Friday, July 29, 2011

Notes from the Library #22

This photograph of The Old Cottage Garden was taken by Rick Martin in April 2010.  It shows the basic layout of the garden as it has been since around 1880 with a straight path edged by pieces of white quartz gathered from the goldfields and creeks of this area.  On the right can be seen the camellia tree planted in this garden in 1880 by descendants of James Blackman, one of the first Europeans to enter the Mudgee valley.

Although the old design is of historical interest, and is an example of a local style of garden developed during the Gulgong gold rush, we have felt for some time that we did not want to be prisoner to the past and that it was time to rethink the garden.  While we intend to maintain strong references to the original style, we feel the need to develop a design more in keeping with the contemporary architecture of the new house that we have built here and reflecting a twenty-first century rural lifestyle and outlook.

It is time to move on. This winter we have begun work on redesigning the garden, so this photo will now become a useful and very beautiful archival record of the way things once were.  For more on The Old Cottage Garden click here

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Pickling our Olives

This nasty looking mould formed on the surface of the brine in our olive-picklinng vats. It looks horrid but is not a problem.

The pickling of this years olive harvest is coming along nicely.  The black olives have been sitting in the vats of brine for the last months doing what they do.   We removed the mould and the pickling process continues.

Next week our friends Kath and Ian from Top Shed Olives down the end of The Drip Lane will come  and make sure everything is going according to plan.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Pruning the Grape Vines in the Courtyard

Midwinter is a particularly busy time in these gardens and pruning is one of our highest priority tasks.

Clive has been clambering up on the scaffold to prune the ornamental grape vines on the High Pergola.  These two vines,  which are now six years old,  have finally reached across the entire pergola structure. The vine on the right grows on the steel bars, the vine on the left grows on the intermediate wires.  They are pruned back using the same spur-pruning technique as in a fruiting vineyard and by Christmas, when the real summer heat kicks in,  will produce a dense canopy.

This pergola is pruned every year and takes around four hours, a small investment of time for months of cooling shade  during the heat of summer. For more on the Main Courtyard click here

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Recycling Old Wine Barrels

David Hardy helped us out by dragging two old barrels out of our underground Wine Cellar and cutting them in half.

He had more than adequate supervision from Clive, Charmaine Tuck-Lee and Wendy the Garden Goddess.  Wendy and Charmaine were here exploring the gardens and beginning their planning for a proposed garden visit day as a fundraising event for CanAssist. 

The half barrels will soon be planted with dwarf fruit trees and herbs in readiness for summer, adding another component into The Main Courtyard.  For more on The Main Courtyard click here

Monday, July 25, 2011

What's Blooming This Week

More daffodils and jonquils emerge each week in The Old Orchard.

These Paper White jonquils commenced blooming last week but this week have reached their peak.  Once flowering is over we will divide these clumps and replant them immediately in empty areas of the orchard.  While most authorities recommend dividing clumps after the leaves have died down, it is not necessary to wait for this and by replanting during the growing season we know exactly where the blank spaces are.

And what will next week bring in?  To see more on The Old Orchard click here.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Notes from the Library #21

Andy Goldsworthy is regarded as one of the greatest sculptors of his generation and the ever-expanding Goldsworthy section in our library is a never-ending source of delight and inspiration.

In 2003 Goldsworthy installed "Treeline", a row of close planted aspens that will in time form a cage like screen alongside a public road that leads through a private property.  

This work has now become the inspiration for our new hazelnut hedge in The Nuttery which will form a screen along The Drip Lane.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

An Edible Hedgerow in The Nuttery

The trenching for the new hedge of hazelnuts was done today.  Peter Marshall has also limed the trench and given it a good sprinkle of organic fertilizer.

Next week the seventy five hazelnut trees that are to form this important new feature will arrive from Australian Gourmet Hazelnuts a local Mudgee company.  We have already planted elderberries, damsons, medlars and crabapples behind the line of the hazelnuts making this hedgerow a very productive one indeed.

The dense screen of this edible hedgerow will add to the privacy of The Caretaker's Cottage.  For more on The Caretakers Garden click here

Monday, July 18, 2011

What's Blooming This Week?

The first of the many jonquils and daffodils in The Old Orchard are coming into flower.

The yellow and orange Soleil d'Or,  creamy  Earlicheer and Paper White are always the first to bloom, kicking off a display that will now continue until October as each of the many varieties we have in The Old Orchard reaches its peak.  

We divide the clumps annually, thereby rapidly increasing our stock and we estimate there are now well over 5000  bulbs here. Each year the display becomes more spectacular.  To see more about The Old Orchard click here.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Notes from the Library # 20

This photograph from "Palazzo of Tuscany" gives a different view of the pond in Lucca that Richard Tulloch sent us a photo of earlier this week. A decade ago it was this image of the pond at Palazzo Pfanner that planted the seed of the idea that eventually became the design for The Octagon in our courtyard here at "The Drip".

It clearly shows the raised octagonal surround of the pond, though Richard's photo gives a better idea of the all-important axis that runs from the underground cellar through the pool to the house.

The lemon trees in terracotta pots and the crushed white limestone in our courtyard also owe their origin to this well-known garden which was used as the location for the 1996 film  "Portrait of a Lady" with Nicole Kidman. We might give the sculptures by Michelangelo a miss though.  For more on The Main Courtyard at "The Drip" click here.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Rethinking "The Water Walk"

It is time to deal with The Water Walk.  A while back we realized something had gone horribly wrong here.  The Water Walk, linking the Main Courtyard and The West Wing Garden, was intended to be part of a tour de force of classic axial landscape design. Take a look at the photograph below, taken last summer, and you will see the problem.
Check out the position of the four persimmon trees. They are not symmetrically aligned within the design. It all looks unresolved and really, really wrong. We have been talking about digging up the persimmon trees and moving them.  Midwinter is the right time to do this but it is a horrid, backbreaking  job and would set the trees back years.  Fortunately there might be another solution. Our Head Gardener's partner, local chef Jay Fraser, figured out that instead of moving the trees we needed to realign the axis. How?  By relocating one of the two urns. These urns now sit symmetrically on each side of a new axial line which runs straight between the persimmon trees. The photo at the top of this page shows this realignment.  The urn on the left has been shifted, so the urns are closer than before and the axis has now moved to the right.

The fact that one of the raised troughs which will form The Water Walk will now be wider than the other, as shown by the lines of bricks, doesn't seem to matter one jot.  So now it looks like this problem can be solved more easily than we had feared; like they say, "There is more than one way to skin a cat".  To see more on The Water Walk click here

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Inspiration from the Past.

About ten years ago, this pond in a large courtyard in Lucca, Tuscany, became the initial inspiration for The Octagon in The Main Courtyard - a  circular pond with a fountain at the centre, all set in a raised octagon.  Simple, beautiful and attainable.

This photograph, taken last week by our friend,  Richard Tulloch,  shows how the axis that runs from the centre of the underground cellar on the far side of the courtyard bisects the pond, passing through the fountain. The axis terminates at the house.  This is exactly as it is in our design here at The Drip, Mudgee, so the photo gives us a good idea of the future vista from The High Pergola across to our wine cellar.

We still have a way to go before The Octagon at The Drip is quite as charming as this, and the sculptures by Michelangelo are more likely to be something by a local Mudgee artist. But the creation of a worthwhile garden takes time, so please be patient.  We will get there eventually.  For more on The Octagon in The Main Courtyard click here

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Frosty Mornings in The Hill Garden

Each night the temperature at The Drip is falling well below zero. Minus five is not uncommon.  Though the skies are clear and the sun shines, the daytime temperatures rise to something around ten degrees, often less. This is winter in Mudgee, it's damn cold, the air is crisp and clean and we are loving it!

The frost stays in The Hill Garden till late morning at this time of year.  The dark line through the frost in this photo shows where our Head Gardener, Peter Marshall, recently planted Miscanthus sinesis.  Peter divided three large clumps of this decorative grass and this yielded over a hundred new plants,  allowing us to the define the "bones" of The Hill Garden.

The Hill Garden is a transitional zone between the formal gardens close to the house and the natural bushland of The Drip and The Munghorn Gap.  For more on the design of The Hill Garden click here

Monday, July 11, 2011

What's Blooming this Week

The hazelnut trees in The Old Orchard adjacent to the house have produced catkins this week.

These ancient trees, one male and one female, have been growing here since around 1880, and are a relic of the original plantings made here at The Drip by the Blackman family as was the honeysuckle hedge that was mentioned on this blog last week. We have no idea what variety they are, but they bear reasinable crops in most years.

This week we will be planting a whole new hedge of hazelnuts in The Nuttery.  These are named varieties supplied by Clem and Vanessa Cox of Mudgee Gourmet.  For more on The Nuttery click here

Friday, July 8, 2011

Renovating an Old Hedge

Today a friend lent a hand and got stuck into a job that we have been meaning to do for ages, cutting an ancient hedge of Winter Honeysuckle, Lonicera fragrantissima, back almost to ground level.

The honeysuckle hedge that divides The Horse Paddock from the native bushland was planted over a hundred years ago by the original European settlers, the Blackman family, and is the last remaining section of what was once an extensive system of boundary hedges at The Drip.  In the twentieth century the family's fortunes declined and for many years the hedging had been neglected, eventually becoming an overgrown eyesore.  By cutting it back at this time of year we are allowing it to burst into vigorous new life in the Spring and it will soon provide a dense and beautiful boundary as it must have done so many years ago.

Renovating the hedge allows us to open up The Honeysuckle Track which forms part of The Main Garden Walk.  To see more about this walk click here.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Lemon Trees in Terracotta Pots

For us here at The Drip, lemon trees in terracotta pots are a potent reminder of happy times spent in Tuscany, in Sicily and on the Amalfi Coast.

We have a small collection of old Florentine-style terracotta pots in which we grow a number of varieties of lemon.  This very young "lemonade tree", a gift from Clive's Mum, Elizabeth Poolman, has just borne fruit for the first time, providing a fresh Vitamin C drink just when it is needed in mid-winter.

The wire guard protecting the tree from destruction by wallabies will be dispensed with when we have finally enclosed The Main Courtyard and can at last provide a safe environment. For more on The Main Courtyard click here to go to the relevant page of our new website.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Notes from the Library #19

Our library contains a number of books about the garden at Sissinghurst.  This much loved and highly influential garden, created by Vita Sackville-West, was one of the inspirations for the gardens here and the first tree we planted, a Sevillano Olive, was planted on the 100th anniversary of Vita's  birthday,  9 March 1992.

The recent realization that Michael's great-grandmother, Emily Frances Windsor, sister of Thomas Other Windsor, Earl of Plymouth, was a blood relative of Vita Sackville-West gives added interest not only to our books on Sissinghurst but also to the various photos of Emily and her brother Thomas that are kept here in the Library.

For more on Vita Sackville-West, on Sissinghurst and on how this delightful and amusing family connection is commemorated click here to go to the relevant page of our new website.