A garden is a fantastic asset when you're stressed

A garden is a fantastic asset when you're stressed

Life & Style
Weeping Blue Atlantic Cedar in the historic garden at Bunnamagoo, Rockley. Visit www.bunnamagoowines.com.au/

Weeping Blue Atlantic Cedar in the historic garden at Bunnamagoo, Rockley. Visit www.bunnamagoowines.com.au/

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Gardening is also hugely important psychologically as it helps mental health.

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December is when it pays to be a lark rather than an owl.

I need hardly tell you that I'm an owl and find getting up at dawn a struggle, but if you're a lark, you can get an amazing amount done in the garden in what is admittedly a magical time of day (if only I were there more often to enjoy it).

Please don't think that because we're in the middle of devastating heat, drought, water and fodder shortages and worst of all bushfires that a garden is a superficial luxury and your mind should be on higher things.

Far from it, a garden is a fantastic asset when you're stressed.

A green oasis around your house helps keep it cool and assists fire control, and it provides a vital habitat for birds, animals and insects.

Gardening is also hugely important psychologically as it helps mental health.

Caring for something that's living gives you a sense of worth and better still, plants, unlike two-year olds, won't answer back.

Having something to focus on, even topping up a birdbath gives you a sense of responsibility and stops you fretting about things over which you have no control, Brexit say, or the Amazon rainforest fires melting glaciers 2000 kilometres away.

Trees are our most important plants as quite apart from their contribution to the environment they take a long time to grow.

Check them regularly and if necessary, give a good deep watering. A quick sprinkle is useless, the water soon evaporates and won't reach the tree's roots.

Please don't think that because we're in the middle of devastating heat, drought, water and fodder shortages and worst of all bushfires that a garden is a superficial luxury and your mind should be on higher things. - Fiona Ogilvie

Next, weed the garden as you go. Weeds steal moisture from ornamentals so yank them out as they appear and leave them on the beds to rot down as mulch.

Perennial horrors like couch grass are harder when total fire bans are in place. Try putting them in a bucket and covering with water; they'll drown in about four weeks and you can then compost them.

Alternatively, spread them out on a hard surface like concrete and leave to dry. They should be very dead again in three to four weeks, but this method isn't much use in a strong wind. Try not to let your soil dry out as it will become water repellent.

Two good preventatives are humus in the form of compost and water crystals. Water crystals are perfectly safe environmentally and are long lasting.

They swell as they absorb water and then slowly degrade, releasing the absorbed water back into the soil.

The best way to handle a dry garden is to grow the right plants.

One of my favourite conifers is the Blue Atlantic Cedar (Cedrus atlantica 'Glauca').

I was bowled over during the recent Rockley Open Gardens weekend on seeing a rare weeping form, planted by Philippa and David Thompson, former owners of Bunnamagoo at Rockley, well over 40 years ago and now a magnificent tree.

Originating from the Mediterranean, it's far superior in our climate to the ever popular Blue Spruce that comes from higher, wetter altitudes.

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