{gardening au naturel: the way nature intended}

I recently received this via the Permaculture Group I signed up with (Permaculture Manly Warringah Pittwater Group). They have a 'Google Group' which is great way of sharing ideas, hints & tips, news stories, upcoming events and even up/re-cycling unwanted bits and pieces from our homes and backyards.

This is a humorous take on how a dialogue between God and St Francis might go if they were to discuss the current trend in gardening. Whilst presented in a satirical manner, it really does highlight how ridiculous some gardening mentality has become. If we only looked more to nature than to commercial TV programs or multi-national hardware/nursery conglomerates for our gardening advice we would all have more hours on the weekend to actually enjoy our gardens rather than be slaves to them.d

GOD: Frank, you know all about gardens and nature. What in the world is going on down there on the planet? What happened to the dandelions, violets, milkweeds and stuff I started eons ago? I had a perfect no- maintenance garden plan. Those plants grow in any type of soil, withstand drought and multiply with abandon. The nectar from the long- lasting blossoms attracts butterflies, honey bees and flocks of songbirds. I expected to see a vast garden of colors by now. But, all I see are these green rectangles.

ST. FRANCIS: It's the tribes that settled there, Lord. The Suburbanites.
They started calling your flowers "weeds" and went to great lengths to kill them and replace them with grass.

GOD: Grass? But, it's so boring. It's not colorful. It doesn't attract butterflies, birds and bees; only grubs and sod worms. It's sensitive to temperatures. Do these Suburbanites really want all that grass growing there?

ST. FRANCIS: Apparently so, Lord. They go to great pains to grow it and keep it green. They begin each spring by fertilizing grass and poisoning any other plant that crops up in the lawn.

GOD: The spring rains and warm weather probably make grass grow really fast. That must make the Suburbanites happy.

ST. FRANCIS: Apparently not, Lord. As soon as it grows a little, they cut it-sometimes twice a week.

GOD: They cut it? Do they then bale it like hay?

ST. FRANCIS: Not exactly, Lord. Most of them rake it up and put it in bags.

GOD: They bag it? Why? Is it a cash crop? Do they sell it?

ST. FRANCIS: No, Sir, just the opposite. They pay to throw it away.

GOD: Now, let me get this straight. They fertilize grass so it will grow. And, when it does grow, they cut it off and pay to throw it away?

ST. FRANCIS: Yes, Sir.

GOD: These Suburbanites must be relieved in the summer when we cut back on the rain and turn up the heat. That surely slows the growth and saves them a lot of work.

ST. FRANCIS: You aren't going to believe this, Lord. When the grass stops growing so fast, they drag out hoses and pay more money to water it, so they can continue to mow it and pay to get rid of it.

GOD: What nonsense. At least they kept some of the trees. That was a sheer stroke of genius, if I do say so myself. The trees grow leaves in the spring to provide beauty and shade in the summer. In the autumn, they fall to the ground and form a natural blanket to keep moisture in the soil and protect the trees and bushes. It's a natural cycle of life.

ST. FRANCIS: You better sit down, Lord. The Suburbanites have drawn a new circle. As soon as the leaves fall, they rake them into great piles and pay to have them hauled away.

GOD: No!? What do they do to protect the shrub and tree roots in the winter to keep the soil moist and loose?

ST. FRANCIS: After throwing away the leaves, they go out and buy something which they call mulch. They haul it home and spread it around in place of the leaves.

GOD: And where do they get this mulch?

ST. FRANCIS: They cut down trees and grind them up to make the mulch.

GOD: Enough! I don't want to think about this anymore. St. Catherine, you're in charge of the arts. What movie have you scheduled for us tonight?

ST. CATHERINE: "Dumb and Dumber," Lord. It's a story about...

GOD: Never mind, I think I just heard the whole story from St. Francis.

Couldn't have said it better myself!!

Now go rake up that pile of Autumn leaves and let the kids run through them before putting them in the compost or make your garden a winter blanket from them!

Image: The garden of Eden with the fall of man - Jan Brueghel and Rubens via Commons.Wikimedia

{permaculture : the new 'black' !}

For those that haven't heard the terminology before, Permaculture refers to the system of, not only gardening, but of living, in a harmonious way with nature. It is defined as "the conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability, and resilience of natural ecosystems. It is the harmonious integration of landscape and people — providing their food, energy, shelter, and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way".

Whilst not necessarily a 'new' method of gardening or way of living, the method was scientifically developed in the 70s by two Australians Bill Mollison and David Holmgren (along with their associates). Mollison describes the word permaculture as a portmanteau of permanent agriculture, and permanent culture.

It is about using what we have in our backgrounds to provide for ourselves in a more sustainable and wholisitic way, reducing our reliance on more commercial methods of production and our impact on the earth i.e. growing our own food, harvesting water and energy from rain and sun/wind, composting our waste etc. 

It is such a fabulous concept and one which is beginning to become more fashionable. Whilst our country cousins have been practicing it for sometime now, more urbanites are turning their lawns bordered with box hedges and iceberg roses into productive spaces filled with fruit trees, vegetables, herbs and even chooks. Parents are wanting to share with their children the lessons of where food comes from and know themselves that what they are feeding their families. This is certainly one trend I'm advocating for everyone to follow - let's make it the 'new black'!

This Sunday, 1st May is the 3rd Annual National Permaculture Day. As such, my next few posts will be focusing on the WHO, WHAT, WHERE & WHY of Permaculture!

Image: Choose Permaculture

{lest we forget: ANZAC day 2011}

In Winston Churchill's words: 'Never was so much owed by so many to so few'

Today we remember all those who have put our lives, our freedom and the desire for peace ahead of their own. Our gratitude will be endless.

Image: Kate Andrews

{happy easter!}

The spirit of Easter: joyful giving & living,  hope, frienship, peace and love. 
Wishing you and yours a very safe and happy Easter!  

Photo: {hort couture}

{hort couture vs. haute couture: these boots were made for gardening}

I've always loved gumboots. I wear them to their death - only throwing them out when the holes they sadly acquire during their stressful and busy lifetime, defeat their purpose.

Yellow Hunter gumboots have been on my wish list for awhile now - I chicken out on the $200 price tag...but aren't they divine?

I do love these red numbers though, they're not yellow but they're definitely a bit of gardening haute couture!

Photo: Petersham Nurseries, Richmond Surrey UK
Boots available from Ilse Jacobsen

{heaven is: being surrounded by beautiful buds & blooms}

Be still my beating heart! This is my idea of a heavenly workspace: being surrounded by the beauty of all those gorgeous buds and blooms. I've always said (& please don't take this personally) that flowers are much easier to work with than people - they just sit there and look pretty. 

Since a little girl I have dreamed of owning my own little shop of treasures filled with gardening goodies and brimming with beautiful fresh flowers. I can see it in all it's glory, all the finer details of how it would look, of course including the yellow and white stripe window awning.

PS. In case you were wondering, heaven can be found here @ Saipua an uber pretty floristry in New York. It's definitely going on the 'To Visit' bucket list!

What about you? What's your idea of a heavenly workspace?

All images by Jennifer Causey

{our backyard}

So very Sydney!!!
So very 'Snugglepot & Cuddlepie'!!

ok it's not exactly my backyard, it's our backyard though - all us lucky Sydney siders!

Is there a more iconic image of Australia than the Opera House and Sydney Harbour Bridge framed by the beautiful blossoms of a Eucalyptus 'Summer Beauty'? 

A few weeks back now I spent the day exploring the beautiful Royal Botanic Gardens. I had managed to forget how picturesque they are with the backdrop of the city skyline and the blue harbour.

It was a stinking hot day - middle of summer back then, but the gardens were a cool respite from the heat of the city. I stepped out of the stress of the city to be greeted by two lovely ladies at the 'Friends of the Gardens' who couldn't have been more friendly (but then as my Mum says, "all gardeners are lovely"). I also met and chatted with another two lovely gardeners who tend to the Sunken Garden and Rose Garden - certainly in the heat they were doing an amazing job keeping it looking it's best under the extreme circumstances.

L: Dee Mortimore, R: Adrian Pedra
'Gertrude Jekyll' - the perfume was amazing!
Those office-workers need to take time to smell these roses!!!

The fabulous herbarium - I want my front yard to look like this!

For me the gardens are wonderland for me to be inspired by, to learn from and ogle over all the beauty they contain. For others, the gardens are a place for quiet contemplation, a lunch-break, reading, running or walking, sleeping and sun-baking and even getting married (they are a very popular choice for couples wishing to take advantage of the gorgeous backdrop for photos)

I can't believe I hadn't made the effort to visit sooner. I'm going to make another visit in a few weeks to see the change of seasons in the gardens. I'd highly recommend taking a stroll around these beautiful gardens with a picnic basket and blanket in hand to stop, sit and take it all in! Ahhh bliss!

{ethical dilemma}

We're destroying his home in the quest to build ours.
©Photograph: Attila Balazs/epa/Corbis via The Habitat Advocate

Have you ever faced having to go against your beliefs or values? I have very strong feelings about a certain issue which I've always known was going to be an issue at some point in my career, it's one that gets me very emotional, to the point of tears, when discussing it. It popped its not-so-pretty face up yesterday...

The issue is - Merbau, a timber product I'm vehemently against the use of and am not afraid of saying so, not even to a client. This is the ethical dilemma I'm faced with - are my morals and values of high enough significance for me to walk away from a paying job - I believe they may be...

Merbau (also known and sold as Kwila) grows in the rainforests of South-east Asia: the Philippines, Solomon Islands, Fiji and Papua New Guinea. It is commonly used in timber decking and flooring and is very popular in Australia due to its durability and resistance to termites. The problem is that the majority of Merbau is illegally logged, deforesting and destroying these pristine locations, exploiting the local communities and driving wildlife to the brink of extinction.

Australia is a large contributor to this serious problem as we keep providing the demand for the supply. It is very difficult to guarantee the source of the timber is legal, and somewhat difficult to trust those who imply it is. For example, Rimbunan Hijau, a Malaysian based global forest logger which controls around 60% of the forest industry in Papua New Guinea, is in fact owned 50% owned by the Boral 'Group' of Australia and 50% by Caltex (source: http://www.scribd.com/doc/24211537/2258-Christchurch-New via The Habitat Advocate

The issue is HUGE and far reaching, but one I feel passionate about and therefore am not scared by the thought that it is one which is too big for one person to make a difference. I could think of myself as just a Horticulturist who has no power whatsoever to make a difference. But I don't believe in such a defeatist attitude. Instead I am a Horticulturist whose mission it is to educate others about the choices we can make and the changes we can help bring about by starting in our own backyards. I chose not to follow this career path only because I love pretty gardens and flowers, but because I want to inspire and educate others. It is my duty of care to both clients and the environment to provide more environmentally friendly alternatives. As the saying goes, "knowledge is power". Therefore, by informing my clients I hope it would not come to me having to walk away from the job. Instead I would hope to have informed them of the benefits of using other materials leaving them with no doubt they are making a much wiser choice by going with a more sustainable product.

The argument against using this product is really much too long and involved to go into on this particular post, but as it is something I feel so incredibly strongly about, is something I will post further on.

To learn more about sustainable options and vital statistics about the devastation of illegal logging visit these links:
Forest Stewardship Council Australia - Find a FSC Certified Product
Good Wood Guide
CHOICE reviews Sustainable Flooring
Behind the Veneer
The Last Frontier

{thinking of: Japan & the cherry blossoms}

If plans had been kept Hubby and I would be traveling to Japan this week to tick-off one of my "to do's" on my bucket list: to visit the cherry blossoms in Japan! It has been a long awaited for holiday so at the time I thought it was very unfortunate that his work commitments meant we would have to cancel plans... for a second time... It would now appear that fate had its reasons all along...

It seems so little with the sheer enormity of the situation, but last weekend I tacked onto a girlfriends fundraising concert for the Christchurch Earthquake Appeal and sold these paper cranes to send all proceeds to the Japan Pacific Appeal. People's generosity is always so refreshing and makes me wish I could do more.

The sakura season is one of the peak tourist times in Japan, bringing huge numbers of tourists who pump many $$$ into the economy.

I send nothing but love and light to those in Japan, and those with loved ones living there.