Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Beach and Country Gardens

With my front and back gardens both ravaged it seems opportune that I take you on a wander through two special gardens that I have visited recently. Both were open for the soon to be no more "Open Garden Scheme'. 
Welcome to the Yallambie vegetable garden and orchard
I visited the first garden on a searing 42 degree day in the Gough's Bay area - just a hop, step and a jump (not that I could have done that in the heat) from Mansfield - in Victoria's High Country. But it was a journey of another kind that took me there. My dear friend Pamela, who has taken herself off to retire 'from the law' in Palermo, Sicily - not the usual choice but.. was visiting Australia for her annual 'pilgrimage' home. She was off to stay with her friend, and a long lost friend of mine, in order not just to catch up but to help with the throngs of people (even in that heat) who were expected to attend (and did) when Ann opened her garden. I was staying with a friend a mere 2 hour drive away (nothing to these country folk) and so we decided to head off to see the garden and my friends. After all the air-conditioner in the car was a great way to stay cool on the journey through Victoria's tinder-dry countryside.
Cool clear water
Yallambie is a 5 acre garden on the banks of the Delatite River (which can be prone to flooding and wiping out a good part of the garden) and Ann and Jim Lahore have done marvels since 'giving up the law' in exchange for 'digging in the soil'. The transformation since their arrival full time almost a decade ago is extraordinary. I didn't tell my friend Pamela that I was coming. I thought it would be a surprise and it certainly was! And she was the first person I saw when we arrived! So after much air-kissing we were off to explore the garden.
The 3 of us - happiness on a HOT Day - 'the writer', Pamela and gardener extraordinaire Ann
It has been a trial and error affair - as are most gardens. But Ann has had to contend with the river which provides much needed water (the garden was not too parched even on a searing hot day) but much of the garden goes under water when it floods. Imagine seeing your 40 newly planted roses and 100 clumps of perennials planted by the tennis court swept away by the flooding river. Heartbreaking. And then there are the kangaroos, rabbits, wombats and cockatoos to name a few who 'share' the garden as well. But as only Ann could in her inimitable way she had persisted with planting rare and unusual trees and as they have matured they have created their own microclimate. There is a walled vegetable garden that would be the envy of many cityslickers, there are birch glades, underplantings of nasturtiums and good old cosmos, there are cooling lawns and the ubiquitous crabapple walk.  Ann describes it as 'idiosyncratic and it is. Of course the wonderful sculptures dotted throughout the garden certainly help to take one's eye to the outside world. So come with me on a walk through Yallambie. 
Green, green, green thanks to the 'prone to' flooding Delatite River
Cool, cool, cool in searing 42 degree heat
Here a sculpture

There a sculpture - I'm sure it's not a disused bomb welcoming guests!
And so we leave Yallambie - with a view to the high country beyond the garden. Wonderful
By contrast I visited a coastal garden at Anglesea which was also part of the Open Garden Scheme. Sunnymeade was recently awarded 'Best use of Plants in the Landscape' and we could see why. It was enchanting. It was on a regular block (perhaps a bit bigger) in contrast to the 5 acre garden in Gough's Bay. 
Welcomed by a magnificent tree (and rustic tree house)
The garden included magnificent twisted stringy barks (such an Aussie sounding name) which graced much of the front garden. We were entranced by the lawn hills which had been created. It was explained that the trees take so much goodness from the soil preventing a lawn to grow but that by creating mounds with great soil the lawn could thrive and was lush and green. And those mounds were great for rolling down (just wish I was younger!) 
A free spirit (hope she stays that way!) rolling on the hilly grass
The owner runs his own landscaping business www.orl.com.au but as is so often the way he never seemed to have the time for his own garden and so called in help to lay it out! And the results of the collaboration were terrific. As with Yallambie there were many sculptures dotted throughout the garden giving the eye a great focus.
I love these 'rustic' sculptures
I thought the summation by the judges when awarding this garden summed it up "WOW! This is an exceptional garden. The plants in this garden are the landscape. The existing trees have been made features in the overall landscape, and new plantings have been done to complement and further highlight the existing trees".
Every plant compliments the next
What fun I have had exploring two such different gardens. What I will take from them is that gardeners have such a passion for their surroundings and both have incorporated the garden features into their surroundings. It was wonderful to be able to share that passion - and their vision. 

There is a place for everything
(I'm hoping to get mine back as my bookend disasters at home are resolved and recover!)

Monday, 16 February 2015

I got a letter from the postman!

My home seems to be being hit both front and back at the moment!  Not only am I living in a back yard war zone - which I'm sure my readers are all tired of hearing about - I now have a war zone at the front of my home!
My beautiful pleached olive hedge
The postman wrote (twice) to tell me that I needed to prune my beautiful pleached olive trees on my boundary as he couldn't ride his bike down the footpath to deliver my letters! Not only were my olives encroaching on his riding space (I thought footpaths were for foot traffic not bikes!) but the no-standing sign in the footpath meant that neither he nor the handlebars could squeeze through the gap! 

Nice and private - but that sign meant Mr Postman couldn't ride between the sign and the hedge!
Well I decided to bite the bullet and have the olives pruned (although now that the deed is done I have been informed that the Postman has no legs to stand on - or bike on - regarding the request!) I had been loathe to prune them hard as the olives were green and I like to wait until they turn black. Still out of 'courtesy' to the postman we went ahead.

And this is the horror result - although my gardener assures me that they will come back. In the mean time everyone passing can see inside my home. The number of people stopping to look in horror is mounting daily. So much for a hedge for privacy! 
Ain't that gorgeous. I hope Mr Postman appreciates it 'cos I sure don't!
Interestingly as I was out frantically gathering the green olives before they went to the tip Mr Postman was seen riding down the road (where bikes should go) and mounting the curb further down the road where he had to compete with overhanging roses, fennel plants, creepers and more. Not surprisingly he averted his eyes from the carnage - and I was too angry to speak to him!
All the green olives I could save
Telling a friend of mine yesterday about 'the letter from the postman' she said she had also received one. At least after changing the letterbox location she got a letter from the postman (woman actually!) thanking her. I doubt very much that I will be so lucky. In the meantime I am feeding the olives frantically - and will remember that the postman/woman doesn't have a legal leg (or bike pedal!) to stand on. 

I'll sign off with the Elvis song - Return to Sender. 'Cos that's what I should have done with his letter!
I gave a letter to the postman,
He put it his sack.
Bright in early next morning,
He brought my letter back.

She wrote upon it:
Return to sender, address unknown.
No such number, no such zone.

We had a quarrel, a lovers' spat
I write I'm sorry but my letter keeps coming back.

So then I dropped it in the mailbox
And sent it special D.
Bright in early next morning
It came right back to me.

She wrote upon it:
Return to sender, address unknown.
No such person, no such zone.

This time I'm gonna take it myself
And put it right in her hand.
And if it comes back the very next day
Then I'll understand the writing on it

Return to sender, address unknown.
No such number, no such zone.

Return to sender
Return to sender
Return to sender
Return to sender 

Monday, 9 February 2015

Yukky Yukkas

For those who follow Musings (thank you) you would have read about The Fall of the Wall (here) and the disaster my 'designer' yukkas caused to my beautiful back courtyard. The planting of yukkas within a 100 mile radius of the city should never - repeat never - be allowed to happen anywhere ever again! In fact I'm on a mission to remove all yukkas from inner urban living. Why just the other day I passed a sign offering them for sale for $5. My blood pressure rose above the decibel level. I had to be held back from ripping the sign down!
Shoot the messenger!
As I write my 'war zone' back yard with its 'yukka-chopped-down-elephant-trunks' are already breeding babies like there is no tomorrow. And there ain't nuttin I can do about it. I'm in that betwixt and between stage with the back 'garden'. We can't finish chain-sawing the yukkas out until the wall behind them is re-built. They are holding (well wedging would be a better description) both the wall behind and in front of them together. The 3-storey housing development behind me is taking for-ever (not that I am ecstatic about that either but...) and it now looks like I will enjoy my wonderful war-zone vista from my living area for another SIX MONTHS! Every time I look outside I curse those monster yukkas for causing such a problem. So a word of warning - never plant them unless you have room for elephant trunks. 
Sprouting babies - a business opportunity? Or death by thousand cuts and a dash of poison!
On the other hand - there may be money to be made from them thar babies cos of the way they are breeding. Perhaps I'll just put a sign out in the street - Sweet darlin yukkas for sale - $5 each.  I'll be debt free in a moment!

Living to 150!

Not long ago our Treasurer Joe Hockey raised the prospect that Australia needed to start planning for an ageing population to live to 150! I hasten to add that he was talking of a child born today and not those who are creeping rapidly closer to the magical 100 aiming to receive a telegram (or is it a letter now) from the Queen!

It horrified me. As much as I want to live to a ripe old age - I just don't want to end up in a rocking chair for the last 50 years of my life. Surgery might help keep us alive but I do think working on the health of much of the world's population might be more beneficial. (I might change my mind on this as I get closer!) It made me think firstly of dear late my father who always said "I've got a 1912 engine. It doesn't matter what you do to it - it's still a 1912 engine."

Still I was reminded of how wonderfully youthful some people can be when I received an email invitation to a dear friend's 90th yesterday. I watched in wonder as my internet-savvy-young-at-heart-sometime-radio-broadcaster-friend played the piano while singing his invitation to me. How could I refuse an invitation like that! And apropo of the following his invitation stated: 'No presents, please. I don't have that much time left to enjoy them'.

Now with deep respect to my birthday friend who I would never put into the ageing category it got me thinking about old age (I'm in the backstraight myself!) and how different we all are with our attitude to life (and ageing!). I recalled the late English writer and flamboyantly gay raconteur Quentin Crisp who wrote the following article published in The Guardian just before he died. This now yellowing (age!) article has been kept in my 'box of treasures' for a long time! He died at - dare I mention it - the age of 90 in 1999! Depressing to we who are ageing fast I thought you might enjoy it!
Quentin Crisp (wikipedia)
I'm 90 years old. The advantage of being 90 is that you can look forward to death. The world is getting noisier, sexier and more horrible by the minute, but at least I can comfort myself  with the fact that the end is in sight. Or so I thought. Imgine my horror when I opened the newspaper and discovered they were going to make us live till 130.
When you're 60 or 70 the thought of death crosses your mind like a shadow. It disturbs you, it worries you. But by the time you reach my age you are longing for it.

My body is dying on me. I carry it like an old overcoat. It's horrible. You start to smell - the smell of death - and you can't do nothing (sic) about it. 

I can no longer see properly. I need to wear glasses when I go out, but I am too vain, so I walk the streets blind. You go deaf, and people talk to you as if you're a non-comprehending child. 

Your legs give up on you. Nowdays I spend so much time working out how to avoid making the trip downstairs more than once a day. When I do get out, I can barely walk more than a few yards at a snail's pace - according to those who know. I'm lucky; in good shape for my 90 years. 

Writers have often dreamed of immortality. Mr Swift in Gulliver's Travel's told us about Struldbrugs, who devised a way of living long past their sell-by date. 

And what a pathetic sight they were. Then there was Mr Shaw and his tragic Methuselah. If memory serves me right - and, of course, that is one of the first things to go - he lived for a thousand years, and what a curse that proved. 

This isn't a world for old people. Every few minutes there are adverts on the television telling you how to keep young, keep the lines from your face. When you're 90 you have lines all over your body, never mind your face. 

There is no work for old people. What, would we spend 65 years of more in retirement, remembering a time when we were useful?

Everything today is geared towards the young. There's a terrible feeling of exclusion even for moderately old people. Where would we hide when 130? We'd become the Disappeared. And just think of the gadgets we'd need - every house with an elevator. 

Ah, but the world would be so much wiser, say the optimists. I'm afraid that's an illusion. As we get older, we lose our wisdom, our mind, our language. We would have a world in which no one could communicate because we'd forgotten how to. 

No. The absolute nothingness of death is a blessing. Something to look forward to. 

If I discovered a potion to make people live until 130 the first thing I'd do is bury it. 

I fear forgetfulness more than anything!! (the age)