I went back to my folk's place in Brisbane at Christmas time and their garden was looking fabulous. I couldn't help but take a bucket-load of photos which I've shared here. Sadly, none of them do it justice. It's such a lovely space.
Both of my parents are active gardeners, each in their own fashion. My dad is a weeder, always has been (good Catholic work ethic, no small measure of martyrdom). The quantity of nut grass he has pulled out in his lifetime would fill several backyard swimming pools. He takes particular charge of the veggie beds along the fence out the back, where the chilies grow, and it's probably not a coincidence that this is the area most prone to weed invasion and most thoroughly exposed to the baking Brisbane sun.
He also loves to get stuck into overgrown spots around the garden and has got himself into very hot water with my mum a few times for attacking swathes of unruly orange and yellow nasturtiums, pulling them out in their bright flowering prime.
My mum (also a Catholic) is not shy of hard work (or martyrdom) but she also tends to take charge of garden design. When I was a kid, the garden was mostly showy natives, as was the fashion at the time. There are still lots of natives but the style of the garden has changed completely. Not that my parents are at all followers of garden fads. But as the years have passed, my mother has begun to yearn for the old-fashioned Queensland gardens of her childhood. I think you could call her current gardening style, daggy subtropical nostalgia.
We watched "The Sapphires" the other night. It's set in the late 60s and the family house at Cummeragunja Mission is pretty much my mum's dream garden. The verandah is stuffed to overflowing with strange things in assorted pots, urns and old bathtubs while the beds around the house bristle with geraniums and other old-fashioned toughies, no doubt surviving (within the story) on discarded washing up and bath water. I tried to find a picture but you'll just have to look out for it next time you're watching the film.
My mother now seeks out strange succulents and cruxifix orchids at church fetes and garage sales. She takes cuttings of neon-coloured geraniums, fills pots with bright flowering annuals and she pays through the nose for lovely, heavy, textured old concrete pots (if the peeling paint on the pots isn't to her taste she colours them in with my niece's crayons). The paling fence and the trees drip with orchids and air plants, cacti cluster under the kitchen window (some of them in repurposed olive oil tins) and the patio is lined with tiered pot stands of varying heights and styles.
Lovely little concrete statuettes, mostly birds, are scattered strategically around the place. My favourite is a swan who sits elegantly atop the concrete drain outside the toilet. Daggy, Subtropical, Nostalgic, Perfection.