Monday, January 31, 2011

Stuff We Like

The Zen temple gardens of Japan, as seen in this photograph of Ryogen in  Kyoto, can provide an ancient inspiration for a modern aesthetic.

Not only is this garden,  with its expanse of raked white gravel, incredibly beautiful and contemplative but it seems that it is also relevant to our garden in other ways.  Dry zones, with the soil protected by gravel mulches,  can be left unplanted creating very pleasing "negative space" within the overall design.  Though the monks who created the Ryogen garden had other things in mind,  at the very least this is a damn good way of saving on water usage and protecting the living soil from intense heat,  both of which are important in these times of global climate change.
The Main Courtyard here at The Drip has been filled with locally sourced white limestone grave.  It gleams in the moonlight. 

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Can We Beat the Heat?

As the long term effects of global climate change become more apparent we now must focus on adapting to these increasingly extreme weather conditions.  Given the worldwide failure of government  policies to address the underlying causes of climate change, it seems  that adaptation is now  perhaps all we can hope to do.

After the recent floods, cyclones are now striking Queensland and here  at The Drip in Mudgee  the temperatures are soaring.  Day after day we  are hitting thirty seven degrees Celsius or one hundred degrees Fahrenheit.  Last week we went over forty degrees Celsius. Where two months ago we had floodwaters, now we look down the valley into shimmering heat haze.  The soil bakes. The main house at The Drip was designed primarily with climate change in mind and remains relatively cool even without air conditioning but out in the gardens many plants are suffering.  So ... shade giving structures in the gardens become increasingly important.  

In The Espaliery we will soon be planting new vegetable seedlings, protected by shadecloth and kept moist with drip irrigation on automatic timers.  Time will tell if these strategies are successful.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Midsummer Growth

Midsummer pruning and weeding needs continual attention in the "garden rooms" surrounding the house. These gardens and orchards are the most productive areas of the property and as a consequence are the most labour intensive.

Usually things wouldn't get out of hand like the Cut Flower Garden in the photo above, but as a result of the floods in November everything went a bit sideways.  In the Cut Flower Garden, the lavenders all drowned in the floods and the weeds took over.  Two months later, the soil in here is still very moist , temperatures are consistently high and the growth is exceptional for this time of year.

It will be interesting to see just how long it takes to get this area back to being manageable again.  And once it is sorted out, then ideally a few person-hours a week is all that should be needed to keep this garden attractive and productive.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Less is More

It's plum season and there are hundreds of plums.  Too many plums. The Japanese Blood Plums are now finished, either eaten fresh or stewed and stored.  Only one French plum tree remains to be harvested.

We mucked up our timing this year, not thinning the crop of all our summer fruit when we should have, so ended up with fallen fruit on the ground.  This is not a good thing and meant a lot of work in picking up fruit in the hope of avoiding future problems with fruit fly and diseases. Damn.

We will now start a better diary/calendar system to help steer our way through the seasons.  First step is already online here, called "Cooking with Clive " this page shows when all the fruit trees here are ready for picking and processing.  We have almost a hundred varieties of fruit and nuts growing here now so this page should prove very useful.WE should aim for quality not quantity.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Elephant Garlic

Until today I had no idea what Rick Martin was talking about when he mentioned the Elephant Garlic he has been growing in the Espaliery.  Now  I do and this is a photo of it. Obvious really.

Each individual clove of Elephant Garlic  is as big or bigger than a whole bulb of most varieties of garlic.

Tonight we discover what it tastes like. And there are dozens of varieties of garlic to explore. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

Midsummer Shade from the High Pergola

Clive pruned the grapevine over the High Pergola today.  Temperatures are climbing, with expected maximums approaching forty degrees this week.

The evaporative cooling effect of the leafy canopy helps drop the temperature in the area adjoining the house and by leaving the small high windows open we aim to encourage the flow of air through the house without allowing heated air in.

Unfortunately the other grape vines on the pergola on the western face of the bedroom wing were killed last year by borers, so we now need to reassess that area.  We are thinking that a combination of shadecloth, plus wisteria and grape vine in certain areas may be the solution. 

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Getting Busy

Wendel and Kathy Judd spent some time here this week staying in the (not quite finished) guest room.

The sixty square metre self-contained guest room, with its awesome valley views from the  balcony, a bathroom and living area,  is proving to be quite a hit. It is very satisfying to see that it is getting used with increasing frequency, with more visitors turning up here all the time.

Like many people from city, Wendel and Kathy are thinking of buying a rural property in the region, where they would focus on restoring the land to tip top condition and offsetting their carbon footprint by undertaking a programme of tree plantings in the coming years.   If you would like to calculate your personal carbon footprint you could use the Carbon Offset Calculator at 

Friday, January 14, 2011

Pollarding? Will we or wont we?

Pollarding is a technique in which the heads of main branches are cut back to promote a more bushy growth of foliage. This helps to maintain the tree's size and shape while encouraging dense, vigorous growth. With annual attention, trees can be maintained at a specific height for centuries. Pollarding of trees is not common in Australian gardens.  But then neither were clipped box hedges until relatively recently.  Or olive trees in tubs. Look at these pollarded London Plane trees at the Filoli estate in California.  I love the sculptural qualities of these. They are both elegant and practical, allowing winter sun to flood through whilst providing deep pools of summer shade.

The London Plane planted five years ago to shade the Wine Cellar at The Drip is now nearing the size where we should consider whether to commence pollarding.  But does pollarding a tree add yet another high maintainence element to the overall garden design?  

I figure that it is roughly three hours work once a year to achieve this.  And surely that is  a worthwhile investment of time to gain high visual impact and effective shade provision in these increasingly hot summers?.

Sunday, January 9, 2011


Peter and Jay have been busy in the cottage garden  getting things back in order after  record rainfall, floods, explosions of weeds, snakes and a general crappiness that overtook everything  over the past few months.

This has prompted us to rethink the design of the old cottage garden to make it more sustainable in the future.  Clive has come up with an excellent solution.

The original design, typical of the 1870 gold-rush gardens of  Gulgong , as described in Trevor Nottle's book which we have here in the Library, is historically significant . We will keep some elements such as the quartz edgings but move the garden on into the twenty first century with a more spacious and elegant layout,  gravel mulches and appropriate and tough plantings such as the day lilies and poppies.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A New Year and a New Website too

Kim and Jenny McClymont spent New Year here at The Drip, staying in the almost finished  upstairs guest room. Not only did Kim continue work on the dam he designed to slow  the waterflow, trapping silt and flood debris and thus easing erosion in the gully but he also made  another suggestion based on his experience in management with the NSW National Parks service.

As a result of Kim's input  we are now working on a new website which will  be the Standard Operating Procedures for The Drip.  There is a lot of stuff going on here and having a manual like this will be so helpful, not just for us but especially for guests who are not familiar with the in s and outs of life in the country.  The website will include relevant photos, maps, diagrams, plans, useful links etc.
The  online manual will not be accessible to the general public but  will be limited exclusively to password holders.  Family and friends with access to the site will be able to update the content, contributing to the development of  the operating manual and,  as we now are getting more and more visitors here, people will also be able to use an online calendar to check accommodation availability and  book times that they would like to stay at The Drip.