31 October 2012

Getting ready for summer

Getting ready for summer means being fire ready.  On Monday evening, I changed the oil and petrol in the pump and re-installed it on the dam after a day of gardening.  It is fire protection for the house as well as a quicker way of watering the garden with a pressurised system.  The soil is surprisingly dry at the moment.

Training on Sunday, gardening on Monday, reality Monday night.  I was called out at midnight to a burn-off out of control, and was there till 8.00 am on Tuesday, did the Gardens of Glenlyon tour on Tuesday afternoon and was called to a flare-up of the same fire on Tuesday evening.  So I piked on going to gym -Strength Training for Seniors - this morning.  That's my grubby jacket, having an airing.

Don't miss the CFA presentation on Landscaping for Bushfire at the Hall on our Gardens of Glenlyon weekend.

30 October 2012

The pre-tour tour

The seven gardeners of Glenlyon toured each other's gardens this afternoon.  It's a hot sunny day - maybe like the weather will be when the gardens are open 8-9 December.

19 October 2012

Doll's Paddock - a week ago at the working bee

It wasn't what I wanted, since the original idea was getting big hefty boys to move soil.

Dominic, our youngest son, decided to hire the services of a well-known landscaper to "advise us" on how to design a garden, choosing to ignore the fact that for the past four years we have been doing just that - with modest success.

So Thursday came - and so did Simon.

Simon sussed the situation and was diplomatic, settling on the vegetable garden as an area for discussion. Plans, lists, string were used; much standing around with legs apart and heads nodding.  All this in the lyrical half-light of a warm spring evening (much like tonight).

Saturday arrived.  It rained - heavily.  Sons, grandsons, wives poured out of cars with their dogs, spades, forks, gloves and boots.  Heavenly, I thought, at last we will get the gravel laid, the bush mulch spread.  And we did - eventually.

Adolescent grandsons arrive carrying hangovers and all they want to do is sleep.  Wives arrive with assorted complaints "It's too cold ... it's too wet ... I don't have any boots ... just a minute, I'm smoking ... can I duck in for a coffee?"

So it goes.

Sons plant, make lists, use string and stand around with legs apart, heads nodding!

Lunch time, and five kilos of lamb chops and three kilos of sausages are cooked on a BBQ in a dry area. Everyone is covered in red mud up to their arm-pits. Tools are heavy with soil, lifting them could dislodge cartilage. Everyone is wet down to the last inner layer, but everyone has to wee.  Boys outside, girls inside.  Caked in mud, shoes and boots have to be removed.

Hands, cold and dirty, have to be washed. More visits inside the house.

The dogs eat the left-overs and work begins again. Putting on wet socks, shoes, boots, pants all take time - the six year old gets bored. Mum leaves with him in the car for easier pastures.  Grandsons whose only aim in life is to play for Australia in footy or basketball, who train night and day, complain they are tired.  They good humouredly throw wet soil at one another, their legs now indistinguishable from the ground on which they are standing.  Pyjama bottoms, that are clearly de rigueur in Box Hill, remain adamantly hanging around their hips, wet and thin - preferred by both children to Hard Yakka pants.

Planter boxes emerge from the chaos, some at odds with existing beds, another design being imposed on the existing one. What will happen to the surrounding area when they all go home and reconvene three months later? A jumble of half-completed ideas complimenting a mass of weeds.  I see disaster ahead.

Dinner-time. Another two kilos of hamburgers arrive, with various salads. We eat at the table, after everyone has showered and left their clothes and shoes outside. It rains and gets colder.  Grandsons, unready for the world of adult organisation, leave possessions outside exposed to wind and rain.  Beds are made and sleep comes quickly.

Sunday - the clocks go forward! An hour less sleep.

We beguile them with eggs and bacon. They stand around in more pyjama pants. The youngest must be in Melbourne for a try-out for next year's team. Suddenly they are full of alert energy, nagging their father to go.

It's stopped raining, but it could snow.  The wind is vile, the temperature wicked. Our week-end working bee is over.
Who's the smart one????

Dee Briscomb at Doll's Paddock

18 October 2012

Colours of Spring

A vast sea of yellow signifies spring in this part of the world.   The bush land and rolling hills come alive with yellow wattles.  The deep purple of hardenbergia interlaces the egg and bacon faces of eutaxia, pultenaea and dillwynia . 

In the garden, I have achieved my dream of a sea of daffodils - fields of yellow and white trumpets.  However, as I am learning, there is a fine line between tasteful clumps and rampant excess.  As the bulbs have increased, I’m getting fairly close to overkill!  “All that yellow!”  A friend said.  “It’s disgusting!”   

My vision of wandering free as a cloud amongst my sea of daffodils has some potentially major visual flaws.   It’s not at the disgusting stage from my perspective, but there are some alarming garden moments when yellow dominates the scene.  The daffodils coincide with a joyous display from the forsythia.  At the same time, in the corresponding garden bed, an outrageous burst of lolly pink on the hakea macraema and pink-mauve of a wallflower, clash with the adjacent butter yellow.
This all settles down  with time as flowers fade and the subtle greens of new growth intervenes.

Daffodils can look deadly boring.  Rosa Stepanova, in her book “The Impossible Garden”, abhors the rigid plantings of daffodils so often seen in municipal gardens, engendering in her an emotion “bordering on hatred”.   There is nothing rigid about my plantings.  They are placed as randomly as Edna Walling would recommend, more or less where they land if thrown in the air.   The hybrids are beautiful, but one must take care, for as Stepanova says, some have an uncanny resemblance to “fried eggs on stilts.”

With bulbs, there is also the problem of that end-of- season look.  Will I have a sea of yellowing foliage and shriveled leaves in December? 

Jill at Greenlion

17 October 2012

The planners and the plonkers

Have you heard about the planners and the plonkers?  My son is a landscaper and horticulturalist.  In his student days we would stroll around the garden together, discussing gardens and gardening.    “Mum”, he said, “we were taught that there are two types of gardeners - there are the planners and there are the plonkers”.  Planners design their gardens, plan the selection of plants and after careful consideration, they create their garden. Plonkers on the other hand are compulsive.  They collect bits and pieces from their friends’ gardens, and buy spontaneously from the nurseries.   When they come home they say ‘Now, where will I put this?’  They dig a hole where there’s a space and they bung the plant in.

"And Mum," he said "you're a plonker!)

I reckon my plonking has worked out ok!

 Jill at Greenlion.

16 October 2012

October is the month for Common Bird Orchids.  They are so common, sometimes it's hard not to step on them.  These are under the trees on the far side of the dam at Vizsla Lak.

13 October 2012

Downloadable poster

Click on the image and the poster should download.  Yours for the sharing!
PS: For some reason it seems not to download but perhaps you can do a screen dump. Or that right-click thingummywhatsit (on the mac it's control-command click to save).

12 October 2012

Doll's Paddock - then

It was a warm spring afternoon, we had come to look at 5 acres along the Lodden River, in Glenlyon as a possible site for a strawbale house. The paddock was virgin, only Dollie the Fleicher’s horse, and several generations of cows had lived on it since the foundation of Glenlyon.

I sat on the slope looking east, with Tilly and Bella beside me, and slowly I began to realize that this was a very special place.  A place to live.

That was October 2006. The house was completed in May 2008 and in August when we  moved in permanently, the work on the garden began.

I knew almost immediately what the final design would look like,  ltaking into account the slopes, the position of the house, and the beautiful red soil, I knew where to put the vegetables, the trees, herbaceous borders ( if any) and steps.

In June 2008 and in a panic to get things started we planted 10 melia anzanderachs, 11 silver birch, 10 crab apples and two varieties of robinias. We planted them in a hurry, and without due attention to their welfare.  Mostly they have survived, and seem happy in their new home

Neighbours, who had not shown their colours in 2006  when we bought the land, now started a road haulage, bob-cat and bull-dozer business, leaving their machinery next to our southern boundary. In order to hide this, we planted a 50 metre hedge of prunus lucitanicus  and repeated this around the flower garden.

There were many suggestions for hiding the water tank, but I liked its architectural qualities and decided not to camouflage it, besides we had been warned that if trees or climbers were planted close there was a danger of roots damaging the plastic liner.  Perhaps the most important decision was the building of the terrace wall which helped frame the house and connect it to the landscape. Including the fish pond at the western end was a sudden choice of my husband’s (Tony) and he looks after that – totally !

The red soil is a great gift, however when dry as it was at the end of the drought in 2008,  it became solid concrete, needing jack hammers to break it up.

We planted three agapanthus on the west side of the water tank, using crow bars to break the soil.  Three further seedlings of questionable origin but definitely eucalypts, were planted amongst the building detritus.  They looked sick for a year.  Unable to rip along the western fence line due to phone and gas lines, we spent 3 months hand digging and planting eucalypt, acacia and calistemon varieties.  These needed hand watering and being unfamiliar with amounts in retrospect we were not generous enough.

An attempt to terrace a vegetable garden was made on the eastern side of the house, with some success, but maintenance proved hard with only one pair of hands.

With a determination to avoid the classical English ‘look’, our  second year saw the landscaping and native planting of beds around the house. David Glenn at Lamley advised on frost hardy plants, and landscape artist and gardener Ray Robinson advised on selection of plants, trees and ground cover.  The John Deere enthusiast  (Tony) found cutting the grass on the  slope from the house unnerving due to its  angle, its uneven surface, the rocks and the tree-like cape weed. But continued and regular cutting has lessened the problem. The virgin soil although slightly acidic has proved very productive and the plants have thrived. When the rains came we were rewarded with amazing growth.

Last year we established the “waterfall” in the natural swale where the water tank overflow pipe appeared and with the ‘floaters’ found on the block, we built a very natural looking rocky outcrop and planted leucadendrons, olives, a forest of casuarinas with crocus ground cover,  grasses and frost hardy succulents. Plans to extend the planting are in hand.

During the recent heavy rains the red soil has turned to a thin, red soup – mulches, compost and sugar cane mulch has been used to provide substance. This winter temperatures have fallen below -5 degrees, too cold for the survival of many plants.

Winds have taken branches off the soft robinias, and broken the blossom-heavy acacia trees. We are exposed to strong winds, and heavy frosts as well as temperatures reaching 40 degrees. Very demanding gardening conditions.

Next year we will have established the basics and look forward to a less stressful and hard working year.

Dee from Doll's Paddock

11 October 2012

It just came off in me hand, your honor!

You may meet Murphy when you visit Mrs Gooch's Garden.  If you've looked closely at the pic and are a little phased by its contents, try not to be. Murphy lives in the country and has to earn his keep.

10 October 2012

Glenlyon and Upper Loddon Landcare Group

The Glenlyon Upper Loddon Landcare Group will have a display at the the Glenlyon Shire Hall during the Gardens of Glenlyon (8-9 December).  If you'd like to know more about what they do and have done then come along and have a chat with the members.

The Glenlyon Upper Loddon Landcare Group mostly operates between Coomoora, Denver, the Upper Loddon State Forest, and the Wombat State Forest. Situated in the headwaters of the Loddon River, this area is of considerable environmental significance.

The landcare group is a grass roots organization interested in enhancing the district’s unique natural and agricultural landscapes. Members are actively involved in:
  • Restoration of the Loddon River & tributaries through both group and individual projects
  • Control of environmental and agricultural weeds and pests within the district
  • Lobbying land managers and funding providers to prioritise works in the area
  • Promotion of sustainable landuse principles within the community
  • Broader landcare and farming network activities
Members of the Glenlyon Upper Loddon Landcare Group have the opportunity to learn about and to address:
  • Control of weeds and pests
  • Prevention of soil erosion and rehabilitation of degraded land
  • Sustainable land use and productivity
  • Protection and rehabilitation of remnant vegetation
  • Monitoring and maintaining water quality
  • Protection of the biodiversity of local plants and wildlife
For more information:
President: Evan Davis 03 5348 7737
Secretary: John Cable 03 5348 7947

9 October 2012

Vizsla Lak

My property is called Vizsla Lak, because of my Hungarian pointers – Vizslas.  “Lak” I believe, means “home” in Hungarian.  (A neighbour speaks Hungarian).   My dogs are with me most of the day, but do find gardening boring.  They love watching the skinks  but I haven’t seen many yet.  It has been too cold.

I’ve been busy cutting back, weeding and mulching this week.  While I’m around the garden, I let the chooks out, but am very wary of the fox which took a couple in broad daylight earlier in the year.  Greta and Xara are the official “chook guardians.  I snapped the photo of the rooster having a dust(?) bath with guardians watching.

My property has two dams, the main one close to the house is the larger.  Summer afternoons bring swimming and lazing on the pontoon.  At the weekend I added trout fry to the dams, ferrying a bucket-full on the pontoon to the island edge.  Greta is always keen for a ride and got on the pontoon yesterday, hoping I would indulge her. 
The final shot from this morning’s walk is taken at my smaller dam which is much further into the forest.
Xara at Vizsla Lak

6 October 2012

The farm of Pam and Dan Harris

‘Pigs and ducks and goats run a scurry…..’

We bought a run down old sheep property in 1984.  It was barren and windy.  There were no fences, the paddocks were infested with blackberries, there were no trees, but at an altitude of over 500 metres, the view was to die for.

We set about developing a small farm.  We lived in the shed while we built the house to make the most of the view and you will also see the foundations of at least one other building that hasn’t quite made it!   We dug dams, cleared the blackberries, built a propagation house, planted trees to reduce the wind and developed a huge vegie patch.  We now have goats, pigs, a couple of cows, ducks, turkeys, chooks, dogs and a cat.   

At the beginning, the goats were our focus and as well as eating the blackberries, they provided milk and we also sold them for meat.  We make beautiful goat’s cheese and icecream.
A rounder goat I've never seen
Nothing is wasted.  The manure and old straw from the animal sheds is plowed into the garden and the vegie patch.  Weeds are dug into trenches to form green compost.  Cans and other utensils are used to propagate or to border garden beds.  

Dog food cans make excellent leek protectors

Cans for decoration?
Tree branches and garden cuttings are used for mulch or fed to the goats.  We don’t use artificial fertilisers or sprays.  Because we have the animals and a large vegetable patch, we are self sufficient in meat, milk, cream, cheese and vegetables.
Dan and "mum"
Pig Junior - had been digging for China when we interrupted it for a photo

Our soil is volcanic and the rocks grow like mushrooms.  But once we have removed the rocks and added the mulch, the soil is great.  A lot of the plants are grown from cuttings and we save the seeds from the vegetables so we are pretty self sufficient on that level too.    

Our house water is from the tank and the garden is watered mainly from the dams.  Occasionally we use bore water.  We have severe frosts so we avoid plants that are frost prone and propagate plants under cover.  We keep the lime and lemon tree in pots on the verandah.  But the climate here is drier and warmer than in the town of Glenlyon.

The garden is a work in progress because we (well, one of us!) just keep on making more gardens!  

3 October 2012

Did you see the gorgeous clothes in last Saturday's Age?

Mrs Gooch's Garden features strongly in the work of designer Tiffany Treloar.  Have a look here for some gorgeous renditions of scenes from the garden.
See if you can identify just where in Mrs Gooch's Garden this image (on the fabric) was taken.