Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Real Gardens #1 - Rae O'Connor

In Rae O'Connor's Timaru garden spring is blooming. The walkway along the north side of the house, which leads to the back yard, is flanked by red and white camellias and vibrant purple primulas. A lemon tree is tucked into the sheltered nook created by the glass conservatory and a mandarin tree nestles in behind it. A wooden cartwheel supports clematis and climbing roses, which also twine along the railing of the ramp leading to the conservatory.

If you follow the walkway down you will reach this sheltered seating area. Sheltered by tall trees, it provides shade and privacy. The trees are underplanted with daffodils and white primulas, making a sweet woodland area. In the background you can see the heritage apple tree 'Peasgood Nonsuch'. (The apples make lovely cider!)

This area has been personalised with hanging garden art. Rae made the heart ornament from chicken wire bent around a wire frame, and filled with white river stones.

Close up of the daffodils in the early morning sunlight. The pots are filled with cyclamen and other tiny flowering treasures.

Look at this magnificent glasshouse! Built by the previous owner of the property, it has a wooden frame and several windows which open for ventilation. Rae grows tomatoes, peppers, early potatoes and 'Kentucky' climbing beans.

In front are three raised vegetable beds, built from concrete blocks. The blocks are slowly but surely being filled with strawberry plants, propagated by runners, which provide an ornamental and productive edging.

Alongside the glasshouse are more strawberry beds. The fruit are perfect to eat freshly picked and warm from the sun. Rae makes strawberry jam with the excess.

The beds are bare at the moment, but soon they will be filled with an assortment of vegetables including potatoes, lettuce, carrots, peas, sweet corn, pumpkins and beans. In the background you can see a grapevine trained along the fence, which produces an abundance of black grapes.

The space behind the glasshouse is useful for hiding compost bins and items which are not currently in use in the garden. Compost bins are made from concrete blocks, and a plastic drum with holes drilled in it to let air through.

Also along the back fence is the wire support for thornless blackberry canes. This way they get full sun and are easily accessible to pick. Along the side wall of the shed are red and blackcurrant bushes. In the bottom left corner of the photo is a gooseberry bush.

The clothesline has been made decorative as well as functional by planting a small flower garden around its base. The old metal peg holder has also been given new life as a planter.

I'm on the lookout for one of these for my own garden!

And so ends the first Real Gardens tour. I hope you've picked up a few ideas. See you back here next month for another tour!

(Click on the photos to view them larger)

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Beautiful Nature

Nature dealt us a doozy of a blow last week. She is now redeeming herself with warm and lovely spring days, gentle overnight rain, lush growth (particularly of the lawn and weed variety), and a general air of promise and hope.

I went to Timaru last weekend. The trip, to visit with family and friends, was already planned, but the timing ended up being perfect for a much needed break from the city of shakes. Travelling south, the road was flanked with camellias, forsythias and glorious magnolias. Front yard gardens overflowed with the brightness and exuberance of spring - daffodils, flowering cherries, aubretia, primroses and blossoming hedges of all descriptions. I took quick snapshots from the windows of the car, both for inspiration's sake and to try and take something fleeting and hold onto it forever. Spring passes too quickly.

I also took some photos for a new feature that will soon debut on this blog. It will be a monthly feature called Real Gardens, and will profile real people's gardens: beautiful gardens, of course, but real - gardens with washing lines, compost bins, cats and car parks. My aim is to show how real people deal with all of these real needs and assimilate them into a beautiful liveable outdoor space. I'll be gleaning inspiration and ideas for my own garden, and I hope you'll be inspired too. Check back next week for the first installment!

(The photo at the top is my heliotrope which I put in the glasshouse to overwinter. It's thriving in the warmth, and filling the glasshouse with it's vanilla fragrance.)

Monday, 6 September 2010


Today was a glorious day. The weather was balmy and warm, and everything was happy and sunshiney and just peachy-perfect... oh, as long as you could ignore the cracks in the roads and the rubble and the tarpaulined holes where chimneys had been.

For most of the past two days I've been staying at home, keeping safe and trying not to use too much water. On Sunday morning I went to the supermarket, which was busy but well stocked (not running out of milk and bread like the rumours said). I stayed at home for as long as I could but eventually I had to get out and just see for myself what was going on. Not being suicidal I haven't gone near the CBD, but here are some pictures from round and about...

Burst water pipes.

Formerly a dairy.

Condemned shops. I used to like shopping at Madame Butterfly's vintage emporium...

This is the fish n chip shop where we got our tea on Friday night.

Formerly a hairdressers.

I used to work in this building - not anymore. I still have a job, but we are relocating to temporary premises until a new location is found. (If I had been at work here when the quake hit, the outcome could have been so different...)

The Gayhurst Road bridge crossing the Avon river. You can see the tarmac has lifted up in chunks. I'm standing on Avonside Drive to take this photo - most of it is open again now, but further down the street is blocked off where a lot of cracking happened.

This church on Edgeware Road really took a hammering. See how the gates are all twisted at the front. A stained glass window has fallen out of that round hole.

This is the building behind the church. Such a shame to think of those beautiful stained glass windows being demolished.

I'm glad this is not my car.

I forget which street this is, but there are a lot of these potholes around. In a lot of places the ground actually liquefied which caused sinkholes, and in other places there are big piles of dirt and sand which has just bubbled up from somewhere.

Amidst all this catastrophe, mostly what I am thinking is lucky, lucky, lucky. Lucky no one died. Lucky that the city had plans for dealing with an event like this and that they seem to be running smoothly. Lucky that power is on for most of us. Lucky that most people will be able to claim insurance on the damage. Above all, lucky that me and mine and my little patch are safe and whole.

I am sure that in the weeks to come there will be plenty of things to be annoyed about, but for now I am counting my blessings.

Saturday, 4 September 2010


This morning at 4.35am we were hit by a 7.1 magnitude earthquake. The epicentre was about 30 km west of Christchurch and man, did we know about it. I woke to a rumbling that quickly got loud as the room started to shake. Lui and I bolted out of bed and made for the doorway as everything lurched. I could hear doors and cupboards banging, drawers slamming in and out, and the weird, almost supernatural rumbling all around. My instinct was to get outside where nothing could fall and trap me but I couldn't make it further than the doorway - it was too hard to run with the rocking and rolling and violent lurching. At last it subsided and I grabbed my coat and ran outside, shivering and shaking and listening to alarms, sirens, and barking dogs.

Lui hid somewhere. I went back inside and gathered food, phoned my family, ran outside each time there was an aftershock, and waited for Jon to come home from work. Eventually dawn broke and we checked out the house - amazingly there is no damage! We are incredibly lucky, especially given the damage to other parts of town. The power came back on at about 8.30am for us which was great - much kudos to the power companies, and in fact everyone who has worked so hard today to restore infrastructure - thank you all! We still have to conserve water, and boil before drinking and all that, but at least we have heat and light and internet.

Lui is incredibly spooked - he spent the day hiding under our bed, but he has at last come out and is slinking round, staring at everything with big eyes and flinching at every noise. It's going to take a few days for him to be back to normal I guess... the same can be said for everyone really. Thanks to everyone who has commented and emailed to see if I'm all right, I very much appreciate it! Here is an article with everything you ever wanted to know about The Big One of 2010:

Here's hoping for a good night's sleep and a boringly uneventful day tomorrow...

Friday, 3 September 2010

3rd of Spring

Well, time is flying. It's the 3rd of spring already, although the weather today was anything but springlike. These pictures from last weekend are my proof that we are all starting to spread our wings, stretch in the sunshine and enjoy the lenghthening days.

See the little star flowers, all in a row... Eventually I want to spread this planting all along the driveway. And I will have some cerise pink hyacinths in there next year!

Here are some more earlicheer daffs in the lovely green gazunder (ooh I love that word). They smell so beautiful - I have the front door open and the scent blows in and perfumes all through the house.

More bulbs... I'd forgotten these little crocus were even there, until they peeped their little faces out. They are such fleeting sweeties - little blooms gone within a week.

And the patch of sunshine that is jonquils. Glowing with spring cheer even on a cloudy day.

Happy spring! How does your garden grow?


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