RTBG  Thursday 3rd June 2021

I am not going far these days. Friends seem happy to fly to the mainland and risk being trapped with an unexpected Covid lockdown. That uncertainty and the related risks are not for me. Meanwhile my day to day world stays close to home. The profound excitement I have, every time I visit one of Tasmania’s great treasures, never ceases.  And so it was this morning when I walked into the Food Garden of the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens (RTBG).

Now that winter is officially upon us according to the calendar, the gardens are somewhat bare – except for collections of brassicas, sprouting shallots and onions, and silver beet. Nevertheless sufficient produce grows to enable the collection of leaves and more for distribution to charity.

Amidst the plants, various weeds emerge and removing these was one of the tasks for the day.  Mostly we were looking for fine grass weeds trying to stay hidden under straw.  Plants are so clever.

In addition I removed the spent basil, and dug feverishly to rid the bed of nuisance onion weed. The basil removal was a very pleasant task – the lingering smell of the herb on my hands and clothes and now crushing in the rubbish bin was sweet.  However there is nothing good to be said about trying to dig up the bulb at the bottom of an onion plant.

Meanwhile other volunteers were moving loads of beautiful compost to cover the beds beneath the chestnut tree – the one with the yacon, asparagus and other plants. 

During the morning new sawdust paths were spread – gleaming like gold against the dark colours of damp soil, grey trunks and a cloudy sky.

Last week other paths had been reformed with new layers of sawdust, and today the edging gardens were having their weeds plucked.

Later wood chips created thick mulch pathways between the espaliered pears and the convict built red brick wall. 

This is a time of the year when ‘order’ seems possible in the garden; when a profusion of plants (and weeds) is months away. Part of the cleaning up process was clearing the pathways. To this end the last of the leaves from the fruit trees and the kiwi fruit vines were raked into piles.

Neil worried I might jump into and scatter one huge pile he had created. To his great pleasure I didn’t wreck his good work and we toted bin loads to the composting area where they will break down over time in order to provide future sustenance for the plants of spring and beyond.

But I had my childish pleasure after leaving the gardens; walking to the bus, the leaves on the pathway were calf deep in places and I just has to kick and beam with delight as the leaves rose, eddied in the air glad to have their freedom and then fell to earth again – waiting for winds to collect them together again.  Tell me what I am doing wrong!

Before leaving, I wandered around the Food Garden and noted the medlar tree was virtually leafless and lots of fruit was working its way to becoming deliciously soft and mushy.

I looked at the native Tasmanian mint bush and was startled at the ruthless pruning – almost down to stumps.  A good reminder to tackle my expanding bush at home.

Overall, I admired the grand French Hawthorn tree and loved it’s generous spotting with bright red berries.  Altogether colourful and masterful.

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