During School holidays, we’ve been reading The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett. This was one of my favourite books as a child. I must have read it dozens of times and have revisited it a few times as an adult. I had never seen the movie. I’ve always been a book snob I guess, knowing that the film never is as good as the book so I simply hadn’t bothered but a few weekends ago it happened to be on TV so the boys and I booked it in for a movie night. It was very different from the book of course, but not necessarily worse. For little kids, it’s probably better paced. As far as gardens go, it’s visually spectacular. The kind of garden in it is unlike anything my Aussie kids have ever seen in their short lives. They were awed. The moment that struck them both from the film and book was when Mary requested “a bit o’ land of my own to plant some seeds”.The land we live on is wonderful. We are at the edge of a salt lake on a RAMSAR protected wetland. In the spring one tract fills with wild orchids and we’re on the flight path of Cape Barren Geese (or as we call them – The Flying Pigs as they oink on the way through). However, as far as gardening goes, it’s a tough bit of the Australian landscape. The soil is sandy and nutrient deficient, the salt air not great for tender plants and our access to good fresh water is very limited. We have two bores – one is salty as sea water and the other slightly less so. We have a tiny tank behind the house that catches just enough rainwater for drinking and the tanks behind the shed catch rainwater but it’s never enough and we regularly need to call in a tanker to top us up. This fresh water is reserved for use in the vegie patch and our potted garden and propagation zone (which is fairly extensive being renters AND plant lovers). We shower, wash and do dishes using the slightly less salty bore. Bearing that in mind, you can appreciate that garden real estate and commodities are in high demand. The boys have always been involved in every bit of gardening we do. They ride on Dan’s knee when he mows the property. They help to plant seeds and seedlings, they harvest with us and weed with us. I have allowed them to plant some frivolous things in my herb garden (albeit grudgingly).After our last Growers Market, they wanted to each buy a plant with their earnings. M fell in love with a Cherry Pie (Heliotrope) which is a lovely little bush with deep purple flowers that smell just like (you guessed it) Cherry Pie but B wanted a tree. I tried to lead him to something small and bonsai-ish or indoor plant suitable but no… it had to be a tree and as I tried to explain to him the reasons why it wasn’t really as easy to plonk a tree into our block without careful consideration, he turn to me and begged “Mum please, can me and M just have a bit ‘o land of our own…to plant what we want?””okay” I agreed and he picked out an Albany Woolybush that he’d been eyeing off. I loved the idea of giving them a plot of their own. My own folks had done that for me when I was a child and turned me loose with a few seed packets to do with my land what I wished (Thousands of Nasturtiums was my choice at the time) but I feared that we really had no available land where anything that they wanted to grow would actually grow. The idea of them slogging away and failing at growing because of dodgy dirt broke my heart so we started negotiations on my patio area where our collection of potted plants reside. Eventually, I was able to clear a section big enough to keep them happy.
Once my plants were evicted from the area, they set to work cleaning, clearing and negotiating on design decisions. They wandered down behind the shed to choose some pots. I stood by to assist with heavy lifting and acted as a horticultural retail sales assistant when they were ready to add to their garden from my potted plant collection and our Growers Market stock. I suppressed my natural urges to control the situation (which was a lot harder than I feel comfortable admitting) and left them to it.
I don’t think there is a parent alive who doesn’t appreciate how good it feels to watch your kids when they’re working together and getting along, mostly because we all know how rare those moments can be sometimes. This little garden of theirs was created a month ago now and is thriving today as I write this, more importantly, their bond with each other has strengthened. When we’re shopping for plants they consult with each other about what would be best for their garden and every day they tend to their patch, occasionally agreeing to changes and upgrades. If giving up a little real estate and water means this is a regular gig – then I’m happy to roll with that.
This is how their little patch is going now…