Wednesday, 21 June 2017

In Annie's Flowergarden

My Sweetness is on long service leave at the moment, so we recently took the opportunity to travel for a couple of weeks around Victoria. I'm not sure exactly what it is about the Victorian countryside, but I feel very at home there, and could quite easily make the move south.

Perhaps I'm drawn to Victoria's gardens, of which we visited many. I will share some of them in the next few posts. The most special of them belonged to Annie Flowergarden!


Being in the Ballarat vicinity, I contacted Annie, Little Red Hen Jan and Ric-Rac Jodie, giving them very little notice, in the hope that they might be available for a coffee. Annie promptly offered to have us all to her garden for 'tea in the hothouse'. I had secretly hoped I'd get to see her hothouse and garden, but didn't want to invite myself! Awesome!

Annie's garden is a treasure trove of plants. We spent a good hour in the late afternoon wandering from plant to plant, ooh-ing and ahh-ing at every turn. Poor Jodie was unable to make it on the day (some feeble excuse about preparation for a little Quilt Market in the US or something ;) Had she been there we probably would have bored her stupid with our flower talk! Thankfully, Jan was equally plant-mad, and so coped very well :)


The first of the treasures to greet us was this Angel's Trumpet (Brugmansia sp.) with its delicious blush of apricot. I say delicious with some poetic licence considering all parts of it are highly toxic!


Another of the treasures was this sweet clematis:


I don't remember what Annie said this was. Perhaps Clematis cirrhosa? I've never seen an autumn flowering clematis. It has made it to my 'must have' list!


The blooms are remarkably similar to those of hellebore, which I guess is due to them both being genera of the Ranunculaceae (or buttercup) family.


If there's one group of plants that join Annie and I at the hip as gardeners, I think it's the Salvia species. Her garden is full of many of them. And they are delightful in late autumn. 



The Salvia leucanthas were particularly lovely, with their soft, downy drops of velvet, in purples and whites.




We made our way to Annie's hothouse which she has cleverly fashioned with reclaimed old windows. I was so busy photographing flower close ups, that I forgot to record the big picture - this is Annie's image of her hothouse:


In this warm, cosy, glass enclosed refuge of Annie's property, she coaxes the best from plants that otherwise wouldn't cope in the elements outside. I mean, what even is this gorgeous pink and purple thing Annie? Just stunning! 


I may have remembered Annie saying something about it looking like match sticks, and after a quick Google, found that it is a bromeliad, Aechmea gamosepala.

She has beautiful begonias, cascading from hanging baskets, bathing in the warmth ...


... and frost prone succulents and zygocacti (Schlumbergera truncata) growing luxuriantly.


Two of the things that impress me about Annie are her resilience and resourcefulness, not only in the garden, but as a person! Certainly in the garden, she is a marvel. Not one to give up, she has literally grown plants on top of concrete! And not just in pots! Agapanthus have been placed against the fence directly on the concrete, mulched repeatedly and are growing perfectly. Where there is a will, there is a way!


I am so happy to have seen Annie's garden. I have followed her blog for many years now, and we have exchanged many messages and plants in that time. Thank you Annie for your generosity in having us visit on such short notice. I could have talked with you for hours. Perhaps our men were relieved when darkness fell, and we had to part!

Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Fabric stories

We have no electricity at home today, so I'm indulging myself with some paper piecing. I'm working on a magazine commission which, as always, is 'hush-hush'. It is the first stitching I've done in months, and it feels good! 



I raided my stash ... my fabric mountain ... my carefully curated collection of fabrics, and emerged with an eclectic assortment of brocades, taffetas, shantungs and even some ivory silk left over from my wedding dress. I knew there was a reason why I'd kept those scraps for the last (almost) 30 years! The 'I might need it someday' has arrived! 

I was listening to Radio National this morning and they played a wonderful fabric-related short story - only on Radio National, bless them!  Here it is, a tale of unlocking a vintage fabric wonderland by Janine Hilling. Only you, my fellow fabric obsessed friends, will fully appreciate this story, especially if you remember crimplene! It made me laugh.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Back to business

The weather is blissfully rainy today, my favourite sort of day for sewing ... actually, my favourite sort of day full stop.



It is my first time at the sewing machine in ages. The brief: shorten the sleeves of a VERY EXPENSIVE Cue blazer by 3 inches!



Nothing like throwing myself in the deep end. I tend to avoid alterations like the plague, but when said blazer belongs to daughter, the rules seem to bend. Wish me luck! I am jumping in, armed with this excellent tutorial from The English Tailor - bless him!



UPDATE: One sleeve shortened successfully. It has taken all day! Hopefully, the second one will be quicker and less nerve wracking ;)

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Sunday, 1 January 2017

That's a wrap on 2016

A very happy 2017 to you! I am personally glad to see the end of 2016. It was HUGE and I'm only now drawing breath. I suggested at this time 12 months ago that I had all sorts of grand plans for 2016. Little did I know what the year had in store; that my 'grand plans' would go out the window, replaced by other events.

In April, we sold our beloved farm and garden of 20 years. I've poured out my soul about this previously, so I won't put you through that again! We moved our 20 years worth of accumulated stuff and squeezed it into our house in town.




We determined that we would rest for a while, recover from the wrench it was to sell the farm, take our time to find a new place, and get our middle child through his HSC. Hmmmm ... what do they say  about best laid plans?!


So it is that 'the best laid plans of mice and men (and Bloom!) often go awry'. Having thought that we would spend a year or two searching for a block of land to build again, we quite unexpectedly stumbled upon a house out of town. While it's not the house we'd have chosen to build, the truth is that we were exhausted from 10 years of living between two properties, and the prospect of starting again from scratch seemed overwhelming. And so, by September, we'd bought a new home and moved two houses worth of accumulated stuff, the week before our boy finished school.




Next on the to-do list was to sell our house and garden in town. Unlike the farm, I didn't have much of an emotional attachment to the town house, but I did have to leave another garden!




In amongst all of the packing and moving and packing and moving, my only creative activities were to complete two projects for Australian Homespun magazine. For the June 2016 issue, I submitted these three little embroidered l
uggage tags.




And in the December issue, these travel sewing books. I will blog about these projects in more detail soon.




I feel like I'm being a bit of a princess complaining about what a big year it has been. I am really thankful that despite the craziness of 2016, we all remained in relatively good health. We've not been seriously sick; we haven't suffered any major deaths or catastrophes. January 2017 sees us with all our children and all our goods and chattels in the one place at the one time for the first time in 10 years. We are blessed, no matter how I look at it!

And now I have another garden to plan! We currently have very little garden to speak of, and what there is needs some loving care.





But there is enormous potential, and we have views ...



... and water ways ...



... and eucalypts and sloping ground.


Let the fun begin! 


I hope 2017 brings you much creativity and contentment. Bloom x


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Monday, 22 August 2016

Heavenly hellebores

They don't call these blooms 'Winter Roses' for nothing!

Hellebore 'Ivory Prince'

When the rest of the garden is in its drab, winter dormancy, these angelic lovelies pop their heads up and put on a show.

Helleborus x hybridus 'Dark Pink'

I have been collecting hellebores (aka Winter or Lenten Roses) for a few years now. 

Helleborus x hybridus 'White spotted'

A July birthday means that my Sweetness gifts me a hellebore at least once a year!

Hellebore 'Ivory Prince'

I love their demure and gentle tones. Despite their apparent softness, they are resilient and don't mind the shade.

Helleborus x hybridus 'White spotted'

They're not that keen on all the attention though, preferring to hide away under the trees, with heads bowed.

Helleborus x hybridus 'Dark Pink'

Come on girlies, lift those heads up. Stand tall and proud! The plant breeders are definitely selecting for this more forthright, upright trait.

Hellebore 'Ivory Prince'

Sweet hellebores usher in the appearance of the more showy jonquils.

Helleborus x hybridus 'Double Picotee'

And set the stage for the big Spring players - the blossom trees!

Prunus campanulata

Bring on the Spring I say. But without the winter cold, we'd not have known the subtleties of the hellebore!

Thursday, 28 July 2016

My place

I have been putting off writing this post, but I've decided today is the day. If you've been reading my blog for a while, you will know that my family and I have been living between two properties - between a small farm that we have owned for 20 years, and more recently, a house in town two hours from our farm.

After 8½ years of this arrangement, we have sold our farm. If you know me even a little bit, you will have an inkling of how heart wrenching this decision has been for me.



And if you've built a home or garden from scratch, you might relate to this post. Otherwise it may seem all a bit melodramatic and self indulgent, so feel free to stop reading now!


We started owner-building our farm house in 1995, when our firstborn was just a babe.


We pegged out a square plot in the middle of a bare lucerne paddock, and set about building a home.


During the build, my Dad joked that it looked like a goal!


I assured him that I'd plant a garden to soften its penitentiary tone!

Just as the roof was going on in May 1996, I was diagnosed with a tumour in my neck, which thankfully turned out to be benign. But it caused a delay of several months in the middle of the build.


After many months of weekends, spent filling verandahs ...


... installing floorboards ...



... cutting stuff ...


... bagging walls and painting,


... we finally moved in in July 1997. We immediately started the garden. We called in the big gear for the first till!


 And so we planted and planted and planted, and grew our own little paradise!





I have written A LOT about our garden on this blog over the years but I guess the following posts give an overview:




I was at the farm by myself to do the final cleaning before settlement. I took breaks from the cleaning to take some last photos of the garden.


Selling this property was one of the hardest decisions I've ever made. To the very day of the auction, I did not want to sell it. However, the burden of trying to take care of two houses and two gardens was taking its toll on our family. For everyone's sake, it seemed the only course of action was to sell.


On my good days, I philosophise with myself about how we arrive in this world with nothing, and will leave with nothing; that houses and gardens are just the 'stuff' we accumulate in between. I lecture myself about materialism, and force myself to refocus on what I have, rather than what I've lost.


On my bad days ... well, let's not talk too much about that. I guess this property felt very much like 'my place', a connection with the land, farming and family. 


It was so much of 'my story', having raised three children there, and all the special memories that go with that. 


Having built it from the ground up with my husband and invested so much heart and effort, it was so very difficult to leave. I feel lost without it; as if a big part of me is missing. I feel grief.


And so I wandered the garden, to drink in the heady perfume of my roses one last time.


To farewell recently planted gardens that I won't see grow.




And to pick one last bunch of blooms!


As the sun set, I sat on the front verandah and simply bawled. A cathartic outpouring; without inhibition.


I'm very thankful that I have documented this garden so comprehensively on my blog. Whenever I miss my place, at least I have these posts to return to.



It has taken me weeks to put this into words. Why my reluctance to publish this post? I guess in writing it down, it all seems a little more true! 


As I closed the gate for the final time on my beloved home and garden, I felt completely heartbroken. 



A few weeks on from this farewell, the grief is slowly becoming less raw.

 And maybe, just maybe, there is a new love around the corner. Surely there is one more garden in me?!
Best wishes, Bloom x
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