. It is an austere space, and really needs work. ('Austere' here being an elegant way of saying hard, plain and not very attractive). No photos, it would be a bit too depressing.
But one thing I am thinking about is to hang a mirror on the blank end wall, and maybe grow some ficus around it.
It would create all kinds of exciting optical light and space illusions.
A bit like these (but less cottagey):
(Images: (1) - (3) Jane (4) Holly Christian.com (5) Brownstoner.com (6) Cedric Bryant.com)