Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Making Marmalade from Heirloom Oranges

An orange grove was planted here at The Drip in 1880.  Extraordinarily these trees still bear fruit one hundred and thirty years later.

We are not sure what variety these trees are but they are much more sour than modern oranges, with a taste akin to Seville Oranges.  

They therefore make the best marmalade. This is one of our regular end of winter projects, stocking up with a year's supply of our own unique orange marmalade.  For more on The Citrus Grove click here

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Wildlife from the Munghorn Gap

The Munghorn Gap Nature Reserve adjoining The Drip is home to a great diversity of wildlife.  Famed for the bird-life which attracts birdwatchers from all over the world, The Munghorn Gap is also home to significant populations of marsupials, mammals, reptiles and amphibians.

This Red Necked Wallaby  is one of many who moves between "The Drip" and the adjoining bushland, frequently grazing with a mixed mob including a few Eastern Grey Kangaroos and some Swamp Wallabies.

The best time to view the Wallabies and Kangaroos here is late afternoon For more about The Munghorn Gap Bush Walk click here

Monday, August 29, 2011

What's Blooming This Week?

In The Espaliery the Japanese plum trees are now laden with blossom and filled with bees.

This is all very pretty but the reality is that there is too much blossom.  We will need to do massive thinning as the fruit develops to avoid problems.  Small, poor tasting fruit would result if the tree attempted to mature this large a crop.  In addition, excess fruit falling on the ground will become a source of fruit fly infestation.

A longer term solution would be changing our pruning protocols to leave fewer fruiting spurs.

Friday, August 26, 2011

The Future of The Garden Room.

We used a photograph of last night's bonfire to create a Photoshop mockup of the design for the wall of  "The Garden Room".  Although we are loving this unroofed space in its current form the idea of one day creating a huge kitchen and living room is also attractive.  And anyway it is fun playing around with design ideas.
This wall faces north-west so the single most important factor affecting the design is the need to screen the hot afternoon sun in summer whilst allowing it to penetrate in winter.  Our current thinking is that the small square windows high in the wall allow easy shuttering when needed, while the three narrow slots only allow sun to penetrate in winter and the large door opening out to the pond and fountain in The Octagon will be shielded with a brise soleil.  

A totally different, hi-tech solution could involve the use of double-glazed smart glass in the construction of this wall.  Innovative suggestions would be very useful at this stage as we are in no rush and time spent on developing the final design could lead to an awesome outcome.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The End of Winter.

A big "Thank You" goes to Peter Marshall, Jay Fraser, Helena Stein, Martin Rule, Nicholas Vale and Garry Jarrett for helping collect lots of scrap timber to build a bonfire and then joining us for a meal.  The warmth from fire was amazing and the house looked quite spectacular in the firelight.

Each year for the past few years we have had a huge bonfire in the large pit in the centre of The Main Courtyard.  It was a delightful way to mark the end of winter.

This could be the last of these bonfire nights as we are thinking of starting work on  the transformation of the pit into a circular pond, surrounded by a raised Octagon, which will become the central feature of the The Main Courtyard.  For more on The Octagon click here.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Self Seeding Poppies

One of the features of The Old Cottage Garden in Spring is the spectacular display of poppies.  

These self seeded annuals reappear year after year and as time goes by we are developing our own unique colour strains.  The original red "Gallipoli" poppies and a number of heirloom varieties, in tones orange, white and purple, purchased years ago from from The Diggers Club are now cross-pollinating and each season brings new delights and surprises.

At this time of year weeding becomes a bit tricky as we carefully pick out the poppies from other self seeded "weeds".  Hopefully as time goes by we will have fewer undesirables in this garden.  For more on The Old Cottage Garden click here

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

The First Asparagus of the Season

The first asparagus shoots are emerging in The Espaliery telling us that  Spring is definitely on the way.

The asparagus bed is now four years old and we expect to be harvesting huge amounts from now on even though it is still  crucial that we leave one third of the crop from each crown unharvested to rebuild vigour for next year.  During this growing period the plants need generous watering so we will be re-setting the irrigation timers to achieve the moisture levels necessary to ensure fast growth and tender shoots. We never bother buying the rather sad looking bunches that are available year round from the big supermarkets, much preferring to eat asparagus only during its season of growth here in our own garden.
A generous feed with fresh compost at this time and at the end of the picking season will keep things moving alongFor more on The Espaliery click here

Monday, August 22, 2011

Red Swamp Banksia

The Red Swamp Banksia (Banksia occidentalis) or Waterbush is from a small area on the south coast of Western Australia.  We planted one in The Water Garden eighteen months ago, where we have planted dozens of  east coast banksias,  unsure if it would survive here. 

The Water Garden had been been inaccessible since the great floods of last year so this week it was a nice surprise to discover the Western Australian banksia had grown rapidly, surviving dought, wind, frost and flood,   was in full flower and already attracting the attention of honeyeaters.This is a tough little beauty, which is what we need in the difficult location where we are developing the Water Garden.

A field study in its native habitat showed that the Red Swamp Banksia is pollinated by the New Holland Honeyeater and the White Cheeked Honeyeater.  Both these species occur here and are increasingly frequent visitors to The Water Garden.  For more on The Water Garden click here

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Notes from the Library #23

It takes a lot to lure me out of here these days.  More and more I agree with Cicero's dictum "If you have a garden and library you have everything you need".  And, increasingly now, the garden and the library at The Drip are sources of complete and utter satisfaction.  But the Mudgee Reader's Festival sounded like something I shouldn't miss, particularly as one of the speakers was the author of a book that clearly should be in our library.  So it was off to town for a very civilized day of socializing with people who read and people who write.

Derelie Cherry's "Two Dogs and A Garden" is a charming, lush and very personal account of her life in Paradise.  "Paradise" for Derelie is the garden her husband Bob has created 100 kms north of Sydney, a garden that Leo Schofield described as a "horticultural Valhalla."  Over a period of forty years Bob Cherry has built this remarkable garden, bred plants and developed one of Australia's most successful wholesale nurseries.  

Bob's passion for flowers has lead him to create an amazing array of new garden varieties, most notably the well-known and very widely distributed "Paradise" range of Sasanqua camellias.  We have never planted these here, but I suspect that after reading Derelie's book, and gaining an insight into the person behind the plants,  there might soon be some new additions to our camellia collection.  For more on The Camellia Grove click here

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Digital Re-Design for a Heritage Garden

This photograph from yesterday's posting has attracted quite a lot of interest and generated discussion on a number of issues so here it is again. 

The first thing to point out is that this photo of The Old Cottage Garden at "The Drip" has been tinkered with. The gate that appears in the original version of the photo has been digitally airbrushed out.  Similarly the gravel on the realigned path is "digital gravel".  And the white seat at the end of the path is of course just a quick computer-generated sketch designed to establish a scale for the real thing. Ditto  the two circles representing balls of clipped Teucrium fruticansThis technique is something we are using more and more.  Taking a photo from the most significant viewing position, in this case from the doors to the library, then tinkering around with a few quick ideas sketched in digitally is helping us save a lot of time and money by getting a clear idea of what things will look like before we commit real resources to achieving it.

To achieve these modifications took less than five minutes and these days it really requires no great skill in graphics technology to do simple operations such as this.  Software such as Photoshop or Paint has made what was once the preserve of highly trained graphics professionals accessible to all and the software is rapidly becoming even more powerful and more user friendly.  Who would have ever thought that an old time Australian cottage garden would be re-designed with high technology one hundred and fifty years after the first settlers here battled to establish a foothold in this harsh environment?  How times change.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Redesigning the Old Cottage Garden

The Old Cottage Garden was first laid out in the late nineteenth century. It followed the fashion of the day with a straight, narrow path leading from the little front door to the narrow front gate, all edged with quartz from the goldfields.  Not any more.  

We decided to realign the path.  It had never run at a right angle to the house and it looked, well, it just looked really silly.  And annoying.  And anyway this is now the back of the new house.  So we shifted the path to this new position, orthogonal to the house.  In the photograph above you can still see the line of the old path leading to the old front gate.  No-one has ever used the 'front gate' anyway, so next  week we will block it in and place a seat at the end of the new path to give a satisfying focal point. New gravel on the path and a pair of clipped  silvery Teucrium fruticans  will complete the reworking as shown in the image below.

An added advantage with the new design, so we have been told, is that the feng shui of the house is now much more propitious; health and prosperity will no longer be able to flow from the house but will be contained within.  Sounds good to us.  To see Rick Martin's panoramic photograph of The Old Cottage Garden in the Autumn of 2010 click here

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Walk into "The Drip"

A visit from Matt and Shannida Herbert was the perfect excuse to take a break from pruning, weeding, planting and all those winter jobs that fill the days at this time of year.

Matt and Shannida are the directors of  locally based company Aquaponics Pty. Ltd and have a wealth of knowledge not only about aquaponics but also solar power systems, natural sequencing, water management and many, many other things ecological, environmental, sustainable and generally sensible. 

It is always great to connect with like-minded people and explore ideas on how best to manage the land into the twenty-first century.  This was their first time here, so a walk up into The Drip was essential.  For more on "The Walk to The Drip"  click here

Monday, August 15, 2011

What's Blooming this Week?

The Gungurru, Eucalyptus caesia "Silver Princess",  is a Western Australian mallee that thrives in the Mudgee climate.

Our grove of these has been in flower right through winter, much to the delight of the honeyeaters.

The mallees, small multi-trunked trees, are some of the most spectacular of the flowering "gumtrees". Given the success of this species we are now planning to expand and diversify our collection.  A new page on our website will list species that we believe worth trying.  To see The Mallee Grove page click here

Friday, August 12, 2011

Winter Pruning for Structure

With the last  weeks of winter upon us and spring about to arrive the pressure is now on to finish the pruning of deciduous trees.

These grafted Scottish "Wych" Elms, Ulmus glabra var horizontalis, in The Forecourt, will eventually  provide shady "umbrellas" for car parking during the heat of summer.  But even with these expensive grafted varieties it is still necessary to prune in order to achieve the desired outcome.

Structural pruning such as this is an ongoing maintainance task which needs annual attention.  The careful shaping of trees and shrubs to achieve structure and form is fundamental to our design approach in all the gardens surrounding the house.  For more about The House Gardens click here.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Daffodils, Daffodils and more Daffodils.

The "Ptolemy"  daffodil is an old heirloom variety, bred by Barr & Sons  prior to 1920.

We don't have a lot of these yet but they are multiplying nicely and will be divided this season.

Each day now another variety of daffodil is coming into bloom in The Old Orchard.  We have around forty varieties so there's a lot still to come.  To see more about daffodils in The Old Orchard click here

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Bush Lemons Ripen in Midwinter

This ancient "bush lemon" provides a ridiculous amount of fruit each winter.

It was planted here in the late nineteenth century along with many other citrus trees and is still fruiting

The bush lemon, part of The Old Orchard,  is not as acidic as other lemons and makes a delicious cordial or fresh vitamin C drink.  To see more about citrus varieties planted at The Drip click here.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Wattle? Mimosa? Or Acacia?

"Wattle?" "Mimosa?" "Acacia?" Call it what you like, it's gold and it's Australia's national floral emblem.  In early August the hills surrounding our valley are splashed with gold and with over a dozen local Acacia species growing on the property the spectacle goes on for weeks.

Increasing numbers of wattles have regenerated in the bushland areas of The Drip since we fenced cattle out of these once-degraded areas. The extreme damage of the past is slowly being undone and the land is healing.

The grove of wattle in this photo is on the track that leads to The Cliff Top Walk.  For more information on this 3-hour  bush-walk click here

Monday, August 8, 2011

What's Blooming This Week?

Though  jonquils of course have blooming for a few weeks already, these daffodils are the first to flower of many varieties that we have planted in The Old Orchard.

They began almost a fortnight ago, way ahead of any other. 

We are not sure what variety they but have tagged them for division this season.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Propagating Box for the Parterre Garden

Our original stock of Dwarf Box, Buxus sempervirens suffricticosa, is being increased by cuttings in The Shadehouse.

In order to complete Clive's design for the new parterre garden we will need 400-500 new plants, so this represents a substantial cost saving for this project.  And of course we have many other projects, needing many, many new plants.

Propagation has been made much more reliable by recent improvements Clive undertook  in The Shadehouse,  particularly the installation of a new watering system with drip trays and timers. Delicate young plants will die in a few hours without water and in the past we have lost many hundreds of plants because of this.  The timers should help avoid similar catastrophes in the future.  It is important however to check the batteries regularly as these can go flat quite rapidly.  To see more on propagating plants in The Shadehouse click here

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Axial Design in The House Gardens

The Long Axis running through The Espaliery,  The Cut Flower Garden, The West Wing Garden and The Western Terrace intersects with the Minor Axis that runs though The Main Courtyard, The Water Walk and The West Wing Garden.  These two axes underpin the entire design structure of The House Gardens

The Minor Axis terminates with this "eye catcher" in the West Wing Garden which will feature a beautiful old bas-relief plaque and a wall basin with a water spout.

To see more about axial design in the House Gardens click here

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Laying out The Parterre Garden

Clive has been designing a new parterre in the West Wing Garden.  A "parterre"  is a formal garden construction on a level surface consisting of planting beds edged in tightly clipped hedging.   Strictly speaking a parterre will feature gravel paths, but in this garden we might maintain the grass paths.

Marking out the parterre with bricks before planting the dwarf Box, Buxus sempervirens suffriticosa, that will form the final design is enabling this garden to be created with a high degree of geometric precision.

This parterre will be such a strong feature that perhaps we should change the name of this garden to The Parterre Garden? To see more about this garden on our website click here

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Is the Pollarded Plane Tree OK?

The Plane tree in The Main Courtyard that was pollarded in early June is showing no signs of life yet. When will it develop new buds to replace those it lost during pollarding?.

If all goes according to plan we will see up to two metres of growth in the coming season.  This will create  a dense, shade-giving canopy by mid-summer.

The branches will also begin thickening up and the characteristic knobs of a pollarded tree will beginning forming on the ends of the branches enhancing the dramatic sculptural form of the tree for next winter.

Monday, August 1, 2011

What's Blooming This Week?

The camellia tree in The Old Cottage Garden has just started to bloom. The huge old tree can be seen on the right of the path in the photo posted in yesterday's blog entry. There are literally thousands of buds this year and soon the entire tree will be covered with blossom.  With a few unseasonably warm days, the bees are out and about and loving the blooms.

This tree was planted here in the late nineteenth century and local legend has it that it was a cutting from the first camellia in Australia.  This seems unlikely but has inspired us nonetheless to develop an historically themed collection of camellias in The Camellia Grove.

We need someone to identify the original variety in The Old Cottage Garden.   Help please.  A few bottles of excellent Mudgee red wine will go to whoever can correctly identify it first. For more on The Camellia Grove at The Drip click here