The brief for starting the garden

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IMG_0181Views of the land when we were deciding to buy it

Not only the gorgeous views of both hills and sea, but on our second visit to the property the birds were singing and the sheep across on the hills were voicing their opinion, that’s what sold it to us, we had found our new home.

There were certain things we wanted from the garden. We wanted sea views but privacy, birds and bugs so we needed to grow organically which we have always done for vegetables anyway. We wanted whatever fruit we fancied, shade in summer and sun for the winter but I like to have evergreen trees. I really wanted to have tropical plants but I don’t like a garden to look like it’s suffering so to keep it lush I needed to firstly plant for protection of more tender plants and secondly choose wisely but there was still a lot of trial and error until conditions improved.  Lastly I wanted it to be a garden for family and friends, giving respite but also stimulation.

There was a narrow area where any top soil had been removed and that’s where we ended up with the main house. The property was 3/4 of an acre and most of it quite steep with a basin that I now call the glade, below the house and lawn. The garden now offers a lot of different micro climates to grow Heliconias and orchids among many. Below is the garden as it is at the moment, most of it is only 10-11 years old so palms and trees are still growing. We kept some of the gums with one large gum tree being the focus of the glade. I’m still planting trees as the steepness gives us a lot of room for that.

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My first job for the garden was to break up the clay and in areas where I knew I would plant, I dug the area (with a pick, as it was so hard), added gypsum to the soil and left it to break down for about 3 months but I was impatient to plant so parts were just mulched heavily and planted out. I added horse manure from a neighbours property and planted. Tropicals love good drainage in our climate so I had mixed results with being so impatient and lost a few Bauhinia variegata being one of those and a Ceiba speciosa died back quite a bit.  I moved the Ceiba (Chorisia speciosa) which has thrived away from the sea spray and is now about 9 metres tall.  I was given another Bauhinia and this time made a small hill of composty soil so it had good drainage for its early life when small roots needed protection from too much cold rain during winter. That tree is also thriving now and I am less lazy about preparing sites these days. With all the mulch came insects and therefore, birds and year by year the soil improved and I find I can plant most things now.

Some of the first trees I planted

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Bauhinia variegata (Hong Kong orchid tree) it’s also my orchid tree as it grows about 2 metres a year, outwards so has lots of forks for orchids to attach to. I have put Barkeria, oncidium, Dendrobium and maxifolia orchids in the branches and am growing Hoyas at the base where they can climb up.

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Jamaican Fiddlewood which has the sweetest light apricot, scented flowers but is anti social in the way it drops most of it’s leaves in our spring.

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Bangalow palms, these 3 are right next to the path going down from the top garden to the bottom and the glade

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Australian Frangipani with red Alstroemerias and Rhapsis exelsia beneath them

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A native variegated Mertya “Moonlight” with Brugmansia Ecuador pink in the back ground”

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Dombeya, very fast growing and in 8 years reached 10 metres, it also has a lovely open habit so you can easily see the clivias underneath

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Albissia

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Trevesia with Justicia Aurea beside it. This has been a very slow growing tree, the first winter it nearly rotted away so I raised it up on a mound and it has slowly grown to about 7 feet.

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