Saturday, June 7, 2014

The Naturalist - Louise Oosthuizen

A charming corner of Louise's garden. Photography: Sallyanne Hartnell Reflect Photography
Gardens don't have to be big and sprawling. Louise Oosthuizen specialises in creating teeny tiny gardens with lots of lovely succulents and small vintage pots. She is the creative behind The Naturalist Melbourne and has a penchant for collecting treasures from the natural world and the past, which she turns into some pretty impressive works of art. Louise's own garden is an extension of her work and centres on this inviting nook.

What is the story of your garden?
We live in Warrandyte and have done so for about 15 years now. We are surrounded by gum trees; truly a lovely place to live. Our block is on a hill; therefore has many levels, nooks and crannies. We mainly have native plants,such as grevillea, native grasses, bottlebrush and wattle. We have a creek at the front of the property, which is native bushland. Our garden is not perfect, but rustic just the way I like things to be!
Some of Louise's treasured finds. Photography: Sallyanne Hartnell Reflect Photography
A tiny succulent finds a home in a large shell. Photography: Sallyanne Hartnell Reflect Photography
What changes have you made to it?
We paved the area out the back of the house so we can enjoy a flat area for entertaining or just sitting. We have kept it quite natural but added winding paths here and there.

How do you and your family like to spend time in your garden?
I have two children and they love nothing better than climbing trees and, because of the different levels and nooks, it makes a great garden for hiding in. We love to entertain out the back, whether it be a barbecue in the summer, or my husband, Almero, who is originally from South Africa, will make a potjie pot in the fire pit during cooler months. This is a traditional slow-cooked meal in a cast-iron pot. Or there is a favourite spot of mine (pictured), which is just the perfect spot to sit and read, or do nothing much.
Louise escapes to this cosy nook in the garden. Photography: Sallyanne Hartnell Reflect Photography
Petite succulents adorned with feathers and vintage bottles. Photography: Sallyanne Hartnell Reflect Photography
How does your garden inspire you?
I love to collect, not only vintage pieces, but objects from the natural world. So there is inspiration all over my garden. From skeleton leaves to dragonfly wings, they all end up a part of my collection. My kids also are great little naturalists, bringing me their 'treasures'.

What are your must -haves for a garden?
A place to sit and enjoy your surrounds.

All-time favourite plant?
It would have to be my potted succulents that I have collected over time. I plant them in various vintage vessels - egg cups, tea tins, sugar bowls, teapots - they all make great planters and add something special to the garden.

Favourite activity in the garden?
Hmm, lots of things really: entertaining, playing with the kids, or sitting in my favourite spot.

Check out Louise's blog at thenaturalistmelbourne.blogspot.com and her shop at www.etsy.com/shop/TheNaturalistMelb. For more of Sallyanne Hartnell's work, see www.reflectphotography.com.au.

Inspiration abounds in the garden. Photography: Sallyanne Hartnell Reflect Photography
A garden on a ledge shines with vintage charm. Photography: Sallyanne Hartnell Reflect Photography
Natural beauty in Louise's garden. Photography: Sallyanne Hartnell Reflect Photography

Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Children's author Jackie French


Jackie picks fruit daily to share with friends and neighbours. Photography: supplied by Jackie French
We know her as the author of laugh-out-loud gems such as Diary of a Wombat and the poignant Flood. But, it turns out, Jackie French is also a dab hand in the garden. She has penned a number of books on gardening and self-sufficiency, and has planted a rambling garden over 4ha in the Araluen Valley with about 900 fruit trees. Like many gardeners, she's generous with her time, her knowledge and her patch, sharing loads of natural goodies with friends and neighbours - and the local wildlife. You'll find plenty of nifty tips and ideas for gardening, raising chooks and living with wildlife on her website jackiefrench.com. Or check out her books The Wilderness Garden or Backyard Self Sufficiency (Aird Books).


Tell us about your garden.
There are 900 fruit trees, a meandering of herbs and vegies and flowers, more then 260 types of fruit, with always at least a dozen fruits ready to pick. And mostly a mess, but a beautiful one. 

How has it evolved over the years?
We have deliberately created a garden and orchard where native animals are welcomed, not fenced out. We can go down to minus 9C in winter and often up in the 40Cs in summer, but by planting a grove, the trees survive and feed us, our friends and the wildlife.

The medlar tree is a spectacular sight in autumn. Photography: Jackie French
How do you like to spend time in your garden?
My study has windows on three sides, so as I write I look out to it. Breaks are spent picking lunch or dinner from the garden, watching the wombats, or generally mooching. I love a garden where you can mooch!

How does your garden inspire you?
The garden, and the valley where I live, are at the heart of most of my books, especially the historical ones, where characters grow their food and store it, or use medicinal plants as we do, and human have for thousands of years.

The fascinating Buddha's hand citron is a very fragrant fruit, often used as a perfume. Photography: Jackie French.
What are your must-haves for a garden?
Lots. And whatever you love, and whatever the wildlife in your area loves. For me, and the fruit bats, possum and wallabies, it's 133 varieties of apple, fruiting from December till August; tangles of climbing roses for birds to nest in; and avocados (we grow about 80 varieties, mostly bred here).

All-time favourite plants?
Ask me that every season and I'll give a difference answer. Wonga vine in spring; ginger lilies in March, with perfume thick enough to float on; mutabilis roses as they are too spindly for the possums to climb and eat; lemons because we use the juice every day; Jonathon apples in February and Lady Williams in May/June/July; arched purple and deep-red heads of salvia; pomegranates, those fat red fruit and butter-yellow autumn leaves, and persimmons that hold orange globes on bare branches and a perfect circle of orange leaves below.


Five words that describe your garden?
Generous to us, the animals and the land. Sorry, that's eight! 

Purple salvias are just some of Jackie's favourite plants. Photography: Jackie French
A copse of trees, a medley of flowers and fruit, and inviting pathways. Photography: Jackie French
Apples and avocados abound in Jackie's garden. Photography: supplied by Jackie French