Gardening Magazine

From Disgraceful to Graceful

By Gardenamateur

While I spend an inordinate amount of time tending to my backyard, I am afraid I am guilty of neglecting my front yard. It's so easy-care that I don't water it, and feeding is a once-a-year thing. And guess what? It looks neglected ... in fact parts of it are a disgrace, and so recently, at Pam's prompting, I've given part of the front yard a much-needed makeover.

From disgraceful to gracefulHere's a photo of how it looks, if you're a pedestrian in our street. That enormous blue-grey thing is a "groundcover" Cootamundra wattle (Acacia baileyana) that doesn't like to be confined by walls and so has grown into a 2m tall, 4m wide spreading monster. I have to cut it back regularly. However, the truly disgraceful thing is what was growing under the wattle: weeds, lots of weeds.

From disgraceful to gracefulWhile I am not averse to publishing weed photos on my blog, it's usually done in the interests of either "what weed is that?" or "gosh I hate this weed". Today's weed photo is a simple 'hang your head in shame Jamie" shot of a neglected, weedy patch that's largely out of sight ... well, out of sight if pedestrians don't look as they walk by.

From disgraceful to gracefulTwo hours and eight bags of wood chip mulch later, it looked like this. Much better.

From disgraceful to gracefulPammy's great idea was to grow ferns under the dappled shade of the wattle, and so I went fern hunting. The little pots at the front are from Bunnings, Australia's hardware/homeware/garden warehouse behemoth retailer. The taller things at the back are from a local old Greek guy who sells all sorts of plants from his backyard. These look like fishbone ferns, they're considered a weed by many but they almost certainly won't die no matter what. 

I also found a great source of ferns at a little garden center in South King Street in Newtown. The staff there were lovely, knowledgeable and I wish I had bought everything from them. If you live in my Sydney inner-west area, do check out this nursery. It's near the intersection with Alice Street, you can't miss it. Nice place to shop.

From disgraceful to gracefulNext I adopted my old boss, Don Burke's great garden design/planting principle of "put and look". All you need to do is get all your plants in pots, and put the pots where you think they should go, then see how they look, then rearrange them until you've got the spacings, heights and other factors sorted. Then go around and plant the pots where they are. Works a treat.

From disgraceful to gracefulHere's how it all looks when planted out. I'm not sure how big everything will grow, but that doesn't bother me much, as I'm also not sure which ones will survive and thrive, and which ones will die. I know the fishbone ferns won't die ...


From disgraceful to graceful... and I am also confident that the bird's nest fern (the one at the back with the wider foliage) will also not die and will probably grow quite big, at least 1m in all directions, up across and sideways.

From disgraceful to gracefulAs soon as I saw the label on this little guy "Macho fern" I had to have it. Whether it lives up to its tough-buy name is another matter, but I bought two and so I'll let them duke it out with the elements over the coming summer.

While I have tried to choose ferns with different shapes and forms of foliage, for variety, I decided a bit more foliage color would be a welcome addition. Now, this next photo below is of my "hopes" not of what I planted. Projectionist, next slide please ...


From disgraceful to gracefulRegular readers of my blog with excellent memories might recognise this Begonia maculata and its wonderful spotty foliage (and pretty white dangling earrings of white blooms) as it was my Garden Amateur Plant of the Year for 2015. Sadly, these were its glory days when it loved its first Sydney spring and summer, after being planted out as one of Pam's ex-office plants that grew too well under her care. The last two winters haven't been kind to it, but it is still alive, and so my brilliant plan is to take numerous cuttings from the parent plant and hope that a few of them grow on to become a chip off mum's award-winning block.
From disgraceful to graceful

And so this is how they looked yesterday. A bunch of cuttings (there are several more). To cover all options I have some cuttings in pots in a mini greenhouse, I have also shoved several more straight into the front garden soil, saying a hearty "good luck" to them all. And a few more will sit in jar of water, in the hope that roots will sprout that way (my Googling of begonia propagation says it's a good bet).


From disgraceful to gracefulAs well as adding a dash of begonia magic, I've raided our plentiful supplies of Spanish moss, and now the craggy undersides of the wattle are festooned with thin tresses of gray Spanish moss. Good luck to them, too, I say.

So my job is to break a habit of the last several years and actually get out there into the front garden much more often, turn on the hose and make sure all the ferns get a goodly drink. If it all goes well, I am sure I will provide an update in a few months' time. 



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