Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘Tasmania’

My new favourite gardener has a wild lily garden in the back blocks of Hobart. His name is Rod and he breeds and sells lilliums and narcissus. Rod calls himself a ‘naturist’ and that seems accurate. He’s a bit of a hermit but actually loves a good natter. I had to write to him snail mail to make contact, which was in fact so refreshing. He wrote back promptly, sending me multiple copies of his bi-annual newsletter, ‘The Trumpeter’ and naming a few dates in January that I could visit him.

So when I got back from India I phoned his sister (3 doors down from Rod) and we set a date. When I drove through the gate of ‘Glenbrook’ I forgot I was in Hobart. It was as if I had suddenly been teleported into a deep, forgotten valley in a remote part of Tasmania. Rod’s little cottage nestles against the bush of this flank of the Wellington range – which is owned by Rod’s family, who keep it so that the wildlife will have a home. The cottage is barely visible – “I’m trying to get the plants to take over,” says Rod.

His sister is there, and I’m served more than I can eat by way of little sandwiches, homemade cakes and cups of tea. Everything is delightful and kind and friendly and in spite of Rod’s reputation as one who shuns society, I could not have felt more welcome. They just want to hear about India, while I am itching to do my interview. But having said that, chatting about India is something I can do without much encouragement. A chook walked across the carpet as I helped myself to more cake while describing my dip in the Ganges at Varanasi, much to their impressed astonishment.

Now that I have whetted your appetite, I’m going to show you a picture and sign off, because I have to go and pick someone up to take them to the Wielangta forest, which any locals reading this will know is a worthy excuse.

To be continued…

Rod tenderly shows me his lilies.

Read Full Post »

Beyond Organics is all about gardens and ecology – why we need to bring nature conservation into our gardening and how to do that. I wrote it because I felt that organic gardening needed to develop a more deeply ecological set of values which recognises that gardens are part of their local ecosystem and should be managed with that in mind. I realised that some organic gardening techniques can be environmentally damaging – for example, the run off from excessive use of organic fertilisers next to waterways or natural bush can encourage weed infestations. Inappropriate planting choices require high inputs of nutrient and water and may give little back to the environment – such as growing hybrid roses in a humid climate with poor soils.

The idea behind Beyond Organics is to minimise the inputs to a garden and maximise the positive contribution it makes to the environment – this might be about local biodiversity, planting for birds and insects, avoiding plants that have been harvested from the natural environment and growing your own food to reduce food miles.

There is a short history of gardening through the ages and in different cultures, bringing us to the question of what is appropriate gardening in these times of ecological crisis? Historical horticultural sins are exposed – the mass clearing of orchid populations in South America during the Victorian orchid craze and more recently, the decimation of Turkish hillsides by the harvesting of bulbs such as cyclamen for the European bulb markets and the taking of mature cacti and succulents from delicate desert ecosystems in North America for ‘instant’ gardens.

My highly respected friend and accomplice, Peter Cundall, wrote the foreword and did me the honour of launching the book at Fullers Bookshop, Hobart in 2005.

My beautiful book, Beyond Organic

Here’s what he thought of Beyond Organics

Extracted from foreword…

Beyond Organics is the book that had to be written and Helen Cushing has done a brilliant job. She goes outside the garden, yet still links our gardening activities with the natural environment. Every organic garden, although healthy, different and seemingly quite separate, is still a vital part of a world environment which is clearly deteriorating rapidly. In short, we can’t have one without the other and there is no such thing as a garden in isolation…

‘Beyond Organics’ is a powerful call to action. The message of this book is quite clear. We can no longer ignore the fact that our gardens are part of a natural world. The spread of organic growing methods has been inspiring. Now let’s take the next vital step and start gardening ecologically too.”

Beyond Organics launch. See anyone you know?

Here are some good bits from reviews:

From: The Weekend Australian 2/7/05 Review by Christopher  Bantick

“Those looking for a book that extols the virtues of gardening organically will find something here that goes much further: it is not so much about how to garden as one that asks why many people garden with environmentally compromising habits. She offers a philosophy of the primacy of working with the environment rather than gardening for fashionable effect by taking “caring gardeners beyond organics and into a deeper ecology of gardening.” Integral to this is the awareness that the kind of gardening we may do could be unhelpful for the wellbeing of the planet.”

From: Good Reading Magazine (print and online)

http://goodreadingmagazine.com.au/index.cfm?pg=BookDetail&ISBN=0733315755

The Good Reading Magazine gave Beyond Organics a five star (outstanding) rating in its June 2005 issue.

In the reviewers words, “This is a very generous book, infused with warmth and sense of purpose – it deserves a place on every bookshelf in the country.”

From: http://www.no-dig-vegetablegarden.com/ ecological-gardening.html

‘When we begin to think of the combined size of gardens, rather than individual size, new possibilities begin to emerge in terms of their ecological role.’

This is a quote from my new favourite book “Beyond Organics: Gardening for the Future” by Helen Cushing.

Cushing goes on to describe ways to do this by creating natural habitat for the birds, insects and small animals that are native to your area. Building up the soil to create a vibrant ecosystem that will naturally thrive and survive while natural habitats are being wiped out… the concepts really smacked me between the eyes. It’s worth considering gardening ecologically. (end extract)

in action giving a talk about choosing flowers that support biodiversity

So, if you want to read the whole thing, let me know! It costs AUD$25 from me ($29.95 RRP). Postage in Australia is another $5. Elsewhere it’s more. You can pay into my Helen Cushing Paypal account or ask for my banking info to pay that way. I’ll go away now and figure out how to put a paypal button on the blog…

Have tried and so far failed to put PayPal button into blog. Some technical hitch… So in the meantime, write to me if you want to buy the book and we’ll make a plan.

Read Full Post »

As gardening writer for the sumptuous magazine, Tasmanian Life, I am privileged to visit and interview Tasmania’s finest gardeners and wander in their gardens. I am ever in awe of their accomplishments. Here’s a glimpse of last weekend’s journey to the north.

yes, they are elephants...

On Friday Tasmania was hot and filled with cricket. I phoned renowned rosarian Susan Irvine from Deloraine, as per my instructions. “Your timing is good,” she said. “Ponting just got out!” The last I had heard of Ponting’s score was the day before when he was not out for 143.  Some 20 hours later he had only just gone, with over 200 runs! (background for the uninitiated: Ponting = captain of Australian cricket team, is a Tassie lad and it was Oz vs Pakistan in Hobart).

That was the last word on cricket as I entered the genteel world of Forest Hall and its roses. Forest Hall has a blue roof, which is something I have always coveted. It is old and made of deep blocks of stone, a building that belongs in its landscape. Lovingly restored by Susan and Bill who came from Victoria in the mid-1990s,  it is set in a classical parkland of oaks, elms, lindens and other gracious trees more than 100 years old. The backdrop for Susan’s rose obsession, which completes the English fantasy, was uninhabited, becoming derelict and seemed to be waiting for her to find it.  So while Bill went fly fishing, Susan got  planting.

Summer roses at Forest Hall

There are a lot of roses here. About 800 in fact. Many of them are species roses which means they have simple flowers, a spreading habit and gorgeous rose hips. It is Susan’s mission to preserve both species roses and Alister Clarke roses. The latter are named after their breeder, another Australian passionate about the belle fleur. He took it upon himself to breed roses for Australian conditions, using Rosea gigantea, from Burma. European breeders had never used this stock as it was frost tender. Alister died in 1949 and his roses were lost to the public. Rosa gigantea had big babies and although the shrubs thrived in our wide brown land, they were too big for the average suburban block. Susan sought them out, saving them from obscurity. With many acres to play with, Susan has been able to plant an abundance of both species and Alister Clarke varieties. Unlike many modern roses, they don’t need much maintenance so a vast private collection is not a burden.

If all this plus the books she has written hadn’t been enough to convince me of Susan’s devotion to the rose, there could be no doubt when we stood in front of a towering mass of some species or other and she exclaimed, “And this one has the most wonderful thorns!” Sure enough, it did! Here they are for your eyes…

Wingthorn Rose - simple white flowers, wonderful thorns and great hips!

Shiny red rosehips - the only excuse you need to grow species roses

I am out of time, though not out of tales to tell. For more on Susan and her flowers, keep tabs on Tasmanian Life as the full story will eventually be there with many more glorious pix. I have yet to fill you in on the baby elephant hedge pictured above (it’s not Susan’s) and my time with housewife extraordinarie,  self-published author many times over, the one who crochets hats from plastic bread bags and mats from old stockings… she has a cult following, is going on 93 years old and is an inspiration to Barry Humphries and his friend Dame Edna – I am of course, refering to Tasmania’s Marjorie Bligh.

Read Full Post »

‘Paths are for people’ has become part of my gardening philosophy. You see, they are easily taken over by border plants, by scurrying ants, by moving earth and by… slime. Or variations on slime, such as moss, which looks like fairyland so we are tempted to keep it, but we don’t live in fairyland, so ultimately, when it starts to take over and mud happens and mess happens, it has to go, because paths are for people.

Welcome, be led up the garden path...

It’s mid-summer where I live in Tasmania. Throughout winter and spring it rained and rained and rained all over again. It was wetter than tears, and the ground filled up with this wet, bringing  joy to roots tired of the decade-long drought. Now the sun is out and the days are long and bright. Ground full of water + days long and bright with sunshine = excited plants growing madly in all directions!  This of course = paths overgrown with arching branches, abundant leaves and opportunistic grasses. They all reach longingly into the wonderful open space that paths represent to them. Tender-hearted gardeners are prone to being romantic about the freedom of this rambling plant-stuff, but this will not do, this will not do! ‘Paths are for people,’ you must keep repeating, as you take the shears and slice through, as you take your little machete and hack through, as you take up your nicely sharpened and beloved secateurs and snip through. Whatever your tool, whatever your armoury, follow up with rake and broom, and see the welcome results! Let the path lead you, as this is the purpose of all pathways.

Paths are for people

Paths are the definition and the navigation. Let them be a lovely shape all of their own, the plants can help create this shape by your judicious and systematic pruning and restraining. Keep the identity of the paths clear and the garden will communicate with you.

I was recently in Sydney. Now that is a city with a lush climate. I was helping care for an ill relative. Part of this ended up involving path clearing, as the sick person could no longer cut and sweep, and others who were able were too busy caring. All in all I ended up clearing 3.5 paths belonging to all manner of relatives. Two were veritable bush tracks, one had the all-important job of guiding dhobi wallahs to the clothesline – heavily laden with the basket of wet washing, one needs a clear path, a clear entrance and the line itself, needless to say, needs the sun that comes with clearing. The 0.5 was not so much a path, because that courtyard garden is too small to have a path, but it was an edge, a boundary, and in need of definition.

Then I went to India, where I swept the paths of sacred grounds, and where I stood with my feet in the great flowing pathway of the Holy Mother Ganga. Finally I came home, to find that some kind friends had done clearing for me, just as I had cleared for others. And this morning, as I swept the path at my own front door, I heard a rustling in the leaves which made me pause. It is a sound I have come to know. I had disturbed a fat blue-tongue lizard, who ventured out and strode away along the path to hide again. Paths are for people, but fat lizards are also welcome.

Gateway to the holy Ganga, India

Pathway to the holy Ganga, India

Read Full Post »