Horticulture at Eyebright
Kiss of the sun for pardon.
Song of the birds for mirth.
You're closer to God's heart in a garden
Than any place on earth.
Horticultural production first started on the Eyebright property in 2001. At the time,Eyebright was operating out of the old cheese factory at Old Factory Corner. I would drive to various leased paddocks to tend my crops. Looking back, I don’t know how I did it. Imagine driving two kilometers, and then discovering you forgot a vital tool, like a pair of secateurs It was a boon for efficiency when I consolidated all my growing to the current Eyebright site. I couldn’t believe how well things grew. The soil was straight out of cow paddock, and hadn’t been cultivated for decades.
Over the years I grew peas, potatoes, corn, flowers, and, of course, tended the shop garden. What has eclipsed all others is, however, our Christmas trees. With over three thousand trees planted we have you covered for the next three Christmases. As of this year, all blocks are drip irrigated. As much as I revel in shifting irrigation pipes, I can’t be everywhere at once. Drip irrigation can. Daily, delivering just the right amount of water to each tree. This in turn gives me plenty of growth and the opportunity to shape up bushy, symmetrical trees.
When Eyebright started in 1986, dried flowers was all we did. So did about twenty other growers up and down the country. We had a national association of dried flower growers, with conferences, field days, and much talk of exporting.
As far as I know, I was the only one who did export. I had an order for refrigerator sized boxes full of Helichrysum (strawflower) heads for Japan. Everything went according to plan. I got paid, and was keen to continue. But when it was time to prepare for the next year, I could not contact my customer. He just disappeared. I tried ringing, but had no joy, just someone speaking Japanese.
Larkspur at Eyebright 2003
Although the Eyebright property was primarily a cow paddock, It had one big oak tree. That’s the one in the centre of our round-about. It was planted in the 1840s either by Clara or her husband, Dr. Alexander MacShane . Yes that’s right: MacShane not McShane. At some stage McShane Road got misnamed, and although a few people know this, no one has put up their hand to rectify the mistake. A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.
When we moved to our current location
we rebranded with the oak tree in our logo.
A few years ago, the TDC arborist told me that our oak needed to have some pruning. The material being held aloft offered too much resistance to wind and made the tree vulnerable to breakages. I could immediately see what he meant, and between us we commissioned the work. Less than a week after the pruning we had a big blow. Isel Park was decimated. The Eyebright Oak came through unscathed. Whew! That was a close call.
Commercial horticulture is, of course, different from pottering in the garden. Tasks are repetitive and there’s little scope for spontaneity. Doing things on a whim resulting in wasted time and money.
Right now I have a beautiful crop of ornamental wheat due for harvesting in a fortnight. Barring catastrophe, mid-November should see me, and at least one other, slathered with sunscreen, and churning out uniform bunches. It’s physical, skilful, and satisfying work.
My 2023 goal, is to have a green lawn in February. It’s easy to have a great lawn in spring, but it has been a struggle maintaining this through the summer. I am blessed with plentiful irrigation, but still my lawn becomes parched by mid-January. I have built up an impervious thatch. It is so water proof that it makes irrigation futile. It doesn’t matter how much water you apply the ground remains bone dry. This winter, I called in the professionals to core the lawn. That’s pulling out cores of thatch and soil, leaving channels for water to get to the grass roots.
This summer, preparation is underway for a wild flower meadow, pick your own sweetcorn and pick your own sunflowers, and yet again, mid-way through autumn our ceiling will be covered in dried flowers.