We haven’t had too many days this winter that have been cheerless and grey, with rain and wind, the sort of day when all you want to do is stay inside and hibernate. More often the days have been calm and still, with some frosty mornings that are always followed by glorious sunshine, and it is on those days that I love to spend time in the garden, enjoying the beautiful winter colours.
Calendulas among the carrots, brightening up the veggie patch.
Orange and grapefruit trees laden with fruit.
Pots of dianthus.
The beautiful camellia in the abandoned garden next door.
The Peace Lily in our living room, illuminated by early morning sunshine.
For this page in my art journal, I collaged on some scraps of paper and teabags, applied texture with gesso, stencils, and lace, and painted the background in wintery hues. I then painted the colours of my garden: the starkness of the maple tree without its leaves, the red berries on the holly tree, the bright orange citrus, and the beautiful winter flowers. Lastly I added a few pressed flowers of the pansies and violas that flower throughout the winter.
We love to encourage birds to our garden. Every morning, the sparrows perch on the roof of my studio and watch me through the kitchen window, waiting for their daily feed. When I go out the back door, they fly around me in a flurry of excitement and follow me to the back lawn where I toss a couple of handfuls of wild bird seed onto the grass.
Inside my studio, I have a good view of them through the French doors where I can watch from a distance as they peck around on the grass, then have a drink from the birdbath. It is fun to watch them splashing around and playing in the water. Sometimes they are joined by finches or silvereyes or starlings. Occasionally bossy mynas will come and scare them away. The blackbirds hang around on the outskirts, foraging on the grass and in the garden for worms and grubs.
This little birdbath sticker was the perfect addition to the photos in my garden journal.
We have just a few beetroot left in our veggie garden, which I have let become overrun with nasturtiums and violas, both of which attract beneficial insects to the garden. Both the violas and nasturtiums have come up through self-seeding and are a welcome addition to the garden until winter frosts kill off the nasturtiums in the next few weeks.
I planted enough beetroot to last us through the summer and autumn. We have enjoyed them in salads and sandwiches, in burgers and on pizzas, and roasted with other veggies. I have bottled enough to keep us going through the rest of the year, but I couldn’t let them all go without making one last cake! The beetroot gives the cake a lovely texture and flavour, as well as a red tinge.
Chocolate Beetroot Cake
1 large beetroot (about 250g)
1 cup raw sugar
1 cup oil (I use olive oil)
1 teaspoon vanilla essence
1 cup plain flour
1 cup wholemeal flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
¼ cup cocoa
Preheat oven to 180°C.
Beat together the eggs and sugar. Peel and grate the uncooked beetroot. Mix the oil, vanilla, and grated beetroot into the eggs and sugar until well combined. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and cocoa, then add to the wet mixture and stir to combine. Pour the batter into a paper-lined cake tin and bake for 50 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.
Allow to cool, then spread with icing.
2 cups icing sugar
1 tablespoon cocoa
3 tablespoons butter or non-dairy spread, softened
2 tablespoons water
½ teaspoon vanilla essence
Sift the icing sugar and cocoa into a bowl, then add all the other ingredients and mix until smooth and a spreadable consistency.
As we near the end of autumn, I thought I would make a page in my art journal celebrating the season using pressed leaves from our garden and from my parents’ garden. There are so many pretty colours from the different trees, creepers and shrubs.
For the background I used some of the free artist papers from Somerset Studio magazine. I glued on the leaves, then applied a coat of mod podge to the top of the leaves to seal and protect them as they are very brittle once dried. The photos are from recent walks, and I added an autumn poem that I wrote several years ago.
Floating, falling, drifting, swirling, downward, sideways, high and low. Spirited, lively, playful, carefree, crisp and breezy, to and fro. Amber, auburn, chestnut, copper, old gold, russet, nut brown, mocha. A colourful carpet of leaves everywhere; farewell summer, autumn is here!
We were surprised, on a recent walk, to see a mother duck with ten little ducklings swimming down the stream. It is the wrong time of year for ducks to be breeding and we can only assume it is a result of a very mild autumn, and hope that they all survived.
I love going for walks at this time of the year when the trees are cloaked in beautiful shades of reds and oranges and golds, and the ground beneath is a colourful carpet of crisp autumn leaves.
These are some of the beautiful trees at Park Island, one of our favourite walking spots.
This white-faced heron is a frequent visitor to the stream at Park Island.
Finn and I go for a walk through Plantation Reserve most mornings, usually a great meeting spot for other dog walkers, although on this particular morning I chose a quiet time so I could take some photos of the trees.
I love to pick up little treasures on our walks and display them on a nature shelf that I have in my studio at home.
It seems I can never go home empty-handed; there are always so many interesting things to find!
In celebration of Earth Day I’d like to shine a light on the tiny creatures that are so vital to our very existence – wild bees, honeybees, and bumblebees. Sadly, worldwide bee populations are in decline, which is why we need to protect them and encourage them into our gardens. We can make our gardens bee friendly by planting flowers with open petals, planting colourful flowers with lots of blues and purples and yellows, providing a source of water so the bees don’t get dehydrated, planting native plants, and creating nesting habitats for them.
A few of the plants that bees love include alyssum, daisies, asters, bergamot bee balm, lavender, rosemary, cosmos, echinacea, borage, anise hyssop, and salvia.
These are a few of the beautiful bees and bumblebees that have visited our garden over the summer.
I painted this canvas of a furry bumblebee for my dear friend, Erica, who has just retired and is looking forward to having more time to spend with nature in her lovely garden.
Every autumn, in April, we enjoy going foraging for walnuts. There are a couple of places where we take Finn walking that we know have big old walnut trees, which are off the beaten track and where the walnuts lie on the ground untouched.
The last couple of weeks we have had some beautiful autumn weather, perfect for foraging. On a day that was warm and still and sunny, we took our bags and headed for the river. Away from civilization, we were surrounded by trees, birdsong, bees, dragonflies, and fantails.
It was clear from the dense undergrowth and foliage that not many people had come down this way.
We discovered a crabapple tree on our walk.
When we reached the walnut trees we had to search beneath the undergrowth for the nuts, however there were plenty to be found, and Finn was keen to help! We filled our bags and left plenty for the next forager to find.
Several chatty fantails accompanied us on our walk, flitting from branch to branch. They rarely stay still for more than a moment at a time, so it is very hard to photograph them, but Nick managed to capture these ones.
Then it was down to the river for Finn to have a swim.
Now I have to wait a few weeks for the walnuts to dry before I can make my favourite caramel date and walnut cake!