Friday, April 26, 2013

ANZAC Day . . .

My sister wrote a lovely post on her blog yesterday about my family's rather unique connection with this Australian celebration.

At the risk of becoming far too personal and completely off the gardening subject, I'd like to show you a few more photos that we came across when researching our uncle at the time of making the website dedicated to him.

This was taken in 1908 -

and shows my Grandfather and Grandmother with their young family at that time.  Their eldest son sits at the left of the photo.  I get the feeling that he is holding firmly to the britches' waistband of his little brother beside him!

By 1915, this young man was quite the spiff.  He had his portrait taken just prior to signing his enlistment form and leaving his family for good.

Before he left, he apparently gave a copy of this photo to a number of young ladies that he knew!

By the time he was in France, his youngest brother, my dad, had arrived.  The next family photo we have was taken at Christmas, 1922.

That little blond urchin in the centre of the front row is indeed my dad.  And to the left of him is his sister Nell, whom we will farewell on Monday.  And behind her is the little brother whose britches were being held in the first photo.

My regret is that when all these folks were alive who would have remembered their eldest brother, that I was too young/not aware/not interested to ask about their memories of him.  I wish I had, I would love to have heard first hand about him.

Thank goodness for family members who have kept and preserved all these old photos.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Today we're going to play a game . . .

. . . it's called 'Find the Stick Insect"!

First prize is one weeks holiday at the Kurrajong Garden and free use of a weeding fork.  Second prize is two weeks holiday . . .

Weeding continues apace, the bed in front of the verandah is almost done, the most prolific 'weed' there was the determined seaside daisy - once upon a time, I can remember actually planting it in my garden, many years ago and quite a few gardens ago - what was I thinking?

Since moving here, I planted a small Japanese anemone or windflower, a pink single, I think I've had a picture or two on here, it's on the easterly end of the verandah bed, around the corner and in front of the fishpond.  Planted it a good metre from the corner.  When weeding the other day, found it has turned the corner and is a good six inches or so out into the main bed.  We plant things that seem like a good idea at the time, but later we wonder why.

Further along the verandah, where the Stick Insect lives, is DA Leander, still flowering -

Glorious blue autumn sky!  The sun is still warm but the evenings are getting cooler, I have even resorted to the electric blanket at night, but that is mainly on account of my aching ankle.

Further round the garden, along the front of the house, the bank of violets has recovered from the heat of summer and is starting to flower again.  I particularly like the white violet in the foreground, which prolifically self seeds, especially in the gravel path.  

Today I thought I would clean up around the hedge at the side of the garage.  It's growing way too high, it's supposed to be used to hide the garbage bins but it almost hides the garage!  I wish I was game enough to fire up the chainsaw . . .

Anyway, I figured a clean up around the bottom would be good, got my rake out to rake up the fallen leaves left over from Mike's last hedge trimming effort and look what I raked out from underneath -

Where did they all come from and how did they get under the hedge?

I was slightly interrupted in my clean up by the most enormous garden spider I think I have ever seen.  One of those common brown ones, I must have removed the camouflage of its home when I pulled out some weeds, my first sight of it was as it walked ever so slowly across the gravel towards the hedge and a close look revealed the multitude of baby spiders it carried on its back!  I guess that means it's a she!  She came out of here -

and it's a wonder she fitted in!!  B - I - G spider . . .

To finish on a sad note, our dear Auntie Nell passed away yesterday.  She was 101 only 9 days ago.  Ironically, I had a message from my sister in law last night to say that they have arrived in Ieper (or Ypres) and will today be travelling to the place on the Western Front where Nell's (and my dad's) oldest brother lost his life in 1917 in the Battle of Messines.  How amazing that there are almost 96 years between the passing of these siblings.  I have always felt that Auntie Nell was my link to my Dad, who died in 1986.  While Auntie Nell was still here, somehow Dad was too.  It truly feels like an end of a long era.

Mike and I will travel up to Dorrigo on Sunday for the funeral on Monday.  It's going to be very sad.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Inspiration . . . .

You may recall my previous post regarding my credit card woes.

My bank has kindly credited my account with the amounts that appeared, but today I received a letter from them with a form I must fill out to officially dispute one of the transactions.  Enclosed with the letter was a copy of the invoice from the store in the United States where this transaction was made, together with a copy of identification of the purchaser, who by now I guess is in possession of his new Bulova Watch, his Citizen Watch and his new flash Nike Trainer Running Shoes.

I opened this letter, addressed to me as Mrs Juliet ******* and I have to laugh that they need me to formally advise them that I did indeed NOT purchase these items.  Let alone have them sent to me in SINGAPORE!!  What an absolute star Mr Vincent Gie is!!

I can tell you though that it is somewhat creepy to see your credit card number on someone else's card, right down to the supposed security number on the back.  Well, it was my credit card number, it is no more and I'm guessing it isn't my friend Vincent's credit card number any more as well, he's probably moved on to any number of other poor unfortunate victims' cards.  How many watches does one little Singaporian need anyway?

I used to buy myself gardening magazines on a fairly regular basis.  Then in the last year or so, I haven't bothered.  A good indication of my lack of gardening mojo.

I buy my sister a subscription  to a home decorating magazine for her birthday each year.  We were discussing on the phone some weeks ago the fact that everything is online, you can read a magazine on your iPad these days, page by page, but never hold it physically in your hands.  I asked her if she wanted to still receive it each month in her letter box or read it online.  No, she would rather get the magazine, even if she is running out of space on her bookshelves.  She loved to be able to refer to it later, to sit in the sun and read it slowly, or put it away and peruse it at her leisure.  Then she said something about how she thought it was her way of staying inspired, that inspiration for the decoration of her home, which is gorgeous I might add, didn't just come out of the blue, she needed to see what's out there, to see what other people have done and to find ideas that she could use or that gave her inspiration to make up her own ideas.

And as she said it, it dawned on me that I  am the same about my garden.  The magazines I used to buy, whilst not always applicable, gave me ideas and started my brain thinking about plants and plantings and accessories and all the other joys that come with making a garden.

I was depriving myself of this important inspiration.

So that very day, I organised myself a subscription to perhaps my favourite gardening magazine, The English Garden.  Yes, I know the seasons are all wrong, that their summers are so cool compared to ours and that their winters can include snow where ours here don't, I can cope with all that, but I am always inspired by something that I see between the covers of this magazine.

And my first issue arrived today.  It's all about the Chelsea Flower Show, and I think I need to visit that one day.  Even the ads I find interesting.  And inspiring.

Pity Mr Vincent Gie didn't get into gardening, instead of the rubbish he's doing at the minute . . .

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Echinacea seeds, anyone?

Many of the plants in my garden are self sown.  It's a fact that gives me much joy actually.

However, a lot of it stems from the fact that I am an abject failure when it comes to dead heading.  Things that have well finished flowering are left in all their deathly glory.  Part of the problem lies in not knowing how much to chop, part of the problem is the sheer volume of dead heads that need dead heading and part of the problem is not a problem at all.  I just love to find little seedlings sprouting up in the garden which when moved and/or nurtured, become  legitimate members of the garden society.

I'm also stingy.  I buy plants that I know will multiply.  I bought one Acanthus about four years ago, I now have at least six clumps of Acanthus.  I bought one Echinacea and now have them everywhere.

Speaking of which, hmmm, yes, I'd say they have definitely finished -

a few late bloom but mostly done.  But I don't see dead flowers, I see another million Echinacea seeds waiting for me to collect.  I don't need to collect them, I have more than enough Echinacea plants in the garden already, but I just can't snip them off and bin them.  So I stand in front of them with my secateurs for a minute, then I hobble off inside and find a bag into which I pop the dead heads as I snip.  Makes for slow progress but within a short period of time, I have the makings of another million Echinacea plants.

When I don't dead head the roses, which is often, I'm sometimes rewarded with colourful rose hips.  Hey, I don't mind looking at them, maybe it's not the done thing in all the good gardens of the world but it's okay here.  The joy of this is also that eventually they dry and fall and I'm at the moment watching with interest half a dozen rose seedlings which have come up in the garden.  One I'm particularly watching has come up just in front of the DA Lucetta, which I'm sad to report is looking very sick at the moment.  It's had a small flush of blooms but nothing like previous years.  That's it behind the dead Echinacea in the photo above.  Sad . . .

I'm lucky that I recognise a lot of the seedlings that come up.  The gravel path seems to be a favourite place for sprouting, at any given time there can be a dozen lavenders, both French and English, countless violets, johnny jump ups, aquilegia and seaside daisies, not to mention butterfly bush or gaura which is fast becoming a weed in my book and is dispatched along with the other weeds.

Speaking of which, I have again made some progress with the overgrown western bed.  In a thick carpet of summer grass and kikuyu, I found my Dutch Iris have come up and I managed to careful weed around them, but wasn't so lucky with some ranunculi who were at a one leaf stage and I managed to yank quite a few out in my enthusiasm.

Autumn is definitely in the air.  I got up last Wednesday morning and put on a warm jumper.  For the first time in probably six months.  This is the best time of the year to be out in the garden, it's the best time to plant new things, when the ground is still quite warm but the sun is no longer shrivellingly hot.  The sun is moving steadily into the northern sky - a month ago our sunsets were over Bowen Mountain, now they are over Bilpin and Mountain Lagoon.  Here's yesterdays -

Today I will try to finish the weeds in the western bed.  I'll give the roses there a bit of a tidy up, a bit of a dead head (yeah right) and then I think I will empty my bag of collected Echinacea seeds around them.  It's about the only place in the garden where they aren't growing already.

Here's Graham Thomas on the corner of the verandah, looking lovely and blackspotted!

And Mary Rose showing the effects of all the rain we've had lately - but still she flowers on!

This afternoon, I'm off to an appointment, a new strategy to try and find some flexibility and stability in my ankle.  I desperately hope it works, I've got gardening to do!

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Stuff happens, but not much gardening . . .

Here at Chez Do It Yourself, we like to have a good crack at doing lots of different things.

Having two dogs that own a doggie door and are therefore free to go in and out at will in all weathers and for all reasons (see last post), means that sometimes an inordinate amount of 'dirty' happens.  Unfortunately the dirty on their feet, unless there is intervention, is often later to be found on the lounge, where unfortunately they often end up and we seem to be powerless to change this habit.  Consequently we have come to realise that we kind of can't have nice things and two dogs at the same time.

So a lounge that has fixed covers starts to look like this -

How gross is that!!  What plonker with dogs would buy a cream coloured lounge?  Hmm, that would be me . . .

The other sofa had a removable cover which I made years ago and which had seen the inside of the washing machine many, many times - so many in fact that there was much wear and tear.  However, it was made from a different blue fabric to the check one above and I lived for all these years with an odd pair of sofas, dreaming of the day when I would be able to have a matching pair.  So to speak . . .

About two years ago, I purchased a roll of fabric on eBay which languished in the back of the cupboard in the sewing room, waiting for me to conjure up the inspiration to turn it into covers for both lounges.  But the thought scared me, because the roll came with the indecisive fabric length of '21+ yards'.  Plus how much?  21 yards wasn't going to cover two lounges, but 21 plus another 10 or 15 would be just fine.  So I was nervous to start, knowing there was a chance that the fabric would run out before the job was done.

In the meantime, it was pointed out to me that IKEA had a lounge with removable covers which would be eminently suitable.  There wasn't quite a colour that appealed to me, but at least one that I could have lived with, knowing that I didn't have to stitch a thing.

However, the situation got to the point where it was now or never.  About the time I took the photo above.

So a kind of sewing marathon began.  Somewhat akin to stitching together a large and difficult jigsaw puzzle, all the while with the thoughts that, as the fabric roll grew smaller and smaller, there just may not be enough to finish the job.

I cut the last lot of pieces last Wednesday.  There was approximately 14 inches of fabric left over!  Except for some offcuts which will become scatter cushion covers (if I can muster the enthusiasm).

So the lounge above has become -

A bit better, eh?

I now have matching sofas!

Despite my best efforts, the fabric is turned the wrong way in a few places, hence the difference in colour.  Man, we need to repaint those walls, that colour is just so wrong!

Now quick, get out the old sheets and cover everything before the dogs come back inside!

A few things I've learned doing this job -

1.  If you want to wash these covers, every raw edge must be zig-zagged.
2.  Fabric must be marked as it is cut to avoid being turned and showing up a different colour.
3.  There is an awful lot of sewing involved in making these.
4.  There is a lot of awful sewing involved in making these.
5.  In future, go to IKEA and buy a new lounge with covers already made.

We had a family get together yesterday for Easter, 25 in-laws and outlaws for brunch.  Everyone met my latest grandson, who is wearing his Easter hat that I knitted for him -

What a sweetheart, he's already 14 weeks old - where does the time go!!

My older brother and his wife fly out today for a nine week holiday beginning in London where their daughter is working as a Doctor and then on to Europe, including a visit to Belgium and Ploegsteert Wood and the Toronto Avenue War Cemetery where my dad's eldest brother is buried.  One day I'll get there . . . .