I have the amazing opportunity to create a garden from scratch. Before we bought this house, I have always had to work with the garden I’ve been given… on more than one occasion I’ve lived in a rental house and my main aim has been to keep the garden alive for the next owner inspection. When I last owned my own home I knew next to nothing about which plants to choose, how to keep them alive or even what I really liked.
Over the years of tending these gardens and killing more plants than I care to admit, I have learned a few things, I’m glad to say. During those years, I experimented with plants in pots in lieu of my own garden so I planted bulbs and watched what would grow where; I planted a lot of succulents and absolutely fell in love with them. Who can’t love a plant that replicates itself?! Echeverias and Sempervivums and other succulents create little clones of themselves and so you can create whole gardens from just a few plants and a bit of patience. After a bit of investigation, I learnt that in some countries Sempervivums are called ‘Hens and Chickens’ because of this habit of replicating their own little baby plants. In other countries they are called ‘house leaks’ as they are used in some countries to grow on the roofs of houses to little plug leaks. I love that!.
Australian natives plants offer an amazing range of subtle, hardy and in many cases, very beautiful plants that can be chosen to suit your local environment. There are many varieties like the gorgeous Grevilleas. So while many of us still choose to plant up our gardens with roses and other ‘exotics’, Australian native plants are becoming increasingly popular not least because of their tolerance of our extreme weather and low rainfall.
If you’ve read earlier posts, you’ll know i love Australian birdlife and a native garden is a great way to attract native birds. They need all the help they can get as their natural habitats are disappearing. Many Australian birds are very small and need protection from large predators like our very large aggressive ravens, butcherbirds and magpies. Suburban cats are an absolute menace. So planting ground cover for little birds is essential if they are to find hiding places away from predators.
So in beginning to plan my own garden, I can start with a few of these lessons:
- I love Australian native plants
- I love succulents
- These two broad plant types for the most part go very well together as they require little attention and not a lot of water – both useful things for an amateur (read uneducated) gardener in a state where rainfall is intermittent.
- I love Australian birdlife and want to attract them so that I can enjoy them and photograph them and give then a little haven in an inner city suburb
This all means I want to create an Australian native garden in my very own backyard.
Over the next few months (and years as gardens are a lifetime commitment), I will be changing my 60sqm of dirt into a native Australian garden.
The garden I have to work with was, until a few weeks ago, covered by a huge aircraft-hanger construction that was supposed to be a pergola. Made of thick pine planks, many struts, brackets, screws and nails, this construction was not only incredibly ugly in my opinion, it took up 3/4 of the garden leaving me just room for a patch of scrawny grass with a few paving stones leading to a small and inefficient shed.
This is all gone… including half of the cedar deck which covered most of the garden. The decking was repurposed to create a new deck to host our spa.
Now that the pergola has gone, the spa has been repositioned, the shed has been dismantled and redistributed and the essential water tank has been rotated so it’s in a more practical location, we are ready to start to build the garden.
Actually.we are ready to start planning to build the garden. I really couldn’t envisage what I had to work with until the space was cleared. What I’m left with is a rather big hole… ! When I reduced the deck I realised the ground beneath it was more than 30cms below the deck. We’re going to need a serious amount of topsoil before we can even think about putting in a plant.
I am entering that wonderful design stage… I can see what I have to work with and I know roughly what I want to create. Next step is to get some professional advice (we used professionals to dismantle the aircraft hanger and move the deck and water tank around – couldn’t have done it without help). Possibly I wont plant much until next winter/spring as in Melbourne we are entering the end of spring and beginning of summer and many young plants wont enjoy the 42 degree days we’ll get in the summer. But I will wait to see what my gardener advises. Until then. Stay tuned.
A fire today in Footscray at Little Saigon Market has destroyed the offices of the Les Twentyman Foundation destroying hundreds of Christmas gifts, including 6,000 donated school books, intended for children of poor families.
The Foundation has been a part of the Western suburbs of Melbourne for over 30 years and Les Twentyman has been the major driver.
It’s been raining up here in Castlemaine. Full on flooding plains type of rain. First time I’ve been up this way when it wasn’t hot enough to crisp your eyelashes. It seems to be raining quite a bit when I go travelling at the moment – I’m sure it’s not true that I bring rain wherever I go. It’s just a coincidence.
I’m here for the Fryerstown Antiques Fair (22-24 Jan) located in a now muddy field surrounded by giant gums raising money for the Fryerstown historic hall. There’s often a fundraising angle to much of the things I’m doing. I’m in search of good 1930’s Australian pottery and whatever treasures I can find (I’ve developed a bit of a button fetish but let’s not go there yet).
If you’re wondering about the writer in transit tag it’s an idea I can up with when I was listening to someone on the ABC talk about their time as a writer in residence at the V&A in London. I was feeling a bit green-eyed that they’d probably get unprecedented access to all the lovely things held there. I got to wondering what really was a Writer in Residence and thought perhaps I could be one and how you apply and so on. It then occurred to me (I was doing the washing up at the time and looking out the window admiring the rainbow lorikeets which just goes to prove that, seriously, women really can multi-task but that’s another post) that one could just turn up at the V&A (or the NGV or Castlemaine) and start writing what occurred to you there as you passed through it without needing anyone’s permission. So. possibly I would be a writer in transit?
As I transit, I am actually staying up here in a wonderful bed and breakfast ‘Clevedon Manor‘ which is on the main road in Castlemaine. It’s a Victorian mansion filled with period- appropriate furniture, lots of horse pictures and a cuckoo clock. They’ve given me a lovely room with a bay window overlooking the hedge-enclosed garden. The bedroom has a great big silver-grey coloured metal bed with crisp white cotton sheets facing the tiled fireplace over which a gilded mirror hangs. There is a massive 2 meter tall wardrobe with a full length oval mirror in the door. My very clean private bathroom is just down the hall.
Last night as I sat up in bed reading, I felt it would be appropriate to be wearing a pink silk, feather-trimmed bed jacket with my matching slippers at the side of my bed on the small rug, having just been served warm tea in a china cup by my personal maid. Beautiful rooms have this kind of Vivien Leigh effect on me. It is so reassuring to visit a new place and feel, well, at home. Just at the right moment, 1st Dibs released this collection of beautiful images of gorgeous bedrooms. Lust on these as I continue my journey through the gold-mining towns around Castlemaine.
It’s another January 1 and the New Year sits before us.. untouched waiting for us to decide what to do with it.
A Good Thing
You can choose to make no resolutions about the NY. Many do (or is that don’t). While I understand it feels like a waste of time if you don’t follow through, at least you had a goal to aim for. Is it better to have no goals at all and take what comes?
So this year my resolution is specifically vague. I’ve resolved to do something new (and positive) every day. That is, something I’ve never done before. So that’s specific. And the vagueness is that I’m not going to plan what that ‘new good thing‘ is. I’m just making a commitment to do something new every day. It doesn’t have to be incredibly dangerous, exciting or mind-bending, it just needs to be new.
So. January 1. I kayaked down the Goulburn River to birdwatch and enjoy the gorgeous scenery. Well not all of the GR but a nice, friendly non-rapid bit with my husband and a friend who showed us the way, let us use his kayaks and drove us back and forth! That is friendship, I’m sure. In return, I pointed out the birds I recognised… a few Darters, lots of Little Corellas, 2 wonderful, delighting Kingfishers, lots of ducks, a Currawong singing in the trees, lots of noisy Cockatoos.
As we were visiting friends in a beautiful part of the Victorian farming region, perhaps it was easier to find something to do that I’d never done before. The more difficult thing will be to discover something different just as part of my normal everyday routine when I’m at home with the cat and wondering why I can’t watch foxtel for another hour. Let’s see.
Happy New Year. And may many unexpected, happy, healthy and magical experiences come to you whether you resolved it that way or not! PS Thanks BirdLife for the photos … I was too busy trying to stay in the Kayak to take photos! 🙂
For the first time Zoos Victoria and our Foundation (fundraising and sponsorship) team were recognised by the Australian Fundraising Institute for our very special fundraising campaign leveraging the 150th anniversary of Melbourne Zoo. It was my privilege to head up the ZV Foundation during this highly creative period, a role I still hold.
One of the main projects was Mali in the City with 50 sculptures of our very own (then) baby elephant Mali were painted by professional and amateur artists and positioned all around the city. Each sculpture had a paid sponsor for the period of the installation and at the end of the exhibition, all of the sculptures were successfully auctioned off. A wonderful event that brought the Melbourne community back in touch with its fantastic city Zoo. We raised almost AUD $1m with the campaign across our various events and activities for our Victorian and International conservation programmes. And had a great time in the process!
Here’s the story which was featured recently by the FIA talking about the awards:
Winner of the 2014 Most Effective Creative Campaign and the 2014 Special Projects, Events Award
Campaign: Melbourne Zoo’s 150th Anniversary Mali in the City Campaign.
Key Personnel: Jenny Gray, Kevin Tanner, Pamela Sutton-Legaud MFIA, Sid Myer AM
What does winning this award mean for your organisation?
Winning the award meant a great deal for Zoos Victoria, in particular helping to acknowledge the hard work of a team of people that worked on Melbourne Zoo’s 150th Anniversary celebrations. It was also significant as it further demonstrated the love that people all over Australia share for Melbourne Zoo and Zoos Victoria as an organisation but also the love people feel for the charismatic animals that live at our zoos including Mali the Asian Elephant. Being successful in reaching a large number of people with our anniversary celebrations was extremely important for our organisation as it meant many people became engaged in our fighting wildlife extinction work and at the end of the day – this is the most important message.
How has it impacted on your work in terms of campaign strategies, staff morale etc?
The Award was a huge boost for the many teams involved in Melbourne Zoo’s 150th Anniversary celebrations. It was nice for staff to be publicly recognised for a campaign which touched so many different people. It has also made staff feel proud to be part of an organisation that is fun, has the ability to be bold and, above all, to be part of an organisation that the community clearly values.
Briefly tell us about the campaign that won you this award? What made this campaign so successful?
We won the Award for our 150th Anniversary celebrations which took place in 2012. In particular, we held a public art exhibition called ‘Mali in the City’ which saw 50 life-size artist decorated fibreglass elephant sculptures displayed all over Melbourne’s city streets and later sold at auction with all proceeds donated to Zoos Victoria fighting wildlife extinction efforts. The campaign was extremely successful as the sculptures were modelled on the exact dimensions of Mali the elephant, (at the time) a two year old elephant calf who was the first female elephant calf born in Australia and arguably one of the most popular animals at Melbourne Zoo. The campaign was also extremely unique, it was eye-catching and helped to brighten the wintery streets of Melbourne and it involved a large number of local people from local business to community and high profile artists.
Why did you/your organisation decide to submit an entry?
We decided to submit an award to help recognise the huge amount of work dedicated to the project by a large number of staff members across many departments of Zoos Victoria and also to help acknowledge the incredibly positive support from the Melbourne community. It was also another avenue to help raise awareness of our fighting extinction work with threatened species within a community that cares about causes.
What advice or suggestions can you give to other members considering submitting an awards nomination?
The Awards are a great way to celebrate your team’s hard work and successes within the fundraising industry. It was also a good way to benchmark your campaigns against what the rest of the industry is doing. In particularly winning the award had numerous benefits including media opportunities as well as the opportunity to build new relationships at the Awards event.
I’ve always been interested in promoting ‘Australian-made’ and so for a long time I’ve looked for interesting ways to promote home grown innovation.
Of course, Australian food and wine have a deservedly excellent reputation so with this in mind, i’ve decided to start a ‘pop up online store’ to promote Aussie products by way of Christmas hampers. This brings together my love of Australiana, creating a new online alternative and …shopping! What a great combo!
Christmas hampers are mostly very traditional so I’d like to offer something a bit different. With my pop up store, you can choose the traditional option but also one with a contemporary slant and a luxury alternative.
So what would go into a ‘true blue’ Aussie Christmas hamper? My thoughts are some of the regulars – like Tim Tams. While not a ‘just for Christmas’ item, who doesn’t eat packets of them over the festive Aussie summer season? Then there’s wine. We have some fantastic Shiraz… just right for that family get together. And I’m even learning to love Chardonnay… the less oaken varieties have won me over so they would need to be well represented. Living as I do in Victoria, I would need to have in my basket some of our fantastic cheeses and relishes possibly from the Yarra Valley. My mouth is watering at the idea. Perhaps a bottle of sparkling wine of the Domaine Chandon variety or something equally gorgeous to accompany that cheese platter? A Botrytis Riesling from the Yarrawood Vineyard? Or a classic Rose from Dominique Portet also of the Yarra Valley. So many choices!
Now normally I wouldn’t share this with you so soon but I’m taking a tip from Austin Kleon and his book ‘Show your Work’ and while this isn’t about my art (as his book refers) but to a new ideas I’m developing, I still thought it a good idea to start getting things out into the world and worry less about waiting til it’s absolutely ‘ready’. It may also generate some great ideas or even some Australian producers who’d be interested in collaborating with me. Therefore: I’ll be opening my ‘store’ in just a few weeks in time for Christmas orders. Look forward to sharing some Aussie delights with you. I’d love to hear what you’d like to find in your Australian Christmas Hamper? Do tell me!