Thursday, March 31, 2011

When Things Go Horribly Wrong ....

There is no problem in a garden that can't be fixed.  And here we have a classic example of how things can go horribly wrong and how we can fix anything we need to.  The House Gardens  are designed around the Axial Symmetries that have been the  subject of this blog for the last two weeks.  But when things aren't lined up properly in relation to these Axes it  can all look quite awful; unresolved, out of balance and inharmonious.  This is not a good thing.

Check out the position of the four persimmon trees in this photograph.  They are not symmetrically placed within the design and from this quite important viewing position in The Water Walk it looks really, really wrong. The mistake happened because we planted the trees in 1996, following the original design sketches from back in 1993,  but we hadn't actually built anything at that stage.  There was no house,  no garden wall, nothing.  So things ended up going a bit off the axis. Bugger!

Therefore this winter, fifteen years after they were first planted,  Peter will dig them up whilst fully dormant and move them into the right positions.  And then we will have four very advanced and therefore very expensive persimmon trees all in the right position.  Problem solved.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Long Axis pointing to "The Drip".

The longest, and perhaps most meaningful, axis in the gardens runs from the turning circle of The Forecourt through the gate into The Espaliery and The Cut Flower Garden and then,  as seen in this photograph,  through The West Wing Garden and up the steps onto The Western Terrace.

The Long Axis terminates in an obelisk which marks the beginning of the path leading to "The Drip" at the head of the valley.  On the winter solstice, which is the shortest day of the year and therefore the turning point of the solar cycle, the sun sets behind this obelisk.  On this day the shadow cast by the obelisk from the last rays of the setting midwinter sun falls directly along the straight line of The Long Axis. The solar cycle begins anew at that moment.

This axis points directly toward the feature that is the very heart and soul of this place, the spring known as "The Drip";  a perpetual source of water which has never failed and after which the property itself and the lane on which it sits was named by the first European settlers. Such sites in ancient cultures were regarded as sacred and those who dwelt on these sacred sites accepted the responsibility for their custodianship.  We have accepted that custodial responsibility in this generation.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

The Minor Axis

The Major Axis bisecting the Main Courtyard was the subject of last week's blogging.  Today is about the Minor Axis that runs through the Water Walk, linking the Main Courtyard with the West Wing Bedroom Garden.

This minor axis runs northeast-southwest, meaning that on Midwinter Day, June 21, the rays of the rising sun  fall directly along this  axis.

The Minor Axis intersects with the Major  Axis, at an angle of forty five degrees,  in the centre of the Courtyard where a pond will eventually be built. The actual point of intersection is indicated in this photograph by the yellow circle and could be effectively highlighted by a fountain or sculpture,  ideally relating to the theme of the Sun... perhaps a  golden orb surrounded by mists and jets of water?

Monday, March 28, 2011

What's Blooming This Week?

The roses in the Cut Flower Garden are very good this year.

What more can I say?

They are just very good.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Notes from the Library #14

The Library contains much more than books.  An archive relating to the building of the house and the gardens is also kept here.   These two images from the archive show phases in the creation of  the Main Courtyard and the axis that runs through it.  

The first image from 1998 shows the architect's rough concept sketch for the underground Wine Cellar and the "Tempietto" at the head of the axis. The overall concept was inspired by a visit to Potsdam in 1998, where, like Kaiser Friedrich William IV and his architect Schinkel  we experienced an acute "Italiensehnsucht."  Thirteen years later it now looks a bit too grand and something much lighter might be better. 

The second image, from early 2005,  shows the early stages of construction.  Earthworks for The Hill Gardens and The Main Courtyard had just been completed by then  and the white markers showed where the main Solar Axis would be aligned from the High Pergola at the centre of the house to the Wine Cellar and the Hill Gardens.  It is interesting to compare this with the recent photo posted here on Tuesday 23 March.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Head of the Main Solar Axis

The north-south axis running from the centre of the house, across the Main Courtyard and through the centre of the underground Wine Cellar,  terminates in a terrace designed to be the site of a Tempietto or "small temple".

Above the site of the Tempietto , aligned  on the axis,  is a Norway Spruce, planted  on Christmas Day 2005.   The Norway Spruce is the traditional Christmas Tree and is the tree used in the ancient northern European celebrations of the Winter Solstice.  On December 21 at midday  the shadow of this tree runs precisely along the main axis, reaching its most southerly extension.

The next step is the planting of Buxus hedging  to define the edge of the Terrace and then construction of a table and seating on the Terrace itself

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The Main Solar Axis Looking South

If you stand on top of the Wine Cellar and look back towards the fireplace in the High Pergola at the centre of the House, you are looking directly along the main axis of the design. From here the axis points directly to the South Celestial Pole.

A small raised terrace at the head of the axis provides a view overlooking the house and down the Cooyal valley.  Each  night, the Southern Cross rises above the horizon to the left of the house, rotating around this polar axis and setting on the right.

Planks of timber cut from an ancient  tree that fell here on the property have been left to age and are now ready to be used to construct a bench and table on this terrace.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Main Solar Axis at The Drip

This week's blogging  will focus on a major project that we have been working toward for fifteen years ... highlighting the north/south solar axis which was the starting point for the design of the house and the gardens nearby. 

The excavations and earthworks that created the space now known as The Main Courtyard began in March of 1996.  Our principal design concept was the creation of a central axis that would run from the High Pergola at centre of the house , across the Main Courtyard and though the centre of the underground Wine Cellar. This main axis runs north-south giving the house a  strong solar orientation, governing where areas of sun and shade fall throughout the year. The overall design of The Main Courtyard, the House and the Hill Garden  can then achieve visual symmetry and balance by consistently relating to this main solar axis. 

To fully understand and appreciate the concept underlying the design of the gardens and the house here at The Drip it is necessary to first understand that the entire House Garden area and the outlying garden areas were designed around a series of Axial lines that correspond to the movement of the sun, charting a full solar year, as described in the page Garden Design at The Drip.

Monday, March 21, 2011

What's Blooming This Week

The flowers of this small dahlia are quite nice. But the real strength of this little gem lies in the stunning black foliage.

There are four different varieties of these dark beauties in the Old Cottage Garden; all in the orange/yellow/red spectrum that is so well suited to an autumnal palette in this climate.

Dividing the clumps of tubers and creating big drifts of them is on the agenda once they die back in early winter.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Notes From the Library #13

The Library features many very useful food books.

Clive uses our quinces to make quince paste at this time of year and by checking through our collection of food books in the Library he confirmed that the variety of quince that we planted , the Smyrna Quince, is absolutely the best for this delicious Maggie Beer inspired treat.

Yum.  Now all we need is some local Mudgee cheese to accompany the paste.  High Valley Cheese on the Cassilis Road  will be the place to go for that.

Thursday, March 17, 2011


The "chook tractor" in The Old Orchard is now home to the remaining poultry.

Out of the seventeen chooks that were in the big pen adjacent to the Water Garden, only four survived the Quoll attack.   The Munghorn Gap is a wonderful wilderness area but it is home to some very large, very strong and very determined predators who are very good at what they do.

We clearly need to upgrade our protection down there before considering whether we should restock.  In the meantime it is great fun having a few chooks closer to the house.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Quoll Attacks

Well, well, well.  Look who is in the chook house.  Last night Rick Martin found that a Spotted Quoll has broken in and done what Spotted Quolls do ... eaten the chooks.

The Spotted Quoll is an endangered species.  We love our chooks.  The Quoll is now happily living in the chook pen, the surviving chooks are in a flap.

This is a dilemma.  What do we do now?

Monday, March 14, 2011

What's Blooming This Week

These succulents have suddenly burst into vibrant bloom.  The glow and seem almost iridescent.

Two weeks ago when I blogged about propagating them there was no sign of even a bud.

This makes me more determined than ever to create gazillions of these tough little beauties.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Notes from the Library #12

"The Yews of Crom", a chapter in Thomas Pakenham's  1996 book which is in the Library here, concerns some remarkable Irish Yew trees that have direct family connections.

Crom Castle, on the banks of Lough Erne in Ireland, where these ancient trees are to be found, is the  ancestral family home of the Creightons. In the gardens here in Mudgee we have planted a number of yew trees  that  are directly descended from cuttings originally taken at Crom.  

The Library contains more than just books. Family documents, including some signed by George 111, a Creighton family seal, and a portrait of Abraham Creighton,  all originally from Crom,  are also now kept here in the Library at The Drip

Thursday, March 10, 2011

It's Fig Time

It's fig season again, shaping up to be a bumper season and  Rah Poolman's three year old son, Jade Cook, has been here with his Mum sampling the goodies this week.

We have half a dozen varieties of fig in The Espaliery. Some varieties are best suited to eating fresh, some are ideal for drying, others are for making fig jam.

Go to  the PAGE on this site called "Edible Gardening at The Drip" for a full list list of all the fig varieties in the various gardens and orchards here at The Drip, Mudgee.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011


After massive growth during summer and a big tidy up in recent weeks  we now have huge piles of material ready to be composted.

Rather than move everything out of the gardens to the composting bins we decided to make some new areas  in the gardens themselves.  This has the advantage of avoiding all that double-handling and in the case of the Cottage Garden avoiding any problems with seeds from plants that have self seeded ending up in other areas where we dont want them.

In order to speed the composting process up we are keeping the piles moist with sprinklers and will be turning them over each week to give good aeration.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Still Tidying Up

Peter Marshall spent yet another day clipping and chopping as we try to get on top of things again.  Here he is removing plants that had totally outgrown their place in the Cottage Garden.  The plumbago and shrubby honeysuckles had grown a metre above the stone wall.

But the issue we will now face here is that the stone wall is not high enough to stop wallabies jumping into the garden.

So for now we will need to rely on the rather ugly mesh to keep them out until such time as we can do something more attractive.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Whats Blooming This Week?

We have over twenty different varieties of Salvia or Sages in the Cottage Garden and many are in full bloom right now. 

They are tough, easy to propagate and having survived every conceivable climatic condition now form the backbone of our perennial plantings

The  leaves of Common Sage and  Pineapple Sage  are a popular flavouring ingedient in many dishes , but we should remember that all the Sages have edible flowers, the red and blue ones being particularly rich in anthocyanins , an important anti-oxidant. 

Friday, March 4, 2011

Making Babies.

It's not only in the propagating areas of The Shadehouse that plants are multiplying.  This photo of the path in the Espaliery shows that Mother Nature has her own views on how to keep the life force rocking along.

The choice of pine mulch for the paths in here seemed ideal at the time.  It certainly provides the ideal seed bed for germination, although that isn't really what we planned for the paths.  This vigorous seedling crop of last winter's leafy greens, including Kale, Chard and Mustard Greens has sprung into existence in the last three weeks.  It is  usually worth leaving a few plants of each crop to set seed, either for collection and replanting or simply  for random regeneration like this example.  

This is all good and we can move these babies to wherever we want them.  

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Succulent Green Walls

This Succulent Vertical Garden was created by  Inside/Out Design in Los Angeles and inspired by the innovative garden designs  of Flora Grubb.  I love this kind of thing.

If this isn't inspiration for getting a move on with propagating heaps of our succulents what is?

A  Green Wall in this style somewhere at The Drip is definitely on the cards.  But where?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Succulent Propagation Area

We now have quite a good collection of succulents ready  for propagation.

A section of The Shadehouse is being used as a home for this collection but once we start seriously multiplying these it wont be long before we run out space and need to create more benches elsewhere. Fortunately the succulents won't need all the infrastructure such as watering systems, shade and shelter that we needed to set up for propagating more demanding plants such as the Box hedging, grasses and seedlings of local eucalyptus, wattles etc.

I am intrigued by the possibility of using succulents in new "Green Walls".  Checkout my  blog posting on February 11 for more on Green Walls here at The Drip.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011


Whats not to love about these babies?

Succulents are tough and pretty and they multiply at a rapid rate.  These Echeveria have completely filled the empty spaces surrounding larger potted plants and now act as an effective  weed suppressor cutting down on weeding and therefore saving us valuable time.

We are finding we use more of these all in the time in our design work here.