about this blog

This blog tracks the ongoing changes of my garden, and the wildlife I try to attract to it. It's a nature blog. It contains my thoughts and musings about anything and everything to do with nature - gardening, book reviews, philosophy, travel, science, history, art, design, politics.
Catmint is my signature plant because it has all the qualities I value in a plant: resilience, beauty and the capacity to spread prolifically . Unfortunately it's not indigenous. If I was starting again I'd probably choose an indigenous plant.

Monday, 22 December 2014

Phillip Johnson: book review - and DVD giveaways

Sometimes I wish I had used a proper, professional garden designer instead of the painful, stumbling process of learning as I go. If I did go the professional way, there would only be two possible candidates. As far as I know, there have only ever been two outstandingly creative, important, original, innovative, inspiring, thoughtful and ethical garden designers. One of them is Edna Walling, who died in 1973. The other is Phillip Johnson, whose stellar career culminated in winning the Chelsea Garden Show last year.

Philip's signature curved boardwalk slicing through the natural pool
(from the book)
 Edna Walling's influence stemmed from her writing as well her garden creations. In this new book, Connected: the Sustainable Landscapes of Phillip Johnson, the garden designer lays out the ideas, ideals and philosophy underpinning his garden design work.

Phillip's philosophy and aim is to connect with nature in a sustainable way. This means creating chemical free environments, sustainable water management practices and thriving habitats for indigenous plants and animals, thoughtfully connecting the landscape to the home.

He writes about his early influences - as a child digging in the dirt in his grandparent's garden, as a boy climbing rocks and hanging out in the Grampians, as an adult buying a bush block in Olinda and using it to develop his ideas. In Olinda, he created a natural swimming pool, complete with waterfall, all looking as natural as if it had always been there.

play of light and reflection in billabong
(from the book)
Phillip Johnson's gardens, like natural landscapes, are based around rocks and water. All his gardens contain billabongs - water features that are not filled from mains water and often don't even need a pump. They are filled by rainfall collected from the roof. Even if they dry out they are still beautiful features in the garden, as dry creek beds.

These gardens belong in a hot, dry climate, designed to conserve our precious water resources. They are meant for humans to live in, but they are also habitat for frogs, birds and all wildlife.

Ideas are one thing but putting them into practice is another. One of Phillip's ideals is to bring nature back to the city and suburbs. The book contains stunning photos to show what can be done in an ordinary suburban garden, and includes plant lists and plans to help as well.

the Chelsea Garden Show exhibit
(taken from the book)
Now to the giveaways ...  a documentary that follows the work of Phillip Johnson and his team around the winning exhibit at Chelsea. It took years of dedication and planning to transform a bare flat block in an urban park in London into a multi layered slice of the Australian bush. Apparently Her Majesty the Queen of England was particularly taken with the frogs, that in actuality were recorded sounds placed discreetly in the garden!

DVD front cover
If you would like to be in the draw for winning one of the 10 DVDs on offer, let me know either in comment to this post or via email.  Winners will be drawn on January 26th - Australia Day - and notified by email. Unfortunately the competition is only for people in Australia.

Connected: the sustainable landscapes of Phillip Johnson
Publisher: Murdoch Books
Photography by Claire Takacs
Publication: November 2014
RRP: $59.99 (Aus)

Thursday, 4 December 2014

imagined gardens: gardens in literature

I'm fascinated by how differently fiction writers use gardens and nature in their stories. In this post I'll write about four wildly different novels that have gardens in them.

In The Secret Garden and Tom's Midnight Garden, the garden plays a prominent part in the plot. But the gardens are different. Tom's garden no longer exists in the present. It belongs to a less urbanized past, when people were closer to nature.  Tom's Midnight Garden is a complex story about time travel. The Secret Garden was first published in 1911,  a story about the healing power of nature and gardens.

Tuesday, 18 November 2014

marine environment matters

I call this blog a nature blog, but this is the first post about the marine environment.

Visiting the Melbourne Aquarium is always a wonderful experience.  Like Melbourne Zoo, its aim is to help conserve animals in the natural environment, not just to be an arc for animals extinct in the wild.

I hope my grandsons will be able to see fish, coral and other sea creatures in the wild when they grow up.

Sunday, 2 November 2014

spring garden, and musing about possible future dilemma

Spring has returned to the garden, restoring the lush colourful wildness I missed for months. In the warm sunshine creatures fly, creep, crawl, hover, flutter and dart. The warm stone path is a highway for ants, beetles and millipedes.

I even saw a solitary ladybird feasting on the aphids feasting on the roses. Then I didn't see it any more. Maybe it died of indigestion. Too many aphids for one ladybird.

Recently a nearby property was sold for a ridiculously high price, a result of the demand for property in this neighbourhood by cashed up people. We have no immediate plans to sell and leave, but I don't imagine living here till I die. One day we will move. And what then? Probably a developer will buy it, pull down the house and destroy the garden. And he or she will make a killing - in flora, fauna and finances. If we were to develop it, we would make the killing. That would be a terrible, soul-searing dilemma. In the meantime, I continue to protect the patch and the wildlife I share it with, as best I can.

Lately I haven't blogged much, and I've been very unsociable in the blogosphere. To make up for it a bit, I'm linking this post to Carol's popular meme Gardener Blogger's Bloom Day. It's in her blog May Dreams Gardens, and worth checking out to find out what going on in people's gardens all over the world.

Saturday, 23 August 2014

awesome land of gorgeous gorges

They call it the outback, and it's a long way from the city. It took two days travelling to get to the Flinders Ranges. One day by train from Melbourne to Adelaide, half a day to Port Augusta by bus, then another four hours driving to reach our destination.

For a nature buff there's lots to see and experience - wildlife, rocks, gorges, sky, trees, shrubs and flowers.

The easiest animals to see are the large mammals. They're generally shy though, and you have to be quick or lucky with the camera.

Euro, Emu

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