Friday, September 30, 2011

The Cumquats are Ready for Picking.

We are nearing the end of the citrus season here at The Drip and the cumquats are now ready for picking.

We use part of the crop ourselves, producing an exceptionally intense cumquat marmalade plus a cumquat chutney and pickled cumquats. 

But with sixteen trees in The Espaliery we produce way more fruit  than we need for our own use. The remainder of the crop goes to award-winning Mudgee food producer Angela's Edibles.  For more on the Espaliery click here

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Thinning the Blood Plums

The espaliered Blood Plums have set a huge crop of fruit this year.

This crop will require thinning which is best done when the fruit reach the size of a pea,  probably about a fortnight from now.  Ideally a fruiting spur such as this should carry only half a dozen fruit maximum.

By keeping crops smaller, aiming for quality over quantity, it becomes easier to manage diseases and pests including by avoiding fruit-fly problems arising from  massive amounts of fallen fruit.  Rigorous pruning and espaliering the trees allows this "micro-management" of fruit crops.  For more on The Espaliery click here

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Pretecting Trees from Possum Damage

I posted a cropped version of this photo a couple of weeks ago showing the reflections in the ponds down in the Water Garden.  What I did not show was the ugly tree guards on the trees next to the ponds.  They are hideous but necessary because of the bloody possums which strip every leaf off many trees in spring.  They have killed a number of trees on the property and seem to be in ever-increasing plague proportions.  Until someone figures out a humane way of keeping their numbers under control and developing a possum fur industry or gourmet possum meat products or something we have no choice but to try keeping them out of vulnerable and valuable trees.

These tree guards, which were quickly and cheaply made from old sheets of corrugated iron, seem to be effective.  But it is not a good look, so we are working on better solutions.  The important factors seem to be
  • a guard must be made of something that possums can't climb.
  • a guard must reach high enough so that possums cant jump up from the ground.
  • a guard must be long enough so that possums cant reach from the bottom to the top
  • vulnerable trees must be isolated so that possums can't clamber through the canopy .
We are now making less obtrusive possum guards, which are only 30 cms tall, positioned approximately one metre above ground level.  We are are also exploring other materials such as clear acrylic to further reduce the visual impact.  To see more on The Water Gardens click here

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Fig Tree Beetle Damage

At this time of year we always have problems with these Fig Tree Beetles,  Poneridia semipullata.  which completely denude the trees in just a few days.  The larvae and the adult beetles both cause damage and the groweth cycle of the trees is severely set back

One solution is to use a spray designed to destro lawn beetles. We prefer not to go down this road, but our tests with organic sprays such as detergent or garlic sprays are proving these to be very hit and miss, certainly not doing much to the adult beetle. This approach might prove effective on larvae,  however this year we didn't spot the larvae early enough.

The fig trees are espaliered so at this this stage it seems that the best way is to brush the beetles off into a bag and squash them.  Simple and very effective.  Being espaliered trees we should also be able to spot emerging problems and take action before these issues become a problem.  Regular attentiveness and an intimate familiarity with the seasonal cycle is essential.

Monday, September 26, 2011

What's Blooming This Week?

We tend to assume that wattle is always golden.  But there is one very significant exception and it is flowering at The Drip right now. 

A blood-red variety of the deliciously aromatic Cinnamon Wattle (Acacia leprosa) was found growing in a Victorian forest in 1995 by two bush walkers. They took cuttings to the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne, which manages a specialised plant conservation program, thereby saving many plants from probable extinction. The plant was subsequently released commercially as "Scarlet Blaze" with profits going to the conservation program.

The discovery is regarded as one of the twentieth century's most surprising and significant horticultural discoveries and the plant was declared Victoria's Centenary of Federation floral emblem.  We have one plant growing here in The Western Acre. For more on The Western Acre click here

Friday, September 23, 2011

A Warm Spring Salad

Our broad beans and asparagus are at their best right now.

So we decided to design a spring salad using these two classic ingredients fresh from the The Espaliery

Steam the asparagus.  There's no need to cook the broad beans if picked young and fresh, simply shell them and combine with warm diced potatoes, caramelized onion and a good quality (Mudgee) fetta cheese.  Before the potatoes cool down,  dress the salad with olive oil, salt and ground white pepper.  For more on The Espaliery click here

Thursday, September 22, 2011

After Budburst

Less than a fortnight ago I commented on the beauty of the delicate tracery of bare branches and "budburst" on the Scottish Wych Elm.

Now these buds  have now matured into seeds, contained within these winged capsules.

The Spring display rolls on, each day bringing new delights.  What a season this is.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


Making compost is one of those immensely important and satisfying garden activities that continues throughout the entire year here at The Drip.

This morning Peter Marshall was at it again, proudly sporting his new "Peter Marshall Garden Services" uniform.

Here he is adding local Mudgee limestone to the compost pile in The Old Cottage Garden Garden.  For more on The Old Cottage Garden click here

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

"I Could Taste the History!"

Last week we took a few of our "heirloom oranges" into Mudgee township for Aaron Cole of The Market Street Cafe to test.  Aaron gave them a definite thumbs up, loving the sour tanginess of these oranges that have grown here since the 1880's.  As Aaron said "I could taste the history"

They are quite unlike modern oranges, being small,  tart and highly aromatic. Aaron picked the remaining fruit from the trees and will be using it for marmalade at the Cafe.  We all plan on this becoming an annual routine from now on.  Aaron is also interested in having lamb from our flock of Wilsthire Horn sheep appear on his menu.

Given the uniqueness, age and value of our oranges, we aim to propagate the original trees in The Citrus Grove and keep this little piece of local food history alive into the twenty-first century.  For more on The Citrus Grove click here

Monday, September 19, 2011

What's Blooming This Week

This week is the week when the cherry blossom peaked.

The blossom lasts such a brief time, only a matter of days, making this a most special time of the garden year. The Japanese festival of Hanami  celebrates these brief days as a metaphor for life itself, luminous and beautiful yet fleeting and ephemeral.

Each year we add more cherries to The Hill Garden and each year the display becomes more remarkable.  For more on The Hill Garden click here

Friday, September 16, 2011

Garden Cloches Protect Sensitive Plants

The temperature is rising.  Today in some areas of the gardens here in Mudgee it reached 27 degrees Celsius.  That is enough to cause young or newly transplanted plants to wilt and even die.  So we need now to focus on survival strategies for hot weather, not forgetting that  at this time of year we will still experience frosts.

A traditional solution to heat and cold is a garden cloche, a small "bell" designed to provide protection from the elements  Cloches may be made from various materials.  Modern versions use shadecloth or plastic.  A traditional cloche is more likely to be woven from bamboo or cane.  

A garden cloche can be an expensive purchase.  In some organic gardening magazines we have seen bamboo cloches retailing at over forty dollars. At this price a cloche would be more a fashion statement than a practical item of garden equipment.  So we went hunting and found doormats with a good open weave in the local Mudgee hardware store. And they cost two dollars each.  For the same cost as one organic fashion statement we now have twenty functional cloches at work in the vegetable beds of The Espaliery, protecting this week's plantings of beetroot, French sorrel, land cress and African marigolds.  For more on The Espaliery click here.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Spring Rains

After record rainfall late last year, leading to catastrophic floods, then an extended dry period with lower than average rainfall this year, it seems that anything could happen. 

It does seem now that the climate swings from one extreme to the other.

Last week we got over 40 mm of slow soaking rainfall which topped up these ponds in The Water Garden,  keeping everything very, very moist in this low-lying area of the property.  The Aspens  growing around the edges of the ponds are loving it.  For more on The Water Garden click here

Monday, September 12, 2011

What's Blooming This Week?

In the Northern Hemisphere the Helleborus is known as the Lenten Rose, as it blooms in the period leading up to Easter.  The timing of the Christian Easter is based upon the old pagan Festival of the Spring Dionysia, which was held on the full moon nearest the Spring Equinox. March 20.

This wonderful plant follows exactly the same rhythm in the Southern Hemisphere, starting to flower in late winter and continuing through to around the time of the Spring equinox, September 20.  Sadly we in the south have never developed a festival to mark this "Southern Dionysia".  Perhaps we should?

We have collected many varieties of Helleborus and right now they are at their absolute best, with the Equinox only ten days away and a full moon this week.


Friday, September 9, 2011

Taste Testing the Orange Trees

The old orange trees that form the basis of The Citrus Grove here at The Drip are unique.  Planted in the 1880s and still fruiting they are sour oranges, ideal for marmalade and of unknown provenance.  But they are showing signs of age and we worry that soon they may be no more.

We decided to get organized and invited one of our local food people, Aaron Cole, of the Market Street Cafe in Mudgee town,  to do a taste test and see if he feels they are worth preserving into the 21st century.  If so,  we will graft new trees onto appropriate rootstock.  In order to figure which varieties are best we have individually identified samples of fruit from the five surviving trees as shown in the photo below.  
The positions of these trees in the grove will now be mapped and placed on the relevant page of our website which is rapidly becoming a very useful database listing everything of significance in our gardens here.  To see more on The Citrus Grove click here

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Bud Burst

Whilst blossom trees are the blowsy Prima Donnas of the spring garden, there are others whose charms are more discrete.  

The tracery of the bare branches against a clear spring sky, with just the first hint of new growth bursting from full buds is in some ways more beautiful.  It speaks of the promise of the season that is to come.

This Scottish Wych Elm in The Forecourt displays these tiny bursting buds for just one day before the new leaves form. 

Monday, September 5, 2011

What's Blooming This Week?

Spring is definitely in the air this week and the gardens are filling with blossom.

This crab-apple tree, Malus floribunda, is one of the star performers right now, with cherry blossom to follow soon.

2011 is shaping up to be one of the best spring displays we have ever seen, with many of our original plantings now achieving maturity after twenty years.

Sunday, September 4, 2011

In Memoriam

Jen Creighton was born one hundred years ago today on September 4, 1911 in Alligator Creek near Townsville

To commemorate the Centennial anniversary a large ceramic tub has been placed in The Camellia Grove which is dedicated to Jen's memory. The tub is ideal as float bowl for camellias.

Jen's birthday falls in the middle of camellia season so she is assured of an increasingly splendid display each year on her birthday as the grove maturesFor more on The Camellia Grove click here

Friday, September 2, 2011

King Parrot in the Old Orchard

A family of King Parrots are frequent visitors here.

The Old Orchard is a favourite hangout.

At this time of year it is the bloosom on the fruit trees that interests them.  Later it will be the fruit.  Nets are needed if we want our share

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Spring is Here.

It is officially the first day of spring. 

That means the daffodils are now at their peak. With thousands of individual bulbs and over forty varieties in The Old Orchard it looks pretty damn amazing right now.

This gallery of images by Clive shows some of the varieties that we have selected for division this year.  By doing this each year we are gradually achieving a quite spectacular display which is becoming one of the seasonal highlights of these gardens at The Drip.

Paths through the Daffodils.

The paths between the  daffodils and jonquils in The Old Orchard  are becoming more clearly defined each year as the bulbs multiply. 

These paths, important structural components of the design of the orchard, are a seasonal feature, changing in Winter, Spring, Summer and Autumn.

The paths will be kept mown through to December by which time the foliage of the bulbs has died down and the entire orchard can be slashed and kept short for the summer fruit picking season.  In late autumn, the fruit trees become dormant,  the bulbs re-emerge and we return to mowing only the paths. For more on The Old Orchard click here