The Convent Opens Her Doors

One of the pleasures of owning the Convent has been making the building more accessible to the public. After all, the local community put so much into building and maintaining the property for many years, however whilst being a home for the nuns and priests it was always so private.

Last weekend, as part of the Kandos Centenary Celebrations, the Convent was open for visitors for two days. This time not just the garden but also the whole Convent, and it was such a highly rewarding experience. It’s beautifully built and deserves to be seen and seems to be highly enjoying a more public profile. Sunday in particular was a little overwhelming with the crowds but I’d estimate we had between 400 and 600 people through the doors, this time more to see the interior than the gardens.

It was a sentimental time as ex-students of the nuns returned with such vibrant memories given the piano lessons and confirmations held at the Convent, which served as a backdrop for photos of generations of townsfolk. Visitors included a nun who was first taught at the school by the nuns and then joined the order and lived at the Convent, a local who had been the resident gardener for so many years, one of the resident priests and a wonderful gentleman who had learnt piano at the hands of the nuns to later become an international pianist.

The stories were fascinating and added so much more to our understanding of the nuns and their relationship with the community. One woman’s great grandmother had learnt that the nun’s were in dire straights during the depression and organised locals to provide a food roster for the nuns, we heard that the nuns ran a lolly shop and sold treats to the children, Melbourne Cup Day was popular with the children as they ran sweeps and sat out the front of the Convent on the grass with the nuns to listen to the race on the radio. Oh, and the priest with the poker machine who gave children coins so they could play it.

Two days of memories, with a few tears and hugs along the way. Many thanks to my friends G and R who manned so many tours through the Convent and also to everyone who turned up. It was a great few days and I hope the visitors enjoyed the opportunity to explore – I know how much I loved having everyone here and hearing stories first hand and I tend to think the Convent was also a little pleased to be able to show another side to the community.

The Countdown Begins

It’s now less than two weeks before the Convent will be open to the public, which I anticipate will mainly be locals, returning Kandos expats and some tourists, for the Kandos Centenary Celebrations over the October long weekend.

All the plants are well and truly planted and beds weeded as well as possible, so now it’s up to Mother Nature and some housekeeping – watering (including fertiliser watering each week), mulching and last minute trimming, sweeping and raking.

Four weeks ago the garden was bare. At least now there’s lots of new growth. Last year the garden was open for the Kandos Garden Fair which was held a month later. At that point I was bemoaning that the roses had all but finished and the grass was barely green given the lack of rain. A little earlier this year and at least the grass is more presentable but there is barely a rose in sight. The Aquilegias and Indigofera Decor, last year’s stars, are not yet up to the flowering stage, although a few Aquilegia’s may just make an appearance. I’m feeling a little vulnerable in the flower department.

The visitors will probably be locals who popped in last year and they will notice a difference with plants being more established and the most dramatic change, with the lopped privet. Expat ex-locals hopefully will remember the last 30 odd years which were “low maintenance Convent gardens”. Anyway, I’ll have the photo albums our showing the old glory days of well tended formal gardens, the low maintenance period and the inherited status to take people through the gardening journey.

If nothing else, there are lots of plants to look at, even if not at their seasonal peak. Also the central bed is in good flower mode with the ranuncs and anenomes flowering and heaps of other things coming through. Blue bells are just starting although the daffodils and snowflakes are at their end. The freesias are still out but the dogs are doing their best to flatten them given that bed has become a favourite “chasey” spot. The veg beds also look productive with lots of crops at various stages from new seedlings to heavy crops of sugar snap and snow peas and towering stalks of broad beans.

No photos this time – I’ll hold off until the October long weekend festivities and hope the garden quickly progresses!

Springing into Action

Daphne Kenkwa - a blaze of colour
Daphne Kenkwa – a blaze of colour

A few weeks ago I was terrified that there would be no growth in my garden come the Centenary weekend when the Convent will be open to the public. A little rain, some wonderful sunny weather and maybe a bit of the TLC kicking in has made a huge difference.

Manchurian Pear - just over a year old. Nice to see the green growth.
Manchurian Pear – just over a year old. Nice to see the green growth.

Remembering that I only bought the place second quarter of last year and have only been here permanently since November, most of the garden is new and many plants have not flowered or even had leaves on before, so it’s hugely exciting to see plants come up, flower and leaf for the first time. Some of those that have already been in for a season are not disappointing and it’s astounding to see all the new growth.

One of two arching Mr Lincoln's. Great new growth.
One of two arching Mr Lincoln’s. Great new growth.

I already have some emerging stars. The Daphne Genkwa is stunning – just full lilac blooms and no green in sight. It will be finished before the garden is open, but I’m learning to enjoy the plants at their peak rather than wishing they would hold on for a few more weeks. I’m sure there will still be delights in the garden for the October long weekend celebrations.

In the meantime, much will be up to Mother Nature – I can only assist with watering, feeding, weeding and general cleaning up duties at this point.

Florence Mann - the sole rhododendron
Florence Mann – the sole rhododendron
Alphone Anderson - part of a selection of older style large azaleas
Alphone Anderson – part of a selection of older style large azaleas
The central bed constantly changes - ranunculus and anenomes with lots of interesting things self-seeding including cornflowers and white cosmos
The central bed constantly changes – ranunculus and anemones with lots of interesting things self-seeding including cornflowers and white cosmos

Kandos Centenary Celebrations

100 years ago, Kandos was born. Kandos has a different history to most Australian towns as it was basically founded as a “private” town. A number of entrepreneurs decided it was the ideal location for a cement works and bought parcels of land which they used for their cement works, as well as subdividing blocks to sell off to workers. Before then Kandos did not exist – basically, they named and built their own town centred around what is known locally as “The Works”.

This makes Kandos unique as both a twentieth century town and having a basis more as an industrial and private town, unlike so many towns that were based on pastoral activities. Anyway, this year marks Kandos’ centenary – somewhat ironic as the cement works that so defined the town have now closed down and the main buildings for the works will also be demolished this year.

It is an exciting but also somewhat daunting time for the town as it now finds its feet independently – somewhat like an adolescent leaving parents. The town has so much going for it in terms of natural beauty, closeness to Sydney (3 hours), a wonderful welcoming community with so may activities to be involved in and very reasonable real estate prices that are yet to catch up with some of the other more trendy regions.

Over the long weekend in October, many activities have been planned to help celebrate 100 years of Kandos and many Kandos expats are expected to return for the celebrations. The Convent is also participating by opening the garden and doors for Sunday and Monday, which means no slacking off with the gardening! I’m hoping locals and ex’s will bring along copies of photos of their family at the Convent – weddings, Christenings, school photos … to help build a social history of the Convent.

The Convent has now had a few “opens” to the community and it is always so rewarding to have people come along and tell their stories. For now, it’s making sure I have the garden at its best for October.