The Burren Perfumery was one of the highlights of our visit to Ireland last year. Not so much for the lovely creams, perfumes, soaps and more, that they produce. But for the herb garden. The creams are fabulous too (and we bought quite a few) but the herb garden was delightful. We were there in mid-June, so expected a riot of colour, but it had been a very cold wet spring so the colour palette was more muted. This however allowed us to see the beautiful sculptural stone walls and paving as well as the more subtle coloured flowers and the range of greens, greys and browns of the leaves and bark.
This is another extract from the book I wrote with Pam Vardy, Community Gardens: A Celebration of the People, Recipes and Plants. I am posting these extracts to show how much refugees and immigrants to our country have enhanced our lives. To highlight this I am focusing on unusual individual plants that we would not otherwise have available for our gardens or meals.
Long-leafed coriander (Eryngium foetidum) is also known as culantro. This strong smelling herb comes originally from central and southern America where is has been used for centuries to add flavour to soups and stews. Continue Reading
This beautiful wild region of Ireland is unlike anywhere I have seen before. Located in the north-west corner of County Clare on the west coast, even its Irish name boireann signals the topography, as it means ‘place of rocks’. Covering 250 square kilometres, the exposed limestone is in some places up to 780 metres thick. Since being laid down progressively up to 340 million years ago, these great slabs have been gradually worn away in places, mainly by glacier movement, creating ‘grikes’ (the cracks in the limestone) and ‘clints’ (the blocks of limestone left behind). At the same time, the glaciers deposited rounded boulders in random positions, these are known as ‘erratics’ (see the last photo for and example). I love the names! This region is dotted with ancient ruins and tombs as well as being a natural paradise.
Late Autumn and Winter mean misty moonlit evenings, frosty mornings, rain soaked days. Not the time of year to be planting vegetables you say, and certainly not exotic Asian vegetables or herbs. And you would be right about most of them, but not all. There are some hardy Asian plants that do really well in the cooler months. Don’t forget that although much of Asia hovers around the equator there are some regions that, due to their latitude, height or distance from the sea, experience extreme cold. So plants found growing in these regions are all suitable for planting in a Victorian winter. Continue Reading
Even the best gardener needs a bit of luck sometimes. So we lesser mortals who sometimes struggle to keep our favourite plants alive might do well to consider some of the practises of early gardeners. In ancient times every care was taken to make sure no evil would enter the garden. Gardens in those days were also much more practical, as they often supplied all the the essential food and the cures so it was important that they were productive. If your garden failed you might well starve. Many herbs were supposed to repel devils and witches but the Romans went a step further and would “place the skull of a mare or she-ass that hath been covered” and they believed that this would ensure that their gardens were fruitful. It is still possible to see a carved horses head over a gateway into old gardens today. Continue Reading
Over the last couple of years I have been more than a little preoccupied with one species in the Allium family, namely garlic (Allium sativum). So much so that I have created a website all about this fascinating and beautiful vegetable. You can see it here. There are however beautiful ornamental Alliums that also deserve a place in our gardens. The one that is looking elegant in my garden at present is A. sphaerocephalon or drumstick allium. My garden is pretty low on elegance and high on profusion and confusion so it is a very welcome member. Continue Reading
By Penny Woodward
I was leafing through the book I wrote with Pam Vardy, Community Gardens: A Celebration of the People, Recipes and Plants because I had been thinking about refugees and immigrants and how much they have enhanced our lives. Since the new government has been in power (and to some extent the previous government) the rhetoric has again resembled that of the Howard government and the Tampa. It was the events surrounding Tampa that prompted Pam and myself to get together and combine our skills (hers in interviewing and cooking, and mine in gardening and writing) to produce a book that showcases just a few of the very many ways that people from other cultures and countries have added to our lives and lifestyles in Australia. To highlight this, I thought that from time to time by writing about plants that are in the book, I would focus on unusual individual plants that we would not otherwise have available for our gardens or meals. Continue Reading
I am thrilled to say that my new book has been released and is in bookshops and can be purchased online from my website shop . If you would like your copy signed to a specific person, then send me an email through the contact page. I’ll be talking about garlic and the book on radio over the coming weeks and there will be reviews in newspapers and magazines, so keep an eye out for them.
The book has taken me three years to write, but has been much longer in it’s gestation. It covers everything from more than 50 different cultivars of garlic, to guidelines for growing organic garlic around the country as well as interviews with twelve Australian garlic growers telling you how and where they grow their garlic. There are also recipes for cooking, preserving and smoking garlic and even making your own black garlic as well as medicinal uses and an extensive list of growers and suppliers.
This book starts to make sense of the confusion surrounding garlic and explains that garlic is not just garlic, it is Creole, Rocambole, Purple Stripe, Turban, Silverskin and more.
These are a couple of short extracts from the book, starting with Garlic Thoughts Continue Reading
By Penny Woodward
I’ve been weeding and cleaning up parts of my garden, ready for some planting and for new spring growth. Now is also a good time (maybe almost too late) to divide perennials. One I love and have been digging and dividing, is dyer’s chamomile. It’s botanical name was Anthemis tinctoria but is now Cota tinctoria. I do understand the need to update botanical names in line with new research, but it does make it really hard for gardeners and garden writers to keep up! Continue Reading
by Penny Woodward
Asparagus (Asparagus officinalis) is a tough, rewarding, long term vegetable that once established will give many years of delicious, nutritious spears. A perennial plant, it is a member of the lily family (Liliaceae) and has been grown and eaten for more than 2,000 years. If you haven’t ever tried growing asparagus, you probably should, and now is a good time to plant it. Continue Reading