Peter Cun­dall:

A blun­der which re­sulted in an ac­ci­den­tal gar­den­ing suc­cess is just one of the many rea­sons why PETER CUN­DALL finds the pur­suit so mar­vel­lously ad­dic­tive

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - LOCAL FOOD -

Gar­den­ing blun­der has a sil­ver lin­ing

Some­times the most as­ton­ish­ing land­scap­ing suc­cesses oc­cur by ac­ci­dent or even by cer­tain ben­e­fi­cial blun­ders.

In the early 1980s we bought an old house and three tree­less hectares of over­grazed and im­pov­er­ished soil in the Ta­mar Val­ley.

I im­me­di­ately be­gan en­rich­ing the soil to cre­ate a large, self-suf­fi­cient veg­etable and fruit garden. At the same time I was busy plant­ing a wide shel­ter-belt com­posed of Aus­tralian trees and shrubs, al­most com­pletely around our en­tire prop­erty.

I also be­gan to grad­u­ally sur­round our home with fire-re­sis­tant, ex­otic plants, es­pe­cially rhodo­den­drons, aza­leas, camel­lias, roses and other or­na­men­tal shrubs and peren­ni­als.

One late win­ter’s day some­one gave me a bun­dle of tiny, bare-rooted, pen­cil­sized sil­ver birch seedlings.

Most were about to come into leaf so had to be ur­gently planted.

At the same time I re­ceived an ur­gent call to join other con­ser­va­tion­ists in a mas­sive protest against the at­tempt to dam the Franklin River which I and many oth­ers be­lieved would de­stroy huge ar­eas of our unique wilder­ness.

It was nec­es­sary to get the 200 tiny plants in the ground quickly, at least on a tem­po­rary ba­sis with the in­ten­tion of grow­ing them to a de­cent size for my land­scap­ing work.

My ro­tary hoe rapidly cul­ti­vated an 80m-long strip across an empty field and on the way back, dug an­other to cre­ate two par­al­lel strips about 6m apart.

Into the roughly cul­ti­vated soil went the seedlings, shoved in al­most at a walk­ing pace and spaced about 3m apart.

The whole op­er­a­tion was car­ried out in just over an hour, giv­ing enough time for the four-hour drive to Tas­ma­nia’s south west.

Over the fol­low­ing years I be­came too busy to lift the trees, all of which grew with such as­ton­ish­ing speed they fi­nally be­came too big to move.

It was the best blun­der I’ve ever made

Even when we stuff things up, some­times these blun­ders can still pro­duce amaz­ing re­sults

be­cause a few years later we had an im­pres­sive, 80m-long av­enue of very healthy young birch trees stretch­ing across our pad­dock and they looked fan­tas­tic.

I mowed the rank grass and oc­ca­sion­ally scat­tered blood and bone over root zones, caus­ing the trees to grew so rapidly they started to seize so much light that even the grass started to die off.

I was forced to prune off all lower branches to al­low in more light and this not only ex­posed the beau­ti­ful sil­very trunks but pro­vided enough dap­pled light for more plants to go in.

When my wife Tina dug up a large num­ber of over­crowded hoop-pet­ti­coat daf­fodil bulbs, I grabbed the lot, enough to half-fill a bucket.

I was think­ing about the ac­ci­den­tal birch tree av­enue. My handy ro­tary hoe cul­ti­vated a big area of leaf-en­riched soil be­neath the trees.

Rather than bother cor­rectly plant­ing the tiny bulbs, I sim­ply scat­tered them over the cul­ti­vated sur­face, al­most like sow­ing seeds.

An ex­tra-shal­low cul­ti­va­tion was enough to turn them in, bury­ing them just be­low the sur­face.

Since then, bulbs and corms of blue­bells, sea-green ix­ias, pink and yel­low daf­fodils, jon­quils, tulips, hy­acinths, freesias, snowflakes, snow­drops and sparaxis have gone in, some form­ing great drifts of colour and fra­grance be­neath and around the leafy av­enue.

The jon­quils and early daf­fodils and daz­zling-yel­low hoop pet­ti­coats are al­ready flow­er­ing.

Within weeks the Span­ish blue­bells will be in full dis­play with the first tulips and by late Oc­to­ber the sea-green ix­ias – which have now mul­ti­plied so there are thou­sands of them – will be bloom­ing fu­ri­ously.

As for the sparaxis, they have now self­seeded to form enor­mous colonies of mixed colours are now part of a glo­ri­ous meadow garden be­neath the trees.

An un­ex­pected suc­cess, but an­other rea­son why gar­den­ing can be­come so mar­vel­lously ad­dic­tive and sat­is­fy­ing.

Even when we stuff things up, some­times these blun­ders can still pro­duce amaz­ing re­sults.

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