Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Roses for every edible balcony garden

The hot day encoraged my ten-year-old potted rose to blossom. Not wanting the rosebuds to get toasted the next hot day, I brought them inside, and arranged as ikebana.

Inside I could marvel intimately at their unfurling, peaking, and decline over two days. But not wanting the young petals to fade before being appreciated fully, I sprinkled them into in the evenings salad. Rosepetals have a velvety texture, and taste like...salad dressing.

Thai rose petal and cucumber salad by Jill Duplix, photo by Marina Oliphant

Flowers are sometimes maligned as 'Useless ornament' in Permaculture circles, but roses can certinaly defend themselves.

Yes, they give me salad garnish. They also fill the air with fragrance, and give me good endorphins with their beauty. I love blooms as a renewable jewelry alternative, a year-round valentine's day present from God (bless him!).

Cecilia and fragrant rose trout fishing on January 1st 2010 from New Year's Adventure

Aung San suu kyi with her flowers, unsuerpassably beautiful woman.

Some women give more honour to the flower's life than others, by living out the flowers generous, life-giving spirit long after the bloom would have faded. Aung San, I still have lots of good years left, I might still do something special with my life. And my flowers.

Find thorny climbing roses, and they can replace barbed wire and protect your balcony from marauding possums, as the african villages surrond themselves with Briar Hedges to keep out the lions.

Protection by law?
Thorny climbing Rose photo from 'Gardening Resources for Attorneys'

Patio Roses are miniature, prolific flowering, and very tough. The potted one above was reduced to a mere stick after getting lost in the bushes and forgotten. Then with almost no sun, it produced this single brave flower. Lets see how many blooms some regular watering and Seasol liquid will stimulate.

I put its sick mate, the more vividly pink rose, into the ground, where it is taking very good care of itself.

Roses like sunshine and an airy spot, for maximum flowering and to keep any mildew from developing. If their pot is little enough, you can re-position it if its not doing well on a cramped balcony. Better still, gift it to a sunny friend.

For a list of what flowers are good for eating, click on this marvelous website all about edible flowers. I'm now looking for recipes for fuchsias, my favorite balcony garden flower, and now I have a Permacultural excuse for growing them too.

Courtyard garden for dinner

The Desjardins Family cook up lunch at Cecilia's

Last week I got an impromteau 'Vengance Visit' from the Desjardin's family, who I WWOOFed with in November, and found myself asking the courtyard garden to help with lunch ingredients. Being in the city means you get unexpected guests, and having an edible garden means you can fancy up whatever is in the fridge with something fresh and maybe exotic.

Juju picked some chives, mint and 'cats paw' for the Vietnamese carrot salad, a mix of grated carrots with butter-fried nuts, with a sauce of brown sugar, fish sauce, lime and garlic. For a motherless waif, he is a great stylish cook. The pansies in the rocket salad looked extremely gourmet.

Stephan found my sushi-chef housemates knife, and chopped everything in the Samurai spirit that's part of his package - accurate, careful and with rhythm (he is french as well).

Fabian was generally faboulous, as usual, with the angel-rays peeping though the tiredness.

Which got all of us in the end.

We played with the cats, got out the massage bed (best use of time ever), and Cecilia went wild with the hairdryer and 'curls rock' on Stephan. If he grew that mane long and sold it on his 18th brithday, it would pay his way backpacking Europe, I've calculated.

It was wonderful to meet Angelica, the WWOOFer from heaven (via Italy) who was there to soothe and cook for the family in the days after Yukari passed away, in the warm sunny way that have Italians seem put on this planet to do.
Now she is back in Italy, the Desjardins are back in their Sunshine Coast Paradise, waiting for the next lovely wwoofers to come and for a dose of being amazed, amazing, and cooking up love and family. If you go and stay, expect a tropical supermarket of a garden, lots of puppy-like moments of subduing, tussling and being inspired by these beautiful, resiliant boys, and their marvelous Dad.

3D Courtyard Permaculture garden coming to Asaba Art Square, Yokohama bayside

Kazuko Asaba knows how to make children happy. They have been begging their mums to be taken to Asaba's Art Studio after school for decades.

When I first met her 15 years ago, she got me helping out on a kids camp weekend - 20 children camping in her attic. We made face masks, danced on the nearby beach, and had a Dark Universe Experiance, but more about that later. From Mid 2010, Her visitors will be able to add 'Costumed garden Creation' to their list of Asaba-initated experiences.

We have started planning an Edible Sustainable Water-catching garden, and a Fully Costumed, Fully Catered Fantasy Permablitz to make it all happen.Cecilia Macaulay visiting Asaba studio 2008 November

Edible Blue Flowers: Violas, Borage, chive flower, hanging rosemary, sage, and...?

Edible flowers make food spectacular, and gardening a treasure hunt

Blue bottles at Asaba Studio

For sunny spots, yellow climbing roses, chamomille, more violas, yellow nasturtium, day lilly, Japoica honeysuckle, Lotus in ponds.

Useful Cafe herbs: Lemons, limes and Yuzu citrus (potted to be transported to sun and snow-free wintering) rocket, salad leaf, Mint, corriander, salad burnett, shiso, chives, red lettuce,
purple edible water garden with flowform: illustration by Cecilia Macaulay

Tall and shade-creating plants: rasberries on sunny walls, hops and blue grape vines on trellis, maybe with

Share the surplus: Every 2 years Asaba-san gathers a bunch of art teachers, armfulls of donated art materials, and puts on classes in countries where children are so poor, they have never Seen a pencil, and have no idea that you can draw something you can see. Or cannot see yet, but might one day create. Like our garden!

There will be an Aussie Reln wormfarm for making compost, lots of garden art and stepping stone mosiacs, and of course, goldfish in the ponds, and fluffy bantam chickens to turn scraps to eggs.
Cecilia with Grizelda, Madam Bovery, and Marie Antionnete, Rent-A-Chook Bantams

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Rare, Useful and Urban - Marie's Herbs at Melbourne's Farmers Markets

Meeting Marie and her Aladdin's Cave of Useful edibles was what really got me hopping at the North Melbourne Farmers Market.
Cecilia and Marie the Horiculturist exchange a meaningful herbal gaze

I bought some Alehoof, which she told me was used to bitter beer before they discovered Hops, and will twine prettily for meters over my blue-flowering courtyard rockery. Till I find an accomplice to brew up something enticing when its ready

Alehoof picture from Cornucopia Seeds another source of rare and thrilling plants.

The Waragul greens are now in, one of very few Australian Natives that are easy to eat (I bet the Megafauna was great though).

Greek Basil, which she tells me is more densely clumping than sweet basil, so good for the aestetic and sharing nature of a tight balcony space, so that was the third of my '4 for $10' deal.

The Salad Burnet with its pretty leaves is the new star of my garden. Won't it look great on a background of tomato bruschetta, or Dramatic on a bed of black wild rice, maybe with red goji berries....

You can find Marie at Weekend Farmer's markets all over the place: Yarraville, Botanic Gardens, Bundoora, Mulgrave, Templestowe, and of course North Melbourne.
Contact Marie on :

Rachelle buying supplies for her Balcony garden. It seems she lives around the corner from me, and I bet whatever she is growning is gorgeous, so I've been looking up, looking forward to good things.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Delicious Flourishing Tank Gardens at the North Melbourne Farmer's Market

Like a cat in catnip is how I felt visiting the Farmers Market at North Melbourne Primary.

For starters, look how well the above-ground edible gardens are doing, and this is the Second month of our hot Christmas (school) holidays. Two months of 'Home Alone' in a vacant, hot Primary School Yard, yet flourishing. I'm extremely impressed.

This shape of garden is being pioneered by the VEG (VeryEdibleGarden) gang, the same people who got the Permablitz movement going.

The last time I saw the edible educational beds as in-ground gardens, they seemed to flounder.

Apologies to Pat Chapin and the flounder

The cause of success might be Physical - the fluffy compost they are in, the containment of the mulch, or maybe a hidden dripper water supply. But I think its Social - bringing them to the level of our touch and gaze, bringing them to the LoveLine latitude, that makes all the difference. We don't want to step on them, we get intimately interested in their welfare, and maybe start fussing over them.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Balcony garden curtains, ikebana and cord fasteners by Sayaka the Day-WWOOFer

Sayaka the fabric designer:
Holy interlude with roses and needlework

Because I sometimes run out of spare guest bedrooms, but never run out of lovely things to create, I host day-wwoofers - dreamy creatives like myself when I was young, often traveling the world to learn new skills, eat interesting lunches, and add to their ideas bank of domestic possibilities and impossibilities. Then go home till next time.

The day lovely Sayaka came to visit, I happened to have a bunch of fragrant roses my mother dropped off from the countryside. The first thing Sayaka did was an ikebana arrangement, which showed off a beauty Ive never seen in roses - look how the full-blooms arch around the young ones, protecting them, proudly showing them off. And the unruly baby ones just spring out joyfully. "Yes! Its a REAL designer come to visit" - Gazing at what she did to those roses sure made me happy.

Next, she did an analysis on what was wrong with my cord wrapping systems, then designed and created a batch of these. The flower fastener has three functions - since this is after all a Permaculture creation day. For how and why cord fasteners improve your quality of life, see the story at at my Intimate Permaculture blog - Balcony gardens are an excellent place for neat laptops and lamplights but on an edible gardening blog the connection is tenuous.

Lunch under the balcony, the front courtyard, brought to you by Trays.

If you wonder why you don't eat on your balcony or veranda as much as you could, I bet you just don't have trays. Because Aussie shops don't sell trays. The answer to getting the most out of life is often a simple cheap bit of missing hardware. When you visit Tokyo, stock up, distribute them to your balcony gardening friends.

The day was hot, the ceilings high, the curtains long.
The furniture moved, the floor clean and inviting, the work low, focused and mind-chatter quelling.
That's the story of this picture with Cecilia and Sayaka.

I've finally replaced my adequate, factory-made roman blinds my with creamy-lush, tailor made spilling-to-the-floor damask. Invisible hand stiching takes a couple of extra hours, but if you do it with a mate, it becomes two hours of absorbing entertainment. I get though the stitching like a racing car driver. I go near-dizzy with my pace, hypnotized by my steady rhythm. Its a little embarrassing that after all the effort I put into living life, my most dazzling skill is such a maidenly, Victorian-style accomplishment as needlework.

The neighbours kitty is usually quite partial to a nap on my balcony, but hot days require a different stratagy. Here he is enjoying a nap with maximum surface area evaporative cooling posture. Right where my new, heavily-insulated curtains are about to be hung.

Balcony Garden curtains cannot have a seamy side.

Which gets me thinking - that's what Permaculture is all about. About creating a life where there is no embarrassing side to hide. You've just composted it, designed around it, made the arduous fun and friendly, and made it all small enough to manage with yourself and people you like.

Thank-you Sayaka, what a team.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Porch Garden Renovation: New Year, old trout, at five-star Mt. Baw Baw B & B

In my typical extreme flexi-resourceful way, two days before New Year's Eve I started to plan the best way to spend it. I lucked upon River Sanctuary's luxury B & B, arranged some balcony garden creation WWOOFing in exchange, then turned up with the gang.

The first thing I saw on awakening to the New Decade was a clear-bottomed, trout-filled stream outside my window, calling me for a dip. After drying off, and a celebratory breakfast, the three of us logged in to start work. Our first task from Boss Bevan: Put on our hiking boots, and design a treasure hunt on the heavenly hiking trail for tomorrow's guests and their children.
'Find a river rock shaped like a cat'
'Most imaginative name for a constellation of daisies

(a constellation named....?)

"Man, this WWOOFing gig is tough" teased my friend Kallika, who had just joined our Willing Workers On Organic Farms club, not anticipating party games.

We happened upon some well-equipped fishermen who catch trout.
Just catch them, then send them home again.
Sometimes catch the same guy twice. In the words of the immortal Mitch Headburg 'They don't want to eat it, they just want to make it late for something".
Trout 1 "Where were you, brother?"
Trout 2 "I got caught"
Trout 1 "No you didn't. Show me your lip".

But for such a weird hobby, they were lovely guys, very, very intimate with their trout, even giving me a cuddle.
How? Wet your hands first. Hold lightly and it won't resist.

I try to get the more white-collar wwoofing tasks, one was putting together this map for treasure hunting.
Walk down from the peak. You will see:

The Hut on the Hill.
This place makes you feel you could get an oil lamp, solar panel for the laptop, and live happily ever after.
Looking down on this all day, watching the cows go by

Vagabond village from above. How did I get myself up this high?

No residents right now.

A brief dance on the stage of the old wagon.
Then over the rickey bridge, and home to start work making a Veranda Garden.

You probably wonder why a property as vast as this one needs an edible balcony garden.
The answer is, everyone who likes joy and eating needs a balcony (or edge) garden. A garden that is just a hand's reach away from where you spend time. Where you just happen to keep watch daily, defend from pests, delight in blossomings and perfumes, and get intimate with a microworld of your own creation.
Veranda Garden Creation, with Kyra and french WWOOFers.

We did this:
  • Cleared weeds, composted the non-seedy ones (no hot compost yet, just moved in)
  • Got rid of most of the pots - with earth this close to where you are sitting, potplants are just bothersome dependents. They don't add to the 'landscape', and and busy B&B owners have better things to do.
  • Dug terraces, so the rainwater soaks in, rather than rolls down.
  • Went to the river for shoring-up rocks. Too small. So had a swim instead.
  • Went harvesting the flaky soft mudstone from hills in the buggy. Scary, going though the river.
  • Postitioned the rocks along in Curves drawn with vines
  • Attempted an asymetrical Japanese, rather than pearls-and-twinset even look.. Plants spilling over the medium-sized rocks will help.
  • Popped a few waiting seedings in, after giving them a days revivifying soak.

Once the WWOOFer boys feel up to it, we will get some cow contributions to fertilize, and collect some mulch to keep things snug. After we've gone, Nichole and Bevan can put in their new pet plants. I reccommended blue and yellow flowering edibles: hanging rosemary, chives, chamomile, blue-flowering borage for both bees and pretty salads, and hey, more flowers: alysim, violas, whatever buoys your spirit. Of course, lettuce and rocket, useful old faithfuls. Snail traps will complete the picture.

"My New Years Resolutions?" drawled the Young French WWOOFer, as we carried rocks to terrace the front garden. "More Girls. More Money". The simple life.

Thank-you Bevan, Nichole and Kyra. You gave us a perfectly Happy New Year.