Pretty in pink

This post is triggered by seeing a local garden in full spring glory mode. It is on quiet suburban street corner and is a bit of a stand out because it is always clipped within an inch of its life. IMG_6488It got me thinking about the concept of the front garden, partly because I do not have one. So today as I took one of my longer walking routes I paid attention to the face property owners present to the world.

Most of the gardens in my street are dominated by native trees and shrubs with exotics planted closer to the house. Some owners have been careful to plant species indigenous to the area. The reserve that takes up one side of the road is slowly being rehabilitated with lots of weed clearing and intensive planting between the trees and along the restored creek banks.

Some newer home owners are bucking this trend, but because of VCAT rulings, trees have been protected and there is a restricted building footprint. Not that this means a garden full of native plants hiding a sympathetic buildingIMG_6492

Infil housing is happening up the next road, with back and side yards of large properties subdivided off. What looks like a converted Masonic Lodge is actually a new build. The front garden is as uptight as the architecture. The long drive down to a new house takes advantage of the cypress trees next door and has a regimented planting squeezed in on either side of the asphalt.

Most gardens however are typical mixes of traditional plantings and are well maintained.  Like this one with the beautiful deciduous magnolia, a plant that is putting on a stunning display all over Melbourne this spring.


A bit further on one of the original farm houses has a neat front garden typical of its era. Down the side are assorted sheds and there is still a nearby dam despite most of the land being given over to housing. Next comes the high tension transmission lines which are a demarcation line between large blocks and significant acreage.


Ahh for the good old days of government owned infrastructure.

I am now well away from any form of footpath, and the air is full of the scent of Sweet Pittosporum Pittosporum undulate, an environmental weed that establishes very quickly and starves surrounding plants of nutrients, water and sunlight. It is a native plant out of its usual rainforest habitat, but is allowed to grow in yards and gardens probably because it looks quite nice and saves on lots of weeding.

There is a distinct change of style as properties are not just homes for people. At least four beautiful horses have stabling just a gate away from the front garden of one home.

A reproduction of maybe a Victorian period home has an impressive front garden and a tennis court and pool down the side. Definitely a lifestyle place and with gorgeous views. Many  Canary Island Date Palms Phoenix canariensis feature in front gardens, some indicating the age of the house, but most how much the owner was prepared to spend on landscaping. It is definitely the status plant for large gardens.

There are paddocks now between each house and the frontages are getting wider. This next one is an “Exquisite Executive Residence on 10 acres” according to the For Sale sign.

I turn up a road that runs across the crest of the hills. On the corner is a house that dates back to the time when the area was popular for guest houses and country retreats for people wanting a break away from the city. Deciduous feature trees dominate, with lots of shrubberies and borders.


I am in serious horse country now. It is no longer a house with a showy garden, more a place to enjoy all aspects of the equestrian life. The scent in the air has changed too,  freesias have naturalised all along the side of the road.

Less than a half hours walk from home I am well out into the country side. Remnant bushland and paddocks and a couple of alpaca.

Across the other side of the road it is lovely to see an older California Bungalow has been renovated and enlarged rather than bulldozed. Even the windbreak has been kept. No front garden is needed when there is some much beautiful scenery all around.



13 views of Hokusai

There are so many great exhibitions on at the moment I need to visit one a week to keep up. Today’s trip was to NGV in St Kilda Road, a great place to spend a rainy day.

Hokusai is on until 15 October and like all popular showings there will probably be a mad rush at the end. There are a total of 176 works, quite overwhelming.

The exhibition is bookmarked by two charming prints, both thought to be self portraits.

They show his passion for humorously depicting ordinary people engaging in everyday activities. He was at the height of his fame in the 1830s when he was in his seventies.

The most well known of the many series on show is the Thirty Six Views of Mt Fuji, an amazing example of landscape composition, humour and affinity with nature.

Along side the wood block print The Great Wave acquired by the NGV in 1909 is an equally early print from Japan Ukiyo-e Museum, Matsumoto. It was fun to play “spot the difference”.

After seeing the Mt Fuji, Waterfalls, Poetry, Bridges and other series, there are some beautiful woodblocks known as Large Flowers and Small Flowers. His influence on Japanese art is obvious in these works.

Lots of different people are interested in this showing, there were many Japanese visitors, the usual gallery attendees and an audience mainly interested in Hokusai’s Manga. 


The first ten volumes were published between 1814 and 1819 and others came later. They are thought to have been painting manuals for artists interested in Hokusai’s spontaneity and originality, but proved very popular with the general public.

A selection images from Self-taught Dancing Apprenticeship 1814  have been animated by the NGV Multimedia team to demonstrate that he had an understanding of creating moving images well before any similar European animation device.

As usual there is a stunning selection of merchandise created especially for the NGV, all very beautiful and expensive.


I came home with a magnet and the book as it was very hard to choose which images I liked best.

Many people nowadays like

All it takes is a heap of Seville oranges and a lemon and quite a lot of sugar.

Using a tried and true recipe, cook the oranges in water until very soft. Chop like crazy. Cook again with the sugar and there you have it.

Twenty two and a half jars. One batch was a bit overcooked but any …

… marmalade is tasty if it’s very thickly spread.

Weaving Sampler: More Patterns

My weaving sampler is growing. The patterns from bottom to top are Window Weave using two different novelty yarns, Pile Loop which involves the use of a knitting needle to form the loops and Weft Floats again with a novelty yarn.

The pattern that forms the middle of the sampler is called Brooks Bouquet.

I have reached the halfway point. Now to repeat the other seven patterns  in reverse order.


Celebrating Wattle Day

1 September is Australia’s Wattle Day. As I had to take my quilting machine to Wandin I took the opportunity to walk from Wandin to Seville on the Warburton Rail Trail.

There were wattles blooming everywhere. And they were filled with birds, tiny wrens, wagtails, rosellas and cockatoos. If you look carefully towards the top of the tree on the left you might find a New Holland Honeyeater.

As I set off from the carpark just off the Warburton Highway past the old Wandin Station I looked up.

Someone has a strange sense of humour. Their spelling is a bit of a worry or maybe it was all about the Last Train to Clarksville.

There is lots to see along the trail which passes through a small wetland then agricultural    properties along Wild Cattle Creek. The crimson rosellas had checked their calendar, September is the start of their breeding season and this pair were checking out a hollow at the top of the tree.

These coloured sheep must have thought I had something for them as they followed me along the fence line.  I spotted two baby rabbits grazing near the path, they ducked under some bracken. They were out again on my way back, but this one bumped into the long blade when trying to get away and must have thought being very, very still was the best option.

Near Seville these ruins are very close to the trail. I cannot find out what they are, maybe the remains of a private stop serving the farm.

Just before Seville Station there is the Carriage Cafe that caters for everyone, even equestrians. The telegraph pole is the sole remnant of the line which closed in 1965.

Like most walks, it was much quicker going back and I arrived at Wandin Station just as the sky was clouding over. The platform remains, as does the Station Master’s house.

The photo from Melbourne Museum shows a Walker diesel rail car and Y-class diesel locomotive no. 116, at Wandin Station. circa 1960.

Past Legacy : Present Tense

A restorative coffee was needed following my extended viewing of Brave New World, then on to a preview also on Level 3 of NGV Australia.

Past Legacy: Present Tense looks at Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander artists from city and bush studios who have made their mark by reinterpreting and transforming customary signs and objects into daringly different and modern works of art. contemporary Indigenous artists make innovative works in organic and new media that memorialise and interrogate history honour customary practices and forms of material culture and reference systems of shared signs and symbols.

After the doom predicted in the 1930s this was a most refreshing exhibition. It opens on 1 September and continues to January 2018.

Aboriginal dog by the Pitcha Makin Fellaz, of Ballarat was created as a positive response to an abusive sign ‘Black dog’ tagged near the home of one of the men. It celebrates the long standing connection between the people and dingoes. Suite of Ku (Camp Dogs) is a new gallery sculpture acquisition by a group of Wik men in Aurukun, Queensland. In the bottom left are Champ Ku and Baby blossom Ku by Garry Namponan, 2016, Aurukun, Queensland. Despite the ferocious teeth, these dogs, full of personality, made me smile.

Banumbirr (Moring Star poles) by Gali Yalkarriwuy, 2011 Ngaypinya, NT. The feathers at the top of the pole represent Venus, the morning star. The beautifully detailed feathered strings represent individual clans.

Twelve women artists who live in the Punmu community collaborated on Ngayarta Kujarra (Lake Dora) which is absolutely enormous, occupying almost the entire wall which has been covered in a bronze mirror. It represents the salt lake surrounded by many fresh water sources. The glittering vast white interior and shimmering edges make this a mesmerising work.

Lena Nyadbi Starry night in Jibirla country. Jackie Krulijunyintja Giles Tjamu Tjamu the path of a male kangaroo ancestor.

Several of the pieces transform earlier works by non-indigenous artists. In the background of the delightful Burkunda dresses can be seen Brook Andrew’s The Island IV from The Island series 2008. This piece uses a sketch by William Blandowski drawn on an 1856 expedition from Melbourne to the Murray River, in a screenprint on blue metallic foil and cotton. The large scale image is shocking in the way it magnifies the crudeness and racism of the early image. The NGV has published an interesting essay by Marcia Langton on the confronting body of work by the artist.

Little Johnny needs to be viewed from a distance. It is Richard Bell’s response to John Howard’s refusal to apologise to the Stolen Generations. It echoes the ishara tests for colour blindness and imagines a world without racism.


Brave New World

This exciting and thought provoking exhibition looks at Australia in the 1930s by exploring ten themes. It is on at NGV Australia until October 15. A wide variety of media are used illustrate key ideas and artistic responses to this decade of change. It makes for a very different style of exhibition for the gallery; putting film, painting, sculpture, graphic design, fashion, furniture and architecture, photography, ceramics, industrial design and textiles side by side in beautifully staged tableaux.

Visitors are directed to move through the exhibition in a specific order.

Beginning with Utopian Cities, the rise of the modern city is exemplified with the Manchester Unity building in Melbourne and the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Modern Woman is shown as independent and engaged. Many of the paintings are by women artists. Miss Moria Madden by Arthur Challen could easily be a model for a certain female detective. The theme Body Culture features many photos by Max Dupain including the 1975 reprint of his iconic Sunbaker and sculputres of an idealised body form – white Australian and athletic. This striving towards a strong and healthy nation of the correct body form is now quite disturbing knowing how these ideas of eugenics were subsequently used.

Further themes The Expressive Body and Pastoral Landscapes are a delight. A wall sized photo of the interpretative dancer Sonia Revid dancing on Brighton Beach is a celebration of free flowing movement. The Squatters Daughter screens above idealised paintings and posters of almost mythical rural landscapes. And yes, Jocelyn Howarth is carrying a pet koala.

While Aboriginal people were often regarded as a ‘dying race’ at this time, Indigenous art and culture was of interest to many artists and collectors. Margaret Preston was one artist who studied Aboriginal art and travelled into the outback to learn more about what she regarded as source of good design. She championed using these forms as basis of a distinctively Australian modern art but in doing so appropriated images and symbols with no regard to their sacred nature or right to use the work. Her painting of Shoalhaven Gorge, New South Wales uses strong lines and dots, the woodcut Aboriginal Design -The hunt utilises symbols and forms she saw during her studies.

The last part of the exhibition is in a dim narrow corridor. Dystopian Cities shows how artists and campaigners responded to the depression and rising unrest here and overseas. A rare film of the slum areas of inner Melbourne screens above the Wilmington wagga made in 1934 by Adolphina Noll as a wedding gift to her grand-daughter.  While viewing the confronting photos taken by F. Oswald Barnett to illustrate the report of the Housing Investigation and Slum Abolition Board,  you get a glimpse back into the world of optimism and independence of the Modern Woman.


The final image is a wall size print of Max Dupain’s 1938 Brave New World showing a woman trapped by technology.

This is an excellent exhibition that is very relevant as we continue to grapple with ideas of national identity.