Hidcote

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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Choosing the right hedge

IMG_1985 IMG_1978 IMG_1979 Choosing the right hedge is a serious business – especially if you’re planning great areas of it. I procrastinated for months on what to use here at our farm where we started with a hundred acre blank canvas of gum studded paddocks.   We wanted something natural looking to suit our farm – not too formal, not too grand, not too fast, not too slow.  (Note: The pictures above are NOT at our farm, they are at the magnificent property Whitley just up the road.  I often drive past enviously admiring the stunningly manicured conifer and laid down hawthorn hedges that surround that property.)

It’s a big decision as you will live with it for a very long time and it will form the structure of your garden and is costly if you change your mind.  The best advice I can give on this is to drive around your district and take note of what others are using. Take your time. Do you prefer evergreen – a sharp edged conifer, a nice glossy cherry laurel or flowering camellia – or would you be happy with the elegant structure of a beautiful wall of deciduous hornbeam or beech with their russet winter leaves giving way to brilliant green in early spring? Whatever it is, it must match both your property and your budget as some need a lot more management than others and hedging on a large scale can be a considerable cost each year.

Hornbeam (Carpinus betulus) is my absolute favourite and will be playing a big part in future sections of our garden. It is not commonly used here in Australia as a deciduous hedge probably because people prefer beech, which it does resemble. But, the expert view is that hornbeam makes a superior hedge to beech, particularly, if you want to pleach or train it. I saw what is probably the most famous example of a pleached hornbeam hedge at Hidcote in Gloucestershire last year.  There, a pair of hedges is raised almost 2 metres on pleached trunks. It is fantastic to see and well worth a visit next trip to England.

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Both hornbeam and beech keep their leaves through winter though the hornbeam is a paler shade of russet than the beech – then in spring the brown leaves make way for a startling show of the freshest green you can imagine. Either will grow happily here in the Southern Highlands and a great example to view, winter and spring to see the colour contrast,  is at the lovely gardens at Red Cow Farm – open daily from 10am.  People think it’s too slow, but hornbeam will grow very fast if it has plenty of moisture, particularly when young and it does respond well to a rich, well-prepared ground. It will also grow well in heavy shade, though a little less luxuriantly than in full sunlight.  We are endeavouring to source some advanced hornbeam hedging at The Potting Shed – and hopefully some specimens on stilts which are great if you need to block out a new house on your boundary or screen where trees have been removed next door.

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Above:  the beautiful yew hedges at Great Dixter.  Unfortunately yew doesn’t like the Australian climate and dies back.  But there are many good conifers that will give you this firm, precise structure.

Summary: Carpinus betulus (European hornbeam)

Mature Height: 5-10m Sizes estimated at 10 years, and may vary depending on growing conditions. Aspect: Full sun/semi-shaded. Nice deciduous tree, used as formal hedging in cooler areas; conical in shape when young, becoming rounded with age. Mid-green serrated-edged leaves, with pale undersides turning a greenish yellow autumn colour; yellow catkins prominant in spring. Avoid hot sun and don’t allow to dry out in hot weather.