{rainy days = inside days}

I never complain about the rain, but today I feel slightly put out by it. I've been looking forward to working with a client in her garden today, but it seems someone wants to take my fun away from me... As a rule it is advisable not to do too much work in your garden after heavy or long periods of rain as you risk compacting the soil and compromising its structure. So we've rainchecked our gardening date for when the sun decides to shine on us.

So I'm indoors bound to work on a few projects I have going on at the moment. One of which is an exciting overhaul of a neglected space. The client has a sizeable orchid collection they inherited from their father, a keen orchid grower and collector. Living amongst native bushland they have a lot of trouble with wallabies eating the precious flower stalks of the orchids.

A fenced area, once housing several dog kennels is now in the process of the ultimate makeover. It will become a lush garden filled with Cymbidium orchids where the owners will be able to relax in a quiet space to contemplate their beautiful surroundings of the bush and a tend to a small productive zone with a vegetable and herb garden - all safely housed away from the nibbling native fauna. Early stage sketch below along with a 'before' shot. I'll keep you updated on its progress.

Rainy day workspace

Concept sketch
'Before' entry. The beautiful Angophora will
become a centrepiece of the garden

{the kitchen sink}

What a perfect potting table, everything you need including the kitchen sink! Not sure how long mine would stay looking like that though...

Image from Cottage Style Magazine, May 2010 via here

{a mobile garden on wheels}

Love Love Love! For simple reasons really... 1. it's just the cutuest little car in YELLOW (ok slightly orange...) 2. I can take my vegie & herb garden with me - the ultimate drive thru! What's not to love?

Probably not very practical - but then practical is boring!

I cannot help but smile at the children's faces in the back seat.

Have a wonderful day!

Via here

{everlasting love: potted wedding bonboniere}

I have the pleasure of attending our friend's wedding on Saturday. I'm really looking forward to the opportunity of dressing up and getting a bit glam. Although, I'm a bit concerned about the heels I'm wearing... I've become much more comfortable in my gumboots these days!

Weddings have such a joyous feel about them, they focus on all the positive things in life like love, happiness, family and friends, beauty and hope for the future. It is always an honor to be included in one of the most special days in the life of two people.

Having organised my own wedding I understand how many elements go into making the day as special as possible for both the couple and guests. Of course, flowers were an important part of mine, but for many it is also about what to give your guests as favours for sharing the day with you.

Wedding favours have been around for centuries. They were first given to guests by wealthy European aristocrats at celebratory occasions such as birthdays, christenings and marriages. The gifts usually consisted of five almonds or pieces of candy representing fertility, health, wealth, happiness and longevity.

Wedding favours, or bonbonniere as they are otherwise known, have become more of a token of appreciation for attending the special occassion and a momento to remind you of the momentous day you were a part of. Therefore, how fitting to have something which is everlasting, just as you wish the love of the newly married couple to be. Another bonus is they can double as place-cards, so they 'kill two birds with one stone' so to speak.

{Hort Couture} would be delighted to assist happy couples with organising this important element of their special day. All styles of weddings (or any celebration) can be catered for from eco-chic, fun and funky, to uber-glamorous and sophisticated. Favours can include seeds, herbs, annuals, orchids or bulbs. Let your love grow!

Herbs in pots photo by Miki Duisterhof via here. Succulents via here & here

{heaven is: this potager garden!}

Oh I just found heaven! How stunning is this potager garden? It works on so many levels and everything has been thought of - even clever 'mud-on-your-boots-minimising-pavers' amongst the rows of peas - it's garden art!

Read more about this garden at this divine blog here. Disclaimer: it's totally addictive and you'll find yourself booking tickets to Europe toot-sweet!

{helpful little critters : along came a spider}

Friendly little critter & his miniature 'fairy-light' decorations!
We all have fears in life, surely there is something that scares us all, even if just a little. Fortunately for me I don't come across my fears too often when I'm gardening, as long as you don't ask me to go too high up the ladder and it's not snake season! The fear of heights I blame on genetics. My father for all his mucho-manliness has a gripping fear of heights he seemed to pass on. Whilst my fear of snakes is very much an attribute of growing up on a farm where we had King Brown and Red-Belly Black snakes slither through our yard, up on our verandah and even up to our front door regularly during summer - my mother is yet again my hero in this field, but more on that another time...

It was my Mum who instilled in me to respect spiders and their work in the garden. We were taught never to kill, just leave well alone, especially Tarantulas who indicated rain when they graced us with their presence! Perhaps for this reason then, I don't have an issue with the eight-legged critters who have become my 'outdoor pets'. We have a mutual understanding - they keep out of my way and I let them eat for free! 

I recently met a client who up until the time his father-in-law sprayed for spiders in the garden hadn't had a pest problem. Since he lost his St. Andrews Cross and Orb spiders he had an infestation of bronze-orange bug (stink bugs) on his citrus, something he has not experienced prior. Perhaps a coincidence?

Spider McMansion keeping watch above my shed door
We have a number of St. Andrews Cross and Orb spiders who call our backyard 'Home' and whilst my husband isn't as pleased as I am to have them around, they really are helpful little critters to have around the garden with their webs acting as nets catching moths and bugs wishing to lay their eggs on my poor unsuspecting plants. I'm never too pleased if they catch butterflies or bees though, but that is nature I guess, and what goes around comes around, as sometimes they end up on the dinner menu, providing food for the birds I'm trying to attract into the garden.

St Andrews Cross and Orb spiders are generally not aggressive by nature and tend to be more fearful of us. I let them weave their webs wherever they like, as long as they are not in my direct path - I believe nature knows best so I let her have the first say. From time to time I need to knock away at one resident's web, when his modest abode becomes a bit more like a McMansion over the entrance to my shed!

Not all spiders are as 'friendly' as these two so it's a good idea to have an identification sheet handy in case you are bitten.

{the language of flowers}

Being self-employed has many benefits, and as I’m finding out many stresses, so the ability to choose when and how I take my breaks is my idea of heaven. With the work of the day done, the gentle light of the afternoon sun streaming in our dining room beckoned for me to sit and enjoy a cuppa and some chillax time with a good book. Reading a dictionary may not be everyone’s idea of a good book – but this one is special, it’s all about flowers of course!

Amongst my treasures I bought at the Cottage Garden Club Meeting, was the sweetest little book called “The Language of Flowers”. The author of this dictionary of flowers and their meaning, remains unkown. The only clue given is that the gentleman who wrote it did so for his wife for their golden wedding anniversary, which they celebrated in August 1913! The original book was handscripted with delicate watercolour paintings of flowers and plants bordering each page. For many years it remained a family heirloom, however with their permission it has been lovingly reproduced for us all to enjoy.

So yesterday afternoon, I poured myself a proper cup of tea and read the dictionary!

Some of my favourite flowers (really I don’t think there isn’t a flower I don’t call my favourite, but I’ve tried to narrow down the list)

Anemone – Forsaken
Bluebells – Constancy
Columbine – Folly
Daphne Odora – Painting the lilly
Lilly-of-the-valley – Return of happiness
Lotus – Eloquence
Magnolia – Dignity
Pansy – Thoughts

White Rosebuds – Girlhood & a heart ignorant of love
Yellow Tulips – Hopeless love

Let me know if you have any flowers you’d like to know the meaning of!

{luck of the Irish to you & your sweet peas!}

I know it should be a clover - but St. Pat's day is all about Sweet Peas for me!
Happy St. Patrick's Day!! My post is a little late for those of us in Oz but somewhere in the world it's still ok to drink a pint of Guinness for breakfast!

For me St. Pat's day isn't so much about beer before noon but the day to sow my sweet pea seeds! This year I'm even more excited as I was lucky enough to be given some seed pods of Lathyrus odoratus 'Cupani original', the original sweet pea found by the Franciscan monk Fr. Cupani in Sicily and sent to England in 1699 where it was first cultivated. 'Cupani original' bears clusters of maroon-purple flowers with the trademark heady sweet pea fragrance, stronger than modern day varieties. 

I find it hard to single out certain flowers as my favourites, but  for their sentimental value Sweet Peas would be very close to the top of the list. Their delicious fragrance has such strong memories attached as my mum would have them in her garden every spring and cut bunches of them to put in our bedrooms. They were the first thing I planted in our new garden when we moved in. Don't mind the moving boxes or arranging furniture, I quickly worked over a little patch of dirt so as I could get some seedlings planted in time for spring blooms! To me a house is not a home until you can pick your own bunch of sweet peas to have by your bedside.
My first sweet peas - along with other favourites such as Snapdragons!
Some hints and tips for your Sweet Peas!
  • Traditionally planted on St. Patrick's Day (17th March), can be sown anytime March to April.
  • Pre-germinate seeds by placing them on wet kitchen towel or mix with moist seed-raising mix. Plant out plumped seeds carefully, especially if they have already begun to sprout, 2-3cm deep and 5-7cm apart.  
  • Best in soil with pH between 7 and 8, hence recommendations to add lime to soil prior to planting
  • Add a generous layer of compost and animal manure to the soil along with a mixed fertiliser, not too high in nitrogen though, dig through to a depth of 10-15cm
  • If the soil is too wet, seeds will rot. Prevent this by creating a raised planting bed for the seeds to improve drainage.
  • They like plenty of sun so if growing on a trellis run rows north-south to maximise the amount of sun received
  • Support plants with either a trellis, tripod or mesh. Dwarf varieties which grow to 25-60cm are ideal for borders, rockeries and pots
  • Erect support prior to planting so as not to disturb establishing root system
  • Prune any spindly plants to promote stronger growth
  • Deadhead spent blooms to promote flowering
  • To discourage powdery mildew, space plants to improve air circulation and avoid wetting leaves when watering
  • Water regularly, especially in hot weather, use a liquid fertiliser fortnightly

{is it autumn yet?}

Although the calendar has been turned over to March, here in Sydney it still feels like summer. Why then did the weather not change overnight from Summer on February 28 to Autumn on March 1? Did Autumn not receive the memo about change of dress code?

Well, I've found out it's got more to do with the moon than with a failed email... Technically speaking it's not really Autumn until the March equinox, which incidentally occurs this year on March 20 at exactly 10:21am! What this means is, at this specific time the centre of the Sun is in the same plane as the Earth's equator. Therefore the sun will rise due east, set due west and we will have 12 hours of day and 12 hours of night. Hence the name, derived from the Latin aequus=equal and nox=night. This is only strictly true however if you are located on the equator, elsewhere it is only approximate. Nevertheless it marks an important occassion on the calendar as the we officially begin Autumn here in the Southern Hemisphere and the Northern Hemisphere begins its Spring.

And just in case your New Year resolutions didn't make it past January let alone February, don't fear, according to the astronomical Persian calendar New Year's day occurs when the March equinox occurs before noon sundial time in Tehran, or the next day if the equinox falls in the afternoon.

So here's to another chance of committing to our New Year resolutions and hopefully some nice cool Autumn weather!

Photo via here

{a little rain dance}

dancing in the rain
I wish this was me!!

I've been a bit slow getting my 'Autumn/Winter 2011' collection up as I've been busy doing daily rain dances in my backyard (hell I'd do it in my front yard too if it brought the rain!). It's been teasing us that it wants to rain but a few spots here and there don't do much apart from making the hair a bit unruly!

The garden and lawn are certainly looking tired and completely over this hot, dry summer. Needless to say I'm collecting buckets of water from every tap inside and out - my city friends/family think I'm crazy, but some things just never leave you growing up in drought. Except in extreme circumstances like flood, which unfortunately our country has experienced its fair share of this year, you never complain about the rain in the country. Whisper a whinge about the rain and your as good as telling the Rain God their bum looks big in those jeans. They'll turn on their heel and be out of there, and you'll be having to wait a long time until they forgive, forget and decide they want to be friends with you enough to want pay you a visit again!

So I'll be out there again tomorrow beating the ground to convince the Rain Gods to pay us a visit - stay a while even!

Photo via here

{haute couture vs hort couture}

I'm so excited about the first day of autumn. However, summer is digging in it's heels and not wanting to leave the party just yet, with  a forecast of 36 degrees today (& it certainly feels like it's going to get there!).

Today's oppressive heat has brought me inside to focus on my next post, "Autumn Collection", what to plant, where & when during the next three months! Until then enjoy a bit of haute couture of the {hort couture} variety!!

Photos via Ecouterre