The Convent on Display

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I purchased the Convent in Kandos over 4 years ago now. Since then, this beautiful building has seen a few changes inside and out. She’s had to become accustomed to being a home to me and has also opened her doors and garden gates each year to the public for various community events.

ACP_2897Her next big event is the CWA Kandos Gardens Fair on 7 & 8 April and I’m already hard at work getting the garden into shape during some challenging dry seasons. Whilst the timing wasn’t perfect, I organised a photo shoot with the talented Amber Hooper from Amber Creative to take a series of shots to help with promotion (and because I just wanted to have some lovely photos of the Convent).

ACP_3189These photos were taken at dusk just prior to Christmas and do justice to the Convent and the amazing Kandos surrounds.

Moving here has been such a fantastic experience and I wonder how many others should just take a leap of faith and discover how great a country lifestyle is, particularly in one of the smaller rural communities. Life is still busy and challenging but it’s by choice and with challenges you choose. Living in a community is so different with its own rewards and obligations, unlike in the city or suburbs and certainly focusses your priorities.ACP_3065

Four years on and this is still an adventure that I hope continues for many years to come.

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The End of Winter

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Never at it’s best at the end of Winter but the pruning is over and this bed will burst with life from Spring through to Autumn.

Winter here is harsh. Cold (but rarely snowing), cruel frosts but, this year, unfortunately very little rain. By the end of Winter I start to despair for the garden. It all looks so grey/yellow and bare, with little sign of life or greenery.

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This little fella self-seeded and decided to stay. A welcome addition, even if unplanned and in an awkward position.

It’s now nearly four years since I moved here and this year I realised that I’ve been so conditioned to Sydney North Shore gardens that are dominated by evergreens including camellias, azaleas and all-pervading buxus hedges that the yellowness of the landscape here is still a little disturbing. Gardens here are different – more deciduous trees and shrubs, veggie beds and with the frosts, grass will never stay green.

The upside is that Winter is perfect for knitting and has a lot less competition for time, given the garden is dormant. Come Spring, the garden starts to come alive. The last few weeks I’ve been madly pruning – paying a steep price for now having over 100 roses that are doing very well at the Convent. It’s also feeding, watering and mulching time. Water is a problem given I can’t remember the last time we had decent rain fall.

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Not so Tortured Filbert will have grassy green leaves soon. I’m enjoying the catkins that just keep dropping longer and longer.

It’s so rewarding to watch plants that seem so lifeless spring back – and certainly reassuring that I haven’t killed them. Many of the plants are now three to four years old and establishing themselves, which is also intriguing to watch, with a few becoming fast favourites. I bought Tortured Filbert as I was fascinated by the name and felt a bit sorry for any plant that could be called that. However he is a stunning little hazelnut specimen with an amazing twisted structure and the cutest catkins that are currently getting longer and longer.

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Blue Streak Willow – just lucky with this one that it’s such a beautiful tree. Look at the pussy willows just before it goes into leaf.

Another gorgeous plant is Salix Acutifolia ‘Blue Streak’ that I bought from Lambleys, one of my favourite online nurseries. It came in a tiny tube pot and was originally planted in a garden bed. A year later I needed help to move it – obviously a vigorous plant – and it now sits between the Chapel and Grotto (not many people can use that phrase on their Blog!). It’s just displaying gorgeous little pussy willows at the moment and looks like it will explode into growth soon.

One of the first trees I planted was the somewhat Convent appropriate Judas Tree which always has lovely blossoms and pretty leaf growth. It, too is about to flower. The garden was so bare with no established shade trees so I’ve been keen for the Manchurian Pears to grow. They’ve been reliable and I think this year will hit their straps.

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The pair of Wisterias have taken a surprisingly short time to get themselves in shape.

At my last home in Sydney, a neighbour had a wonderful Wisteria that was kept to a standard shape – an ever thickening trunk and heavy weeping strands of flowers. This seemed a perfect option to go under the Convent windows and break up some of the harshness of the exterior. It also seems to be working and the plants are now heavy with buds – although more endless pruning for me to keep it in shape.

Anyway, the knitting is slowing a little although shop hand knit staples (beanies, mitts and scarves) are less in demand, so at this time of the year I try and move towards more detailed lace knitting and always promise myself that I’ll get my Show knitting under control early (never happens!!!).

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The two Manchurian Pears that should become prominent in the front yard are just starting to hit their straps.

The Next Phase

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New gates at each end. This is the rear of the property.

Winter has been a good time to let the garden rest and get on with lots of knitting for the shop. However it’s starting to warm up and Spring isn’t far away. Priorities are about to change!

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The paddock in earlier days
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Internal access from the Convent block through a small gate set in the privet hedge.

Over the past year I’ve been cleaning up the block next door, or “the paddock” as it’s more commonly referred to. I have just over half an acre of land that the Convent sits on and also own the quarter acre next door which has just been a rough block up until now. I’ve had it cleared of the old scrub and last week fencing and gates went up, so now it’s time to start doing some work.

The land is pretty rough – shale and clay, so I’ll be taking my time building up the soil and planting gradually. So far I’ve started at one end – lots of cardboard getting put down and mulch going on top. Given it’s pruning time, lots of light pruning and leaves are making their way to the other side of the galvanised fence. First cab off the rank is potatoes. Last year I had huge success with some substantial “no dig” beds of potatoes layered with straw mulch and a sprinkling of Dynamic Lifter. This year I have the advantage of horse poo courtesy of Poppy the horse down the road.

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Some rockery beds are already in place at the front of the block from decades ago – now sans tyre plantings.

Either end of the block will be some pretties – I have roses on order that should be OK. Some of the block has some rockery work in place that should work well for the rose and perennial beds but the balance of the paddock will mainly be produce. Some bordering for veggie beds will take place shortly.

Desiree, Sebago and Dutch Cream potatoes doing multiple duties – food, breaking up and enriching soil.

The photos look pretty bleak and colourless – it’s been a very dry Winter with harsh frosts – this will green up in no time with better weather and a little TLC. Anyway, this will keep me going for quite some time.

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Gates at the front of the property – the views are stunning.

Another Special Weekend at the Convent

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Teen’s McCarthy used the Grotto as the setting to her Bush Mary performance

It’s been so long since I’ve written a post. That doesn’t mean I’ve been quiet – just the opposite. What with the shop, the garden, local activities and managing the shop website and personal and commercial Facebook pages (oh, and Instagram), unfortunately the blog seems to fall behind, which is a pity given I can provide more detail and photos here than quick grabs on the other mediums.

IMG_2975Anyway, the last few months have been dominated BY the garden, particularly getting it in good condition for Cementa17, our biannual contemporary arts festival that uses the Convent as a venue, the shop which takes up lots of time, and Show knitting.

Last weekend was Cementa17 with over 40 contemporary artists displaying their works all around our small town. Thousands of people are attracted to the town over 4 days and nights of exhibitions and entertainment.

The Convent is one of the venues used for artists and this year we made the most of having so many visitors by also hosting lunch and Devonshire teas in the garden to raise funds for Kandos CWA.

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Ceramics display by Paris Norton

Two artists exhibited – a performance of the Bush Mary’s by Teena McCarthy and a ceramics display by Paris Norton.

The garden comes up well in Autumn, which is also the time we have our local Garden Fair, the year between Cementa’s, and made a great location for those wishing to have a quiet moment sitting in the garden treating themselves to tea and scones with jam and cream.

Many thanks to all those who volunteered so willingly and gave their time to help out. It was a great weekend.

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Putting the Elderflowers to Work -Elderflower Syrup

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The variegated Elderflower, nearly two years old – no shrinking violet

I have two beautiful Elderflower bushes – both very different in appearance but both vigorous and prolific. The plainer green one that suckers all over the place is about three years old and flowers madly a little later in Summer. At the moment there are no signs of flowers developing but lots of green bushy growth cropping up all over the place. The second is less than two years old, has stunning variegated leaves and a far more architectural growth habit. It’s flowering like crazy right now and last year, unlike it’s older relative, also developed elderberries.

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Last year’s Elderflower Champagne

The previous Summer, the flowers were put to use in Elderflower Champagne, which was a huge success. I recently timidly opened one of the many bottles stashed in my cellar to see if they were still bubbly and was delighted to find it even better than before! Maturing with age like some of us.

This time around I’m trying Elderflower Syrup (same as Elderflower Cordial). I’ve used this Jamie Oliver recipe that sounded interesting with the addition of honey – but it’s so simple with just Elderflowers (lots), sugar, honey, lemons and water. The first batch was doubled so I have plenty and am looking forward to using it as a cordial, fruit syrup and maybe even in some elderflower sorbet, not to mention as a cocktail with some Prosecco!

Next up some more Elderflower champagne – it’s such a treat to sit in the evening next to my new fishpond with an icy glass of this drink and just chill with the dogs.

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The finished product – I’m sure there will be plenty more in the future

 

Spring Has Sprung

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The two standard wisterias under the front windows seem to have settled in well.
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The front circular bed changes with seasons. For now it’s dominated by Ranunculus. Later the new roses will shine and then the white Cosmos will fill it out.

Well at least I hope it has. Winter has taken its time departing (not that I’m complaining as a wool shop owner!) but it would be nice for the rain to ease off, winds die down and sun to show its face.

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Every Convent should have a Judas Tree and this lovely plant has always been reliable.

The last week has shown some promise and the garden is starting to respond, although it seems the grass always responds first and is badly in need of mowing. This is the third year here permanently and about four years since I first set my eyes on the Convent and discovered Kandos. It’s also the first year where I can see the plants doing what I had hoped they would. Roses are bursting with growth, some of the plants that had struggled seem to have found their feet, vacant spaces are beginning to fill, trees are beginning to fill out and climbers are, well, starting their climbing journey.

These are just the first touches of colour coming into the garden and I’m anticipating some great displays through Spring, Summer and Autumn. With expanded veg patches, I’m also hoping to be well fed by my garden – the chooks are certainly enjoying spinach at the moment and rewarding me with lots of eggs.

I have some more plants to put in and I’m eager to play with my water plants with my new fishpond, which is yet to have fish introduced to it.

Let’s hope the weather is now on the improve (not that I mind regular rain) and the garden continues to flourish.

Cobwebs in the Garden

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Cream lace dominated the Chapel veranda
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Fluidity in Zauberball Tropical Fish glowed in the privet hedge.

Last weekend we had our CWA Kandos Gardens Fair, with the Convent gardens being open to the public. Of course, we couldn’t let the weekend go by without including some of our knitting. We used the occasion to display some of our lacework around the garden to catch the eye of visiting garden enthusiasts.

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Birds on Bikes made a great display with this shawl

Some of our most recent work is still on its way back from the Sydney Royal Agricultural Show but we had enough to decorate the grounds. Our cream lace shawls, which are our best Show pieces hung outside the Chapel verandah, Kerry Blue was inside the Grotto, a vibrant Fluidity in Zauberball Tropical Fish peeped through a gap in the privet hedge, our Doodlers hang proudly from the side verandah, the sculpture birds held up a glorious maroon lace triangular shawl and the angel looked suitably draped.

A great week for the Convent garden and we think our shawls added a little to the colour and texture of the garden.

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Doodlers displaying themselves on a verandah

 

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Looking demure and snug