Friday, December 31, 2010

Vegetable fabulousness!

I saw this fantastic Globe Artichoke the other day at my local garden centre called Bulleen Art and Garden and I had to share. You rarely see globe artichokes allowed to go to flower but I think that I might just let mine go because they look so wonderful! I have a few planted im my front garden amongst ornamentals because of the spectacular soft grey leaves but I think I will have to grow some more to enjoy both fruit and flowers (even though they are the same thing in the case of the artichoke)!!!

I also saw this lovely little paving / edging detail at BAAG that I'd like to incorporate in my brick paving. The tile insets add a lovely bit of interest to an otherwise simple but attractive brick edged gravel path.  They also sell these tiles too...

I highly reccomend a visit to the nursery if you are ever in town.

2011's going to be the Year of the Garden at the Cottage!

Its wonderful to finally be on holidays and its meant that I've had the time to enjoy the garden and make real plans for the garden for next year!

Joel and i have been very busy designing the gate and fence that will hopefully contain our naughty little whippet and its been great seeing it come together to complement our little old house.
The fence structure is cypress pine with just a simple post and rectangular top rail construction.
Fence posts and top rail built.
Continuing the brick edged path to where we park our cars.
The panel infills will be curvy bars that and we will make a gate using the same rusty bars and leaf shaped cut outs to create a quirky feature of the the entry. The gate will be framed with an arbour that I will grow climbing roses over and it will also frame the view to the large Peppermint Gum in the backyard along the creek bank. Its all Very Exciting!

The gravel paths that the previous owner put in were simply timber edged and over the years the edging has broken and the gravel has scattered into the lawn (read weeds). The paths have been laid out by someone with limited creativity and so they don't go anywhere or contribute at all to garden's overall design / experience. BUT I cant complain, as being on a limited budget we are recycling the gravel into our new and lovely brick edged paths!   

The paths along the house have been lined with mondo grass, to retain the mulch and add extra security to the brick edging (its laid straight on compacted earth). Mondo Grass or Ophiopogon japonicus is a fantastic edging plant and can be used as a lawn substitute although not in a high traffic area. Its useful in most difficult areas be they full sun, or full shade all it needs is a bit of moisture on the odd occasion. Simple. I love it! It can have the tendency to take over if its happy but all you need to control it is a shovel and some strong hands.

In veggie news the tomatoes are growing really well and they are covered in flowers!

We harvest zucchinis almost every couple of days and the beans are coming in truckloads. Ill be sure to post pictures at the next harvest! Lets just hope that today's 40C temperatures don't kill off all chances of bumper crop success!

I'm looking forward to sharing the unfolding garden design developments as they come. Yay to free time!

Friday, December 17, 2010

What's for dinner?

Home grown lebanese and yellow zucchinis, red chard and fresh basil of course! They will make their way into a fabulous spring sauce with asparagus and home made gnocchi. YUM

Thursday, December 16, 2010

It’s been a busy couple of weeks since my last post, mainly because our council has had free dumping of green waste for the past couple of weekends. This has meant that we have been clearing out the embankment along our driveway that was infested with most of the DPI (Department of Primary Industry) listed environmental weeds! (Well I’m being dramatic, it wasn’t that bad), it was a physical challenge though working in a 1:1 slope! We managed to clear out: English Hawthorn, Ivy, Briar Rose, Spanish Broom, and Japanese Honeysuckle (I’m sensing a theme here). We are replanting with local indigenous plants amongst the indigenous vegetation that we left, Bursaria spinosa (primary food for the Eltham Copper Butterfly), Hymenanthera dentata (very pretty native tree violet) and rampant but welcome Clematis microphylla.
So far I have bought 90 tubes and managed to plant 20 and will try and plant some more tonight. The plant list I have created follows the council’s advised species list as well as what Edendale Farm (community Farm and Indigenous Nursery) had available. I’m trying to make the planting selection as diverse as possible, emphasizing habitat plants for small birds and butterflies, whilst also introducing some new canopy trees and screening shrubs so that the whole neighborhood cant see me walking around the garden in my pajamas in the morning!

Clearing out the weed infested embankment

In vegetable news everything is going gang busters! I will soon be harvesting my first yellow and Lebanese zucchinis, the beans are covered in flowers and have already reached the tops of their wig-wams and the sunflowers have started to produce flower heads well before they have reached their full height of 2.2 metres. The sucessional planting of tomatoes (I mean, late planting really) is in, along with the frying capsicums and eggplants. I’m not expecting much from them due to their small, stunted size and the late sowing. I might give them some liquid fertilizer tonight me thinks… The other tomatoes that were planted a while ago – October maybe – (that were germinated in my mothers hot house) are doing very well and I have already got flowers on my giant green tomatoes! YAY
Mum’s tomatoes are growing so well in their self watering pots and she is already harvesting the truss tomatoes from the hot house! I am so jealous!
Many of the other Melbourne bloggers are harvesting tomatoes too at the moment so I'm feeling a little left out!

The weather has been very changeable lately and it really doesnt feel at all like summer! The other moring I woke up to a heavy mist hanging around my back garden. It felt more like autumn than summer!!

Misty garden in the morning
Timber has already been ordered for the fence to separate the block in two which is great because it will enable me to develop the productive garden and proposed Mediterranean border along the house. I also have a Crepe Myrtle to go in which I will place when I see the proportions of the gate and the new arch that my Dad will make for me. I’m looking forward to choosing the climbing rose and clematis combination for the arch!! Winter this year is going to be great!

I should probably post some pictures of the proposed design I have drawn up for the garden, to give an idea about what I’m working with and what I do for a living! So many things to do and so little time. At least I will be on summer holidays soon and will be able to post away to make up for the lack of posts lately.

I’m looking forward to the summer harvests!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Spring rains & warm days

This last week has been very warm and humid, with showers pretty much every day. As a result the veggies are putting on a lot of growth very rapidly and some are even starting to flower!

Peas a-flower

Most of the tomatoes are in so far and I'm growing 5 varieties this year: Giant Syrian, Aunt Ruby's Green, a large Italian beefsteak, Zebras and a Currant tomato mix. I' really looking forward to having fresh tomatoes with olive oil, balsamic vinegar and some fresh bread - Heaven! Most of the tomatoes will be used for making sauce (except for the Zebras and Currants which are salad tomatoes) and paste that we will use for pizzas and pasta sauce mostly.

I'm amazed that everything seems to have taken off this last week! It looks like the beans are growing before my eyes!
Beans, Peas and Zucchini almost doubling in size in a week
Its nice to see them all growing well now after having such a slow and disappointing start.

Ollie, my little pup is settling in well, but he has managed to eat a whole lot of chicken manure and I wont mention what it has resulted in!

As a bit of inspiration, I thought that I'd share some pictures of my mum's great little veggie garden. She manages to grow a whole lot in a very small area in a way that is more casual than a more traditional productive garden. Her great success this year has been Zucchinis and peas of which she is already getting substantial harvests. I visited her yesterday and managed to pinch 5 little Zucchinis, some of the last broad beans and some rosemary that she was cutting back. I think I will make some Zucchini slice or fritters perhaps for sinner with some salad leaves and radishes from the garden... hmm, great idea!
My mum's raised veggie garden full of zucchinis, rocket, lettuce and peas.
And to finish - a picture of my bounty from mum's garden.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Spring has SPRUNG!

Its been quite a while since posts but I have been wanting to sit down and write but life seems to have moved into the fast lane!
The most time consuming part of my life lately has been the new addition to the family of the 4 legged kind! Meet Ollie, my new lovely little blue brindle whippet! In the few weeks I have had him he has shown that he loves being in the garden, sniffing out all the rabbit trails and chasing the unfortunate baby magpies! He is not very camera friendly unfortunately, so I don't really have any better pictures! Hopefully this will change soon!

Baby Genoa Fig, Aloe arborescens & sneaky Ollie next to the shed!
 We have also had very unseasonal weather here in Melbourne and so the garden has been very confused. For one, we have had more rain then I can remember ever having had, and we are still having cold days mixed in amongst humid warm ones. The plants seem to be a little confused as one week they will throw off at least 3-4cms of growth and the next week it almost looks like they have gone backwards - and don't get me started on seed germination!!!! Things just aren't germinating! Brand new seeds just hang around in the soil waiting for spring to start forgetting that technically it already has!

Tomato seedlings trying to grow!
The last few days have been lovely and warm getting up to the high 20's (that's Celsius too by the way) and things seem to be looking up!

With all the rain that we have had, the creek at the bottom of the garden has given Joel and I a couple of decent scares. We live on a floodplain and are only 50cm or so higher than the creek bank so when it rains we know that once it breaks the bank it wont take long to get to the house. We have worked out that the peak flow just a couple of weeks ago was 6 metres and we still had 1m off breaking the bank so at least now we know that if the warning is for 7m we needs sand bags for the house quick smart!

The creek at 6m high peak flow.
Even so, the rain has been very welcome and the roses are coming out now and are looking very happy. This lovely rose is an old fashioned scrambler that seems to like being against the house where the walls absorb the sunshine, keeping the soil warm at night. This is probably the only plant in this garden that we inherited when we bought the place that I like!

The rest of the garden is just weeds masquerading as lawn, mulch, gravel, and pine trees! I still find it hard to believe that this house was built in 1940 and none of its previous owners ever tried to build a garden!
There were however, 4 very large terracotta pots in the garden when we moved in which I have managed to plant out with some rosemary grown from cuttings from my mum's lovely plant, that have been placed either side of the laundry door. I've under planted them with some thyme and sown some oregano seeds, hoping to have a lovely fragrant, mediterranean herb harden within a short distance from the back door.
I hope you can appreciate the lovely and even brick paving to the laundry door! It must have been laid straight on the soil for it to be this uneven! Still, I cant complain, at least I do have a path from the house to the laundry!

In more exciting vegetable related news I have indeed been able to harvest veggies (I use the plural loosely) from the old veggie bed up the back including 1 purple radish and 2 (yes i said 2!!) snow peas. I harvested a butter lettuce but the slugs managed to get into the heart and turn it to sludge. Upon investigation, I discovered that the slugs had managed to ruin ALL of my lettuces so out they came and into a bucket of boiling water they went - and then into the compost of course! (is that inhumane? I don't care, slugs don't deserve it! that's probably cruel...moving along)

Look at that harvest!
The peas also seem to have some kind of fungal infection and I haven't been able to identify it other than some fungal spot... I'm not sure either whether it could have come from the pea straw mulch or the seed stock (which it shouldn't have). The plants seem to be going OK, but its just the lower leaves that are effected.
They are in a bed with corn, beans and zucchini which are all growing reasonably well now although they have been very slow in coming! Still, its nice to see the lovely green leaves and know that we should be harvesting in the next few weeks!
This morning I applied a very liberal amount of blood and bone and chicken poo, so hopefully with the warm weather the next few weeks my veggies will be thanking me and rewarding me with a plethora of reproductive parts! (sounds evil doesn't it!)

Hopefully there wont be too long before the next post!

Happy gardening in the sunshine!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


I don't know what is going on with the weather at the moment! We have had so much rain lately that every time I'm woken up by the sound of rain falling onto the tin lean-to and dunny roof I worry that the creek has risen and there are platypuses are swimming in my lounge room! Thank goodness that it hasn't happened yet - touch wood. I am however, very grateful that now every time I dig my lovely spade into the soil, it is dark and moist! So wonderful! I had never had an experience of digging into natural topsoil before I moved to The Cottage, its usually rock hard clay subsoil with a slightly dusty leaf litter surface in this area. Its certainly helped with re vegetating the creek bank!

Creek at its highest this Saturday

The Creek at its normal level
In Vegetable news, all my seeds in the new beds have germinated and are growing reasonably well, except for the beans. They all germinated within a couple of days of each other but the leaves have all turned yellow! I might get a soil ph testing kit and investigate the imported topsoil more thoroughly. I'm thinking that it will be slightly acidic because it doesn't have the lovely sweet soil smell that lovely compost has, it smells acidic and angry!
Joel and I also (well mostly Joel) started to build a temporary rabbit proof fence on the weekend around the veg beds using the wire mesh that we inherited from the previous owner of the Cottage. It is only knee high but it will hopefully deter the little buggers from munching on our tender little seedlings!
Speaking of rabbits munching - I managed to cook up some rainbow chard (that last week the rabbits were obliterating) with garlic and olive oil from my dinner tonight and it was lovely!
Its so wonderful eating home grown produce!

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Spring Slowly Slowly...

The last couple of weeks have been rather busy but at last things are settling in and the garden is waking up!

Three of the 4 veggie beds have been built and hopefully I will have some help this weekend to finish the last one! I have already planted out 2 of the 3 beds with a range of various things, all from heritage and open pollinated seed networks and I’m excited to say that I already have the first germ leaves! YAY!! gotta love radishes for almost instant vegetable gratification!

Veg beds!
Germ leaves of Purple Radish from The Lost Seed.
I have also managed to build myself a bean trellis out of bamboo that I 'pruned' from my mum's garden which is secured with zip ties - hopefully they will handle the weight of the beans when they grow. I think I might need to have some cross bracing in order to secure the supports together but I might just wait till the seeds have germinated - and I need some more bamboo...

Bamboo Bed
I’m following a particular companion planting method for the 'bamboo' bed which is called the 'Three Sisters'. It’s a native American Indian method whereby corn, climbing beans and zucchini / squash / pumpkins are grown together. The corn gives support to the beans and the zucchini provides a green mulch effect, shading the soil and suppressing weeds. I’m not following it strictly as I want maximum harvest from my beans, hence the bamboo support. I have an F1 hybrid white corn growing in a block of about 1.5-1.5 metres which should yield *hopefully* 45 cobs of corn (quite a bit for 2 people to consume) and I’ve never grown corn so I’m quite excited! I have planted three types of peas: Dutch Purple Podded, Sugar snap and a snow pea variety as well as Borlotti beans, Purple King, Blue Lake and my favorite 'Lazy Housewife' which is an heirloom from the early 1800s. The Zucchini is a mix of Lebanese, yellow and black which will hopefully give me lots of beautiful flowers to stuff in the summer time!

The other bed has Giant Russian Sunflowers to shade my lettuces and rocket, as well as fennel, 3 types of beetroot, 3 types of carrot - including the Afghani purple carrot which is apparently very tasty... Phew! I don’t know how I’m going to water it all. Maybe I will need Joel to Engeniate a pumping device to pump water from the creek... Illegal perhaps? Me thinks yes...

I’m having trouble at the moment with the rabbits eating my Rainbow chard. I’m going to have to build a fence quick smart if I want to harvest anything any time soon!

This little plant has recovered well from the massacre. I think some Seasol is in order to help things along...

In other News, Joel and his brother cleared out ivy from the creek bank last weekend and discovered some old brick steps that go down to a little landing by the water! There is now a bare bank that I am starting to revegetate with indigenous plants such as Pomaderis spp, Euc polyanthemos and I have plated 3 beautiful Euc leucoxylons which I’m in two minds about because its not strictly indigenous to the creek bank environment in this area, but it is to broader Melbourne... I will leave them I think because it would be so lovely to see the birds feasting on the beautiful red flowers from my bedroom!

Bare creek bank with plants in the process of being planted!
That’s pretty much all there is to report at the moment. I will do a post on the round-about on the driveway that I have planted out, but I will save that for next time!

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Open Garden: Gordon Ford - Fulling

As part of the Open Garden Scheme the wonderful garden of the late Gordon Ford was opened for a weekend. I have to say that as a landscape architect it its almost impossible to recreate environments with such authenticity, that one can not identify them as created. But Gordon Ford had such an ability to create a place that breaths with such quiet authenticity and identity that the idea of the 'Australian Garden' can finally be seen to be realised. 

The front entrance to the garden of Fulling

The word garden may not be the right word because walking through the meandering path, that narrows, widens and bleeds into the surrounding planting feels more like a walk through healthy bushland in its most beautiful form.  

Dense plantings of mixed indigenous and native Australian plants.
I was completely blown away by how understated the planting palette was, comprising mostly of indigenous natives to eastern Melbourne as well as a few 'exotic' native Grevilleas and Eucalypts. The Eucs especially, were masterfully located where the beauty of their bark and the anchoring quality that they give to the garden can best be seen.

Tight grouping of Eucalyptus maculata
I especially liked how the trees were used to punctuate different spaces and little plant groupings that meant that you slowed down on your walk through to avoid knocking your head or tripping over a root. This configuration not only creates visual interest but forces the visitor to participate physically so that the body interacts with the space instead of just passing through it.  
Rock placement in the middle of the path
Gordon was also famous for his rock placement, by which he masterfully grouped rocks into various formations that mimicked natural groupings. These placements formed what appear in many places to be incidentally natural steps or bench seats and in some areas have been used simply to highlight the beauty of the material.
Rocks as stepping stones from the pergola to the walled seating area.
It is such a lovely garden and so masterfully done that it really inspires me to become a better designer. I have only mentioned a few of the wonderful aspects of his garden but what I want to say most is that it gave me such a sense of peace that I never thought possible in a constructed garden.
On a technical level it is so well done in terms of construction and composition that if I didn't know I was surrounded by suburbia, I would have thought that I was in the middle of beautiful bushland.

Absolutely worth a visit if you get the chance!

Thursday, September 16, 2010

New Front Garden

Over the last few weekends I have been replanting the little garden in front of the house and I'm feeling a little concerned to say the least! Before I moved in I went on a plant buying binge and managed to buy myself so many plants that i have nowhere to put them! So I ended up planting the majority in this tiny garden thus resulting in a slightly 'bitty' look. I keep telling everyone that I'm going for a cottage look and I'm just waiting to be convinced! Hopefully by the time summer comes around the garden will be full and all the perennials will be in flower - proving I know what I'm doing... I didnt just do 4 years at uni did I?

Bitty Garden
Please excuse the cut off juice containers protecting the Festuca glauca and the gro bag around the Salvia x sylvestris 'Caradonna' but the rabbits and Boris the resident possum really like eating these two plants for some reason...
I have planted the garden out with a mix of natives, exotic perennials and succulents in order to have interest all year round. and as the theme is grey, purple and red I'm hoping everything will tie together! Fingers crossed!
The planting list is as follows:
Lomandra 'Tanika' - sad i know
Myoporum parvifolium
Limonium perezii
Sedum 'Matrona' & 'Autumn Joy'
Festuca glauca
Calmagrostis 'Karl Forester'
Cotyledon orbiculata
Barchyscome multifida
Chrysocephalum apiculatum
Dianella - Blue form from mum and dads place, dont know the cultivar
Kniphofia - A yellow form, cant remember
Euphorbia wulfenii
Echium candicans
and good old Echeveria 'Chicken and Hens'
That's all i can remember for now..

Oh actually I also planted this:
Echinops bannaticus
Oh so exciting!!!! It is a Globe flower and will hopefully end up with purple globe flowers reaching 1m. Will look great with the red flowering Silver Princess (tree in front of the window that I forgot to list!)
From the BBC Gardening Website
I will be sure to update how it all goes down the track as it grows. Hopefully its going to work!
And my succulent collection seems to be growing too. I rearranged them all on Sunday and couldn't believe how many little terracotta pots i have! Still, I love them to bits. They just look so good all the time! Look at how good they are! I will have to do a succulent post soon!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Post number 1 - Beginnings of a veggie garden!

I figured that I should write my first post today because I have had my first landscape supply delivery! This pile of soil and timber is to become my veggie plot, which will hopefully provide all the veg that Joel and I need! Wishful thinking probably, but I can dream...

Ecowood sleepers & 3.5m of Premo Soil!
I have designed four beds all 3x1.5m that will be 200mm high. I chose the raised bed design in order to keep the veggie garden as neat as possible - but knowing me, it might not help! As the soil at my place is pretty good because of it being on a flood plain, I didn’t need to raise the garden too much - as you would have to on a heavy clay soil.
I will also have to fence off the garden due to the rabbits that like munching all my lovely plants and I’m envisioning pickets maybe, or a combination of posts and found timbers / fallen branches. I’m not sure yet!

Its all very exciting though after so many months and months of house hunting, to finally have a place where I can truly express my passion for all things landscape and VEGETABLE GARDENING is just amazing!
I’m looking forward to sharing the progression of my garden with all the blog visitors and friends and hopefully I will inspire others to take off their gardening gloves and get dirty!!

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