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Show Gardening made Easy

With the arrival of autumn, the Eyebright garden strikes a beautiful chord.  The Dahlias are in full cry. Bedding plants are revelling in the moist yet warm conditions and many of the roses are in their third flush.

It’s nice receiving compliments about the garden, but I have to admit to being helped by more than my fair share of blessings:


A foundation of winning shrubs, trees and roses.


Plenty of water.

Great soil.

A right hand man.

Fifteen years ago, when the garden was established, Eyebrights co-owner at the time, Adrienne Matthews, selected all the plants.  She was, and is, less restrained than me.  In a previous life I was an advisor to commercial growers, and was more preoccupied with what couldn’t be done, rather than what could.  Many of the plants Adrienne chose did not thrive, and I would be interrogated as to the where-abouts of special somethings that disappeared.  But if you don’t have failures, you’re not pushing boundaries.  What you see today is a testament to the energy and innovation Adrienne applied in 2003. 


The lack of wind in the Eyebright garden was an unexpected bonus.  I had been taught that solid barriers caused turbulence.  The ideal is to have porous shelter belts, that slow the wind rather than stop it.  Armed with this knowledge, I was fully expecting williwaws to tumble off the Eyebright Building.  In real life I have found that sou-west winds slip over our large roof and continue on towards Tasman Bay leaving calm immediately down-wind in the garden.


Eyebright is a working farm, and has a water allocation to match.  I have enough water to ensure that the garden never gets thirsty.


Eyebright was a cow paddock fifteen years ago.  The ground hadn’t been cultivated for decades.  The very best thing you can do for soil is leave it alone.  There is a romantic view that freshly cultivated fields equate to fertility, but the truth is cultivating works against creating good soil.  Every time you beat up the ground you’re exposing organic matter to degradation.  The only reason for cultivating is to get rid of weeds and to facilitate planting.   Eyebright was established on ground that did not know the bite of a plough or rotary hoe.  Nothing could be better.


The most common comment about the garden is “It must be a lot of work”.   It takes about four hundred hours per year.  That’s one day a week of healthy, interesting, and rewarding work; particularly rewarding because so many people get to enjoy the results.


The second most common comment is “Do you do it all yourself?”.  In the early years, I could say a qualified ‘yes’.  Qualified because I would employ college kids to help.  I couldn’t leave them to it, but was happy to spend time teaching them, because their rate of pay was appropriate for their skill and knowledge.  That was before the government got rid of youth rates.

When I was a teenager and knew very little, but learned heaps while on the job working for bosses who were happy to employ me because I wasn’t costing very much.


Within days of the elimination of youth rates, all the young people who used to stack shelves at Pac and Save were gone.  I wasn’t so fast to react, but eventually discovered that paying adult rates for children was nonsense, and I sought an alternative.


These days, Tony, the Eyebright gardener provides the ongoing input that keeps the flowers and lawns looking great.  Now, when people ask if I do it all myself, I say “I do very little, but the buck stops with me”.  That is, I do hardly any of the routine work, but I have to make the decisions. 


Please come and enjoy our garden.  The more you enjoy it, the more we enjoy making it nice for you.

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