Friday, February 27, 2009

Hortus Botanicus

I've felt the need to re-visit our travels last year once again. This time it's the Botanical Gardens in Amsterdam ' Hortus Botanicus ' thought to be one of the oldest botanic gardens in the world.
The gardens originated when the Amsterdam city council founded a medicinal herb garden to provide plants to treat ' the plague ' in 1638. The herb garden is still there separated into sections by a semicircle of hedge bordered beds.

This is one of the most unusual and beautiful butterflies we saw in the 'Vlinderkas' ( Butterfly House ). Notice how its wings are transparent! There are some other climate controlled greenhouses. One contained a Mexican cacti garden and another had three climates under the one roof. We even spotted some Australian plants - an odd sight for us on the other side of the world! The Palm House was somewhat unsuccessful ( the plants were struggling ). Again, quite laughable when we see so many of these growing well at home.

My husband is a much better photographer than myself and took these wonderful shots. The insects were of more interest to him than the plants. We had actually been trying to find the zoo when we stumbled across these gardens.

A bumble bee gathers nectar from a foxglove. These seem gigantic compared to Australian bees. One of my favourite things about travelling is seeing unusual plants without knowing what they're called or anything about them so I can appreciate them on a purely visual level. I again enlisted my husband's photographic skills to capture these plants.

Please feel free to identify any of these for me - I'd be very interested. I got the information for this post from a brochure we received on arrival to the gardens. Also have a look at their website.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Adachi Park

Yesterday, on my way home from an appointment I dropped into a park that I've always wanted to visit. It's on the foreshore of the Swan River in Belmont. Another reason for my interest is it was designed by Perth Landscape Architects at Hames Sharley where I did some work experience as a student and later some contract work.

It was built to reciprocate ' Belmont Park ' in Adachi-Ku - Tokyo, Japan. They have five black swans living on an artificial lake there! Adachi-Ku is Belmont's 'Sister City ' which is a really nice concept where both cities participate in cultural and student exchanges. There is a photo on the City of Belmont's website taken at the opening of the park.

Orange Orchid Tree : Bauhinia galpinii

One of the many plants chosen for their suitability in both style and hardiness for this landscape. There was also a mauve Bauhinia blakeana nearby.

Gateway, pathway, steps and a meandering garden spill down this slope to the foreshore. It looks like natural flagstones in Toodyay Stone have been used for the pathways.

Crepe Myrtle : Largerstroemia indica ( mauve )

This tree grows to 6-8m high x 5-6m wide with beautiful mottled silvery bark. It would have to be one of my favourites.

Dwarf Pittosporum : Pittosporum tobira ' Miss Muffet '
This plant has grown lusciously around a limestone boulder.
It forms a nice glossy green cushion up to 1m high with a spread of 2m.

Cast concrete stepping stones over a ' dry riverbed ' lead to the main pavilion. Fun for children and adults alike! An alternative path is available for those less able. There was also a series of timber decked platforms closer to the river's edge.

Crepe Myrtle : Lagerstroemia indica ( pink )

It's a bit hard to see in this photo but there's some Japanese text carved into the gate house. Despite it being in the middle of the day ( and 33 degrees ) there were a few people using the park to exercise, picnic and recline in the shade.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Barbecue Bliss

The BBQ : This Australian icon is front and centre at many a gathering during Summer. Whether it's portable or built-in it should always be considered when planning a garden. Will it be undercover? The closer it is to the kitchen, the more convenient it will be to cook on.

The BBQ often becomes the main focus of an Alfresco area and can be a feature in itself.
Many people are incorporating bench space, wok burners, sinks, cupboards and bar fridges in their outdoor kitchens. I've even seen outdoor Tappanyaki Grills where the outdoor dining table and hotplate become one.

This is our barbecue and it has served us well. Although it's funny how it always seems to run out of gas just before a special occasion. This year it was Australia Day, of all days. So heavily entrenched are they in our culture that to do without one is unthinkable. It's almost as bad as running out of tomato sauce!

We find ourselves using it all year round. Here our dogs had caught a whiff of a duck and chicken that we were roasting on the rotisserie.

Here is a recipe that I made up one night ' on the barbie ' and wrote it down because I enjoyed it so much.

BBQ Lamb Cutlets with Potato Chips and Pineapple Fritters :

Ingredients :

  • 6-8 Lamb Cutlets
  • 4 x Small Potatoes ( unpeeled )
  • 1 x cup flour
  • 1 x egg
  • 1 x cup breadcrumbs
  • Thinly sliced fresh pineapple
  • Soy sauce
  • Red wine vinegar
  • 2 x cloves garlic
  • Olive Oil
  • Rosemary ( fresh )
  • Honey
  • Onions
  • Mushrooms

Marinade :

Combine a splash of soy sauce, red wine vinegar, garlic, honey, rosemary and a dash of olive oil in a medium sized bowl. Allow lamb to marinade for at least 20 minutes.

Pineapple Fritters :

Coat sliced Pineapple in flour followed by egg then breadcrumbs

Potato Chips :

Slice potatoes very thinly ( so that they are almost transparent ) and brush with olive oil

Chop onions into thin rings and mushrooms into chunky pieces

Cook all of the above on the BBQ, starting with the potato chips on high heat. Then add the lamb on medium heat. The Onions and Mushrooms can go on next and don't take long. Add the Pineapple fritters last on high heat with plenty of oil. Keep an eye on everything and remove them from the plate as soon as they're nicely browned ( not burnt! )

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Nature or Nurture?

Lately I've been wondering how much of an influence my up-bringing had on my choice of career and lifestyle.

This is the property / hobby farm my parents owned when I was born in a small town called Erica,Victoria. It was a large property with enough space for livestock, organic produce and lots of pets.

Here is their well kept veggie patch. My Mum wrote a diary where she made record of when everything was planted and harvested. Here are some of the things that they had growing :
Vegetables / Herbs :
Lettuces,Potatoes,Butter beans,Green beans,Barlotti Beans,Corn Radishes, Cabbages, Broccoli,Cucumbers,Zucchinis,Chervil,Tomatoes,Green Capsicum,Celery,Mushrooms, Cauliflowers,Onions,Kohl Rabi,Swedes,Chinese Spinach,Silver Beet,Rhubarb,Carrots,Spring Onions,Chives,Basil
Fruit Trees :
Cherry Plums
Using the above various preserves, beverages and sauces were made.
Some of these included :
Homemade Food :
Plum Sauce,Golden Plum Jam,Gherkins,Ginger Beer,Blackberry Wine,Beer,Cider,Herb Salad Dressing,Tomato Chutney,Pizza,Bread,Meatloaf

In her diary, a full menu for a meal for a party with friends is described :
'Asparagus Rolls, Sweet Corn, Chicken Kiev, Cheesecake and Trifle'
It seems that I have not only been influenced by my parents love of gardening but also a passion for cooking, crafts and pets.

Hobbies : Here are some of the hobbies mentioned in her diary : Pottery, Wool Spinning, Sewing ( Mum made some of her own clothing ), Screen Printing and Yoga. I remember several pieces of Macrame' which was popular at the time floating around our house as a child.

My parents kept horses which they rode and one came second in a local racing event. There is record of when they were shod and ridden as well as some costs for feed / bridals / saddles etc.

This is a kid that was born to their goat called ' Ethel '. She became sick once from eating some Rhododendrons and was treated with liquid paraffin.

Bantam chooks. Apparently the survival rate of the chicks wasn't very good and some of them were hatched in a fry pan inside the house!

So organic farming and home produce is nothing new and ' the apple doesn't fall too far from the tree'!

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Flower Press Surprises

I recently came across my flower press in a cupboard. It's been at least 3 months since I used it last - just long enough to have forgotten what was in it. So with a certain amount of child like excitement , this is what I found inside.

Japanese Honeysuckle : Lonicera japonica

Ok,Ok I know it's a borderline weed but as is the case with many of the plants in my garden, it was already there, it's tough, I like it and it's staying! These have pressed quite well even if they are somewhat discoloured.

Native Frangipani : Hymenosporum flavum

These have kept their colour well. They're still quite bulky which may make using them in some kind of craft difficult. Let's hope they keep their perfume!

Purple Pansies :

I had planted these in a row of 6 pots I regularly re-plant with annuals. It's much too hot for pansies now and they've been replaced by Petunias for summer. I inherited a love of pansies from my Mum. It was nice to see these again after the plants themselves are long gone.

Homemade Recycled Paper :

This is a sheet of homemade paper I made with my friend Norma from ' Hooked on Hessian ' after we raided her flower press. We added some of the finer plant materials to the paper mix ( eg.Bottlebrush fibres ) then stuck the pressed flowers on afterwards.

Gift Card :

This is a card I made using some of our homemade paper featuring a frond of pressed ' Love-in-a- Mist ' foliage. Norma and I are planning another craft session soon so stay posted.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Local Garden Tour

Thought I would share some gardens that I admire in our local area. I drive or walk past these properties daily and they really stand out.

Japanese / Oriental Style :
Just a bit bias on this one. It's owned by close friends of ours and I played a part in its development, offering suggestions whenever I could. The ground used to slope towards the house so this was retained. They're now enjoying a lawn free, low maintenance garden. Plants in this photo include Thuja ( foreground ), Prunus ( trees ), Juniper ( groundcover ) and Dianella ( grass ).

Modern Mediterranean Look :
Very simple yet effective. The repetition of terracotta shades really works well here.There are only three main plants used. The rather large Yuccas, potted palms and a hedging plant which I didn't get close enough to identify.

Fresh and Formal :
Again simplicity at it's best. I really like the contrast between the two hedging plants on the upper level ( Lilly Pilly and Japanese Box ). Two Lilly Pilly lollipop topiarys mark a central stairway. Liriopes are planted along the base of the wall which curves nicely along the driveway. A Tipuana Tree shades the lawn. This garden is always well kept and tidy which is admirable.

All Natives :
It's rare to see a garden that is planted with purely natives and even rarer to see one that has been well planned. This one is on a corner block and extends around two sides of a two storey house. There is a gradual increase in height from the verge with ground covers along the edge and taller plants towards the back. This is important on a corner block to maintain views for motorists. Another lawn free garden, this one gets my vote for being both water wise and attractive. My only criticism would be a lack of colour. There was only one red flowering shrub in flower at the moment.

So there you have it - a designer's perspective on some local gardens.
I imagine all of these would have been made on fairly modest budgets so if they can do it - so can you!

Sunday, February 15, 2009


This weekend my gardening achievement was planting a lemon tree. I've been meaning to plant one ever since a lemon fell / was thrown over our fence and I used it in a slice I was making. Lots of recipes need lemons ( both sweet and savoury ) and it suits the Mediterranean feel of our garden.

Step One : Choose a healthy specimen

I chose this one because it didn't have any signs of disease, was nice and green with a well balanced shape.This particular variety is 'Eureka'. It will grow to around 6m with fruit at various times of the year without many thorns. I bought mine from a local retail nursery.

Step Two : Keep well watered before planting

This is especially important in summer as pots tend to dry out very rapidly. The smaller the pot the faster it will dry. My nephew helped me with the watering can I bought for him ( I don't condone child labour - he was willing! )

Step Three : Choose a suitable position

Didn't have a lot of choice here as this is the only remaining area with any space for a tree. They need a sunny position with free draining soil. This position may be a bit on the shady side in the afternoon but gets plenty of morning and mid-day sun.

Step Four : Dig a big enough hole

Try not to bury your dog in the process! Ours likes to stick his nose in to sniff the soil as I'm digging. According to the label the hole should be the same depth as the pot and at least three times as wide.

Step Five : Fertilise

Next I added some 'Trees,Shrubs and Citrus' fertiliser to the hole and mixed it with the planting soil as directed. The label said 10 x tablespoons per tree.

Step Five : Water

I filled the hole up with water a few times and it soaked in quite rapidly indicating that it's definitely free draining. Our dog was trying to have a drink but it disappeared before his eyes!

Step Six : Back fill and Mulch

I planted the tree on a small raised mound to avoid over watering the roots. Mulching might have to be a job for next weekend as I didn't have any handy.

Step Seven : Water in well

Always a good idea. I plan on watering my Lemon everyday for the first few weeks until it gets more established. Then I'll monitor it to see how much it requires on a weekly basis. Hopefully I'll be one of those people handing out free lemons to friends and family in no time!

This online fruit tree supplier has a really good website Has anyone got any good lemon growing tips for me? If so please leave a comment.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Raised Garden Beds

Raised corrugated iron garden beds have become popular recently, especially for veggie patches. They bring the plants up to a level that is more comfortable to garden at without the expense of building a planter box from more permanent materials such as limestone or rendered brick.It's taken container planting to a whole new level. See Gardener's Direct's website.There is an element of risk involved in using corrugated iron to retain soil. A more substantial structure may be required for levels above 300mm.Bear in mind that retaining structures 500mm and above require council approval.Internal waterproofing may also be a good idea.

I noticed this garden while out for a walk near my sister's house with my nephew.This would have to have been installed on site from individual sheets of Colorbond.I'm not sure which colour they've used here but it looks like ' Loft '.The beauty of using colorbond colours is that Dulux paints have a matching colour range.Here they have used the same colour on their roof guttering.

The raised garden bed informally defines this front garden from the street without the need to build a low wall or fence.I imagine the bougainvillea is a good deterrent for passers-by thinking of straying off the path! The cascading ground covers have a nice softening effect.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Gardening Journals

Found these lovely exercise books with illustrations by Dylan Martorell on indie art & design.I've always had a thing for nice stationary, especially note and sketch books.With graph paper pages inside, they would be perfect as a gardener's or traveller's journal.

They're called ' Sunday Morning Exercise Books ' and available in 'Plants' ( left ) and 'Old Map' ( right ).They're available here in Perth at Ruck Rover Shop 4,595 Beaufort St, Mt Lawley for $15 each.

Other note books that I've admired are made by Moleskine. I noticed their 'City Notebooks' for travellers in many gift shops overseas.These are acid free.You can buy them from Boffin's Book Shop at 806 Hay St Perth for $22.95.

Pigeon Hole have some very nice note books with sustainably harvested wood covers and recycled paper by Night Owl Paper goods for $35.00.Their shop is located at 7A Shafto Lane 401 Murray St Perth.

You could use your Gardening Journal to :

  • Record gardening activities and dates for reference in future years eg.planting,fertilising,flowering,harvesting

  • Sketch plants and flowers in your garden

  • Glue pressed flowers from your garden

  • Store garden photographs and magazine clippings

  • Jot down ideas on the run ( especially good for bloggers )