{a little project of my own...}

I feel very guilty for abandoning my blog and not keeping up with my 'Alphabet of favourite flowers' but I have a good excuse - promise! (or at least I think it is...)

I wish I could say I've been super busy outdoors creating and tending to beautiful gardens, sadly though this couldn't be further from the truth... I've been making very good acquaintance with the couch, cooking DVDs, re-reading old magazines from front to back and back to front again and speed reading books like never before.

I have been busy working on another project though, a little something called a baby!... All very exciting apart from the morning sickness which kicked in much much much too early for my liking. So whilst this little garden guru to be has been busy growing away I've been doing very little in the way of tending to my garden over summer - something I'm a little ashamed of as the front garden is quite on show. When I first started working on it, especially when the vegie patches went in, we would get a number of passers-by stopping to chat and comment on how it was coming along - and it was looking really good... Sadly, even the thought of getting outside and working in it made me feel ill. As the weeks progress though I'm able to do a little more, instead of it being all-day sickness it is now confining itself to the afternoons so I can do a little in the morning before turning in for the afternoon nanna nap I've become so accustomed to.

So a new era in the {hort couture} story is about to begin. What exactly it will entail is still a little uncertain at this stage, whatever it is though there will still be gardens and definitely flowers!

{'D' is for...}

 D is for the deliciously fragrant Daphne odora.

This darling does tend to break my heart though. One minute she is looking gorgeous the next she has dropped dead for reasons otherwise unknown.Her heavenly fragrance more than makes up for what can be a short-lived love affair though.

Again my fascination with Daphne probably has much to do with the fact my Mother had it as her wedding bouquet. A sweetly simple posy of the softly pink and white flower heads. With these as your wedding flowers there is no need to wear perfume.

You can enjoy these beautiful flowers from mid-winter to late spring.

One of the biggest issues which may lead to problems is over-watering. Daphne plants detest wet feet and will turn their noses up toot-sweet to let you know - their leaves will droop, appear limp, and feel dry and leathery. It is best to water then allow to dry out - the ol' finger test is perfect: stick your finger in the soil if it comes out dirty = don't water, if it comes out clean = give a little water! Ensure the planting position is well drained, build the site up if necessary and add plenty of organic matter to clay soils to help break up the clods of soil which can lead to water-logging. They like an easterly position where they will receive morning sun but are protected from the hot afternoon sun. Apply mulch to keep the roots cool.

Water stress can also lead to pest infestation such as scale. These little critters seem to have a radar that senses whenever a plant is under stress. Squash them with your fingers or suffocate with an environmentally friendly white/pest oil solution such as Eco Oil.

A very exciting newish release on the market is the Daphne Eternal Fragrance. This variety is said to be bred to be a much more hardy plant which is frost and heat tolerant. It will grow in full-sun to semi-shade and will become drought tolerant once established. It blooms from spring to autumn, spot flowering throughout the year. I'm definitely going to give this a shot in my garden as a low-growing hedge in place of buxus. Hopefully it won't go breaking my heart!

The Daphne genus is said to be named after a nymph in Greek mythology. The story goes that Daphne was very beautiful and was often pursued by many suitors who would fall in love with her because of her beauty. However, Daphne was uninterested in love and would choose instead to hunt in the woods. One such suitor was Apollo, the sun god. Upon being chased she prayed to her father - Peneus, a river God, to save her. Apparently his tactic was to change her into a Bay Tree! - Daphne being Greek for Laurel.

{'C' is for...}


C is for the charming  ‘Cécile Brünner’ Rose. From its most perfect form as a shell-pink tight bud, through to its full frilly-fancy party dress form I absolutely adore this rose. I think a lot has to do with childhood memories for me as my Mum had the most amazing plant that flowered prolifically despite drought and being pruned extensively by cows hanging their heads over the back fence!

The fragrance from this tiny little bud is exquisite - soft, dainty and delicate, it is by far my most treasured of roses in the garden.

Unfortunately it does tend to suffer from aphids when its soft new young growth flushes in the spring, and black spot can be a problem - despite this it is still a strong and vigorous rose. It can either be grown as a bush or a climbing rose. The climbing variety is a perfect choice over an arbour, along a fence or around cottage windows. It is a perfect picking rose making sweet posies.

Its namesake is a lady called Cécile who first introduced the rose in France in 1881.

This is certainly a must have in any garden, especially English inspired or cottage gardens. I have a spot earmarked for one (or two) in my garden!

{'B' is for...}

B is for brilliantly blue Bluebell. 

Hyacinthoides non-scripta, otherwise known by its common name of English Bluebell, and Hyacinthoides hispanica - Spanish Bluebell, are spring flowering perennial bulbs. To gain the full beauty of these plants they are best planted en mass where their bell shaped flowers carpet the ground in shades of jacaranda-lavender blue.

They are both hardy, can tolerate root competition (perfect under trees!) and cope with summer dryness when they are dormant. The Spanish Bluebell is somewhat more hardy with more robust flowers but lack fragrance. 

Plant bulbs 6cm deep, 5-10cm apart, in Autumn in shady to semi-shaded areas. They grow perfectly under deciduous/semi-deciduous trees where they can brighten up the darker areas of the garden. Start watering when growth appears and keep soil slightly moist until foliage dies off after flowering. It is ideal to keep bulbs relatively dry whilst dormant.

In Europe, fields of bluebells can be admired amongst woodland settings. I loved watching the movie "Bright Star" (said to be about the love story between the romantic poet Keats and Fanny Brawne) just for the seen where Fanny (played by Australian actress, Abbie Cornish) sits surrounded by bluebells.

According to the language of flowers, the meaning of Bluebell is 'Constancy'. I guess when everything else in your garden is changing you can always rely on the Bluebells to show their pretty faces each spring without fail. Bless!

{'A' is for...}

A is for the very adorable Anemone - in any shape and form they come in! Delicate and elegant, serene and oh so pretty!

Anemones are members of the buttercup family. In spring the cute as a button Poppy Anemone (A. coronaria) bloom their pretty little faces off and make the sweetest cut flower used in pretty posy arrangements. While the autumn garden can be brought to life with massed plantings of Anemone x hybrida (Japanese Windflower). 

The name ‘Anemone’ comes from the Greek word for wind. It is said that the goddess Flora was jealous of her husband's attentions towards the nymph Anemone and so transformed her into the wind flower and left her at the mercy of the North Wind. Kind of a sad story for such a pretty flower...

{the alphabet in flowers}

I often get asked what my favourite flowers or plants are. For me this is like asking a Mother if she has a favourite child! I don't do favourites as such, I love all plants and flowers (with or without their roots!), and believe even the 'ugly' ones are 'interesting' and just misunderstood.

But the question has got me thinking if I had to offer a name for each letter of the alphabet what would I choose? I came up with the following list:

A = Anemone
B = Bluebells
C = Cecile Brunner Rose
D = Daphne
E = Early Cheers
F = Forget-me-nots
G = Gardenia
H = Hellebores
I = Iris
J = Jonquils
K = Kangaroo Paw
L = Lavender
M = Magnolia
N = Nepeta (Catnip/Catmint)
O = Orchids
P = Peony Roses
Q = Queen Anne's Lace
R = Ranunculus
S = Snowdrops or Sweet Peas - can't decide ???
T = Tulips
U = Ulmus parvifolia (Chinese Elm)
V = Violets
W = Wisteria
X = Xanthorrhoea (Grass Tree)
Y = Yellow - anything yellow!!
Z = Zephranthes candida (Storm Crocus)

So, over the next few posts (yes I will commit to this) I will share tid-bits about each and why I love them so!

{vertical flowers}

What better way to spend a Saturday than to play with flowers (free flowers at that!)? It was the annual Flower Grower's Ball on the weekend and as such the Sydney Town Hall was decked out from top to toe in flowers, of course!

We were fortunate enough to be working under the guidance of the very talented Head Florist for the Merivale Group, Genevieve. She creates amazing displays for the Merivale group of establishments including the likes of Hemmesphere, Ivy and The Beresford. I've admired her from afar as she collects all her goodies at the markets, and was thrilled to see her in action putting it all together.
The 'Before' shot
Jen being cheeky! The 'In progress' shot
Each individual flower stem was wired, tied to a 3m length of fishing line and then attached the netting, with the end effect of them to hang from the ceiling in a very 'wonderland' kind of way.
All strewn out: a carpet of flowers!
Up she goes!

Sadly I couldn't stay right to the end to see it all come together, but we (I went with a good friend from College) were determined to see the netting display be lifted up in all its glory!With dramatic lighting it would have looked amazing and of course with a better photographer the photos may just do it justice!

So then it was onto the table decorations, which were to be "punchy" as Genevieve described them! Apparently colour blocking is in this season - even with flowers!!

I loved watching Genevieve in motion, especially when she put these amazing table centerpieces together using only the flower stems themselves as support structure - no oasis! Which I love as this stuff is completely toxic and I swear against it (but it does make a florists job much easier...). She kept telling us the importance of "building trust with your flowers", I love this!

It was a long day, tiring but hey there were flowers galore to play with so it was a bit of a dream playground for me! I hope everyone at the ball had as much fun admiring them as we did putting them together!

Photos: {hort couture}

{the 'Sow's ear to silk purse' garage project}

I spent a whole day during the week cleaning and organising my shed/garage into a more usable and workable space. Years of collected dust and spiderwebs made it a less than appealing space to want to work in let alone feel creative in. I have high hopes though for my little fibro shed after evicting the spiders that had taken to squatting in it and filling the dustbin with enough dust to make the Sahara jealous.

I have great intentions of turning my 'Ugly Duckling Shed' into something a little more pretty and inviting, but have you ever heard the saying, "You can't make a silk purse out of a Sow's ear"? Something makes me think I might be over estimating my abilities with this little project. I'll be doing well if I can just keep it tidy for more than a day, especially after coming home from a job with another boot full of plastic pots I refuse to throw away to landfill...

I'm a little bit too embarrassed to show the 'Before' images just yet so will just share what I would like it to look like 'After'!

Organised and lovely potting area
via: Simply Fabulous Garage
Loving the red floor and timber work bench!
Via: California Closets
Love the stable door! One of these has been on my wish list for ages. And always a fan of the Butler's sink!
Image: Dana Gallagher for Country Living
Loving the organisation, the tools and those YeLLoW!! gumboots!!
Image: Dana Gallagher for Country Living
Perhaps a little more within my budget and capabilities
Image: Andrew McCaul for Good Housekeeping
Swoon worthy florist area!
Via: Sweetpea's, Toronto
With an exterior like this who wouldn't want to go inside?
via: Tiny House Design
So that's my little wish/dream list, I'll keep you posted on my progress!

{out in my garden}

When my spirits get a little low I resort to my garden and find solace in the little universe that exists within it. I love that I'm finally beginning to make it mine after two years. Unlike designing a client's garden with very clear and defined objectives set out in a plan I'm taking a more organic approach. I know how I want it to look and feel but I'm allowing the process to occur freely and without restriction.
What I started with...
Vegie patches in - pardon the sugar cane straw everywhere
my little four legged assistant loves it!
Our front yard has gone from a patch of lawn to the beginning of what will be a mixture of productive and ornamental gardens filled with an assortment of edible plants and flowers, as well as those which attract the birds and bees, and ones whose flowers I can pick for the house.

A small patch of lawn will remain with an arc of lawn surrounding it. There will be little delineation between what is ornamental and what is productive. I've just placed an order for a Punica granatum 'Wonderful' (Pomegranate) and my Malus ioensis Bechtel Crabapple is about to come into bud - will be definitely taking photos when that happens! Pebble paths will soon be constructed between the beds with creeping herbs to spill over the paths. I'm also on a mad search for a bird bath like these, but a little more in my price range perhaps!

My inspiration comes from this garden. I have long admired this beautiful garden designed by Hendrik Van Leeuwen (it's actually his own personal garden). Early days yet for me, but stay tuned!
Neighbour's bamboo encroaching on our
garden is put to good use as stakes!

A fresh crop of swiss chard
We've been harvesting bag fulls of lettuce and baby spinach for weeks and passing it on to anyone who steps foot in the gate. And the Bok Choy went a bit ballistic but I adored the yellow flowers so much, as did the hover-flies and bees!
My busy little hover-flies and bees hard at work!

The peas have been super sweet and crunchy, I love just walking past and snapping off a few for a quick snack whilst working out in the yard.

The broccoli has been delicious, tender and tasty. We're hoping we'll get further crops, small little shoots are appearing beneath the harvest point, fingers crossed!

I'm a big fan of beneficial insects in my garden - they are welcome anytime! I was delighted to see the little ladybird in the below photo taking good care of my Pansies! And if you look closely enough to you can see all the pollen collected by the busy bee amongst the lavender!

Today is our first really hot Spring day - 32 degrees as I type this... I hope it can all hang on over the hot summer months to come. I'm not a fan of summer with its scorching hot days and dry westerly winds. I've primed myself however with new hoses and a mountain of mulch - wish me luck!

Photos: {hort couture}

{hort couture v. haute couture: floriography}

"Like no other deparment store..."

I can't believe I've been sitting on this post all this time and haven't posted it. It is much to special not to share!

The first week of spring brings with it the most gorgeous event to hit shop windows in Sydney (well apart from the adorable Christmas decorations - that probably aren't too far away). For two weeks in September David Jones brings their ground floor Ladies department store and windows to life with the most amazing floral displays - very hort couture!!

This year's theme was: Floriography ~ the language of flowers. Which reminds me of this earlier post. I love that flowers have meaning beyond their visual appeal, that you can express feelings and words through something so beautifully tangible.

For anyone visiting the city during this time they must think we have the most glamorous place to shop!

Yellow you are the loveliest!


This year's display was particularly special I thought as it was a riot of yellow and golden hues. I simply couldn't resist being snap happy - so be warned there are more than a few photos!

 Window 1: YeLLoW!! Simple & stunning: singapore orchids (my favourite window - who would've guessed?!)
Window 2: A little less yellow, but still beautiful! roses and baby's tears in glass cloches
Window 3: Soft & pretty: orchids, baby's tears, carnations, arum lilies (& my gorgeous friend in silouhette!)
Window 4: Spring!! A rainbow of colour: roses, stock, tulips, daffodils, ranunculus, anemones carnations and singapore orchids
Window 5: A little bit dark, a little bit moody and spooky: everlasting daisy, burnt banksia seed pods and white cymbidium orchids.
Window 6: On the dry and prickly: banksia, orchids, agaves, cacti, succulents (assorted) and aeonium

I highly recommend you put it in your calendar to see it for yourself next year (if you didn't get to see it this year)!

Photos: {hort couture}