Gardening leave – not just a euphemism for being stood down

Miniature-rose-in-my-gardenI’ve been on gardening leave.

The first I heard of “gardening leave” when was in a dispute with a previous employer about ethical reporting. They told me to change a figure in a report, I refused, they changed it anyway. My solicitor told me “gardening leave” was the euphemism for having been stood down, which is what they did to me after I took it higher. You’re not allowed to go to work, so you might as well do some gardening.

While that was a stressful time, I liked the concept so much I put myself on gardening leave.

Travelling through the outback I’ve seen some fabulous gardens, with plants you wouldn’t expect.

Rose - Jundah, outback Queensland

Rose – Jundah, outback Queensland

One of the most beautiful, and unexpected, gardens I saw was in Jundah in outback Queensland. We camped by the river, about 1k out of town. It was a beautiful spot, with gum trees lining the river banks, and grass areas where the kangaroos came in to graze first thing in the morning. The type of place that just says “Australia”. In the morning we went for a walk into town, past all the gorgeous frangipani and bougainvillea, and came to an amazing rose garden in the park, with one of the most beautiful roses I’ve ever seen. Who would have thought?

The bloke responsible for the garden was your typical outback bloke. We got chatting about the garden and he told me all about the history of the park, and the area. He’d just got back from Brisbane and was planting all the roses he’d selected. He told me about the different types, and colours and scents. Then we got onto pig shooting, which are also prolific out there. I told you he was a typical outback bloke!

Frangipani - Laura, Cape York, Queensland

Frangipani – Laura, Cape York, Queensland

Of course, all through outback Queensland bougainvillea and frangipani are prolific. In the Gulf and on Cape York the tropical evening air is heavy with the scent of frangipani, with trees laden with flowers in the deepest pinks and yellows. Sitting in your campsite, watching the sunset over the ocean, with a glass of champagne and breathing in the heavy smell of frangipani is an amazing experience. Just watch out for the crocodiles.

Even in areas where everything else is dry, brown and dead, people work to maintain their gardens, and you can often pick out the station house miles from the road by the patch of green in an otherwise bare, brown landscape.

Bougainvillea fence, outback Queensland

Bougainvillea fence, outback Queensland

So after getting back from my last trip, and while I’m planning my next trip away I thought I’d make a garden. And I do mean make one – from scratch, where there used to be grass. After all, it was coming in to spring and a good time to do some gardening. Yes – it’s taken months!

I picked a suitable place in the front yard, along the fence and connecting an already established garden to the pathway to the side of the house. We marked out the area and Doc poisoned the grass. A couple of weeks later I started digging up the dead grass.

Given I have a bad back this was a slow process. Made all the slower because I’m not here all the time. I’d dig up some of the grass, then go back up to Sydney for a week or so. When I’d get back there’d be weeds growing up where I’d just dug. Then I was off working all December so it got ignored again. By Christmas there was a lovely patch of tall weeds where I’d dug up the grass. I started digging again, then went away again, and came back to more tall weeds taking over.

Frangipani - Thursday Island, Torres Strait

Frangipani – Thursday Island, Torres Strait

Doc has been very patient with the spot in his front yard that alternates between a patch of dirt and a patch of weeds.

So I put myself on gardening leave to get it finished.

For a week I spent my mornings digging and weeding, fertilising, mulching, and moving rocks around to make a border. Not just in the garden I was making, I decided that while I was at it I might as well tidy up the rest of the gardens as well.

Then I had to pull out all the succulents that were already there. A word of advice – if you’re ever tempted to plant a cactus – don’t. Unless you want to leave it there forever. Their roots go very deep and pulling them out requires a lot of digging, and pulling, and digging and pulling. And sweat!

But now, finally, I have a garden. I’ve planted a Christmas bush, waratah, hummingbird mint, grevillea and assorted native grasses to attract birds. There’s an orange jessamine in the front for summer scent, and lots of bulbs for spring colour.

It’s not finished yet, but it’s getting there. I’ve just got to work out how to keep it alive and weed free when I’m not here!

My new garden

My new garden

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