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Mrs Dorothy Rae’s Garden

October 23, 2008

Mr and Mrs Rae built our new (to us) house in the mid fifties – I’m guessing originally as a holiday house as the house is compact and modest.  They did, however, engage an architect to design it, so I’m also guessing they had some money.  I think the house is very cool since I am a big fan of modernism (my secret is revealed) and have always wanted to live in a mid- 20th Century house.  And while I love the house (though it has definitely seen better days), the lure of the place was the flat half acre of land.  With this land came a very neglected garden, that once was spectacular according to neighbours – Mrs Rae had planned, planted and tended it. The people we bought the place from, evidently were overwhelmed by it or not interested or both. Most of the silver birches have been so badly pruned that it has hastened their demise.  I know that they are short lived trees but why would you want to make them look so bad?  I’ll spare you the pictorial evidence.

Now, while I would not  plant a garden such as this, I do admire the sheer courage of using such dramatic and showy colours in the azaleas and rhodos – both of which come in evergreen and deciduous varieties.  There are also ponds, (now dry) stream beds, a small Monet style bridge (was painted in the Giverny green) and even remnants of climbing roses.  Not so much in the fruit and vegetable department but this will change!

As things have flowered with the onset of spring, we keep walking around saying things like, “Oh wow, that’s a…..”  or “What sort of tree is that?” Reference books have come in handy.

Can anyone help with identifying this tree?

One set of neighbours is worried that, with a focus on food growing, we are going to clear fell the block. Their block was once part of ours, until Mr Rae died and Mrs Rae sub-divided and built a low maintenance brick house on the back quarter acre. She subdivided so as to not ruin the garden aspect of both places. I like Mrs Rae – I wish she still lived in her other little house. We had to ensure the neigbours that we were not vandals or insensitive to our surroundings.  Moreover, the local planning authority would be unlikely to allow such dramatic alterations to the streetscape.  However, what I wanted to ask them – are vegetables and fruit trees not as beautiful as a camellia or tulip or maple?  To me they are, and I think that this is where Mrs Rae and I would have disagreed.  Oh and on the use of colour.


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10 Comments leave one →
  1. October 24, 2008 12:56 am

    How exciting to explore the new garden and be surprised by what comes up. It is so lushly planted, and gradually you will make it yours, and add your own surprises. Perhaps then the neighbours will see that all plants have beauty. Sharing a few of your home grown goodies might convince them of the beauty of fresh healthy food.

  2. October 24, 2008 1:20 am

    Hi Nada. I love that you know her name. To me, it is like gardens have names, particularly ones that have been so loved, as this one has. My first garden had a name. It was called Mr Cerullo. It was full of fruit trees and vegie patches, and grape vines and the house had a cellar for storing home made wine. Don’t get me wrong, it was small, but every bit of it was productive. Like you, in my second garden I have inherited a beautiful rhododendron and like you, I’d would not have planted this showy creature. At least where you live there is mist in the air! Anyway, thanks for sharing your new garden. Enjoy. You will have a new love affair, I’m sure.

  3. leisabell permalink
    October 24, 2008 1:41 am

    Is the tree a magnolia?
    I’m not sure how easy it was in the fifties to build a house without an architect…
    I’ve always loved modernist houses, like Rose Seidler House in Sydney.
    Monet style bridge… i’m so jealous!

  4. October 24, 2008 9:21 pm

    Northern Shade: I think sharing the home-grown goodies will go a long way and it’s the neighbourly thing to do. It is lushly planted but also weed infested, however, I am looking forward to being in it all. Thanks.

    Melissa: Thanks. There are rhodos galore….it is almost overwhelming. You are right, in the mist, the bold colours do look lovely.

    Leisabell: Magnolia – hmm. Hadn’t thought of that but I’ll check it out. Rose Seidler house is great. The Monet bridge is on a smaller scale and almost completely rotten – don’t think we’ll be replacing it because the reticulated stream and pond system was disconnected when she subdivided the property. I think she diverted rain water from the roof for the enterprise. Complicated, no? We’d like to put in rain water tanks/cisterns which is better for getting through the dry times, so that’s what we’ll be doing with the roof catchment.

  5. October 24, 2008 9:44 pm

    I’ve come to view the azaleas and rhododendrons as showy and crass when compared with the subtle, understated beauty of most Australian species. They have a place, I guess, but they are to me the beef stroganoff and tuna casserole of plants – remnants of an era that was at odds with the country in which it was growing up.

    I’ve just potted up about ten seedlings from seeds that came from a beautiful acacia that I found in southern Victoria – no idea what the variety was, but it had a striking weeping habit and vivid red seed pods. I’m going to plant them in front of our house.

    Hope all is well up there. Off to La La Land in a couple of weeks. Work is shit here, so I have succumbed again to the lure of Hollywood. Wish me luck!

  6. Kathy permalink
    October 24, 2008 10:39 pm

    What fun (and hard work) you will have. A secret garden to play in!

  7. October 26, 2008 5:04 am

    Anaglyph: Oh LALALALA…..it does have a certain charm. Truly, if i hadn’t been jack of the whole business, I’d be there. I do like LA…quite a lot. Good luck and have a great time.

    I love the pods of acacia, they always remind you that they are legumes.

    Kathy: It is fun and that’s going to be important to remember. Thanks.

  8. November 10, 2008 2:52 am

    Have fun with your new garden! I second magnolia for the ID. Does the creek not fill up when it rains. The wildlife would love it, what with the way we’ve filled in/diverted/etc waterways. I’m planning a pond for my (small) garden. i would love a creek – maybe one day i’ll move. i would also love bees, but that has to wait for more room too.

  9. me7c7v permalink
    December 28, 2008 5:44 am

    I don’t know if you get them in Australia, but the tree looks to me to be a dogwood (common in NE America–we have one in the backyard of my parent’s house, and there was one right outside my dorm window at college)

  10. December 28, 2008 10:11 pm

    Thanks. We have two of them – a white one (the photo) and a pink one. A friend tipped me off -he thinks the pink one is a chinese dogwood. They, both, have such lovely flowers.

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