Friday, April 29, 2011

Notes from the Library #18

This rough plan from February 2003 shows the basic elements of the Main Courtyard, between the house and the underground wine cellar.  It is not to scale and it would be ideal to have more professionally rendered plans as we move ahead.

In the centre of The Main Courtyard is a circular pond, surrounded by an octagonal grassy area, raised above the white crushed limestone surface of the courtyard. This octagon and circular pond, the unifying feature of the entire design, was suggested by a well-known courtyard garden in Lucca, built by the Controni Pfanner family in the nineteenth century.  The Lucca courtyard is further softened by citrus in terracotta tubs and tightly clipped greenery.

The north-western side of the courtyard is formed by "The Moat" with access to The Hill Garden and The Top Terrace via a bridge. The north-eastern side is formed by "The Outdoor Kitchen", with access to The Hill Garden and The Wisteria Walk through a Cook House featuring The Mudgee Bush Oven.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Roughing Things In

As we move towards resolving the final designs for The Main Courtyard, an old landscaping technique is proving useful. We are roughly sketching in the "bones" of the design with something that, whilst not the finished thing, is close enough to give an idea of how this will eventually work.  It is quick, it is inexpensive and it can save a fortune by avoiding costly stuff-ups later.

Capability Brown used rods, blocks, sticks, stones and a small army of assistants to work out his grand designs, creating a style which defined the eighteenth century landscape garden and continues to influence designers to this day. That was in a galaxy far, far away and long, long ago but the principle of "roughing it in" remains useful.

Here we have set up an approximation of the walls for the future living room, which adjoins The Main Courtyard.  These low Besser block "walls", thrown together very simply in under an hour, show how the future doors from the living area will frame the "pond", currently marked by a pile of garden clippings,  that will one day sit at the axial centre of The Main Courtyard.  This framing creates a well resolved vista across to the plane tree which will be pollarded into the classic candelabra formThe whole thing will need tweaking of course, but in essence, it is looking workable.  Or, as Mr Brown would have said,   "It has capability".     

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

In the Centre of The Main Courtyard.

When we excavated this "crater" eight years ago it seemed like such a good idea at the time.  Now it's a mess. Our original concept for the centrepiece of The Main Courtyard was an underground water tank which would store rainwater for use in the house. On top of the tank we envisaged a large octagonal pond.  Oh yes, and a fountain too.  But combining the functionality of a safe and reliable water supply with the beauty of a fountain seems way too complex.  Simple is best.

So the water tank is going elsewhere and in this area we will focus on beauty alone,  with maybe an esoteric dash of metaphysical symbolism thrown in to spice things up.  But the excavation for the planned tank is still there, slap bang in the middle of the courtyard.  It has been there since 2004 when this photo was taken from the top of the wine cellar.  Now it is ugly, it is unsafe and it is currently filling up with crap,  which recently even included the rotting carcass of a wallaby that fell in there and died. The Photo below shows the current state of play.

So what is the best way to fix up this damn hole?  We are playing around with a few options. Fill it in? Use the hole for a plunge pool? Create a pond and fountain as originally planned? A garden bed with a large birdbath? Even perhaps an aviary incorporating a fountain and a pond?  The plunge pool idea sounds good.  Oh, and a fountain too?

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

This Week's Blog will Not be Pretty

A great garden is a hell of a lot of work and it takes a hell of a lot of time to achieve a worthy finished result. Its not like an episode of "Backyard Blitz" or any of those other crappy television home makeover shows that pollute the airwaves and it doesn't happen magically in just a few days with a few hot hunks in sexy tight shorts making garden magic look easy. In the process of getting to the point of being "finished" it can be messy and it can be ugly and it takes a long time.   This week the blog will concentrate on an area that is still messy and is still ugly and that still needs a lot of work - The Main Courtyard  between The Big House and The Wine Cellar.

The first step in moving towards a garden that is "finished" is the formulation of a clear plan, setting a direction that could, over time, realistically  achieve the desired outcomes - functionality, beauty and sustainabilty.   Of course a garden is never actually "finished". Gardening is about "the journey not the destination" and all that D&M kind of stuff; but that's another whole debate, so for the purposes of this blog a simple sketch setting out a few simple ideas for the future of our Main Courtyard will have to do.   

Creative input into this design process would be really great so if anyone has ideas on turning this important part of The Drip into the truly wonderful thing that it can become,  then chuck a COMMENT on the blog and help us create something special.  A thought from current favourite guru, the Mexican architect Luis Barragan, might serve to poke us along.  "Beauty is the oracle that speaks to everyone."

Monday, April 25, 2011

What's Blooming This Week?

Grevilleas are still budding up at this time of year, having been in full flower for the last few months

The first frosts are due soon and the grevilleas will probably slow down then.  This variety "Peaches and Cream" has proven to be very able to deal with our heavy frosts.

Grevilleas are being used to mask  a fence line that is designed to make The Main Courtyard secure from invasion by hungry beasts.  Two "wings" of Grevillea flank each side of the Wine Cellar, forming this important barrier, between The Main Courtyard and The Hill Garden.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Irish Yews in the Horse Paddock

This Irish Yew, Taxus baccata Fastigiata,  was the first to be planted in The Horse Paddock.

The yew is a universal symbol of regeneration, transformation and rebirth. Today is Good Friday, the commencement of the Easter period; branches of the yew tree have traditionally been used in the celebration of Easter and in the ancient festivals upon which the Easter rituals were based. This is a tree with a very long story indeed.

We are propagating more Irish Yews from cuttings.  The plan is that that in time they will be a major feature of this arboretum, marking the points of the compass around the central, circular lawn.  For more about this,  read the section entitled A Special Project on the page Propagating Plants at The Drip.

Autumn Colour in The Horse Paddock

The American Section in The Horse Paddock
Acer saccharinum in the American section
The Chinese section of The Horse Paddock
Quercus rubra showing orange colours this year

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

The Oak in the Centre of The Horse Paddock

The oak tree in the centre of The Horse Paddock was planted by Jenny Thompson and Peter Barley in 1994. Jenny and Peter have been regular visitors over the years, providing valued moral support as we set about the sometimes daunting task of making The Drip what it is today.

The display of autumn colour in The Horse Paddock begins in April. When this photograph was taken in March, the arboretum of deciduous trees and conifers was still predominantly midsummer green.

Possums have been a big problem in recent years,  completely stripping many trees of their leaves.  This has lead to the death of some trees on the property. It seems that Brush Tail Possums find all the species of oaks and most fruit and nut trees irresistible. The tin sleeve around the trunk of this oak, although ugly, has been very effective in stopping the possums from getting into this tree and potentially destroying it. We are now protecting our trees with a less obtrusive sleeve made from clear acrylic, which is an expensive and time consuming process but necessary if we wish to grow certain introduced species here.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A Walk through The Horse Paddock

The Horse Paddock is a small arboretum, arranged around a central, circular lawn. It links the two main dwellings on the property, providing a pleasant stroll between The Big House and The Caretaker's Cottage in The Nuttery.

The trees planted around the circular lawn are all from the northern hemisphere and comprise deciduous species selected for the beauty of their autumn colours plus conifers selected for their beauty of shape and form. Eventually the lawn and the main paths will be edged with varieties of Buxus and Taxus baccata, clearly defining the structure of this garden.  Neither of these hedging plants are attractive to grazing animals such as sheep and kangaroos making them ideal for a garden such as this.

The collection of trees in The Horse Paddock is divided into geographical regions.  Walking through these plantings is a journey from China to Japan then though North America across to Northern Europe, the Mediterranean and North Africa concluding in the Middle East before crossing the Himalayas and returning to China.  Thankfully it is quite a short walk.  A full list of trees in The Horse Paddock is on the page Tree Plantings at The Drip

Monday, April 18, 2011

What's Blooming This Week?

The brilliance of the autumn leaves in The Horse Paddock rival any flower in our gardens at this time of year.

The Horse Paddock is a two acre arboretum containing a collection of trees from the Northern hemisphere selected primarily for autumn leaf colour.  

The Horse Paddock is dedicated to Theophrastus, author of the Enquiry into Plants and regarded as the father of scientific Botany.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Notes From the Library #17

"Hill End is a place to relax, garden, cook, to read a few books, think and create"  This is a quote from Peter Adams' new book  "ORE WHAT - The People of Hill End".  The quote resonates with life here at The Drip. 

Hill End has become virtually a "sacred site" of Australian art.  Russel Drysdale, Leonard French, John Olsen, Brett Whiteley, Margaret Olley; Jeffrey Smart; the roll call of artists who have been associated with the historic gold mining township is remarkable and is still growing. A new generation of artists including potter Lino Alvarez, whose work was mentioned in yesterday's blog, continue the tradition in the present day.

Adams' book, celebrating Hill End and its people is a wonderful addition to our library., where we also have the diaries of Leonard French and an increasingly comprehensive collection of publications relating to the artists of Hill End. The book can be ordered directly from Peter Adams  Order the Book

Lino Alvarez Pots Coming to The Drip Soon

We are planning on commissioning two large terracotta pots from renowned potter Lino Alvarez, whose work is represented in many significant private and public collections including the Australian National Gallery.

Lino, originally from Mexico, now lives and works in nearby Hill End

Lino and partner Kim Deacon visited us heresome time ago when we took the photo below Kim and Lino are marking the spot where the pots will eventually being placed, flanking the doorway into the old section of the house from The Outdoor Kitchen.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Mexican Colour

Rick Martin took this photograph of an enormous dahlia which seems to be the result of natural cross-pollination occurring between the many varieties of this colourful Mexican that we grow in The Cut Flower Garden.

It appeared as a seedling, flourished and has now produced many tubers, which will naturally be identical to the parent plant. So now we have our very own variety, "The Drip Dahlia", with a very distinctive colour.

The orange tones of this giant are quite wonderful and if we can recreate that colour in paint or limewash it could be a valuable addition to the "Mexican" palette we are developing for the area in front of the housenear the red Luis Barragan-inspired entrance portico.  These are the colours of the sun.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

A Little Bit of Barragan in Mudgee

The next area that needs some serious sorting out is on the north-east of the old section of the house. We suspect that one day this area will be given a roof and developed into the kitchen and living room but right now it makes a wonderful Outdoor Kitchen adjoining The Main CourtyardIt is also very useful for parties and makes a great dance floor for those who still do that kind of thing.

A quick colouring-in job, inspired somewhat by the works of the great mid-twentieth century Mexican architect Luis Barragan will help transform what is now a rather messy unfinished space into something much more pleasing.

The first step in the planned transformation is to slap some lime wash onto the rough Hebel block walls and the "front door" is now painted with our own version of ox-blood red.  This intense colour was custom mixed for us by Porters Paints in Surry Hills.  For the record the formula is FBRED-5Y; E-1Y2; FBMAG-1Y42; KX-42.

Monday, April 11, 2011

What's Blooming This Week?

Simply red.  An incredible, deep, intense ox-blood red.

These vibrant dahlias hail originally from Mexico.  Mexico has a contemporary architectural and artistic style  that is a celebration of intense colour and monumental mass contrasting with an exhilarating sense of space and the dramatic interplay of light and shade.  Think of  Frida Kahlo, Luis Barragan and Ricardo Legoretta.

This week in the blog we will explore the Mexican influence that is increasingly colouring our approach to design at The Drip.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Notes from The Library #16

The pin board in The Library is proving to be an increasingly useful planning tool.

A rough plan of The Espaliary on a white board allows us to keep track of what vegetables have been planted in each of the sixteen small quadrants, whilst packs of seeds pinned on the board remind us of what needs to be planted next.

The next step is to create a system for our seed bank so that we can preserve the varieties that work best in our conditions here at The Drip and also avoid endlessly needing to purchase expensive new stock.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Axial Path to the Citrus Grove

This path forms another axis, linking the House Gardens with the Citrus Grove.  At  the head of this axis is a wonderful site for a small structure; the site is in fact so good that at one stage we had actually considered building the new house up there instead of where it currently stands. A well designed "Tiny House" would be a delightful and very useful embellishment here, ideally in a style that provides a strong visual link with the existing Big House.

This axis runs from the Big House along the Fig Walk that separates The Espaliery from The Cut Flower Garden, intersecting with the "Long Axis" and then crossing the intermittent watercourse, where Rick Martin is mowing the path in this photograph.  The axial path then heads up the hill to the suggested site for the Tiny House in the Citrus Grove, marked in this photo by the  graphic at the head of the axis.

On the Mid Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, the rays of the rising sun align directly along this axis. Two plinths, marked by the two yellow circles in this photograph,  will soon be erected to mark this significant event in the solar calendar and define the path more clearly.  The proposed Tiny House would benefit from this solar axial alignment.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Minor Axis in The Espaliery

A shady garden seat under the 130 year old camellia tree in The Cottage Garden is positioned to provide a view down the minor axis into The Espaliery.

The Minor Axis passes under a Beurre Bosc pear arch, intersects with the Long Axis at ninety degrees and terminates in an espaliered Nashi Pear.   On the Midwinter Solstice the sun rises at the head of the Minor Axis and sets at the end of the Long Axis.
A sundial will eventually mark the intersection of the Minor Axis with the Long Axis, shown in this image by the yellow disc.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Long Axis through the Espaliery

This week's blogging will provide more information on the Axial lines that underpin the entire design concept of the House Gardens. These Axes were all designed to reflect the annual movement of the sun, marking the passage of the solar year,  as described in the section referring to The House Gardens on the page  Garden Design at The Drip

The gate that leads from the turning circle in The Forecourt is the beginning of the Long Axis that was the subject of last week's blogging. On the Midwinter Solstice, the sun sets at the end of the Long Axis. Conversely on the Midsummer Solstice the sun rises above the head of this axis.

Open the gate, and you enter The Espaliery.  In this photograph you can see the solar panels that harness the power of the sun and generate all our electricity; on the Autumn Equinox ten days ago,  Clive noted in his journal that our solar power system generated 132 amp hours. In the centre of this axis a Sundial is intended to mark the intersection of the Long Axis with the Minor Axis that runs from The Old Cottage Garden into The Espaliery.

Monday, April 4, 2011

What's Blooming This Week?

White Cosmos have begun self-seeding through The Old Cottage Garden and are popping up in delightfully unexpected places.

These flowers were one of Monet's favourites in the gardens of Giverny, adding what he described as "chatoyer" or "shimmer"Monet sprinkled the seed of white Cosmos through all the plantings that he undertook over so many years of experimentation in his garden, which was for him a laboratory in which to research the effects of colour and light.  

We could do worse than to follow Monet's our garden here at The Drip.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Notes From the Library #15

These rather rough and ready garden design sketches were made in late December 1993, around the time of the Summer Solstice, about eighteen months after we purchased The Drip.  The designs arose in part from careful observations of the Solar Cycle over a full year.   Peter Marshall, our Head Gardener and himself the creator of immaculately detailed landscape design work, says that these sketches remind him of the diaries of Frida Kahlo.   He is such a diplomat.

The Main Axes of all the gardens surrounding the house were defined in these sketches, though of course the house too was just an idea at that time. There was nothing much here when we started, other than, as real estate people say, "potential".  Almost twenty years later it is gratifying to see that these rough concept sketches are taking physical form as actual gardens.  The dream is alive.

A recent and quite useful  version of this original sketch is now posted on the page "Garden Design at The Drip"