If Nicole de Vésian were to meet Edna Walling in our front garden …

I stumbled upon pictures of Nicole de Vésian’s Provencal garden La Louve a year or two ago and have been obsessed with her ever since.

When Monty Don featured her garden in his French Gardens series, well that sealed the deal.

Nicole’s garden is extraordinary to me on a number of fronts, first and foremost because she started it in her 70′s.

Having worked as a successful fashion designer in New York and Paris, La Louve was her final creation. It sits on the edge of Bonnieux, not far from Menerbes, made famous by Peter Mayle’s A Year in Provence.

I bought Louisa Jones’ Modern Design in Provence (a tribute to La Louve), read it from cover to cover and have been trying to replicate little corners of the garden in Nicole’s style. I love her restrained colour palette. Green upon green. Greys upon greys. Plants heavily clipped sitting alongside others left to grow wild. The hills of Provence a beautiful backdrop for an afternoon drink. I can only imagine the scent. And that afternoon light.

Sigh …

la louvela louve

I’ve also been revisiting The Vision of Edna Wallinga book I’ve had for many years that showcases the surviving watercolour plans of this legendary Australian landscape designer. Reading it again, it strikes me that if Walling was alive today she would be a popular blogger, just as she was a popular gardening writer throughout her career, often sharing stories about her own garden. Very personal and very accessible to her readers.

Unless anyone can show me something better, I think Walling’s watercolour plans are in a league of their own. “Undeniably beautiful” as authors Trisha Dixon and Jennie Churchill state in the preface to the book. If you’re not familiar with her work and you’re interested in gardening do some investigating.

edna walling watercolour

A few months ago we discovered that a Japanese Sacred Bamboo in our little front garden had wreaked havoc in our verandah foundations. Meanwhile our low brick front fence had developed serious cracks, so much so that we could have felled it with a single push.

One thing has led to another. Monty led me to Nicole. Nicole to Edna. Edna to my Windsor and Newton watercolours.

The front fence has been removed. The verandah is a pile of concrete rubble. The Ginnala maple is stark naked but there are tiny green signs of life. We have raided a friend’s English box hedge plantation and have planted what will, in time, be a curved hedge dropping gently in height. There are a range of Australian natives mixed with French lavender, santolina and Provencal thyme.

It doesn’t look very wonderful at the moment.

It is not Provence.

But I can see it.

In my mind’s eye …

marg's watercolour in the style of Edna Walling

Can you?

You might enjoy these final lines from Edna Walling’s book.

Walling was in the forefront of the modern conservation movement. A quote from The Australian Roadside encapsulates her passion for the flora of her adopted country and its conservation. “Men show their greatness more by circumnavigating flowers and mosses then they do by sailing over them with bulldozers.”

I love that. Especially as I watch Steve mowing paths around the lawn daisies as we speak. x

Do you have your own gardening heroes? Or dreams …

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    of Sunday mornings, gentle goals and little dreams …

    The frost is thick on the ground, the sky is blue and clear.

    The house is mine alone this Sunday morning so I am languishing in bed, propped up with pillows, enjoying the stillness, thinking it’s been a while.

    A poached egg, fresh toast from Legall’s and a little avocado.

    Polly is nosing in for a pat. Yes I love you too.

    What a year this has been. Is it just me? Working in a business where everything is moving so fast, feeling the pressure to stay on top of things, to change things up, to ‘follow my passions’.

    I did eight weeks of BSchool in autumn and it fuelled the fire. Don’t get me wrong, there was lots of good juice, especially for my clients, but it was very noisy. People climbing over themselves to be seen and heard online. 12,000 of them in the Facebook group. I’ve never been good in crowds. Like many of those courses and self help type books you’ll take away just a few gems and that’s OK. But I’m happy to shut the door on that one for a while. You can’t be creative in an environment like that.

    It’s made me question again (I know) the role of social media in our lives and as I mentioned last post it’s something I want to talk about with social researcher aka wise owl, Hugh Mackay. I’ve finished reading his book The Good Life and I took away more than just a few gems. It was quiet. And good soul food. And it reminded me how intensely more satisfying it is to drown in a good book than bob about like a cork on social media. With a book you are down below the waves and the noise and the foam, in that exquisite womb of silence, utterly in the moment. Tim Winton territory. Senses alive. Every one of them alert and open.

    Warm toes. Soft sheets. A second cup of tea. I am so very lucky.

    I have also been continuing the fitness journey which has taken me away from the computer too. Four weeks in with the personal training I pinged a tendon at the base of my spine and that put me back a few weeks. If it had been left to me I would have called it quits but having made the commitment with the trainer we found a gentler path through it all and I am out the other side.

    And over the past eight weeks I have learnt something.

    I have learnt that I am more inclined to exercise if I have a purpose and I set myself some gentle goals. For instance, two kilometres on the bike in 8.07 minutes. Next time aim for under 8. Next time a little less. Walking the Mount with the girls I am the resident chain dragger on the hills. When I first started I’d have to stop three or four times on the climbs to catch my breath. But yesterday I walked it with no breaks. Little. Personal. Gentle goals. Trust me if I can do it, you can too. We are stronger than we think.

    Hello Polly. Yes we’ll go for a walk soon.

    There is so much I need and want to learn with work. I need to get a better understanding of html and css. I want to learn Lightroom. And I want to swap across from Final Cut Pro to Adobe Premiere for video editing. Mountains. Always more mountains. But one at a time.

    Gently.

    Go gently …

    We are losing a friend. And I have been reluctant to visit because I am not of her inner circle and I can’t help but feel that’s who you would want around you in your last days. Cut down way too young with acute myeloid leukaemia. So brave and positive throughout these wickedly fast few months. I had a call from another friend who had been to the hospital last night and said it might be a good time to visit. Quiet. Just she and her partner. They were planning to be married in September. Big dreams. Little dreams. They can come in all shapes and sizes. What my friend would give just to be sitting in bed with a poached egg, fresh toast from Legalls and a little avocado. How I wish things were different…

    Sunday mornings,

    gentle goals,

    and little dreams…

    I am so very grateful, this cold clear morning, for them all.

    And with that she decided to treat herself to a third cup of tea because it just felt so damned lovely to be able to stop for a while. But there was a very patient dog lying quietly at her doorway with its head on its paws, eyeballing her, poised to pounce at the first sign of movement. Perhaps no mountains today Pol. Let’s just stroll the river.

     

    late evening walks

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      Winter, slow cooking and a favourite Osso Bucco recipe …

      It had to come eventually.

      Winter that is.

      gremolata for the osso bucco

      We’ve been enjoying the mildest autumn and first month of winter. Many plants in the garden are yet to be cut by frost but all that changed in the last 24 hours. Yesterday afternoon the clouds rolled in with winds that had the gum trees rocking and last night the hills surrounding Bathurst have been covered in snow. The Bathurst valley and Bathurst itself rarely get snow but as I look out the window it’s teetering. It’s bleak and bitingly cold. Steve has been in Sydney for a couple of days couch surfing his way around the city catching up with friends and our daughter, Maddy. Darce is making the most of school holidays and has run away disappeared out west with friends. So I’ve been lying around reading in bed, being really lazy, letting the house turn to rack and ruin, enjoying a television free zone, listening to music and doing a bit of slow cooking.

      We’re in one pot territory, my favourite place to be in the kitchen, especially when winter hits.

      And this is the recipe I always turn to. Osso Bucco. I’ve been cooking this for nearly 20 years. It’s a beauty. Easy too.

      raw vegies for osso bucco

      chopped vegies

      meat

      I didn’t have any dried basil so I just used some fresh but I don’t think it works nearly as well as the dried for this dish.

      in the pot

      osso bucco finished dish

      Osso Bucco

      Ingredients
      3-4 veal shanks sawn in half (I generally get the butcher to slice these for me about an inch thick)
      1/4 cup oil (I use olive oil)
      2/3 cup dry white wine
      1 1/2 cups stock (I use chicken)
      salt and pepper
      plain flour
      3 onions sliced
      2 carrots sliced (I used 6 small ones)
      3 sticks of celery diced
      1 bay leaf
      2 cloves of garlic
      a pinch of basil and thyme (dried is best)
      a big piece of lemon rind
      155g tomato paste

      penne pasta

      To serve:
      2 tablespoons finely chopped celery
      1 tablespoon grated lemon rind

      Method
      1. Heat some of the oil in a wide frying pan and fry sliced onions gently until soft and turning golden. Place in the base of a large saucepan.

      2. Gently sauté sliced carrots and chopped celery. Add to onions.

      3. Roll veal in seasoned flour (plain flour with salt and pepper). Dust off and brown in oil.

      4. Arrange browned shanks on top of veggies. Add bay leaf, crushed garlic, thyme, basil, lemon rind.

      5. Mix tomato paste with white wine and stock. Add to saucepan.

      6. Add more stock if necessary.

      7. Bring to boil. Cover. Reduce heat and simmer for approximately 4 hours or till meat is almost falling off the bones. Skim the fat. Remove the bones and tap the marrow out into the sauce. Test for seasoning. Add pepper and salt to taste.

      8. Cook penne till al dente. Plate up and sprinkle with finely chopped celery and lemon rind.

      (The original recipe which came from Maddy’s babysitter Jo – if you happen upon this Jo I hope you don’t mind me sharing it – says adds the celery and lemon rind ten minutes before serving but I like the freshness of the lemon and the crunch of the celery so I add it to the plate. Jo’s recipe also calls for risotto but I cheat and just serve it with a little pasta.)

      As with most things like this, it’s always better the next day, or the next.

      Speaking of meat and lemons these older posts might give you a smile …

      Is it wrong to have two butchers? The confession.

      … a tale of a little lemon tree and has my husband been taking the piss?

      During the week I went to a lecture up at the uni and heard Australian social researcher, Hugh Mackay, speak about his new book The Good Life. It was an interesting and confronting assessment of the west’s pursuit of happiness and excellence and perfection, a pursuit that is unsurprisingly bringing neither lasting happiness nor any genuine meaning to people’s lives. At the tail end of question time the issue of social media started to raise its head and later in the evening I sowed the seeds with Hugh to do an interview here on the blog - to tease it out a bit more – to discuss how things like blogs and social media might be fuelling unrealistic benchmarks and setting people up for disappointments. Anyway he’s on the road for a couple of weeks but I’ll keep you posted. I’m about half way through the book and am really enjoying his insightful observations of what, he believes, makes a life worth living. He is a writer I admire very much.

      Stay warm Aussie friends. Northerners, enjoy that sunshine :)

      And I hope you enjoy the Osso Bucco.

      x

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