Archive for the ‘Garden’ Category

Whiter shade of pale

My collection of favourite flowers, my very own White Album, is almost complete. It wasn’t a conscious decision to select white petalled specimens above all others, but I’ve ended up surrounded by a palate of white and cream and silvery foliage, punctuated by the odd bright colour.  If I can just persuade my favourite flower in the world, the flannel flower, to grow, my collection will be complete. 

This partly stems from visiting Vita Sackville West’s stunning white garden at Sissinghurst, where an entire garden section comprises nothing but white flowering or silver leafed plants.  It’s the most elegant, relaxing and visually stunning garden I’ve ever seen.

But it’s not just the look of white flowers,  I’ve also been lead by my nose, and my favourite scents seem to be white flowers as well. My favourite perfumes in the world are now growing in my garden: jasmine, rose, gardenia, magnolia and frangipani.  Bliss.

The Good Life, condensed version

Tom, Barbara, Jerry and Margo

I often dream of growing enough fresh produce that I’m totally self-sufficient, (just like in The Good Life, except I get to have the pragmatism of Barbara, a hotter husband than Tom, and the wardrobe and attitude of Margot). 

Then I wake up, realise my alloted growing area is only the size of a single bed, and have to adjust my sights on a relentlessly edited selection of few plants and zero animals (a recent pet lamb lasted less than 24 hours before an irate neighbour threatened to call the police due to “excessive bleating”.  Riiiiiiiight.  May you be cursed with foot-rot, you cranky little ovine-hater). 

My condensed selection of plants have to repay limited time and barely any effort with usefulness, taste and good looks.  The chosen few to outperform so far include:

1. Silver Beet: full of iron, quick growing, hard to kill.  If you want to get all fancy, the colourful stems of rainbow shard are the painted jezebels of the silver beet world.

2. Rocket/Arugula: this aptly named energetic green needs to be shown discipline, or it will blast through the whole garden.  It’s a nutritional powerhouse relative to its paler salad companions, being full of Vitamin C and iron amongst other things.  

3. Herbs: firstly the tough guys, rosemary and mint (the latter in a pot, since it tends to invade your lawn, your path, and then Poland).  Next the contents of the classic bouquet garni: bay (in a pot, or your well manner bush becomes an outspoken tree), parsley and thyme.  

‘These edited edibles don’t deliver self-sufficiency, but they do give your environment a pinch of down-home earthy Barbara-type goodness (without the dorky husband). (And zero bleating).

Greening the great indoors


When ordinary just won’t cut it, here are some refreshing ideas for incorporating greenery into your indoor world.

 planter wall tiles 1

These wall planter tiles by Maruja Fuentes provide little green pockets for your plants – pockets can be changed as they interlock with the fish scale pattern.  (Seems like an interesting way to repurpose an unused soap dish in the bathroom?). 

indoor-swing-with-flowers-plants

Marcel Wanders’ whimsical swing with plants incorporates space to plant a trailing plant, which can then grow up the swing.

OpenOfficeCactusHydro-1

Amazing open plan(t) office with built-in cacti, by the immensely talented Edouard Francois.  (When placed correctly, the cactus spikes may have the added benefit of keeping pesky colleagues from perching on your desk and droning on about their weekend).

gardenkulter recycled pots

Gartenkultur has recycled old books as bonsai pots, after first sealing the pages.  Ideal if you’re looking for more intellect from your plant life.

The Indoor Hydroponic Garden System is a sculptural and functional indoor garden based on the DNA molecule, by Rafael Fernando da Silva and Débora Nogueira.  I want one in the kitchen, so there’s no more cold torch-lit trips to the herb garden at dinner-time. Finally the kitchen garden moves into the kitchen.

Julio Radesca de Carvalhom, personal fresh air desk, green furniture, office furniture, green cubicles, living furniture, cubicle alternatives

Your own private forest clearing. The Personal Fresh Air Desk featured on Inhabitat brings the outdoors in.  This set-up should fuel your brain with plenty of fresh oxygen, whilst neatly subverting the corporation’s open plan desk policy.

Time to take to the trees

I have dreams of building the perfect tree house.  It’s ostensibly for my children, but I can envisage retreating there with a large glass of Pinot, a plate of cheese and a magazine.   

My original inspiration came from the treehouse in The Magic Pudding, a cottage in a twisted eucalypt with a special enclosure for keeping the bad-tempered pudding.  Now I have a tree in the backyard which is crying out for an arboreal abode.

The examples below from around the globe have only increased my urge to take to the sky and build (or more accurately, ask Handy Husband and his Builder Brother to strap on their tool belts):

 

The key features I’d like to include (which I’ve been mulling over since about age 5) include:

  • Building materials that blend into the branches.  (I’m thinking of a structure which is wound around with branches, making it look like a giant nest).  Tweet tweet.
  • Pulley system with basket, for bringing up supplies
  • Trapdoor in the floor
  • Wooden ladder up the tree trunk
  • Windows with shutters that open and close
  • Telescope
  • Rope hanging to the ground – for fast escapes down the trunk

Have I forgotten anything here?  Perhaps a crash mat below, for any fledglings that fall out of the nest?  But wouldn’t a soft landing just encourage sky diving? 

Some further reading:

Professional builders of truly amazing tree houses: www.blueforest.com, www.amazontreehouses.com, http://romerostudios.com

Free advice on how to build a treehouse: www.thetreehouseguide.com

Buy a treehouse plan: www.treehouseguides.com or read Tree houses you can actually build, if you want to start simple:

Read about the philosophy of tree houses from Kobayashi-san, Japanese Master tree-house builder:

Go you green thing!

interior-decorating-house-plants-04.jpg

I like living amongst greenery. To me, bringing a house plant into a room brings the room alive, adding a bit of colour, texture and life.  But since I have to water them, I like to know that they’re contributing something more than just their leafy good looks (and occasional wilted, pathetic neglected looks).

According to the US EPA, air quality in homes and buildings can be many times more polluted than outside air, even in large industrialized cities.  And since most of us spend the majority of our time indoors (apparently the average is around 90% – can this be right?), indoor air quality is a concern, especially for anyone with health or allergy problems.

A well publicised but frequently misquoted study by NASA researched the efficiency of various house plants in removing toxic chemicals from the air, to improve indoor air quality. Skeptics (including the EPA) say there is a lack of evidence regarding plants’ effectiveness outside laboratory tests.  But if NASA concludes plants may be useful for improving air quality in spacecrafts, that’s pretty compelling.

 A more recent study, Greening the Great Indoors, went further by looking into whether plants can improve health, well-being and productivity as well as air quality.  Putting aside the fact it was funded by an indoor plant hire association, it concluded that plants in the office were able to reduce negative moods and stress, as well as improving air quality.  So plants in the office are good for productivity and therefore profitability. 

The evidence is mounting. Soon, house plants may replace therapists.

Interestingly, Greening the Great Indoors concluded that most indoor species are likely to show the same or similar ability to remove volatile organic compounds (VOC). This may be due to the fact that the main VOC removal agent is actually the bacteria in the potting mix, although the plant is also involved. 

So for pure air and better mental health, you may as well choose house plants that are seriously tough – they’re more likely to look good at all times, and will improve your well-being without sacrificing their own.

Here’s a gallery of house plants that can take some tough love; try them in low light with limited water, just to show them who’s their Daddy.

If you’re concerned about a particular toxin or VOC, for further detail on which plants remove which toxins best, see WebEcoist.

Top 5 Autumnal moments… stow your vegetables!

It’s turning cooler with a touch of drizzle here, so it’s time to channel some Autumnal positivity.

My top 5 things to look forward to in the colder weather are as follows:

1. Cabbages; better in the vase than on the plate.

2. Tasty casseroles in a cast iron pot.

3. Wearing leopard print gumboots whilst gardening; a marriage of classic country and brothel chic.

4.  The grow/crackle/smell of a wood fire burning eucalyptus logs.

5. Less men exercising by the beach in nothing but budgie smugglers/banana hammocks/noodlebenders/dick stickers.  Time to stow the vegetables for the winter, guys.

The Common Myna – feathered feral pest

I’ve had enough, I’m declaring war on the Common Myna bird.  First they swoop in and steal food when I leave the outdoor table, and leave their poop on the table.  Then I see them pestering other birds, driving them away like relentless little feathered Hitlers.  Then they come strutting in the open back door when I leave the room, and leave poop on the floor, the sofa and the kitchen bench.  So much for bringing the outdoors in. 

I figured, first step: know thine enemy.  I did some research. These particular rats with wings have been included (amongst only 3 birds) in the world’s top 100 most invasive species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

They are particularly adept at kicking native birds out of their nesting hollows and driving them away.  They are efficient at populating urban environments since they prefer open spaces such as public parks and backyard lawns, and enjoy living off food scraps provided by handy humans. 

So now I’ve bought a trap and commenced a trapping regime.  I invested in the Myna Magnet Mini-Myna trap, which has been specially designed for my foe.  It’s taken weeks of testing the trap in various positions and using various bait, but I’ve now made 5 citizens arrests.  The winning formula seems to be setting up the trap away from the house, on elevated ground, and providing cooked sausages as bait, cut up nice and small. 

Already, it’s had an impact on the number of native birds visiting the garden, and reduced the amount of visitors who steal food and poop in my house.   

Anyone got a decent Myna bird pie recipe?