Category Archives: step into my garden

beautiful little glimpses of the garden

How to fix a broken fence …


There is an undercurrent in the media at the moment.

It goes something like this.

Muslims will be applauded if they:

  1. Condemn all terror attacks and
  2. Promote peace and unity

But the moment a Muslim goes a step further and tries to explore the reasons behind fundamentalism and terrorism, they are howled down. In the western press at least.

It’s got me thinking about the importance of having a voice. Whether it’s in a relationship, a family, a workplace or a community. Everyone needs to feel that they have a voice.

Have you ever been in a situation where you don’t have a voice? When someone has shut you down? Silenced you?

How did you feel?

Hurt? Resentful?

I am thinking back to conversations we’ve had with the kids when, as parents, we’ve made mistakes, jumped to conclusions, made accusations or spoken out of line and found ourselves in the uncomfortable position of apologising – to them.

A little seismic shift occurs. The kids suddenly see you as human. As fallible. But I think they also respect the fact that from your position of parental power, you are big enough to say “I was wrong. And I’m sorry.” And perhaps most importantly they know that they have a voice. And that is has been heard.

The flip side of this is when you don’t listen, when you stubbornly hold your position and say …

“Go to your room!”
“But I just …”
“I don’t want to hear it. Go to your room!”

Try this on …

“Shut up and be a good Muslim and go back to your suburb.”
“But I just want to talk about why I think this is happening …”
“No. We don’t want to hear it.”

Silenced. Hurt. Resentful.

Is that really the result we want?

garden 1

I’ve said it before and I will say it again, the West has a less than glowing history in many corners of the world and if Obama and Turnbull et al really want to find a political, humanitarian solution to the current mess they have to acknowledge the mistakes of the past and apologise for the hurts inflicted.

Imagine you run into your neighbour’s fence with your car. Big damage.

I asked a friend today how would she set out to fix it.

“Well I’d pay for the damage.”

But I said, “No. How would you begin the process of fixing it?”

“Well I’d walk across to the neighbours, I’d apologise profusely and I’d set out to make it right. Then I’d pay for the damage.”



garden 2

The most moving moment for Steve and I this week was the press conference in Western Australia with the first of the Syrian refugees finding sanctuary in Australia. A mechanic and his wife and five children. I have no doubt the PR machine had them polished and shined to within an inch of their lives. Their pictures taken. The littlies smiling. But even despite all of that, we looked at each other and said “Imagine having been on the run or in a camp in Jordan for four years and finally, finally you know your children are going to sleep safely tonight, and they will be able to go to school and you have a chance for a new start. A good life.”

And the tears welled up.

We visited Syria in 2010, five months before it went to hell. The people were overwhelmingly friendly and welcoming. We have watched it unravel for the past five years. The Syria we experienced is no more.

The father’s last words were: “All the respect. All the respect to Australia. Thank you again.”


Respect for your voice.

Respect for mine.

18 months ago we pulled down our broken front fence and replaced it with a garden. I wrote about it here. We extended the little verandah so we could have a table and chairs out the front. Like so many Australians our focus has always been in the backyard but I can’t tell you the pleasure we’ve had bringing this little area to life, from funking up some chairs from the tip shop to planting Provencal thyme and lavenders and a curving box hedge. Last night, just on dark, I sat out there with a cup of tea and got chatting to a young guy who was walking the street, trying to settle his adorable 11 month old son who was unwell. Five years they’ve lived five doors away and last night was the first time we’d met.

marg's watercolour in the style of Edna Walling

stephen hogan sculpture letterbox


abstract shadows and light

When we’re frightened our natural response is to close in on ourselves. But I think now more than ever we need to be reaching out.

Please don’t be afraid of robust conversations.

Please don’t be frightened of different.

Different clothes. Different faces. Different ideas. Different opinions.

Different is wonderful.

Different is what makes this planet so mind blowingly beautiful.

Open your doors. Open your hearts. And make room for the voices.

There are stories that need to be told.

Stories that need to be heard.

From both sides of that broken fence.



I’d be grateful if you’d share this one.  xo


… a tale of opium and spanish señoritas

A Spanish señorita has stepped on to the stage in our garden.

Neck proud and erect, earrings dangling, skirt flouncing.

spanish senorita opium poppy

A whirling flurry of passion immersed in her own red dangerousness.

opium poppy red skirt flying

A blurred oblivion of colour and movement.

pink underside opium poppy

But behind the facade of bravado and foot stamping she has a trove of quiet secrets, secrets that she keeps close and well concealed.

The tantalising question is

hidden secrets opium poppy

Who will she choose to unlock them?


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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