Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Brightening Wash Day Blues

I know this idea has come up before, but with so many of us consigned to a 1/4 acre or less suburban block these days, ideas for turning small spaces into productive spaces are necessary when we want to turn our hand to being a little more self-sufficient.

It is amazing what can be achieved by using wasted spaces, such as beneath the clothesline.With the growth of apartment living, and the suburban backyard shrinking, a lot of people find they no longer can use a clothesline to dry their clothes, but for those of us who still have the rotary hoist in the back, that space beneath it can be made useful.

I remember reading how in the past "ladies of the house" would grow lavender bushes next to the clothesline for draping handkerchiefs and "smalls" over to impart a lovely fragrance while they dried. Apparently it was also planted where the bed sheets could brush against the lavender while they were on the line, giving them a natural insect repellence during storage.

Mark a line about 1.5 metres out from the clothesline pole, giving you a garden diameter of 3 metres. Remember to leave an opening to walk through to get to your line! You can plant the lavender any way you like - if the soil is easy enough to dig, go straight in! If it's rocky or hard, you may want to raise a bed. Place the plants just in from your marked line. Unless your area is damp and shady, you should be able to find a lavender to suit almost any climate.

Directly around the pole, you can also add another bed about 50 centimetres out from the pole all the way around, to give a smaller bed with a diameter of 1 metre. This is a neat little bed that can be reached over easily, and it can be used to plant any number of different plants; I've seen both sweet peas and climbing beans trained up a climbing frame around the pole, with nasturtiums planted beneath. My neighbour at my old place had cherry tomatoes, but I decided to plant rosemary in mine.

I didn't think I would ever miss a clothesline! There ought to be enough distance between the two beds to walk between, and to hang long things, which will still brush against the plants in a breeze.If you're allergic to bees, it may pay you to choose plants that are not quite so attractive to them, or you could prune your lavender hedge more regularly so that it doesn't come into flower, but you can still enjoy the fragrant foliage.

There's also no reason to stick to just lavender either. Many of the scented-leaf pelargonium are suited, and they come in such scents as lemon, lime, citronella, rose, cinnamon, nutmeg, apple and violet! Curry plant is also wonderfully scented (Helichrysum italicum). If your clothesline is shaded, why not try some mint? Suitably restrained of course.

Don't feel limited to the hedging idea, either. Some of the magnificent groundcover thymes would be fabulous.Place an old table or bench near your garden "entrance" to hold a basket of laundry, and a painted terracotta pot to hold the pegs. Hanging the wash isn't anyone favourite task, but if it's got to be done - which it has :P - why not make it as pleasant as possible?

You may even want to sit a while, once the job is done :
Kerry Monteith

Thank you so much for this article Kerry and if anyone creates a garden such as this one we'd really love a photo please.


  1. I love this idea! Unfortunately I don't have any soil beneath my clothesline. When my hoist fell over I got my new lines put up along the side of the carport, so they're partly sheltered from the rain - and the fading summer sun!

  2. Thanks for the comment melanie. Yes, I think that many people have replaced the old Hill's in favour of wall mounted clotheslines but for those who still have the old type...what a lovely idea this is...lavender fragrant washing!


Thanks for leaving a comment...always good to know that someone is reading and (hopefully) enjoying.