As it's Spring, my thoughts have increasingly been on the garden, and gardening in general. Early this year I contacted my landscape designer as a redesign of the front garden was required (this had not been designed by her, but rather by me). The front garden was installed only 4 years ago, however a number of problems meant that a redesign was in order.
The sick magnolia tree, stunted hedge to the right.
The last of the magnolias
Secondly was the fact that the first landscaper that did the initial landscaping works did not prepare the soil properly. I had at the time emphasised the importance of the soil preparation - with all the construction works of the veranda and new boundary walls the soil was very compacted from earthworks. However I was unable to supervise the landscaping works adequately - at the time my mother was very ill in hospital for 6 weeks, and I was spending my days with her. It all looked fine at the end of the job, and the plants initially flourished, but that all stalled a year later when the compacted soil in one section of the garden was alternatively a bog in Winter or bone dry in Summer, and I would unearth very large rocks buried 30cm below the soil level that had not been removed from the construction of the wall from the other end of the garden - I can remember on one afternoon alone I dug up 13 30-40cm wide rocks while trying to plant roses. The hedge along the front fence also grew very strangely - one side is flourishing, and the other is half the size.
The third issue was to correct a rookie error on my part. Gardens are no different in many ways to Architecture, and scale is important. While I know how to do this successfully in buildings, in the garden I doubted what I'd read (garden beds should be a minimum of 2m wide, and ideally at least 3m) and instinctively made the common mistake of trying to maximise the feeling of space in what is a very narrow front garden by making the garden beds narrow and the lawn part as large as possible. It just doesn't look right - the garden feels like it's shrinking up at the sides and it emphasises the narrowness of the garden as a result.
So, the shorter version is that it's all coming out, and the new garden will have no lawn (no longer needed as we have a fully renovated back garden and living area for the children to play on), and will instead be almost entirely garden, with some gravel to soften the margins between veranda, front path and plants. Thank goodness I did in fact scale the front path well - it is very wide, which works well with the scale of the house and so it will not be changing.
Bronte House, Sydney. Photo via Bumble at Home blog
Bronte House, Sydney. photo via Bumble at Home blog
"Possumwood" garden designed by Miles Baldwin
The style for the front garden is that of an early colonial Australian garden - I want it to look original to the house. In essence this means that it will rely on interesting plant combinations, rather than geometry (a formal garden with hedging) for interest. Colonial gardens were largely experimental - finding out what would grow in the Australian climate from plants collected from all over the world, and with a combination of plantings that emphasised textural contrast (grasses/ sedums/ meditteranean palms/ salvias) and that required little water.... It won't be a 'dry' garden as such, but it will have a good mix of grey/green leafed plants and will rely on interesting planting combinations, such as my inspiration garden images above. All the existing plants in the garden will be reused (they will be lifted out so that the soil can be adequately prepared first), and the focal point on one side will be a Victorian style fountain.
Cast Iron fountain circa 1890 at my Dad's house. (blurred out) photo of my children by Shona Henderson
Billman's Foundry Acanthus leaf fountain
Acanthus leaves were a motif commonly used in Classical Architecture, and ferns, palms and Acanthus leaf motifs were popular during the Victorian era, so I feel it will suit my house style and the overall style of the garden. Then there was the pond part. I didn't want it to go into a new build pond with stone edging. I wanted it to go into a cast iron Victorian style pond surround, similar to my Dad's original fountain located in his garden in the photo above. Well, no one makes them anymore. Apparently you'd need a crane to get one into your garden at any rate… but I did manage to find a reproduction fibreglass pond surround that will look the goods. The fibreglass is high quality, so bears no resemblance to the cheap pebbled ponds you might find at the local garden centre, and it's still a 3 man lift, so it's solid and substantial enough that I think it will work well. It also came from Castlemaine.
So, with those plans in place I'm just waiting on the landscapers to arrive, which will be Monday. In readiness they came and sprayed off the lawn to kill it. However this was done a little prematurely in my opinion - we have been looking at this scene for the past 10 weeks. I can't even begin to tell you how much I am desperately wanting the yellow grass to be gone. It's a very depressing entry at the moment to the house.
In other parts of the garden however things are flourishing. I've put in a lot of hard yards over the past couple of months fertilising, weeding and pruning in readiness for Spring - not the glamorous part of gardening that's for sure. I've had a few questions about the hedging in the side garden and how I've gone about with this radically different method of growing a thick hedge (advice given to me by my hedging man).
If you look almost directly at the centre of the image you'll see the peg holding the branch down
Kind of flattened out into the gaps
Back corner of the garden
And I've been busy growing new things for the front garden and to fill in the gaps in the back garden. Lots of salvias, echiums and sedums. Some from cuttings, some from seed (via the Diggers Club who have the more unusual varieties you can't buy from nurseries).
Seedlings waiting for the front garden….
So I'll be posting hopefully in a couple of weeks with a radically different looking front garden. Happy Spring!
I have wanted to be a Designer of some sort from about the age of 9. I used to frequently rearrange the furniture in my bedroom from the time I was about 8 years old, draping table cloths on the bed, moving around my pictures… I saved up for 2 years to buy my own dollhouse, and I used to love visiting one of my Aunts who would buy in all the overseas design magazines (so expensive back then!) and I'd spend all my time whilst at her house curled up on her sofa reading them obsessively.
I cannot emphasise how much I loved my course all those years ago - the teachers were all experts in their field, and we'd regularly have talks from world-class London based designers. We were taken on guided tours of the V&A museum with an Oxford educated expert in decorative design. We visited stately homes, fabric showrooms, and trade shows. All things that expand your horizons in a design sense. Now to keep up a world view on design I spend a lot of time looking at International and local design magazines, reading books, visiting exhibitions and attending talks when I'm able to, and using online resources such as virtual gallery tours.
My trip to Hobart over the weekend, the subject of my last post, was a long talk fest about houses - particularly so as Romy, our Hobart hostess, has a beautiful and eclectic home and clearly a good eye for design. Earlier this year Romy decided to retrain as an Interior Designer, and has signed up for the KLC course online - study options being particularly limited in Tasmania. Romy has just restarted her blog - now called A House in Hobart - and has promised to blog about her design course and all the beautiful houses in Hobart near her home. So if you're interested in following along with her on her on this process then drop by her blog and say hello.
All images via Pinterest
The Islington Hotel's dining Conservatory
The Islington's Yellow sitting room
It was freezing and even snowed while we were there. It felt very English to me for a few reasons. Firstly we had to walk through a door at the airport that said "International Arrivals". I'm not sure Tasmania has officially Seceded from the mainland yet, but all the little black faced sheep in fields, rolling green hills, misty rain and Georgian style Architecture of the original Colonial era buildings combined to give a very English feel.
Mona's bunker like buildings overlooking the Derwent
The Fat Porsche - a message about overconsumption.
The Agrarian Kitchen cooking school before chaos started
But it was akin to being in an episode of The Great British Bakeoff. We baked our little fingers to the bone Vintage Style. So much so that I'm pretty sure Faux Fuchsia (who was standing next to me) was about to hit me over the head with a vintage style rolling pin at one point as I morphed into one of those annoying people that moan about how much easier it would all be if I just had my Thermomix with me. But we turned out an impressive array of Suet and lard based pastry goods. Delicious! An under-utilised ingredient these days.
Where we ate lunch - pastries and cakes we'd baked
A spot of Cartier China in the Dining Room
corner of Romy's Dining room with Designers Guild covered velvet bench seat and coloured wine glasses
Sunday saw us eating lunch at Smolt, which was excellent, browsing bookshops and wandering around Salamanca Place which is the old wharf area of Hobart. Romy also took us to her boat shed, which is in a most lovely, tranquil little spot and drove us around and around Hobart which curiously reminds me of Sydney. Perhaps it's all the little one way curvy streets, sandstone walls and colonial era Architecture? Plus the water is always turning up around a corner as you enter another little bay.
I'll leave it out to you to work out who matches up with which one! Hope you had a good weekend too.
my sitting room drinks table
Well, it's the weekend and I've got a celebratory drink on my mind for surviving another week of craziness.
the casual living area drinks tray
This has lead me to think about the drinks table, and it's super sized cousin, the home bar. I read last year in The Australian newspaper that home bars were again becoming big news. Apparently they are the new Sales Feature demanded by The Market in a luxury house (the home theatre has obviously infiltrated the mass market too much, as have full Miele kitchens...). Used by caterers, and often adjoining casual living and entertaining areas (such as outdoor pools) apparently Designers are being inundated with requests to make the home bar look like an upmarket boutique hotel. Mirror, chrome, marble and every liquor and spirit known to man is required to give the edge over its rather more subdued 70's parent.
Home bars back in the 70s in Australia revolved more around the fantasy of having your own pub at home with you playing the role of the publican. They tended to feature wood panelling, beer mats, bowls of nuts and a miniature keg to pull your own beers from. The new incarnation is a slightly more glossy and sophisticated take on all that, but still (to me) fairly unnecessary unless you entertain constantly or harbour a deep longing to play shop as an adult.
But the drinks table… well, that's another matter. There is nothing that says "welcome" or "relax" (or possibly "alcoholic") to me than a well curated drinks tray.
Bar carts recently become a Thing, and are now easily available in Australia through a variety of suppliers, as well as frequently being available at estate auction (called tray mobiles, and far cheaper than the brand new versions). But to be honest, I've never understood why you need wheels on it. They are generally left in a stationary position somewhere, so I'm more in favour of a decent sized tray with the essentials on it. A few bottles of your favourite tipple, mixers, ice bucket and glasses, some citrus and you have a welcoming drinks tray. If you want to fancy it up with attractive stripey prop straws, then by all means go for it.
I have two drinks trays in my house - one on the side board in our dining area (a part of the casual living zone). This is used fairly frequently as we are generally in this area. The other drinks tray is in the library/ sitting room. It's smaller and is less frequently used. At some point we will have to do away with the permanent drinks tray as our children become teenagers, and we start keeping everything alcoholic in the lockable cellar. Mr AV and I both have vivid memories of sneaking things out of our parent's cellars, either when underaged, or after than in student enforced poverty to take to a party.
Two incidences in my family spring to mind. The first was when my parents decided to have a Gin and Tonic. It was a hot day, so my Father fetched the half full bottle of chilled gin from the cellar fridge rather than using the bottle on the sideboard. He spent some time putting it together and presented one to my mother who sipped it and asked him if he'd remembered to put the Gin in. Yes he had, he assured her. She sipped it again and said she couldn't taste it. So Dad poured some more in. Same result. At this point my younger sister and I, who were sitting on the sofas nearby started whispering to each other "have you been drinking the Gin?" Yes, it turned out we both had (and possibly my older sister too). We used to decant it out of the bottle then top it back up with water to the same level….
The second instance occurred on Christmas Day. As per family tradition the pudding was to be lit up with flaming Brandy. Except that Dad hadn't checked how much Brandy he had. There was only a few drops left. So he improvised. He pulled out the full bottle of Vodka a patient had given him around 10 years before as a substitute. My parents never drank Vodka, so it was full. He poured it liberally all over the pudding, my sisters and I held our breath, he lit a match and we all watched the match fizzle. Another match, still no flame. The pudding would just not light. The extended family was surprised, Dad confused. How could it not flame? Well, unfortunately that was another bottle my sisters and I had gradually diluted with water over the years. Essentially Dad had poured water over the Christmas pudding. It was a soggy, water logged pudding that year.
So for the time being I'll enjoy my drinks tables in all their welcoming glory before the bottles are stashed in the cellar and only brought out with keyed access.
Enjoy the weekend!
more images of drinks trays via Pinterest
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