A Sparkly Day

IMG_0106Yesterday, Easter Sunday, was a sublimely beautiful day.  Dreamy.  The Potting Shed was filled with families, dogs and children, lovers and friends out walking in the autumn sunshine. Music filled the air and everyone was relaxed and travelling slowly through the day.  Sunshine bounced off every surface as it does at this time of year when the light drops lower and the angle of reflection is intensified.  The day sparkled on the droplets of water caught in the leaves of the Lady’s Mantle, on the reflections in the birdbath and on the wonderful glass beads adorning one visitor, Karen Black,  as she approached The Potting Shed counter.  Where did you get those lovely beads I asked, and may I take a photo.  At the Burrawang Markets she explained as her amused husband announced I was the fourth person that day to ask to photograph her. They were made by local artist Louisa Rose & Co. and they are now on display at The Milk Factory Gallery in Bowral.  It’s amazing what a bit of sparkle and a splash of colour does to catch the eye but I suspect it was this lady’s gorgeous personality as much as those beads that made her stand out in the busy crowd yesterday.

The Milk Factory Gallery and Exhibition Space/art & design centre/cafe is at
33 Station Street (rear), Bowral NSW 2576 if you would like to see more of Louisa Rose’s work.  Happy Easter from The Potting Shed. 
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Autumn planting

IMG_9963Every day someone asks me when is the best time to plant this, or that.   Autumn is a very productive planting time, while the soil is still warm, and particularly here in the Highlands, so moist.  I have planted a little kitchen garden at the shop and everything is jumping out of it’s skin with vigour after all the lovely rain. Currently we have a wide range of vegetable, herb and flower seedlings in stock – snowpeas, broccoli, various cauliflower varieties, Tuscan kale, beetroot, lettuce, leek, salad greens, rocket, silverbeet, English spinach, baby spinach along with French tarragon, thyme, curly parsley, Italian parsley, regular mint, Vietnamese mint, Moroccan mint, chocolate mint, fennel, chives, and various basil varieties.  For the flower garden we have pansies galore, sweet william, sweet peas, lobelia, lisianthus, foxgloves, larkspur, violas, stock, primulas in various colours and lots more I can’t remember at this moment! We will soon also be stocking a wide variety of heirloom vegetable seeds, most certified organic, so you can try your hand at some of the old fashioned varieties which are generally tastier, hardier and often very decorative in the garden. In the meantime here’s a handy reference list for Autumn seed planting … courtesy of Eden Seeds. Happy gardening!

• Broad Beans
• Beetroot
• Broccoli
• Brussels Sprouts
• Cabbage
• Carrot
• Cauliflower
• Celery
• Celeriac
• Collards
• Kale
• Kohl Rabi
• Leek
• Lettuce
• Mustard Greens
• Onions
• Parsnip
• Peas
• Radish
• Salad Greens
* Mesclun Mix
* Corn Salad
* Edible Chrysanthemum
* Endive
* Mizuna
* Rocket
* Tatsoi
* Purslane
* Mountain Spinach
• Salsify
• Shallots
• Silverbeet
• Spinach
• Swede
• Turnip
• Asian Vegetables
• Herbs

For growers in the tropics and frost free sub-tropics, you can also benefit from planting:

• Broad Bean
• Bush Beans
• Climbing Beans
• Beetroot
• Broccoli
• Brussels Sprouts
• Cabbage
• Capsicum
• Carrot
• Cauliflower
• Celery
• Collards
• Maize/Sweet Corn
• Cucumber
• Eggplant
• Gourd
• Kale
• Kohl Rabi
• Leek
• Lettuce
• Okra
• Mustard Greens
• Pumpkin
• Radish
• Rockmelon
• Salad Greens
* Mesclun Mix
* Corn Salad
* Edible Chrysanthemum
* Endive
* Mizuna
* Rocket
* Tatsoi
* Purslane
* Kang Kong
* Shallots
• Silverbeet
• Spinach
• Squash
• Sunflower
• Tomato
• Watermelon
• Zucchini
• Asian Vegetables
• Herbs

 

Please plant trees.

Thanks to my friend Diana for passing on these gorgeous images from  Bored Panda’s gallery of tree photos.  Many of you will have seen them before, but they’re definitely worth revisiting.  They’ve inspired me to think outside the square and to get creative with a whole new planting program this autumn.   Take a look at these images and you too will want to go crazy pleaching, espaliering and training trees and climbers into arbors, and canopies of loveliness in your garden. Go for it! See what magic you can weave to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary.amazing-tree-tunnels-1 amazing-tree-tunnels-2-1 amazing-tree-tunnels-3-1 amazing-tree-tunnels-3-2 amazing-tree-tunnels-6 amazing-tree-tunnels-9-1 amazing-tree-tunnels-9-2 amazing-tree-tunnels-10 amazing-tree-tunnels-11 amazing-tree-tunnels-15

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You will find the details of locations and photographer credits on Bored Panda’s site.  Here’s what they have to say about “20 Magical Tree Tunnels You Should Definitely Take A Walk Through”

Nature as a whole tends to be a profoundly beautiful thing, but there are few things more magical than finding yourself under a canopy of trees in a tree tunnel on some warm summer evening. Whether they’re formed naturally, accidentally, or with a little help from some patient and talented gardeners, these tree tunnels are sure to enchant anyone lucky enough to walk below their verdant boughs.

The beautiful forms of many of these tree tunnels and the ways in which we’ve copied them goes to show just how much we’ve borrowed from nature. I’m sure that magical spaces like these inspired more than one historical architect to design the gorgeous vaulted ceiling of a gothic cathedral or the arches of some other grand structure. Many ancient societies considered trees to be sacred and maintained holy groves of old trees, and with places this beautiful, it’s not hard to understand why.

Despite how slowly trees grow, they are remarkably receptive to various methods of altering their growth. With strong, persistent and very patient force, trees can be sculpted into a variety of forms. Some of these tree tunnels have been formed and sculpted by careful gardeners to ensure that they conform with their urban surroundings.

A few of the tree tunnels are happy coincidences. The Tunnel of Love in Ukraine, a popular photo spot for married couples, is also part of an operational railway system. The married couples have to schedule their photoshoots behind the times when freight trains are scheduled to pass through. Even unintentionally, these tree tunnels can work their magic on us. http://www.boredpanda.com/magical-tree-tunnels/    Boredpanda.com is a highly visual art and design magazine dedicated to showcasing the world’s most creative artworks, offbeat products and everything that’s really weird or wonderful.

 

The secret garden.

Our little shop, The Potting Shed, is located in a driveway between two large old buildings.  One houses Dirty Janes Emporium, which displays a large collection of vintage furniture and antiques – wonderful pieces from Europe, UK and America – sofas, sideboards, lamps, dining tables, hall tables, vintage clothing and so on.  You walk off the main street into this lovely shop and through to the back section which leads you down a set of steps and onto a landing which looks across to the other building, the Dirty Janes Antique Market, where over 70 stall holders sell more vintage and antique treasures. As you leave the shop on the main street you see from the staircase The Potting Shed spread out below.  Yesterday, as I was arranging some new plants that had arrived, I heard from above two little girls who had followed their mothers onto the landing.  “Oh, it’s a beautiful garden!” gasped one. “And with flowers!” said the other.  “It’s so lovely”, said the first, “let’s go and look”.  And they skippety skipped their way down the stairs and around my little shop oohing and aahing at this pretty flower and that.  The delight that filled my heart in this moment could not have been greater had I won a grand prize at the Chelsea Flower Show.  To hear these sweet remarks, so spontaneous and joyful was, for me, pure bliss. That in this modern world children still love a garden and enjoy its beauty is indeed comforting, and I am driven to bring even more of nature’s bounty to this previously industrial alleyway.  And to share that love of gardening around.

 

“The love of gardening is a seed once sown that never dies.”

Gertrude Jekyll

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High Tea at The Potting Shed

IMG_0026Seen yesterday, basking in the autumn sunshine and enjoying High Tea in the courtyard at The Potting Shed are (left to right) Hope Disher, Elizabeth Grose and Amy Geraghty.

The elegant tea house ‘Your Vintage Occasion’ opened recently in the Dirty Janes Antique Market next to us, and it has been an instant hit with locals and visitors alike.  Offering traditional and speciality teas, coffee and a delicious menu including soups, sandwiches, scones and sweets it’s a lovely place to meet friends or to celebrate a birthday or special occasion.  High Tea’s are $25 per person and include freshly baked scones, a daily savoury selection, assortment of desserts, a pot of the finest loose-leaf tea or an espresso coffee. Owners Cath and Lisa (below), formerly of Links House, are experts in the art of elegant hospitality and their food is fresh, delicious, and very well priced. IMG_0021IMG_0020   IMG_0027  IMG_0025

Golden toffee apples.

IMG_9980Yesterday morning, the sun came out and sparkled on the soaked landscape.  So I took our little dog Harry and sheepdog Sam on the quad bike for a big run around the pinoak paddock.  (Jack doesn’t come, he’s scared of the bike!)  And on the way, we passed the Medlar tree.  Now in its fourth year it is laden with fruit and in the watery light of the morning sun it looked incredibly beautiful.  The medlars are like golden toffee apples and are set off by the Manchurian Pear as it changes colour, and you can just see in the background (pics below) our neighbours pinoaks turning colour in the same amber tones.  Very soon their Pinot Noir vines will also turn to match and the russet tones gather together in an almost perfect autumn painting.  People ask me what we do with the medlars.  And the answer at this stage is nothing.  I just pick them and admire them in a bowl.  In times of old they were valued as a fruit that was available in winter, but you can’t eat them off the tree.  You have to wait till they spoil, either by frost or becoming ‘bletted’ (basically rotten) in storage, then they are considered a delicacy and can be served as a dessert, or as an accompaniment to cheese and port.  An acquired taste, I believe. I’ve never tried them but a friend makes them into Medlar Jelly which I’m told is delicious.   So why grow fruit that you can’t eat?  Because I saw a lovely specimen years ago in the garden of the late Christopher Lloyd, at Great Dixter and it was so beautiful I had to have one.  It has massive blossoms in the spring – almost like magnolia flowers, then this golden fruit in autumn.  When it is bigger I’m imagining great branches of it in a massive floral arrangement and will pass some on to the very talented Margaret Young Whitford to turn into some incredible installation. Which is what she does so brilliantly. And that’s another story for another day. IMG_9979 IMG_9982 bletted_medlar medlar_blossomIMG_1907 IMG_7481 IMG_7493Medlar notes (thank you Wikipedia):

Mespilus germanica, known as the medlar or common medlar, is a large shrub or small tree, and the name of the fruit of this tree. The fruit has been cultivated since Roman times, and is unusual in being available in winter, and in being eaten when ‘bletted’ (browned by rot). It is eaten raw and in a range of dishes.

Despite its Latin name, which means German or Germanic medlar, it is indigenous to southwest Asia and also southeastern Europe, especially the Black Sea coasts of Bulgaria and of modern Turkey. The medlar was already being cultivated about three thousand years ago in the Caspian Sea region of northern Iran and Azerbaijan. It was introduced to Greece around 700 BC, and to Rome about 200 BC. It was an important fruit plant during Roman and medieval times. By the 17th and 18th century, however, it had been superseded by other fruits, and is little cultivated today. M. germanica pomes are one of the few fruits that become edible in winter, making it an important tree for gardeners who wish to have fruit available all year round. Mespilus germanica fruits are hard, acidic, and high in bitter tannins. They become edible after being softened, ‘bletted’, by frost, or naturally in storage given sufficient time. Once softening begins the skin rapidly takes a wrinkled texture and turns dark brown, and the inside reduces to the consistency and flavour reminiscent of apple sauce. This process can confuse those new to medlars, as a softened fruit looks as if it has spoiled.

Once bletted, the fruit can be eaten raw, and are often eaten as a dessert, for example with cheese or tarts, or used to make medlar jelly and wine. Another dish is “medlar cheese”, which is similar to lemon curd, being made with the fruit pulp, eggs, and butter. In Iran, the fruits, leaves, bark and wood of the tree have been used as medicines for ailments including diarrhoea, bloating of the stomach, throat abscesses and fever.

Mespilus germanica requires warm summers and mild winters and prefers sunny, dry locations and slightly acidic soil. Under ideal circumstances, the deciduous plant grows up to 8 metres (26 ft) tall. Generally, it is shorter and more shrub-like than tree-like. With a lifespan of 30–50 years, the medlar tree is rather short-lived. The leaves are densely hairy and turn red in autumn before falling. It is found across Southern Europe where it is generally rare. It is reported to be naturalized in some woods in Southeast England, but is found in few gardens.
The flowers have five broadly ovate white petals and appear in late spring. They are hermaphrodite, pollinated by bees, and self-fertile. The flower is about 6 centimetres wide and the reddish-brown fruit is a pome, 2–3 centimetres diameter, with wide-spreading persistent sepals around a central pit, giving a ‘hollow’ appearance to the fruit.

 

Thought for the day.

Peony urn“Let yourself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what you really love. It will not lead you astray.” – Rumi

I feel this was written for me.  I have long been pulled by a love of nature. Since I was a little girl I have loved the beauty of flowers and gardens and birds and animals and all things natural. What do you really love?  Go into a bookshop and see where you land.  That will usually tell you where your passion lies.

Nothing to do with gardening.

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I subscribe to a site called Listserve where “one person a day wins a chance to write to the growing list of subscribers.” Through this random global lottery, one of the 26,000 subscribers is drawn and they’re invited to share their ideas with others via email.  That winner gets 24 hours to prepare their ‘essay’ and to present their views, advice, favourite movies or music .. or whatever takes their fancy, to the world online.  It makes for interesting reading. Yesterday the winner of Listserve was from Queensland, the first Australian I’ve seen listed. Her name is Larsa Al-Omaishi and she gave us this poem.  I asked her if I could share it with you, as I found it very moving and thought provoking and beautiful.

Where are you from?

By: A Third Culture Kid

“Where are you from?”
He asks with a smile
I’ve heard it before
I’ve gone through this trial
“America.”
It’s not untrue
I lived there awhile
Traveled its highways
Going many a mile
From deserts to peaks
From cornfields to shores
I’ve seen many states
I’m keen to explore
“No, where are you really from?”
Where was I born?
That would be Montreal
“So you speak French?”
No, not at all
I moved to Toronto
When I was young
But English is not
My mother tongue
“Okay, but, where are you originally from?”
My parents were born
In the heart of Iraq
Upon hearing the phrase
He sits back in shock
“So … you’re Iraqian?”
It’s Iraqi, my dear Watson
“Then what languages do you speak?”

In what language do you laugh?
In what language do you cry?
In what language do you cope
When a loved one lays to die?
In what language do you love?
In what language do you hate?
In what language do you comprehend
What’s chance and what is fate?
In what language do you smile?
In what language do you frown?
You see it’s all the same my dear
From New York to Cape Town
In what language do you feel
The sting of war and pain?
In what language do you lose your home
And then rebuild again?
We are not that different
Ignoring race and creeds
We are all but human
With human wants and needs

In the hospital you’ll see
Emotions raging high
Carried on by wave and wave
Of hello and good-bye
Some are taken far too young
Some taken when it’s right
Some coming in to join the world
And blinking in bright light
Some realizing far too late
The love they should have shared
Some accepting their due time
And going well prepared
Let me share with you a fact
That few will understand
Inside that operating room, my friend
There is no human brand
You all look the same inside
Appendix, heart, and lung
Kidney, liver, spleen, and bowel
Pancreas and tongue
When we put you on that table
To try and save your life
Skin colour is of no concern
To us or to our knife

I don’t categorize myself
By a patch of land
I don’t identify myself
By merely where I stand
I don’t say I’m only a part
Of one particular race
At the end of the day, at the end of the night
I am merely in one place
We all come from the same dirt
We’re Earthlings in our blood
And borders are but foolish lines
Drawn in clumpy mud

Where am I from? I’m from The World
The same is true for you
And with that I’ll leave you here
I bid you all adieu.


Larsa is studying medicine and surgery at The University of Queensland. She asks that you vaccinate your kids.


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/

 

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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