Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Irises Blooming In Memorium

Michael's favourite flower is the Iris, and they normally flower most fully around his birthday, 1 November. This year, they are flowering a little earlier due to the warm spring weather we have seen. But the display is spectacular after having been rearranged into colour-coordinated beds by Peter Marshall during late summer/early autumn.

I am very sad to say that Michael passed away on October 2, 2012 after a hard fought battle with his cancer. His passing was sooner than I had expected, and he died quickly and painlessly from a heart attack in St Vincents hospital. He was very satisfied to have left a legacy such as the gardens, architecture and library of the Drip, and hopes that many people in future will derive great pleasure from exploring the property. I believe that the Irises have flowered splendidly as a tribute to Michael who put so much effort into collecting the wide range of flowers.

I (Clive) will continue the work that we had commenced 20 years ago. And there is still plenty to do!

Above is a picture of Michael standing at the (future) house-front taken by his friend Carolyn during her visit earlier this year

Friday, July 20, 2012

Finding Inspiration for the Future

Having been now laid low by cancer I am no longer able to work physically on the gardens.  But at this stage I can still continue using the library and the internet to seek inspiration for future projects in the gardens, searching for concepts capable of adding substance and weight to that which has been achieved here at The Drip over the last twenty years.

This photograph of timber balls by the Provencal sculptor, Marc Nucera, is one such inspiration. An amount of fallen and milled timber is currently cluttering up areas of the garden. It would be beneficial to turn this rubbish into works of such grace and beauty.

Nucera's integration of landscape design, land art and sculptural works in wood have earned him high regard..  The following collection of images will show why.

Friday, April 20, 2012

The View from The Roof Top Terrace

Bruno Egger is here this week and took this shot from The Rooftop Terrace just before dawn.

This rather wonderful new area of the house is getting more and more use now that Clive and David have built the spiral staircase, which was based on designs and specifications obtained from a London company with a reputation for building the best and safest spiral staircases available.

Our plan is to develop the Rooftop Terrace as a low water-usage garden of succulents with some simple furnishings and possibly a canopy to enhance the usefulness of the area, which provides spectacular views of the entire property and of the valley.

Monday, March 26, 2012

What's Blooming This Week?

Banksia spinulosa var. collina is a shrub that grows along the east coast of Australia, in Queensland and New South Wales.

The original specimen, identified in the Hunter Valley, was published in 1810 as Banksia collina,   but was later revised to be a variety of  Banksia spinulosa.

Commonly known as the Hill Banksia, it is not however restricted to hilly terrain.  Ours is on a small rocky outcrop in The Bush Garden and has grown slowly into a magnificent specimen 4 metres tall. Whatever you wish to call it, this is a beautiful, tough shrub, popular with honey-eaters and we should plant more.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Roof Top Garden or Green Roof?

Now that the roof of the house is accessible it is beginning to be used quite a lot, even though we still have a few of our solar panels up there.  Carolyn Teo, who has been staying here this week,  took this photo and was proud to be first to sunbathe on the roof.

The question now is how best to landscape and furnish this area.   Deck chairs sound like a stylish addition. A shade sail or canopy of some sort could be good. And a rooftop bar is definitely on the cards. Using succulents as the main plantings here will be a practical landscaping solution as they require little water and will love the bright sunlight.

There are several ways of using succulents in a roof garden.  The traditional way would be to grow them in pots.  But perhaps a more interesting approach would be to create a "green roof", covering significant areas of the roof with a growing medium and planting it like a garden bed.  More on "green rooves"  soon.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Propagating Lavender by Cutting

Autumn is the time to take cuttings of lavender. Cuttings around 6 cm long, taken from new seasons growth which has almost, but not quite, "hardened off" are best.

Strip 90% of the leaves off the cuttings to minimize water loss from transpiration.  We place the trays of cuttings in our mini "green-houses" but if you want just a few plants then a half filled large pot with a sheet of Gladwrap across the top works well. Using a growth hormone is a good idea and increases the strike rate considerably.

This year we made around 150 cuttings of a number of varieties including French Lavender and English Lavender plus a few different varieties of Spanish/Italian lavender such as "Avondale" and "Kew Red". The trays also contain a few Santolina. These will all  eventually be planted out on the dry, sunny banks of the Eastern TerraceLavenders are relatively short-lived so every few years we replace old plants with new.

Monday, March 5, 2012

What's Blooming This Week?

Magnolia "Little Gem" is having a second flush of flowers.

Little Gem is a dwarf form of Magnolia grandiflora which comes originally from the swamps of southern USA.  

Our plants are loving this wet, mild season and would clearly appreciate being given additional water in dry years.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Dahlias, Roses and Antique Glass.

A nineteenth-century Venetian glass vase bought by Michael Creighton's grandmother, Gertrude Cordingly, holds roses and dahlias from the Cut Flower Garden.

Elaine Paton has been here all week and the entire house is filling with her floral arrangements.

There's more to life than growing vegetables.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Drystone Walls and Hard Landscaping

Peter Marshall has finished the low drystone wall, defining the new parking area in The Forecourt.

Over the next few years we aim to do a lot more stone work, using our local field stone.  We will also be using a lot of local river gravels which complement our stone.

This focus on "hard landscaping" helps add structure, clarity and permanence to the gardens

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tomato Passata Time

It is the last week of summer and that means it is time to make passata out of the excess tomatoes.

Simply fill a large pan with veey ripe  tomatoes, squishing them as you put them in.  Add a glug of olive oil.  Cook over a low heat until the resulting sauce is thick, rick and lustrous.

The passata can be used as the basis for many sauces, soups and condiments and will keep for ages in the fridge.

Monday, February 27, 2012

What's Blooming This Week?

People are often sometimes surprised to hear that Tea is actually made from the leaves of a species of camellia, Camellia sinensis
We have one tiny plant, bought last winter, which is covered in delightful small white flowers , even though it would usually be expected to flower in mid-autumn.  But it a very odd season.

Camellia sinensis is not only useful and productive but can be used as a delightful hedging or topiary plant.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Notes from the Library #35

In the introduction to his most recent book, "The Art of Creative Pruning",  Jake Hobson says that he has found inspiration for his "organic topiary" from many sources, including the tea plantations of southern India.  This set me off on a Google image search which led to finding this image of a hillside tea plantation in Kerala. 

Julia Creighton, Aran's wife, is originally from Kerala and Clive Poolman's great-great Aunt, Jane Lee Kirby, owned a tea plantation there in the nineteenth century.  Additionally John Creighton, Michael's father, lived in Kerala in the 1920's.  We seem to have quite a few family connections to these landscapes

So I am now thinking how it would be wonderful to find a location in the gardens here in Mudgee to create a "little Kerala". These clipped plantations consist of a type of Camellia, Camellia sinensis, from which tea is made.  A small hill of clipped and sculpted Camellia sinensis would be beautiful and maybe one day the family could produce its own tea here at The Drip.  For more on Jake Hobson, including information on his inspiring books click here

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Wattles and Bush Regeneration

The group of wattles in the foreground are an example of how the bushland here is slowly regenerating after more than a century of poor management, overgrazing, over clearing and neglect.

When we bought this property twenty years ago this entire area at the head of the valley was an impenetrable mass of blackberries.  Removing these was a one of our first challenges and was achieved without the need for toxic sprays.  Simply hacking them to the ground with a brush-hook and letting the kangaroos graze on new emerginbg shoots did the job.  

After several years these wattles emerged.  They are a pioneer species and many of the older plants  are already reaching the end of their life-cycle perhaps to be replaced by more long-lived trees.  Time will tell.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Trees for Mudgee Honey

Mudgee is famous for its honey. The Yellow Box, Eucalyptus melliodora, is one of the most important  local species that provides an abundant source of nectar.  Yellow Box honey with delicate, fresh floral flavours is one of most popular of all honeys.  In the [pasdt honey production was an imprtant part of life at The Drip and we are still home to huge numbers pof healthy bees.

But over-clearing, excessive use of mature trees for timber and generally poor management practices of The Drip in the past has resulted in very few Yellow Box being left.  As part of our ongoing programme to re-vegetate the property Aran and Julia Creighton planted a grove of twenty five tubestock Eucalyptus melliodora last year.  With abundant rainfall this year, the growth has been remarkable and the young seedlings are already out of their tree guards.  

We expect that in just a few years from now these new trees will be providing valuable nectar for our local bee populations.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Elderberries in an Edible Hedge

About ten years ago we started planting an edible hedge in The Nuttery with an assortment of odd plants including elderberries, hazelnuts, damson plums, edible crab apples and medlars.  It was to be a kind of a low maintenance food forest for foraging and would also give privacy to The Caretakers Cottage from The Drip Lane.

To be honest it became a bit of a neglected area and not a lot happened there until this year we decided to give it a bit more attention.  We removed weeds, mulched it, watered it and planted fifty more hazelnuts.

The result has been remarkable.  Not only has everything tripled in size but for the first time this year we have got a huge crop of totally delicious Elderberries.  We tend not to pay much attention to elderberries in this country.  Big mistake. They are totally delicious, not unlike blackberries, but juicier, making a fantastic jam or jelly. They are filled with anthocyanins and anti-oxidants so can provide significant health benefits, although if excessive amounts are eaten raw they can cause nausea.  This winter we will add more of them into our edible hedge.

Monday, February 20, 2012

What's Blooming This Week?

Robin Red-breast Bush, Melaleuca lateritia, is from the south-west corner of Western Australia.  

We have found it grows very happily here in our Water Garden, where it enjoys a moist but well-drained position.

It flowers it midsummer at a time when few native plants are flowering so is proving to be a big hit with the honeyeaters here.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

A Dry-stone Wall and Compost.

Peter Marshall is giving The Forecourt a quick upgrade with a new drystone wall and and a raised bed filled with compost.

The stones have all been collected from around the property and the compost is from our composting bins. Very satisfying.

The bed will be planted with aromatic Catmint, Nepeta cataria, featuring delightful pale lilac/blue flowers and silver grey foliage.  This looks fantastic against the soft pinks and earth tones of our local stone and our particular variety is propagated from plants that have grown here in The Old Cottage Garden since around 1880, so we know it survives our conditions.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Protecting Grape Vines from Possums

Possums cause a massive amount of destruction and figuring out ways to keep them from destroying the gardens is an ongoing challenge.

This grape vine, intended to cover a pergola and provide cooling summer shade, has been decimated by possums this summer.  The spiky things that we have now attached to the pergola definitely keep birds from landing.  Will they stop possums running along the timber rails?

Within a week or so we should know the answer.

Monday, February 13, 2012

What's Blooming This Week?

The Red Swamp Banksia, Banksia occidentalis, a spectacular Western Australian species, is commencing its flowering season here at The Drip.

This year, after so much rain,  there are dozens of flower spikes forming. 

Like many plants chosen for the Water Garden it provides a welcome food source for local honeyeaters.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Propagating Strappy Leafed Plants

We do a lot propagation and The Shadehouse is a huge asset in this regard.

This bench is currently filled with strappy-leaved plants which we have increased by simple  division.

The intense blue leaves of the Pilliga form of Diannella revoluta are a standout, much better than the more commonly available variety known as Cassa Blue,  and it would be good to build up significant stocks of this for use in The Hill Garden

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Silver Foliage Plants for a Bank

We are always on the lookout for combinations of plants that might work together in particular situations.  This combination of Grevillea lanigera with Tuecrium fruticans has got potential.

Both plants have wonderful silver foliage. This tells us that they both enjoy a very sunny situation and can probably tolerate dry conditions.  Tuecrium is an excellent choice for clipping into topiary, becoming very dense with repeated tip pruning.  Grevillea lanigera is prostrate and provides a weed suppressing groundcover.  Both can be easily propagated.

A combination of massed Teucrium shapes, sitting in a broad base of Grevillea lanigera,  would work on a hot sunny bank.  And birds and insects will enjoy the flowers.  So this combo will end up on one of the large steeps banks flanking the wine cellar in The Main Courtyard.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Making Mulch out of Mess

Regular and intensive pruning is a feature of our gardens here at The Drip anbd this means we produce a lot of  clippings.

Clive managed to repair our shredder today and it is worth its weight in gold turning all this stuff, even quite thick branches, into mulch.  It is very satisfying knowing that everything we take out of the gardens is being returned to the soil, adding life and vitality to an ever-improving ecosystem.
We compost all the shredded material before using it in the gardens, adding other materials, including blood and bone, locally produced garden lime and manure from the chooks, the sheep and Ricky the alpaca to make a wonderful rich compost.

Monday, February 6, 2012

What's Blooming this Week?

Nasturtiums are a classic old-time Cottage Garden favourite.  But less well known is the fact that they are not only edible but potentially very health-giving. They may even contain anti-cancer compounds.

Nasturtium contain compounds known as Glucosinolates. Certain of these compounds have been shown in credible scientific tests to inhibit or prevent the development of certain cancers including multiple myeloma, prostrate cancer and colon cancer.

Try tossing a few shredded leaves through your next salad. They, like Watercress to which they are related and which also contain Glucosinolates, will add a pungent tang to the salad mix.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Notes from the Library #34

We are always on the look out for new gardening books to add to our library here at The Drip.  Online searching is an effective  way to find  new  titles to add to our wish-list.

This week I discovered a publishing house that is definitely worth keeping an eye on.  Timber Press is the publisher of the inspiring Jake Hobson titles  "Niwaki" and "The Art of Creative Pruning" and an international publisher of books about gardening, ornamental and edible plants, garden design, sustainability, and natural history.  

A new title which has caught my eye on their website and which will be added to the library as soon as it becomes available is "Free Range Chicken Gardens.  How to Create a Beautiful Chicken Friendly Yard".  It seems that our chooks will be getting an upgrade in their garden area soon.   For more from Timber Press click here

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Rocks, Moss and Lichens in the Gardens

With lots of rain having fallen and more still to come, the mosses and lichens are looking great.

The sandstone here combined with clean, fresh air allows a rich collection of these to grow here.

We are so lucky to have these natural assets in our gardens.  Similar bush stone is sold in garden shops for considerable sums of money.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Westringea is "Aussie Box". Really?

We have an irritating and rather pathetic habit in this country of naming Australian plants after well-known European plants. When the English first arrived in Australia 224 years ago they inevitably tried to reassure themselves by calling Australian plants after familiar plants from back home.  It seems we still feel the need to do this.   A recent example of this ongoing cultural cringe is the decision by Ozbreed to market Westringea fruticosa as "Aussie Box". 

In the past it has been called "Native Rosemary".  But now it seems that since Australians have taken such a liking to Box hedging, the marketing people at Ozbreed have decided to capitalize on thisIt is true that Westringea does make a great clipped hedge, though whether it will prove as long-lived as Box remains to be seen. The photo shows a young Westringea planted in The Hill Garden near a clipped Bursaria, another Australian plant which was also called Australian Native Box at some stage.  It all gets a bit silly really.

Why not just give these plants original  Australian names instead of attempting to ape overseas garden traditions yet again?  We would never refer to Uluru as Ayer's Rock anymore so perhaps it is time to give local names to local plants.  In the meantime I will stick with LatinTo see more on The Hill Garden click here

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Variegated Buxus for Topiary

I am not usually fond of variegated foliage, finding it somewhat sickly looking.  But this variegated Buxus sempervirens has caught my attention.

In Jake Hobson's book  "The Art of Creative Pruning" he shows how it has been used by the French landscape designer Yves Gosse de Gorre in the "Chambre Jaune" at his wonderful private garden, Sericourt, north of Paris
This has got me thinking.  The unusual combination of the clipped golden foliage set against white crushed limestone is fresh and delightful. Our local Mt Buckaroo quarry produces excellent limestone. So I sense a new  project coming on.

Monday, January 30, 2012

What's Blooming This Week?

Known as the Native Cranberry, Astroloma humifusum,  is a  prostrate, mat-forming heath with attractive flowers from December to July.  The flowers, which are often hidden by the foliage,  are followed by small, edible very sweet fruit.  They prove you don't have to bold to be beautiful.  It is also known as the Cranberry Heath.  Though our continuing reliance on these Old World names for Australian plants is a bit irritating, I suppose they are easier to remember than Latin.

This discrete charmer often grows in association with our local Eucalyptus sideroxylon, the Mugga Ironbark, and is found in south eastern Australia from Newcastle through to South Australia.  We are therefore located at the northern and western extremities of its range.

Natural regeneration is resulting in increasing numbers of this plant on the rocky  slopes here at The Drip.  It would be a great addition to The Hill Garden, in the zone which features plants endemic to the Munghorn Gap.  An area of this windy hillside could be developed as a "Munghorn Heathland Garden", featuring the various local "Heaths", such as Epacris longiflora sometimes rather strangely called Native Fuchsia, Melichrys urceolatus - the "Urn Heath", Styphelia tubiflora -"Five Corners" and of course Astroloma.  No doubt there are other local "Heaths" as well.  But wouldn't it be so much better to use the original Australian Aboriginal names for plants such as these?  To see more about The Hill Garden click here

Friday, January 27, 2012

Kangaroo Grass as a Landscaping Plant

In Stefan Leppert's  book  "Ornamental Grasses ... Wolfgang Oehme and the New American Garden" it is claimed that Karl Foerster, the German landscaper who, in the 1930's, pioneered the use of ornamental grasses as an element of  garden design, said that "Grasslich eine Garten ohne Graser" ... "Ghastly is a garden without grasses".


Australian designers have followed this well-established overseastrend and now make extensive use of exotic grasses such as the Japanese Miscanthus and natives such as the Tussock Grass Poa labillardieri in our gardens.  Kangaroo Grass, Themeda australis, with its magical russet seed heads, is not however used as frequently as it should be in our landscaping.  That needs to change.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Best Buxus Variety for Hedges in Australia.

Box, or Buxus, is one of the most useful plants for hedging. It has been used for at least two thousand years and one reason is that rabbits, deer, sheep and cattle won't eat it .  Kangaroos and wallabies will also ignore it.  Magic.  So we spent Australia Day propagating them from cutting. We aim to produce a thousand new plants each year.  We do love Skippy but we also love gardens.  This way we can have both.

There are many varieties of Buxus.  In Australia the most commonly planted varieties are Japanese Box, Buxus microphylla and English Box, Buxus sempervirens.  Of these two, English Box is far superior, requiring much less water.  Unfortunately many Australians seem to prefer to Japanese Box presumably because it is grows more quickly and Australian like quick results.  But in my opinion this is crap thinking.  Not only does Buxus microphylla  require more water, but it will rapidly look very dodgy unless pruned frequently. Buxus sempervirens is slower growing and will look just fine with only one or two prunings a year.  The dwarf form of this, Buxus sempervirens suffriticosa, is best suited to hedges or topiary which need to be be kept very small and very neat.

Another variety, much less common, but worth using is the Balearic Box, Buxus balearica,  native to the beautiful islands of Ibiza, Minorca and Majorca.  As can be seen in the photograph, it has larger leaves than other Box varieties. It is incredibly tough, grows into a tallish tree and handles pruning well so is suited to hedging and topiary.  We have propagated fifty of these as an experiment. They will be planted out into The Horse Paddock as part of our collection of Buxus varieties.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Catmint as a Kangaroo-proof Groundcover

Years ago I split up a clump of Catmint which had been growing in The Old Cottage Garden.  I figured it had grown there for over a century and had survived with no attention so it would be worth trying as a low maintenance ground cover.

I moved it out into the unprotected area of our gardens, planting it along the base of the stone wall in The Forecourt.  This area gets no attention at all, no watering, no anything.  But would our mob of kangaroos and wallabies demolish it?

Well, the catmint is still there.  In fact it has spread and seems happy to colonize this position.  So it can be added to that small list of things that the local marsupials don't fancy. We will now give it a helping hand and split it up, spreading it along the entire wall. The bees and butterflies are loving too and after a summer storm the fragrance is heaven.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Banksia "Red Rover". Someone Stuffed Up.

Banksia "Red Rover", a red-flowered variety of  the well-known Banksia ericifolia, is a relatively recent introduction, having been accepted for registration on  5th November, 2010.  Registration apparently followed  extensive testing since the plants introduction in 2004. But there seems to be confusion about this plant.

The label on this one, bought this week from our local Bunnings, states it will grow to 10 metres tall and the same wide.  That is very large for a Banksia and probably too large for most gardens. But the description posted by Australian Cultivar Registration Authority which I assume was submitted by the original growers, Rod & Robyn Parsons, as part of their application for naming rights, describes Red Rover as a "dwarf cultivar growing to 2 metres".  So someone is wrong. 

This type of confusion is disappointing and will not encourage people to use new Australian plants such as this.  We do have wonderful native plants in Australia and we should explore their use in garden design, but our horticultural industry seems to be a bit slack and lacking in professionalism. The hit or miss approach is not good.  Smarten up please.

Monday, January 23, 2012

What's Blooming this Week?

The Swamp banksia, Banksia robur, is a tough and gorgeous thing.  With over fifty bushes in flower right now in The Water Garden there are blooms at every stage of development from unopened buds like the one shown above through to last season's flowers, now dried but still delightful.
For more on The Water Garden click here

Friday, January 20, 2012

Notes from the Garden Library #32

Sericourt near Paris, created by Yves Gosse de Gorre, is a notable contemporary  garden with a reputation that continues to grow as time goes by. The remarkable topiary, which was highlighted by Jake Hobson in his recent book "The Art of Creative Pruning",  caught my attention so I went online and ordered a book written by the man who created the garden.  

It is in French.  "Sagesse & Deraison au Jardin"  translates according to Google as "Wisdom and Unreasonabless in the Garden."   Right.

But the pictures tell the story.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

In the Gully Garden

I have no idea what these flowers are.

But The Gully Garden is full of them right now.  They thrive in the moist, mulchy soil there.

Can someone identify them? UPDATE Jan 24: Nicholas Vale, from Garden Life has identified this as Pratia.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

The Attack of the Christmas Beetles

Midsummer is "Christmas Beetle" season. They can do enormous damage to eucalypts.  This young Willow Gum, Eucalyptus scoparia, growing on the Eucalyptus Lawn,  was stripped by them in one day.

It seems that isolated trees are particularly vulnerable,  whereas those growing in the forest fare much better.  Is this because one of the predators of the Christmas Beetle, the endearing Sugar Glider, cannot get to isolated trees?   It is thought that this was one contributing factor leading  to ":eucalyptus dieback"  in the New England region.  

We should perhaps seek to ensure that our eucalypts are not put at risk by being placed in isolated positions. Planting stands of trees that are particularly attractive to Sugar Gliders, such as Spotted Gum, Corymbia maculata,  could assist.