Saturday, December 31, 2011

Our Garden Blog Returns for 2012.

For almost two months I have been unable to do this blog, frustrated by an inadequate internet service. Now at last we have a fast internet connection courtesy of the new National Broadband Network  The blog will recommence on News Year's Day and The Drip Mudgee will be online once again.

So much happened in the garden over the period of no blogging.  Every day brought new delights and the occasional disaster. Gardening is never straightforward, having its ups and downs which I will record day by day during 2012.

In the meantime here are a few images from the last month. Early summer in the Old Cottage Garden.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

An Apology

I have been unable to keep the garden diary up to to date for the last three weeks due to an internet connection that has been ridiculously slow and unreliable.

We will be moving onto the new National Broadband Network soon and hopefully this will finally give us a reasonably fast connection.

In the meantime I will persevere with the inadequacies of the old system and will attempt to update the blog when I can.

Monday, November 7, 2011

What's Blooming This Week?

The first flush of roses is in full swing and The Cutflower Garden is entering one of its most productive phases, providing huge bunches of flowers for the house.

This is Hot Cocoa, a relatively modern floribunda which created a sensation when first released in the early 1970s.  It has stood the test of time and has entered the list of all-time favourites. It has vicious thorns and little fragrance but the sheer abundance of blooms and unique colour makes these attributes forgivable.

The blooms vary in colour depending on the temperature, ranging from orange-red through dusky coffee colours often with  undershadings of purple.  To see more about The Cutflower Garden click here

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Seasonal Vegetable Planting in the Espaliery

Peter Marshall planted this year's tomato crop, replacing the broad beans. This is an ideal crop rotation as the beans are legumes and have added nitrogen to the soil over the winter. The tomatoes went into beds 1B, 4D and 4C. Basil will be planted into these beds next week.

Peas were planted into bed 1A last month. Beetroot was planted in Bed 3B, alongside the existing asparagus patch,  several weeks ago, along with radish seed, French sorrel and land cress.  Basil,  coriander and chili were planted in Bed 1C along with existing silver beet.  Zuchini and mizuna planted in bed  2C alongside existing horseradish.  Radish seeds planted into Bed 3A with cucumber to be added asap.  Asian vegetables are planned for bed 2B.  Salad greens, snow peas and climbing beans are to be planted in Bed 2D.   Additional climbing beans can be planted into beds 3C and 4A alongside existing rhubard clumps.

Bed 2A is fallow this season, with all weeds and finished crops being composted in that beds.

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Pollarded Plane Bursts Back into Life

Around Mid-Winters Day we pollarded the plane tree that lives in The Main Courtyard.  Since then we have been waiting to see how it will come back after such a vigorous pruning.

Over the intervening four months, the trunks and branches continued to thivcken and the bark began decortication. In the last two weeks, the pollarded tree has produced masses of new shoots.  Success.

The tree will now be pruned each winter to maintained this structure.  Over time the pollard will develop into a magnificent sculptural feature as well as providing much needed mid-summer shade just where and when it needed.  Pollarding is a technique we will explore further in these gardens along with our increasing emphasis on espaliers, topiary and niwaki.

Monday, October 31, 2011

What's Blooming This Week

"Souvenir de la Malmaison", with its sumptuous shell-pink blooms and intensely spicy fragrance, is without doubt one of the great roses of all time.  It is a Bourbon rose bred in 1843 and was named to commemorate the superlative rose garden developed by Napoleon's lover , Josephine de Beauharnais at Malmaison, the country estate snear Paris which she bought in 1799.

Josephine was a woman of extraordinary character,  unique in her era, undertaking detailed and credible scientific analysis regarding the manner in which characteristics of plants were passed on  from one generation to the next.  She pioneered selective breeding with her rose collection and her work in this area influenced Lamarck. Josephine may be justifiably seen as taking one of the first tentative steps leading to the science of genetics, now transforming our world and our understanding of life itself.

Our plant, a climbing version, has been given a pergola all to itself. Surrounding  "Josephine's Arbour" is a collection of dahlias, another plant whose potential was recognized and explored by Josephine.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Old Roses and Strawberries

This corner of The Old Cottage Garden has been a focus of activity lately,  with a collection of strawberry plants in terracotta pots being added to the existing planting of ancient varieties of Rose.  The rose in flower on the left of the photo is The White Rose of York,  Rosa gallica alba,  and is still one of the great garden roses of all time.

Our aim here is to create an area that ultimately will be very low maintenance.  Thickly applied gravel will control weeds and a timed irrigation system to the strawberry pots and to the nearby table grapes will avoid the need for twice daily watering during the heat of summer.

However, until the gravel is put in place the area will need very consistent attention to weed control as a huge number of seeds remain in the soil in this area and these particular weeds can grow from germination to seed-set in less than a fortnight!

Late Season Irises

Iris #9 Orange
Peter Marshall took these photographs this week as we continue the process or dividing and cataloging the clumps of Iris growing in The Parterre Garden.

These are the late blooming members of our collection.  

With careful planning we can create an awesome colour display that spans all of October
Iris #14 pink
Iris #10 Black-red

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Online Garden Visitors

We bought this Maoilica tile, by the ceramist Laureanti, in the Sicilian town of Caltagirone in 1995.  The tile is now installed in The Rose Tunnel in The Parterre Garden and I wrote about it some time ago here on the blog.   Today Laureanti's daughter, Marta,  contacted us via the website.  Here is what she said.  "Hello!! Compliments for your garden!!I'd like just to say that it was so strange discover your post for a coincidence!! I am the daughter of the ceramist Laureanti! and you have one of his works. in 1995 I was 12 years old.  I hope you had happy time in my town. My dad is still a ceramist but now he has a new shop just in the other side of the Piazza Municipio, along Principe Amedeo Street.. . If you have time surely come back to visit it will be a great pleasure for my dad."

Another online visitor made contact earlier this week,  "Hi, I'm a landscape designer from Santa Barbara, CA. I accidentally found your blog while looking for photo of fruit tree groves for a client presentation. Forty five minutes later, I'm still loving your site. Please include me as a member of your web site and blog. I lived in Australia for a couple of months while traveling after graduating from college. I look forward to disappearing into your magic gardens, when time allows. Thank you . Downing Denison"

It is such a delight sharing our gardens with people from all over the world in this way.  What a difference the internet makes to things,  bringing us into contact with garden lovers from everywhere.  Gardens have historically often  been a place for civilized social interaction.  And in the 21st century it seems they perform this role in new and unexpected ways.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Wombat Damage

The Common Australian Wombat is a muscular marsupial up to a metre in length.  They look cute.  But they destroy stuff
A few months ago we decided to dig up some of the Crinum lilies that thrive along wall of  the Old Cottage Garden .  But we forgot to fill the hole back in and this week one of of our local wombats decided this was an invitation too good to refuse.
The result was a massive excavation achieved in one night! This shovel has a six foot handle, showing how fast a wombat digs. Fortunately David Hardy, who took these photos, found the diggings  before the invader came back the next night.   We would have had a huge problem on our hands, as these creatures wreak havoc around the house and  the gardens if they breach the security, undermining footings and causing serious and expensive damage.  Houses have been destroyed by them.  So Dave got a trailer load of concrete rubble and repaired the damage
There's no point just filling in the hole with dirt.  Wombats leave a scent trail and will be back to the same spot time and again.  They are remarkably determined creatures. So first of all fill the hole with rubble, then dirt and finally a strong wire mesh weighted down over the area until the grass grows again.  The wire will stop the wombat digging .
All our perimeters have had to be protected in this way.  It has been a long and expensive battle and its not over yet so it seems .

Monday, October 24, 2011

What's Blooming this Week?

A stroll though The Western Acre at this time of year reveals a very different world from the enclosed areas of The House Gardens.  This Leucadendronn is one of  a number of South African members of the Proteaceae family are currently in flower in this wilder section of the property..

The Western Acre is divided into a number of areas. In effect it a small Botanical Gardens, focusing on flowering shrubs and trees of the Southern Hemisphere. One area has designated for a collection of Proteaceae not only from South Africa  but including Australian species such as this charming Grevillea from Queensland also flowering now.

We have only planted a small number of introduced shrubs into this area which is predominantly degraded bushland damaged by a century of over-grazing by cattle. The limiting factor in developing these new gardens has been the ability to provide regular watering during the establishment phase.  We hope to resolve that this season with a new spur of irrigation leading through th this entire area

For more on The Western Acre click here

Friday, October 21, 2011

Stone Mulches

We don't use only organic mulches at The Drip.  

Mudgee is a rich souce of locally mined stone mulches, and matereials such as this crushed limestone from Mt. Buckaroo suit these gardens perfectly

We have made extensive use of this in The Main Courtyard and find it the perfect mulch for the many herbs that now grow there as well as providing a crisp backgound to our growing collection of cacti and succulents

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Mulching the Iris Beds in The Parterre

The newly laid out beds which will become The Parterre Garden were also mulched with rice husk protecting the newly planted Buxus sempiverens suffriticosa from water and heat stress in  the months ahead.

Over the next couple of weeks the Irises will be divided and sorted into the beds according to a scheme of Clives devising.

In order to the complete  the hedging in The Parterre we still need approximately 600 moper Buxus plants. W will propagate these ourselves in The Shadehouse.  To see more on The Shadehouse click here

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

More about Mulch

With the temperatures still rising mulching is now crucial.  We have been spreading heaps of this rice hull mulch. 

This is inexpensive, easy to spread around delicate plants and very effective as water retainer and weed suppressor.  It also lasts a very long time and though it has little nutritional value it does add excellent organic fibre to our sandy soils.

There are a couple of downsides to be wary of though. It can be very dusty when you spread it, so a mask is a good idea.  And rain tends to run off it so unless it is arranged in such a way that water penetrates some areas it can actually prevent water access to the soil.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

It's Time to Mulch

Last week we did a huge amount of hand weeding, adding to our stocks of compostable materials which later in the season will return to these same beds as mulch.

This week however we are using mulches introduced from outside the garden.  These, like this lucerne mulch used in Cut Flower Garden, will add additional nutrients to gross feeders such as these Herbaceous Peonies, and assist in keeping keep the weeds from returning. 

With the temperatures rising rapidly now, mulching becomes a priority in preparation for the season ahead.  To see more on The Cut Flower Garden Click here

Monday, October 17, 2011

What's Blooming This Week?

Iris #5 Pale yellow
The Mid-season Iris are continuing to delight

As each clump blooms it is being divided and sorted into the newly laid out beds of The Parterre Garden

Iris #6   Two tone mi/light blue
Iris # 7 Deep Purple

Iris #8  Dark Blue
Iris #9 Beige to mauve
Iris # 9 will be moved onto The  Western Terrace to form an edging along one side where its more subtle tones will be better appreciated backlit by late afternoon sun

Friday, October 14, 2011

Our Memorial to Paul Poolman

Clive's father, Paul Poolman, passed away on October 14, 2000. Before his death Paul requested that we dedicate this Wisteria Walk to his memory.  The view from this elevated terrace was one that he loved to paint.

In 2000  the Walk was just a plan.  But now eleven years later it is very much a reality, becoming more beautiful with every passing year.

And the Wisteria above Paul's memorial stone blooms without fail on the anniversary of his death each year.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Elaine in The Garden Room

Elaine Paton held a small fashion parade in The Garden Room today.

The aim of this exercise was to choose suitable garments for a wedding in Leura.

This huge, unroofed space seems to bring out the theatricality in people. That's a good thing.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Netting the Cherry Trees

The cherry trees are bearing good crops this year.  But we will lose the lot to birds unless they are netted from now on.  The Espaliery was designed to make this relativly simple and quick.  Each fruit tree in The Espaliery sits between a pair of timber poles and below a timber rail.  This to enable nets to be placed for the protection of each tree individually
Step 1;  Hang net from top rail 

Step 2;  Attach net to the hooks on the pole
In this case the adjacent tree was also ready to be netted
Step 4 Dowels are attached to the nets to hold them down. These will remain for rolling up and storage.
Step 5 Check for holes in the net and repair if necessay

These individual nets will be moved around the Espaliery  throughout the coming months as the harvest of early and late cherries give way to the plums and then figs, quinces and apples. The system provides the flexibility needed to protect each tree just at the  time it needs protection and allows us to remove nets before the tree grows through it.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Old Door Step becomes a TableTop

David Hardy, Bruno Egger and Clive moved this large and very heavy slab of sandstone into position to form a table in The Old Cottage Garden.

The slab was originally the front doorstep of the house that was built on this site  by the Blackman family in the 1880's.

Now, one hundred and thirty years later, this piece of local history has found a new role, providing an "eyecatcher" at the end of the old garden path.

Monday, October 10, 2011

What's Blooming this Week?

Just when we thought the daffodils were all finished for the year, one more appears.

This  Poets Daffodil, Narcicissus poeticus, is a late flowering variety sometimes known as Pheasants Eye, with an exquisite small bloom,

Clive divided the clump today and we hope to see many of these appearing next year

Friday, October 7, 2011

Spring Weeding

Warm weather and lots of spring rain inevitably means that weeding is high on the list of priorities right now.  Elaine Paton has been here and is doing an unbelievable job going through the Old Cottage Garden with a fine tooth-comb and removing unwanted upstarts before the big growth flush begins in earnest.

At this time of year we have a number of desirable self seeded plants - poppies, parsley, nigella and  cosmos - coming up amongst unwanted weed seedlings in this garden, so Elaine's painstaking approach is the only way to preserve the desirable plants whilst banishing the undesirables

The Old Cottage Garden requires an intimate familiarity with the seasonal cycle and with the inhabitants of this specific garden. Careful observation allows the gardener to gently tweak the whole ecosystem of this complex little area, nudging it all along in the right direction season after season.   For more in The Old Cottage Garden including complete plant lists click here

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Be Careful with Paper Mulch

Newspaper can be a very useful mulch when used correctly . But unless carefully laid out it can have unintended consequences.

These enormous lilies in The Parterre Garden had been heavily mulched last summer.  In autumn the plants of course died down and over the last six months the parent bulbs produced "pups" underground. The heavy mulch however stopped the new plants from emerging this spring and would have killed them if we hadn't thought to check.

Fortunately the pups where discovered in time and were safely potted up to grow on in our propagating area in The Shadehouse. For more on The Shadehouse click here

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Standard Wisteria is Beautiful, but ...

This pink wisteria was planted with the intention of it one day covering a gazebo that we thought would be built here to take advantage of the view.  Clive's father Paul Poolman loved this view and painted several watercolours from this position.

But plans change and we no longer intend building a gazebo here. The Wisteria Walk, above The Eastern Terace, was another favourite spot for Paul, the views are more spectacular and we have recently dedicated The Walk to Paul's memory. 

Without a gazebo to clim over, this lone wisteria is marooned.  Over the years it has grown into a rather beautiful standard specimen, but this is not the position for a standard plant.  So next winter we will move it to a more appropriate spot. The question is "Where?"

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Notes from The Library # 24

Rain is predicted this week so it is looking like a few days spent in our Library will be on the agenda.

"Niwaki. Pruning, Training and Shaping Trees the Japanese Way" by Jake Hobson provides not only visual inspiration and an insight into the subtle aestheticss of historical Japan but also provides a wealth of practical information, including advice on when to prune, how to prune, why to prune and what tools to use. This is an indispensable reference for those who strive to achieve more than the ordinary. 

European topiary, pollarding, Japanese niwaki and the crisp contemporary formality of landscape designers such as Jacques Wurtz and Andrea Cochrane are increasingly informing our approach to these gardens here in Mudgee. Time in The Library researching these approaches to garden design is always time well spent. For more on The Library at The Drip click here.