Highgrove Living, Lockdown Gardening

It has been an interesting time, with South East Queensland thrown into an extended lockdown we are back to working from home etc. Besides our daily take away coffee (supporting our local businesses), and our weekly grocery run, we have not left the house.

Just as the renovations on the house are getting into a final fase of minor adjustments and paint touch ups, our attention has turned to the front garden.

As we moved in, we were welcomed by a sea of green, carefully trimmed topiary hedges.

Now, after five months, those trimmed beyond belief mini trees are starting to expand outwards and upwards, slowly but surely encroaching on the front of the house.

Original front garden

So, lockdown week was a great opportunity to start our front garden renovation project.

We set out our objectives first, what do we actually want from our updated garden:

  • Cottage garden to complement our 1886 cottage
  • Low maintenance, so minimum pruning. Selecting plants that naturally grow to the required height.
  • Australian natives that are bird and bee friendly
  • Colours: red, shades of purple, yellow and white, reflecting the colours of our cottage.

We then started phase one, demolition. As the garden is overcrowded it was a matter of taking out a plant or two that definitely did not match our objectives and then stepping back and reviewing what next.

We started with the “lollipop” trees, those plants that had been severely pruned and shaped to look like a stick with a round bunch of twigs and leaves. Some of these had trunks that were well over 20 cm in diameter. They should have been big trees!

Next came the hedges, everything that was mainly woody with just some leaves on the outside.

We ended up taking out more hedges than we thought, liberating an extra couple of metres of garden at the top.

We can now see the nice variety of trees that line our garden on the roadside, as well as some of the shrubs that are in front of them.

And finally we pulled out those plants that are defined as invasive species and weeds. Some of those actually looked quite pretty… and no, we haven’t removed all of them… yet. Google lens and a couple of australian flora websites helped us to define invasive vs native.

In the end, we have been left with the agapanthus that frame the border of the front garden, the palms, the trees next to the road, and a selection of smaller plants.

It doesn’t look like a massive difference, but it surely is. The pile of garden waste is higher than Mike and several Mikes long.

The tools required for this job were a:

  • chainsaw
  • large lopper
  • spade
  • and a mattock pick for digging out the roots.
  • If you don’t have access to your local friendly mowing and shredding business, you would need a large shredder. Our small one was definitely not up to this job.

To get an idea of dimensions, our front garden is effectively a half ellipse, about 35 metres along the road and 12 metres radius from the trees down the hill.

The garden faces North, but has trees providing shade from the sun, especially in summer. And our soil is clay (weathered volcanics), very rich in nutrients so everything we will plant will grow to twice the stated height!

We have a bit more tidying to do, before we hit the nursery in early spring for new shrubs and flowers! Looking forward to that next stage!

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