Criss Canning lives and paints in an 1860s blue stone farmhouse north of Ballarat where she and her husband, David Glenn owner of Lambley Nursery, have created an internationally renowned garden. Flowers from the garden are a major inspiration in her paintings.
I lived in Carlton close to the Melbourne CBD when I arrived in Victoria fifty years ago. My flat was above an Italian restaurant in Lygon Street. On the opposite side of the street was a small park which had a garden bed about two metres wide and thirty metre long. This bed, which faced Lygon Street, was planted twice a year with annuals.
I first saw Ceanothus arboreus ‘Trewithen Blue’ growing in Pirianda Gardens, twenty acres filled with wonderful trees and shrubs. Mr and Mrs Harvey Ansell started this Dandenong’s garden in 1959 and planted it with the best species and cultivars, many of which they imported themselves, more often than not from the famous British nursery, Hilliers.
Grasses need maintenance to look their best. They need dividing, soil replenishing and cutting back at the right time. They also need feeding every year. The vast majority of ornamental grasses look at their best when they are relatively young as flowering is more beautiful and the flowering period is longer.
Having spent my childhood and youth in the East Midlands of England, where the gloom of winter settled in early November and didn’t begin to lift until April, where I rode my bike to school in the dark and rode it back in the dark, Australia’s winter seems short and benign. No sooner has winter arrived than it’s all over.
Two very good gardening friends have on separate occasions said to me that they thought with so many ornamental pears being planted in both private and public spaces that there is a danger that these trees have become a cliché, something like a grander version of Iceberg roses.
It wasn’t the Dutch who first cultivated tulips but the Ottomans in Istanbul. It was from there that bulbs were taken to Belgium in the late 16th century and then on to the Netherlands. Holland now produces three billion tulip bulbs a year and exports one billion, many to Australia, for commercial cut flower production.
Cabbages the size of cricket balls, hybrid disease resistant tomatoes which rival the best heirlooms in taste, red leafed kale as beautiful as any flower, baby leaf lettuce, mustard, rocket, bok choi, endive and a hundred different broccoli varieties set out in parade ground order on an acre or so of land in Werribee, Victoria.
Even on a cold late autumn day I’m stopped by the scent of a bed of Palma Violets planted along a path which leads from my study to the nursery. Palma violets “... possess a delightful fragrance reminiscent of ordinary sweet violet perfume mixed with that of wallflowers”.