Spring is here that wonderful time of the year when gardens come into their own and the colours entice us to spend more time outdoors. The signs of new growth in the garden is enchanting. Plants look like perfect, healthy specimens before the heat of summer ravages them. I love the anticipation of the colours in the newly planted perennials, the forgotten bulbs that pop out and delight with splashes of colour and the new buds unfolding on the roses.
After all the garden work over recent months moving recalcitrant roses from one place to a more suitable home in my garden and the planting of new bare root roses. The garden landscape has changed so much that the design is a mystery until everything is out in bloom again.
“One of the most delightful things about a garden is the anticipation it provides. ”W E Johns The Passing Show
As the earth tilts towards the sun in Spring we start to feel warmer temperatures and longer days, although in our region Spring has not lasted very long. We were in the midst of prolonged cold mornings waiting for the Spring warmth then, overnight it seemed we have gone from worrying about frost on the new bare root roses to being in the throws of Summer watering. Quickly changing the daily routine from waiting for the freeze to melt each day before heading out into the garden, and now, rushing outside as early as possible to beat the heat of the day ahead. The Summer will be permanently upon us soon and all hints of winter happily forgotten.
I love spring anywhere, but if I could choose I would always greet it in a garden.Ruth Stout
“At the end of the day in Spring you should smell like dirt”Margaret Atwood
Underlying my joy in the new spring growth this year is the concern and longing for rain. The season ahead shows all the signs of being extremely dry and hot with little or no rain predicted. Even though we do have ample underground water for our farming and garden use, the actual rain experience is deeply missed and longed for. I feel for those with empty tanks that are relying on water cartage and gardeners with severe water restrictions.
Out in the garden yesterday the clouds were building up, there was a gentle breeze and a taste of humidity in the air. Foolishly I thought ‘I think it’s going to rain today’ Perhaps an innate feeling from a childhood spent living on the coast where dark clouds meant certain rain. All the regular signs of rain were around all morning – kookaburras calling out, active ants, dark clouds, certain feel in the air.
As time moved on through the day all the signs of a ‘good ol storm’ continued. The heavy dark clouds moving closer, wind picking up, so I started to pack up the garden tools and head towards the verandah, only to find the drops of rain lasted all of 2 minutes. This has happened over and over for months on end. Instead of rain falling it is just dust, blowing in through every crevice of the house no matter how tight the windows and doors are sealed. Dry dust thickening the air and settling on the garden and verandah with just enough drops of rain to leave all the foliage and paths splattered with mud spots.
There has been much hype and discussion lately on the current drought that is now being termed a ‘super drought’ due to the severity and duration of the dry. The moisture in the soil we usually expect to find after winter is missing this year. Low rainfall means the dry soil is soaking up any rain we have had, resulting in little excess runoff into our dams and rivers.
The Australian drought is nothing new. I was reminded of this yesterday when reading a section from ‘Cherish the Earth’ by Beatrice Bligh. She writes of the Author Miles Franklin’s childhood in Goulburn, who loved her Mother’s Garden but said that, in spite of her inherent love of the Australian bushland, she wrote with some bitterness of the experience of drought on the garden of that time.
” the half opened leaves withered on the roses bushes and orchard trees. The earth was dry as ashes’.
In a similar vein, Beatrice continues to say
“Work was often in the new colony, full of heartbreak and ceaseless work. The colonists had no knowledge of the severity of Australia’s inevitable droughts, floods and bushfires. In the serious drought of 1790 -only two years after landing- it was reported that birds were dropping dead from the trees”.
It is heartbreaking to see the Australian paddocks and creek beds so dry, no grass at all unless for the lucky few that have irrigation and underground water systems. We expect to see dry grasses in mid summer, forests full of umbrella grass, glaringly hot sun, dust storms and willy willies at times in rural areas. What I observe lately though, is far more sinister with quite large,old trees dying from lack of water. Whatever one’s opinion on climate change, it is obvious that our higher temperatures are prolonging the drought and making dry conditions more intense.
We don’t know when the rain will come but I will continue to be an enthusiastic and hopeful gardener that appreciates our small patch of green amongst so much parched ground. There is much to be gained from the stories of our early settlers who came to Australia from the lush landscape of England. Once here, women especially, were thrown into gardening for their survival in our harsh climate. Once the obstacles of those first vegetable and herb gardens were achieved the emphasis began to be on gardening for decoration and commerce. Then decades later, on Horticultural shows and the development of Parks and Gardens.
As Mary Gilmore in her Ode to Pioneer Women writes-
To the courageous early Australian gardeners- especially the pioneer women-who faced drought, flood, bushfire, heatwave and even snow, possibly all in one season, but whose enthusiasm never diminished. For they were women who at need took up and plied the axe, or bent above the clodded spade, who herded sheep, who rode the hills, and bought the half-wild cattle home – helpmates of men, whose children lay within their arms, or at the rider’s saddle- pommel hung, and at whose knees by night were said familiar prayers.
So, now when I feel impatient waiting for rain through the unpredictable seasons in Australia I will attempt to be more grateful, reaping huge amounts of inspiration from the gardener’s before me.
Quote from Cherish The Earth by Beatrice Bligh The Story of Gardening In Australia
Title quote by Ruth Stout
Seedlings Image by Francesco Gallarotti on Unsplash
All other images and content by Di Baker 2019