Monday, November 1, 2010

A walk through my garden

Isn't spring just the most glorious season?  The first flush of daffodils and cherry blossom heralds a cavalcade of colour from now until late autumn.  Right now all the roses have just burst into bloom and are simply stunning.  I have my favourites all around the neighbourhood - the lilac blooms climbing up the verandah posts of a charming Victorian, as well as a huge apricot rose "tree", an enormous ball of blooms.  Next I have my eye on all the stone fruit trees that artfully overhang fences.  No need to take snacks on a walk when we can gorge ourself on fallen nectarines and peaches, ever so slightly fermented in the summer heat.  Gardening and nature is my twin passion along with food and cooking so I hope you will let me indulge myself and share a little of my second love with you.

This is my favourite rose in my garden - it's an old English style.  I love its soft ruffles and the scent is superb, intensely "rose" with hints of lemon.  Did you know that the rosehip with which you make rosehip tea is actually the fruit of the rose?  Like all fruits, they emerge from the base of the flower after it has died, although many modern cultivars of roses are too tightly petalled to allow the bees access to the stamen at their centre to allow pollination.

Irises!!  I am very attached to my irises.  Their colour is so striking and the ruffles so beautiful.  These grow from a bulb.  I had to stop getting the paper delivered as the delivery driver kept throwing them into the irises and breaking their stems, and I felt like too much of an old biddy to keep ringing up and complaining about "my irises, my irises!"

Rainbow silverbeet.  This is such a wonderful vegetable, both practical and ornamental.  It comes in stems that are cream, yellow, red and lolly pink.  The red ones in particular have such a wonderful contrast between the huge, shiny, fleshy leaves and the red veins underneath.  It grows like a weed and you can continually remove the outer leaves as it grows and it will just keep producing more.  Did you know that silverbeet and beetroot are very closely related - silverbeet has been bred for its leaves while beetroot for its bulbous root?  Next time you buy a beetroot with its leaves still attached, make sure you keep them - you can use them just like spinach.

I am trying my hand this year at garlic as the discrepancy between real, fresh, heritage garlic and cheap Chinese garlic is worlds apart.  I have planted these lettuces in between the garlic - when the lettuces are fully grown, the garlic will be ready to be harvested.  Always choose loose-leafed varieties of lettuce and you will have lettuce for a whole season as you can just keep removing the outside leaves and more will grow.  They are also surprisingly pretty with their leaves in all different shades of green and red, and look gorgeous in a feature pot.

Spuds!  Also the first year for these - two heritage varieties, one blue and one cream.  They are just going nuts.  You simply plant a seed potato that has "chitted" or sprouted from its eyes (if there are multiple sprouts on the same tater, you can cut it in half and plant both pieces to make two separate plants).  I am looking forward to the first baby new potatoes of the season... yum!

I have found that I have good luck with some things while other gardeners have better luck with others.  My tomatoes are always successful.  Here we have some heritage tommies bought from the local primary school's stall at the recent neighbourhood Diwali Festival.  This is a heritage variety called Rouge de Marmande which is good for colder areas.  I have not had much luck with root crops such as carrots, nor parsley which apparently you have to be a witch to grow well.  Explains why my sister's previous parsley patches have been INSANE...

Ah, that great Australian backyard fixture, the lemon tree!  We are never without lemons for hummus, salad dressing, marinades or hot lemon and honey drinks for sore throats.  Did you know you can use lemon leaves to impart a citrus flavour, just as you would use lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves?  You can't eat them but you can just tear them and throw them in the oil before making a curry a la whole bruised sticks of lemongrass.

By far my favourite place to shop for all things garden is Poyntons in Essendon.  It perches high above the Maribyrnong River and is such a delightful place full of every plant you could ever desire.  The staff are extremely knowledgeable and everything I have bought from here has been top quality and worth the higher price tag than, say, Bunnings.

There's a cafe here which has a (somewhat pricey) menu as well as a case of enormous cakes.  The coffee wasn't very good at all, having that disembodied froth that half-dissipates upon stirring.  But then again, you know me and my coffee.

There is an awesome kids' playground here that is open to everyone yet totally secure.  Love it!!  And love husbands that watch the kids while I can browse.  Poyntons is on a hillside and has multiple levels and nooks and crannies of everything from roses, shade-loving plants, groundcovers, natives, succulents, indoor plants, vegies and herbs...

This variety of mint smelled just like after-dinner mints, rich and chocolatey.  Gorgeous!  It would be lovely infused in home-made icecream or pannacotta.  Be careful when planting mint - it's better in a pot or it will take over your whole garden bed.  Or plant the pot in the ground which will prevent it from spreading yet give it the "look" of being in the garden bed.

Thanks for coming on this walk through the garden with me.  Enjoy spring and all the beautiful rain we are having!

Cnr Vida St and the Boulevard, Essendon (map)
Phone:  9337 8111
Hours:  Monday - Friday 8 am - 5.30 pm, Sunday 9 am - 5.30 pm (cafe shuts 30 minutes earlier)

Wheelchair Accessibility
Entry:  Open access from street.  Steep, meandering paths to cafe at the top which has a level entry and an automatic door.
Layout:  Spacious with plenty of room around tables, both indoor and outdoor.
Bathroom:  Not viewed.


  1. Where can we find good coffee out west?

  2. Inspiring... getting my garden beds ready now. I just want to grow tomatoes and basil this year. And yes to lemon tree... they are awesomeness! Mine is seedless this year!

  3. Hi Stickman - I am really not much of a cafegoer these days. I have recently had luck at Social Roasting Company in Flemington, likewise Fruits of Passion in Kensington always good. If you prefer function over style Pound Cafe at the Whitten Oval does a good if unexciting cup.

    Great Vietnamese cafe su da (iced coffee) can be found at Pho Tam, cnr Leeds & Ryan.

    Check out Adrian's adventures in the cafes of the west on Food Rehab:

    Also Duchess of Spotswood:

    Penny, every year I change some things I grow but tomatoes and basil (and lettuce) are an absolute must!!!

  4. thanks for pointing me in the right direction on where to get my plants. Your garden is awesome and yes, lemon trees are so vital considering how pricey they are at the supermarket.

    Cheers for the link up :)

  5. I'll check out that nursery when creating my putative balcony herb garden next year! Do they srtock bonsai there?

    I'm envious that you all can grow veggies at home.

  6. Bryan, but you can too!

    When I was in the States, one of the first things I bought was a pot of basil from the supermarket. Just three or four leaves would make the biggest difference to any pasta or salad and give you a really "fresh" taste. It was just one teeny pot and I never even re-potted it the 6 weeks I was there. Give it a go!

    By the way, I have also replanted that hydroponic basil you get from the market with the roots still attached. It freaks out and falls over for the first few days then goes off like a rocket.

    For bonsai, you could check out in Yarraville. There's also a bonsai club, Fun!!

  7. I wish I had a garden like this to walk through! My backyard is a sad sad excuse for a backyard and we have no front yard to speak off T_T

  8. ...jealous of your veggie garden...

  9. Hi lauren, your roses look amazing!! Ive got to say, I struggle to keep my parsley growing to. my sister laughs at me every time I go back to her to get some more!

  10. Am jealous of the space in your veggie garden! I have two 1.2m square beds for my veggies, which i have duly over planted in the excitement of having my first veggie patch! So will probably end up with a variety of undersize veggies cos they don't have any room to grow properly, but I'd always had the first attempt down as a trial and error season!

    Have discovered poyntons recently and love it - i'm surprised there aren't more nurseries in the west- there seems to be loads of beautiful gardens, but very few places to buy the plants...

  11. Thanks girls! Anna, have you read One Magic Square by Lolo Houbein? She advocates close planting on garden beds 1 m square. I have not read it but a friend highly recommends it. Let me know how the first season goes - it's such a fantastic hobby.

  12. Ooohhh...this one made me a little homesick! We live (lived) just around the corner from Poyntons and I used to love running the bridge to bridge on a beautiful spring morning. ahhhh the serenity (she says as the toot toot of honda ex oms drifts up from the street!)

  13. Spring is totally glorious. Love the flowers, fresh air and sunshine.

  14. Lauren, your roses and garden are gorgeous! You can never have too many roses bushes in a garden! Poynton's is a garden dreamers paradise. Lucky I only have a small patch of dirt, because I could go quite mad spending there.

  15. Lauren, I see you have an impressive green thumb. Wish I could say the same for myself! I am quite proud of all my herbs but I'm yet to work out how to make other plants thrive. Since I'm good at following recipes, perhaps I need a recipe to grow a garden?! Well done on all your lovely flowers and veges.

  16. Thanks all! Ellise, one of my organic gardening books says quite primly in the chapter on troubleshooting that if you have problems with pests or underperforming plants, you obviously have not followed their recommendations on soil preparation. I have to say that all the Seasol-ing, chilli-and-garlic spraying and other topical treatments have done nothing for me - it was only once I invested a lot of time working old manure and compost into the soil that the garden took off, and not just the vegies but the flowers too. We have a tumbler-style compost bin and it is relatively unobtrusive, makes fantastic compost fast and there's no way mice can get into it. Give it a shot perhaps? Depending on how much room you have there is also the Bokashi bucket under-bench composting system which is supposed to be good too.


I love getting your comments! They're what make blogging worthwhile. Unfortunately, the amount of spam I get is obscene and it is so tiresome to have to moderate every comment, so I have had to turn on annoying word verification. I'm sorry for the inconvenience, but please know how much I love you having your say!

Related Posts with Thumbnails
Related Posts with Thumbnails