Australian Spotlight Gardener
“Oh, Those Peanuts.”
As a child of five years old, just before we immigrated to Australia, my whole family went to the Syrian countryside on a two month vacation. Leaving the concrete jungle of the city of Tripoli in Lebanon behind. It was a stark contrast to stay at my great Aunt’s farm. It was there that I formed my first memories of nature and gardens. I distinctly remember the earthy scents emanating from freshly upturned harvests of peanut plants and corn – hand picked off the stalks. These aromas were new and heavenly to me and those fresh peanuts tasted beautiful. What with these experiences, and all the animals and other plants on that farm, I was destined to have some form of garden appreciation instilled into me.
Alas, I did not come to this realisation for a long time. All through the rest of my childhood and adolescence, I never even took notice of plants and gardens. That is, until I met my wife in the early 1990s. Being from Christchurch New Zealand, she knew a thing or two about gardening, where just about everyone is into gardening it seems. Well she ignited the interest and it has not abated since. During that time, we were living in an apartment with a small balcony and quickly growing out of room for more of our frenzied plant collecting. When we eventually bought our first home in 1997, with a bit of land we felt free to expand on what we had and the passion grew and grew.
SEE ALSO: Jan Martin – My Rose Garden Story
This house already had some bones to the garden in the form of a beautiful Robinia Pseudoacacia Tree and a few shrubs, including Camellias, Murrayas, Plumbago, a palm grove and some fruit trees. We expanded on that with purchases from mail order nurseries and gaining knowledge from books and subscribing to Gardening Australia magazine, which I found was immensely helpful.
In 2002, we moved to our current home which is on a block of 550m2, taking with us countless cuttings and divisions. This block had not much on it except for a few Agapanthus, Gardenias, Leptospermums, a Pony tail palm and 2 small Osmanthus shrubs. Over the years all of these have been replaced except for the Pony tail palm and Osmanthus, all of which have grown to about four metres tall.
We still have a lot of plants from those original divisions we brought with us, like Veronicas, campanulas and Hydrangea. Over time we have slowly added a lot more, including growing a lot of veggies over the years. But our passion is the ornamental plants so edibles have been slowly squeezed out. Although we still grow silverbeet, spring onion, mint, bergamot and parsley.
Some challenges we have found are trying to keep the Boston ivy’s rampant growth under control as it grows so fast that if you stood still for too long it may grow over you. I do not recommend this plant to the faint of heart. Another challenge is keeping on top of the weeds, especially the ubiquitous and dreaded onion weed.
One thing I love about my garden is the dramatic changes the different seasons bring. Like all the bulbs in spring, the erlicheers, babianas, snowflakes etc. Which eventually die down and give way to the many perennials we have and seasonal shrubs. The surprising standouts I must say are the Blue Brazilian ginger, Pineapple lily and Shell ginger which has outgrown its spot and desperately needs dividing. I am also loving the Bamboos, both the Ghost and Java black have really taken off this year and are looking stunning.
You may have noticed Chilli and Rocky in some of my posts. They are a Sun Conure and an Eclectus parrot who both love pruning’s from some of the safe shrubs we have. Rocky particularly likes Fuchsia berries.
So every time I dig into the soil and get a whiff of that fresh earth, it takes me back to those upturned plants in Syria. Oh those peanuts. Maybe one day I’ll grow them just so I can relive that experience. I just hope our kids who are teenagers now have been exposed to the garden enough to form their own memories, and just maybe those memories might come back to them and ignite some plant passion at some stage in life. Joining Gardentags has kept that passion going for me.
– Nej Ali
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