Month: April 2014

The power of colour.

IMG_6824Yesterday as I drove to work I passed a Tibetan monk walking along the road in Sutton Forest, quite far from anywhere in particular.  A most unexpected sight!  He had probably walked all the way from the Sunnataram Monastery – a Thai forest Buddhist monastery near Bundanoon, a couple of villages away.

Until that moment, my head had been absolutely spinning with things to do, orders to place, calls to make, banking to be done and a swirl of ideas I need to bring together.  But seeing this man in his saffron robe immediately made me feel calm. My mind stilled.  I was aware of my foot pulling a little bit back off the accelerator. In that instant I was making myself calm down.  Was it the aura that surrounds the Tibetan persona? …  years of absorbing through the media the Dalai Lama’s teaching, seeing interviews, reading the news about the Tibetan dilemma?  Or was it the impact of that distinctive colour?  Why did they chose that particular colour for their robes? It made me want to learn more and from about.com I read that the Buddha taught the first monks and nuns to make their robes of “pure” cloth, which meant cloth that no one wanted. Types of pure cloth included cloth that had been chewed by rats or oxen, scorched by fire, soiled by childbirth, or used as a shroud to wrap the dead before cremation. Monks would scavenge cloth from rubbish heaps and cremation grounds. Any part of the cloth that was unusable was trimmed away, and the cloth was washed. It was dyed by being boiled with vegetable matter — tubers, bark, flowers, leaves — and spices such as turmeric or saffron, which gave the cloth a yellow-orange color. This is the origin of the term “saffron robe.” Theravada monks of southeast Asia today still wear spice-color robes, in shades of curry, cumin and paprika as well as blazing saffron orange.

Embarrassed at how little I knew of the local Monastery,  I googled Sunnataram  and discovered “it is a place where you can learn and apply Buddhist teachings to add inner peace in your daily life. They offer many Dhamma programs and activities for all levels of interest, from serious meditators to students or just curious visitors. Monks and volunteers have created teaching tools to simplify the complicated Buddhist teachings into modern day language.”  And this particularly interested me – the plants in the monastery gardens are carefully chosen to link with Buddhist history and add more peaceful and pleasant feelings to both meditators and visitors.  You can learn more here: http://www.sunnataram.org/100_0426

And all this got me thinking about the power of colour in the garden.  In particular orange.  I have to say I have never been a fan of orange until I saw a splendid display of tulips at Hidcote last year.  That splash of colour on a gloomy day was uplifting and beautiful.  It warmed a chilly day and reflected in a pond in joyous brilliance. When I came home I planted a bed of the lovely orange rose Pat Austin, named for the breeder’s late wife.  They are gorgeous, glamorous and a very beautiful orange.  This year they will be underplanted with orange parrot tulips.  I’ll have them in stock soon, along with lots of other colours,  if you too would like to make a brave move and add colour to your garden this spring.IMG_6845IMG_6773

FOOTNOTE:  If you would like to help with a donation to Summataran these are some of the Things they Need

Gardens:  the following plants- Waratahs, Rhododendrons, Pieris Temple Bells, Hellebores, Euphorbia. Chicken Wire, Garden Stakes, and bags of potting mix. There is a list of other items they need on their website where you can also make a donation.  http://www.sunnataram.org/

 

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A perfect pear.

IMG_9854One of my (many) goals for The Potting Shed is to provide an outlet for local artists and craftsmen.  So I was delighted when this lovely pear was carried through the gate by a former Sydney jetsetter, now semi-retired and living in the Highlands.  He loves working with steel he explained, as a hobby,  and would I be interested in some of his pieces to sell at The Potting Shed. Yes indeed, I said and next day he pulled up in his ute and showed me a beautiful obelisk he had made for his wife, the legs still covered in dirt fresh from her rose garden!  Elegant and perfectly proportioned, it was just what I had been looking for, for my own garden.  And therefore I was sure it would be ideal for The Potting Shed. Off you go, I said.  Make me more.  And so I am waiting for the ute to pull up again, hopefully this week, with more steel woven magically into art by this George Clooney lookalike, who prefers to remain anonymous.  I’ll let you know when more goodies arrive – but in the meantime, if you’re looking for a special piece for your courtyard, orchard or on a table in a conservatory, this pear is simply, quietly stunning.  It is, as a friend and seasoned collector noted, ‘just right’.

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Clara’s Studio

IMG_9897Since opening The Potting Shed a few weeks ago, I have had very little time for my garden at home and so my other potting shed which overlooks our kitchen garden is sitting empty and forlorn.  Through one of those “six degrees of separation” instances I had a call from a gorgeous young local artist, Clara Adolphs. She had heard from a friend that I had a studio to rent.  Actually no, I said, I was looking for a live-in gardener to manage my garden now that I was back full time at work …  but as luck would have it, my potting shed was now empty and had a lovely view and would she like to work from there in return for minding my dogs while I was at work. She came and loved the space and moved in with her easel and paints and set to work. Perfect.  The potting shed has a new use and has been renamed ‘Clara’s Studio’, the dogs are delighted and we have our own super talented ‘resident artist’.  We feel very grown up!   IMG_9898 IMG_9900

You can view more of Clara’s works at Mick the Gallery, 44 Gurner Street in Paddington, open Tuesday to Saturday 10-6pm. www.mickthegallery.com

 

Plant lots of strawberries!

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This will make my friend Guy laugh.  He once estimated that I would harvest 1 million strawberries per summer based on the number of plants I had throughout the garden.  Seven years ago when we started the garden from scratch, I was searching for a suitable plant to edge the many beds and borders I had created. Budget-wise it was a bit overwhelming. Then I had a bright idea.  I had purchased 6 strawberry plants from the local nursery almost the minute we moved in and that first autumn they sent out runners everywhere so I snipped them all off and replanted them along the edges. Soon the new plants sent out runners which were transplanted and so on, and  before I knew it there were (literally) thousands of strawberries woven through the garden.  Inexperienced then in the ‘really large garden’ metier, I soon discovered this pretty and productive edging wasn’t as co-operative as I had thought. The strawberries invaded everywhere and one really wet summer they took off … it was like The Day of the Triffids! They threaded themselves through the roses, into the shrubberies, all over the vegetable garden, spilled over banks and out onto pathways.  It was a disaster.  There was so much fruit the birds even stopped eating them!   So out they came.  Weekend after weekend I hauled plants out. But not before we’d enjoyed a series of summers of buckets and bowls of fresh, delicious fruit which was turned into jams and sauces … but mainly daiquiris!   The variety I had started with was an old favourite,  Red Gauntlet.  Not popular with commercial growers these days as they are prone to little bumps and imperfections, but to me they are still one of the most delicious.  I’ve tried over twelve other varieties and none are as hardy and fulsome in flavour, especially for jam.

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It’s really easy to increase your crop by pinning down the runners in the position you want them and a new plant quickly forms.  Strawberries are only really good for two years, so plant the runners in the alternate rows and let them grow up and remove the old row every second or third year.  They are hungry feeders so add a good organic fertiliser and mulch well, laying clean straw under the plants so the strawberries don’t get muddy and rot in the wet.

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We have some lovely pink flowering strawberries in stock at The Potting Shed (sorry, can’t remember the variety) and they are sending out runners all over the place, so for $4 you actually get about 6 or 8 plants! And the pink flowers are really lovely for a change.  We also have in stock really substantial plants of Alchemilla mollis which is now my main edging plant, thanks to advice from my friend and expert gardener, Wendy Butcher from the amazingly beautiful ‘Orchard Garden’ in Central Otago, New Zealand.  Who couldn’t believe I was using strawberries.  “Haven’t you heard of Lady’s Mantle?” she asked, in disbelief.  “It’s the perfect edging plant”

It is a beautiful plant and surprisingly hardy, even through this fierce summer she has held up wonderfully but definitely prefers a little bit of dappled shade.  Alchemilla mollis, Lady’s Mantle, is an herbaceous perennial plant native to southern Europe and grown throughout the world as an ornamental garden plant.  More on her another day.  IMG_9848 IMG_9849

Thought for the day.

This morning as I set about my daily routine of walking the dogs, letting out the geese and feeding and checking the animals in the early morning mist, I recalled this interesting quote from the wonderful Gertrude Stein. IMG_6492

“Anything one does every day is important and imposing … and anywhere one lives is interesting and beautiful.”
-Gertrude Stein

Think about that.

About a pig.

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IMG_4550If you walk south from our house, across the lawn, under the Chinese Elms, past the pond and through the hedge to the orchard, you come to Pigley’s House.  There she lives in luxury with the 6 Boer goats we bought to keep her company – Leisl, Gretel, Scarlett, Evie, Fleur, and Matilda.  All is usually happiness and bliss in this part of the world, but recently Pigley split one of her hooves and has been limping, so the vet has been called and she will be sedated in order for a manicure to be conducted!   Not easy to trim the toenails of a 150kg pig and to keep her still for the procedure lots of sedative is required, so the lovely girl at the surgery explained.  At great expense I might add, but what can one do?  A lame pig is not a happy sight.   So before leaving for work yesterday morning, like a guilty mother over-compensating for a sick child, I gave her a treat to take her mind off her sore toe. In the pantry I had spotted a packaged pavlova (I know, I know!) which had been invaded by ants …  and this, added to a large bowl of porridge, was delivered to the patient.  Blissful grunting and groaning followed as Pigley gulped her way through the delicious treat.  Then last night after work, still worried about her wellbeing, I raced over to see how she was coping and took with me the remains of a tub of ice cream I had spied in the freezer, past its prime and with Pigley’s name on it.  She trotted swiftly over (lameness momentarily forgotten) and the still evening air was split by the joyful smacking of lips and gleeful mutterings as her giant snout licked hungrily for ages at the remains of the tub.  She is a big pig with a big personality.  
Pigley  was sold to us as a ‘miniature’ pig and from the moment we carried her home from the Burrawang Markets she owned us … never the other way around.   We were conned.  Nothing miniature about this Berkshire piglet.  And, no-one bothered to explain the bit about bottle feeding her every 15 minutes … for 3 months!  If food wasn’t instantly forthcoming she would squeal at the top of her lungs until she got action. I had to take her everywhere, even to Sydney in a little carry crate. Eventually I rigged up a bottle on a chair on the deck so she could feed on demand. We called it the ‘piglet cafe’. She adopted our sheepdog Sam as a surrogate mother and snuggled up each night beside him.  She grew and grew and grew and grew. Soon, too big for the house, we moved her out to live with the chickens and she had a lovely little kennel of her own.  This she quickly outgrew and a bigger kennel was found.  Again, she soon became wedged in the opening. So a new shed was built in the house paddock and she was  transferred over to live with the sheep.  But she hated it and there was no doubt she was quite lonely on her own … she never related to the sheep and was friendless and upset.  Around about then a notice at  the local produce store advertised Boer goats so a call was made and they arrived as cute as buttons on a little truck.  Instantly they bonded with Pigley and a love affair began.  They all sleep together in a large mass of white and tan and black bodies snuggled in Pigley’s giant straw bed.  
This morning I delivered another large bowl of porridge as a last little snack before fasting begins tonight prior to sedation.   I’m incredibly anxious about the whole procedure … what if something goes wrong? I can’t bear to think about it. Instead I must just think about how much happier she’ll be when her feet are in order. Until you’ve known (owned) a pig, you cannot understand their compelling personality and extraordinary intellect, which is ranked second only to dolphins in the animal kingdom.  Winston Churchill knew about pigs. He famously said:    ‘Always remember, a cat looks down on man, a dog looks up to man, but a pig will look man right in the eye and see his equal.’     
I’ll keep you posted about the pedicure. 
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Meet my new neighbour

Good morning from The Potting Shed.

It was a gorgeous day at work yesterday … after drenching rains, sunshine at last! The lovely autumn light bounced softly off the usually severe urban surfaces that surround us and sauntered elegantly into the new shop next door … the studio of the super clever Suzie Anderson. So I couldn’t resist catching a few photos to share with you. IMG_9891 IMG_9889 IMG_9884 IMG_9880 IMG_9876 IMG_9874 IMG_9871 IMG_9868 IMG_9866 IMG_9864 IMG_9862 IMG_9861 IMG_9859

 

I could just move right into this beautiful space and snuggle up on one of the linen covered,  down filled sofas and read gardening books for the rest of the year! Infused with love and style,  every nook and cranny has Suzie’s expert signature stamped all over it.  Antique chandeliers, lamps, urns and curiosities from France, Belgium, Sweden, America and other places afar,  blend with contemporary homewares, jewellery and art. And floating above and in and around each lovely, carefully selected piece, the aroma of expensive candles and gentle notes of exotic music add that other intangible quality … that sense of immersion, of being transported into another world. Do yourself a favour, come in and experience this special space for yourself.