When you own animals, it’s inevitable that they generally pass away before you do, so it’s important for every garden to have a special cemetery corner. When we first moved to Candelo in 2015, we brought our very old and much loved dog, Scamp, with us to eke out his final days. In fact, my husband had to make a special trip back to Geelong to pick up Scamp and our rose plants after the initial big move!Scampie loved the garden , even though he had limited mobility , and played a big part in its early development, often sitting right on top of a freshly dug hole for a new plant or enjoying the warmth of a pile of fallen Autumn leaves.When he finally died six months later at the ripe old age of almost 16, we buried him in the corner of the flat with a beautiful funeral service, laying him to rest on his favourite old pink blanket, covered with freshly picked blooms from the garden. The flat lies between the old shed (on the right of the first photo below) and the rainforest bank (left edge of the first two photos below), in front of the entrance steps, where he can keep an eye on all our visitors! The bottom photo shows the view of the flat from the house. Since then, Scampie has been joined by a succession of my daughter Caroline’s budgies, all of these pets playing a special part in her growing up years and much loved by the whole family.As you might know, we all love our tea, especially Caroline, so we thought this dedicated area was perfect for a tea garden, somewhere where we could sit and contemplate, chat to our animal friends and remember the good time we shared, so we planted a Camellia sinensis, the original tea plant (second photo below), along with a seat of Chamomile, with an adjoining carpet of Peppermint and Moroccan Spearmint (see photo above), which can run to their heart’s delight in this area, providing us with many future cups of delicious herbal tea. One small pot of peppermint (first photo below) is far too restrictive for my needs!!!When Scampie died, we originally marked his grave site with a native Frangipani tree, one of our favourite rainforest trees back at Dorrigo, where Scamp spent many happy hours. It has beautiful scented golden blooms, fading to white, dark green glossy leaves and interesting purse-shaped seedpods. Having seen huge specimens down in Geelong, we thought it might be able to grow here, but unfortunately, it was cut right back by the frost in the Winter of 2016. We moved it to a pot to recover and planted a new specimen, both plants growing vigorously over the following year, but again, both were hit badly last Winter, unfortunately with fatal results this time! So, I’ve given up on being able to grow native frangipanis, but then had to decide on another tree for the same spot. Below is a photo of Winter Sun daffodils, which we had planted beneath the Native Frangipani – very much in keeping with the gold colour scheme!While the thought of a Lemon-Scented Tea Tree was an attractive option, because space is at such a premium in our small garden, especially these days, it is extra important to get double the value out of any future plantings! So we decided on a golden peach, which not only satisfies aesthetic requirements, but also culinary ones! A friend gave us a whole box of homegrown peaches last year, after which we decided we had to have our own tree! While we love eating peaches, you can also make a delicious herbal tea with cinnamon and orange zest.The colour scheme of this area is very much happy golds and whites, uplifting the spirits and complementing the mature hill banksia behind in its bed of blue and white agapanthus. Above the bank at ninety degrees to the banksia, a red hedge of two grevilleas, a correa and a Red Riding Hood azalea, separates the Tea Garden from the rainforest garden.Other plants near the Tea Garden on the flat include: a Kerria japonica seedling, struck from a cutting in my sister’s garden, which sports bright golden flowers in early Spring. See: https://plantsam.com/kerria-japonica-pleniflora/, as our shrub hasn’t flowered yet!;a Golden Hornet crab apple (photos above), whose crabs turn a deep gold on maturation, underplanted with Golden Dawn daffodils;a naturalised bank of Grandma’s highly scented freesias;an entrance arch (first photo) covered in golden Noisette roses: Alister Stella Grey (second photo) and Rêve d’Or (third photo), which leads through past the cumquat trees (fourth photo) and a Lemonade Tree to the main pergola;and the back wall of the old shed with its wall of Albertine roses, trained on a frame, with their skirt hems covered in brightly coloured dahlias.While celebrating the animal friends in our lives, the Tea Garden is also a good spot to honour family members, who have also passed on, so last year, we planted a beautiful golden rambler called Maigold below the hill banksia for my dad, who passed away at the age of 91 in January 2017. Bred by Kordes in 1953, this exceptionally healthy and vigorous rose, with glossy dark green foliage, is thriving and has already produced a number of golden single blooms.It has been a wonderful season and all the plants in the Tea Garden are growing well, as can be seen in the photos below of chamomile and Moroccan spearmint. From small beginnings…. After an initial slow start with six well-spaced plants, the chamomile has gone wild and is now competing well with the original couch grass. We have been harvesting its bloom all Summer, often picking 450 flowerheads at a time to dry for chamomile tea. I have just chopped back all the flowering stems and cleaned up the bed for Autumn.While I use chamomile tea for relaxation and getting to sleep, it has numerous health benefits, as documented in: https://draxe.com/chamomile-benefits/. We have also cut and dried mint leaves, but are resisting the temptation to harvest the Camellia sinensis until it is much bigger! Below is a photo of my daughter Caroline next to a huge tea plant, taken in 2008 at the Nerada Tea Plantation on the Atherton Tableland. I probably won’t wait this long though!
Here is a link to a site detailing the health benefits of Peppermint and Spearmint: https://www.teamindbody.com/blogs/healthy-tea-info/9928062-health-benefits-of-mint-8-qualities-to-better-your-health.
And a closeup photo of the fresh foliage of Camellia sinensis, which is dried to make tea.I own a lovely book called Healthy Teas: Green, Black, Herbal and Fruit by Tammy Safi 2001, which not only discusses the history, types, methods of brewing and health benefits of tea , but also contains a number of recipes for delicious herbal tonics for energy, stress, cleansing, immunity and springtime. Another good book is Herbal Tea Remedies: Tisanes, Cordials and Tonics for Health and Healing by Jessica Houdret 2001, which specifically focuses on herbal teas with chapters on their cultivation; harvesting, drying and storage and brewing, including tea recipes for digestion; coughs and colds; zest and energy; calm and sleep; headaches, anxiety and depression; tonic teas; and fruit and flower drinks.In the back is a compendium of herbs suitable for a tea garden and I grow many of them in other parts of the garden like angelica, bergamot, black currant, borage, calendula, dandelion, elderflower, feverfew, honeysuckle, lavender, lemon verbena, marshmallow, mulberry, mullein, nasturtium, roses, rosemary, sage, strawberry, thyme, valerian and yarrow. The first group of photos below shows angelica, feverfew, calendula, borage and bergamot; while the second grouping includes rosehips, valerian and thyme, dandelion, honeysuckle and strawberry. I am quite tempted to plant a hibiscus shrub, lemon balm and some more mints, perhaps Eau-de-Cologne Mint, Pennyroyal, Apple Mint and Chocolate Mint, down in the Tea Garden. If you would like to know more about mint, a good little volume is Book of Mint by Jackie French 1993. It describes the different types of mint, their cultivation and harvest/ storage, and their uses in medicine, cosmetics, teas, sauces, sorbets and after dinner mints, complete with recipes!
Next month, we will be exploring the wonderful world of Salvias, but first, a post about Hegarty’s Bay, followed by a swag of books on Textile Printing and Natural Dyeing in my series on Craft Books!