Spring Has Sprung

img_2454

The two standard wisterias under the front windows seem to have settled in well.

img_2456

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.

img_2457

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.

Back to the Garden

I love growing eggplants. The fruit is so dramatic and lovely.

I love growing eggplants. The fruit is so dramatic and lovely.

What with the new shop and show knitting (and other commitments), the garden has not been receiving the attention it needs. Now things are a little more under control and with great weather, including some much wanted rain, energies have been redirected to green things. The Convent will also be one of the venues for the Cementa_15 artists and with lots of people wandering through the property over 4 days in April, I’d like the Convent to be shown at her best.

Beds replanted, mulched and ready to spring into action.

Beds replanted, mulched and ready to spring into action.

Fortunately with some watering, mowing and a bit of weeding, the garden is now coming along well. I’m now trimming, feeding and mulching which will also prepare the garden for Winter. As I see the garden every day, I tend not to notice how far it’s come and appreciate the changes as much as I should but taking new photos has been a good reminder.

One of my focusses has been on the veg beds. I think I neglected these a little over Summer and they weren’t as productive as they should have been and I wasted a bit of produce too, but opening the shop was a pretty big commitment and I’m promising myself that this time around the beds will be well loved and the produce appreciated more. That being said, the colorbond fence bed which has made the bare side fence much more interesting, is now a wealth of produce and between the raised veggie beds and the fence bed, I’ve harvested masses of zucchinis and now reaping eggplants. The carrots continue to be abundant and I’m also now getting pumpkins. The original intention of the fence bed was to be a rambling pumpkin patch, so I’m delighted with these results.

The carrots have lasted well and there are still many more to harvest.

The carrots have lasted well and there are still many more to harvest.

Beds have now been replenished, fed and mulched and are now planted with sugar snap peas, brocollini, rocket, beetroot, bok choi, chop suey veg and lettuce. I’m hoping there will be established plants and new growth emerging for Cementa to give visitors a taste of a country garden.

I think looking at my pumpkin bed, particularly now it actually has pumpkins, must be one of my best rewards.

I think looking at my pumpkin bed, particularly now it actually has pumpkins, must be one of my best rewards.

Hitting the Gardening Wall

 

IMG_0796

Phase Three of the privet will be total cut back.

Now it’s Winter, I’ve been tidying up around the garden and planning next steps. Somehow these seem so much harder than my previous plans. I guess I’ve done the obvious. The garden was a blank canvas, so I’ve made beds around the property and filled in some obvious spaces, but now I need much more discipline and planning to go to the next level, with form and structure, rather than just ad hoc plantings.

This has set me back a little as the stakes are now getting higher. I’d like at some point for the gardens to participate in the Open Garden scheme and know that I’ll be metaphorically standing alongside magnificent and inspiring gardens. I don’t want major structural overhauls of the garden but want to plan out a garden that has structure, form and interest whilst looking like it belongs to the Convent.

I’m happy with the beds I’ve put in place, and I think the smaller backyard is in good shape. But it’s a big block with a sparse front yard and a large, imposing and somewhat stark building at present.

The privet experiment has worked with a section that was cut back hard coming back to a neat hedge.

Phase one – the privet experiment was a section that was cut back hard. Success, with good clippable growth springing back.

Phase two of the privet demolition - further cut back.

Phase two of the privet demolition.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I know how I work and am unlikely to have a grand concept for the entire property (remembering I still have an untouched paddock next door), so am working in sections. I’d like a few areas that are clearly structured and identifiable. The privet is due to come down this week and that will make a world of difference to the property – tidying it up, opening up areas for planning, but also making it even more bare and stark. The privet experiment has proven that it will adapt back to being a neat trimmed hedge along the old galvanised fence, providing a level of formality that was once evident but has been sadly lacking for decades. It will also provide the framework for planting big old ramblers and climbers over the character timber and galvanised fence. And I’ll soften the front of the hedge with low plantings.

IMG_1635

An ugly little corner.

The other area to be adapted is the front left corner, which I intend to turn into a small grove, giving me a shaded corner in an otherwise expansive and exposed front garden. My current thought is to put in a small grove of maybe five silver birches, mulched underneath and planted out with white hellebores. I’m gradually expanding the right side fence bed, so with all those plans, I think this will keep me occupied for a while – and give visitors something new to see when the garden is again open to the public.

It will still leave me with the challenge that the garden is still calling for more internal garden beds, rather than fringing the property, but I’ll get the other sections established first …

At present I’m devouring gardening books and looking at as many gardens as possible – determining what I like and why and what I don’t think will work so well, being particularly mindful of my climate. It’s rewarding and fun but also a not insignificant challenge.

Ground zero - just over a year ago.

Ground zero – just over a year ago.

Filling out but still so much more in the works.

Filling out but still so much more in the works.

The Garden is Flourishing

The front wall bed is now showing some form - the other side of the gate is not quite so health as it serves as Popcorn's turning circle

The front wall bed is now showing some form – the other side of the gate is not quite so healthy as it serves as Popcorn’s turning circle

After many months of no rain, we have had a number of days of good rain over the last few weeks, much to the relief of the farmers. The garden is responding by leaping to life. I understand now much more clearly how watering just keeps gardens alive but rain makes them grow.

The blue salvias are electric

The blue salvias are electric

These red salvias have just started to flower and make a lovely contrast to the blue

These red salvias have just started to flower and make a lovely contrast to the blue

The lawns are truly grass green but the most rewarding part is the front wall garden bed which was mainly established the last quarter of last year. I’m just starting to see plants peek over the wall from the front footpath, as is the grand plan. The roses are flourishing, they just need some serious training to get them to go over the wall as they seem intent on reaching out the other way and sprawling across the ground to the grass. The Salvias are now hitting their straps as well, particularly the vibrant blue species.

The white Cosmos work well in the front circular bed and soften the exterior of the Convent

The white Cosmos work well in the front circular bed and soften the exterior of the Convent

The front circular garden bed looks so much better with the white Cosmos which can be clearly seen from so many angles, including from the street. They provide a soft contrast to the Convent and are always swaying with the breeze. There are some other interesting plants in there as well for anyone looking around the garden. With the rain, I seem now to have millions of baby Cosmos springing up.

Popcorn is making his presence felt – particularly as he loves to race up and down the front wall, taking breaks to jump up and look over. A few plants have felt his momentum and are no longer garden residents. He seems to have a set racing and turning track now that I just avoid planting. Once the roses kick in a little more, I’m sure it will limit his movements.

The roses have particularly enjoyed the rain and are now going through a strong growth phase. I just need them to grow in the right direction!

The roses have particularly enjoyed the rain and are now going through a strong growth phase. I just need them to grow in the right direction! This is Mr Lincoln.

Other than bulbs, I’m now dialling back more ornamental plantings as I need to concentrate on the veg beds – cleaning out and replanting in preparation for Winter. In the meantime, I’m benefitting from what is currently ripening. In many ways this Summer has been disappointing as my first full season here, but one of the locals pointed out that it has been the worst growing season ever here in Kandos – two rounds of heavy hail that wiped everyone’s veg and stripped the fruit trees, an invasion of micro bugs that sucked so many veg dry and months of drought. It seems like I haven’t done that badly on reflection.

The dahlias, anonymously dropped at the back date by a kindly neighbour, have come into their own

The dahlias, anonymously dropped at the back date by a kindly neighbour, have come into their own

Serendipity

IMG_1886

Whilst tidying up the end of various flowers, I decided to make the most of the seeds they had produced. It seems a good approach to harvest seeds of flowers and plants that have done so well in this area. It should come in handy next time around instead of buying new seeds and may be useful as gifts or giveaways.

So far I have cornflowers, love in a mist, parsley, coriander, hyssop, cosmos, hollyhocks, mustard lettuce, Queen Anne’s Lace and, of course, one of my favourites with their glossy black seeds – aquilegias.

Of course, they may not grow, but it’s been fun and rewarding getting a little more value out of the plants and planning their next generation.

In a touch of serendipity, during this process my Christmas present arrived from my daughter overseas – a timber planting box for seedlings with lovely little seed envelopes. Much nicer than my cliplock plastic bags.

End of Spring

The earliest salvias

The earliest salvias

It’s been barely a year since the first plants went into the garden (which was many months before the property officially became mine) and after all these years, I’ve still astonished and delighted by how a garden changes with the seasons.

IMG_1807Over the next few weeks, I’ll be clearing out some of the shaggy growth – predominantly the sweet peas, which will give the salvias space to come into their own, and the cornflowers which are now all over the place and looking worse for wear.

Two harsh hail storms in less than a week have done their damage, predominantly with the leafy veg. I’m removing damaged foliage as well as some of the plants that are now pretty much finished – the broad beans (after freezing over 4k of beans) have been replaced with heritage carrots and leafy greens. The fennel has been removed (it was like uprooting a tree!). Next on the agenda is celery, which was a tad disappointing.

Cherry tomatoes are coming good

Cherry tomatoes are coming good

The cherry tomatoes, which I now have so many varieties of now, thanks to supplements received via Diggers, seemed to have survived the hail onslaught and are being tempted back to growth with spray supplements of Seasol, Powerfeed and Charlie Carp. The Salvias all look like being the next series of stars as it appears to be their “time in the sun”. The berry bed is going crazy with new growth and the begginnings of berry crops. These are currently being collected for a mixed berry sorbet. This bed was fortuitously protected from the hail by the bird net that had been erected a day earlier.

The garden appears to be enjoyed by all the dogs. Roxy has always joined me whilst Tango has has her frequent “visits” with us. Popcorn loves the space but at present also needs company, so having me in the garden is best of both worlds for him.

Anyway, we are close to saying farewell to the first Spring at the Convent, and it has been an enormous one, with participating in the Kandos Gardens Fair and permanently moving our lives here to Kandos.

Salvia Madrensis managed to survive and thrive through the frosts

Salvia Madrensis managed to survive and thrive through the frosts

Buddleia close to flowering for the first time

Buddleia close to flowering for the first time

Nature Strikes Again!

The tomatoes were thriving and beginning to fruit. Most of the new growth has been broken off and fruit is on the ground

The tomatoes were thriving and beginning to fruit. Most of the new growth has been broken off and fruit is on the ground

I was relieved that the winds saved themselves until the day after the Garden Fair, given they made their mark on the last of the sweet peas, broadbeans and stopped the cornflowers from feeling so cocky. But I wasn’t expecting a huge hailstorm to hit after I went back to Sydney.

Fortunately one of the last things I did was net off the berry bed to stop the birds who have discovered the ripening gems, and they have been spared. However anything with leafy growth has been massacred. It looks like a plague of green caterpillars has eaten their way through my beds, but it’s all the damage from hail. This time the damage is more widespread than the frosts.

Zucchini - after a number of unsuccessful attempts. I  had baby zucchinis on this a few days ago

Zucchini – after a number of unsuccessful attempts. I had baby zucchinis on this a few days ago

I’ll be replanting all the leafy greens like lettuces, spinach, rocket and can hope that the tomatoes just kick on and grow. But it’s disappointing to see the veg that were just beginning to establish themselves and fruit looking so stripped and bare. Moreso after so many attempts to get the cucumber and zucchini started and sourcing so many mini tomatoes. Fortunately most of the other plants in the garden seem to have been spared. Just the food crops took most of the force.

Another gardening experience. I now have a bit of hospital work to do in the garden.

Eggplant - this was a picture of purple flowers last Saturday

Eggplant – this was a picture of purple flowers last Saturday

Putting the Convent to Work

Image

Now that the Convent will be my permanent home, and I have no immediate plans for work, I’ve realised it is important that I make the most of what I’m doing at the Convent and also do justice to the garden produce.

After the first planting of the garden beds, I know now to plant what I will actually use, not just what seems interesting to try and watch grow. This round of veg is very practical – things I know will grow and I will eat. Lots of leafy veg, my mini tomatoes, cucumber, zucchini, capsicum, beans … and I’m beginning to benefit from the produce.

I had a now deleted draft post on whether the broad beans were worth the effort. I had planted them in a few spots, not knowing how they would behave and for a long time I just had l tall plants taking up room but not doing a lot. How wrong I was. After suffering unruly plants falling all over my garden beds and dominating other plants, I’ve now harvested over 4 kilos of podded beans to place in my freezer. That’s after eating and giving away possibly that much again. They were heavy cropping wonderful produce and will again be included, although not in the raised beds – they are better against the wall where I can stake them against the heavy Kandos winds.

IMG_1760I’ve been picking half a dozen strawberries a day to include with my breakfast and they took quite a hiding from sampling visitors during the garden fair, but I’ve managed to pick 400g for the first batch of strawberry icecream which is now sitting in the freezer. I’m looking forward to the removalists arriving next week as I really need my big fridge here. The berries are only just starting and I can see Youngberries, Blueberries and Rasberries all forming and some beginning to show colour. Not sure I will have enough for jam this year but there will me more icecream and some syrups to put away.

The herbs are going crazy and I’m letting plants go to seed so I can continue to propagate without purchasing new plants (I hope). Next on the list is storing some herb butters – parsley, tarragon and chive are the obvious ones.

I’m enjoying the industry, but I also appreciate the practicalities of owning and running the property and making the most of the efforts put into establishing the garden.

IMG_1759

Kandos Gardens Fair

Visitors arriving and checking their passports in

Visitors arriving and checking their passports in

Well, we did it. The Convent participated with other gardens in the district for a weekend of open gardens. I have no idea how many people came through but anywhere from 200 – 400. From locals who wanted to see what I’ve done with the building to people in Sydney who just love gardens.

The Chapel greeted visitors for the first time since its makeover

The Chapel greeted visitors for the first time since its makeover

My Sydney friends acted as my volunteers, for which I will be eternally grateful, and it made the job so much easier for me. I met so many lovely people and now know many more locals. People seemed relieved that the Convent was being treated with respect and, if anything, was just going back to what it always should have been. The Chapel was open and did me proud.

My garden was the “newest” in that most of it was very newly planted and was positioned as “in progress”. Many visitors were keen to see it in a few years time, particularly once the new roses have kicked in. Given I’m not a local and have planted things I love and experimented a bit, many commented that I had plants not often seen in the area but which seemed to be thriving and they were going to now try – which was particularly rewarding to hear.

The Cornflowers - "Look at me, look at me!"

The Cornflowers – “Look at me, look at me!”

Whilst most of the roses (particularly the original ones) had finished flowering, some plants held back to show their best for the weekend. I think the cornflowers wanted to own the show and dominated in a few spots (and were much loved and admired). They worked well planted so thickly, which was quite unintended and I had no idea they would grow so high. Monday saw heavy winds and a number have now snapped and fallen, so the weekend was their pinnacle.

The standard Good Samaritan roses chose their time to flower well and were much admired

The standard Good Samaritan roses chose their time to flower well and were much admired

By some strange fate, the Good Samaritan standards chose the weekend to be in their glory and were much admired. The Fairy roses also chose this to be their weekend. I knew the lovely little wisteria-like plants would be my downfall and had tried to find out their names to no avail. Many people asked what they were and no-one could help, including some seriously knowledgable people. Of course I accidentally stumbled across it straight after – indigofera decor. Bugger!

The name stumped us all - indigofera decor. Apologies to everyone who asked!

The name stumped us all – indigofera decor. Apologies to everyone who asked!

The Lobelias were electric down the side bed

The Lobelias were electric down the side bed

The verandah side garden bed (the pinks, blues and whites with the sparky lobelia at their best) was very popular, but everyone loves to poke through the veggie beds and identify food. The berry bed was a particular hit. Given my garden is so new, people liked to be able to look at all the tags.

All the hard work out the front is not obvious from the street and people were surprised to come inside the gate and see that the front wall is now planted out with the deep sleeper planting beds.

Living Earth's plant stall provided interest and temptation for visitors

Living Earth’s plant stall provided interest and temptation for visitors

Sculptures (which I loved) and a plant stall all added entertainment and interest and we also served sandwiches, cake, tea and coffee, so had lots going on. There are a few learnings for next time, but would be happy to participate again and the Convent seemed to love the attention.

The Fairy Rose also chose to bloom at its best

The Fairy Rose also chose to bloom at its best

The Chamomile - which I had thought was lawn chamomile - made an amusing and quirky path border

The Chamomile – which I had thought was lawn chamomile – made an amusing and quirky path border

The Foxgloves on the back wall also chose their time well. Lots more of these and Hollyhocks next year!

The Foxgloves on the back wall also chose their time well. Lots more of these and Hollyhocks next year!

Roxy refused to miss a minute whilst Tango decided the bedroom was the best place to be

Roxy refused to miss a minute whilst Tango decided the bedroom was the best place to be

The Convent Steps Up

If I’ve been a little lax with posts lately it’s because things are pretty hectic just now. I will be packing and moving out from Sydney in just over a week and this weekend the Convent is open for the Kandos Gardens Fair. Tomorrow the Convent opens its garden and the Chapel as part of a local gardens exhibition for the weekend – going public for what has been a very private building.

It’s been dry here for months with barely a shower – but, of course, rain is forecast for the next few days. We’ll have to see how this works out but I’m hoping the visitors will get a chance to have a good look-around.

I have a bit of latitude given my garden is positioned as “in progress” as the sale only went through earlier this year, but I’m hoping people will find plenty to interest them and enjoy in the work that’s been done so far. I also have amazing sculptures, food, tea and coffee and a plant stall to provide additional interest.

I’ll post pics and a debrief later, but just now hoping I have everything under control. Things should settle down in around ten days (I hope) as my new life kicks off.