In Melbourne, where I grew up, there is topsoil, no frosts and flat terrain. Gardening in Castlemaine has required learning about hills, frost and not only a lack of topsoil, but hydrophobic soil which is bone dry after a thunderstorm, more like dust. The only way to counter this challenge is to import soil and to build retaining walls.
I learnt much of what I know about gardening from my grandmother who thought Edna Walling was God. She grouped plants with similar foliage together just as Edna prescribed. But her daughter, my mother rebelled. As a painter my mother worked with images or pictures in her head towards a vision that only she could see until we too could see the unique jungles with clashes of colour and texture.
In my youth I worked in my grandmother’s garden. Later when I bought my first house her lessons were issued over the phone while I was digging, the phone clamped to my ear, and my baby in his basinet amongst the plants. She concluded every conversation with “here endeth the forty-ninth lesson.” We used to pick fruit from trees to eat while running through the sprinklers in the Australian summer, the wet, soft grass underfoot and seasonal bird calls coupling with the scent of ripened flowers. Today all of these images form the bedrock of sublime memories. It’s hard to imagine anything more exquisite than an immersive garden experience.