The Tale of a Canberra Garden: Winter

Today was one of those spectacular Canberra winter days, where it was absolutely freezing but there was not a cloud in the sky.

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These are the days I remember from my childhood here. I have memories of dancing on a frosty lawn before school, seeing how much of the ice crystals I could crush before our bright red Toyota Camry station wagon left the garage. We had a large tree stump in our backyard and I used to jump off it to see how precise I could make the impressions of my shoes on the icy grass.

I wasn’t doing anything like that this morning (in fact, I spent the entire morning in bed finishing the book I was reading) but, while I made my morning cup of peppermint tea, I stood at the kitchen window admiring the crystals on the ground and the crystal clear blue sky.

The last few weeks have had a lot more rain than usual for the time of year, so it’s a relief to see my beloved winter weather coming back. I don’t much enjoy numb fingers (which are just a fact of life here in the winter) but I can cope with anything as long as the sun shines.

When I lived in New Zealand as a teenager, the weather used to get me down – it just rained. All year round. In winter we could go for weeks without seeing the sun and I used to sit in my room, watching water droplets run down my window, missing the Canberra frosts and fog.

This afternoon I hummed to myself (and to my cat, who was lurking in the bushes), as I hung out the washing. I admired my broad bean seedlings that are growing rapidly after all the rain we’ve had.

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I also noticed that, by some freak of nature, the hibiscus in our pool house (which acts like a glasshouse) are still flowering. They haven’t noticed the frosty nights and are carrying on with their gay blooms as if it was mid-summer. The irony of this is that we’ve spent five summers trying to coax them to flower and this year they finally got the hang of it – it seems that now they’ve started they can’t stop.

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As I headed inside I had to walk up the steps onto the deck, which leads to the back door. The deck is surrounded by the bare tendrils of our wisteria. Bare apart from its velvety seed pods, which I can’t help fingering on my way past.

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In spring the vines will be covered in giant sprigs of glorious purple flowers. Bees will be everywhere. Soon after the flowers drop, green shoots will appear and in a few weeks the entire deck will be encased in a lush green hedge. We’ll eat our summer evening meals out there, swatting away mosquitoes. But soon enough autumn will come around again and the leaves will turn yellow and fall. Mandy (the cat) will make her usual autumn bed in them.

I looked around the backyard before I went back into the warm house and my eyes were caught by the ornamental Manchurian Pears, with their branches covered in buds ready to burst in a few short weeks. Already other trees around town have started to blossom and we even have some jonquils out in our garden too.

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It’s an encouraging sign of the next season, just around the corner.

Canberra winters always seem short to me. I just get used to the cold and I suddenly notice it’s getting warmer. It won’t be long now before I stop needing to wear my woollen coat every time I leave the house. That won’t be happening this week though – on the weekend we saw the first snow on the Brindabella ranges to the west. I watched it falling from our kitchen window on Friday afternoon. It had melted by lunchtime the following day, but it’s made the last few days extra cold.

So, for now, I’ll huddle into my cosy bed every night and try to avoid spending too much time out of doors during the day. But when I do step out and look at the blue sky with a smile on my face.

Life is good, whenever the sun shines 🙂

And if all else fails I just listen to this song:


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