If a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush, how much is a bird in a bush worth? In my garden, the answer’s 11.
Sometime between Christmas and New Year, one of my two featherball Silkie hens (nicknamed Sage and Onion) went broody and made a nest for herself under, appropriately, the silk tree (Albizia julibrissin) at the far end of our lawn. She’s now sitting on 11 eggs.
At first I thought Onion was just a bit dopey. She’d never even met a rooster, so there was no hope that any of the eggs would hatch.
Or so I thought. But Sage (pictured) has now started crowing. A lot. I suspect he/she has a lot to crow about, having deviously avoided detection by pretending to be a girl for the past six months. But the wattle and comb are a dead giveaway now.
I couldn’t be a prouder parent. I love the idea of a whole flock of fluffy-headed Silkies running around on my wedding day. But what an unexpected dilemma it has caused. The far corner of my previously perfect lawn is starting to die off. Why? Because we’ve had to shift the irrigation sprinkler nozzle to stop it spraying the blimmin’ broody chicken.
The hundreds of the sunflowers I sowed at the far end of our new lawn are now cheerfully blooming on cue. Unfortunately, they’ve also turned their backs on me. When you sow sunflowers, it’s important to keep in mind that they follow the sun from east to west (plant them along your eastern boundary and they’ll spend the whole day perving on your neighbours instead of grinning at you). But here’s something else I’ve learned: if you have a huge old oak tree near your sunflowers that blocks the midday sun for an hour, then your sunflowers will turn their heads half-way, then stop, and stay facing east all day. So I’m going to try a classic Kiwi No. 8 wire sort of solution. I’m going to twist their necks and wire their heads so they can’t help but face west. Here’s hoping it works.
It’s a weird thing, trying to time a garden to look spiffing just for one day. I’m starting to feel like the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland, muttering “off with their heads” every time I find a flower bud that has deigned to show its face early.
I’ve taken to daily patrols of the flower border in front of the stables, armed with a pair of secateurs, to snip off any open blooms. It feels like sabotage. But deadheading is hardly a chore when the spin off is an endless supply of free fresh flowers to fill up the vases.
All my dahlias, especially the delicious ‘Raspberry Ripple’ (pictured above), with its burgundy-splashed petals, are going great guns. I’m a little nervous that they’ve peaked too soon. Here’s hoping the half bag of Nitrophoska Blue I dumped at their feet today will keep them in good spirits for another six weeks.
Lawns are so last century. They’re unsustainable (especially in Kiwi summers), they waste vast quantities of water (tch tch), they require mowing (noise pollution), feeding (nitrogen run off) and weeding (naughty, nasty herbicides). I haven’t had a lawn for at least a decade (in fact, now that I think of it I haven’t had one since 1997). In my last three gardens, the lawn was always the first thing to go. Not just because I’ve never owned a lawnmower, but because I’ve always looked at lawns as simply hogging space where plants could go instead.
But oh boy, do I have a lawn now! And, even if I do say so myself, it’s quite magnificent. I’m like a proud parent… every day I’m out there patting its head and quietly congratulating myself that I have attained that vision of verdant loveliness that blokes everywhere lust after: the perfect lawn. The dog loves it. The cats love it. And I love it. (I realise it defies logic to love a lawn, but I do.)
Two days before Christmas, we rolled out 380 square metres of instant ‘California Green’ from Readylawn. It’s a deep green, wide bladed fescue grass that’s rhizotomous (meaning it creeps like kikuyu). It looked a bit ropey for the first few days, but two tanks of water later… it’s looking superb. And we’ve still got six weeks to go until the wedding.
Mind you, it’s just as well the lawn is in top nick, because as you can probably tell from the photo, the wildflower borders around the lawn are still knee high to a grasshopper. I predict a fair bit of panic buying of potted colour lies ahead.