Piet Oudolf, the famous Dutch garden designer says you should have a little of what you like in your garden, and I think this is a very good, simple philosophy for life generally, and especially on an anniversary weekend. We often go to the Snowy Mountains in January, for our anniversary. However, this year, most of the accommodation was booked out, so we decided to visit the Southern Highlands of New South Wales.
The Southern Highlands is a two hour drive from Canberra, and has a milder and wetter climate. The rolling hills and farms look lush and prosperous, the fields are green and the dams always full of water. There many small towns and historic villages, many open gardens and vineyards, good food and wine, and bookshops. Perfect for us.
Our first stop was to Red Cow Farm open garden. It is a cool climate garden in the rural village of Sutton Forest.
Close by the roadside into Sutton Forest is the Cottage, surrounded by a white picket fence, and brimming with flowers and shrubs, colours and smells, bees and butterflies, and not far away, a black bird singing.
The farm has been designed into about twenty garden rooms, and has been a labour of love for the gardeners, since 1990.
We were lucky enough to see some of the garden before it rained, and these photos are, mostly, of the cottage and walled garden.
The cottage garden is surrounded by mature rare trees and maples, and throughout the garden there is an extensive collection of 800 roses.
The gardens are flourishing in these rainy conditions, and the garden beds were full of dahlias, foxgloves, hydrangeas, liliums, clematis and eryngium.
The monastery garden features art work, and statues, including the patron saint of gardens, Saint Francis of Assisi.
We had to cut short our walk around this wonderfully diverse garden as the rain started.
We had a booked a lovely AirBnB, and the thoughtful owner had shelves of interesting books and a coffee table with glossy gardening and country magazines….so a quiet afternoon of reading and watching cricket was in order.
Our weekend ended with an delicious evening meal at Harry’s on the Green. This photo was taken before the pandemic, we had the table tucked away in the corner, with no tables around us. It was a very pleasant evening in every way.
When we were first married, we had a small but thriving garden, and, on weekends we often spent money on books when we were really trying to save for a house….after all these years, we have a bigger garden and a pleasant home, and far too many books!
Best wishes for the New Year, and I hope you find the time to havea little of what you liketoday!
Although Scotland is a long way from Australia, and a very long way from our unique animals, yet, we now have a lovely tartan material named Koala.
Fred and his sister Marie Lawson come from Spring Ridge near in Gunnedah in the New England region. They live on a property with Clydesdale horses, Scottish Highland cattle, and Irish donkeys, which Marie is breeding to re-establish the blood line in Australia. They are also keen weavers and interested in conservation of all kinds. Living close to the bush they came up with the idea of making a tartan to draw attention to the plight of koalas in Australia.
When asked, why a tartan for koalas, Fred said “Tartan is a language without words, it crosses all boundaries.” (this would bring a stirring to my Scottish father’s heart)
Koalas are completely dependent on Eucalyptus trees both for food and for a place to live. In recent times, the koala’s habitat has been severely reduced with increased urbanization. In addition the 2020 bush fires were devastating for koalas, and for their habitat.
Fred and Marie took several pattern trials before deciding on one, and that has now been approved by the World Tartan Register in Scotland. The colours include green for the Eucalyptus trees, dark and light grey for the koala’s coat colour, and black for the nose, with some pink and white for some parts of the koala’s face and coat.
Fred and Marie have officially registered and woven the tartan, and it is called simply The Koala.
Fred and Marie have always been interested in cloth and once they had done a weaving course in Gunnedah, they began weaving on a regular basis. They have a huge shed on the farm called ”Crofter’s Mill”. At the moment, Fred is experimenting with organic grown cotton which he sources from the CSIRO (Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation) in Melbourne.
Meanwhile, far away from the Crofter’s Mill in Gunnedah, during the next two weeks, all eyes are on Scotland, and Glasgow, as national leaders will gather for the latest round of talks on preventing global temperatures from rising to dangerous levels.
I read this small news story about the Koala tartan, in the same week that the Australian government was quarrelling and bargaining (within itself) about our commitment to climate change at the Glasgow summit.
I couldn’t help thinking there is something poignant, and hopeful about individuals who are making a difference, and remain steadfast in their belief in change…despite dissention in government ranks here in Australia. May some practical and positive decisions be made at the summit.
Meanwhile I hope the Koala tartan finds many admirers, and one day I may be able to visit my Scottish cousins wearing a Koala kilt. Now there’s a plan!
Best wishes for a happy November….no more Lockdowns in Australia and the sun is shining!
PS: If the koala photos seems familar, I used these same photos for an earlier post on Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve. During Lockdown I was unable to go to Tidbinbilla, but I’m sure the koalas are thriving in their protected environment after the trauma of the fires.
This is a trip down memory lane for Paul and I, we often drove through the Blue Mountains on our way to Bathurst, the town where we met while at university (now known Charles Sturt University)
That was a long time ago, but the views of the mountains are just as beautiful and the people as friendly and hospitable as ever.
Hartvale is a country house and garden, nestled on five gently undulating acres at the base of Mount York, with wonderful valley and escarpment views to Mount Clarence.
The beautiful Hartley Valley is sometimes shrouded in mist in the mornings, has winter frosts, occasional snow, and warm to hot summers. In other words a bit of everything!
The owners of the property are Pete Kube, a builder, and his partner, Jennifer Edwards, an artist. They were inspired by the views to build this lovely house and garden, and their energy and artistic talents are obvious in a garden that is only three and a half years old!
The wide driveway leading up through the garden is edged with colourful cottage garden flowers. All the building materials used are recycled, giving the garden a sense of history.
The soil is clay based and needs plenty of compost, organic matter and regular bales of straw to protect against the heat and frosts.
The greenhouse has a big crop of tomatoes, and the surrounds are full of vegetables, and salvias, marigolds, Californian poppies..
Nasturtiums, salvias, marigolds, roses, daisies, dahlias….colour and greenery for our heart’s delight. The lush greens and colours are especially pleasant to see, this has been a year of abundant rain and a mild summer, and plants are not worn out from the heat!
Pete Kube said during the 2020 COVID year, he built a poly-tunnel, and installed a water tank…a very impressive and productive way to spend a COVID year!
The poly-tunnel will be used for all the winter vegetables..
I think, both the poly-tunnel and the tank are amongst the biggest I have seen in a country garden. They are well prepared for severe cold and most importantly, drought.
It is a universal truth that with gardens come opportunists! I did hear a conversation amongst locals about the problems of keeping the cockatoos away from the apple and pear crops….(can’t you just imagine?) Not to mention kangaroos eating the lush sweet grass and rabbits eating vegetables, possums competing with the bird life for fruit!
Along the winding driveway is another small shed in the potager garden.
Here is a place to sit and look at the garden, watch the birds…. or just to rest from the heat of the day during summer…
Looking down from the house, the upper and lower parts of the garden are divided by Eucalyptus trees, shrubs and Royal Gala apple trees espaliered along the fence.
We admired the apples on the fence, but neither of us took a photo of it, perhaps too busy with our coffee, which was offered on the front veranda of the house.
Another inspiring part of the garden is Jennifer’s artist’s studio. She takes inspiration from her surroundings….
Her studio is full of oil paintings of birds, flowers and landscapes.
While we were in the artist’s studio Paul took a photo of the view through a large window… no wonder Jennifer is inspired to paint…
It reminds me of a lovely quote by Monet ;
‘my wish is to stay always like this, living quietly in a corner of nature”
It was a pleasure to wander through this country garden, with so much colour, space, and the gentle feeling to time slowing down, far away from the worried Covid world.
Thank you for reading my blog today, and where ever you are in the world, may you enjoy your autumn or spring weather, and be inspired by gardens such as this.
Has anyone told Sydney it is the middle of winter in Australia?
Paul and I have come to visit my brother and sister-in-law in Sydney. It is mid-winter in Australia, and we left our home in Canberra very early in the morning, frost melting on the grass. Four hours later, here we are sitting in Barangaroo Reserve, peeling off jackets and coats, and reaching for hats and sun cream, and looking at Sydney harbour.
It is always a miracle when a prime piece of real estate is partly given over to parkland and public use, and this beautiful, relatively new piece of green space in Sydney, is one such miracle.
The former Prime Minister, Paul Keating, a long term resident of Sydney, was an early advocate for a public reserve. His vision was to return the area, known as Miller’s Point, to a ”naturalistic park”.
One of Sydney’s oldest industrial sites on the Harbour has now been transformed into a six hectare headland of open spaces. The planting and landscape is designed to replicate the vegetation before European settlement, making it as natural as possible.
Huge blocks of sandstone re-create the original harbour foreshore, and the sandstone is weathering and changing with time.
Over 76,000 plants and native trees, palms and tree ferns, native shrubs, small trees, native ground covers, grasses and ferns, have been planted in the last few years. Needless to say the native birds love this natural habitat.
The Barangaroo Reserve stands on the land of the Gadigal clan. Barangaroo is named after an indigenous woman who was married to Bennelong. She was a spokesperson between indigenous Australians and the new British penal colony… and was, from all accounts, proud of her culture, and a feisty character at a time when she needed to be so!
Many years ago I lived in Sydney, near Balls Head Reserve, and Paul has taken a photo of me with a view of my old ”stomping ground” in the background.
As you can see around this area, there is plenty of construction work going on with apartments, hotels, restaurants, being built on the right hand side of the harbour.
The walking and cycling pathways take us to the edge of the city, not far from The Rocks (where you can see some of the original houses of early Sydney.) It is possible to walk to well known parts of the city, from here, for example, Darling Harbour and The Rocks and Circular Quay.
We chose to take the steps to the top of the Reserve, and have one last view of Sydney Harbour.
Salute to Paul Keating and many others who persisted in this vision, we now have a wonderful reserve for everyone to share.
Thank you for taking the time to read my blog today, and may your day be as bright as a winter Sydney day!
Summer can be a fearful time in Australia. This year has seen prolonged drought in many parts of the country, and, with drought comes bushfires..
In 2003 Canberra experienced the worst bush fire in the city’s history. In one afternoon, 400 homes and 4 lives were lost. A time seared in the memory of all who lived through it.
This month there have many protracted fires in Queensland and northern NSW, and our thoughts and best wishes go out to those affected.
It is heart-breaking to see people confronted with homes burnt to the ground, and animals, and birds, unable to escape the burning flames.
Amongst the towns and regions most affected, is one known fondly by my family, the pretty coastal town of Port Macquarie.
My parents lived in Port Macquarie, and my brother and his family still live there.
We had many happy summer holidays there while our families were growing up.
My parents owned a small house and a very big garden (some might say a jungle) running down to a creek, and surrounded by beautiful mature Eucalyptus trees.
As soon as we arrived for our holiday, Dad would take the girls down to the trees to say hello to the fairies….. when branches rubbed together in the wind.
….this tradition lasted a long time and is a lovely lifetime memory for us all.
(And a big thanks to my brother who kept that lovely garden under control until Mum and Dad died in 2000.)
One of the big attractions for young families visiting in Port Macquarie was Peppermint Park, with all kinds of rides, a big water slide and lots of shady trees (for parents like me to sit under and enjoy some summer reading)
The day this photo was taken a koala fell out of one of the big Eucalyptus trees overhead, right into the water slide. He slide to the bottom and ran (koala fashion) back to his tree, no harm done…but much excitement amongst the onlookers!
My parents lived just opposite the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital, and we often walked over to see the koalas. This hospital was established in 1973, and is not only for sick and injured koalas but for research into koala’s health and diseases.
Today, with fires raging, this hospital is inundated with fire-affected koalas, many in intensive care units being fed formula and having their burns regularly dressed.
Some of the koalas, on the way to recovery, are adjusting to mittens and gloves, which help them to move around while their paws are healing. The photos I have seen of the koalas when they first arrive are heart-breaking, but many recover surprisingly quickly.. as seen with this very healthy looking koala below.
The Animal Rescue Craft Guild has also been using pillowcases, and flannelette sheets for pouches for young kangaroos and wallabies.
The hospital has been overwhelmed with donations of money, food, towels and pharmaceutical supplies. The money will enable wildlife organisations to distribute drinking stations for koalas and other wildlife in the fire ravaged areas.
This year the fires have begun earlier than usual, and are more widespread, and much more difficult to contain. Although each state has a firefighting service, we could not do without the volunteer fighters; all firefighters are affectionately known as ”the firies”.
When the fires are burning, volunteers are needed on all fronts, local people and charity groups are invaluable in providing food and accommodation to the firefighters, and this is often for indefinite periods of time. The people who are left homeless are suspended in an unreal world, often without much money or shelter, to continue a normal life. The kindness of friends and neighbours and other members of the community is paramount.
So, many thanks and salute to those who fight fires, and those who help on a voluntary basis, not to mention the reciprocal help and support given by firefighters from California, Canada and New Zealand…..doesn’t that just give you hope for the world?
However, much as Australians understand that bush fires are a fact of life, the amount of bush fires burning across the country this year suggests we are in uncharted territory. It is not sustainable to assume we can always rely on volunteers, and hope that the fires won’t be as bad next year; long term planning is needed …. hopefully both state and federal governments will soon begin serious discussion on future policies and budgets for our changing world.
I have used this David Attenborough quote before, but it’s worth a repeat:
It seems to me that the natural world is a great source of excitement; the greatest source of visual beauty; the greatest source of intellectual interest.
It is the greatest source of so much in life that makes life worth living.
Many thanks for taking the time to read my blog, and may you be warm in winter and cool in summer.
PS: Two koalas from the Port Macquarie Koala Hospital appear in the National Geographic DVD, and these two superstars are called Crescent Head Jimmy, and Oxley Twinkles.
I can’t help thinking my first photo of the cute koala in yellow mittens might beOxley Twinkles!