Country Gardens

“Show me your garden and I shall tell you what you are.” Alfred Austin

Earlier this summer my friend Bridget invited me to see her parent’s garden in Canyonleigh. I knew from her expression that I was in for a treat, but nothing prepared me for the scale and size and beauty that was in store.  From a bare 10 acre paddock, Susan and John Carter have created an amazing oasis – a paradise.  19 years of love and inspiration was spread out before me. Kilometres of pathways wind through covered walkways, avenues of birches and maples, trees and hedges of every kind, arbors of wisteria, dramatic hedges of Rosa rugosa Scabrosa, and this (below) outstanding camellia walk shaded by trellis and trained into tiers of loveliness.  How absolutely stunning.  I raced home inspired and filled my notebook with sketches of new plans for projects to add excitement and interest to every corner of our ever expanding garden. You see a garden should not be a static place … it is a living, breathing thing and you can do with it what you wish. We are all constrained by budget … but let’s never be limited in our imagination.   John and Susan are testimony to the magic that’s possible when you let your creativity run wild. And it is utterly lovely and inspiring. Note: Though they will be babies compared to the lovely example you see below, we will be receiving this week, quite advanced espaliered camellia on trellis …  so you might want to try your hand at creating your own Camellia Walk!

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Note:  John and Susan Carter’s garden “The Burrows” at Canyonleigh  is open for inspections by garden clubs and also by appointment.   John is an artist who paints under his birth father’s name, Kirton. He established a gallery at The Burrows to showcase his extensive collection of works and it is also open by appointment. Visit http://www.johnkirton.com.au or phone 4878 9384 for details.

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We all need more thyme!

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I grew up in Central Otago, New Zealand where the rugged hills around Alexandra are covered in wild thyme.  I remember as a child picking rosehips in the summer with my mother, and we would trample over the rocky slopes where the thyme grew and the aroma of the crushed herb would follow us as we walked.  So the smell of thyme always takes me back there. When my mother died, one of her close friends, completely unaware of that childhood memory,  sent me in the mail a little gift – a simple sprig of thyme mounted and framed, handwritten below was Thymus vulgaris and on the card a note saying “I thought your mother would like you to have this”.  How extraoardinary. It hangs in my kitchen and makes me feel my mother is always close by.  It is one of my most valued possessions. Years later, on another trip back to NZ, my wonderful cousin Marie booked a lovely surprise – an afternoon horse-riding through the hills overlooking Clyde. All along the way, the horses hooves crushed the herbs underfoot filling the air with that beautiful aroma. It was sublime –  the smell of horses, the creak of the saddles, the spectacular view … and the thyme. That’s what could be called aroma therapy on an intense level!   Thyme is a species of flowering plant in the mint family Lamiaceae, native to southern Europe from the western Mediterranean to southern Italy. If you don’t already have it, plant some today in your garden. Or give some in a pot to a friend or daughter, or sister or mother.   It’s the loveliest thing to share. Thyme.

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Marqueyssac in the Dordogne

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Marqueyssac_3Inspired by the lovely gardens of the late Nicole de Vesian in Provence, I am working on developing a clipped garden to the north of our kitchen, so the view from our balcony will always be green and orderly.  Not that I’m really the orderly type – but over the past few years I have found the profusion of roses, foxgloves and delphiniums I had planted in long and deep perennial beds, slightly overwhelming and busy.  And  when the gorgeous, blowsy spring show is over and the harsh light of the Australian summer burns out the colour,  the effect looks raggedy very quickly.   And by Christmas it is tired and hot and exhausted.

So bit by bit I’m removing all the flowering perennials from the section closest to the house and replacing them with clipped box, cistus, bay, Viburnum Tinus and  miniature abelia.  It requires a lot of patience as the plants need to be spaced far enough apart for future growth and so there’s a lot of mulch still on view!  But one day, I am dreaming of a view such as this seen at  the Château de Marqueyssac. 

The Gardens Of Marqueyssac

Comfortably nestled into the hills of Perigord are the Gardens Of Marqueyssac. The gardens were planted in 1861 by Julien De Cerval – a maniacal gardener who gave the last thirty years of his life to build Marqueyssac. Boxwoods were chosen as a key plant of the garden because of their fullness, robust texture, and radiant green color. Every path in the garden was put there with an acute intent, what seems accidental and whimsical, was in fact carefully thought out.  De Cerval wanted to create a romantic experience for the garden’s visitors where they would get lost within the paths and enjoy the organic shapes of the plants. In recent years the gardens and nearby castles went under a full renovation to restore De Cervals early dream of the garden and bring people from all over the world to witness it.