Rose petal and strawberry jam

Article and photos by Penny Woodward

Juicy red strawberries


I have just spread cow manure around my strawberries and mulched with lucerne hay. And I added some pine needles collected from the block behind us. Although our soil is already slighty acid, strawberries love acidic soil, so I spoil them with a dusting of pine needles. I love the way the strawberries appear at the same time as the petals of the luscious red roses. The perfect combination for one of my favourite jams. I only make this in small jars because it seems too precious to eat in bulk. The flavour is true stawberry with ephemeral flavours of the fragrant red petals. Anyway, here is the recipe, and you have plenty of time to make them so you can parcel them up as unique and special Christmas presents. Read more

Round the Bend

Cover of Round the BendThe creation, destruction by fire and recovery of Tambreet Gardens
Review by Penny Woodward
Probably the most interesting gardening book I have read this year, this is the story of a garden created, lost and then recreated. Esther and Sean Leahy moved to the property, a small farm on six acres in 2003 and over the following six years created a garden and retreat. Then on the 7th of February 2009 in the Black Saturday fires, the garden was destroyed, although they managed to save the house. In beautiful prose, Esther describes the process of watching the garden recover and then recreating the garden. I love the descriptions of trees they thought lost, but with great patience they waited, many started to regrow although it sometimes took two years before they could be sure. Some would regrow but then fall victim to winds or pests. Each one feels like a friend. Many of the Australian plants survived by putting out epicormic growth, or reshooting from the ground. But surprisingly many introduced trees recovered too. Oaks, maples, ginkgoes, liquid ambers and coast redwoods being some, although many took three or more years before they were back to their normal cycles. In the end the survivors were pretty much equally divided between native and non-native. They also watched the insects, spiders, reptiles, birds and mammals slowly returning. Some in plague proportions, but eventually the balance was restored. A steady stream of family and friends aided their own long hours of labour, but now, four years later the garden is nearly completely recovered. Read more

Jackie French’s Guide to Companion Planting 2nd edition

CompanionPlantingFrontCover-smallReview by Gail Thomas

This completely revised and expanded 2nd edition in full colour with chapters on companion planting for fruit, vegetables, flowers, the lawn, and soil fertility explains the effectiveness and how companion planting works along with ways of attracting birds and other pest predators, deterring possum and bruit bats problems and developing your own companion planting.
Whether you’re looking at planting to fix nitrogen in the soil, as companions for your favourite crops or to repel pests Jackie has included plenty of suggestions and rated them accordingly. For example scented leaf geraniums have a high repellent rating, are easy to grow, are highly attractive and can be useful for culinary applications to line cake tins or scent sugar for cooking. As dahlias will outgrow grass she suggests planting an area thickly to clear they area of grass or weeds, and it’s best not to plant daffodils under trees that are under five years old as they will inhibit the tree’s growth.
A diagnostic chart of common pests provides a quick reveal of symptoms, cause and useful companions and a useful list of seed suppliers and books for suggested reading further expand the scope of this best-selling guide.

Borrow it from your libray, buy it from your local independent book shop or buy it online from our Shop
Jackie French, Manna Press, $18.95

Variegated horseradish

By Stephen Ryan with a recipe from Penny Woodward

Variegated horseradish leaves

Variegated horseradish

Those of you who know me will perhaps be surprised that I am writing for Penny’s website as I am after all foremost a collector of rare ornamental plants, but the point is that some rare and ornamental plants can also be useful and/or edible as well. Many of you would rightly argue that most edibles are indeed ornamental and there are lots of rare ones to collect and that is the very reason I’m writing here and I am going to start with horseradish (Armoracia rusticana). Read more

French tarragon

French tarragon leaves

Delicious aniseed flavour

French tarragon Artemisia dracunculus is one of the trickiest herbs to grow, but also one of the most rewarding. It’s anise-like flavour is clean, subtle and delightful, while also being penetrating; a little goes a long way. It has smooth narrow bright green leaves on stalks that grow from a spreading roostock. Growing to about 40 cm, it rarely flowers, and never sets viable seed. Read more

The Munro Court Story

Review by Penny Woodward

The Munro Court Story book coverNestled on the outskirts of Castlemaine, a rural city North West of Melbourne, Victoria; is a small community of people living on their own freehold blocks, in individual houses that are the result of a dream by Sue Turner and Don Wild. Worried about the impact of huge houses on small blocks with few concessions to low energy designs and no room for gardens, Sue and Don wondered what they could do to make a difference. At the same time they noticed that many middle aged friends were contemplating selling their big houses and wanted something more modest and ecologically friendly to move to. Over more than 10 years, Sue and Don purchased a barren block of land with an existing subdivision and transformed it into a thriving community of  eight eco-friendly houses with double glazing, fans, solar panels, water tanks and passive solar designs; beautiful landscaped native gardens that provide privacy and habitat; and a communal area for vegetables and chooks. The book, written by Sue Turner with mentoring, editing and photography by Sally Berridge clearly sets out each stage of the vision. It looks at everything from the finances to landscaping and house design, and at the back are useful lists of plants used, books that inspired them, covenants used and even hints on how to deal with a tax audit! Lovely photographs compliment the text as it tells the story of this unassuming couple who have shown us how it is possible, with passion and persistence, to achieve your dreams. While at the same time, in a small way, making the world a better place. To purchase a copy, go to the Turningwild  website


By Sue Turner and Sally Berridge,, $25

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