Basils – sacred and fragrant

Over the weekend I purchased a Tulasi plant (Ocimum tenuifolium, prev Ocimum sanctum) known as sacred, or holy basil. The plant is renowned as the most sacred of Indian plants, having great medicinal properties as well as being highly auspicious to have in the garden. Continue reading “Basils – sacred and fragrant”

Tasmanian garden tour

Just back from a week looking at gardens in Tasmania, I am trying to decipher my scribbled notes. But maybe I don’t need the notes to tell you about it. Because certain aspects of the landscape there – designed and natural – come straight to mind. These are, in order, water, rock, plants. Continue reading “Tasmanian garden tour”

Bushwalk from Sullivan Rock to Mt Cooke

I recently went bushwalking in the Monadnock National Park, named for the huge granite rocks that have resisted erosion and now stand isolated and proud of the surrounding land. The walk was a 16km round trip between two of these outcrops – Sullivan Rock and Mt Cooke. The route we took is part of the Bibbulmun Track, a walk of nearly 1000km from the hills near Perth to Albany on the south coast. Our starting point for the walk was the Sullivan Rock car park, about 40km south east of Perth on the Albany Hwy. Continue reading “Bushwalk from Sullivan Rock to Mt Cooke”

My pilgrimage to Uluru

What is it about a rock in the middle of a desert landscape that can create such a siren call? For years I’ve thought “I just have to go there”. I haven’t and I’m not sure why. But last week I finally got to see and touch the famous rock that is Australia’s heart – Uluru (or, to the old-fashioned, Ayers Rock), an amazing red monolith that towers above its surrounding plain very close to the geographic centre of Australia. Continue reading “My pilgrimage to Uluru”

Wilpena Pound

Over three hundred kilometres north of Adelaide in South Australia looms a mountain range with breathtaking natural beauty on a grand scale. As I sit here penning this blog to the sounds of the bird life around me, with glimpses of red rocky outcrops through the trees, I am ashamed to say that like most Australians I had no idea this place existed up until a couple of months ago. Continue reading “Wilpena Pound”

Celebrating the coconut

Ask someone to think of a tropical island they’ll usually conjure up images of palm trees, white beaches and crystal clear waters. If you’ve been lucky enough to spend some time in the South Pacific Islands you’ll know that these places actually do exist. Continue reading “Celebrating the coconut”

Pukeiti Gardens, New Zealand

The wonderful thing about being a gardener on vacation is that, no matter where you are in the world, you meet people who love plants. The climate may be different, the plants may be different, but that joy of all things green and growing, of creating a beautiful environment, also creates an instant connection we recognise in each other. It’s exhilarating.

 

Continue reading “Pukeiti Gardens, New Zealand”

Western Australian wildflowers

The southwest corner of Western Australia is without doubt one of the world’s greatest spots for wildflowers, with visitors flocking from around the globe to see them. However, I’ve got to say that the picture postcard view of vast expanses of everlasting daisies or kangaroo paws can be rather an elusive one for the uninitiated. Carpets of wildflowers do exist but the tend to occur only in the couple of years after there’s been a fire through a suitable area of bushland. Continue reading “Western Australian wildflowers”

New Zealand native garden – Te Kainga Marire

It’s so easy to take our own environment for granted, and so much easier to value and appreciate differences when we travel overseas. From the video promoting the Taranaki Garden Festival, the open gardens featured are stunning, but I was surprised that nearly all seem to have a distinctly English flavour. On the other hand, perhaps not so surprising for a country settled not only by the Maori people but also by the English, and which measures its annual rainfall in metres. Continue reading “New Zealand native garden – Te Kainga Marire”

Garden DesignFest is Design Feast

I am smugly replete. What an amazing two full-on days of gardens. About 327 gardens all up I think, although maybe that was me feeling a little drunk on the heady elixir of high-quality design. Checking the DesignFest book, I see we made it to 17 of the 26 possible gardens, taking in tiny courtyards, suburban-sized yards and even enormous estates that seemed to roll down the hill with a cornucopia of flowers, paths, pavilions and foliage. Continue reading “Garden DesignFest is Design Feast”

New Zealand’s geothermal vegetation

During our recent holiday on New Zealand’s North Island, we saw ecosystems that were so different to South Australia’s landscapes that they seemed positively alien. The apparent darkness of a glow worm cave gradually brightening to become a miniature replica of the Milky Way was memorable… but nothing was more eerie than the geothermal areas we visited. Continue reading “New Zealand’s geothermal vegetation”

Garden tour of Great Barrier Island, NZ

Last year I overdid it, positively gorged myself, on garden travel. But just after enjoying a wonderful weekend at the Melbourne Garden DesignFest in the middle of November, there was one more tour that couldn’t be missed. For the last couple of years, three friends and I have headed off to Great Barrier Island, just off the coast of the North Island of New Zealand, for their superbly organised ‘Spectacular by Nature’ Garden Tour. Continue reading “Garden tour of Great Barrier Island, NZ”

Auckland to Ayrlies – with cocktails

Having been lucky enough to lead more than a dozen garden tours to various parts of Europe, Japan and Australasia over the last 10 years, I’ve recently returned from a garden tour of New Zealand by cruise ship. It’s my first experience of conducting a garden tour this way but I hope it won’t be the last. I thought I’d share a typical day with you, which also gives me the chance to write about one of the best gardens we visited, Ayrlies, just outside Auckland. Continue reading “Auckland to Ayrlies – with cocktails”

The last place you’d look for passionfruit

My neighbour, artist Ros Goody, has the best crop of passionfruit ever this year, which is odd as her vine, possibly self-sown, grows under and around a jacaranda. It is very shaded and never watered. It is only fertilised if its roots have roamed into a near by garden bed, although there is plenty of mulch around and the soil is good. Continue reading “The last place you’d look for passionfruit”

Green is the new black in Melbourne

A few months ago I took one of my regular trips down to Melbourne to visit a close girlfriend who lives there. Over the three days I was there, I was struck by how green Melbourne was. Not that it has more parkland that I remembered or that it was mindblowingly sustainable – but that at the moment green seems to be the new black. Terrariums in cafes, rooftop veggie gardens in the city, living cacti necklaces…you name it, it’s there, and accessible for the average tourist. Continue reading “Green is the new black in Melbourne”

Captain Cook’s ivy a worthy sailor

“Ambition leads me not only farther than any other man has been before me, but as far as I think it possible for man to go.” A quote by Captain James Cook in reference to him digging for potatoes in his garden? Perhaps unlikely, but the great explorer may have had a greener upbringing than his sea blue finale. It wasn’t my sole reason for heading to Melbourne, but along with the restful Fitzroy Gardens, the ever changing observatory and the house and gardens of the Cook family, the area remains a focal point of horticultural attraction in the heart of the Victorian capital. Continue reading “Captain Cook’s ivy a worthy sailor”

Bronze medallists

Coloured foliage can certainly make a statement but like anything in the garden that isn’t green it can be overdone. Too many gold leaves can be glaring in strong sun light and could even create the look of a bed full of sick underfed plants. Variegated foliage overused can create a hectic look that has the eye flitting disconcertedly all over the place. Large swathes of silver foliage may well glitter in the English light but for me it can look dry and Mallee scrubbish in our hot weather and harsh sunlight, a look I’m not usually in favour of! Continue reading “Bronze medallists”

Tasmanian garden shopping

We’ve long harboured a desire to live in a beautiful house and garden in Tasmania. It seemed like a dream – not something that would actually ever happen – but recently several things changed in our lives and we realised a big move could be a reality. Continue reading “Tasmanian garden shopping”

Garden travel to broaden your mind

I am about to jump on a plane and head off to France to lead a tour of gardens and châteaux of Normandy and the Loire Valley and if you haven’t booked it’s a bit late now! But the idea of travelling across the world to see gardens and gardening that I may well have little hope of emulating started me thinking. Is it just horticultural eye candy or is there more to it than that? Continue reading “Garden travel to broaden your mind”

Guilfoyle and his warm climate plants

A few years ago, whilst researching Polyscias (commonly called Aralia) cultivars for a magazine article, I came across mention of their discovery and introduction by William Guilfoyle during his voyage on the HMS Challenger in 1868. I was surprised to learn this was the same W R Guilfoyle (1840 – 1912) who later became the famous curator at the Melbourne Botanic Garden. Continue reading “Guilfoyle and his warm climate plants”

The hunt for red wreath flowers…a WA treasure

The roads around Western Australia are lit up in August with the dazzling colours of the wildflowers so it’s no surprise that travellers are drawn from all over the country to see some of the most unique flora in the world. I’m a typical West Aussie who tends just to pop up to Kings Park in spring to take a look at the spectacular display gardens laden with wildflowers but this year, with the news that the season was better than ever, I felt the urge to head north to hunt for the elusive wreath flower, Leschenaultia macrantha.

Continue reading “The hunt for red wreath flowers…a WA treasure”

Public parks will save our wildflowers

Australian landscape architects and designers are gradually evolving a distinctively Australian style to their public parks and I recently came across a great example of this in a municipal park in Dunsborough WA, Seymour Park. Continue reading “Public parks will save our wildflowers”

Garden oddities – floral clocks

One of the horticultural oddities of the last century is the floral clock. Most of us have encountered them from time to time during our travels, often sighted on gentle slopes in manicured public gardens at tourist destinations. Apart from a moment’s thought at the sophistication of the technology and the intricate plantings used by the designers, most of these outdoor landscapes are soon forgotten. Continue reading “Garden oddities – floral clocks”

La Trobe’s Cottage garden wins award!

The Friends of La Trobe’s Cottage are a band of dedicated volunteers and who entered for the second time into the Victorian Community History Awards in the category Historical Interpretation. This award recognises the unique formats of historical representation through the use of physical exhibitions, artistic interpretation, history walks and tours. And we won which is very exciting for all the volunteers that help at the cottage.

Continue reading “La Trobe’s Cottage garden wins award!”

Review: Garden DesignFest tours

Garden DesignFest has reigned as Australia’s premier open garden style event for a number of years now, since its inception relatively recently in 2004. Biennially and over two days in and around Melbourne, several thousand garden lovers from all around Australia converge to have their garden curiosity taste buds sated as the gates are opened to some of the most creative, elegant, quirky and pampered private gardens that one could ever dream of entering.

FOR INFORMATION ABOUT MELBOURNE’S GARDEN DESIGNFEST 2016, click HERE

Continue reading “Review: Garden DesignFest tours”

Macquarie Island cabbage at Tasmanian Botanic Gardens

I stumbled upon a weird leafy vegetable in the Subantarctic Plant House in the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens (RTBG). On an already chilly day I made my way into the still colder environment of the Subantarctic Plant House for a glimpse of the native vegetation of Macquarie Island. This special growing environment is kept chilled below 15ºC but above freezing Continue reading “Macquarie Island cabbage at Tasmanian Botanic Gardens”

Wonder, delight & mystery: Australian Landscape Conference in review

The 2015 Australian Landscape Conference – held in Melbourne in late September – was a memorable two-day session. More than 600 local and international attendees followed the thought-provoking input of landscape designers drawn from overseas and Australia. Continue reading “Wonder, delight & mystery: Australian Landscape Conference in review”

Which gardens make your heart sing?

When I first took an interest in garden design, it was all about the look. Some combination of colours, textures and forms would jump out at me from a page and I would ooh and aah about how beautiful it was. Continue reading “Which gardens make your heart sing?”

Book Review: ‘Lessons from Great Gardeners’

Lessons from Great Gardeners‘ is an inviting book. First, in terms of content. Forty ‘gardening icons’ – gardeners, garden designers and/or garden owners – are profiled, many with emphasis on one garden to which each has devoted a significant part of his or her life. You absorb their practical skills in terms of knowledge and experience. You respond to their creative ideas and their passion for gardens. You learn from them. Continue reading “Book Review: ‘Lessons from Great Gardeners’”

Stunning designer gardens at Auckland Garden DesignFest 2015

If you have been thinking of visiting New Zealand, don’t miss this one-off opportunity to see the work of some of our top designers in private gardens that bring out the best of Auckland’s iconic landscape. From the famous volcanic cones throughout the city to the backdrop of sea and harbour in the spectacular Hauraki Gulf, you will come away entranced. Continue reading “Stunning designer gardens at Auckland Garden DesignFest 2015”

When your lawn is all at sea

Growing lawn in coastal gardens can be a struggle due to salty winds and sea spray, but consider the challenges of sustaining a healthy lawn on a ship in the middle of the ocean! I’ve just returned from a cruise and am slightly embarrassed to admit that one of the aspects of ship life I found most fascinating was learning how the green keepers tended the 2,130 sqm swathe of lawn! Continue reading “When your lawn is all at sea”

Review: Why I don’t like Mayfield Water Garden

Mayfield, a huge, private, cool-climate garden near Oberon in the NSW Central Tablelands has been described as “marvellous” and its public Water Garden a “masterpiece” and “magical“. I first saw greater Mayfield in 2010 and wasn’t that keen but thought it just needed maturation time. Continue reading “Review: Why I don’t like Mayfield Water Garden”

Hidden Design Festival comes to Brisbane

Hidden all around Australia are stunning gardens, designed, constructed and maintained by landscape professionals – gardens which are rarely seen, other than by their owners and friends. The Hidden Design Festival, Queensland showcases these gardens to the public. After two years of sell-out success in Sydney, Hidden is set to open here in Brisbane on Saturday 5 March 2016. If you love seeing high quality gardens and want to see the work of some of our top garden designers, you will not want to miss this event. Continue reading “Hidden Design Festival comes to Brisbane”

Four favourite parks in Central West NSW

Almost off the radar in terms of heritage listings at state or national level, yet uppermost in local communities’ minds and affections and emblems of regional pride as meeting places, beauty spots and centres for social or important gatherings, local public parks across NSW are one of its glories. A handful of the hundreds spring to my mind as my favourite places, historic, beautiful, rich in detail (be that layout, embellishment, plantings) and well-loved and used to this day. Continue reading “Four favourite parks in Central West NSW”

Kangaroo Paw Symposium

Come to our three-day Symposium 24-26 November 2016, ‘Celebrating the Kangaroo Paw’, with much to interest everyone from botanists to landscape practitioners and also home gardeners. Only $100/day for a full day of expert lectures and workshops.

Topics will cover the whole Kangaroo Paw Family (Haemodoraceae).

Speakers will include

•    Prof Stephen Hopper (world authority on the Haemodoraceae Family)

•    Prof Kingsley Dixon from Curtin University

•    Dr Brett Summerell, Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney

•    Angus Stewart, kangaroo paw breeder and native plant expert

plus many more local and overseas people with special expertise.