Monday, February 28, 2011

Whats Blooming This Week?

The Cumquats in the Espaliery were in full bloom ten days ago, filling the air with a delicious fragrance.

They always bloom around the time of the Lunar New Year and are a traditional symbol of the Chinese celebrations.

Try using them in a zesty Thai style salad.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Notes from the Library #11

The Library here at The Drip grows apace. And it's partly because of the internet.

The ability to track down books online from anywhere in the world and at the best price has had a huge impact on our collections.  Yes, I am suffering pangs of guilt because I love bookshops and the thought of them disappearing from our streets breaks my heart.  But buying online can actually assist bookstores.  For example, with one book I was looking for, an excellent introduction to Islamic gardens entitled Gardens of Delight, I found the best price in Australia from a rare and used bookstore right here in Mudgee. I raced into town and grabbed it.

In my next Notes from the Library I will jot down a few thoughts about how the internet seems to be changing the actual style and content of some new food books being published. I call it Gastro Porn. And I love it.

Thursday, February 24, 2011


Clive's rhubarb patch continues to produce copious amounts of stem.

We had always assumed all rhubarb was red, and were at first concerned that something had gone wrong when ours produced only green stems.  Not to worry,  it is  just a matter of different varieties.  Some rhubarbs are red, some are green.

Check the page on this site called Cooking with Clive for a calendar of what is being produced in the kitchen gardens each month.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

The Fernery in the Bathroom Courtyard

In the Fernery section of The Bathroom Courtyard we have tried yet another type of floor material.  Choice of flooring is first and foremost a matter of practicality in a country house; ease of maintainance, safety and longevity are all crucial factors to consider.  Then the "look" can be taken into consideration.

Granite cobblestones provide a good non-slip surface in The Fernery . This is important as the Fernery  needs  to be kept consistently moist and will soon have timed mist sprays installed .

By laying two colours of cobblestone in a checkerboard pattern we reflect d the timeless style of black and white  tiling that has been used throughout the entire house to this date.

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

The Bathroom Courtyard

Linking indoor areas  with outdoor areas is an important design consideration. We are still exploring possibilities for the floor material of the courtyard garden leading off the main bathroom.

The original idea was to continue the black and white tiles to the outdoor shower area, but there many other possibilities.

The black river pebbles that have been put there for now could work well in relationship to the tiled floor of the bathroom  and the underlying cement is already developing a nice mossy covering.  

Monday, February 21, 2011

What's Blooming this Week?

The Cut Flower Garden is once again providing flowers for the house after re-emerging from the overgrown mess it had become late in 2010.

These cheerful Alstromeria and Cosmos both last well indoors and have multiplied themselves with very little attention. 

Easy and simple is good.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Notes from the Library #10

The number of books by Andy Goldsworthy continues to grow. My goal is eventually to have the complete collection here in the library.

Goldsworthy's  site specific sculpture and land art employs a range of natural materials; stone, leaves,  grasses, bark, twigs, petals, rock, clay, feathers, snow, ice.  His works are often ephemeral, their transient existence recorded only by the photographs that he makes and which are in themselves fundamental to his aesthetic.

The books are listed on this site in the page called Photography at The Drip.   I hope that perhaps one day these books will inspire someone to explore these directions here at The Drip?

Thursday, February 17, 2011

More Grass

Yesterday's posting about the grasses that are such a feature of this season was way too long. 

So today I am going to say virtually nothing, just that I love these local grasses.

And that I think they work so beautifully in the gardens.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Native Grasses.

This summer the weather conditions here in Mudgee,  with lots of rain and then the intense heat,  have lead to the rapid growth of our native grasses.  This is proving to be an inspiration.  Wandering around the property and gathering knowledge about the grasses that flourish here  is adding new perspectives on  possible  design directions for the gardens.

Kangaroo Grass, Themeda triandra, photographed here on The Eastern Terrace,  is one of the most widespread and recognizable members of the grass family in Australia. It probably dominated all Australian grasslands before European settlement.  It is also one of the most aesthetically pleasing, with these wonderful rust coloured seed heads appearing in summer, whilst in spring the fresh tussocks provide a vibrant green in the landscape.  Yet it is not much seen in Australian landscape design. Let's hope that changes soon.

Although Themeda triandra itself is not endangered it does grow in Temperate Grassland communities, which have been declared as endangered.  These grasslands are under threat due to loss and fragmentation through inadequate land management practices. As Kangaroo Grass does not tolerate heavy or continuous grazing, it can be a useful indicator of the level of disturbance in an area. These endemic grasses, perfectly suited to our environment,  provide us with an opportunity to explore a truly local style of landscaping across this property.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Note on Scale

Pollarding the plane tree in the Main Courtyard was mentioned in this blog on January 30.   The strong "sculptural" impact of this is one of the main motivations.  But pollarding also has some purely practical benefits.   The height of the final tree is the first issue to consider.

The height to the top of the railing around the Wine Cellar is four metres and the final height of the pollarded tree probably shouldn't be more than twice that;  that is around eight  metres.  Left to its own devices a London Plane could reach thirty metres or six times the current height of the tree!.  This would overwhelm both the architecture and the Main Courtyard.

The first step in pollarding is to remove the central leader. It is then possible to start developing the characteristic candelabra form of a classic pollard.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Wet Feet

The ongoing consequences of the floods in late 2010 are still being felt.  We are now seeing that a number of trees are suffering because of "wet feet".

Several Zelkova trees planted along the driveway may die or at the very least suffer severe damage because the water table in this part of the property rises to the surface in a very wet season.

In another  wet season a decade ago we lost the majority of Cypress Pines (Callitris endlicheri ) that we had planted here as an avenue,  so it seems that there will be an ongoing problem in this area. Does this mean that we should rethink the concept of having an avenue of trees along the driveway?  Or is it just a matter of finding a tree that can cope with the range of conditions ?

Sunday, February 13, 2011

What's Blooming This Week?

Madame Isaac Pereire,  claimed to be the most powerfully fragrant of all roses,  is in full bloom this week in The Old Cottage Garden.

Heritage roses, antique roses, old garden roses;  whatever you choose to call them,  we have a number of them in the Cottage Garden, including some very early  varieties such as The Red Rose of Lancaster, The White Rose of York, Rosa Mundi and The Grand Duke of Tuscany.

These roses are tough, having passed the test of time and surviving the harshest conditions.  We like that. We don't have time to pander to the needs of prima donnas.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Size Does Matter

The peach trees in The Old Orchard had got too big to be manageable so this gave Clive the perfect excuse to play with his new toy.  The chainsaw got a workout and the trees are now sorted.

With the trees  being so big it was not possible to net them and without nets we lose every peach.  But netting needs to be quick and easy, so small is best.

In future we will keep new fruit trees smaller and  have also begun collecting dwarf fruit trees to be grown in  wine barrels in the revamped Old Cottage Garden.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Green Walls

Green walls are used in The House Gardens, dividing the area into rooms, providing structure to the garden and shelter from harsh winds.

All our green walls so far have been made using Star Jasmine, grown over a framework of steel mesh. This twining climber grows quickly enough to provide a good coverage in only 2-3 years but not so quickly that it becomes problematic  to keep trimmed.

One additional beneficial outcome is that these walls are now being used as nesting sites by many small  birds. 

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Netting the Fruit

Protecting stuff is one of the main activities in a country garden,; protecting seedlings from extreme heat, protecting  trees from animal attack, or as in this photograph, protecting fruit from birds.

The thing about some birds, especially parrots, is that  they don't necessarily want to eat the fruit.  They just enjoy nipping the fruit off the branch, watching it fall then repeating the process until there is no fruit left.  

So even if the fruit is a long way from ripe nets need to be put in place early.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

The Path to the Citrus Grove

The very rapid growth of native grasses in this season is allowing us to define many of the important paths around the property by regular mowing.

The path to The Citrus Grove was mown lost week.  This axial path really requires perfect symmetry. The line of the path could be tweaked so that the curve on the right  is identical to the curve on the left.  By next week the grass will have grown sufficiently to the path again and make that simple tweak.

The next question will be how best to mark the path so that we don't lose that  line. An "eyecatcher" placed at the top of this axial path would help strengthen the overall design.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Notes from The Library #9

The Library contains many reference books that have inspired parts of the garden designs here at The Drip.

This  design is part of a biographical entry for the early Melbourne 'garden architect'  Walter R Butler in The Oxford Companion to Australian Gardens.  The highlighted area of Butler's design for an early twentieth century garden in Toorak is pretty much exactly what we had in mind for The Espaliery and The Cut Flower Garden when we drew up the original plans back in 1993.

Many of the ideas in the gardens here at The Drip are deliberate references to historical styles of gardening. An appreciation of this historical context can add a lot to the enjoyment of exploring the property and The Library is a source of continual inspiration.

Monday, February 7, 2011

Covering Up

Last week,  with relentlessly high extremes of temperature,  might not seem the best time to be planting out young vegetable seedlings.  But we decided to give it a go after  putting in  some preparatory  groundwork to ensure they had a good chance of survival.

Rick created a simple shaded area over one of the beds in the Espaliery using four tall steel posts and a piece of 70% shadecloth.  Importantly, this was quick to put up and easy to take down, giving great flexibility. Clive set up a timed irrigation system, with the plants getting a drink in the cool of the morning and again in the evening. 

So far so good.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Getting off the Beaten Track

Beyond the cultivated areas of the property lies another world.  Here you will find sandstone cliffs carved into fantastic shapes by thirty million years of wind and water, schlerophyll forests, lush ferns, masses of rock orchids and abundant wildlife including several species of wallaby, wombats, goannas and the rich diversity of birds that has made the Munghorn Gap a mecca for birdwatchers.  Of the sixty acres comprising The Drip approximately forty are bushland. 
The Waterfall Walk , which was mentioned in yesterdays blog,  is a great way to begin exploring  our bushland here at The Drip.  It is a relatively easy walk, involving a bit of scrambling over rocks but nothing too serious.  Remember to take drinking water with you and it's best to wear long trousers.

We will mark the Walk with pegs at some time in the near future to make it even easier. 

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Making Tracks

Ensuring all-weather access to the important areas of a property is one of the first steps in achieving a workable landscape design.  The recent floods reminded us  just how important this can be.

The track across the hillside below The Citrus Grove, a simple  path  mown through native grassland, runs alongside the intermittent watercourse and  leads to The Bush Garden and to the campsite beside The Gully Garden.   Apart from a few hours at the height of the recent  floods this allowed access from the house to all areas on the far side of the watercourse. 

The track continues on beside the creek and leads eventually to The Waterfall.  To find out more about the The Waterfall Walk look in the page called  "Garden Design at The Drip."

Friday, February 4, 2011


Analyzing the photograph from yesterday's posting has resulted in a rethinking of how the bank on the left of the photo could be treated.  The original idea was to plant masses of lavender.  Very Provencal; you get the general idea no doubt.  But stopping the local native grasses swamping the lavenders would involve a massive amount of initial work and high ongoing mainenance. It is time to simplify things.

Native grasses, in particular the original Kangaroo Grass which is now returning here,  can  provide all the visual interest that is needed to make this area aesthetically satisfying. The beauty of these grasses lies in their seasonal changes of colour and texture, the movement  they add  to the gardens when the wind and the light catches them and  also the fact that they provide a good food source for the many seed-eating  birds native to this valley.

By removing the existing clumps of lavender that we planted as a trial a few years ago we can simplify the whole area and still achieve high visual impact, allowing the sculptural form of the bank itself to dominate.  The addition of a second line of box hedging above the grassy bank would complete this design; this can be done using our home grown buxus cuttings in the autumn.  Overall,  this simplification will lead to an inexpensive and very low maintenance design with high visual impact.  This approach will be important if we are to achieve our  landscaping ambitions for The Drip.


Thursday, February 3, 2011


Defining the edges of cultivated garden areas is a fundamental component of garden design.   Edges can be hard, involving the construction of  stuff such as fences and walls; or they can be soft,  using  a wide range of plant materials as hedges or borders.    Here at The Drip we use a lot of Box Hedging, buxus,  to achieve clear definition.

Buxus has certain advantages over other types of hedging.  Firstly, it is suited to the Australian climate, dealing well with extreme heat. Secondly, grazing animals will not eat it ... cattle, sheep,  rabbits, kangaroos, even goats,  won't damage it.  Thirdly, it is slow growing, meaning it can be kept manageable fairly easily; in fact the maintenance of our Box Hedges is much less work than mowing the grassed areas.

A final factor in our choice of hedging is that buxus is very easy and relatively inexpensive  to propagate.  Check out the page on this website called "Propagating Plants at The Drip"  to see more information on this.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Where the Gardens meet the Bush

The late afternoon light picks out the sculpted landforms of The Hill Garden very clearly.  It is easy now to forget that The Hill Garden and the Courtyard are actually man made earthworks,  having been created since we did the first excavation for the Wine Cellar in May 1996.  It all seems to fit so naturally into the landscape that our landscaping interventions now go unnoticed.  That's a good thing.

The Hill Garden is intended to create a transition zone between the main gardens around the house and the untouched native bushland beyond.  In practical terms it serves as a firebreak and in aesthetic terms the line where "cultivation" ends and the "wilderness" begins is blurred by this garden. Form follows function.

This garden was inspired by the concepts of Wolfgang van Oehme and James van Sweden in their "new American Gardens" of the late twentieth century and the influential 1990 book "Bold Romantic Gardens" is here in our library. Following their inspiration we use grasses as a major visual component of The Hill GardenTake a look in the slideshow for photographs of grasses here at The Drip taken by Rick Martin.

Sheltering the Soil

Bare soil is dying soil. The harsh Australian sun beating down on unprotected soil destroys the microscopic lifeforms, including nitrogen-fixing bacteria,  which are the basis of soil vitality. The onset of climate change and  increasingly frequent extreme temperature events will make the situation worse in the future. We need an adaptive strategy.

Our strategy here is simple. We use inorganic mulches, such as gravel , in "Dry Zone " gardens and in the "Wet Zone" gardens we use organic mulches; for example, the mix of  straw from the chook yard mixed with  rice husks shelters the soil and provides nutrition to the vegetable beds in The Espaliery.   The soil under these mulches remains cool and vibrant, filled with worms even on the hottest of days.

We must also remember that garden design is not just just about functionality , it is also about creating a thing of beauty.  So here at The Drip we are now exploring the design potential  of mulches. The possibility of creating  strong visual contrast with different mulches,  organic and inorganic, is one worthwhile avenue to explore.  Design features can arise out the practical necessities of creating a garden which responds to the challenges posed by climate change.