Saturday, October 25, 2014

Yep, it's been long in fact, I wasn't sure if I'd still be allowed to post here...but happy days, I've not been denied and whilst this post is barely deserving of the name, I just want to put it out there that I'm making my way back...slowly but surely. 

Spring is in the air, bees are hard at work and Magic Garden thrums with the sound of their labour. This burnt orange mollis azalea is the most intense pop of colour in the front yard. I do a mental double take every time I pull in the drive.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Tip-toe time!

Every time spring rolls around, I feel it is my favourite time of year...but then I realise I feel like that about summer and autumn as well. I'd like to wax lyrical about winter as well but in truth, my intellectual appreciation for this dormant period is tempered by the fact that the Blue Mountains are just so bloody cold. No matter how many layers I put on, winter gardening is cumbersome and often brutally windswept. I know that winter is the perfect time to consider the form of your garden, to prune dormant plants and remove any dead limbs, and improve the quality of your soil. So yes, the garden  maintenance jobs have all been ticked off the checklist but for some reason, it just isn't as rewarding as other times in the year. Put this down to my issues with instant gratification, I guess. 

One thing I have done this winter is workshop my plans for Magic Garden's reorganisation - once we put the barn in the back corner, we'll need to create a driveway from front to back. The need for this structure is entirely my husband's and I've known it was coming, since the purchase of Magic Garden was contingent on there being space for such a barn. Now that we've had a survey done and discussions with our architect proceed apace, I'm actually in a position to start planning where the new drive will go, how the garden beds will be positioned, what plants will be retained and how I want the space to look. 
Which isn't as easy as it sounds - there are so many factors to take into consideration - not the least being the desire to manipulate the layers of the planting and the landscape so that there is always something in flower and providing a focal point and a sense of depth. However, I'm proud to announce that I have come to one solid conclusion. I have some lovely lavender that will need to be relocated when we renovate the house, and I think it'll provide the perfect backdrop to a display of red tulips, much like the example shown above. The lavender is in flower pretty much all year, as I'm a conscientious dead-header and the tulips will create a pleasing contrast in the spring. All that remains is to decide on a suitable planting scheme for in front of the tulips, as they don't last particularly long and look very messy as they die off. Some type of clipped hedge should give lend a sense of formality, in contrast to the lavender's feathery branches and would neatly hide the tulip's brown foliage once their time has passed.  How's that for a plan!
My tulip inspiration shot came from a divine garden in South Leura, Cherrydell North. I love gardens that have names and I'm especially tickled by the signage on the Cherrydell North gate. This is the sort of metalwork that you rarely see anymore, it speaks of another time and place, when having something made by hand was the only way it would get done. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Which fungus IS that?

Turkeytail? Giant Polypore? Hairy Curtain Crust? Smokey Bracket?

Part of the winter maintenance program at Magic Garden has involved the removal of some scarily, large dead branches from some of our scarily, large trees. I'm pleased to say that I was not the person up the tree, chain saw in hand! As you can see, fungus has played a major role in the die back of this limb and according to our tree man, the tree this particular branch came from needs to be removed completely. In truth, it isn't the most majestic specimen (I feel like I'm betraying the tree by saying that!) and whilst its removal will be costly, we'll certainly gain more sun penetration in that patch of Magic Garden. 

The role of fungi in the eco-system is fundamental in the decomposition of organic matter. They're present in soil, dead matter and in symbiotic relationships with plants, animals and interestingly, other fungi. Along with yeasts and moulds and the more obvious mushrooms, Fungi are considered a kingdom within  the taxonomic structure of biology because unlike from plants, animals and bacteria, their cellular walls contain chitin rather than cellulose and this is about where the very helpful Wikipedia page lost me, to be honest! What I have learnt is when it comes to trees, it's parasitic fungi you have to watch out for, that trees which are under stress due to bark injury, broken branches or drought are more susceptible to parasitic fungi...and that identification of fungus is a job left to the professionals! 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

it's been awhile...

I was going to wait until June 30th, just so it was properly 6 months since my last post. Confessing this make me glad I'm not Catholic; I'd definitely be crap at it and probably lapsed. It also makes me aware of my own tendencies to put things off until a more auspicious or meaningful time approaches. Which is maybe a more sophisticated form of procrastination...but procrastination all the same. But you know, my fingers are itching to just tap tap tap out something which is just this post is playing catch up. Nothing earth shattering, just a few bits and pieces that have made me smile. 
Whale Hedge 

This is an image from a piece I did recently for The Cloudscape, it's a website I work on with some of my most lovely mates. It showcases all that is designed, crafted and happening along our stretch of the Great Western Highway. If you're curious as to what's hidden behind this mountainside mammal, or want to know more  about what's happening at this particular altitude, you should check The Cloudscape out!
Something I love about travelling is taking the opportunity to visit noteworthy gardens. This shot could be in Japan, but it's actually from Mayfield Garden, just out of Oberon. I'd always felt a little bad that I'd never had a wander through this showpiece, which so relatively close to home. And now, I'm excited to say, I have! 
This shot shows the silver birch glade, under planted with hellebore. Winter flowering, the hellebore create a soft canopy which is an especially nice contrast as the trees above lose their leaves. 

I'm don't want to go into too much about Mayfield as I plan to write about it more fully for The Cloudscape. But it is a wonderful example of what can be achieved in a cool climate garden, especially one of this size. With over 40 acres to play with and 25 gardeners on staff, this garden is best described as a folly in the grandest sense of the word!

I recently made the acquaintance of this wonderful old bloke, Doug. His garden is on the corner opposite my daughter's pre-school and each summer, into autumn I have admired his spectacular display of dahlias. This is just one of the many that line his nature strip. He's been tending his predominately dahlia garden for over 50 years and when I asked why dahlias, he told me that his late wife had loved them - enough for me to get a touch teary. This is something I love; that plants and gardens can be the conduit that says I care and I want to make you happy.
I asked Doug if he had any tips for the wanna be dahlia grower and he was pretty succinct. He cuts them back each year and every other year, he'll lift before it gets too cold. He then stores the tubers in sawdust and replant in the spring. Thanks to Wikipedia, I've also recently learnt that the dahlia is the national flower of Mexico. 
I am proud to report that despite a dismal summer, my artichokes did manage to set fruit. What I am not overly proud of is that I am not nearly disciplined enough to actually prepare them and cook with them. Instead, I am thrilled by their sea anemone style of the petal structure and I'm ok with the fact that I'm happy to let the plant go to seed. Artichokes also clump up really well. I dug this one out, split it up and had around 12 pretty good sized new plants. I was dubious about a couple which didn't have much in the way of a root system, but they're a hardy plant and all are thriving. Never be afraid to get dividing, people! I would add, snails also really like artichokes so you do want to keep on eye on them shredding the leaves.  

Magic Garden Autumn 2012

Gardening is one of my preferred forms of procrastination - there's a worthwhile outcome as opposed to just sitting on a chaise lounge popping bon-bons in one's mouth - but these last 6 months, it seems that the weather has conspired against me. The summer proper was wet, wet, wet and the indian summer I'd been so optimistically  counting on, came on too late and is just so cold. Truthfully, it's been a teensy bit depressing. But there have been bright spots...discovering that a bird had made its nest at the top of one of our tulip trees has made me feel slightly more kindly towards the autumn...
but I can't wait for spring!

Friday, December 30, 2011

It's been a rather busy, and sad festive season mountainside and it feels like I've dropped more balls than I've had in the air, if such a thing is possible. New Year's resolutions abound and without going into all the boring details, paying more attention to this blog is one of them. Though I'm not overly interested in the moment the clock strikes twelve, I am very happy to celebrate the fact that I've persisted with Magic Garden, both on the ground and here, in the ether. I'm not going dwell on the disappointments of the last year, suffice to say, there won't be any green tomato chutney at our next Christmas feast... but these are some of the most recent highlights...

This time last year, I was in an extremely reflective mood. Our new baby had just come home from hospital after an ever-so-scary bout of viral meningitis and I was full of gratitude that we were home, that she was on the mend and so conscious of the lovely friends and family who supported us so wonderfully during that time. I love the idea of using plants and gardens to commemorate important events, whether they're joyous or solemn and when I was in hospital with Miss E, it bothered me greatly that I hadn't planted the magnolia I'd bought to mark her birth. Getting that plant in the ground was top of my to-do list, come the New Year. I'm just so pleased to present this image of her Magnolia's first flower! I love how the blossom is sheathed by its petals, how the pollen has fallen, that this plant has thrived in step with our little girl.

Our big girl is not quite as helpful in Magic Garden as I'd like; her weeding skills are yet to come to the fore! But she is very good at picking posies and strawberries...though it was a challenge to get this shot before she ate them all. Planting fruit and veggies that little people can help to harvest is so rewarding and the one of the best ways to get them interested in trying different types of produce. Who cares if they're not good at weeding as long as they eat healthily!

Two new crops I planted this year were garlic and broadbeans. Both required some discipline in the preparation stakes - that is I actually planted them when I was supposed to. I should have double the amount of garlic but I made a slight error in two of the patches, oversowing with a clever clover mix that I chose to let go...and go...until it flowered and I realised that Id created too much competition in the bed for the garlic to really succeed. Companion planting is all very well, but it does pay to actually follow the tried and tested suggestions, I guess, rather than make up your own...

And here are my broad beauties! Miss C and I planted the seeds together on one of the rare occasions that popping in seeds has held her interest. She wasn't blown away by the taste of the fresh beans, straight from the pod but I was and I have been busily cooking with them ever since. I think my fava favourite is to blend them up with lemon juice and a little salt and pepper, then serve as a bruschetta topping. Top with some fetta or goat's cheese marinated in olive oil and share. Bon appetit and happy new year.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

on the 7th day of Christmas... lovely neighbour gave to me, a bowl of ripe raspberries.

Whilst she is not my true love, how can you not LOVE LOVE LOVE a neighbour like that? Not only does my lovely neighbour feed my cat when I'm away, she offers up scrumptious summer berries like these. Plus, she's away for a couple of days and said we should pop over and pick more! No matter what your denomination, and I'm firmly non, how can you not count your blessings when you have neighbours like these and the freshest raspberries on your plate? I had been dithering about whether I should get some raspberry canes and now, I shall dither no longer. I will find the perfect place and plant as soon as I can get my pink stained fingers on the plants! Even our fussy E.D. couldn't resist, that's her reaching out for some raspberry love.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

As deciduous trees go, the Copper Beech takes its own sweet time to lose its leaves. The leaves never drop, they remain on the branch, shielding the new growth in their husks. In terms of hours spent raking, you can't really accuse this tree of making work for you! When the new leaves unfurl, they have a delightfully soft quality that creates the translucency you see in this image. Two weeks later, the greenish blush of the new leaf has hardened up into a dark maroon and a completely different tree stands in Magic Garden.