Gardening

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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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.

 

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.

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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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.