Jo Sea­gar: the joy of plant­ing

As she plots, plans and plants a new back gar­den, Jo Sea­gar dis­cov­ers the joy of con­nect­ing with the earth.

Australian Women’s Weekly NZ - - CONTENTS -

Read­ing this, you would be for­given for think­ing you were on the wrong col­umn. Is this re­ally Jo Sea­gar’s page? All about gar­den­ing? Yes, it is me. I’ve long been fond of noodling about in a gar­den and I love pick­ing flow­ers. I’ve al­ways had a gar­den of sorts, if only a few pots on the win­dowsill, and for years my mother was on the flower ros­ter at church, so some­how – ab­sorbed by os­mo­sis, per­haps – I kind of know my del­phini­ums from my Al­chemilla mol­lis. How­ever, I’ve never ex­pe­ri­enced the to­tal joy and re­spon­si­bil­ity of cre­at­ing a gar­den from scratch… un­til now.

Faced with trans­form­ing the back­yard of our cot­tage in Ox­ford, I have sud­denly been struck down with a se­vere case of hor­ti­cul­tural-itis.

After the chain­saw re­moved the over­grown scrubby tan­gle of conifers, weeds and green­ery, we con­structed a few raised beds and laid out some de­fined edg­ing and paths. The next phase was left en­tirely to me – the or­der­ing of the pot­ting mix/gar­den soil stuff. How hard could that be? I thought I’d done pretty clever sums with the cu­bic me­treage cal­cu­la­tion but some­how the School Cert maths re­ally let me down. Two ginormous tip trucks of top­soil ar­rived and dumped their im­pres­sive load in the drive­way. (Did I men­tion I got 12 per cent for that maths?) We’ve spread top­soil ev­ery­where and still there is a huge pile re­main­ing – enough per­haps for a small moun­tain bike track for our grand­sons…

When plan­ning what to plant in our new gar­den, I read end­less gar­den­ing mag­a­zines and ex­hausted the en­tire gar­den­ing sec­tion of Ox­ford’s lit­tle li­brary in my search for knowl­edge. But real help was closer at hand, in the form of lovely neigh­bours who in­tro­duced me to the writ­ings of Mrs Mar­ion Cran. Noth­ing much has changed in gar­den­ing cir­cles since Mar­ion penned her news­pa­per col­umns in the early 1900s. Her tips are as rel­e­vant to­day as ever. I won’t have pesky moles dig­ging up the flowerbeds as she did,but when it comes to

‘must have’ plants, Mar­ion and I are on the same page. I def­i­nitely have to have a le­mon tree and a Daphne bush. Rasp­ber­ries are non-ne­go­tiable – the same for hy­drangeas and sweet peas.

I’ve rif­fled through rose cat­a­logues at length but in the end chose the ones my mother loved: Mar­garet Mer­ril, Abra­ham Darby,

Jude the Ob­scure and Le­an­der.

Of course, a cook needs a fab­u­lous potager and herb gar­den. Gone are the des­per­ate days of prun­ing a local hedge for fresh bay leaves and pinch­ing a sprig of rose­mary from the pub car park, as both are now flour­ish­ing in their raised bed. I love sage in all its forms – the colour of the plant is par­tic­u­larly pleas­ing, and the taste of sage siz­zled to a crisp in but­ter then crum­bled over home­made cheesy ravi­oli, with the but­ter driz­zled on top, is de­li­cious – so I need lots of that. Soon I’ll be plant­ing toma­toes, not only in the hope of an abun­dant crop but also for the smell of the plants, which is so evoca­tive of Italy in sum­mer – es­pe­cially when part­nered with basil.

This gar­den was meant to be a sim­ple, easy­care plot, so I’m blam­ing Mrs Cran that I’m now at­tempt­ing a com­pli­cated es­paliered crab ap­ple tree wired along the fence and a tiered straw­berry patch… it looked quite easy in the book.

I like pulling on my gar­den­ing gloves and dig­ging my hands in; it’s a good feel­ing be­ing at­tached to the earth. And, to be hon­est, I’m drawn to the pleas­ant sen­sa­tion of gam­bling when you plant seeds… will they beat the odds and flour­ish? But per­haps my great­est joy in this new pas­sion is the abil­ity to grow pe­onies. They are my favourite flower of all – I adore their plump blousi­ness and lush colours.

The plan goes on, but given the size of our tiny plot, I could be get­ting quite car­ried away with my grand dreams. But a gar­den is never a fin­ished pro­ject – there’s al­ways some new weird

and won­der­ful plant to tickle your fancy.

Oh, I’ve just re­mem­bered Can­ter­bury bells. I live in Can­ter­bury… so where can I fit them in?

To be hon­est, I’m drawn to the pleas­ant sen­sa­tion of gam­bling when you plant seeds…

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