May the roof above us never fall in
And may we good companions beneath it never fall out.

~Irish blessing

Friday, June 24, 2011

Planting Bare Rooted Roses

I have to admit I'm not the most patient gardener in the world. Seeds, I have patience with, and waiting for the right season or for slow things like carrots to grow. But once I think of something I'd like from the nursery I am out the door in a flash. A spare spot in the front garden emerges - we need a plant for that spot and we need it now. This is why when I found out my roses would be cheaper, and some rare varieties would be more readily available if I waited for bare-rooted, I had to pre-order, sit on my hands and wait.

There were already a couple of very pretty single white standard roses along the side of the house, but not much else to speak of other than weeds and grass when we moved in. We now have a trellis with some thriving creepers and hanging baskets, but I wanted something really pretty to view from the 3 tall windows that look out that side, plus a potted 'Dainty Bess' rose for the back.

Dainty Bess. Source:

I love the super thorny 'old world' single-petal roses. I've been championing roses and defending them in conversations for years. People used to go on about how difficult roses were to grow, needing so much pruning, watering, feeding, spraying etc. Then we had 13 years of drought in Melbourne with tough water restrictions, and nothing triumphed more than peoples' neglected front garden roses. Sophie Thomson on Gardening Australia actually pointed out a few weeks ago that roses are related to blackberries (they're both in the subfamily Rosoideae) and much tougher than people think. 

So after months of patiently waiting my roses arrived today. Well they actually arrived yesterday but I missed the courier. Being pretty inexperienced when it comes to bare-rooted anything (we did plant the bare-rooted quince last Winter but that's it) I was a little worried they may have dried out but when I opened them up they'd been well wrapped in wet newspaper and were heavy and moist. For anyone looking to buy interesting varieties of roses, I ordered ours from Magic Garden Roses in Healesville and their customer service has been fantastic. The photos and descriptions on their site, and the ability to search for terms like 'hardy climber' are really helpful and they have a huge range.

They have a 3 rose minimum order, so we decided on an Edith Holden climber to scramble up the trellis in front of the tall second bedroom window, a highly perfumed old world low growing 'Heidesommer' for outside the side door, and the Dainty Bess

Edith Holden. Source:

Weeks later though, I fell in love with a Comte de Champagne David Austin at our local nursery, not the single petaled sort of thing I usually go for but so beautiful, plus I had them for my wedding bouquet, so I emailed Magic Garden and they were happy to add one to my order which is perfect for some blooms to admire from the living room window.

David Austin 'Comte de Champagne'. Source:

The roses came with detailed instructions on how to proceed. As instructed I put them in a bucket of water for an hour.

It says not to add anything to the water, including Seasol. Good thing it said that or I would have, I am Seasol crazy. The planting instructions are also very thorough, but being such a devoted googler, I couldn't resist looking for a youtube video and found this great video from the San Jose Rose Garden.

Interestingly Magic Garden recommend holding off mulching the newly planted roses until the weather warms up. I was amazed at the way the guy in the San Jose video mulched up the rose he planted but I understand it's pretty hot and dry there. Since we're having such a cold, wet winter I went with Magic Garden's advice and left the mulch off for now. I did sneak a teensy bit of Seasol into the watering can when I watered it in. I couldn't help it.

Here is the Edith Holden climber in her new home. Named after the artist and author of The Country Diary of An Edwardian Lady. It has a beautiful rust coloured flower with a yellow centre. 

And the 'Dainty Bess', behind the lemon and lavender.

Magic Garden suggest fertilising them in September with 100g of organic fertiliser (Dynamic lifter, Amgrow's Organic Xtra or Terra Firma's Organic Life) which is when I imagine they'll start to put on some growth. I'll be sure to post updates on their progress.

Monday, June 20, 2011

A Trip to the Nursery

Is it just me or are small terracotta pots just completely useless for growing edibles. After trying rocket, land cress and even failing with garlic chives in my smaller pots I've given up and decided to treat myself to some new succulents. Not very functional but I love them.

Can't remember the name of this one but it's sooo pretty.

Beautiful blue lotus echeveria.

An aloe for my husband who loves the spikeys. I generally like rounder foliage but have to admit this one is very cool.

A luscious succulent aptly names 'Purple Blob' in the foreground, and a gorgeous red sedum in the back.

Plus we picked out a couple more native plants for the front garden. Kangaroo paw...

...and this beautiful Grevillea Ellendale (fililoba) which has the softest green fronds and flowers that look like Chinese lanterns.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Kitchen Photos: Before and After

The first room to overhaul had to be the kitchen. After years of dodgy, fanless ovens and underpowered rangehoods in rental kitchens I was trawling appliance showrooms before we even moved in.

The glossy real estate photos hide all sorts of evils. I know timber is having a big revival right now but the  varnished pine here had yellowed badly and the peach laminate and tiles clashed like an 80s prom night.

Before we moved in...

Day 1

And 6 months later...

We actually loved the arched shelves above the sink and decided to retain them as a feature, hanging a couple of ikea pot holders above that Tom wired together to enhance the country kitchen look.

We had a local stonemason cap the existing benchtop in granite (kashmir white) which turned out to be no more expensive than caesarstone, and with about 3 coats of sealer over the factory job, just as stain resistant.

 This also gave us the opportunity to install a new sink which I picked up second hand on ebay, and widen the bench space a bit.

The dishwasher, oven and rangehood were a little tricky, requiring the co-ordination of a cabinet maker, electrician and plumber so we hired a company that do kitchen fit outs to install them and plumb the rangehood exhaust out the ceiling.

Honestly next time I think I would try to just hire the contractors  and co-ordinate it myself as it added quite a bit to the cost and we still had to have people coming back for oversights here and there, but it did help to get the job done quickly. Tom undertook the tiling of the splashback, replacing the peach with simple white tiles, and I primed the cabinets with zissner stain block - stinky but it works and is so much easier than stripping the varnish - and painted them in enamel.

We chose grey for the lower half and white for the top half to further enhance a furnished country kitchen look and I ordered brushed steel cabinet knobs and drawer pulls from a US supplier through ebay (why is it so hard to get good hardware in this country?) which finished them off nicely.

The vaulted ceiling also got a coat of the stain block which produced a lovely white-washed effect. Tough job! We had to wear gas masks and our arms were screaming but it transformed the feel of the room so it was worth it. New lighting from Ikea and a couple of coats of blackboard paint (Society Inc in Pirate Black) over the blue feature wall and the 'dining nook' is done.

And that's where we're at. The peach floor tiles remain there for now until we come up with funds and an appropriate solution, and we're still scratching our heads over how to improve the look of the skylight in an affordable way which will be a post in itself. Suggestions please!

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Come on in

Painting the front door posed one of those typical DIY dilemmas. We wanted to paint the door pillar box red, easy enough, but how to paint the security door to match? The house had been done some time in 90s in cream with brunswick green door and trimmings - a popular colour scheme for Melbourne Victorian houses in those days but a bit dated now.

A trip to San Francisco a couple of years ago made us fall in love with all the beautiful, vibrantly coloured row houses they have there and I took photos of many of them for future inspiration.

The lemon yellow and brick red of the  house in the middle (above) was a big inspiration but we thought yellow might be a bit too full on in our fairly subdued street, so we went for a greigy Resene colour called Half Napa for the weatherboards with white trimmings and a bright red door.

Now I know a lot of people would have just said buy a new security door, but a locksmith friend of ours had previously commented on what a sturdy, good quality door it was and we knew it would be expensive to replace. After some online research and enquiries at the local paint shop, powder coating seemed to be our best bet but when Tom started removing the door and its sturdy frame we realised it was much too heavy to transport on our roof racks to the powder coater.

Yes, we could have rented a truck, but at this point the budget and impatience prevailed and we went back to the paint shop and asked 'Can we just spray it?'.

I won't say it was easy. It took two tins of etch primer and 4 tins of 'Flame Red' Rust Guard, and Tom's spray finger is only just starting to regain some feeling, but it came up beautifully and we were able to match it exactly with the wooden door because I just got some rust guard in a tin and brushed it on to the wood over a grey base coat.

Here's the door before the security door is back up, still with the green and cream.

And after...

There's still a bit of painting to finish off but we're very happy with the overall result. Now for the inside of the door... I'm thinking duck egg blue?