Festive tomato

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Dec 242014

In the late 1970s Dad and my great-aunt started comparing notes from their respective vegie patches in Albury and Canberra. A friendly rivalry developed, the goal being to produce ripe tomatoes in time for Christmas lunch. No greenhouses allowed: winning was as much about luck — and the vagaries of the weather in those cool-climate cities — as it was about horticultural skills.

These days Dad doesn’t do much gardening, but my sister and I carry on the family rivalry in our own vegie patches on either side of Port Phillip. This year we declared a dead heat — we both harvested our first ripe tomatoes on Christmas eve.

The first harvest of tomatoes for 2014-15

My first harvest of tomatoes for 2014-15

The photo below shows corn ears (far right of picture) just about ready for harvesting. Yum. You can also see how heavily-laden the two tomato bushes are with slowly ripening fruit.

Tomato bush and corn ears

Tomato bush and corn ears

Most of the sunflowers have finished blooming; they’ve added a gorgeous splash of color to the vegie patch over the last 6-8 weeks.



Years ago I bought several packets of oriental poppy seeds and tried planting them in various parts of the back yard. No success at all, over a period of about 4-5 years, and it’s been at least that long again since I emptied the last seed packet.

And this summer — a delightful surprise. Just near the vegie patch, where I had carelessly discarded some plastic bits and pieces, up sprang a little red poppy.

Accidental poppy

Accidental poppy

It’s produced multiple flowers and is now setting seeds on the spent stalks. If you squint, you can see a couple of seed pods in the photo.

Two hours of garden maintenance

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Oct 052014

A gorgeous spring Sunday.

Planted three Echium Pininana ‘White Tower’ seedlings in the driveway garden bed, at the street end, to fill a gap where Lawnmower Man has whippersnippered several thymes and a Dianetes grass bush into oblivion.

Echium - Snow Tower

Echium – Snow Tower

Tidied up the vegie patch and spoke encouragingly to the sunflower seedlings, which are around 10 cm high now. The corn and peas are thriving (pea pods already appearing!) and the strawberries are starting to set small fruits. The tomatoes have added about 20 cm in height since they were planted.

Planted three Alcea rosea var nigra “The Watchman” (black hollyhocks) near the birdbath.

Alcea rosea var nigra "The Watchman" (black hollyhock)

Alcea rosea var nigra “The Watchman” (black hollyhock)

Drained, rinsed and refilled the water lily bowl, and moved it out of the shade of next door’s big old eucalypt. It’s now sitting at the sunnier western end of the back verandah.

Finally, I repotted the cymbidium orchids. They’re not going to flower this year and were looking a bit pale and strappy in their sheltered spot at the side of the carport. Have moved these, too, onto the sunny end of the back verandah, having taken the precaution of double-potting them to help keep the roots cool.


A new vegie patch

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Sep 032014

This metre-square black (recycled) plastic planter box was on sale at the local nursery; at home there were several bags of vegetable-potting mix stacked in the shed. An hour later — voila, a new vegie patch in my north-facing back yard.

My new vegie (and rose) patch.

My new vegie (and rose) patch.

At the front are two truss tomatoes and a Hot Chocolate floribunda rose that’s been sitting in a pot on the verandah for more than a year (so slightly the worse for wear).

Centre left and right are Lowanna strawberry plants and two clumps of green peas.

Across the back there’s a row of sweet corn seedlings alternating with Golden Prominence F1 sunflower seeds (which haven’t yet sprouted).

The ceramic toadstools in the centre were a gift from my sister, several years ago.

Bathroom basin

 house  Comments Off on Bathroom basin
Feb 252013
Crystal wall-mounted basin by Parisi

The lovely Michael at Advanced Doorware and Bathroomware is a model of efficiency. I emailed him last weekend about getting hold of a Parisi ‘Crystal’ wall-mounted basin, and voila, this weekend I was able to collect it from his showroom.

Crystal wall-mounted basin by Parisi

Crystal wall-mounted basin by Parisi

The basin is designed to be wall-mounted, although the picture above shows it sitting above a benchtop.

All the plumbing is concealed behind the white ceramic box, which also provides a ledge large enough for a bottle of liquid soap.

The glass plane is curved and inclined to prevent splashing regardless of the reach, height or angle of the water outlet.

You can have a single tap-hole (for a combined mixer and spout, as shown above) or no tap-hole (for a wall-mounted tap and spout).

(The Omvivo KL basin/plane had been on my wishlist for this new bathroom, but splash potential was a bit of a problem. Omvivo recommends a water outlet with 250 mm reach and a vertical water angle. This severely limits the choice of mixer taps and/or wall outlets unless you want to put up with water splashing all over the place whenever you turn on the tap.)

Why a plane instead of a traditional basin? Well, why not? With a plane there’s no need for a plug (which would require storage and eventual replacement). The flat surface should be relatively easy to clean. A wall-mounted plane doesn’t require a vanity unit, so saves a bit of space. Plus it looks sleek and beautiful.

New in the garden

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Feb 122013
Grevillea Peaches and Cream at the Cranbourne botanic gardens

Sunday was the only forecast cool day in a fortnight of over-30 degree temperatures, so it was a good day to plant some recent acquisitions.

We had around 1 mm of rain in January. Under the mulch and grass, the soil in the back garden is just dry dust. Water beads and rolls off it. *sigh*

Heliotrope baby blue - Heliotropium arborescens

Heliotrope ‘baby blue’ (Heliotropium arborescens) by Haar’s Nursery.

Two heliotrope ‘Baby Blue’  plants (Heliotropium arborescens) went into the bed under the front bedroom windows. Quite a few other species have met their makers here, so I’m only cautiously hopeful about these. They’re in flower at the moment, lovely blue flowers, fading to lilac, above dark purple-tinted foliage.

Out in the back yard my gorgeous Scarlet Blaze wattle died in last summer’s heatwaves, so I’ve now filled the resulting gap with several other natives.

The Grevillea ‘Peaches and Cream’ is a relatively new variety, the result of an accidental cross-breeding in a Brisbane garden. It’s now available commercially.

Grevillea Peaches and Cream at the Cranbourne botanic gardens

Grevillea Peaches and Cream at the Cranbourne botanic gardens. Photo by me.

Nearby is Grevillea ‘Rosemary’s Choice’ (Grevillea rosmarinifolia), also called rosemary-leafed grevillea because — you guessed it — its foliage looks more like a rosemary bush than like a standard spiky-leaved grevillea. This variety was developed from Grevillea winpara hybrids and grows to about 2 m in height. It produces pink, yellow and mauve flowers.

Since childhood I’ve loved the waratah, the State flower of New South Wales. Now I have two, planted amongst the new grevilleas where I hope they’ll thrive. The Telopea ‘Bridal Gown’ (Telopea speciosissima x oreades) is a white form and of course the second is red.

Red waratah, Telopea speciosissima

Red waratah, Telopea speciosissima

The grevilleas and waratahs form an east-west line with the Acacia Lime Magic, which is now about 2 m tall and nearly as wide. If the grevilleas grow as expected/hoped, they and Limey should provide a good screen to hide the ugly back fence my neighbors refuse to replace.

Alyogyne huegelii 'Misty' by Austraflora

Alyogyne huegelii ‘Misty’ by Austraflora

There’s a 1 m easement along the back (northern) boundary, and I’ve placed three Alyogyne huegelii in the space between the grevilleas and the fence. Two are the white-flowered form and the third is called Misty, which bears lilac-colored flowers and has slightly blue-tinted foliage. These will require regular light trimming to keep them bushy and healthy.

Closer to the house, around the birdbath, I planted two Echinacea purpurea, an Alba (white) variety and a second that’s simply labelled as ‘assorted’ and currently has white, yellow and purple flowers on the same plant.

A bee pollinating an unidentified species of purple coneflower (Echinacea) at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington. CC-licensed image by Moxfyre.

A bee pollinating an unidentified species of purple coneflower (Echinacea) at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington. CC-licensed image by Moxfyre.

Also near the birdbath is a new Dahlia ‘Mystic Mars’ – this variety is so new, it doesn’t even appear on the breeder’s official Mystic Dahlias web site! It has dark burgundy foliage and vivid red flowers that fade to a burnt orange as they age.

Dahlia Mystic Enchantment

Dahlia Mystic Enchantment, similar to the Mystic Mars (but not quite the same), Image from breeder’s web site.

Finally, also in the vicinity of the birdbath, two Daphne x transatlantica ‘Eternal Fragrance’, a variety I haven’t seen before. It’s supposed to be sun-tolerant, low-watering, frost-hardy and happy in either acid or alkaline soil. What a miracle!

Daphne 'Eternal Fragrance'

Daphne ‘Eternal Fragrance’ – photo from PlantHaven.com

Two pendant lights

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Feb 112013

Dropped into Beacon Lighting this weekend and was glad I had followed that sudden impulse to turn off the highway.

The Rosetta 15-globe chandelier was on sale, discounted by about $600. It will look beautiful hanging over the black wrought-iron four-poster bed in the  main bedroom.

Rosetta pendant light fitting from Beacon Lighting

Rosetta pendant light fitting from Beacon Lighting (discontinued)

It has 15 small light globes nestled among its silvery branches. The dark red half-opened-rose shapes are made of glass.

Also picked up a pendant shade in the shape of a retro cartoon-style rocket ship – cute and funky, takes a 60W globe. This will either live in the laundry or hang over my desk (wherever that ends up) as a task light.

Both designs have been discontinued, so it was a lucky day for lighting :-)

According to Wikipedia:

  • Rocket would be “A pendant light, sometimes called a drop or suspender… a lone light fixture that hangs from the ceiling usually suspended by a cord, chain, or metal rod. “
  • Rosetta, however, would be “A chandelier … a branched, decorative ceiling-mounted light fixture. Chandeliers are often ornate, using dozens of lamps and complex arrays of glass or crystal prisms to illuminate a room with refracted light.”

You’re never alone at Christmas

 administrivia  Comments Off on You’re never alone at Christmas
Dec 232012

You might not be there physically, but TheBloggess reminds us that you’re always present in the hearts and minds of the people who love you — even those you haven’t yet met.

Tim Minchin’s song “White Wine in the Sun” sums it up. (Can’t see the video below? Watch it on YouTube instead.)

Here’s to you, dear friends. [tilts a glass of cold sparkling shiraz] And here’s to a preposterous new year for us all. Wassail!

A new light for the dining table

 house  Comments Off on A new light for the dining table
Aug 202012

There’s no doubt the Tom Dixon-designed Beat pendant lights are gorgeous. Just look at those classic retro shapes. Then run your hands over the slightly powdery black finish, feel the weight of the metal, the luscious curves, and slide a fingertip across the brilliant bronze-colored interior. Lovely.

Beat Wide light shade by Tom Dixon

Beat Wide light shade by Tom Dixon. Click to see original.

I saw these lights in an Australian decor magazine a couple of years ago. They were shown in a modernist house in South Africa, grouped asymetrically from an extremely high ceiling over a solid timber dining table and concrete floors. Industrial chic, indeed.

These, I decided, would be my new dining-room light fittings, arranged in an asymmetrical group of four and replacing the existing 1978-vintage textured-plastic ceiling fitting.

Goup of Tom Dixon lights in a shop window

Goup of Tom Dixon lights in a shop window. Photo from Style North blog (click to see original post).

Since then the Beat family of lights has featured in many a photo shoot, usually in a kitchen or dining area. Matt Blatt and others have even produced their own lower-cost versions.

Like the birch-forest and fake-bookcase wallpapers, the Tom Dixon Beat light fittings have become an almost commonplace shorthand for a particular interior design aesthetic — in this case the lights say, “this is modern industrial decor with a nod to early Space Age sleekness.”

So I started looking for alternatives and Domayne came to the rescue. Meet my new dining-table pendant lights.

Blast pendant lights from Domayne

Blast pendant lights from Domayne

I love the 70s shapes, which suit the age of the house. The shiny colors are reminiscent of anodised aluminium drinking-cups we had for picnics when I was a kid. Stylish and fun, and about one-quarter the price of the Dixon grouping.

More information:



We can afford to be generous

 We can afford to be generous  feminism  Comments Off on We can afford to be generous
Jun 162012

Kudos to former Police Commissioner Christine Nixon for publicly urging the Victorian government to right a wrong: retired Premier Joan Kirner AC gave great service to the State, first as a teacher and then in politics, now as a commnity services volunteer, yet is not entitled to a Parliamentary pension or assistance with meeting her medical bills.

Rules have been bent for others (read: men) in similar situations, but apparently that’s not an option for Victoria’s first female Premier.

And shame on the Victorian branch of the Australian Labor Party for commenting today that this is a matter for the Government and Ms Kirner to resolve. As if the ALP has no responsibility in caring for the person who — by taking on the job that no man wanted — managed to keep Labor in government far longer than might have reasonably been expected.