This cool winter has been wonderful for working in the garden. It has been a good time to attend to those tougher tasks long-delayed through the warmer months. On those rare days when the wind and rain has been simply too bitter we have retreated indoors to the warmth and comfort that good cooking provides.
I took a basket of ‘Red Light F1’ onions to the Frangos Brothers’ Greek restaurant in Ballarat yesterday. I wanted to find out what Terry Frangos, who uses a lot of red onions in the hundreds of Greek salads he makes every week, thought of this variety. I got a text today from him. “Fantastic, Good Flavour. Great centre and good colour.”
One of the great joys of mid-winter in my garden is the flowering of a patch of a winter aconite, Eranthis cilicica. Within a week of the aconite pushing through the soil surface in early July this precious plant is in full flower. Rich lemon chalices are surrounded by a ruff of dissected leaves bronze tinged at first but soon becoming deep glossy green.
I’ve finally learnt not to fight the climate. The garden is situated on a windswept plain some 70 miles from the sea at an altitude of 400 metres. Summer temperatures can reach 47 degrees C. during summer although it mostly doesn’t top 42 C. Winter temperatures can go down to -6C.
Two plants flowering in the garden at the moment remind me of Ellen Willmott, a woman who inherited two nineteenth century fortunes, one from her father and another from her godmother, and spent the lot on her gardens and died in penury.
In October in chilly Central Victoria that sublime time of the day just prior to dawn is rich with the promise of warmer days. An early morning foray with camera and tripod reaps a rich harvest of beauty.
My younger brother has ten acres of ancient woodland on his farm in Nottinghamshire. This wood is at least four hundred years old and may be much older. Like many such woodland it is carpeted by hundreds of thousands of bluebells during spring. As a boy in the 1950s I was besotted by a nearby bluebell wood.