Posts Tagged ‘Gardening’

My 'well thumbed' Eden Seeds Catalogue

Soon there will be space in the garden for another bed of climbing beans.  The weather has been warm and very wet , which seems to be, ‘bean weather’ – the Purple King Climbing Beans are now two-thirds of the way up their trellis. I have thought about trying Lazy Housewife Bean again – but despite the catalogues seductive promise of ‘delicious flavour and heavy bearing over a long period of time’ – Madam has failed to deliver over the last three summers. Operating on the ‘three strikes and your out’ principle I feel that it is time to try another variety.

I have a copy of the Eden Seeds Catalogue which I have cherished since 2006.  Seed catalogues are my guilty pleasure (blushing as I type).  Eden Seeds are on the web and their site is easy to use – but the web is no substitute for my old tatty paper catalogue. I love sitting with a coffee reading the descriptions of all the fabulous varieties, the strange shapes, interesting colours and promise of plenty. The Lab Lab Bean, Kentucky Wonder or Molley’s Zebra Bean “saved by Molley Mollison”, visions of the long succession of gardeners who have grown and saved these seeds fills my soul with wonder.

I’ve settled on ‘Epicure’ quoting from the catalogue “Fleshy, flat green pod to 18cm, long harvest period, popular home garden variety.  In 1929 L H Brunning says “The most delicately flavoured…” Eaten young they are tender and practically stringless”.  I’m sold!

I sometimes select seeds in the same way that I, try each year to, select a winning horse for the Melbourne Cup – yes you guessed it – do I like your name? I would like to tell you that my extensive record keeping holds valuable data that allows me to pick a winning variety – this would be a flat out furphy . I’ve been thinking about the philosopher Epicurus a lot recently and the name caught my eye – bingo – we have a winner.

I re-read  and watched ‘The consolations of philisophy’ by Alain de Botton recently – specifically the section on the philosopher Epicurus and his community called ‘The Garden’. Epicurus suggested that in order to be happy a person needed friendship, self-sufficiency and time for reflection.  He and his followers worked, thought and spend a lot of their time tending a vegetable garden in order to find happiness.

I’ve been wondering what Epicurus would make of our back fence and modern urban living. Given that he didn’t like urban living in Athens in 306 BC I can’t imagine that modern Melbourne would take his fancy.

So reflecting on which of the experiments I will try in the New Year to connect my garden to my community and inspired by Epicurus I’m going to try setting up the Veggie Gardening Coffee Club in a local cafe or gardening centre. I’m hoping that by advertising an informal opportunity to discuss veggie gardening, varieties that are growing well in our local area and maybe swapping surplus seeds I can connect with other growers.

Maybe a coffee club would not be to Epicurus’ taste either – but I’m absolutely certain that he would have loved sharing a jug of water in my garden while swapping seed catalogues.


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The fence.

I’ve been thinking a lot about boundaries over the last week.  Our new backyard fence is finally up.  I’m not crazy about the stark newness of this fence or its height.

The news this week has been full of reports that the population of Melbourne is growing by 200 people per day making us the fastest growing city in Australia.  As I’m still struggling to grow a meaningful amount of food in our backyard – I’ve been wondering if sharing yards would make vegetable gardening more productive – in short are subdivided backyards unsustainable?


Contemplating the containment of nature - Installation in Preserving Jar

As often happens, while trawling through a bookshop today, the appropriate book showed up – Edible Estates: Attack on the Front Lawn, A project by Fritz Haeg.  What an amazing book – since getting home I’ve not been able to put it down.

The garden began behind walls a truce, a compromise, between human need and natural resource.  In most languages the word ‘garden’ derives from the root ‘enclosure’.  The garden walls protected human cultivation from the wild threats in the untamed expanses.  Now that a wilderness unaffected by human intervention no longer exists, the garden walls have fallen.  The enclosed, cultivated space protected behind the house is nolonger a worthwhile model.  The entire street must be viewed as a garden, and by extension the entire city we are tending, and beyond.  We have intervened on all levels of environmental function and with no walls remaining we have taken on the role of planetary gardener by default.”

I often think that the way we garden is a reflection of how we think the world should be.  Are we creating an organic utopian paradise, the ultimate cricket pitch or a controlled weed-free universe.  Are our gardens our personal vision of ‘Eden’?  I think that there is truth in the Epicurean ideal that all one needs to be happy is to sit in a garden with good friends.  Perhaps, in my personal ideal, boundary fences don’t exist?

I am however of two minds, as I imagine we all are, since there is a tension between the desire to share and be open and the need to order and contain my private space.


See my beans standing all in a row - possible evidence of control issues.

I think this is an issue I will come back to after more thought.  I’d love to hear what you think?

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On one level I understand that gardens are about change.  On another level it is taking me a bit to come to terms with removing the large Brazilian vine this week.  Our neighbour has requested that we remove it as it is breaking up our shared fence and threatening to overwhelm her garden – fair enough.

I have however become very fond of this really too enormous member of the backyard farm – not because it produces anything edible – but because of the enormous number of parrots that hang out in the vine at this time of the year.  The bees will also miss such a splendid and close source of pollen.


The death of a giant.

The death of a giant.


The current plan is to remove all of the vine and as much of the root as possible and then plant fruit trees along the fence line – which is a very cunning plan.  Cirtus trees seem to do well on these sandy soils so I’m going to investigate espaliered orange trees.  Our Desert Blood Lime (an Australian Native grafted onto european rootstock) has graciously pumped out one lime this winter – wow – clearly I am supernaturally talented with the citrus!


Desert Blood Lime

Desert Blood Lime


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Yet well I ken the banks where Amaranths blow,
Have traced the fount whence streams of nectar flow.
Bloom, O ye Amaranths! bloom for whom ye may,
For me ye bloom not! Glide, rich streams, away!  Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1825)

Tomorrow I’m going to sow some Amaranth – very exciting as I’ve never grown it before or eaten it. Amaranth is apparently a very easy plant to grow, heat tolerant, with green leaves that can be used in salads or steamed like spinach and then at the end of the season large seed heads of edible grain. 

I’ve read that Amaranth was important in Aztec ceremonies, where images of their gods were made with amaranth mixed with honey – very romantic.  In honor of the Aztecs I will eat chocolate as I plant the seeds in a hot spot in the garden.  Let’s hope it really is a fool proof plant – and that it will bloom for me.

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