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”

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”

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”

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”

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?”

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.

Daffodils at Rydal, NSW

Rydal is a pretty village on the bank of Solitary Creek, surrounded by rolling rural countryside. It was named after a village in England where the poet William Wordsworth lived. His poem ‘The Daffodils‘ has helped make these lovely flowers popular.

Rydal has some wonderful heritage buildings dating from the time when it was the terminus of the Western Railway.

For 2 weekends each September, Rydal is aglow with thousands of daffodils, in open fields, public parks and private gardens.

Open gardens for 3017 TBA

Daffodils at Rydal, NSW

Rydal is a pretty village on the bank of Solitary Creek, surrounded by rolling rural countryside. It was named after a village in England where the poet William Wordsworth lived. His poem ‘The Daffodils‘ has helped make these lovely flowers popular.

Rydal has some wonderful heritage buildings dating from the time when it was the terminus of the Western Railway.

For 2 weekends each September, Rydal is aglow with thousands of daffodils, in open fields, public parks and private gardens.

Open gardens include Chapel House, Karingal, Bark Ridge, Rydal Cottage, Rose Cottage, The Old Police Station, Rydal Mount, Featherstone and Solitary Creek

Tasmania’s Koonya Garlic Festival is a pungent delight

I recently had the pleasure of attending the Koonya Garlic Festival. Where is Koonya I hear some of you asking? Set in Tasmania alongside a picturesque inlet of Norfolk Bay on the Tasman Peninsula, this small settlement hosts a thriving horticultural festival in February each year. 2016 was its third year, and it has grown steadily over that period. Continue reading “Tasmania’s Koonya Garlic Festival is a pungent delight”

Leura Harvest Festival, Blue Mountains, NSW

Scarecrows, chooks, chocolate cake and jam – they’re all part of the fun and festivities of the Leura Harvest Festival held recently in the Blue Mountains. The festival ads said there would be outstanding produce, fine fare and innovative sustainability initiatives, and its tireless creator Barry Jarrott just happens to be a professional gardener. It all boded well for an interesting and feast-filled time. Continue reading “Leura Harvest Festival, Blue Mountains, NSW”

Walking in Victoria’s High Country

Garden lovers are nature lovers and one of my favourite pastimes is packing my rucksack and saying goodbye to reality before taking off into the Australian bush on my own for a few days of walking. Midsummer is not a typically popular time for bushwalking in Australia. Summers regularly reach a windy 40 degrees celsius, and avoiding remote bushland on such days is as much about avoiding chafing thighs as it is an act of self preservation. Continue reading “Walking in Victoria’s High Country”

Talk – Museum of Economic Botany

Illustrated talk in Sydney on the Museum of Economic Botany at Adelaide Botanic Garden, by Tony Kanellos. The story of the Museum of Economic Botany spans a remarkable 150 years – from the germ of an idea by George Francis, through the flowering of the collection and building by Richard Schomburgk to the restoration of 2009. This potted history covers the highs and lows, celebration and neglect, thousands of objects from around the world, dedicated curators, deadly white ants, larrikins and lovers of plants and the ingenuity of their uses by people of many cultures of the globe.
Venue: Annie Wyatt Room, National Trust Centre, Observatory Hill.
Cost: Members $20 Guests $30 includes light refreshments. Bookings essential.
Bookings & enquiries for all events above: Email: Jeanne@Villani.com.
NOTE: Please book before transferring money to the account – the event may be booked out. Payment confirms booking.

Review: The Calyx reveals its Sweet Addiction at Sydney RBG

Newly opened at the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney, The Calyx is the purpose-built exhibition space that the Gardens has needed and wanted for some years. On the outside it’s an architectural and very beautiful structure occupying the site of the old glass square pyramid Tropical Centre and built on to the Ken Woolley-designed quarter-circle ‘Arc’ glasshouse which survived demolition. I like the way its stark and severe white ribs around the circular open courtyard area contrast with its green and leafy garden background, and also the wonderful shadow patterns they throw on the internal courtyard space. But what’s inside? Continue reading “Review: The Calyx reveals its Sweet Addiction at Sydney RBG”

Home and Garden Show Bowral

The Home and Garden Show in Bowral, NSW, has over 150 exhibitors. Anything you could possibly need, want or desire will be there… loads to love, see, buy, do and learn! The perfect opportunity to enquire, order and purchase loads of new products, plants, innovations and ideas for your Home & Garden. Enjoy free demonstrations and presentations across 4 stages including Gardening experts, home improvement, interior design and food and wine aficionados. Bowral is in the beautiful NSW Southern Highlands, an easy 1.5 to 2 hour drive by motorway south-west of Sydney.

Western Australian Flora

Talk at Australian Plants Society Central Coast Group, Saturday 13 August at 2pm.
In October 2015 Kevin Stokes went on a wildflower tour to WA which took him north from Perth and Kings Park to Geraldton and on to Kalbarri National Park before returning to Perth. His talk will loosely follow that trip and display the richness of the WA Flora in a photographic essay. As a bonus Kevin will touch on how to grow some of the WA plants on the East Coast.
Kevin has had a deep interest in most aspects of the Australian Flora over the last 40 years and has been associated with the Hunter Region Botanic Gardens near Raymond Terrace for its 30 year history.

$2 entry includes talk, a raffle ticket and afternoon tea plus a garden-grown Australian NATIVE flower and foliage display. ALL WELCOME!

Herbals – Myth, Magic, Medicine

Exquisite rare antiquarian books plus the intriguing and fantastical stories behind many of our medicinal plants makes a fabulous Sydney exhibition. ‘HERBALS: Myths Magic, Medicine

Since earliest times, humans have used plants to aid in maintaining their health. This knowledge was preserved and compiled in handwritten, illuminated and later, printed books and almost always illustrated. These were Herbals and along with useful information; mythic tales, legends, bizarre and sometimes macabre magical remedies were recorded.

At the Red Box Gallery, National Herbarium of NSW, Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney. 10am – 4pm WEEK DAYS ONLY. FREE entry.