Saturday, August 3, 2013

Almost a year...

Wow! Almost a year between posts. Thank you to the lovely blogging friends who have checked in on me during this posting silence. It really is such a heartening thing to know that my small contribution to the bloggesphere is valued.

It is very hard to come back after such a long time but sharing words, my garden, garden visits and inspiration is something that I dearly love. I am in the process of developing my very own space in the world wide web that I will share when it is done. It will be very similar, with plenty of photos, ideas on growing food, designing gardens, the amazing beauty of plants and the fundamental connection that us humans share with the natural world.

At my place there is a constant stream of work, shaping and then reshaping the garden, collecting things and putting them together. Stand back, then change it again!

The most recent acquisition is this amazing copper boiler - now home to my Meyer Lemon. I love how the copper tones tie in with the colours of the earth walls and the slate roof...

There's been some serious vegetable garden extending - from four beds to six, new fencing, gates and restructuring of the espaliered fruit trees. Yet to happen is painting of the beds and laying of the new gravel. This summer will be fabulous and I am hoping for some bumper crops!

There has also been plenty of letting nature take its course... There's Borage flowering everywhere where its sheltered enough from the harsh frosts that we are having and many signs of spring poking up through the cold to make the most of the soft, late winter sun.

The rest of the garden is a wild mess with plenty of depressing rabbit carnage. Rings of chicken wire and welded mesh around sticks, really don't make for attractive garden photos! Hopefully soon I will have more to share about it and the exciting planning stage for the coming spring and summer crops.

Here's to a lush coming season of delicious food and beautiful flowers in my little garden of paradise!

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Still here.

There have been a great many things going on at The Cottage the last couple of months. Both good and bad. I have been quiet in this space, but this blog is an important part of my garden journey that I love to share; I won't be abandoning it.

The front garden is going through a complete overhaul. Goodbye round-about driveway, hello perennial borders, formal paths and native garden. I'm looking forward to sharing it with you when I find the words!

X Phoebe

Friday, July 6, 2012


Waaayyy back in September last year, I bought four day old chicks to put under my broody hen Melanie (now deceased a la fox). The only remaining chick (her three siblings are now deceased a la fox) is now of lady laying age after, ohh - lets see - 11 MONTHS! That't the way it rolls in Araucana land apparently!

But now, finally, I get my wish for colourful egg cartons!

The spotty eggs are by my Barnevelder hen, the darker brown by my commercial red hen (New Hampshire, Rhode Island cross) and the paler solid pinky egg by my Sussex mongrel (mystery cross with a Sussex).

I gotta say, egg colour genes are supremely fascinating... I have mighty plans for my girls this spring with a view to expand the flock with more colourful egg layers thanks to my blue gene rooster Zorro. Bring on the spring time and more chicken adventures! Sans fox of course, this time.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Willow Arches

Structures, Tee-pees and arches are awesome in the garden - bamboo ones, steel ones or ones made out of sticks - whatever, they always look great covered in plants!

Last year I grew sweet peas on bamboo tee pees and loved the structure they gave to the veggie garden  - not to mention the wonderful fragrance they impart into the atmosphere and beautiful flowers! (You might remember this post).

This year I'm moving on from sweet pea-tee pees to arches, inspired by living willow arches and informal cottage style structures that are haphazard looking but kinda romantic looking...

Internet trawling came up with these images for inspiration:

 And this is what I managed on a Sunday afternoon:

I started with a pile of willow prunings and my tomato stakes and  in a few hours had a nifty little arch! 

After collecting the canes from a nearby tree growing in a lane way, I spaced out and hammered in the stakes, bent the arches for the top, tied them off to the stakes and then wove the canes through for support. 

And voilĂ ! A perfect support for growing this year's sweet peas and a perfect protected, shady spot to read a book and enjoy the garden from!

One word of warning should you use willow canes as the vertical supports (as in the inspiration images) be warned that they have a very high striking rate and in not too long you could end up with a whopping great willow tree in the yard!  

What do you think of garden structures? Have you had a go at making any yourself?

Monday, May 21, 2012

The Garden Vineyard: Part 2 - The Perennial Border & Grey Garden

There is something magical about walking through a well designed and well loved garden. It's an almost subconscious feeling that moves through you as you experience the rooms and appreciate the arrangements of things. I don't know if its the sheer beauty, the 'success' of the composition or even whether its part of human nature just to feel good when connecting with landscapes... Or maybe all three and a million other reasons and meanings.

I find it interesting seeing traditionally English style gardens in Australia, with soft leaved perennials, annuals and clipped hedges. The colours are often so bright, the textures and shapes so exciting and dynamic - so different to the soft, almost melancholy romanticism that I see in the typical Australian bush. The landscape industry (especially the commercial sector) is heavily swayed towards the use of native plants and 'low maintenance', monotone garden design that it is refreshing to see a garden that throws all that out the window and exalts in the sheer fun of plants and planting design, resulting in a truly pleasurable garden experience.

Looking back to the gravel courtyard entrance to the perennial border. 
The clipped hedge forms a lovely textural contrast to the climber over the arbour - and doesn't the dark green of it all bring out the bright colours of the red and green variegated Cana Lily! 

Oh, and nothing says luxury like a perfect lawn path. 

Soft greys, light greens, white flowers and hints of deep reds, all blend and mingle to create a soft and pretty picture. Particularly striking (and perhaps not so soft) is the ornamental grass Calamagrostis 'Karl Foerster' in front of the clipped Lilly Pilly column - quite the display of textural contrast! 

The soft colours make way for the bright ones in a combination of purples, reds and yellows. For late Autumn, this perennial border was looking pretty good with many of the Salvias, Buddlejas and Roses forming the backbones - not to mention the punctuation of the rusty coloured heads of the Sedum 'Autumn Joys'. Again, the clipped Lily Pilly columns add structure and definition to the border, providing a place to rest your eyes. 

Speaking of structures, what a way to add interest with such striking foliage colours! The burgundy Berberis  pops against the Lilly Pilly column behind, which again is contrasted by the more manicured ball shape of the Philadelphus to the right.  

More fabulous clipped shapes on the right side of the border - yellow and red hues here. 

The perennial border terminates with an off centre Liquidambar and lovely lush, dark green hedge and just the hint of paths to the left and right. 

The path to the right leads to this lovely scene that opens out onto the Grey Garden.

This section of the garden is quite well known for the play on colour and texture and especially for using Lemon Scented Gums (Corymbia citriodora) with their ghostly grey trunks set amongst the clipped shapes of the Coastal Rosemary, French Lavender, Echiums, Helichrysums and Teucriums - all in the grey colour palette. It is my understanding that originally the designer envisioned this garden to be more informal and relaxed but the owner took it a step further to create the clipped, undulating waves of grey - perhaps more striking than if it were indeed to be left wild...

The Grey Garden, like most other areas of the garden is enclosed by clipped hedges which open out into small spaces often of just lawn or with a single tree. These sorts of spaces are fun to explore and ponder. What is the designer trying to tell us in this space? Are they trying to tell us anything at all - is it perhaps to make us feel something? To feel safe, a sense of  peace perhaps, or just a great place to hide when playing hide and seek?

Believe it or not but there is still more of this garden to come! Next up is the Walled Garden - a play on colour and form.

Readers note: I hope you don't mind my little explanations / analysis of the photographs. I find I always have to break down gardens into their components but sometimes I worry that it's not the most exciting reading. If you like it then GREAT but if not, sorry - I'll try and lighten up!

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Where Has Hazel Gone?

Has anyone realised that Hazel has deleted her blog?!

Hazel, if you are out there, please come back, the bloggisphere isn't the same without you!


Autumn harvests are coming to an end here in my little valley. The tomatoes are going floury and the King Parrots are taking what's left. Except for the Tromboncino Zucchinis which much like the energiser bunny, never say die!

The best beans ever this year -good old Scarlet Runners. 
They are sweet raw and cooked, and tender even when bigger than the usual harvesting size, 
but best of all are the beans inside!!!

They make the BEST baked beans!!! 

Finally lots of tomatoes and lots of other pickings. 

The little Lebanese eggplants have done really well this year and make THE BEST 'Imam Baildi'  - A Greek / Turkish eggplant bake in a sweet, rich tomato sauce. I'll share the recipe if anyone is interested. But note that it's not my Yiayia's recipe (Yiayia, if you're reading can you please write it up and email it to me please!). Yiayias food is always the best.

Yesterday was spent pulling out the tomatoes and tidying up the patch. I'm still in two minds whether to pull out the Tromboncino  to make way for winter crops, or just let it keep going till its dead...

The garlic is already in (not yet sprouted), but that's about all I've done in the garden really - slightly frustrating because there is nothing better than home grown broccoli through the winter, and I've missed the boat! 

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