Tuesday, March 30, 2010

White Ways

As promised here are the pictures of the white flowers currently adorning the balcony garden. Meet one stem of basil flowers, one hibiscus and one white cornflower.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Harvest Monday - Out of town tomatoes

I was given some lovely tomatoes by my relatives which they harvested from their garden (along with some zucchini, some squash and a beetroot). Two black krims (one already eaten by the time I remembered to photograph) and a collection of red and yellow cherry tomatoes from bushes that sowed themselves. The black krim had an amazing taste, the cherries were hit and miss, some were divine, some had a wierd after taste, but all were appreciated.

Most days I harvest mixed lettuce. I don't have a picture of the harvested lettuce, but this is where some of it is growing, along with new broccoli and a sunflower.

I harvested some sage the other day for my market-bought gnocchi. Shame on me for not making my own gnocchi. While the burnt butter sage sauce was divine, the gnocchi itself was woefully tasteless. So much for the pasta place at the markets, I think I'll have to go the hard yards and make my own again from now own.

I am off to Adelaide on Wednesday to celebrate Easter with my lovely parents, their two puppy dogs and two Aunts and an Uncle (which means I get to sleep in the study!!!.) This means I will leave special Housemate H to tend to the garden. If she is lucky she will get to harvest some of these while I am gone!

Sunday, March 28, 2010

MIFGS is so close yet so far

I am at Uni on a Sunday, working away on the thesis and grant applications and RA work and generally hiding away inside. While the weather outside is a little windy it is not entirely unpleasant but the self-imposed study exile means I am missing a few lovely garden moments. This weekend the MIFGS - the Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show is on. I went last year, and it was pretty fun and from reports by friends it was pretty good this year too. For a review see Garden Amateur's post on his adventures at MIFGS. I wont be making it this year, although I am only a few blocks down the road from it as I write! I'll be even closer when I wander over to Lygon street for a necessary afternoon coffee. Oh well, there is always next year.

Other garden loveliness is eluding me today too. The first red sunflower and the white cornflower opened on the balcony. I wished I could stay and bask in their newly opened glory but alas the sheer volume of work cut this to a few measily seconds. Still it was enough time to take photos and I will upload them sometime soon.

So to keep me happy, and to let you bask in the balcony garden too, I posted a pic of its recent state at the top of this post. Greeny goodness, Enjoy.

Friday, March 26, 2010

Town and Country Gardens to find Hibiscus a friend

Yesterday's post was all about my new hibiscus. I had wanted one for a while, after discovering they may just work in a pot and in full sun with a little shade on occasions, it was all systems go. Given the full sun aspect of most of the balcony their former characteristics were the major drawcard.

When Mum came to visit a few weeks back, and we had a spare half hour, we went on the hibiscus mission and visited Town and Country Gardens Nursery in Malvern. Now I am normally a north of the river girl, but we visited my Great Aunt (and I guess you would call her Mum's great Aunt) who resides down that way and had a little time to spare before lunch which was also south of the river. After a quick phonecall to my local gardening cousin he suggested a few gardening places we could try, one being Town and Country Gardens as it was on the way. OK so he didn't remember the name, he just told us it was on Malvern Road and near a pub. Funnily enough that was all the directions we needed!

Well, suffice to say, I wish this was my local nursery. The plant stock was amazingly healthy and the staff reasonably friendly. They even didn't bat an eyelid when mum and I got into a little tizz about whether or not she used to grow daphne at our old house. Definitely on the pricer side of things, but the quality was worth it. What a lucky find!

Anyway, the plan was to get a hibiscus that was pot suitable, maybe two if I had the cash. After rummaging through reds and oranges and beautiful yellows I found the white hibiscus which you saw in yesterday's post (and in a few days will hopefully see bloom.) Next to these lovely frilly flowers were Chinese Lanterns. Looking at the tags they seemed to cope equally well in full sun or partial shade (preferring the latter.) So instead of purchasing a second hibiscus in a varying shade I fell in love with, and bought, this deep red chinese lantern.

It seems to like its position on the balcony, right outside my bedroom door! It has flowered regularly since purchase and grown a good foot and a bit! Both plants will get even bigger pots in the Spring, but for now they must make do with the reasonably sized ones I gave them.

So for those south of the river in Melbourne let me recommend Town and Gardens nursery and for everyone let me say, that one month in, it seems that these two plants are ideal balcony garden members, so try one in your balcony garden one day.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Whitey's on its Way

Sorry folks but you will have to wait for the full white blooms post, because I am waiting for the bloom to blooming well bloom! :) Ok so I have one new white bloom on one plant, and the basil is a constant mass of wedding-white flowers with green leaves, but the cornflower is taking its sweet time to open. So instead please enjoy this build up to the white bloom on the new hibiscus, sourced, bought and planted while my mother was over from Adelaide a few weeks ago.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Black Blooms

I've tried again, with limited success to photograph the 'black' cornflowers. Technically they are dark purple, noticeable more in the flash photos above, but they are labelled black so I am going to stick with that. And unlike the yellow cornflower experiment (which were marigolds in disguise according to housemate H) these deep, royal, purple beauties actually are cornflowers. They look wonderful, with about three or so clumps scattered around the balcony. One is next to a purple basil which makes an interesting colour combination.

And what about the white blooms on the balcony? You'll have to wait until tomorrow!

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Hail to the Damage

Wow looked like last night Perth got a storm that resembled ours from a few weeks back. Lots of hail, lots of rain and lots of damage. Which reminded me that I hadn't posted the pictures of the hail damage on the balcony garden. Apart from decapitated sunflowers (who oddly seem to be sprouting new heads!?!?!) stripped basil, rotten water clogged zukes and the requisite powdery mildew outbreak it was the large succulent of succulent corner that recieved the brunt of the damage. A few weeks later it is even more obvious.

The 'leaves' are browning where the hail dented and scratched them. The edges are similarly browning from where they were torn. Not sure whether to cut it all back to the very small, new growth underneath, or get rid of it entirely and plant something else. Decisions, decisions.

Monday, March 22, 2010

The Libertine Gardener

Here's one more fork photo for the road. Those of you who saw my superhero garden fork pose would have noticed I was a little overdressed for gardening. That was because I was off, with my cousin A, to my Dinner at local North Melbourne French Restaurant Libertine for my free 8 course degustation dinner with matched wines. I won the dinner in a food blogger's raffle, menu for hope, which raises so much money every year for a great cause. I am not much of a food blogger, only occasionally adding posts here about how I use the garden harvests and sprinkled with occasional restaurant ravey reviews. So never fear, this is still a gardening blog, but for the benefit of my folks in Adelaide, and because this was simply such a wonderful occasion I felt the need to post about it.

I don't have any pictures because I don't feel comfortable taking photos in restaurants. I think we had food bloggers on the table near us as they had a rather hefty camera and were taking what will probably be wonderful photos of the food fare at Libertines. So anyway let's head back to 6:30 Saturday evening. Having just taken crazy fork photos Cousin A and I found ourselves inside the lush surrounds of this North Melbourne French institution. Velvet couches on my side were a comfortable bonus! We were nestled in next to the bar, complete with Cognacs and other dark substances. We began the meal of meals with a champagne, more out of confusion than anything else because god knows we didn't need the alcohol. So here we go - 8 courses, 6 matches wines, several cutlery changes, and two very full young ladies.

First course was simple and superb. Shaved fennel, with a herby dressing, alongside smooth goats cheese and a quail egg topped crouton. It was basic and brilliant. I've never been a fennel fan but this, to me, was wonderful. Cousin A listed it as her favourite dish of the night. My memory of the wines is hazy but I know it was a Savignon Blanc, it was French, and it was delicious.

Second course was ocean trout gravalax, a dish I had been promised over the phone would be on the menu that evening, and it didn't disapoint. The dill and slight sugary overtones were coupled with melt in the mouth trout. Probably my favourite dish, and indeed it was, until dish six hit the table! It was matched with another white, I forget which. I did keep asking where each wine came from, specifically came from not just the country or even the region of origin, but given the amount of alcohol drunk I have no hope of remembering the exact details. My bad, I apologise. Although I do recall this wine was far fruitier than the sav blanc, having an almost 'zing' to it, but without overbearing sweetness.

Third course was langoustines. Whenever I think of this seafood I think a lobster mated with a prawn. I am not a seafood fan, and when I say not a fan, I mean I pretty much detest it. Lobster I find overpriced and blah and prawns are only good if mashed up and put on toast! So I am not quite the seafood conniseur. However this dish, with this soupy cream corn curry flavoured topping and freshly shelled peas, alonside delicate snow peas was simply wonderful. The langoustine did not make me wince with disgust. Now it is one thing to get me to eat seafood, but to make me enjoy it, really enjoy it, takes the hand of a genius. It was matched with another white, which was neither dry like the first white nor zingy like the second. By now my wine palate was more than a little out of action. If it was a person it would be aged about five and would be sitting under the table, giggling and tugging on everyone's clothes. Three wines, bigger than tasting size but smaller (only just) than a full glass make me more than a little tipsy.

Course four (or five, remember the wine-induced memory difficulties) was a palate cleanser. A sorbet, pink grapefruit and champagne. It was light and nice and did the trick.

Course five was the only lowlight of the night, mostly because it gave me the fat-drenched shakey shakes and made my cousin throw up. At least she got to evacuate her stomach in pleasant surrounds, the women's bathroom were outside, next to a garden-filled courtyard. The door was covered in French newpaper clippings, the one I read (with my limited French) actually discussed Angela Merkel, so was slightly more German than French. Anyway enough about the lavatories. It wasn't food poisoning for Cousin A, it was simply the richness of the food. It seemed to be a dish of pork fat wrapped around a chicken and bacon interior then deep fried. While I ridicule my mother for the times she takes the fat off roast pork and pork belly, I think in this case she would be vindicated. The first few bites were heaven, but finishing it was near impossible. It was simply too rich for our tastebuds. It was matched with a Bordeaux red. Quite soft, I guess to match the flavours. I enjoyed it, despite the shakes, but poor Cousin A was out for the count for a little while.

Course six was scotch fillet, my absolute favourite meal of the night. Covered in mushrooms and bacon in a rich gravy/jus combo with small potatoes and peas (I think) it was heaven. Cooked rare it was just how I like my meat. Served with another Bordeax red, this time a Madoc, poured into a glass so large it would be a vehicle for mulled wine had it not had a stem. This wine was delicious and complimentary.

Course seven was dessert, lemon cheese cake with raspberries on top. Lovely, small, and perfect to finish off with. I love lemon; lemon curd, lemon souffle, lemon anything really. The matched wine was a sticky sweet white, not my cup of tea at all. I've never been a dessert wine fan. It went well enough with the dessert but the pairing still didn't make me love the wine. It was like when I visited Wynn's winery in McLaren Vale. I told the guy I didn't like sweet whites but he made me try and sweet sparkling wine with blue cheese telling me he had never had anyone dislike it in this combination. I was his first disappointment, the sweet sprakling wine did not taste good, and the blue cheese didn't help it.

Course eight was petit fours with coffee. A much needed break from the alcohol. I had a short macchiato, Cousin A an earl Grey tea. Both were lovely. The petit fours were a little rice bubble square with dried berries mixed through, a small brownie like thing with a nut on top and some turkish delight that wasn't rosewater flavoured. All delicious, and a perfect way to end the meal.

So the outcome of this meal was that Libertine does amazing food and has their wine matching skills firmly under their belt. I would go again, if I had the money, but I woudn't order the degustation. Cousin A agrees. Although neither of us were sickeningly full, given the excellent pacing of the meal, we just both agree we are not degustation girls. Probably it was too much wine for us. But this being said I would highly recommend their degustation menu, or normal menu. It was a wonderful experience all around, the waiting staff were impeccable and the food amazingly good. And yes, I'd say this even if I didn't get the meal for free as a raffle prize! Thankyou Libertine for a fabulous night!!!!!

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Joining the fork brigade

Mine is smaller than most and never seems to be clean, but is perfect for the balcony garden. What I speak of is my garden fork and this is my little post to join the fork brigade. The first pic was put up by Dan standing with his hefty sized and hopefully useful fork. The next to join in was Annie's Granny. So here is my action shot! Totally Inept Balcony Gardener and her fork, in her best superhero pose.

To let you all know, I don't normally dress so formally for a spot of gardening! Usual attire is pyjamas for early morning waterings or whatever I am wearing to uni for later watering and tendings. This time I was all dressed up for my free 8 course degustation dinner at Libertines. It turned out to be the only time I had a friend to photograph me and remembered to do it. A review of our dinner will be up soon!

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Sometimes the darkness can be truly illuminating

I knew that my late-sown, yellow zucchini was finally starting to grow larger, and I could see the ails of powdery mildew (inevitable after our warm Autumn hail ridden downpour) creeping in, but only when I was floucing around the balcony taking night shots at 10pm did I really see the extent of the damage. White shows up well with flash and the black contrast of might left nothing to the imagination. Milk spray was applied, let's hope it works! I even had to buy full cream milk for the task (I am a skim, lactose free milk girl myself) so now I have to work out a way to use the rest of it up.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Garden Bloggers Blooms Day/Night

As in February so happens in March. Harvest Monday and Garden bloggers blooms day fall on the same day! Again here are just a few snapshots of what is blooming on the balcony garden this early Autumn. Only this time there is a bit of a difference - these are night time shots! I swear my neighbours think I am completely ready to be sectioned, running around a balcony at 10pm with a flashing camera taking snapshots of petally things, and they are probably right!

We also have to introduce a new arrival, the chinese lantern, which has the most amazing red flowers (my ancient camera does not do them justice)

The fuschia is flowering

As is the marigold (or yellow cornflower as special housemate H calls it)

And the black cornflowers

And the blue cornflowers.

The eggplant is putting out a few last flowers

And of course, who could forget, the sunflowers.

Turns out I have a reddish sunflower too, which I only noticed one day when I looked up as I entered the apartment complex. See this fellow faces outwards and is deceptively yellow from the backview! The things you find out when you just look up. No photos though!!!

Little harvest Monday

Ok technically some of this wasn't quite this week's harvest.

I harvested the zucchini Saturday week ago, before the big storm, which was lucky really because the host plant literally melted into a puddle of rotten, brown sludge after the hail stone infused deluge. Bye bye Zucchini, we have had many happy times together, the risottos, the pastas, the occasional frittata.

The habaneroes and beans on the other hand were harvested this week. The beans went into a cous cous dish while the habaneroes, they, um, well, they're still in the fridge. Still in good condition, looking at me longingly. Problem is, I don't think I want to cook with them or eat them. I am really not sure why I grew them, except perhaps for their aesthetic value. I will say it for all to see, I am not really a super hot food fan. A bit of chilli is great for flavour but I've never been a 'heat that could blow the roof of my mouth off' kind of girl. My neighbours may end up in posession of these, or someone else, who knows. Maybe, just maybe, I might try cooking with one.

I've been harvesting lots of carrots. One a day usually and they are crisp and delicious. It is only the yellow ones which are ripe at the moment but I also have white ones and purple ones in the garden. In the above picture is a small daikon which I harvested alongside the carrots in all its dirty glory. Usually they are ten times bigger, but this one was a little trapped around a sunflower so he was midget sized. Added a tastey element to my lentil and tuna salad. Yum!

Sorry the posts have been few and far between. The thesis writing is keeping me busy. However, I did manage a good few hours in the garden this weekend, taking out the debris and storm-broken plants and adding some good autumn crops. I'll post on that this week.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Epic Storms and Epic Fails

After three tries and three epic fails by my web browser over the past few days, I gave up completing this post yesterday. Grrr to the confines of using university internet and thus not my usual browser (there is a long story of useless IT in this grandparent of a university.) Stupid explorer (not my first choice but my only choice at present when at uni) gobbled up my first three tries, but hopefully the fourth will work. Over the weekend we had a rather epic storm, a ‘once in a hundred years’ type storm complete with hailstones the size of golfballs (and one, I swear, that hit tennis ball size.) Melbourne received quite a bit of damage. One of my cousin’s houses had one damaged window, another cousin scored eight broken windows! Fierce. The balcony garden did not escape unscathed, the succulents were whittled away into green sculptures with no ‘leaf’ left undamaged, the lemons were shorn clear off their branches, as too were a few habaneroes which I found on the opposite side of the balcony to their bush, the basil was stripped bare in places, several sunflowers were decapitated, the zucchini and cucumber and tomato dissolved into a puddle of browny-green mush and the leek seedlings were hit so hard most of their potting mix ended up on the bench not in the seedling pot!!!

But it is not all doom and gloom. The time has come for Autumn planting and this destruction gives me a good excuse to remove all the plants I should remove but might not have given they had a little life left in them (that was until the storm hit.) So it is out with the cukes and the zukes and the matos and the mess, and in with broccoli, snowpeas and more lettuce. The dead flowers will be replaced by an autumn sowing, most likely a random blue mix or gerberas. From destruction there will be new life. And if it manages to stop drizzling I might even be able to clean up the leaf litter too!

And I did manage to salvage some produce from before it hit, a zucchini and two ripe habaneroes. Pictures soon.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010


Sunflowers, sunflowers, sunflowers!

Dr Zhivago could have been filmed on my balcony and no one would have known the difference!

Monday, March 1, 2010

A Very Family Harvest Monday

The holiday came to an end a week ago, and only half an hour after my plane landed I found myself back on the balcony garden which had been ably managed in my absence by my special housemate H. She had watered it well and tended to the sunflowers that were blowing away and ate plenty of veggies from it.

Seems she missed this lovely bit of produce - which I will share with you here. It was a week ago so it counts for my harvest Monday, if only just. On the night I got home I noticed two, very large, cucumbers! They went into some salads and a dinner, and some was intended to be grated as a side to currysotto (a strange mix of risotto and yellow curry, divine!!!) but it was all eaten up by the time I cooked that delicacy. Here is the rest of the haul, grabbed this morning after watering. Loads of chillis, and the habanero is loaded too, just waiting for it to ripen.

Beans, both purple and green and slightly over ripened but still edible.

Two eggplant, both a bit small and cracking were wonderfully tasty.

Tomatoes, kind of old and cracked and will be the last of the haul at this stage, but good cooked up in the currysotto sauce.

One small zucchini, probably not pollinated but taste nonetheless. Housemate H showed me she had learned well and can identify the boy flower and girl flower on the zukes but had the usual problem of them not appearing at the same time.

Now I also have some lovely cousins and an aunt and uncle with massive vegetable gardens. I visited them yesterday before heading to Hanging Rock Harvest Festival, a festival in which producers local (and not so local) to the region show their produce, and the rellos did not let me leave without loading me up with veggies. The festival itself was mostly stalls filled with wine and olive oil but I did find some lovely Yarrawonga fetta. I put it on my salad tonight.

along with a yellow carrot from the balcony garden,

tomatoes from my Aunt's garden,

and cucumbers from my cousin's garden! So not only is this a harvest post for the balcony garden, it is a harvest postfor my relatives' gardens!