One Year Later: Managing Garden Expectations

I would like to add something to the list of things you shouldn’t say to a new mother: “I bet your garden looks amazing.” Oh boy. Where do I start with this morsel of insanity? Today being the one year anniversary of living in our house, I would like to explore the ramifications of said morsel of insanity. Don’t worry, there will be photos at the end. And maybe insanity.

If you have studied and/or worked in horticulture or simply have a reputation as a ‘gardener’ you are automatically expected to have a magnificent garden, whatever your circumstance. Time is not a consideration. And these expectations continue even when you are pregnant and raising a baby. If I had a dollar for every time I’ve had a comment about how amazing my garden must be I might be able to hire a gardener to make my garden magnificent. But no. And thus, the tone of rantiness. My garden expectations are already high enough on their own without that kind of pressure. I’m partly writing this in the hope that it will help me to take a chill pill as well.

Let’s take a wee look at my circumstances. We’ve been in our house for one year. It’s a commonly held notion that you shouldn’t change anything in your garden during the first year so as to see what the different seasons bring in terms of plants popping up, available light, water aspects and so on. That means you shouldn’t expect grand things from anyone in the first year of a new garden. Naturally, I have done some things to my garden, because I have fidgety green fingers.

When we moved in in April last year it was half way through autumn and I was half way through pregnancy. The move itself was hard and exhausting. By the time we had things decently sorted around the house winter was upon us. Is winter known as the great gardening month? No. There was cold, there was frost, there was a woman in her third trimester. Then came spring, the greatest gardening month. And on the third day of spring there came a baby. For the first two months of his life the garden didn’t exist. Not while I was tending to his every need and recovering from a bad tear. He is now 7 1/2 months old, I’m still recovering from side effects, I’m still studying by distance and The Little Fulla, though somewhat less demanding (or rather more predictably demanding), still leaves me with sparse amounts of time for gardening. The fact that I have achieved anything in the garden is amazing.

Now let’s look at the condition of the garden. When we moved in the property had been empty for a few months after the previous owners moved elsewhere. The garden beds I inherited fell under one of three descriptions: overgrown shrubbery, weed infested or almost empty (but with stumps). That didn’t scare me, and still doesn’t; I love seeing the potential, but it does mean heaps and heaps of time investment. Heaps. If only time grew on trees. Or stumps.

And then there’s all the hard landscaping, and lack of, that needs to be revamped, re-done or created. I’ve hardly even gone there yet. Plus the lawn is another weedy, wild matter of its own. All in all, young child considered, I think it will take about four years to get the garden to a ‘decent’ standard. If we’re still here after that, we might get to an ‘amazing’ standard in another few years. So, I’d say give me at least seven years before you expect the garden to be ‘amazing’. That’s not being modest, it’s being realistic. I have so many plans and have started so many bits and pieces in the garden that it’s hard to know what to do first when I do get a bit of free time in the garden.

I’m actually feeling a bit better about the state of things now, by thinking in years instead of days or weeks. In fact, I’m feeling so good I might just show you some photos of the non-decent parts of the garden. We usually like to showcase the good bits of our lives to the world but since I’ve been on a rant about the realities of gardening, here we go; the good, the bad and the ugly, altogether in one pile of photos. I can’t fit everything in here, but here is some of what has gone on in the last year and is going on at the moment.

Here is the house before we bought it. So much bareness. Mind you, by the time we moved in there were plenty of weeds. Photo credit: Harcourts.
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The Maple Garden, my biggest planting achievement so far.
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The back yard is messy at the moment.





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Then: The Herb Garden was The Random Flax and Stumps Garden. And holding place for my potted fruit trees.
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Some stumps have been removed.
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The Herb Garden looks terrible if I haven’t weeded for a couple of weeks.
The Herb Garden today. Progress has stalled, pending the removal of more stupid camellia stumps. And possibly the grape vine, which would be better elsewhere.
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The east fence garden.
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The east side path garden. Some parts of my garden are making progress!
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Bronze flaxes (Phormium tenax) and corokias along the front fence.
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Whatever the state of the garden, I am so grateful that I get views like this in the morning. Country life is the best.

One thought on “One Year Later: Managing Garden Expectations

  1. So many people seem to think you have ‘oh so much time’ when you’re home with children. I don’t know where they get these strange ideas from?? Being home with kids is incredibly frantic. If you manage to get out of your pjs, have a shower and meet everyone’s basic needs for the day then it’s a successful day. Totally amazed here by how much you’ve achieved. I think I planted up half a dozen pots of herbs during my first bub’s first year of life. That was it :).


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