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.

Spring Garden Update – Roses

Crepuscule - I knew this wouldn't disappoint
Crepuscule – I knew this wouldn’t disappoint

The Kandos Gardens Fair is now rapidly approaching, meaning that most of my time is spent in the garden. The other gardens on show are well-established, but given the Convent garden only really started this year, I’m eager to have something to show visitors.

Rose hospital or graveyard? Home to the unsuccessful bare root roses
Rose hospital or graveyard? Home to the unsuccessful bare root roses

There have been a few disasters. The bare root roses I planted in a prominent position in front of the established roses at the front of the Convent, did nothing – I mean nothing, other than perhaps die. I’m not sure if they are still alive or not but looked very sad, bare little sticks. I’ve now taken the step of replanting them together in a more protected area which I am hoping is a plant hospital rather than a rose graveyard.

Also taking advice to spray for lawn weeds wasn’t the smartest move. I did it well in advance – maybe around three weeks ago. What I didn’t bargain on was my lawn being all weeds, which means I have large expanses of brown. Or more accurately, very little green areas. It’s also been very dry so I’m now watering like crazy to get some green back.

The back gate garden - looking cheery although the blues haven't kicked in yet
The back gate garden – looking cheery although the blues haven’t kicked in yet

Otherwise, there are areas I’m really happy with and the garden is positioned as “in progress” which cuts me some slack. I think the roses peaked too early and the lovely original old rose bushes have already finished their main flush of flowers, although I’m deadheading them and feeding, hoping to get some more flowers for the viewing.

In the meantime, the roses that were planted throughout the year are now coming into their own and look like they will be winners. It’s exciting to see plants grow and flower for the first time. Hopefully they will be doing their thing for the visitors we are anticipating.

Lots of blue here with electric lobelias and verbena. That's Tango admiring the bed
Lots of blue here with electric lobelias and verbena. That’s Tango admiring the bed

In the meantime, my days are filled with digging, mulching, weeding, pruning, planting, watering and feeding!

Pierre de Ronsard's first year
Pierre de Ronsard’s first year
Madame Isaac Perriere making her debut!
Madame Isaac Perriere making her debut!

Tomato Planting Time

Tomatoes in pots
Tomatoes in pots

One of the few vegetables I planted when I first arrived (even before moving in) was tomatoes – mainly the cherry variety. These are great little plants and fruit – being able to pick a handful of mixed varieties for a salad for one person, or harvesting a larger crop for entertaining or preserving. The cherry plants are also a little more manageable than some of the more rampant varieties.

This year is no different, just that I now have more room and can plant more. As usual, like the potatoes, I have approached this with enthusiasm and seem to have collected lots of plants that now need to be planted. The back garden wall is an excellent location, offering lots of sun and is fully wired which saves me from staking. I’m also using terracotta pots and the raised veg beds. I’ve overdone it and think a few may find their way into neighbour’s gardens. So far for the cherries I have:

Tomatoes on the back wall
Tomatoes on the back wall
  • Cherry Gold
  • Orange Sunrise
  • Sweetbite
  • Grape Toms
  • Yellow Pear (a favourite visually for colour and shape – tastes good too)
  • Broad Ripple Yellow Currant
  • Cherry Ripe
  • Cherry Roma
  • Truss Sweet
  • Cocktail
  • Mini Roma
  • Black Cherry (sounds dramatic)
  • Sun Drop
  • Little Sugar Yellow
  • Pink Cherry
  • Cherry Falls

For larger varieties I have

  • Tumbling Red Tom
  • Tumbler Yellow
  • Grosse Lisse
  • Beef Steak (sounds like a “Man’s Tomato”)
  • Black Russian

This time, all varieties are clearly tagged so I can determine the best performers (or best locations). I’ll also collect and label seeds. It’s been a bit disappointing that I don’t seem to have plants coming up from last year’s crop. I was careful to leave some of the tomatoes to self-seed. Well, it’s still early in the season.

Tomatoes in the veg beds. I'm sure I can find a few more places for them. I'll have to!
Tomatoes in the veg beds. I’m sure I can find a few more places for them. I’ll have to!

Aquilegia, Granny’s Bonnet, Columbine – a flower by any other name…

The blues have always been my favourite
The blues have always been my favourite
Pure yellow next to the Grotto
Pure yellow next to the Grotto

I’ve loved Aquilegias for some years and always had a few in my garden. They have such stunning flowers but are also fairly hardy plants that self-propagate well by seed. Since being at the Convent and indulging a little more in different varieties now I have the garden beds and suitable conditions, I am loving these lovely perennials more and more.

Yellow with a touch of pink near the Grotto. Is that pesky ivy I can see making a reappearance?
Yellow with a touch of pink near the Grotto. Is that pesky ivy I can see making a reappearance?

They prefer dappled shade but seem to flourish in a variety of conditions. The flowers are so diverse in colour and quite spectacular for some varieties with towering spikes of flowers. The flowers last well and are also great cut for indoors. The old flower heads set seeds which are easily collected and resown. So the plants are great value, coming back year after year as well as providing new stock.

A gorgeous mauve out the front. So delicate a flower.
A gorgeous mauve out the front. So delicate a flower.

I have a penchant for blue and have opted for a few different varieties. It’s still pretty early in the season and I’m continuing to plant new varieties that haven’t flowered yet, but these pictures may give you an indication of why I love these so much in my garden and intend to make them one of the mainstays in the Convent garden. Somehow they seems so appropriate.

Pure white elegance
Pure white elegance
Dramatic red - you can see the spurred petals clearly
Dramatic red – you can see the spurred petals clearly

Early October in the Garden

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The front garden bed is now taking shape with the arrival of the sleepers
Taking shape but so much more digging to go.
Taking shape but so much more digging to go.

Last post was about my front wall garden that I am creating and that the sleepers were about to arrive. They have now been placed and even though the beds require much digging out and planting, just having the sleepers provides so much more definition and structure to the garden. I’m thrilled with them – big old hardwood worn railway sleepers with lots of character. Now I just need to keep digging… and planting!!!

One of the online sources I regularly use is Honeysuckle Cottage, which is a supplier of wonderful heritage plants, particularly perennials and herbs which I love. I was surprised when a friend told me they were just near Kurrajong, which I drive through each week on my trip between Kandos and Sydney. This week, dogless in the car, I dropped by and was enthralled by a nursery unlike any other – nothing commercial, just a charming bush setting garden with pathways and arbors leading to table after table and many sections of heritage roses, herbs, perennials – so many plants that were mainly propagated onsite – and plants I have not come across before.

This nursery specialises in heritage plants and propagating the many old and rarer variations – so many thymes, rosemary, lavenders. I was particularly interested in the aquilegias and have never seen so many established plants in so many varieties and colours in one place. Needless to say, the car, which was already pretty solidly packed, managed two more roses – another Lamarque and Madame Alfred Carriere, many aquilegias (after receiving a great run down on the different varieties and their history from an impressively helpful and knowledgeable staff member) and a number of salvias.

The garden path through friend's eyes - once a bare, unadorned entrance
The garden path through friend’s eyes – once a bare, unadorned entrance
Broad beans in cropping mode.  My friend's photo came with the comment, "This could be in Tuscany." Well, Tuscany/Kandos - very similar,
Broad beans – “This could be in Tuscany.” Well, Tuscany/Kandos – very similar.
Foxglove (or Digitalis). Planted last Summer and forgotten until now. Dramatic and fitting for the back wall.
Foxglove (or Digitalis). Planted last Summer and forgotten until now. Dramatic and fitting for the back wall.

I also had friends visiting this weekend. Looking at photos they took of the garden gave me a great feeling of satisfaction and an appreciation of how far the garden has come. This is a wonderful time of the year and for the first time I am seeing growth and flowers on plants that, for some, were planted late last year or early this year.

The flowering Crab Apple - still a small tree but has great promise and the blossoms are lovely. Hopefully they continue to appear a few weeks after the Prunus' finish.
The flowering Crab Apple – still a small tree but has great promise and the blossoms are lovely.

Forgive me if some of the photos appear indulgent, but I’m also using this Blog as a garden diary so I track what goes in when and when plants flower. Ideally I’d like to keep colour in the garden year round.

This week looks like it will be a pretty physical one with lots of digging, feeding and planting for the front garden bed. I’m comfortable that the Convent gardens will be very unfinished for the Kandos Gardens Fair, but keen that visitors can get a perspective of the direction of the garden and what it will potentially look like.

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The original roses from the sunroom. This is the first week of flowering and they are just beautiful and adorning vases inside.
The original roses from the sunroom. This is the first week of flowering and they are just beautiful and adorning vases inside.

The Front Wall

As it was - grass running up to the fence. Low maintenance but just a bit boring for a gardener.
As it was – grass running up to the fence. Low maintenance but just a bit boring for a gardener.

In the quest to rebuild the garden, one of the more obvious options was to put in a bed along the front ash brick wall. Obvious and will look great but it is around 40 metres long and I want a deep bed. With grass running right up to it, that’s a lot of digging. But digging I am doing and now beginning to make progress.

Making progress. I'd like the bed to be about twice as deep to allow for an abundant garden
Making progress. I’d like the bed to be about twice as deep to allow for an abundant garden

I’ve been planting as I go, starting with the larger plants nearest the wall. After some foundering, I have realised that the plants will be south-facing. I’m not great with my north, souths etc when asked, so whilst the wall may face north, there happen to be two sides to any wall and I’m not planting that side!

This means that I can plant shrubs that are happy with some shade, such as camellias and azaleas near the wall as they will be more protected. I’ve opted for vigorous climbing roses as they should bundle themselves over the wall onto the footpath chasing the sun (or at least so I hope). There are also some standard maples and other ornamentals including lilacs, which I will endeavour to keep to a reasonable height.

Lots more to go
Lots more to go

The bed is planned to have three layers – the higher plants and climbers at the back, the salvias and sages and mid-sized perennials in the middle and smaller groundcovers and perennials at the front. That’s the plan. I’m getting some inspiration from fellow bloggers, looking at local gardens and heaps of books. I’d like to incorporate some “useful” plants as most of the garden beds include plants that do more than look nice. I already have the odd berry plants and envisage more fruit and particularly herbs playing a role.

... and even more
… and even more

Tomorrow I hope my sleepers arrive which will add some much needed structure and stop the rampant grass from invading. The bed will be much deeper than it is currently which will make it screamingly obvious how much more I need to dig out! However I’m sure this will be a very rewarding project and give me a wonderful outlook from the front windows and a great deal of future interest as I watch the plants develop.

A troublesome corner. I'm thinking it may house a deep bed of azaleas.
A troublesome corner. I’m thinking it may house a deep bed of azaleas.

Fresh Crops for Spring

The broad beans running amok in the veg bed - but more than earning their keep with the prolific and wonderful beans
The broad beans running amok in the veg bed – but more than earning their keep with the prolific and wonderful beans

The first of the veg planted in my veggie beds – predominantly the root veg – are all pretty much finished now and I’ve harvested the last of the parsnips, turnips and swedes and culled some of the older veg that is now going to seed. All rich fodder for my compost bins.

The biggest lesson so far is not to over-plant, although it is so tempting with so many plants, limited space and the joint fears that a lot may die off or I will want to harvest lots of it, not mentioning the pain of thinning out successful seedlings. I have a few different beds I can use now so I’m trying to be a little more disciplined with planting. And not planting everything at once.

Firstly, my biggest successes:

  • the wide range of cherry tomatoes which had all the neighbours intrigued with both the range of colours and shapes. These grew well against the back wall and I intend to repeat again this year. I already have a few planted in a trough I moved from Sydney. They were 100% consumed last year, including being used for semi-dried preserving.
  • radishes – I love radishes and always buy them when they are in season. These little ruby jewels are lucky to make it to the kitchen (a bit like the cherry tomatoes) and are dusted off and eaten on the spot. I’ve already replanted some of the longer French Breakfast variety and intend to also do the smaller round traditional variety.
  • Cucumbers and zucchinis – a little mixed with how well I grew them but enough plants survived me to provide wonderful veg that was quickly consumed. Zucchinis do take up so much space, though.
  • Eggplants- last year it was a variety called Lady Finger (I think) which was a small thin variety
  • Broad Beans – I had a post drafted questioning whether the broad beans were worth planting given the space they take up (and they can look messy when I prefer better behaved plants). I now have no doubt that broad beans are wonderful and worth their space in the garden. I have had them in three spots, including in the raised veg bed where they are causing havoc. I deliberately bought the Dwarf variety so they wouldn’t tower. As you can see above, I was mistaken. I now believe that “dwarf” refers to the bean size, not the plant size. Anyway, all the plants have heavily rewarded me with bountiful and beautiful beans that have supplemented many a meal and are great as a salad, added to a risotto or as today, stir fried with the sugar snaps with a little oyster and soy sauce. All is forgiven and they will become a Convent staple in the garden.
  • Sugar Snap Peas - another heavy cropper with peas that never go to waste
    Sugar Snap Peas – another heavy cropper with peas that never go to waste

    Sugar Snap Peas – I was told by a local that the only thing that grows better than weeds in Kandos is snow peas. On that note, I planted snow peas, normal peas and sugar snaps – all have been great and provide on-the-spot garden snacks for visitors. The sugar snaps, however have been outstanding in both taste and cropping, with the plants continually heavily producing, despite constant picking.

The current plantings, which I am being more disciplined with and pacing myself, including cleaning out beds, and supplementing with new compost, organic fertilisers and mulching (and thanks to Flash and Smokey for all the horse manure) before planting. New additions include: the initial cherry tomatoes, two larger tomato varieties, capsicum, cucumbers, chillies and zucchinis. A couple of passionfruit will supplement the two vines that seem to have successfully survived.

I already have in asparagus, onions, rhubarb and the nine bags of potatoes which are now full to the top with sugar cane mulch and healthy potato plants still peeping out. Mixed lettuces will be a must.

It’s an exciting time to be here (almost permanently) so I can take care of the garden properly and watch the daily changes. I’m also keen to have an interesting display for visitors for the Kandos Gardens Fair.¬†One of the great pleasures is to plan each meal around what the garden currently has to offer. Last night it was Smoked Trout Pie which incorporated my fennel, dill and lemons, as well as using breadcrumbs from homemade bread. Small steps, but so rewarding.

My Favourite Things – another verse

The Sage trying to outshine the ornamentals.
The Sage trying to outshine the ornamentals.

As Spring springs into action, I’m discovering so many new things – either with the old garden or with my new plants which are welcoming their first Spring. Here are a few more favourites coming into flower for the first time.

The first rose
The first rose
The first bloom on the Banksia Rose which is thriving despite an earlier setback being run over by a rampant car
The first bloom on the Banksia Rose which is thriving despite an earlier setback being run over by a rampant car
The Judas tree - these blossoms have lasted for weeks and the leaves have an attractive and distinctive shape
The Judas tree – these blossoms have lasted for weeks and the leaves have an attractive and distinctive shape
Clematis seem to thrive here
Clematis seem to thrive here
The white Robinia. The pink version is yet to bloomMy first LilacMy first Lilac

 

First growth on an ornamental maple
Just having a snooze, Mum, while you weed
Thyme - I can flower, too
Thyme – I can flower, too
Lily of the Valley – so delicate and pretty
Chamomile just starting to flower. Jumped up a bit higher than a groundcover despite the whippersnapper.
Chamomile just starting to flower. Jumped up a bit higher than a groundcover despite the whippersnipper.

These are a few of my favourite things – Spring

Golden Hornet Crab Apple in full bloom
Golden Hornet Crab Apple in full bloom, keeping the rampant Borage company

Spring is such a wonderful time of the year, particularly for gardeners. This is my first Spring at the Convent and it is wonderful to see both the old plantings and the new spring into life, particularly my misgivings and the forebodings of the damage that the vicious Winter frosts could inflict on my new garden.

Last weekend was the first Convent Spring Retreat. My friends are always welcome but by setting aside special dates each season, it makes it easier for them to co-ordinate and plan when we can all get together. It was a wonderful extended weekend supplemented by Verve and Moet and also co-ordinated with the wonderful Kandos Hootenanny. The Convent is now much more comfortable being painted and with carpets in bedrooms, curtains and polished floors, as well as some furnished rooms, however guests are still mainly on air beds. Unfortunately the Convent plumbing was a tad overwhelmed with supporting more than one or two residents, although the roses are flourishing with the unpleasant results.

The garden is springing to life and I’m seeing the results of my planting as well as now more heavily planting out, particularly with the impending Kandos Gardens Fair, which has the Convent as one of the gardens on display (although positioned as “in progress”).

Wild asparagus spear - amazing to watch spring up each time
Wild asparagus spear – amazing to watch spring up each time

Remember a recent post when I said we had been gathering wild asparagus? Much to my delight, yesterday I noticed three spears coming up from the scavenged “crowns”. As they were old crowns, the spears are thick and generous. I’m now hoping for a bumper crop. Amazing when I think of how woody and dead they looked a few weeks ago. I think the pony poop is beginning to work wonders.

I’ll now show some of the flourishing garden residents as they are now beginning to make an impact and make the garden such an interesting place to visit each day.

Flowering Quince - this is a real, fruiting quince, unlike some of the ornamentals I have also included in the garden
Flowering Quince – this is a real, fruiting quince, unlike some of the ornamentals I have also included in the garden
The Lavenders (together with catmint and thyme) are bushing and flowering along the back garden path
The Lavenders (together with catmint and thyme) are bushing and flowering along the back garden path
The lemons and limes flanking the back garden path are covered with new growth
The lemons and limes flanking the back garden path are covered with new growth
Sugar Snap Peas - we feasted on these a number of times. They will be a regular garden and menu feature.
Sugar Snap Peas – we feasted on these a number of times. They will be a regular garden and menu feature.
Alpine Phlox making a splash as a ground cover in the old bobcat tyre tracks
Alpine Phlox making a splash as a ground cover in the old bobcat tyre tracks
And the white primulas have flowered their hearts out
And the white primulas have flowered their hearts out
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The Freesias have been a delight under the Catoneaster. I hope they multiply next year
One of my all-time favourites - Aquilegia - and my favourite versions in blue
One of my all-time favourites – Aquilegia – and my favourite versions in blue