Saturday morning phone call from my father, a few weekends ago; something like this:
Out of bed yet? What are you up to today? Well, go for a run over to Bunnings — they’re holding a plum tree for you; I said you’d pick it up this weekend.
That’s how we got Plum, a promising damson variety. She is now sturdily in place, where the apple tree once was — removed, you may recall, by dad, after I decided the coddling moths, wasps and birds that attacked the apples were all too frustrating. Dad and I determined that plums were largely insect-free; and I had visions of those blue-ish fruit in upside-down cakes and jammy puddings and stewed rich dollops on my breakfast oats.
Plum is the first tree I have ever planted myself. Oh, I have planted shrubs and annuals and bulbs and cuttings — but a tree, a whole tree? Nope.
Dad may have located and secured Plum for me but I realised, during the Saturdayafternoon phone call with him, followign Plum's purchase, that he was not making his usual ‘I’ll be up in a couple of days’ noises. No, he was telling me how wide and deep to dig the hole, not to use fertiliser or I’d burn the roots, and to level the tree in the ground about ten centimetres below the graft. It dawned on me that he was telling me how to do it myself.
It was a bit of a shock; I consider dad the tree expert in the family. But also because it made me realise how much I rely on my dad’s knowledge and experience and I will admit it, his strength. It shames me that I am pretty hopeless at digging and, as much as gardening is an enjoyable physical contrast to my desk-bound day-job, I am pretty weak when it comes to the hard-core stuff. I shan’t betray my father’s age – nor my own, for that matter – but my father, a few decades older than me, is far stronger than me. Therefore digging the hole for Plum was the part I feared the most. Everything else (graft, fertiliser, roots) was spelt out on the swing tag for me to double and triple check. The digging – I was on my own.
Or not, as it turned out. When dad had removed the apple tree, he’d dug over and loosened the soil, so all I really had to do was shovel it out and pile up to one side so I could position Plum. Which was just as well, because it was a rainy day, and Plum and I both needed to get this done quickly before we were saturated. Backfill, a little seasol for transplant shock, and later, some plastic guards when I saw the blackbirds scratching about, threatening to expose her roots (my god, the blackbirds are ferocious in their campaign to dig over every single one of my garden beds).
But it was with quiet pleasure that I downed tools, stood back, and thought: I planted you. There you are, the first tree I have planted all by myself. Now grow!
Plum has been the only gardening chore of significance done in the past month. Low-key maintenance like watering and weeding the kale and silverbeet and passionfruit — which is surviving the frosts; one week, the neighbourhood copped about four or five biggish white-outs; that’s a lot all in a row. Until this week, we'd been getting one good heavy day of rain once every week or fortnight; but this past week has seen dangerous winds and heavy, soaking rains most days and nights. Ten, 12, 14 mls. Great, but - dare I say it - it could actually stop now. The tanks are full, the ground is saturated, and I'm going crazy not being able to get outside and do some exercise! Ah, we're never happy, are we.
So mostly, I am thoroughly enjoying the extra time for reading a mountain of library books — everything from Hillary’s memoirs, spy thrillers (I love a good spook story), English flower books (though I’m really just looking at the pictures and making mental notes to buy ageratum for my flowers beds) and lots of English homes magazines, full of colourful pictures of summer gardens. I’m getting plenty of ideas for refurbishing my newly re-built outdoor area; my mind is awash with wicker chairs and ikat cushions and long benches and pots of glorious colour and warmer, sunnier weather.
And of course reading about other gardeners in the garden share collective, who are not dormant over the wintertime. So join me by clicking on the logo in the column at right to see more green thumbs.