The End of Winter

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!!!).

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

Winding Down in Winter

We always have the fire burning in the shop -  knitting and an open fire seems like a great combination.
We always have the fire burning in the shop – knitting and an open fire seems like a great combination.

Winter is well and truly here – and it’s a real Winter. Snow on the escarpments, roads closed due to ice, minus temperatures. Such a change from temperate Sydney weather of the past but so welcome in the country. And maybe some serendipity after opening a wool shop in Summer.

Whilst the garden looks like The Desolation of Smaug, it has also provided a break from gardening which has been substituted with shop work and lots and lots of knitting as the hand knits are snapped up almost before they come off the needles. Open fires, both at home and in the shop, have added to the atmosphere and a slow cooker (KitchenAid) is a welcome addition for meals, having already tackled beef spare ribs, lamb, and pea and ham soup made with a ham hock. I think it will clock up a few more meals before the Winter is out.

It’s also a popular time for guests – we always like Winter getaways – I suppose it’s a great time just to relax in front of a fire and, well, knit… So the Convent is having lots of lovely and welcome guests. It’s a chance to host old friends and make some new ones, which can only be good.

Beanies and mitts on sale for the shop.
Beanies and mitts on sale for the shop.
Alpaca ribbed beanie and Rib Panel Mitts.



The shop is going well and keeping us busy, making sure we have lots of hand knit beanies and mitts, our best sellers, well stocked for non-knitters. I’ve finally bitten the bullet and seriously started some non-selling knitting. This one is Eugen Beugler’s Feather and Fan Shawl from ‘A Gathering of Lace’ knitted in 50% silk/50% wool undyed in fingering weight (4 ply) from my stash. I’ve made it once before and loved it so will do it this time and put on display in the shop as a sample for lace knitters to tackle. I may manage another version in 2 ply as well. I’m also hoping this may make it to a few Shows, so it ticks a few of my ‘Knitting Category’ boxes.

In the meantime, life is surprisingly busy. We also have the Kandos Gardens Fair preparing for kick off first weekend in April 2016 – an Autumn event this time – and the Convent will need to look her best.

The latest lace project. I almost forgot how much I enjoy lace shawls.
The latest lace project. I almost forgot how much I enjoy lace shawls.

Changing Tides – June 2015

The blog has been quiet of late which reflects that I’ve also been taking things at a slower pace. Dad’s recent passing has been sad for the family and he has left a big hole. I wish he had been able to spend more time at the Convent and enjoy the garden.

When I returned home, there were some fairly drastic changes to the garden. Before leaving, the plants were slowing down but everything was still lush and the roses still (just) flowering. Upon coming home, the cruel Winter frosts had hit and the garden had turned to yellow and brown. My natural instincts are to prune and tidy, but the dead growth actually protects other plants and I don’t want to encourage new growth yet when we still have much of Winter to come. So for now I’ll just focus on building up garden beds and compost and leave the plants alone.

The passionfruit has looked better.
The passionfruit has looked better.
The Dahlias definitely don't appreciate frost.
The Dahlias definitely don’t appreciate frost.

One of the brighter moments was my first egg. The girls have done me proud and now most days I seem to find an egg or two – quite unexpected given I was told they were young and not to anticipate eggs in Winter.

For now, pace has slowed down a bit with long cold days, which suits me at present.

My girls - four rose comb bantams - in their chook tractor.
My girls – four rose comb bantams – in their chook tractor.
Two perfect little bantam eggs.
Two perfect little bantam eggs.