Tuesday, 29 December 2015

A Walk into the New Year

A Walk into the New Year

The Last Week of 2015: 

in which to pause and contemplate

The hills that are beginning to bleach, while green still holds sway into the distance

The spaces which are maintained for our pleasure

This is the time of year that the television is full of 'that-is-the-year-that-was' programs, or 'this-is-the-year-to-come' shows. I too am pondering the immediate past (25 for xmas lunch - successful even though the temperatures rose to 33); and the longer past (3 months in Greece and 7 months here in Australia).

Lots has happened, good and bad, exciting and frustrating (but mostly good and exciting!)

Holidays: Home and Away

This week, between Christmas and New Year, offers a time between 2015 and 2016 to ponder the year gone and the one to come. 

It is also a time when most Australians leave the towns and drive off to holiday in some seaside town or other but some come to the hills.

Here in Emerald you find B&Bs and holiday-lets

And though many have left for the beaches the village is still welcoming visitors.

For us our 'holiday' is taken when we travel from one home to another, from one village to another. We move between the green hills and tall trees in Emerald to the Greek island where the hills are bare and the trees stunted, but, the seas sparkle all around.

Many local homes are blessed with huge trees, and distant views

 Emerald Village

But right now we are in Emerald. This place is fast becoming my 'home' village now that I have lived here and experienced all the seasons. I have come to love those aspects that are particular and unique to this place - often very different to those aspects that make Lemnos special. 

And as I walked today I thought again of some other aspects I appreciate in this place, its history and the care taken by residents and council to keep it still a little jewel of a place.

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Accommodating Variety in my Australian Garden

 Accommodating Variety in my Australian Garden

If we become gardening philosophers we can see the world in our gardens, and it would be nice to think that we can also learn how to better live in the world about us.

Some time ago I wrote something about how plants that are newcomers arrive in gardens, be they encouraged immigrants or unexpected or even unwanted arrivals. Just recently I've started thinking about the way the gardener accommodates their various plants and makes room for them.

These thoughts came after my last blog about our recent multi-cultural lunch! I began to think that a garden is very much like that dinner party with various ‘cultures’ represented in it. And then, after watching a series on TV about the place of four English Gardens in time and history, I got thinking about how I as a gardener manage to integrate plants from other places into my garden.

The sunken terrace close to the house is my 'theatre', a place that we look out on  and I decorate more dramaticly. 

Sun, Position, Water
I've realised its all about sun, position and water. In my Emerald Garden I basically place plants in places on the garden block in relation to how much sun or how little sun they’ll get as even the sunnies spot only gets 5 hours of sun. But I also note how much shelter they'll get from the strong winds, and how much water I’m able to give them in that position.

Half way down the garden is an arch, covered with clamatis, that divides the areas I water from those I don't.

My garden taps are fed from a large water tank, and the taps are close to the house. So plants that need a lot of sun, but also a lot of water (vegetables, and most flowers for picking) are in a sunny spot where they will get about 5 hours of sun, but also where my hose can reach them. 

Herbs are in a raised bed, again in very sunny spot, but though close to the tap I give them very little water. 

These are the accommodations I’ve made for plants that come from a variety of places and climates.  

These do best in my garden in Emerald if I place them where there is...

Most Sun
A. In a level and open setting close to water
Flowers for picking: Dahlias from Mexico, Irises from Greece, Carnations from the Mediterranean, Chrysanthemums from Asia, Lemons and Oranges from Australia and Asia,

My Picking Garden

Vegetable Beds

 B. In a level and open setting near the house but given little water
Herbs and other Mediterranean plants: oregano, sage, thyme, bay, rosemary, and cistus. From Africa Crocosmia, and from Europe lavender.

And Herb Garden

Morning Sun

A. In a sheltered and sloping position next to the wall of the house, and given quite a of water.
Peonies and Liriope muscari from Asia, Pineapple lilies from Ease Africa, and nasturtiums from America. And in another narrow bed, Fuchsias from the Caribbean


B With no water in a bed a long way from the house.
Acanthus from Greece, Agapanthus from South Africa, Bougainvillea from South America, daffodils from Europe, Geranium and Pelargoniums from the Mediterranean, Arum lilies from South Africa, plus a number of native Australian bushes.


Geraniums plus Arum lilies etc.

 Afternoon Sun
A.  Narrow bed next to a fence, partially shaded and given quite a lot of water.
Climbing roses from Asia, Camellias from Asia.

This was once a carport.

Hopefully soon a rose bower!

 B.  Narrow bed, next to a fence, given no water
Agapanthus from Australia. 

Never watered, agapanthus, and even some orchids

A. In the front garden under tall trees and on a slight slope, given a little water.
Tree ferns from Australia, Dogwood and Hydrangeas from America,

When this area wilts I give it a little water

B. But under tall trees at the end of the garden the plants only have water in their first year. 

Tree Ferns and Mint bushes from Australia, Japanese Maples and Japanese Anemones from China and Japan, Hart’s Tongue ferns Asia, Silver Birch from Europe.

This is not the right position for a day lily!

And I'm still finding that some are uncomfortable just there, and may need to be moved into more, or less sun, or given more water or protection. Its an interesting job keeping them all happy.

And these early irises have to be moved away from the path


While these plants are experimentally placed where I might have a sheltered fernery one day!

Sunday, 6 December 2015

A Multi-Cultural Xmas Lunch

A Multi-Cultural Xmas Lunch

History of the Group


Takis and I have just met up with a group of friends from Emerald. These are folk we’ve known for the last four years and though we might bump into each other in the village and perhaps we go to the same functions we make a habit of meeting up at least four times a year.  It all began because on of the friends we met when we first moved to this Australian village expressed sadness that she no longer met with her old friends for a good discussion as most had moved away from this area. I suggested we start up a new group and we decided to include a few people that we both knew. And as for a ‘good discussion’ we would only allow talk about those aspects of life polite society banned, sex, religion and politics!

Various Cultural Backgrounds


The core of this group is only seven in number and we try to add a new couple at each get-together to add spice and freshness to the debates. But really we hardly need any newcomers as those seven represent such varied backgrounds. Though we are all Australians we are all immigrants. None of us was born in Australia; four came in their twenties and two when only young children. 

One comes from Malta, one from Venice, Italy, one from Spain. One was born in China of English and Russian parents, another was born in Egypt of Greek parents, and two of us are from England. But we have all been here long enough to speak English well (even though some still have very strong accents) and most of us have done some schooling in this country.

Conversations and Arguments

As you can imagine, with TV, aches and pains, family matters all banned subjects, the conversations can be very lively. We may all be considered ‘lefties’ but do not always agree with Labor politics, and certain we have different views about the actions of our current Liberal government. You might be shocked at the vehemence of some of the opinions expressed, and refuted. 

Once I thought two of the men would come to blows. But after strong discussion, because we are friends and do not really take offence we often find that disagreements are more about how the idea was expressed, rather than the idea behind that expression, and the argument often collapses into laughter or into an agreement that there might have to be a compromise.

Menu for This Christmas

This Sunday was our last meeting for 2015 and it only included the basic six and was at our house. I had suggested each family bring along food that was celebratory, and perhaps something they served for Christmas.

The menu included: champagne, a small platter of handmade gnocchi for starters, roast pork and roast vegetables for mains, and a tropical fruit salad, a chocolate cake and macaroons for dessert.


We meet in each other’s homes. And really with the sort of spread laid on we could not afford the place that would offer us that kind of glorious food, or a padded room to ourselves where we can shout ourselves hoarse.

It was great fun, as usual, but what I really want to tell you about this lunch is that it was a time when we shared, and we argued. This is what can be great about multiculturalism.  

We were willing to share. I asked them all to bring along a quote, joke, a poem, a personal story about Christmas. Some of the jokes we did not all ‘get’ as humour does not always readily cross cultural lines. But stories of personal experience we all sympathised with.

And we were also willing to accept ‘New Australian Xmas Traditions’,  (cards, trees, xmas pud., etc.) even though not all of us had these memories, in fact for some in their places of origin Christmas was not a big celebration and New Year and Easter were more celebrated.

And we were willing to disagree. Some of our arguments were about how the new government in Australia was doing, how best to integrate ‘Anglos’ and ‘Aboriginals’, and whether the ‘West’ had brought the ‘Muslim Problem’ on themselves.

While newcomers often want to share something special about their culture often they are not willing to take the next step in integration, that of expressing an idea even if the other person disagrees. And then not just listening to the disagreement but being willing to try and explain the idea in words the other might better understand. And, not only explaining, willing to take on the chin the laughter that might ensue, about something that still sounds strange to the other.

And then, even further, being willing to shake hands and agree that, as you want to live in a multicultural society, you can live with different ideas.