Landmark Birthdays: Part 1

On the eve of my birthday, I thought a post on landmark birthdays was appropriate! My birthday falls on the first day of Winter, which is special enough in itself, and while I enjoy all my birthdays, there have been 3 stand-outs : my 35th birthday in France, my 40th birthday on Lord Howe Island and my 49th birthday on Cape York in Queensland. The Lord Howe celebration was planned, but the other two just happened to be in exotic places, because my birthday fell during our travels. As this post is fairly long, I have divided it into two sections, which I will post either side of my birthday week. I have had such a lovely time writing and researching this post. It has been like having these holidays all over again!!!

The year I turned 35 was a pretty special year, not only because we eventually found our home in Armidale, as well as our country property at Dorrigo, but also because just prior to these purchases, we had a wonderful ten-week holiday in England and France with the whole family. Most of our major holidays have been at turning points of our lives, between leaving our old home and settling down in our new life, and this occasion was no different. We had been renting for a year, all the time searching for our new home unsuccessfully, so we decided to take a break and fulfill that long-held dream of taking the kids overseas.

It was a wonderful experience and even though there was the odd moment, it was fantastic travelling with young children. Because they were so young – all under 8 years of age – we were able to plan a nature-based trip, staying mainly in country areas, and were able to avoid places like Disney World! It also opened many doors to us, especially in France. The French love children and were so impressed that we had brought the entire family from such a long distance away, as well as the fact that I was able to communicate with them in their own language! Whenever we arrived at a new place, the kids would be whisked away by the hosts and plied with hot chocolate and croissants at the kitchen table while we unpacked or we would find them playing upstairs with the owners’ children or reading Tintin books in French.

We had so many amazing experiences from sailing on the Norfolk Broads in one of the original wherries; sitting with the puffins on the cliffs at the Fair Isle Bird Observatory; walking on the Cliffs of Hermaness with the bonxies and tysties; visiting Gerald Durrell’s Rare and Endangered Species Zoo on the island of Jersey, viewing prehistoric cave art 14000 years old in the Dordogne, watching pink flamingos feeding in the Camargue marshes;  and hiking in the Pyrenees amongst wildflowers. I have touched on some of these experiences in my post: My Love Affair With France. See:

BlogFranceLoveAffair30%ReszdIMG_0630BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (85)My 35th birthday in the Limoges countryside was definitely one of the highlights! We’d just spent the day exploring the beautiful potager gardens at Villandry and visiting Clos Lucé, the last home of Leonardo da Vinci, with models of all his amazing inventions (see photos above), and as we left the Loire Valley, I hinted to Ross at the possibility of spending the night in a château (see photo below) for my birthday, only to be told it was far too expensive!BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (86) We drove on and on along the scenic back roads of the alternative tourist route and by 8.30pm, we still hadn’t eaten dinner, nor found accommodation for the night!  In the evening light, we spotted a little chambre d’hôte sign on a tree, just south of La Trimouille. Proceeding down the tree-lined driveway, we discovered the beautiful old Château de Régnier.

BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (87)

Because it was so late, we decided to enquire about the price , only to find that it was very reasonable and quite affordable! On asking about nearby restaurants, the hostess Anniq apologised profusely, saying that had she known that we were coming, she would have prepared us a meal. She also apologised for the overgrown state of the circular driveway lawn, which had not yet been mown for the upcoming hunt!BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (88)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (98) She phoned the local hotel, only to be told that dinner might not be possible because they had run out of bread! I suspect the kitchen may have been about to close! But no problem!  Anniq had a whole loaf, which she sent down with us to the hotel dining room. After a five-minute wait, a surly waitress clomped out and took the bread from us without a word, disappearing back into the kitchen. Not a menu in sight, so no difficult hassles translating menu meals! Out came the bread, now sliced, with a huge bowl of pâté and some sliced avocado. Thinking this was dinner, we bogged into the pâté, only to be surprised by a main course of beef and fried potatoes with a delicious red wine, fresh pears for dessert and then coffee, all without having to make any decisions!!!

Because it was my birthday the next day and also because we were down to our last clean clothes, the’ best’ outfits, we decided to spend another night at the château. Doing the laundry while travelling was always a hassle and I was dreading having to use a French laundromat, but Anniq insisted on washing all our dirty clothes herself in her laundry, set in one of the lovely old outbuildings, and hanging them out to dry in her bat-filled attic overnight.BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (99)The next morning was warm and sunny and we had a lovely extended breakfast with lots of conversation and laughter. Anniq was a wonderful communicator and between our dodgy command of each other’s languages, we were still able to make ourselves understood, even discussing quite complex matters!BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (100) Ross gave me a beautiful green woollen cloak, which we’d bought in Ireland, and some lovely perfume. Anniq gave us a guided tour of the current château, built in 1820.  The original Château de Régnier was built in 1399 for the Loubes family, but it had been in the Liniers family for 5 generations since 1799.BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (115) The château had 25 rooms, 5 bedrooms and 4 bathrooms and a small, disused, cobwebbed family chapel underneath our room (bottom photo). The walls were covered with an Aubusson tapestry and trophies from the hunt- stuffed birds, foxes, boars and deer. Anniq showed me her shell collection and her own hand-painted porcelain.BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (101)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (89) - CopyBlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (89)Her husband Charles showed us the stables, laundry, machinery sheds and dairy, all housed in these superb old brick buildings. The bottom photo is of the gatehouse.BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (91) - CopyBlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (90) - CopyThe kids ran all day, dressed in their Sunday best and gumboots, in the long grass with the family dogs, two friendly Weimaraners called Hamlet and Jean, and Ibis, a very active, visiting Jack Russell terrier, with whom Chris fell in love. He is in the photo below.BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (90)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (92)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (93) After lunch, we wandered down to the creek, from where the château had the appearance of a ‘Sleeping Beauty’ castle!BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (95)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (91) I picked a bouquet of Summer wildflowers- buttercups, forget-me-knots, grasses and lots of pink, purple and white wild blooms, as well as a bunch of apple mint for dinner.BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (94)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (97) The girls found a baby bird and waded in the creek.BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (96)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (102) Of course, Chris fell in and ended up swimming in his clothes!BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (103)On our return to the château, Anniq made us a cup of tea with shortbread and we met an English couple, who had discovered this wonderful place a few years ago and now always called in en route to their holiday house in Spain each year. Because they could not speak French and Anniq’s English was limited (although she was attending English classes at night), whenever they called in,  Anniq would invite her neighbour Yvonne, who spoke excellent English, for dinner. Dear Anniq had made a special trip into Limoges to buy me a birthday present, as she didn’t have any spare hand-painted porcelain of her own to give me. She bought me a beautiful china terrine, decorated with French wildflowers, a cherished gift which I still have today. She also gave me a bouquet of her own pink roses- the first of the season.BlogLandmarkbirthdays20%Reszd2016-05-10 16.16.14My birthday dinner was amazing! An entrée of an egg, tomato and lettuce salad; a choice of roast pork or goose with fried potatoes, carrots and peas for our main course with a green salad made by Yvonne; and palate fresheners between courses and a different wine with each course.  The pièce de résistance was the homemade chocolate cake, aglow with candles and served with icecream, followed by a selection of cheeses and coffee. It was such a funny night! Both Brian, the Englishman, and Charles, the proud Frenchman, were very similar in character and neither was EVER going to learn one another’s language! They spent all night slinging off at each other in their own languages and Yvonne and I were very amused by their accuracy and similarities!

It was raining by the end of the night and as Yvonne departed, she invited us to visit her in her 11th century home at Courtevrault Manor the next day. It was amazing! Her bedroom, on the first floor next to the 11th century turret, was situated above a deep dungeon, accessed via a door on the ground floor and into which French soldiers would throw their English captives during the Hundred Years War. The depth and number of skeletons down there was unknown and did not unduly worry Yvonne!BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (104)

There was also a 13th century addition with a well underneath and the main house with 11 bedrooms, a stone-flagged kitchen and amazing artwork, including a painting by Raphael. Yvonne was obviously very well-connected!BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (105) She had her own gardener, who lived onsite, lit her kitchen fire every morning and kept her and his family in vegetables all year round.BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (107) The vegetable garden and herb garden were huge and the flower garden filled with Old Roses and a huge Philadelphus shrub.BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (106) There was also a dovecote, a pool and a creek, which ran through the garden.BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (108)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (108) - Copy It certainly was an amazing opportunity, not often afforded to the normal tourist and a very memorable birthday!

Five years later, it was my 40th birthday and I wanted it to be equally special! I worked an extra job all year, sorting private mail boxes for Australia Post, in the wee hours of the morning – 4am on Mondays and 6am on the other weekdays. By the end of the year, I had earned enough to buy my coveted Bernina sewing machine and fund an 8 day trip to Lord Howe Island for the whole family to celebrate my 40th birthday. We had always wanted to visit Lord Howe Island. It is one of those very special places, especially if like us, you love nature, the environment, birds and bush walking.  It was listed on the UNESCO’s World Heritage List in 1982. We took a small plane with Eastern Airlines on the 29th May out of Sydney and, after a 1.5 hour flight, had to circle the island twice until the winds were conducive to landing on the tiny airstrip in the middle of the island. We had an excellent view of Ball’s Pyramid, the world’s tallest sea stack at 551m, 26 km south of Lord Howe , as well as the lagoon and all the island landmarks.BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (109)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (110)Before you can purchase your flight tickets, your accommodation must be pre-booked, as there is a limit of 400 visitors on the island at any one time. There is no camping on the island. Because we had the entire family with us, we booked a self-contained apartment at Hideaway Apartments on Middle Beach Rd, halfway up the hill from Joy’s shop. Because there are weight restrictions on luggage, you cannot bring your own food and supplies are very expensive, due to the fact that everything has to be brought in via the Island Trader. Consequently, our diet was fairly basic, until a departing couple of tourists left us the stuff they hadn’t used! There are few cars, so we walked everywhere or rented bicycles for longer trips. It was such a lovely free feeling, cycling with the breeze in your face, past aqua seas and tropical palms, and not a care in the world about cars or traffic!BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (111)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (112) We were so lucky with the weather too- sunny blue skies and no rain, unlike the mini-cyclone last week! Here is a link to the official brochure :

This brochure details the many walks on the island :

and I have also included a map to give you an idea of some of the things we did from : Lord Howe Island MapOn our first day, we walked up to Clear Place to get our bearings and had a beautiful view of Muttonbird Island and Wolf Rocks. In the Valley of Shadows, the kids enjoyed playing in amongst the pendulous aerial roots and buttressed trunks of the massive Banyan trees (Ficus macrophylla subsp columnaris), whose long branches extended over a hectare (2 acres). There is also a forest of 40 feet high Kentia Palms (Howea forsteriana), one of 4 species of palms endemic to the island and the world’s most popular indoor palm for 120 years.BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (121)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (116)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (114) The palm seed industry was started in 1906 with the formation of the Kentia Palm Seed and Plant Cooperative and is a key component of the island’s economy, along with tourism. See : The Kentia Palm is a lowland palm. The other 3 endemic palms are :  Curly Palm (Howea belmoreana), another lowland palm, which grows slightly higher up;  Big Mountain Palm (Hedyscepe canterburyana), which grows from altitudes of 400m up to the summit of Mt Gower and Little Mountain Palm (Lepidorrhachis mooreana), which only grows on the summit.BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (119)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (120) There are also some lovely specimens of Pandanus (Pandanus forsteri) with their long prop roots on the walk to Boat Harbour.BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (118)

At Middle Beach, we came across 16 Landcare members planting 200 native trees for their Big Muttonbird Ground Project, which aimed to restore the natural bushland and nesting habitat of the migratory seabirds : the Flesh-footed Shearwater and the Black-Winged Petrel, both classified as vulnerable on the Threatened Species List for NSW. They were very appreciative of our help and wrote us up in the Lord Howe Island Signal, their local paper.BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (117)BlogLandmarkbirthdays20%Reszd2016-05-09 12.29.09 - Copy We had lunch on the top of Transit Hill, which has a 360 degree view and was the site of the 1882 observation of the Transit of Venus across the sun. These photos are of the western side of the island: Mt. Gower; Blackburn Island; and the main area of settlement, looking across to the island and the lagoon.BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (124)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (122)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (123) We saw our first Emerald Dove here. We loved the birdlife on Lord Howe Island. There are 180 species of birds on the island , which provides breeding sites for 32 species, of which 14 are sea birds and 18 are land birds. A good website to consult on the bird life of the island is : and . BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (125)Because of its isolation, bird species are often similar, but not quite the same as their mainland relatives. For example, the  Lord Howe Island Currawong has a longer, more pointed beak and totally different call to its Eastern Australian cousin, the Pied Currawong. The Lord Howe Island Silver-Eye is endemic to the island and has a white ring of feathers around its eye. It has a heavier build, larger feet and claws and a longer bill then the mainland Silver-Eye.BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (126) The lack of natural predators meant that the birds had little fear and were easy targets when humans arrived in 1788, followed by rats in 1918, as well as introduced owls and feral cats. Their habitat was further destroyed by feral goats and pigs. For information on the island’s extinct birds, see :  and

The Lord Howe Island Woodhen, a flightless rail endemic to the island, was brought to the very brink of extinction (less than 30 in late 1970s and restricted to 2 tiny populations on the inaccessible summits of Mount Lidgbird and Mount Gower), but thanks to a successful captive breeding program begun in 1980, they have increased in numbers ( 200 in 1997; 117 in 2001), though they are still considered a highly  endangered species. We saw this woodhen up on the top of Mt Gower. For more information on this lovely little bird, see :       and (128)Then, there are the migratory birds, who return year after year to breed. Lord Howe Island is the only known breeding ground of the Providence Petrel, which arrives in March for its Winter breeding season (see photo below). The island is also the only breeding site in Eastern Australia of the Flesh-footed Shearwater, which breeds in large colonies on the forest floor between September and May. It is the only breeding location in Australia for the Kermadec Petrel and Grey Ternlet and is the most southerly breeding location in the world for the Sooty Tern, Common Noddy, Black Noddy and Masked Booby. The White Tern breeds on Lord Howe Island between October and April.BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (127)The Red-tailed Tropic Birds are also Summer visitors, arriving in September from the North Pacific Ocean and performing their airborne courting rituals off Malabar Hill (208m), where we saw them on our second day. Lord Howe Island has the world’s largest breeding concentration of Red-tailed Tropic Birds. They nest on cliff ledges between Malabar Hill and North Head and head off late May back to the North Pacific Ocean.

BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (132)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (130)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (133)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (131)Looking to the  north from Malabar Hill, we could see the Admiralty Islands and to the east, Middle Beach (with Muttonbird Island in the background) and Ned’s Beach.BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (115)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (135)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (134)We walked out to Kim’s Lookout, then headed back down to Old Settlement Beach, so called because it was the site of the first settlers in 1833. For more on the natural history, it is well worth consulting Ian Hutton’s website : Ian Hutton is the island’s resident naturalist and has written many scientific papers and over 20 books, as well as producing 3 videos about Lord Howe. He is a keen photographer and has run Lord Howe Island Nature Tours since the early 1990s.BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (138)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (137)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (139)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (140)We had a beautiful day for my 40th birthday! It started with present-giving, including an unexpected bonus, when departing guests left us their food, including bottles of red wine and port! We spent a wonderful morning snorkelling down at Ned’s Beach.BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (141)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (142) Lord Howe Island has Australia’s, and in fact the world’s, most southern coral reef ecosystem. Due to its location at the cross-roads of 5 major ocean currents and the influence of the warm East Australian Current, which flows south from the Great Barrier Reef to the Tasman Sea, the island has a rich and unique biodiversity of tropical, subtropical and temperate species, including 447 species of fish, 305 species of marine algae, 83 coral species and 65 species of echinoderms (sea stars and sea urchins), as well as sea turtles, dolphins and whales. There are over 60 world-class dive sites, including the spectacular Ball’s Pyramid, and most of which are only 10-20 minutes off shore. The alluring Admiralty Islands are home to 30 dive sites. See: (113)We were blown away by the colourful corals, the bright green seaweed, the huge sea urchins and clams and the amazing variety of fish from rainbow coloured wrasses of pink-aqua-green or orange-yellow-green combinations with blue fins, blue double-header wrasses, black-and-yellow striped butterfly fish and purple striped fish to large schools of sea mullet. And that was only an nth of it! For a more in-depth look at the species list for Lord Howe Island, please consult :

It appears that there is a video for everything on Lord Howe Island and snorkelling is no exception, See : Not so sure about the accompanying soundtrack though!!! Scuba divers might also enjoy : The music is slightly better!

My birthday lunch was at the restaurant of the luxurious Capella South, now called Capella Lodge. It was delicious, especially the sticky date pudding, and having just watched the Getaway program on Capella Lodge, I feel extra lucky to have dined there, as the restaurant is now exclusively for Capella guests. See : (143)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (144)Through the restaurant windows, we looked straight up at Mt. Gower, our destination for the next day.BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (146) We cycled down to the start of the track to check it out and saw our first, very quiet Lord Howe Island Woodhen in the wild. The air looked like it was full of little specks of ash, with all the Providence Petrels being buffeted about by the strong wind. We met an older fellow, Les, who had been in ill health for 4 years with heart problems and  Ménières Disease, a disorder which affects the inner ear and balance, resulting in tinnitus and attacks of vertigo, so we really hoped that he wasn’t going on the guided tour the next day!BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (145)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (147)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (150)The hike to the summit of Mt Gower (875m) is considered to be one of the 20  best walks in Australia. It’s a 14km round walk (7km straight up hill and 7km back!). Because of the rugged and often risky terrain, you can only access it with a guide and Jack Shick, our guide, is one of the most experienced on the island, having been a mountain guide for more than 20 years. See : (149)We started walking at 7.45 am, as the walk takes 8.5 hours to complete. There were 6 adults (including our guide) and our 3 kids and yes, Les was there!!! He was determined to prove his doctor wrong, but it did slow things down a bit, especially on our return, and meant that we were often looking after Les, instead of keeping an eye on the children!!!  Luckily, they are an adventurous lot and fairly sure-footed when it comes to outdoor activities. It was such a great adventure for them.

The first lesson was climbing a Kentia Palm. Being a 5th generation islander, Jack was a master, but Chris quickly got the hang of it!BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (151)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (152)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (148)Once everyone had arrived, we started on the track, ascending quite quickly to the first challenge of the day- the Lower Road, where we had to don our helmets and follow a rope along the edge of the black volcanic cliff, with a sheer drop of over 100m to the sea below! You can see the ledge in the photo above , as well as photos 1 and 3 below.BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (153)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (155)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (154)We came to a clearing at Pandanus-lined Erskine’s Creek , where I surprised a feral mother goat and her two black kids and found a freshly-laid Muttonbird egg.BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (158)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (162)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (159) We then walked up through a forest to the saddle and then finally, the Get-Up Place, where there is a rope to help you pull yourself up the incredibly steep slope. Below is a photo of my family with a much younger Jack and Les on the far left.BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (157)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (160)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (161) From the summit, there are incredible views out over all the island and the ash-speckled sky is filled with Providence Petrels (Pterodroma solandri) , wheeling and whittering to each other. This photo shows the view to the north over the rest of the island. BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (164) These gentle, trusting birds can be called out of the sky, to land with a heavy thud at your feet and then be picked up and cuddled. David Attenborough has recorded them falling from the sky in this video : It is such a special experience to hold these fearless birds in your hand, a little akin to our experience sitting with the Puffins on the cliffs at the Fair Isles. See : (166)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (165)The summit is covered with 52 acres of mist forest with Dendrobium moorei orchids in full bloom, elkhorns, ferns and mosses, wet fungi bells, the Little Mountain Palm (Lepidorrhachis mooreana) in red berry, Green Plums (Atractocarpus stipula, the endemic Hotbark (Zygogynum howeanum) with its chilli flavoured bark, the Fitzgeraldii tree (Dracophyllum fitzgeraldii ) and the endemic Scalybark (Syzygium fullagarii) with its sharp, deep red fruit, high in vitamin C. The photos below show a mist-covered Mt Gower; a forest covered Mt Lidgbird; and the orchid Dendrobium moorei in full bloom.BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (168)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (163)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (167) The vegetation on Lord Howe Island is also very special, with half of the island’s 241 native plant species being found nowhere else in the world. Overall, there are 52 tree species; 24 shrub species; 24 creeper species; 12 orchid species; 28 grasses and sedges; 48 herb species, 56 fern species and 105 moss species. There are at least 100 different types of fungi. For more information about the vegetation, see : and (170)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (172)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (169)The high degree of endemism (up to 60 per cent in some groups) is also found in the invertebrate population with over 1600 species. There are 157 species of land and freshwater snails; 21 species of earthworms; 515 species of beetles; 27 species of ants; 137 species of butterflies and moths and 71 species of springtails. As with all oceanic islands, there are few vertebrate land animals, apart from birds. There are only 3 on Lord Howe Island : a small insect-eating bat; a gecko and a skink, both of which are endemic to the island. There are no native frogs or terrestrial mammals on the island.

Even though he is looking a little older than in our photos, it is worth watching this video, produced by Jack, to get a feel for the climb: We were so exhausted at the end of the day we fell straight to sleep at the start of The English Patient, a film we had not seen and which we had rented out on video at enormous cost, especially for my birthday! We woke up early at 6am the next day to watch it before its return!

We were so stiff and sore and very very tired, so we were fair game for the spruikers and easily convinced to join Ron’s Rambles boat trip around the island!  The boat was overcrowded with 40 people crammed in and the weather rough with a giant swell, so most of us (but NOT Ross!) were very seasick. Still, we did get to see the island from a different angle, but I was pleased to get back on dry land, safe and sound! This jaunty video was taken on a far better day, but will give you a bit of a feel for exploring the island by boat : (171)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (173)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (175)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (174)

BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (176)
Ball’s Pyramid by sea

Still sore the following morning,  we had a low-key day : viewing the Woodhen breeding enclosure at Stevens Reserve, swimming at Lagoon Bay  and Blinky Beach and visiting Lovers Bay and the rock pools of Middle Beach, where we saw Turbans, Sea Urchins, Nerites, black-and-white Cone shells and coral. We fed the fish at Ned’s Beach: Silver Drummers, Mullet and enormous King Fish. This amusing video will give you an idea: (177)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (180)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (179)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (183)We finished with an evening of jazz and dinner at Pinetrees Lodge, the largest and oldest resort on the island , having housed guests since 1895 and now run by the 6th generation of the original family.

Yet to explore Mt Eliza (147m) and North Bay, we cunningly decided to hire sea kayaks, so we could spare our still-sore legs! We had an easy and quick trip down to North Bay with the wind behind us, climbed Mt Eliza and explored the rock pools of Old Gulch, but at 3pm, when we started our return paddle, we discovered that the wind was now against us and it was strong!  We made little progress, so in desperation, we tied the kayaks together then, with much swearing and pushing, we finally inched our way past yachts, amused onlookers and the imminent arrival of the Island Trader, heading straight for us, back to the original beach. It was so good to get home and we’d achieved balance- now, our arms were as sore and stiff as our legs!!!BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (182)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (184)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (188)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (187)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (181)We went down to the wharf the next day to see the MV Island Trader ( being unloaded.  Owned and operated by the islanders, it makes fortnightly trips from Port Macquarie on the NSW coast and delivers all the islanders’ needs from groceries, building supplies and hardware to cars and furniture, and even a few passengers- though the trip takes much longer than flying!BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (185)  We revisited Old Settlement Beach, site of our other dream resort, Trader Nicks, now known as Arajilla Resort. If you had the money, it is so hard to choose between the two : Capella Lodge has the views, but Arajilla, nestled in amongst old Banyan trees, is closer to everything and has a lovely beach!  For information on Arajilla, see: or (190)We watched White Terns wheeling in the sky and snorkellers in the Sylph’s Hole, then made our way back to Ned’s Beach to say goodbye.BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (186) A Sacred Kingfisher farewelled us at the airport.BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (191)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (189) We flew home that afternoon, having had the most magical island holiday – an unforgettable way to celebrate my 40th birthday!!BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (193)BlogLandmarkbirthdays50%ReszdImage (192)

Favourite Gardens Regularly Open to the Public : Education Gardens

The wonderful thing about gardening is that it can be done at any age and there is always more to learn, no matter how experienced a gardener is. In this post, I will be discussing a variety of gardens, which can be loosely collected under the category of ‘Education Gardens’. I have started with children’s gardens and progressed through school gardens to tertiary institutions offering horticulture courses like Burnley, Victoria and research like the Waite Institute, South Australia. Community gardens, plant shows and sustainable house days also provide valuable learning opportunities, especially for those interested in organic vegetable gardening, sustainability and permaculture.

Children’s Gardens

Children’s gardens have become increasingly important these days with the shrinking size of the backyard. In my generation’s childhood, we all had our own gardens, in which to develop our gardening skills, but these days , the house blocks are much smaller and often low maintenance with lots of hard surfaces, due to the fact that both parents are working and have little time to spend in the garden. Poor urban planning and the disappearance of open space, increased street traffic, parental fear for their child’s safety and the proliferation of electronic communications, to the extent that many children spend more time in front of screens (television, computer, mobile phones) than outside in the natural world, all contribute to decreased  exercise and contact with nature, resulting in an obesity epidemic and a newly described syndrome: ‘Nature-Deficit Disorder’ . See the Children and Nature Network website at:

Children’s gardens have been specifically set up to help counteract these problems.  I have already briefly touched on the Ian Potter Foundation Children’s Garden in the Melbourne Botanic Garden in my post on early 19th Century Gardens:  . Also see :

The garden is open from 10am-sunset, 7 days a week, during school holidays. During term time, it is only open Wednesday-Sunday and public holidays, while Mondays and Tuesdays are reserved for school groups. It is closed for 8 weeks just after the July school holidays for restoration and maintenance.BlogEducationgardens50%Reszdmarchapril 171The garden provides an interactive environment for children of all ages, backgrounds, physical abilities and cultures to play, explore and discover the natural world. It is designed to encourage creative unstructured play and imagination with a number of small, child-sized spaces, each with a different planting theme including : a jungle and rain forest ; a ruin garden; a bamboo forest; a gorge with rocks, gum trees and grasses; a tea tree tunnel; a wetland area, a rill which runs through the garden; and a meeting place with a spiral fountain.BlogEducationgardens50%Reszdmarchapril 160BlogEducationgardens50%Reszdmarchapril 162BlogEducationgardens50%Reszdmarchapril 163Lastly, there is a Kitchen Garden, full of food plants, which delivers classes on sustainable gardening, composting and mulching and worm farming and companion planting to a wide variety of ages from preschoolers to school children right up to tertiary students and adult education classes.BlogEducationgardens50%Reszdmarchapril 168Blog Early19cent BG40%ReszdIMG_0386

A similar garden is now being is being developed in Sydney’s Centennial Park. For more details  about The Ian Potter Wild Play Garden, see :

School Gardens

School gardens also do a wonderful job exposing children to gardening and the source of their food. We visited a terrific example in the Dandenongs in Victoria.

The Patch Primary School

53 Kallista Emerald Road,
The Patch Victoria 3792

The Patch has a very impressive 2 acre school garden, which  includes a 1 acre fenced wetland, as well as an eco-centre, orchard, specific gardens and chooks, and it plays a major part in the children’s education.BlogEducationgardens25%Reszdoctober 2 112It was planned and established and is totally managed by the students with the guidance of environmental education teacher, Michelle Rayner, who incidentally is the wife of John Rayner, who lectures at Burnley. The students spent a whole year from 2006-2007, doing site surveys and analysis, including orientation, levels and soil type and pH, so that they really understood the environmental conditions of the site. They researched school and community gardens throughout the world and factored their requirements into the final design eg animals; fruit trees; edible produce; baking; creative activities and construction.BlogEducationgardens25%Reszdoctober 2 130The garden is divided up into separate areas :

Produce garden : onions; tomatoes; capsicum; cucumbers; beans and strawberries

Dry Garden : Drought-tolerant plants

Koorie Garden : dianellas and themedas; Bush food

Australian Garden

Alphabet Garden : Prep-Grade 2: Literacy eg V is for violets; P is for PoppiesBlogEducationgardens25%Reszdoctober 2 119Chickens and Ducks : the chook house has a living roof of hardy succulents; Eggs are incubated and kids learn about egg hygiene; fertility rates; incubation; weight and body development of different breeds; life cycles; behaviour; movement; courtship; habitat; physical features; chook handling/ feeding/ care.BlogEducationgardens25%Reszdoctober 2 124Eco-Centre : for formal learning and resources. Animals include bearded dragons and blue-tongue lizards, stick insects, green tree frogs, guinea pigs and budgies.BlogEducationgardens25%Reszdoctober 2 116There is artwork throughout the garden, as well as willow structures like tepees; scarecrows; a wood-fired pizza oven; and a grass maze.

The kids can join a number of different groups including the following

: Weed Group

: Chook Group : looks after the poultry

:  Pizza Oven : manages the pizza oven when in use

:  Food Forest Group :  prunes and maintains the orchard

:  Willow Weavers Group : prunes and weaves the  willow

: Animal Carers group : looks after the animals in the eco-centreBlogEducationgardens25%Reszdoctober 2 135Because they are involved in every aspect of the garden, the kids have a strong sense of ownership and pride in their garden. They learn so many gardening skills from soil preparation, propagation and planting to watering, mulching and harvesting. The garden also functions as an outdoor classroom, where the lessons learned in class can be applied in a practical sense. For example :

Mathematics : measurement of perimeters and circumference; measurement of tree height for a tree survey and habitat census; depth/ spacing/ plant size

Literacy : lots of writing and reflection; scientific nomenclature of plants

Art and Design : artwork; building living willow sculptures; scarecrows

Science : animals/ plants/ habitats; native animals : butterflies; native bee species; wetland species and the insect world. Entomology experts visited the school in December 2014 for a BioBlitz with the students. See : Land crayfish, giant earthworms,the great yellow slug, native bees, wombats, scorpions, freshwater eels, satin bowerbirds, wedge-tailed eagles, sugar gliders and water rats are just some of the animals that live on and around the school grounds.

: Sustainability and environmental science are important subjects at the Patch and the school was chosen as one of three finalists in the ‘Education’ category of the 2013 Premier’s Sustainability Awards, as well as winning the Eastern Metropolitan Region division of the School Gardens Awards in 2012.

Creativity and problem solving, innovation, teamwork  and interpersonal skills are all valuable learning outcomes.BlogEducationgardens25%Reszdoctober 2 118It is well worth visiting the school on one of their annual open days. It is a lovely day out with live music, wood-fired pizzas and food made with produce from the garden; plant and produce stalls; tours by the students and talks and demonstrations eg scarecrow making; plant propagation; making miniature gardens and art.

Here are 2 excellent videos about The Patch :

2009 :!/media/30753/the-patch-school-garden


Tertiary Institutions :

Burnley, University of Melbourne

500 Yarra Boulevard Richmond 3121

Burnley is a world class research and teaching facility, specializing in horticulture, only 7km from Melbourne’s CBD. It is one of the oldest colleges in Australia and this year celebrates 125 years of continuous horticultural education (1891-2016). See :

Originally established in 1861 by the Horticultural Society of Victoria on the Richmond Survey Paddock, Burnley Gardens were experimental gardens to trial plants for the new colony. The 6 acre gardens were highly decorative and laid out in a geometric style. They were officially opened in 1863 and included 1400 fruit trees, many of which were lost in a great flood later that year and had to be replanted. Vegetables were trialled in 1874. The gardens were extended, a pavilion built and annual horticultural shows were held until the 1930s.BlogEducationgardens50%ReszdIMG_0214

The Victorian Department of Agriculture took over the gardens in 1891 and started the first horticultural school in Australia. The first headmaster was Charles Bogue Luffman, an English landscape designer, who favoured a more natural style of garden design, so the geometric layout was changed to a more informal style with curved and sunken paths; shrubberies and deciduous trees; open lawns and ponds; cool shady areas and separate Winter and Summer gardens and paddocks of wildflowers. Production and ornamental horticulture were taught, but the college also had a dairy herd, poultry trials and bee hives. Women students were encouraged and the shool has produced a number of famous female garden designers including Edna Walling, Olive Mellor, Emily Gibson, Grace Fraser and Margaret Hendry.BlogEducationgardens50%ReszdIMG_9865In 1983, Burnley was amalgamated with the other colleges owned by the Department of Agriculture under the name of the Victorian College of Agriculture and Horticulture (VCAH), then in 1997, it was absorbed into the School of Land and Environment of the University of Melbourne.

Today, Burnley includes :

9 ha ornamental heritage garden (see map from : The garden is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register 2003 for 7 significant trees (now 6) and 3 buildings. Four trees are also on the National Trust Register of Significant Trees.


  1. Summer House
    2. Lily Ponds
    3. Rock Point and Bergenia Walk
    4. Grey Garden
    5. Ficus macrophylla Bed
    6. BBQ and Sugar Gum table
    7. Pine Bed
    8. Sunken Garden and Wisteria Walk
    9. Herb Garden
    10. Shady Walk
    11. Orchard Gates
    12. Orchard Border
    13. Ficus obliqua Bed
    14. Old Cypress Bed
    15. Azalea Lawn
    16. Fern Garden
    17. Bog Garden
    18. Wild Garden
    19. Rose Garden
    20. Native Rainforest Garden
    21. Perennial Border
    22. Oak Lawn
    23. Island Beds
    24. Native Shrub Garden
    25. Native Garden Ponds
    26. Mud Brick Hut
    27. Native Grasslands Garden
    28. Citriodora Courtyard
    29. Ellis Stones Garden
    30. Rockery
    31. Bull Paddock
    32. Roof Garden


  1. Reception / Main Administration Building
    B. Student Amenity Building
    C. MB 10 (FOBG meetings)
    D.Centenary Centre
    E. Library
    F. Nursery
    G. Classrooms / laboratories

Burnley also contains : a unique collection of indigenous and exotic plants; landscape construction areas; a pruning garden; experimental plots for master and PhD students;  research areas; container and field nurseries; training gardens for design and maintenance; a graphics studio; a horticultural library and a plant tissue culture and genetics laboratory.BlogEducationgardens50%ReszdIMG_9862Burnley conducts cutting-edge research into the changing needs of contemporary horticulture, especially with the influences of climate change. Current projects include the reduction of energy consumption for heating and cooling; rainwater absorption; the reduction of urban air temperatures; and the creation of wildlife habitats. New additions to Burnley include native grasslands; a rain forest garden; indigenous gardens and most recently, the Burnley Living Roof, a Green Roof and Green Wall demonstration centre with areas for succulents, vegetables and natives. Green infrastructure is used to reduce energy consumption with its insulation properties, cool the urban environment and provide wildlife habitat for biodiversity. See :   and contemporary approach is reflected in the wide range of courses offered. See :  and

These include :

1.Short courses : Urban food growing

2.Specialist certificates :

A.Green Roof Walls:


3.Discovering Horticulture : Introductory 10 week course

4.Graduate Certificate in Garden Design (1 year)

This course has four units

: Landscape Design, which I studied in 2012- covers topics like the landscape industry; design process and principles; garden history and contemporary and traditional garden designers; and the use of form, texture and colour.

: Landscape Construction and Graphics

: Horticultural Principles- plant function, structure, production and nutrition; site evaluation; soil composition, texture, structure and management; planting, propagation, transplanting and water use; and environmental and ecological considerations including sustainability

: Plants for Designed Landscapes- use and selection

I loved my course and  learned so much, especially about Arts and Crafts gardens and the Geelong Botanic Garden- two of my assignments. Andrew Laidlaw was an enthusiastic and knowledgeable teacher and we had some interesting field trips to Edna Walling’s Bickleigh Vale Village and the Melbourne Botanic Gardens. We also had an enjoyable creativity and design workshop, where we divided up into groups to solve design challenges. Each group had to create a garden, specifically for each of the senses. I was in the ‘sound garden’ group. We suspended buckets of water in the trees to create the sound of a waterfall and the other students were led through the garden with their eyes shut. We also had to work on individual projects too like the warmup exercise of creating a design from precut vegetation.BlogEducationgardens50%Reszdaug 2010 094BlogEducationgardens50%Reszdaug 2010 0765.Associate Degree in Environmental Horticulture (2 years)

6.Associate Degree in Urban Horticulture (2 years)

7.Master of Urban Horticulture (Coursework)

8.Master of Philosophy (Research)

9.Doctor of Philosophy (Research)

The staff are excellent and there is a strong Alumni network, which offers employment and mentoring opportunities. The Friends of Burnley Gardens includes staff and former and present students. They provide guided tours of the gardens, as well as courses and workshops, for example botanical illustration and creating bee hotels. See :

 Urrbrae House Historic Precinct Gardens

Waite Historic precinct, Waite Campus, University of Adelaide

Part of the Waite Campus of the University of Adelaide, a leading agricultural and teaching facility only 10 minutes from the city centre of Adelaide, the property was bequeathed to the university by Peter Waite, a prominent South Australian pastoralist, in 1922.BlogEducationgardens25%ReszdIMG_7457The Waite Campus includes :

1.Waite Arboretum : Open from dawn till dusk every day except in extreme fire danger, the 30 ha arboretum contains 2300 plants of 800 species and 200 genera, all growing with an annual natural rainfall of 624mm and less.

2.Waite Conservation Reserve : 121 ha of Grey Box Grassy Woodland and home to hundreds of native plant species, as well as kangaroos, koalas and echidnas. Also open dawn to dusk daily, except in extreme fire danger.BlogEducationgardens20%ReszdIMG_92233.Urrbrae House Historic Precinct

Open Monday/ Tuesday and Thursday 10am-4pm, except on days of extreme fire danger.  Entrance is free.

Urrbrae House is a two-storey bluestone mansion, built in 1891 as the family home for Peter and Matilda Waite and is now used as a working museum, as well as an exhibition, conference and social function venue. The restored ballroom housed the National Textile Museum of Australia until 1999.BlogEducationgardens25%ReszdIMG_7454The 1880s coach house was the site of the first laboratory of the Waite Agricultural Research Institute and much work on the deficiencies of trace elements in South Australian soils was conducted there in the 1920s to 1930s. The garage is the oldest purpose built garage in South Australia, while the battery house is believed to be the first purpose built domestic powerhouse in South Australia.BlogEducationgardens25%ReszdIMG_7447I love visiting the gardens, especially for the peak flowering season of the Old Roses in October and November. I will write more about the 20th Century Rose Garden in a future post on my favourite rose gardens. It portrays the history and development of the rose and has more than 200 types of roses, including many species roses. I loved the circular rose garden, which inspired our Soho Bed, the formal parterre and all the arches covered with climbing roses.BlogEducationgardens20%ReszdIMG_9255BlogEducationgardens20%ReszdIMG_9261BlogEducationgardens20%ReszdIMG_9281BlogEducationgardens20%ReszdIMG_9268BlogEducationgardens20%ReszdIMG_9280BlogEducationgardens20%ReszdIMG_9289BlogEducationgardens20%ReszdIMG_9238The sensory garden beside the coach house was built in 1998 and was designed to stimulate all the senses with plants of many different colours, textures, aromas and tastes. Birds, butterflies and bees love it!BlogEducationgardens20%ReszdIMG_9291BlogEducationgardens20%ReszdIMG_9294The Garden of Discovery is a fascinating spot with a scientific discovery trail, supported by soundscapes, outdoor books and interpretive signage, which highlights the significant achievements of South Australian scientists at the Waite Institute in environmental and agricultural science over 75 years. Some of these achievements include :

Genetic studies and plant breeding and evaluation projects from 1949-1955

Constance Eardley’s work with the arid lands of Australia

James Davidson’s research into insect pest management and Tom Browning’s work on understanding insects, sustainable development and biodiversity.

The use of biological controls to manage insect populations as an alternative to the use of chemical pesticides.

Future research includes work on biotechnology and DNA sequencing; molecular marker development; the management of plant diseases; land use technology and horticultural and viticultural production and processing.

The Waite Institute is home to the Australian Wine Research Institute, responsible for research and education in viticulture. Major research areas include : the selection of and biochemistry of wine yeasts and bacteria; the importance of viticultural practices to grape quality; the molecular improvement of grapes, wine quality assessment and varietal evaluation, wine colour and phenolic chemistry and the development of sensory procedures for wine assessment.

We enjoyed the display of different wheat varieties from early spelt to the latest varieties.BlogEducationgardens20%ReszdIMG_9290BlogEducationgardens20%ReszdIMG_9297The Labyrinth (2010) is the latest addition to the garden and is built on the site of the old tennis court. Dr Jennifer Gardner, the Curator of the Waite Arboretum, designed the labyrinth,  basing it on an ancient Finnish 9-circuit stone labyrinth, and it is made of 921 timber rounds, recycled from trees from the Arboretum. There are also a number of outdoor sculptures around the garden and arboretum.BlogEducationgardens20%ReszdIMG_9282BlogEducationgardens20%ReszdIMG_9284BlogEducationgardens20%ReszdIMG_9285

More informal learning opportunities are offered by practical experience in community gardens, as well as visiting plant shows and Sustainable House Days.

Community Gardens :

We have visited a number of very inspiring community gardens during our time in Victoria. including Geelong West and Mornington. Community gardens are a wonderful resource for those with limited space at home to grow vegetables and are strong supporters of sustainability and organic gardening. Not only do they promote good health through healthy eating and physical activity, but they provide valuable opportunities for people of widely differing backgrounds and abilities to share their knowledge and ideas and develop friendships and a sense of community.

Geelong West Community Garden

129-131 Autumn St Geelong West 15.35.59Formed in 1985, Geelong West Community Garden has : 34 plots including raised beds; 3 equipment sheds and tools; a shelter area for workshops; an outdoor kitchen and pizza oven; a children’s play area and sandpit; and fruit trees and herb gardens.BlogEducationgardens20%Reszd2014-10-18 15.35.34BlogEducationgardens20%Reszd2014-10-18 14.41.57Mosaic art sculptures made by community members under the guidance of Helen Millar : 15.35.50BlogEducationgardens20%Reszd2014-10-18 14.42.07Membership is $35 per year. Meetings, workshops and courses. I loved my 2 workshops with Helen Millar- really inspiring and a great venue. There is an Open Day last Saturday in February as part of Pako Fest.BlogEducationgardens20%Reszd2014-10-18 15.58.15BlogEducationgardens20%Reszd2014-05-05 16.42.09Dig-It Community Garden, Mornington, Victoria 185BlogEducationgardens25%Reszdoctober 184BlogEducationgardens25%Reszdoctober 178BlogEducationgardens25%Reszdoctober 179Started in 2000, this garden has 50 plots, including : Four  raised beds for the elderly and the disabled; propagating igloos; composting areas and worm farms; an orchard and a vineyard; a berry house; a demonstration wicking bed; an edible sensory garden; a chook palace; a natural habitat area including ducks and a frog pond; an outdoor kitchen and cob oven; a sandpit and even a special asparagus patch.BlogEducationgardens25%Reszdoctober 182BlogEducationgardens25%Reszdoctober 189BlogEducationgardens25%Reszdoctober 201Membership is $30 per annum and includes food swap, educational workshops and the sale of produce, seeds and seedlings. It also has an annual Open Day.BlogEducationgardens25%Reszdoctober 180

I loved all the artwork in this garden from the hand-painted signs and quirky mail boxes to the scarecrows and this giant snail!BlogEducationgardens25%Reszdoctober 187BlogEducationgardens25%Reszdoctober 197BlogEducationgardens25%Reszdoctober 198BlogEducationgardens25%Reszdoctober 205Plant Shows

Plant shows are also an excellent way to learn about plants. We have already discussed the large International Flower and Garden show in Melbourne, but smaller shows are often held for specific plants like peonies or wildflowers. Here are a few photos from our visit to the 2012 Peony Show in Melbourne- a great opportunity to compare these luscious blooms and dream about future purchases of favourite peonies.BlogEducationgardens50%Reszdmid oct 002BlogEducationgardens50%Reszdmid oct 010BlogEducationgardens50%Reszdmid oct 005 I particularly loved the blooms of the hebaceous peony ‘Coral Charm’.BlogEducationgardens50%Reszdmid oct 017 During the wildflower season, there are often wildflower shows, in which wildflowers are identified. We had a wonderful trip to Western Australia in Spring 2008, where we were introduced to our first wildflower show at Albany Flower Show and it whetted our appetite for further shows.BlogEducationgardens25%ReszdIMG_6004BlogEducationgardens25%ReszdIMG_6006BlogEducationgardens25%ReszdIMG_6010 In Victoria, we loved the internationally significant Anglesea Heath area, which is full of colour from the Epacris and Banksias in Winter and the orchids and wild flowers in Spring.

BlogEducationgardens50%Reszdlate march 045BlogEducationgardens50%Reszdlate march 033BlogEducationgardens50%Reszdlate march 041BlogEducationgardens50%Reszdlate march 043BlogEducationgardens50%Reszdlate march 042 The community host the Anglesea Spring Wildflowers Show, which we attended in  in 2011 and 2013. See: and sep 2011 180BlogEducationgardens50%Reszdlate sep 2011 150BlogEducationgardens50%Reszdlate sep 2011 195Not only are there wonderful displays of native wildflowers, but also art and craft exhibitions, indigenous plants for sale and guided wildflower walks and bus tours. There are also exhibits of other Australian natives, for example the Tamara Rose (Diplolaena grandiflora), a species endemic to Western Australia, seen in the bottom photo.BlogEducationgardens20%ReszdIMG_1234BlogEducationgardens20%ReszdIMG_1216BlogEducationgardens20%ReszdIMG_1233 We used to love finding all the wild orchids, though I must admit we did have a little help with the odd flag or help from a guide.BlogEducationgardens50%Reszdlate sep 2011 345BlogEducationgardens50%Reszdlate sep 2011 272BlogEducationgardens50%Reszdlate sep 2011 358BlogEducationgardens50%Reszdlate sep 2011 391BlogEducationgardens20%ReszdIMG_1264BlogEducationgardens20%ReszdIMG_1349BlogEducationgardens20%ReszdIMG_1333The Angair Wildflower Show and Art Exhibition will be held in 2016 on Saturday and Sunday 17 and 18 September from 10.00am to 4.30pm at the Anglesea Memorial Hall, McMillan Street, Anglesea

Adults $5
Children Free
Students and Pensioners $2BlogEducationgardens20%ReszdIMG_1263BlogEducationgardens50%Reszdlate sep 2011 386

Sustainable House Days

And finally, Sustainable House days are wonderful ways to see other people’s homes and gardens and learn about sustainability, organic vegetable gardening, raised beds, espaliering, herb gardening and quirky sculptures, as well as meet like-minded individuals. They are held all over Australia on the 2nd Sunday of September each year from 10am-4pm. See : 15.06.39BlogEducationgardens20%Reszd2013-09-08 15.13.21Here are some more photos from some of our local days in Geelong with great ideas from raised beds and protective guards to garden seating, water features, focal points and even quirky home-made outdoor sculptures. For this year’s Sustainability House Day in Geelong, see : 11.33.20BlogEducationgardens50%Reszdmid oct 163BlogEducationgardens50%Reszdmid oct 090BlogEducationgardens20%Reszd2014-09-14 11.33.35BlogEducationgardens50%Reszdmid oct 184BlogEducationgardens50%Reszdmid oct 121BlogEducationgardens50%Reszdmid oct 109BlogEducationgardens50%Reszdmid oct 120BlogEducationgardens50%Reszdmid oct 102BlogEducationgardens50%Reszdmid oct 113BlogEducationgardens50%Reszdmid oct 126BlogEducationgardens50%Reszdmid oct 122








Easter Baking

The Easter break can be a busy time, both for visiting or hosting visitors, so I thought a post on Easter baking would be useful with the holiday period fast approaching. I am going to share some old favourites with you : Mardi’s Date Loaf; Dutch Ginger Cake; Mrs. Wilson’s Walnut Cake and Speculaas, as well as some new favourites: Date and Ginger Cake; Easter Biscuits and finally, Annabel’s Ginger and Apricot Biscuit Slice.

Mardi’s Date Loaf

This was Ross’s mother’s recipe and I used it for many years. In fact, it was the mainstay (along with Anzac Biscuits) for Ross’s natural history tours, when Ross would make his guests afternoon tea out in the bush. He often had international visitors and whenever I make this recipe, I am reminded of a pair of German girls, who were initially very suspicious of this loaf, but after the first few tentative nibbles, went on to demolish the lot very quickly over their cuppa!!!BlogEasterBaking20%ReszdIMG_0889Set the oven temperature to 180 degrees Celsius and line a loaf tin with Gladbake.BlogEasterBaking20%ReszdIMG_0878Bring to the boil in a saucepan : 1 cup chopped pitted dates, 1 cup sugar, 1 tbsp butter and 1 cup boiling water. BlogEasterBaking20%ReszdIMG_0880BlogEasterBaking20%ReszdIMG_0881Take off the stove and immediately add 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda, which will cause the mixture to fizz! Allow to cool.BlogEasterBaking20%ReszdIMG_0882Add 1 well-beaten egg. Mix in 2 cups sifted self-raising flour and 1/2 cup chopped walnuts.BlogEasterBaking20%ReszdIMG_0883BlogEasterBaking20%ReszdIMG_0884Spoon into loaf tin and cook in the oven for 45 minutes. Make sure it doesn’t overcook or get too dry. Delicious with butter, but equally tasty on its own!BlogEasterBaking20%ReszdIMG_0885BlogEasterBaking20%ReszdIMG_0886BlogEasterBaking20%ReszdIMG_0892Dutch Ginger Cake

I think this one came from the good old Women’s Weekly recipe book years ago and it fast became a firm favourite, not just because it is quick and easy  to make (apart from the baking time that is!), requiring no mixmaster or beaters, but also because it’s really DELICIOUS and dangerously more-ish! But BE WARNED! Consumption of more than two wedges at one sitting is definitely NOT RECOMMENDED!!! It is very rich (it’s all that butter!), but even though I have tried to reduce the butter amount, it’s best with the full ration!BlogEasterBaking20%ReszdIMG_0888 I use the glace ginger in its own syrup, sold by Buderim Ginger. Do not use crystallized ginger.BlogEasterBaking20%ReszdIMG_0873 I often used to make both Date Loaf and Ginger Cake at the same time, because they both take 45 minutes to bake. Their flavours also complement each other well.BlogEasterBaking20%ReszdIMG_0887Set the oven to 180 degrees Celsius and line a 20 cm round cake tin with Gladbake.BlogEasterBaking20%ReszdIMG_0870Melt 125 g butter. Sift 1.75 cups plain flour. Add 1 cup castor sugar and 125g chopped glace ginger.BlogEasterBaking20%ReszdIMG_0871BlogEasterBaking20%ReszdIMG_0874Mix in melted butter and 1 well-beaten egg. BlogEasterBaking20%ReszdIMG_0875Spoon mixture into cake tin. Glaze with milk and 30 g flaked almonds.BlogEasterBaking20%ReszdIMG_0876Bake in the oven for 45 minutes. Do not expect the cake to rise too much. It’s more of a flat shortbread. Cut into thin wedges!BlogEasterBaking20%ReszdIMG_0877Date, Honey and Ginger Cake

Since we love both the recipes above, as well as honey (my husband being the human reincarnation of Pooh Bear!), I was keen to try out Matthew Evans’ recipe from his lovely book : ‘Winter on the Farm’ . It’s a beauty and is on a par with the faithful old Date Loaf in my affections!BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0838Preheat the oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line a 24cm square cake tin with Gladbake.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0713Boil 1 cup water in a saucepan, add 150g chopped pitted dates and 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda, then remove from the heat and set aside.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0708Beat 250g softened butter with 250g castor sugar and 350g (1 cup) honey with electric beaters until light and fluffy, then add 3 eggs, one at a time.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0716Fold in 450g sifted plain flour, 1/2 tsp salt, another 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda, 2 tsp ground ginger, 2 tsp mixed spice, 1 tsp cinnamon and 150g (1.5 cups) lightly chopped walnuts.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0717Drain the dates, saving the liquid, and fold dates into the batter. Add enough water to the saved date liquid to make up a cup (250 ml) and add to the batter. Stir well till combined.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0718Pour mixture into a tin and bake for 1 hour or until a skewer comes out clean. Cool in the tin for 20 mins , then turn out onto a wire rack to finish cooling.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0844Mrs. Wilson’s Walnut Cake

Mrs. Wilson was a teacher at my children’s primary school and she brought this divine cake along to a parent-teacher evening one year. For even more exotic flavours, hazelnuts and lime juice can be substituted for the walnuts and lemon juice. Both forms are delicious and make a lovely moist cake.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0632Preheat the oven to 160-180 degrees Celsius and line a 20cm springform cake tin with Gladbake.

Toast and finely blend 200g walnuts or hazelnuts.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0439Cream 125g butter and 150g castor sugar. Add 1 egg and beat till light and fluffy. Stir in 3 tsp grated lemon rind or lime rind and 2 tbsp brandy.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0440Sift 50g plain flour and 50g self-raising flour together and fold into the mixture gently with the nuts. Spoon mixture into tin. Bake in the oven for 1 hour.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0441

Make a hot syrup from 60ml lemon or lime juice and 55g castor sugar and pour over the cooked warm cake.Cover with foil and cool slowly to room temperature. Keep in the fridge.

Serve dusted with icing sugar. I often use a stencil to create a pretty pattern on top.


Now for the biscuits! Both the Speculaas and the Easter Biscuit recipes come from a lovely book called ‘Festivals, Family and Food’ by Diana Carey and Judy Large.


Traditionally baked for consumption on St Nicholas’ Feast in the Netherlands (Dec 5), Belgium (Dec 6) and around Christmas in Germany, the true speculaas are made in wooden moulds, decorating the thin spicy wafers with images of Christmas.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0022 I use cookie cutters in appropriate seasonal shapes instead. For example, sleighs, fir trees, Santa Claus and stars for Christmas;BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0024 Wombats, kangaroos, kookaburras and other Australian animals for Australia Day or international visitors;BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0016 And  rabbits, eggs, flowers and hearts for Easter.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0021 I have a big tin of cookie cutters from my children’s childhood and still find it hard to resist purchasing new shapes when I see them!BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0005 Even though these biscuits take a while to make, I still often make them before a big car trip, because it’s a generous recipe, making a large number of biscuits, which last well (apart from gobbling them up!)

Preheat oven to 180 degrees Celsius.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0003Cream 250g butter and 175g brown sugar, a pinch of salt and the grated rind of one lemon.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0006Sift 250g plain flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 2tsp mixed spice and 2tsp cinnamon.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0008Fold flour mixture into butter mixture and add 1dsp milk.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0010Roll out thinly. I often use a sheet of Gladbake between the rolling pin and board to prevent sticking.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0012Cut our shapes and place on a biscuit tin lined with Gladbake. Bake for 5-10 mins.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0015BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0017BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0019 (2)Easter Biscuits

These are pretty little biscuits when cut with a fluted round cookie cutter and contrast well with the spicy brown Speculaas on the tea table.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0719Preheat oven to 190-200 degrees Celsius.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0703Rub 125g butter into 250g plain flour with your fingers.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0704Add 125g castor sugar, a handful of currants, 1/2 tsp each of mixed spice and cinnamon and a squeeze of lemon juice.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0705Mix in 1 beaten egg with 1 tbsp brandy and form a paste.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0706Roll out thinly on a floured board. Here again, you can use a sheet of Gladbake between the rolling pin and board to prevent sticking.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0707Using a fluted round cookie cutter, cut into rounds. Sprinkle with caster sugar if desired.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0712Bake in oven for 10 minutes. Be careful to not burn or brown too much.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_0709Annabel’s Ginger and Apricot Biscuit Slice

Sourced from ‘Free Range in the City’ by Annabel Langbein, this is a very easy, no-bake slice with some of my favourite ingredients: dried apricots, ginger, pistachios and sweetened condensed milk! I always love a good excuse to open a can of condensed milk, especially when the recipe doesn’t use the whole tin. A teaspoonful of sweetened condensed milk cooled in the refrigerator is divine, although these days I am a lot more self-disciplined!!! I use Marie or Nice biscuits for the biscuit base and crush them to fine crumbs in a double plastic bag (ie :  2 plastic bags, so if one gets holey, you don’t lose the crumbs!) with a rolling pin.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_1446Line a 30cm x 24cm baking tin with Gladbake.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_1397Place 100g butter and 3/4 tin sweetened condensed milk in a pot and heat gently till the butter melts. Remove from heat. Crush 375g sweet biscuits.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_1399Mix 1 cup finely-chopped dried apricots, 1/2 cup finely-chopped crystallized ginger, 1 cup dessicated coconut, 1 tsp ground ginger, 2 tbsp lemon juice and finally, the crushed sweet biscuits.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_1401BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_1402Add butter and condensed milk mixture and stir to combine. Press biscuit base into the prepared tin and set in the refrigerator for 1 hour.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_1405BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_1406Make Lemon Icing : Melt 50g butter and mix to a smooth consistency with 3 tbsp boiling water, 1 tsp lemon juice and 3.5 cups icing sugar.BlogEasterbaking20%ReszdIMG_1407Spread icing over biscuit base and sprinkle with 1/4 cup chopped crystallized ginger and 2 tbsp chopped pistachios. When the icing is set, cut into slices and store in a cool place.

I hope you enjoy making and eating these cakes and biscuits and have a Happy and Safe Easter, especially if you are travelling on the roads! Here are some fun photos from Easters past!

Easter Bunny in the Crab Apple tree
Two very blurry bunnies!
My clone bunny!!! Happy Easter Jen and Happy Baking!!!



Favourite Gardens Regularly Open to the Public: Historic Homes and Gardens

Now to my next category of Favourite Gardens: those that are regularly open to the public. I have divided these into :

  • Historic Homes and Gardens
  • Famous Nurseries
  • Specialty Gardens
  • Education
  • Sculpture

There are many beautiful old homes with historic gardens open to the public in Australia. Each represents the time periods in which they were developed, as well as the personalities of their owners, and they are much treasured by the Australian public. Many have special features (for example, children’s literary trails or state collections) and all are well-used for plays and musical performances, weddings and private functions, film and photography, workshops and theme days.

The gardens discussed below are a mere taster. Please excuse me if your favourite has not been included. Most are in Victoria, our last state of residence, and we regularly visited them. We were also very impressed with the last garden, seen on our Australian travels in 2008. For information on more historic homes and gardens, it is worth consulting the following websites :

1. Rippon Lea House and Garden 1864

192 Hotham St Elsterwick VIC

Originally 26 acres (11 ha) and 8km from the CBD of Melbourne, Rippon Lea is the largest and most intact nineteenth century suburban estate in Australia. It was developed over 35 years by Frederick Sargood, a prominent Victorian businessman and politician, who made his fortune selling soft goods on the goldfields. His mother’s maiden name was ‘Rippon’ and ‘Lea’ is the English word for ‘meadow’, hence the name ‘Rippon Lea’. This is a photo of a map of the property from the official brochure.Blog PubHxH&G20%Reszd2016-01-01 20.30.14 - CopyIMG_9148 - CopyThe house, designed by Joseph Reed and built between 1864 and 1868, is an example of the polychromatic brick buildings derived from the medieval architecture of Northern Italy. It was two storey and had 15 rooms, including internal toilets, which was unusual in its day. In 1897, the house was extended to the north and a tower added. It was the first house in Australia to be lit by electricity, produced by its own generators.Blog PubHxH&G20%Reszd2013-01-10 14.42.34Blog Lists40%ReszdIMG_9154Blog PubHxH&G20%Reszd2013-01-10 12.38.08-1

By the late 1870s, the property had grown to 45 acres (18 ha) and included extensive pleasure gardens, glass houses, orchards, a 2 ac vegetable garden and a lake. Sargood was a keen gardener and with the help of Head Gardener, Adam Anderson, he designed the garden in the Gardenesque style, popular in the mid-nineteenth century, using dramatic plants with bold form, structure and foliage.Blog PubHxH&G20%Reszd2013-01-10 16.11.03Blog Lists40%ReszdIMG_9296Blog Lists40%ReszdIMG_9268William Sangster redesigned the garden in the Picturesque style of the 1880s. The current garden includes: an oak-lined driveway; extensive lawns (Western, Cedar, Central and Nursery); a labyrinthine grass maze; exotic and native trees including elms, oaks, Moreton Bay Fig and Monterey Cypress; herbaceous perennial shrubberies; flower gardens; terraces; and pergolas of climbing roses and ivy. Many of the plants were imported.

Blog Lists40%ReszdIMG_9151Blog PubHxH&G20%Reszd2013-01-10 14.55.50Sargood was very keen on his orchids and ferns. His prized exotic plants were kept in a conservatory, which still has its original ironwork. The fernery, built in 1884 and an essential component of the Victorian garden, is covered in wooden slats and is the largest covered fernery in the world still existing. It houses many rare and native ferns and palms and has meandering paths and little streams.Blog PubHxH&G20%Reszd2013-01-10 14.23.25Blog Lists40%ReszdIMG_9174Blog Lists40%ReszdIMG_9189Sargood was about 130 years ahead of his time. There was no mains water supply back then, so he devised a sophisticated rainwater and storm water collection, irrigation, storage and drainage/recycling system. A windmill pumped the water through underground storage tanks and pipes and ensured the entire estate was self-sustainable. It is still in operation today, supplying 80 percent of the garden’s watering requirements. Mains water became available in the 1880s and steadily replace the old system, but National Trust is currently restoring Sargood’s system so the garden can become self-sufficient in water usage again.Blog Lists40%ReszdIMG_9178

In the 1870s, a large lake was excavated to collect storm water run-off and store water to be fed back to the garden via irrigation pipes. In the 1880s, it was enlarged to a depth of 114 cm. It now includes: 2 islands; 5 water jets; a waterfall and a grotto; a boathouse and a summerhouse; bridges- new cast iron bridges were built in 1903; and a Lookout Tower, built in the 1870s and restored in 1980, a prime vantage point for overlooking the garden, as well as providing views of arriving ships in Port Philip Bay.Blog Lists40%ReszdIMG_9205Blog Lists40%ReszdIMG_9213Blog Lists40%ReszdIMG_9232Blog Lists40%ReszdIMG_9238Blog Lists40%ReszdIMG_9198Blog Lists40%ReszdIMG_9228Blog Lists40%ReszdIMG_9236Archery was a popular sport and Sargood built an archery hut (1st photo below) in the 1870s. Other buildings include a coach house and a stable complex 1868 and a gate house, which now has a gift shop and cafe (2nd photo).Blog Lists40%ReszdIMG_9240Blog Lists40%ReszdIMG_9306

Two parallel hedges separated the ornamental garden from the service areas, including paddocks, orchards, vegetable gardens and even a rifle range. The original orchard was much larger and on the corner of Gordon and Elizabeth streets, but the smaller current orchard still contains over 100 fruit trees, with many of the varieties being historically significant.Blog Lists40%ReszdIMG_9172Blog Lists40%ReszdIMG_9180When Frederick Sargood died in 1903, the property was bought by a syndicate headed by Sir Thomas Bent, who became Premier of Victoria in 1904. He used Rippon Lea for entertaining and charity events and began subdividing the estate to form the current suburb of Ripponlea. His death in 1909 prevented any further subdivision and the property was bought by Benjamin Nathan, owner of the Maples Furniture and Music stores, and became a family home again. He also loved the garden, especially orchids and employed 14-17 gardeners.Blog Lists40%ReszdIMG_9244Blog PubHxH&G20%Reszd2013-01-10 15.46.43Blog PubHxH&G20%Reszd2013-01-10 11.54.16

His daughter, Mrs Louisa Jones, inherited in 1935. A prominent member of the 1930s Melbourne social set, she held many balls, parties, weddings and musical performances. She redecorated the house extensively in 1938 in the classic 1930s style, epitomized by Hollywood movies. The original ball room was demolished and a new one built, as well as a swimming pool complex in 1939, complete with diving board, change rooms and tennis court. The 14 acre (5.7 ha) garden was maintained. She also built a modern kitchen, closing off and thus preserving in its original condition, the 1880 basement kitchen complex including a cool room, wine cellar, kitchen, scullery, fuel stove, pantries and servants’ hall.Blog Lists40%ReszdIMG_9160

Land was sold in the 1940s and in 1954, Louisa sold some land to the ABC for a television studio. In 1963, the Federal Government placed a compulsory acquisition order for a further 4 acres of land to extend the studios, a decision which Louisa totally opposed. Unfortunately, she lost the battle in the High Court and a demonstration against the acquisition attracted 10,000 people. When she died in 1972, Louisa left the property to the National Trust and the acquisition order was withdrawn. Rippon Lea was opened to the public on the 22nd February 1974 and in the first 3 months attracted 100,000 visitors.

Blog Lists40%ReszdIMG_9278Blog Lists40%ReszdIMG_9239Rippon Lea is now used for school programs, group bookings, weddings, photography and filming, themed birthday parties, teddy bear picnics and plays like Alice in Wonderland, which we attended in Jan 2012. The ball room and pool complex are leased by Peter Rowland Catering for social functions and the garden is maintained by a Head Gardener, 5 gardeners and volunteers.Blog Lists40%ReszdIMG_9286Blog Lists40%ReszdIMG_9285

It is open daily from 10am-5pm from Sept-Apr; 10am-4pm Thurs-Sun from May to Oct. Closed Good Friday and Christmas Day.

2. Werribee Park 1877

30 minutes west of Melbourne and situated on the Werribee River (Wirribi Yaluk), the area was inhabited by the Kurung Jang Balluk clan for over 40,000 years and contains many cultural heritage sites. This is a photo of a map of the property from the official brochure.

Blog PubHxH&G20%Reszd2016-01-01 20.05.25Thomas and Andrew Chirnside arrived from Scotland in 1838 and 1841 respectively and set out to create a vast pastoral empire. The first residence at Werribee was a bluestone homestead, built in 1860, down near the river, and was first lived in by their nephew Robert, who managed the property from 1859-1862. The original farmyard was the working heart of the estate and included a blacksmith’s hut, men’s hut, rations house, stables, implement shed and a cottage.Blog Lists40%Reszdnov 2010 085Blog Lists40%Reszdnov 2010 084Blog Lists40%Reszdnov 2010 082Blog Lists40%Reszdnov 2010 096Blog Lists40%Reszdnov 2010 089Blog Lists40%Reszdnov 2010 093

They grew an orchard of apples, quince, pears, grapes, walnuts, olives and stone fruit nearby on the river. Many of the trees have been replanted, as well as native vegetation.Blog Lists40%Reszdnov 2010 099Blog Lists40%Reszdnov 2010 103

On the walk back up to the main house, there is now a Sculpture Park, containing the works of leading Australian sculptors , as well as that of selected winners of the Helen Lempriere Prize like the 2002 winner, Nigel Helyer, with his ‘Meta-Diva’, constructed from aluminium, digital electronics and solar panel, shown in the 2nd photo below. I love the first photo- a real Harry Potter moment for my daughter Jen!

Blog Lists40%Reszdnov 2010 108Blog Lists40%Reszdnov 2010 115Between 1874 and 1877, Werribee Mansion was built in an Italianate architectural style with several wings and 60 rooms. Andrew and his wife lived and entertained there, while brother Thomas lived nearby at Point Cook Homestead, another Chirnside property. Andrew died in 1890, leaving the property to his sons, George and John Percy.Blog Lists40%Reszdnov 2010 163Blog Lists40%Reszdnov 2010 242Blog Lists40%Reszdnov 2010 127Blog Lists40%Reszdnov 2010 121

It is uncertain who originally designed the garden, though it has been attributed to William Guilfoyle, Curator of the Melbourne Botanic Gardens from 1879-1909. The  European-style garden covers 10 hectares and contains many Australian native and exotic species. The Chirnsides were members of the Acclimatization Society, which introduced European flora and fauna to the new colony. The mansion overlooks a colourful parterre with 20,000 annuals are planted out every 6 months for a Summer/Autumn and a Winter/Spring floral display. There was a vegetable and picking garden nearby.Blog Lists40%Reszdnov 2010 187Blog Lists40%Reszdnov 2010 186Originally, there were 6 glass-houses for propagating seedlings for the parterre and kitchen garden, as well as exotic indoor plants for display in the mansion. There are now only two. The sunken glasshouse is a 1976 interpretation of the original design, which was first built with a hot house and a boiler. Air passed through openings in the base of the wall, across heating pipes and out through the raised roof.Blog Lists40%Reszdnov 2010 236Blog Lists40%Reszdnov 2010 240Blog Lists40%Reszdnov 2010 238Blog Lists40%Reszdnov 2010 233

The house also looks out of expansive lawns, dotted with heritage-listed trees (there are 8 trees listed on the National Trust Significant Tree Register) to an ornamental lake and grotto, a traditional component of the 18th century garden design. It was built in the 1870s from bluestone and granite boulders on a man-made island in the man-made lake, covered with succulents and lined with seashells, collected from the shores of their Point Cook property, as well as pebbles, bark, she oak cones, mirrored glass fragments, sheep knuckles and animal teeth.Blog Lists40%Reszdnov 2010 213Blog Lists40%Reszdnov 2010 225Blog Lists40%Reszdnov 2010 223Blog Lists40%Reszdnov 2010 220Werribee Park was sold in 1922 to Philip Lock, another self-made grazier from Warnambool, who then sold it within a year to the Roman Catholic Bishops of Australia to be used as a training college for priests for 50 years. They constructed a separate wing, which is now a luxurious 5-star accommodation venue, Mansion Hotel and Spa, with 91 guest rooms and suites, a conference centre, resort, spa and pool.Blog Lists40%Reszdnov 2010 060Werribee Park is now managed by Parks Victoria and the gardens are used for polo, films, evening plays, concerts and musical events like Christmas carols and So Frenchy So Chic, which we attended in January 2013. See photos below!Blog PubHxH&G20%Reszd2013-01-20 12.52.53Blog PubHxH&G20%Reszd2013-01-20 13.49.20Werribee Park National Equestrian Centre, Shadowfax Winery, Werribee Open Range Zoo and the Victorian State Rose Garden are also part of the estate. I will be describing the latter later on in the year in a post on my favourite rose gardens.

Entrance to the gardens is free, but a fee is charged for entrance to the house and guided tours. It is open from 10am-4pm weekdays and 10am-5pm weekend and public holidays, as well as week days on daylight saving time. The garden is open 9am-5.30pm daily, with an extra hour in the evening during Summer.

3. Alfred Nicholas Memorial Garden 1929

1A Sherbrooke Rd Sherbrooke VIC

Set on a steep hillside of Mountain Ash (Eucalyptus regnans) in Sherbrooke, the Alfred Nicholas Memorial Gardens are one of Australia’s premier cool climate gardens and were the original gardens of the Burnham Beeches estate. This is a photo of a map of the property from the official brochure.

Blog PubHxH&G20%Reszd2016-01-01 20.21.18Blog Lists30%Reszd2016-01-01 20.21.12Land in the area was opened up for selection in 1895 and in 1929, Alfred Nicholas bought 2 10-acre selections to build his home. He then bought the surrounding land to add to his estate, which he called ‘Burnham Beeches’ after the original ‘Burnham Beeches’ estate in Slough, England, near his Aspro factory. Alfred and his brother George made their fortune with the development of Aspro, the aspirin pain killer, originally discovered by the Bayer Company in Germany. During World War One, supply was halted and Bayer lost their rights to its 1899 worldwide patent after war reparations in 1919. George, a chemist, rediscovered the formula in 1915 and was awarded a patent by the Australian Government in 1919.Blog Lists40%ReszdIMG_0040Blog Lists40%ReszdIMG_0041The house was built at the top of the hill in an Art Deco Streamline Moderne style from reinforced concrete, painted cream, with Australian motifs like a koala and possums. It had a private theatrette, an electric pipe organ and orchid houses.Blog Lists40%Reszdmarchapril 091

On a trip to England, Alfred Nicholas met Percy Trevaskis, who worked for Kew Gardens and offered him the position of Head gardener at Burnham Beeches. Percy designed the garden from 1929-1936 with terraces, rockeries, pools, waterfalls and an ornamental lake. The rock terraces were made of local basalt and Castlemaine slate. Over 80 workers were employed at different stages of the garden development, providing many jobs during the period following the Great Depression . A 240,000 litre concrete tank was built on the highest point of the property, providing reticulated water. Advanced trees were sourced from all over Melbourne, including a 35 foot Canadian Maple. In 1933, 150 trees were imported from the UK, including the Green and Copper Beeches lining the driveway.Blog Lists30%ReszdDSCF2961Blog Lists30%ReszdDSCF2976Blog Lists40%ReszdIMG_0043Blog Lists30%ReszdDSCF2974The main drive was asphalted in 1934 and was one of the first private sealed roads in Victoria. The cast-iron gates, hung on Sunbury sandstone pillars, are very impressive and feature bronze leaping deer. They were restored in 1989-1990.Blog Lists30%ReszdDSCF2960Blog Lists30%ReszdDSCF2951Blog Lists30%ReszdDSCF2950The plantings are a blend of natural forest and rare exotic plants. Seasonal interest is provided by azaleas, rhododendrons, camellias, kalmias, viburnums and flowering cherry trees (Spring); hydrangeas, fuchsias, native ferns, rhododendrons, Giant Himalayan Lily (Cardiocrinum giganteum)- see first photo- and native terrestrial orchids (Summer); tibouchinas, maples, beech and golden gingkos (Autumn); and camellias and early rhododendrons (Winter).

Blog Lists40%ReszdIMG_0037Blog Lists40%Reszdmarchapril 109Blog Lists40%Reszdmarchapril 085Blog Lists40%Reszdmarchapril 083Blog Lists40%ReszdIMG_0070Blog Lists40%ReszdIMG_0030

The hillside is steep, so make sure you are not down the bottom of the garden when a violent storm is brewing, as we were on our first visit! I had to hitch my skirt up in the side of my undies and run very fast uphill before the pelting rain drove down, then we drove away quickly before any eucalypt boughs fell on the car with the strong wind and arrived at our lovely upmarket Bed-and-Breakfast ‘Glen Harrow’ in the Dandenongs to introduce ourselves, not realizing that said skirt was still tucked up!!! Embarrassing to say the least!!! Yes, it’s that green skirt in the driveway photo!!!

Blog Lists40%ReszdIMG_0053Blog Lists40%Reszdmarchapril 100Blog Lists40%Reszdmarchapril 114Blog Lists40%ReszdIMG_0050Blog Lists30%ReszdDSCF2962We love the waterfall and the serene pool, with its boathouse and little bridge, at the bottom of the garden. The lake was rejuvenated in 1997 and the Blackfish pond rebuilt and rock walls and paths repaired.Blog Lists40%Reszdmarchapril 108Blog Lists40%Reszdmarchapril 104Blog Lists40%Reszdmarchapril 106Blog Lists40%ReszdIMG_0054Alfred Nicholas died in 1937 before the garden was complete. His wife stayed there until the Second World War, when it was used as a children’s hospital. She returned for 4 years from 1950-1954, then gave the house and property to their company for use as a research laboratory. In 1965, the Nicholas Institute donated the gardens to the Shire of Sherbrooke and they are now managed by Parks Victoria. The house is privately owned. It was last used as a resort by Adrian Zencha in 1991. In 2010, it was purchased by Adam Garrison (Oriental Pacific Group) and chef/ restaurateur Shannon Bennett with plans to create a sustainable resort, but their proposal was rejected by council in August 2015 due to concerns about traffic management, bush fire response and its impact on the local residents.

The gardens are open daily from 10am-5pm except Christmas Day or when there are major works, high fire risk or dangerous weather conditions (like high winds!). There is no charge.

4. Heide Museum of Modern Art 1934

7 Templestowe Rd Bulleen VIC

Heide was originally an old neglected dairy farm with a weatherboard farmhouse, built in 1870, on the floodplain of the Yarra River at Fannings Bend. John and Sunday Reed bought the 15 acre property in 1934 and named it after nearby town of Heidelberg. Sunday was a member of the wealthy Baillieu family and both she and John were champions of modern art and literature.Blog Lists40%Reszdmid nov 072Blog PubHxH&G20%Reszdseptember 136

In 1935, they renovated the old farmhouse, now known as Heide I in a French Provincial style and it was their home for 35 years. Here they entertained the Heide circle and encouraged and promoted artists, writers and intellectuals like Sidney Nolan, Albert Tucker, Joy Hester, John Perceval, Sam Atyeo, Moya Dyring and Danila Vassilieff. In the mid 1950s, they established the Gallery of Modern Art and in 1958, with Georges Mora, they relaunched it as the Museum of Modern Art of Australia. They amassed an outstanding collection of contemporary art.

In 1964, the Reeds commissioned David McGlashan to build a white limestone modernist gallery, ‘a gallery to be lived in’, Heide II, and they moved into Heide II to live from 1967-1980. They returned to live in Heide I after selling Heide II, most of the adjoining property and a significant portion of their art collection (113 works) to the Victorian State Government in August 1980. It was opened as a public art museum in November 1981. Both Reeds died in Dec 1981.Blog PubHxH&G20%Reszd2014-07-12 12.51.24

Since then, the gallery has had 300 exhibitions of contemporary art including Sidney Nolan, Sam Atyeo, Arthur Boyd, Charles Blackman, Joy Hester, Albert Tucker and Mirka Mora. Contemporary exhibitions have included : Susan Norrie, Rick Amor, Kathy Temin, Fiona Hall, Stephen Benwell and Emily Floyd. Here is some art work from a recent exhibition:

Blog PubHxH&G20%Reszd2014-07-12 11.55.11

: Sun and Star Sculpture  Emily Floyd 2009 Synthetic polymer paint, ink and beeswax on wood (Huon pine and Cherrywood)Blog PubHxH&G20%Reszd2014-07-12 12.33.01

Mirka Mora Chatter in the GardenBlog PubHxH&G20%Reszd2014-07-12 12.05.59When This Experiment Is Over We’ll Build Anew Together (left) and The Most Important Thing We Have On Rainbow is Our Labour, Emily Floyd 2013-14, both works: Synthetic polymer paint on wood, paper and aluminium;Blog PubHxH&G20%Reszd2014-07-12 12.05.22Life Has Taken The Place Of Dialectics…Emily Floyd 2003 Oregon and Victorian Ash wood, synthetic polymer paint, synthetic flocking

Heide III was designed by Andrew Andersens of Peddle Thorp Architects and built in 1993. Its black titanium zinc facade contrasts well with the whitelimestone of Heide II. Heide III was extended in 2005, along with the construction of the Sidney Myer Education Centre and restoration work on Heide II and the gardens. The centre offers innovative and diverse education and public programs based on the art, architecture and gardens of Heide. Cafe Vue was built in 2009 and Heide I restored in 2010. It now is dedicated to displays from the collection, as well as archives.Blog Lists40%Reszdjens visit jan 2010 190Blog Lists40%Reszdjens visit jan 2010 193Blog PubHxH&G20%ReszdIMG_7230Blog PubHxH&G20%Reszd2014-07-12 12.57.45Blog PubHxH&G20%ReszdIMG_7242

We have been to a number of exhibitions at Heide, but its the gardens that really draw me in! Like me, Sunday loved her Old Roses and was a keen gardener. At Heide I, she created a walled garden, a Provençal inspired kitchen garden, which now provides fresh produce for Cafe Vue, and a Wild Garden.Blog PubHxH&G20%ReszdIMG_7234Blog Lists40%ReszdIMG_7226The heart garden of violets, dedicated to Sidney Nolan, with whom she had a long-term relationship, has been restored.Blog Lists40%Reszdjens visit jan 2010 188Blog PubHxH&G20%Reszd2014-07-12 12.58.03Blog PubHxH&G20%Reszd2014-07-12 12.57.56

I love her 2nd blowsy overgrown kitchen garden at Heide II the best! The rose pavilion is delightful! See the first photo below.Blog Lists40%Reszdmid nov 126Blog PubHxH&G20%ReszdIMG_7249Blog PubHxH&G20%ReszdIMG_7250The bones of the garden are very clear in Winter.Blog PubHxH&G20%Reszd2014-07-12 12.50.46Blog PubHxH&G20%Reszd2014-07-12 12.48.20Blog PubHxH&G20%Reszd2014-07-12 12.49.32Blog PubHxH&G20%Reszd2014-07-12 12.52.24Blog PubHxH&G20%Reszd2014-07-12 12.50.28

In Summer, it comes into its own!Blog Lists40%Reszdmid nov 081Blog Lists40%Reszdmid nov 092Blog Lists40%Reszdmid nov 122Blog Lists40%Reszdmid nov 113Blog Lists40%Reszdmid nov 102Blog PubHxH&G20%ReszdIMG_7253Thirty contemporary sculptures are dotted around the 15 acre site, including works by Anish Kapoor, Anthony Caro and Neil Taylor. See : PubHxH&G20%Reszdseptember 131

Unfurling Andrew Rogers 2006 BronzeBlog PubHxH&G20%Reszd2014-07-12 12.54.21Southern Landscape Peter D Cole 1988 bronze, steel, aluminium, stainless steel, synthetic polymer paintBlog PubHxH&G20%Reszdseptember 134Under-Felt Donkey Yvonne Kendall 2000 Bronze and Mt Gambier limestoneBlog PubHxH&G20%Reszd2014-07-12 12.55.40Blog PubHxH&G20%Reszd2014-07-12 12.56.07Pebbles Wona Bae 2012 Victorian cork

The gallery also holds private art master classes in drawing, painting, printmaking, sculpture and photography and school holiday workshops and has fun activities for the kids like Visual Treasure Hunts and Art/ Architecture and Sculpture Park Detective activities. There are many programs and events from Heide Art Bubs programs to Sunday Art Club and Grandparents Day. Heide also holds kids’ art parties and guided tours of the art, architecture, sculpture park and gardens.

The gardens are free and open all year round. The galleries are open Tues-Sun and Public Holidays from 10am-5pm.

5. Carrick Hill 1935

46 Carrick Hill Dr, Springfield SA

One of the few period homes with its original contents and grounds still intact, Carrick Hill is situated on a hillside at the foot of the Mount Lofty Ranges overlooking Adelaide, a 15 minute drive away. Below is a photo of a map of the property from the official brochure.Blog PubHxH&G20%ReszdIMG_7165Blog PubHxH&G20%ReszdIMG_7166Blog PubHxH&G20%Reszd2016-01-03 09.45.33

The 40 ha (of which 26 ha is native bushland) property was given as a wedding present from the bride’s father, Thomas Elder Barr Smith, to Edward (Bill) Hayward and Ursula Barr Smith for their marriage in 1935. Bill was the son of a wealthy merchant family, who owned John Martin’s Department Store in Adelaide for more than 100 years and Ursula was the daughter of an even wealthier family of Scottish descent, who had vast mining and pastoral interests in South Australia and were heavily involved with Elders. It was named ‘Carrick Hill’ after ‘Brown Carrick Hill’ in Ayrshire, Scotland.

During a year-long honeymoon in England, the couple bought 17th and 18th century panelling, fireplaces, doors and windows and even a grand staircase from the demolition sale of ‘Beaudesert’, a Tudor mansion in Staffordshire, owned by the Marquess of Anglesey.

Adelaide architect and family friend, James Irwin, designed the house with the appearance of a 17th century manor around these fittings , but with all the latest 1930s technology : heated towel rails, ensuite bathrooms and electric bell buttons to summon the servants. It was built between 1937 and 1939, while Ursula designed the Arts and Crafts Edwardian style garden. They had just moved in, when World War II intervened and Bill was away, fighting in the Middle East (where he was one of the Rats of Toobruk) and the Pacific. Ursula moved back with her parents. The couple started living in their home after 1944.Blog PubHxH&G20%ReszdIMG_7279After the war, they filled the house with paintings, drawings and sculptures, as well as antiques and Elizabethan and Jacobean furniture. They had the largest art collection of the day including works by Hans and Nora Heysen, Arthur Streeton, Augustus John, Stephen Spender, Fantin Latour, William Dobell, Joseph Turner, Donald Friend and Russell Drysdale. They entertained lavishly and supported many artists, musicians, actors and writers. Guests included : Sir Kenneth Clark, Sir Robert Helpmann, Catherine Hepburn, Anthony Quail, Sir Laurence Olivier and Vivien Leigh, Judith Anderson, Googie Withers and Barry Humphries. They had 3 other properties as well : a country property Delamere, where they raised Poll Herefords and polo ponies; a beach house at Port Willunga and a town house in Mayfair, London. After Bill died, Ursula having predeceased him, Carrick Hill was donated to the state and opened to the public in 1986.Blog PubHxH&G20%ReszdIMG_7294Blog PubHxH&G20%ReszdIMG_7157

We visited Carrick Hill in 2008 and fell in love with the garden- its high hedges, lawn terraces and stone paving. It has the appearance of an English country parkland with clumps of trees, orchards and cutting beds.Blog PubHxH&G20%ReszdIMG_7270Blog PubHxH&G20%ReszdIMG_7254Blog PubHxH&G20%ReszdIMG_7261Blog PubHxH&G20%ReszdIMG_7273Blog PubHxH&G20%ReszdIMG_7255Blog PubHxH&G20%ReszdIMG_7269The Inner Formal Garden has lawns, dotted with elms, overlooking Adelaide and a pleached Pear arbour, which separates 2 flower gardens. The cutting gardens contain rose, liliums, orchids and tuberoses. The rose gardens contain a collection of 30 Alister Clark-bred roses (1990). There are also vegetable gardens, a herb garden, a shade house, a stone bridge and a babbling rill, a popular Edwardian garden feature.

Blog PubHxH&G20%ReszdIMG_7256Blog PubHxH&G20%ReszdIMG_7260Blog PubHxH&G20%ReszdIMG_7159Blog PubHxH&G20%ReszdIMG_7277Blog PubHxH&G20%ReszdIMG_7278The Outer Grounds include groves of hawthorns, quinces, medlars, nut trees and olive trees; allees of oak and cedar; a heritage pear and apple orchard with over 100 varieties (established to preserve the National Collection , using root stock from Rippon Lea! ); a petanque court; sculptures by Arthur Boyd, Jacob Epstein, Lyn Moore, Greg Johns, Neil Cranney and Kempo Okamoto and a Grey Box woodland (Eucalyptus macrocarpa) of high conservation status.Blog PubHxH&G20%ReszdIMG_7295Blog PubHxH&G20%ReszdIMG_7192Even though the Haywards were childless, Carrick Hill is a wonderful place for children! With both Children’s Literature and gardens being major interests, we loved their combination in the Children’s Literary Trail, which portrays landscaped scenes from classic children’s stories, including :Blog PubHxH&G20%ReszdIMG_7164

• A.A. Milne’s Waterlily poem and Tiddalik the Frog, a legend from Australian Aboriginal mythology : Winnie-the-Pooh boardwalkBlog PubHxH&G20%ReszdIMG_7170Blog PubHxH&G20%ReszdIMG_7171

• Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham 1908: Ratty’s boat on pondBlog PubHxH&G20%ReszdIMG_7175Blog PubHxH&G20%ReszdIMG_7167Blog PubHxH&G20%ReszdIMG_7173

• The Hobbit by J.J.R. Tolkien 1937: Bilbo’s Hobbit House with dragon nearbyBlog PubHxH&G20%ReszdIMG_7176

• Norwegian folk tale Three Billy Goats Gruff, translated into English in 1859: Troll BridgeBlog PubHxH&G20%ReszdIMG_7182Blog PubHxH&G20%ReszdIMG_7184

• Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling 1997 : The Quidditch Tree and Harry’s broomstickBlog PubHxH&G20%ReszdIMG_7185

• The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett 1911 : a gate, robin on a lamppost and key (Sorry, I had no decent photos!)
• Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling 1894-5: Mowgli’s Camp, Howling Wolf on the Council rockBlog PubHxH&G20%ReszdIMG_7194

• Animalia by Graeme Base 1986 : elephants, tigers and zebrasBlog PubHxH&G20%ReszdIMG_7204Blog PubHxH&G20%ReszdIMG_7202

• The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis 1950 : the Lamp post and Aslan the Lion

Blog PubHxH&G20%ReszdIMG_7215Blog PubHxH&G20%ReszdIMG_7217

• The Magic Faraway Tree by Enid Blyton 1939-1941 : Tree with fairies and door    andBlog PubHxH&G20%ReszdIMG_7225Blog PubHxH&G20%ReszdIMG_7224

• Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White 1952 : large rope spider web for climbing with Charlotte the spider and Wilbur the PigBlog PubHxH&G20%ReszdIMG_7240Blog PubHxH&G20%ReszdIMG_7235Blog PubHxH&G20%ReszdIMG_7238There is also a hopscotch game in the grounds.Blog PubHxH&G20%ReszdIMG_7219

While we were returning to the house, we saw some 4-year old fairies running around the garden with their wands. It was Fairy Adventure Day, organized by Adelaide Garden Fairies, an off-shoot of Enviro-Mental P/L, a group of actors involved with environmental education and supported by That’s Not Garbage. See : There are also school holiday programs including Alice in Wonderland, Wind in the Willows and Carrick Hill Pirate School and the Carrick Hill Acorn Club, which holds activities for children aged 5-10 years old on the first Sunday of every month including art and craft activities, nature walks, music, games, dressing up days and Teddy Bear picnics.Blog PubHxH&G20%ReszdIMG_7247Blog PubHxH&G20%ReszdIMG_7283Blog PubHxH&G20%ReszdIMG_7281Carrick Hill is regularly holds art exhibitions and is involved in events like the 2016 Adelaide Biennial and the Year of the Pearl, celebrating the 30-year anniversary of the opening of Carrick Hill to the public in 1986. It is also used for weddings, functions and catering. There are picnic areas, a cafe and marquee, an art gallery, a gift shop and the Australian Museum of Gardening, which includes Richard Bird’s Old Mole collection of tools and opened in November 2015.

It is open Wed–Sun and Public Holidays 10am-4pm for most of the year except on Christmas Day and Good Friday and the month of July, when maintenance is carried out. Admittance to the garden is free, but the house has a small entrance fee. Guided tours are conducted at 11.30am and 2.30pm. The cafe is open Wed-Sun and Public Holidays from 11.00am-4.00pm.








Happy Christmas!

Christmas has always been a very special time in our house, especially the lead up in the month beforehand, with all the food preparation, gift making and present wrapping!

I have already written posts about :

  • Desserts for Pre-Christmas work parties : The Sweet Spot (October)
  • Christmas Cake and Pudding (November)
  • Christmas Drinks and Nibbles (December)

I much prefer to think about Christmas gifts well in advance, so there is no panic closer to the day, when the shops get so busy and crowded and choosing gifts becomes very stressful!!! If time allows, it is a wonderful opportunity to use all those craft skills and, at the same time, make so many people very happy! Home-made presents are THE BEST and are appreciated long after their store-bought equivalents. The recipient not only appreciates the originality and sometimes quirkiness of your gift, but also the talent and skill involved and the sheer amount of time devoted to their production, while thinking about their recipient during the whole process! My family adore my embroidered cushion covers and I get much joy out of planning and executing their design, as well as admiring the finished product, and then seeing the joy and love they bring to their recipient!

BlogCreativity140%Reszddec 2010 074

I made this cute Christmas bag for my daughter from a pattern in ‘Scandinavian Stitches‘ by Kajsa Wikman. See her blog on :

BlogBdayblessgs20%Reszd2015-10-03 13.31.41

I embroidered this cushion cover with rainforest birds for my husband’s birthday this year.BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2015-10-29 16.34.36A Christmas tablemat for 2000!

I have loved all my children’s home-made gifts over the years and our house and lives have been enriched by all their wonderful creations! It is also a great way for children to develop their creative skills. Here are some great books with gift ideas :

‘The Good Gift Guide : Creative Gift Giving For All Occasions’ by Alison Pearl

‘The Good Gift Book : Ideal Presents For Every Occasion’ by Judy Hubbard

‘A Touch of Christmas : Easy To Make Stockings and Gifts’ by Pamela Allardice

‘Christmas Treats To Make and Give’ by Linda Collister

‘Homemade’ by Kay Fairfax

‘Creating Gourmet Gifts’ by Barbara Beckett

‘Aromatic Gifts : Scented Ideas From Kitchen and Garden’ by Stephanie Donaldson        and

‘Beautiful Homemade Presents’ by Juliet Bawden.

Gifts can be more intangible too : a massage, a song, a performance, an IOU promise. My daughters made this hand-painted Monopoly board and these delightful wooden coasters for past Christmas gifts. A friend made this delicious Christmas cookie decoration one year.BlogCreativity120%Reszd2015-10-13 15.25.37BlogCreativity120%Reszd2015-10-13 15.12.40BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2015-10-13 16.32.04I really enjoy making Christmas cards and Advent Calendars in late November, the latter to be opened from the 1st December on. The last few years, I have used folded blank card, stamps and ink pads to create much more personal (and far cheaper) cards! Alas, this year, because I worked right up until the last week, I had to resort to using commercial Christmas cards!

BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2015-10-29 16.13.16

There are so many different patterns for advent calendars from felt pockets with little treasures and sweets to this wonderful paper pocket Christmas Tree, which I made for our 2013 Christmas. Each pocket held a small gift or a rhyming clue to a treasure hunt for larger items, which could not fit in the pocket. The pattern came from ‘Folded Secrets : Paper Folding Projects: Book 4’ by Ruth Smith and is based on the old Chinese Needle Thread Pockets. You can order all 4 books from the author by emailing her at : For a quick view of them, see :

BloghappyXmas40%Reszd2012-11-27 11.49.03

It is also fun making Christmas decorations throughout December, then finally decorating the Christmas tree in the last 2 weeks! Some people do it in early December, especially if they own an artificial tree, but I much prefer fresh trees, which do not last the whole month well.

I love the scent and colour of traditional fir trees, which are often sold on the side of the road in the weeks up until Christmas. After the 1967 Tasmanian bush fires, which devastated the native forests, my parents planted a large number of these quick-growing evergreens along the fence line of our property, only to spend every future Christmas chasing off would-be Christmas Tree thieves as the trees grew to maturity!!!

For the last few years in the city, we bought our trees from the same supplier, who harvested them from their country property then sold them in their suburban driveway. We’d select a small, well-balanced tree, then place it in a tub of water within an old rusty family cream can (from dairying days), decorated with Christmas wrapping paper and a large red bow. I love this old photo from the early 1900s of my husband’s grandparents’ Christmas tree with all the toy animals underneath.BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2015-10-29 16.33.46Back in the country, we would cut our own tree – maybe a feral cypress or a native she-oak (Casuarina) or even a gum tree (Eucalyptus). This year, we had hoped to purchase a Wollemi Pine in a pot, which we would keep outside during the year, then bring inside for Christmas until it grew too large. Wollemi pines are incredibly ancient and very special, as they were thought to be extinct until a small stand was discovered in 1994. See :

Alas, they were too exorbitant for us this year at $ 169 for a 150mm pot ( plus $14 for shipping and handling). I know we would probably recuperate the price after 3 to 5 years of buying ordinary cut Christmas trees, but you would have to be certain that the plant survived!!! Maybe when we’re rich and famous…!!! For those with disposable income, see :

BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2012-12-24 23.16.03

It is always such fun decorating the Christmas tree with friends and family with all the old Christmas favourites, as well as a new purchase/ creation each year. After the baubles and ornaments, we drape the tree with tinsel, then last of all, the Christmas lights – so magical!!! Here are some photos of hand-made Christmas decorations: a simple, bright felt star for my eldest daughter’s first Christmas tree of her own; Christmas angels being made by my daughters : I made the middle angel, Caro the blonde angel and Jen, the angel with the dreadlocks!; I also made a beaded/ sequined and embroidered Christmas angel and pear one year.BloghappyXmas40%Reszdxmas 2009 004BlogCreativity120%Reszd2015-04-22 08.59.48 - CopyBloghappyXmas20%Reszd2015-10-13 14.31.53BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2015-10-13 14.34.34We were a bit late putting up our ‘tree’ this year, but it was just as well as the weekend before Christmas we experienced 40 degree days! We now live on a corner block fringed with very old Cypress trees, so we cut 5 branches, which were extending into the lane way, then bound them together and put them in the old family cream can. I think it looks great and it’s hard to detect that it is not a complete tree! My daughter made a beautiful wreath with the trimmed branches as well (bottom photo).BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2015-12-19 20.26.16BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2015-12-19 21.38.59BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2015-12-19 19.28.22BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2015-12-19 18.26.23And finally, Christmas Eve has arrived! When we lived in the ‘Big Smoke’, we always use to enjoy making a special visit into the city to see the Christmas decorations.


I loved the illumination of the Geelong Town Hall last year.BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2014-12-18 22.19.05And on the night of Christmas Eve, it was always worth doing the rounds of the neighbourhood to view all those outrageous Christmas decorations and lights. Some streets specialize in it!!!BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2012-12-24 22.51.01BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2012-12-24 22.22.36There were even still a few here in country Candelo! While the 3rd photo took the prize for effect, I must admit that I much prefer the simpler more discrete ones like the hammock shot (4th photo). Someone had even draped a large fir tee in their front yard with lights, which changed from green-and-blue to red-and-gold (5th and 6th photo)! A local farmer tied a big red bow round each of his fence posts, which looked really effective, though perhaps not so good at night-time! (1st and 2nd photo)BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2015-12-24 11.46.22BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2015-12-24 11.46.10BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2015-12-21 22.52.22BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2015-12-21 22.42.27BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2015-12-21 22.44.14BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2015-12-21 22.44.05It is always fun seeing everyone get into the Christmas spirit, including our old postman last year! We had a hilarious Christmas Eve a few years ago, when we came across a long line of ‘Father Christmases’,  university students on their way to the pub, who then very good-naturedly, carjacked us for a lift to said hotel!!! I think my daughter thought all her Christmases had come at once! We caught up to their companions and dropped them off, little realizing that one of them had lost his mobile phone in our car! Two suburbs later, we received a very sheepish phone call, asking us very politely if we would mind dropping their phone round to the hotel! So funny, though it did highlight how quickly a car can be hijacked!!!

BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2012-12-24 10.20.48BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2012-12-24 22.18.59This year here in Candelo, we were hijacked in a different fashion! I saw 3 Santas walking up the hill, only to have a large group of them materialize on our doorstep to sing us Christmas Carols, then we were bundled up and absorbed into the group, as we wended our way back up the hill to accost other suitable benefactors! My daughter grabbed her Santa hat and reindeer antlers, which she had bought for my neighbour’s handsome black labradors, whom she was to babysit over Christmas, but unfortunately not her camera, otherwise you would have had some classic shots of me in her  antlers with multicoloured flashing lights. It took me a while to realize that the faint Christmas jingle I kept hearing was also actually coming from  those same antlers!!! It probably would have been a bit dark for a decent photo anyway. We found it increasingly difficult to read the words by candlelight, so ‘Deck the Halls’ was very dodgy and thin in the verse singing, but voices swelled considerably in the ‘Fa-La-La, Fa-La-La, Fa-La-La’ chorus! We finished at the local bakery, where we were kindly given a fresh, warm sourdough loaf straight out of the oven and a lovely moist Christmas Cake, which we quickly wolfed down with French Champagne and tea back at my neighbour’s house. It was such a fun night and a great way to meet all the locals!

Father Christmas certainly gets around, as can be seen by these eye witness accounts on our drives to visit family interstate over the Christmas period!BloghappyXmas40%Reszdxmas 2009 013BloghappyXmas40%Reszdxmas 2009 043BloghappyXmas40%Reszddec 2010 073BloghappyXmas40%Reszdxmas 2009 072BloghappyXmas40%Reszdxmas 2009 071BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2014-12-14 08.13.18He is such a busy fellow and must get so exhausted with all his travels! We have a family tradition of writing Father Christmas notes to attach to our stockings. He would then have to reply in the wee wee hours of the morning in an increasingly illegible scrawl! Funny how he always knew what had transpired during the year! When the kids were little, we always used to visit him in the shopping mall, resulting in a wonderful family photographic record of the childhood years.

Every Christmas Eve, we would leave him a slice of Christmas, a beer and a carrot for his reindeer and in the morning, we would discover cake crumbs, the bottle drained and little bite-sized bits of carrot all over the garden.

The kids would be up so early on Christmas morning, excitedly opening their Christmas stockings or, in later years, sacks! After the stocking opening and a much-needed cup of tea, we took it in turns to open the gifts, which had accumulated under the tree in the previous 2 weeks and had suddenly swelled in number dramatically overnight. The youngest often had the job of finding each person’s gift, while Mum (usually) kept a note of ‘who gave what’ for later thank you correspondence.

After the last gift had been opened, the kids all gathered around the open window to yell at the top of their voices ‘Thank You Very Much, Father Christmas!’, a tradition carried through from my childhood!

Because everyone tends to nibble stocking fruit and sweets and are a bit exhausted by this stage, we often have a rest till mid-afternoon, then prepare for Christmas Dinner : a roast turkey with stuffing, a clove-studded ham, roast vegetables and the finale, the flaming Christmas Pudding! One year, when we had just moved over into a cottage built to lockup with no electricity, water or stove, the thought of preparing the traditional Christmas dinner overwhelmed me and it was so wonderful when my ‘kids’ (late teens by this stage) took over and bought 2 barbecued chickens and boiled up vegies over the camping gas stove – the most relaxing Christmas dinner we have ever had!BloghappyXmas40%ReszdIMG_9113BloghappyXmas40%Reszddecember2011 200

I love setting the Christmas table and organizing the flowers ! For a few years, we even made our own Christmas Crackers, complete with corny jokes!!! We will miss our dear Scampie this year!BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2012-12-25 11.00.35BloghappyXmas20%ReszdJens Xmas 2013 055

BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2012-12-25 11.36.32
Our old dog Scamp used to love Christmas!

I will leave you with a few photos of our iconic native flora and fauna. Happy Christmas and All our Best Wishes for a Wonderful 2016!!!

BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2014-12-14 11.06.07
A koala sitting in an old gum tree!
BloghappyXmas20%ReszdDec 2013 147
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
BloghappyXmas40%Reszdxmas 2010 428
Major Mitchell’s Cockatoo
BloghappyXmas40%Reszdxmas 2009 050
A pair of Pink Galahs
BloghappyXmas40%Reszdxmas 2009 259
A Pretty-faced Wallaby browsing a friend’s Bauhinias
BloghappyXmas40%Reszdxmas 2009 270
Illawarra Flame Tree (Brachychiton acerifolius)
BloghappyXmas40%Reszdnov 2010 453
Native Frangipani (Hymenosporum flavum)
BloghappyXmas20%ReszdDec 2013 102
Rainbow Lorikeets at home for Christmas!
BloghappyXmas20%Reszd2015-10-13 15.09.13
Oliver, our resident King Parrot, also at home for Christmas!





















On Creativity : Part 1 : Everyone Has It !

‘The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you’ll discover will be wonderful. What you’ll discover is yourself.’                          Alan Alda

I have always wanted to write about creativity, as it has always been a very important part of my life and it should be for every person.

The English Oxford Dictionary ( defines ‘Creativity’ as :

  ‘The use of imagination or original ideas to create something’ or ‘inventiveness’. ( ) goes further with :

‘the ability to transcend traditional ideas, rules, patterns, relationships, or the like, and to create meaningful new ideas, forms, methods, interpretations, etc.; originality, progressiveness, or imagination’.

It is one of the fundamental human needs, classified by Max Neef, who was an economist, famous for his taxonomy of Fundamental Human Needs and Human Scale Development. These needs include: subsistence, protection, affection, understanding, participation, recreation (in the sense of leisure, time to reflect, or idleness), creation, identity and freedom and can also be defined according to the existential categories of being (qualities), having (things), doing (actions) and interacting (settings), complete with how they can be satisfied.

In the case of Creation (and Creativity) :
Being : Imagination; Boldness; Inventiveness; Curiosity
Having : Abilities; Skills; Work; Techniques
Doing : Invent; Build; Design; Work; Compose; Interpret
Interaction : Spaces for expression; Workshops; Audiences

Here are some websites if you want to read some of Max Neef’s works :

Creativity is incredibly important, not just for an individual’s richness of life, but also for the world with its incredible complexity and problems requiring urgent solutions like climate change, waste disposal, limited resources for an increasing human population, ozone layer depletion and loss of biodiversity and habitat.

‘There is no doubt that creativity is the most important human resource of all. Without creativity, there would be no progress, and we would be forever repeating the same patterns.’                                                                                    Edward de Bono

Major organizations head hunt highly creative people. Employers want staff, who can think outside the box and find innovative solutions. A 2012 Adobe study on creativity, where 5,000 adults across the United States, United Kingdom, Germany, France and Japan were interviewed about the role of creativity in business, education and society overall, showed 8 in 10 people feel that unlocking creativity is critical to economic growth and nearly two-thirds of respondents feel creativity is valuable to society. Here is what others have to say :

‘The economic future of an organization depends on its ability to create wealth by fostering innovation, creativity and entrepreneurship.’                  Linda Naiman

‘The organizations of the future will increasingly depend on the creativity of their members to survive.’                                                                                     Warren Bennis

‘Access to talented and creative people is to modern business what access to coal and iron ore was to steel-making.’                                                              Richard Florida

‘The heart and soul of the company is creativity and innovation.’                Bob Iger

Business organizations also often use artists to illustrate concepts as speeches are delivered, as it is a well-known fact that humans are highly visual creatures.

A great example is this brilliant YouTube clip of Ken Robinson’s speech for the RSA (Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce) on Changing Education Paradigms for the modern age :

Ken Robinson is a world-renowned education and creativity expert and recipient of the RSA’s Benjamin Franklin award. He defines creativity as : ‘ the process of having original ideas that have value’, as opposed to divergent thinking.

This clip is part of the RSA Animate series :, which also covers other issues titled :
• Re-imagining Work;
• The Power of Outrospection;
• The Truth about Dishonesty; and
• The Power of Networks.

The Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce (RSA) : is also well worth visiting.

Where would the world be without people like :

  • Leonardo da Vinci, Albert Einstein, Charles Darwin, Marie Curie ( science and medicine);
  • Steve Jobs and Bill Gates (computers);
  • William Morris, The Pre-Raphaelites, The Impressionists, Pablo Picasso, Salvador Dali (art);
  • Le Corbusier, Antoni Gaudí , Jørn Utzon (architecture);
  • Gertrude Jekyll, Roberto Burle Marx, Christopher Lloyd, Vita Sackville-West, Edna Walling (gardens);
  • Stephanie Alexander, Maggie Beer, Claudia Roden, Rick Stein, Sophie Dahl, Ian Parmentier (cooking);
  • Ansel Adams, Olive Cotton, Harold Cazneaux, Alfred Stieglitz(photography);
  • Kaffe Fassett (knitting), Brian Chan and Robert J. Lang(origami), Rob Ryan and Su Blackwell (paper cutting), Anita Larkin and Judit Pocs (Felt), Dijanne Cevaal and Jeraldine Just (Textiles);
  • Oscar Wilde, William Shakespeare, the Brontes, Alison Uttley , Charles Dickens (literature);
  • Dylan Thomas, Robert Frost, William Wordsworth, Lord Byron, Samuel Coleridge (poetry);
  • Stephen Poliakoff, Steven Spielberg, Philippe Lioret, the Coen Brothers and Walt Disney (Film);
  • Emily Watson, Cate Blanchett, Kate Winslet, Tom Wilkinson(drama);
  • Amadeus Mozart, Bob Dylan and Andrew Lloyd Webber (music),    to name but a few!

An excellent site, well worth looking at if you wish to pursue the topic of creativity further is: .

Another one is :

But here for now is my tuppence worth !!!

What I Know About Creativity

Because of an enormous word count, I have decided to divide this post into 2 sections :

Part 1 : Everyone has it from birth!!!

: Children and Creativity
: My Personal Experiences

Part 2 : Creativity can be developed and fostered by the

: Provision of materials; learning spaces; learning opportunities and inspiration
: Exercises and practice
: Recognizing its importance and paying homage to it
: Praise and encouragement

Part 1

1.Children and Creativity

‘Curiosity about life in all of its aspects, I think, is still the secret of great creative people’                                                                                                            Leo Burnett

Before they start school, all children are highly creative confident little beings. They are enthralled by their amazing new environment and want to know everything there is to know about it.

‘Sit down before fact as a little child, be prepared to give up every conceived notion, follow humbly wherever and whatever abysses nature leads, or you will learn nothing.’                                                                                                         Thomas Huxley

They have no filters like ego or self-consciousness to block their creativity.

‘Your ego can become an obstacle to your work. If you start believing in your greatness, it is the death of your creativity.’                                     Marina Abramovic

Unfortunately, by the time they reach 8 years of age, their critical brain has kicked in, as well as peer group comparisons and they begin to doubt their own abilities!

‘If you hear a voice within you say, ‘You cannot paint,’ then by all means paint, and that voice will be silenced.’                                                                  Vincent Van Gogh

Ken Robinson cites a book called ‘Break Point and Beyond’ by George Land and Beth Jarman ( ), who conducted a longitudinal study of 1600 children aged 3 – 5 years, who they then tested at 5 yearly intervals.

Apparently, 98 percent of Kindergarten children are creative geniuses in divergent thinking, but unfortunately, this figure steadily declines with increasing age.

At 8 – 10 years old, only 32 per cent of these same children scored in the creative genius category.

Five years later, only 10 per cent of the children scored in this category.
In tests of over 200,000 adults over 25, only 2 per cent scored enough to be classified as creative geniuses! Incidentally , this is also a very good site on creativity.

‘Every child is an artist, the problem is staying an artist when you grow up’
                                                                                                                        Pablo Picasso

‘There is no use trying,” said Alice. “One can’t believe impossible things.” “I daresay you haven’t had much practice,” said the Queen. “When I was your age, I always did it for half an hour a day. Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.’                                                      Lewis Carroll

2. My Personal Experiences

I think at this point, it is useful to compare my experiences with the creative journeys of my children, who I believe to be highly confident, creative and talented young adults!

As a child, I enjoyed playing with art materials and creating things. At school, my report card showed that in the early years of school, I was a bit clumsy with sewing and handwork, which is really quite ironical now, given my chosen field of creativity!!!

But then, I was not much good at ball sports either and was often among the last to be chosen for teams in the playground, until Grade 6 that is! There is a school of thought that believes that it takes 10 years for all the physical, emotional, cognitive and social skills to fully evolve and come together! I was obviously a late bloomer!

Back home, we would dress up and put on plays for my parents, perform concerts with singing and recorder, make dolls’ houses out of cardboard shoe boxes and mud pies with filched food colouring, rouge our lips with fuchsia berries, make up poems, paint Easter cards with water colours and make Fimo chess figures. We dressed cardboard dolls with paper cut-out clothing and made crepe paper flowers and Christmas decorations, as well as learning how to cook and sew our own clothes.

But as school lessons became more serious and homework and assignments occupied more and more free time, creativity started to take a back step. Art lessons were replaced by Languages and Sciences, although I still sang in the school choir and performed in school plays and musicals.

In Year 11, I studied Physics, Chemistry, Biology and Maths. Because the former 2 subjects were spread out over 2 years, I could not matriculate in the first year like so many of my arts-based friends and because we had to study 4 subjects a year, I chose English Literature and Art !!!

However, the damage in my confidence had already been achieved over the preceding years and I compared myself unfavourably with my art peers, who I felt were so much more talented ( and they were, because they’d never stopped art study!!!). As a consequence, I chose to specialize in the Art Major History strand with Batik as my practical component! There was certainly no competition there- I was the only one doing it!!!

I thoroughly enjoyed learning about art history though – it gave me a wonderful understanding of the foundations of Modern Art, informed my later art practice and gave me a lifelong interest in art. And the batik was so much fun too, albeit a little basic at that stage!

Getting a job after school was (and still is!) very important, so I studied physiotherapy, where employment prospects were still excellent, but at university, I still managed to slip in a creative course or two like handmade paper making. I enjoyed my work, especially rehabilitation therapy for stroke and head injured patients, where you could be much more creative, but once I married and moved to the country, the more