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

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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.

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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!