Away from Home and Garden

 Tiger, Fluff-Fluff, and Buster the black kitten.
Cats by the House

I don't like being away from home. Being away from home means being away from people, cats, dogs, and the garden that I love. I miss them all so much. And most of all I miss my garden, and can't wait to be reunited with it. Even if I'm just away for a couple of days! pretty silly, really...

Cats in my Garden

I spend many weekend hours happy with just a cat for company, even if there isn't much conversation. I might have a feline supervisor who will keep an eye on the gardening progress, snoozing underneath the wheelbarrow. Another, more adventurous, will follow me down to the back paddock to check on the sheep.

A dedicated house cat will never miss the morning tea ceremony on the house patio. A nosy cat will lurk unseen in the greenery, just waiting to pounce on my gardening glove when I reach in to pull out a weed. Eek!

My gardening dogs will always be keen as mustard, pushing past me as I'm trying to cross one of the bridges. They'll follow me around, faithfully, and even chase the visiting ducks out of the pond for me. How kind!

And Dogs...

Dogs, like their gardeners, love to be doing things. Even if it's just a gentle walk, to accompany a spot of garden photography. Or some quality time catching a Frisbee or a tennis ball.

 Sorting out the flax leaves for the dump.
Helpful Dogs

My garden is always there, whether I'm inside or outside. It's the first thing I think about in the morning, and the last before I go to sleep. In the house, every window has its own special garden view. I can watch the moon slip behind the big gum tree at night, or I can stare out of a rainy window across the house lawns and beyond. I might sit in the breakfast chairs and redesign the Island Bed one more time (the Mexican Orange Blossom is reprieved season after season) or just stare out over the roses to the Frisbee Lawn and dream expansive garden dreams...

 White blossom from the Choisya and the Dogwood tree.
The Island Bed - Late Spring

And I'm always out and about in the garden, if possible each day. I don't just work in the garden. I spend ages just wandering around peering at things. If I'm feeling brave I'll even put on my glasses. I'll listen to the birds and insects, thinking of nothing. I'll sit in the shade in summer with a book, or stare at the water burbling along the water race when I feel philosophical. Where does all the water come from?

Missing my Garden

Recently I had a serious forced break from my garden. I was the driver of the school minibus and professional game-watcher. I tried to wander around purposefully, smiling, but my students kept sidling up to me and asking if I was alright. Was it that obvious to them that deep in my private thoughts I was desperately missing my garden?

 Silver Birch Tree
Silver birch in the strange garden

We were staying at an air base which offered accommodation to visiting groups. There were many barracks buildings (most unused) dotted around the grounds, little tarmac streets, and a formally planted garden with a large flat lawn, ringed with shelter plantings of native trees and shrubs.

A Bare Pergola

The middle of the lawn had old style rose gardens cut into it. There was a sad bare pergola, and an old concrete birdbath in between the harshly symmetric beds. This was a government institution, so there was no personality, no quirkiness of a real gardener's love.

I sat under a huge variegated elm and sat to dream. Helicopters and light planes droned overhead, and there was a steady hum of what sounded like a large distant lawn mower (it was). Birds scratched on the ground of the tightly packed native border.

Green on Green

The plantings were simple layers of green on green. Coprosmas and Hoherias stood out at the front of large Pseudopanaxes and Pittosporums.

The Hebes were large and woody, straining forwards to get the light. Above were towering Pohutakawa trees, with a lone monkey puzzle tree. I live a little too far south for these trees to grow happily.

 sad roses
Imagine me sitting here, dreaming of my own garden back home.

Lonely Roses

I wandered over to inspect the rose garden - formally laid out roses seem to demand close-up attention. They were sprawling with autumn scruffiness, flowering desperately, but in the bare squares they looked rather forlorn. I thought of my own fruit salad rose garden, crammed full of rejects and bargain bin beauties, spaces filled with penstemon cuttings and randomly placed lavenders. These strange rose beds needed something else - even a thoughtfully laid box hedge, or at least an edging of soft flowing catmint. Roses without friends gave me a lonely feeling, and I had to look away.

 We call them New Zealand Xmas trees because they have red needle-like flowers in mid December.
Pohutakawas in the lawn

Relaxing in this sad strange garden was infinitely preferable to sitting in the unfamiliar guest room or the lounge room full of bored teenagers (away from home and only ONE channel on the TV!). The layers of green on green were restful, and the lawns were calm and comfortable. The huge Pohutakawas must have looked beautiful covered in scarlet flowers at Xmas time, and so must the fat cylindrical Camellias, abandoned in the middle of the lawn, when they flowered in the winter. It wasn't my style, but life and hope runs through gardens everywhere.

I still missed my own garden, but it would be at home waiting. I resolved to be even more inspired when I got home. Absence would make my gardening heart grow fonder - and the weeds grow stronger.