{the bridesmaid & the florist}

(C) Sarah Ryhanen @ Saipua

Once upon a time there was a young girl who dreamed of playing amongst flowers all day, surrounded by beautiful blooms and 'cotton-wooled' in their soft scent.

One fine summer's day this young girl would meet her long-time best friend on the school bus on their first day of school. Over the years they shared many of life's ups and downs; graduating school, university and college, meeting boyfriends - breaking up with boyfriends, starting jobs - quiting jobs. Years would pass and oceans would separate them, but they would always remain the closest of friends. 

Many years later the young girl met her 'Knight in white shining armour' and had her best-friend  by her side as she married. A few years would pass when one day this best-friend would too meet the 'Man of her dreams' and ask her friend to be by her side as she married. "What an honour" thought the not-so-young-anymore girl. But then, the best-friend asked something which would bring even more happiness and joy, "would you help me do my wedding flowers?". Oh, how this brought a smile inside her heart. What fun they would have creating the most beautiful bouquets and decorations for such a special occasion!

And so, off went this not-so-young-anymore girl  searching across the seas, over the mountains and down into the valleys, filling her 'www. bookmarks basket' with all sorts of loveliness and inspiration for the big day which lay ahead.

(C) Sarah Ryhanen @ Saipua
... what a thrill I got when I heard my best-friend was to be married next year - on top of that excitement I then had the added bonus of not only being asked to accompany her as part of her bridal party but to also assist her with her flowers!!

A few years ago now, 5 1/2 to be exact, she was there to help me and my Mum put together the flowers for my own wedding. If there was such a thing as "Best Bridesmaid of the Year Award" this friend would certainly have been the outstanding winner. So, it is such a pleasure to be able to repay the favour.

(C) Sarah Ryhanen @ Saipua
Planning for a wedding is a lot of fun, albeit a bit stressful - dresses, accessories, food and of course flowers!!! So I'm very excited to be able to be a part of this excitement and can't wait until February for the big day to come.

In the meantime I'm seriously thinking about attending TAFE to study Floristry (how handy!) - until then I think I may just have to practice a few posies! Stay tuned for the next installment of this fairytale story!!

Images: Saipua - absolutely amazing flower arrangements by Sarah Ryhanen. She is such a huge source of inspiration and delivers without doubt the most amazing dose of beauty.

{an afternoon with Jennifer Stackhouse at the home of Snugglepot & Cuddlepie}

Like most Australian children I was brought up reading the tales of May Gibbs' Snugglepot & Cuddlepie, believing they truly existed among the blossom and gum nuts on the Eucalypt trees, and being scared of Banksia seed pods for the fear the nasty Banksia Men would jump out at me.

I loved the sweet little skirts of blossom and the bare little bottoms

So when I read that Jennifer Stackhouse, Editor of Australian Gardening magazine would be guest of 'Fireside Chats' at "Nutcote Cottage", the home of May Gibbs, I jumped at the chance to cosy up to a fire and hear her speak about her experiences thus far in the gardening and horticulture world. It was a very wet, soggy, windy old day in Sydney so it was the perfect place to be. Jennifer was very warm and generous in sharing her thoughts about specific topics and gardening in general.

Caroline Minogue (Chair of Nutcote Trust) with Jennifer Stackhouse
Afterwards the most amazing afternoon tea was served in the aptly named 'Bib and Bub Tea Room' (think traditional afternoon tea of passionfruit iced sponge; scones, jam and cream; lamingtons and hot brewed cups of tea).
'Bib and Bub'
The grounds of  "Nutcote Cottage" have been lovingly restored by volunteers to the original plans set out by May Gibbs herself with many plant species she grew reintroduced to the garden. Being winter it was all looking a bit sleepy, but come spring it would look amazing.
the gorgeous 'Caterpillar Hedge' outside the 'Bib & Bub Tearooms'

Today the gardens play host to around 7000 visitors, from the young to young-at-heart. Children celebrate their birthdays dressing up as Snugglepot and Cuddlepie, and grown-ups can play their own dress-ups and get married in the beautiful garden.

I would highly recommend visiting this little gem nestled by the harbour no matter your age to either recount your childhood memories or foster new ones. To find out more visit the May Gibbs' website here

Finally, I just had to share the below photos - May had her own Gardening Assistant too!

In memory of her beloved Scotty Dog. Reminds me of my own helper in the garden....
my four-legged child and Gardening Assistant

{rare plant collecting one cold & soggy weekend}

This post is a little late, but the weather today reminded me to post it...

Just a tad soggy under foot. No stopping me though!
Not even the cold, rain or mud could spoil a day out in the mountains hunting for rare and unusual plants at the 7th Annual Collectors' Plant Fair. This is my idea of shopping mecca, forget your Westfields' and mega shopping malls! It's so lovely to get up-close and personal with the retailers who are passionate about the plants they grow, tend to and sell, as well as being able to pick up those hard-to-find plants you don't see being stocked in the franchise nurseries.

A sea of umbrellas (note girl in  white brown canvas shoes ...
this was definitely a gumboots day)
It is held within the grounds of the private property of Peta Trahar in picturesque Bilpin. She along with a horde of volunteers do an amazing job of organising and running the day. Hundreds of people barrel into her garden, traipsing around her yard and stomping all over her lawn. Peta even has the heart to open up her home to hold small gatherings for the speaker events. This year's speakers included Myles Baldwin and Costa Georgiadis.
Loving the planted pushy!

Oh how I want one of these in my backyard

My 'Poor Pete' - what a trooper!

Family and friends felt sorry for 'Poor Pete' being dragged along to another one of my off-beat gardening trips, but he genuinely enjoyed himself - despite the pockets full of water, muddy jeans and boots! I made it up to him by stopping for warm soup and home-made apple pie at this delightful little cafe with the most divine bunches of roses - their smell was intoxicating!

I was quite restrained in my purchases as one hand was always in use holding the umbrella but managed to come away with a selection of treasures.

Happy as a pig in mud! At the start of the stall - still dry and clean!

Sadly there will be no fair in 2012 as organisers have decided to pursue other ventures to further promote rare and unusual plants - I'll keep you posted on what form this may take, I'm sure it will be just as exciting!

{my own ongoing project}

I thought I'd share my own gardening project with you. I've had trepidations about doing so as my garden is no Picasso - it's more a kindergarten kids hand-painting...

When we moved into our home nearly two years ago I was faced with an overgrown jungle. There was little in the way of a theme or concept for the garden, with random plants that clashed, some which had overgrown others completely and then those which were completely unsuitable for the location.

Unlike other gardeners or home owners who might have looked at it and just wanted to rip everything out, take it to the tip and start again with a blank canvas, I assessed what I had to work with and what I could re-use.

Looking back at these photos I now wonder if I would take it on again - what a mess! But I love a challenge and so I took to the garden bit by bit working my way around slowly but surely. The plants that had overgrown into a jungle were cut back and those in the wrong location were moved to more appropriate sections of the garden. I'm now selecting new plants based on their suitability for the location and planting theme (now I have one!).

It's a work in progress, one which takes a lot of time, when I have it to spare after 'playing' in other people's gardens. There is still a huge amount of work for me to do and I have a lot of plans still to put into place, but when I look back on the before photos I can see that I have achieved something. I look forward to the day I can share with you my big "viola" moment of unveiling the finished piece of artwork!

Before: what a jungle!
A 'licorice all-sorts' themed garden... with a bit of a ho-hum outlook

After: Presentable at least for a party. I uncovered a whole assortment
of hidden gems, including a number of orchids not seen in this photo

After: a new hedge of Magnolia 'Little Gems' will hopefully provide
some much needed privacy and screening for using the backyard
Before: a mess... enough said!
After: A lick of paint and a few productive plants -  passionfruit,
herbs and tomatoes.

{cows have feelings too...please help ban Live Export}

I absolutely adore cows. If I could I would have a couple in my backyard here on the Northern Beaches!

It is because of this affection for them that I couldn't watch the recent vision on television about the Live Animal Exports. The thought of what the vision included was enough to deeply upset me. I couldn't even bring myself to open the emails about signing the petition to ban the exports in fear that I would see images that would tear my heart apart.

My earliest memories include cows. To me they were always a part of my life. They were always in view out one of the windows of our house, and quite often I would wake up to hear them grazing in the paddock outside my bedroom window. Not to mention the number of poddy calves who became pets. Growing up on a cattle farm I came to have an understanding of what their ultimate destiny is early on. As a young child it was something I tried not to think about too much. When the trucks would come to take a load of cattle to the markets I'd head off down the paddock in the opposite direction - I couldn't watch, it was like saying goodbye to friends you wouldn't see again.

My recent trip away to the country affirmed my love for them - their big, brown, beautiful eyes with their long lashes; the way they slowly chew away on the same piece of grass for minutes on end taking their time and enjoying every morsel; the fact they can be so stupid yet so smart at the same time!

I finally plucked up enough courage to open a request to sign the BAN LIVE EXPORT petition this morning. My eyes were very cautious as to what they saw and took in, but I got there in the end - I'd sign it a hundred times or more if I could to stop this horrendous and extremely unneccessary act. I would strongly urge everyone to do the same. These poor darlings do have a voice - but sadly it is one we don't hear or understand. It is up to us to use our voice to stop this and give them the right to have their ultimate destiny at least granted with dignity and grace.

PLEASE SIGN THIS PETITION NOW! It's so very very important.

Image of darling calves and their mummy: by {the hort couture gardener}

{heaven is: this view! p.s. did I sleep through winter?}

I had to double check the calendar this morning. Why? To make sure I hadn't slept through winter and woken up in Spring.

What a perfect day!

There are so many reasons I'm always grateful to be alive on days like today. To live on the doorstep of the world's most beautiful beaches, feel the warmth of the sun on my skin and be outdoors doing what I love following my passion, is truly a gift and not one eveyone gets to unwrap.

Sure, there are not so perfect days with moments where owning your own business, and doing something for the love v. money, can be difficult and you question "what the hell am I doing/thinking?!". But, it is always the small things that remind you of the answer to this sometimes perplexing question. For example, these photos were taken at a seminar I attended today. Don't ask me to recite anything I learnt though - that view was so special you couldn't help but be drawn into it. I think heaven has a new postcode!!

{baby it's cold outside}

Winter is officially here. However, if you ask me I think it arrived a little early this year. Apart from the difficulty of getting out of a warm, cosy bed in the morning I've come to quite enjoy winter and embrace the change of seasons in my garden.

Winter in Sydney is actually quite pleasant and is over before you know it. Although I wouldn't swap a Sydney winter for quids, I do miss the misty, foggy mornings of a Melbourne winter (the photos were taken on one of my early morning walks a few years back). There was always a special, almost eery, quietness about these winter mornings in Melbourne! I love the skeletal trees in all their nakedness - to me their true form is a thing of elegant beauty.

Much like me in the morning, my garden is looking a little sleepy at the moment. The last of the autumn leaves are hanging by a thread and the summer/autumn flowering perennials have well and truly closed up shop and taken their annual vacation. I am excited though by the tiny heads of my bulbs starting to burst through the cold soil - it reminds me that warmer weather is just around the corner and my garden will once again be a burst of colour.

Whilst it's not nearly as busy in the garden compared to the summer months there is still plenty to do. Deciduous trees will benefit from a haircut; mulch can be topped up to preserve that precious moisture in the soil for the onset of warmer weather; bare-rooted fruit and ornamental trees do well if planted now; and you can always tend to your tools in your potting shed to get out of the weather. I'm planning on doing a bit of garden construction while it's cool - I don't like working in the heat and would rather use this time to get such jobs done so I can focus all my efforts on my plants when the weather turns warmer. Besides, the physical exercise works off all those cups of hot chocolate, glasses of red wine and hearty, comfort food!!