Botanical ceramics

Botanical ceramics

When I started making ceramics, I had no preconceptions about what I wanted to make. It was all just play: getting my hands into the clay and disconnecting from the left side of my brain. Over the years, I'd pinned quite a few ceramics pictures in Pinterest. There was no clear intention - I just [...]

!kun drawings from the Lloyd Collection

!kun drawings from the Lloyd Collection

I wanted to share a find which made a profound impression on me. At the National Library of South Africa, tucked away on the balcony above the domed reading room, was an extraordinary exhibition, not fully installed yet, drawn from the Bleek and Lloyd Collection. In the mid-nineteen century the San people (Bushmen) were being [...]

Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens

Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens

The last stop on my day trip down the Cape Peninsula took me to Kirstenbosch Botanic Gardens, the world's first indigenous botanic garden. We arrived at 5pm, an hour before closing time, after the sun had dropped behind the mountain. The gardens were lush and peaceful.          In the cycad garden, life-sized fibreglass [...]

Shame, regret and cruelty to tomatoes

Shame, regret and cruelty to tomatoes

If there was a prize for worst vegetable gardener, I'd be a contender. Vegetable gardening is fundamentally incompatible with my gardening style, which consists of bursts of frenetic activity interspersed with long periods of staying inside with a good book. Every few years I resurrect a fantasy about tending a productive garden. Inspired by this [...]

Are French council gardeners horticultural geniuses?

Are French council gardeners horticultural geniuses?

Wine, cheese, fashion, architecture. I was expecting these. But no one told me about the street plantings! I associate French gardens with formality, symmetry, topiary, parterres. I thought Monet's garden at Giverny was the exception, not the rule. Yet wherever I went in France, the streets and parks were planted with dramatic foliage and intensely [...]

Paulownia on a dark and stormy night

Paulownia on a dark and stormy night

I know it's October when my son celebrates his birthday and the paulownia blooms in the back yard. A storm battered Melbourne on Sunday night, felling trees, taking out power lines, flooding roads and bringing the trains and roads to a grinding halt on Monday morning. Meanwhile, our paulownia sprinkled a few flowers onto the [...]

A day of winter cutbacks

A day of winter cutbacks

In July, I spent a day cutting back my shaggy front garden. At 10am the plants were in their full overblown end-of-season glory. The gravel path was an obstacle course and winter weeds filled any gaps. It's been a while since I planted small, pretty things. The toughest, most neglect-tolerant plants have taken over. By [...]

Tough love summer

Tough love summer

After a record-breaking heat wave and dry spell this summer, my garden is looking a little rough around the edges. The tough conditions were exacerbated by me being away for a couple of weeks in January, while temperatures were in the 40s. I rarely water the garden, but during extended heat waves I do try [...]

The Big Prune 2012

The Big Prune 2012

It's that time of year again when I get out the secateurs, shears and loppers and hack into the garden. Since starting this blog three years ago, a clear seasonal pattern has emerged: Late autumn - admire the tangle of lush growth, bemoan the plants that didn't survive the summer, and start thinking "I really [...]

Autumn abundance/chaos

Autumn abundance/chaos

With all this gallivanting off overseas, my garden has had to fend for itself for a while. I have come back to find the front garden in full late-autumn sprawl; the weeds green and luxurious, salvia and plumbago flopping across half the garden, and pretty much everything in need of a good cut back. The [...]

Goodbye Granny

Eleanor Joan Swan, 6 May 1920 - 11 June 2011. Rose lover. Grower of violets, daphne and other sweet-smelling plants. Gentle admirer of pretty flowering things. Sharer of cuttings. Patient tender of hydrangeas in a drought ("Just a cup of water a day"). Bird lady. And many other things besides. Rest in peace.

Boston Ivy

Boston Ivy

A quick post on the glorious Boston ivy I planted late last year, which is growing up the wall in my back garden. The southern edge of my garden is abutted by my neighbour's brick garage, leaving me with a blank wall that I actually don't mind - it gives privacy and a sense of [...]

Catching up with some pruning, a season too late

Catching up with some pruning, a season too late

Normally I do my big annual cut-back in May or June. Somehow I didn't quite get around to it this year... then before I knew it, it was August, spring was springing, and I had a bushy jungle in the front garden, with new shoots competing with last year's leggy growth. (Similarly, I've spent the [...]