gardening · homemaking


camelia bowl

Bursting onto the scene in their usual prolific manner are our winter camellias. Green glossy leaves and copious flowering heads, they brighten our chilly gardens and offer a bounty of cut specimens.

The trick is to outwit the rain. Sudden downpours bruise delicate petals, so cut before the clouds gather overhead. Should you miss the opportunity, do not despair, as camellias bud abundantly so new blooms unfold almost daily. The insect community loves them as we do, so before bringing them indoors, gently brush off to release any outdoor residents. Don’t be hesitant to harvest, as like all shrubs, camellias love a good cutting.

Once indoors, arrange them as you please in vases and jars alike. Way back in the 1930s and 1940s, homemakers loved to display their cut specimens by floating them in round shallow bowl/vases made for the purpose. This 2013 homemaker likes this method as well.

Floating camelias

For your floating centrepiece of beauty, hunt out your widest bowl and fill with water. No wide bowls? I can tell you that thrift shops are bursting at the seams with them, your only dilemma will be whether to go with glass, porcelain or three of each. Trim the stems close to the bloom and save a few leaves to balance the display. If you have access to a number of varieties a mixed bowl looks lavish.

Collect them now, as before long the display season will have come and gone and your dense green leafy shrub will take its place in the general garden scene once again.

cut camelias

Postscript: and hopefully the comments you will receive from your fellow occupants will be less like “How come we always have flowers all over the house!”…..

gardening · homemaking


 pink hydrangea

We know Summer is in her prime when large frilly heads, collectives of miniature florets, billow about. With deep green glossy foliage giving us welcome visual relief during searing spells, it is no wonder we have such a fondness for these grand old dames of the floral realm – the hydrangea.

060When the temperature climbs, I liken a generous vase of hydrangeas placed in the kitchen to putting on a cotton summer dress. Suddenly everything is lighter, fresher and cooler and all is as it should be to manage a summer’s day. Shedding minimal debris and with incredible staying power, they excel as cut flowers. Even as they slowly dry, hydrangeas take on a charming antique appearance – another dimension of their beauty.

Mass plantings under the eves of weatherboard homes, is a strong visual memory from a suburban Melbournian childhood that I hold dear.  To generate your own mass plantings without having to invest a fortune, take cuttings from your (or a kind aunt’s) shrub. They strike in a pot of moist soil very quickly in a shaded spot, and if nurtured over winter, your wall of hydrangeas will be ready to plant out next spring. Providing you keep the water up to them during the heat and they dwell in semi-shade, these are not a difficult species to cultivate – and your vases will be filled for summer.

059Postscript: rumour has it, that beautiful chocolate replica leaves for cake garnishes can be had by smearing the fresh leaves with melted chocolate, leaving to set and then peeling away…hmmm

gardening · homemaking


The Spring Racing Carnival is on our doorstep, and how do I know this? Why, I have just clipped my first bunch of roses for the season of course.

Not to be confused with the splendor of the Flemington Race Track, our roses are looking pretty good this year, and I believe it may be due more to favorable weather conditions combined with neglect rather than any horticultural prowess on my part. I will take credit, however, for the arrangement.

What a strange dichotomy the rose-bush is – the bulk of the year spent as a spiky, jutting, nondescript cane and then almost overnight, metamorphosing into a lavish leaved bush filled with unfurling colorful jewels. Their appearance is so sudden and display so elegant, that even the routine journey to the office is punctuated with pleasant garden glimpses.

Roses have the ability to laugh in the face of colour scheme edicts. Pile their clashing colours into a vase and you are immediately rewarded with an object of beauty, that becomes the focal point of the room and the elevator of spirits to all who enter.

These are tea roses and to me, bestow far greater beauty and fragrance (and economy) than the hothouse variety. This season, bring a bunch of your blooms indoors and try not to smile as you walk past your posy.