Saturday, 18 March 2017



As I sit here putting this post together,  I realise I've missed blogging.   New grand babies,  trips to and from Sydney, planning a new build project and the summer garden are my excuses!  

This will be my last Post on the Blogger format as the new website has finally been completed.  My lack of time was very much the reason it has taken so long and I still have to learn how to make my way around the new site.  I'm so looking forward to posting interviews with renowned garden landscapers, travel and updates of the new build project seen below.  Please bear with me as it might take a little time...

I am sure Instagram is also to blame for my lack of blog posting.  I enjoy Instagram for the visual beauty provided by the people I follow and wish I had more time to scroll through and comment more.  I am still amazed that the rushed daily pics I post and short captions are enjoyed by so many and 'Thank You'  once again for the encouragement. 

Part of the new build elevation.

We have had an unbelievably hot summer this year.   The gardens in the Southern Highlands are just about perfect until December/January.  Then the heat arrives, settles in and the weeds thrive!  It's been hard work keeping the water up - especially to all my pots!  In this heat, the smaller topiaries need watering every day which is very time consuming.

We had to make an agonising decision to take down a giant Cedar in our garden seen below to the left of the Glasshouse.  In the past eighteen months the tree had died back and regenerated a couple of times.  We had numerous expert opinions and in the end, after weeks of discussion and peering through the binoculars, we decided to take it down.  A huge crane arrived at 7.00am and the whole process took a morning.  A beautiful fragrance of cedar hung around for days, leaving a sad reminder of the beautiful old tree. 

Another difficult decision I had to make was to give away most of my beloved Auriculas.  The hours devoted to watering, tending them and moving them to cooler, breezier spots took too much time.  I'm happy to say they've gone to a friend who sadly lost all of hers recently.  Below are photos of some of my successes.

I was very proud of this one!

The Dahlias have bloomed very late this year.  I'm sure that the severe heat retarded their flowering period as I've heard this from a few other Dahlia growers around here.  Anyway, they've now picked themselves up and I managed to gather an armful a couple of days ago while fighting off many spiders!

The laundry floor was crawling with spiders!
A yellow spider!

The Zinnias, however, have been flowering for weeks!

When the rain stops, it will soon be time to cut back the leaves of the Hellebores.  I adore these flowers and the year round value these plants bring to the garden.

We were also excited to be able to pick our first pears a couple of weeks ago!

The first Pears on the Espalier

I poached them in Saffron, Cardamom, Cinnamon and brown sugar and they were delicious accompanied by Greek yogurt!

The early Autumn weather always encourages me to cook wintery meals.  

The aromas of soups, slow roasted lamb and poaching fruit have been wafting through the house.  I love the drawing-in of this time of year and the gathering around the table with friends and family.

We had a couple of friends for supper this week and the Hydrangeas that I dried last year looked pretty coupled with the soft pink napkins and Spode china ...

Taken a few weeks ago when the Cedar was still with us..

We are looking forward to spending time at our French home again this year.  I think this is my favourite garden.  It is so un-demanding and looks after itself all year.  The Buxus gets trimmed only once a year!

Meanwhile, THIS garden is the exact opposite and it's demands never cease!
Thanks so much for stopping by everyone and have a wonderful week!

Saturday, 10 September 2016

An introduction to a wonderful new book (their second)  written by our dear friends Louis and Hardy of La Creuzette, Boussac, France.

Now available on AMAZON!

Our dear friends Hardy Olivier and Louis Jansen Van Vuuren  own a Petit Chateau in Boussac, France and  have been the resplendent hosts to hundreds of lucky people from all over the world.  Offering  courses in art, writing and cooking while experiencing the French lifestyle at the same time,  guests are taken to nearby places of interest, including gardens,  brocantes as well as local markets.   Accommodation is in their magnificent home, La Creuzette, where  the ensuite bedrooms are beautiful and the beds are made up with exquisite antique French bed linen.  The food, served on beautifully laid tables (Louis' specialty) is unforgettable.  Louis and Hardy's arrival in Boussac 15 years ago has also resulted in the happy creation of our very special South African community, as some of the guests, including ourselves have bought homes there.   

Louis and Hardy have just published their second book - "The Story of a House"  which is now available on Amazon!   Here is an excerpt:

"A South African couple’s search for the perfect home in France, and some of the beautiful dishes they create for their guests.

Louis Jansen van Vuuren:

A few years ago we bought a tiny little house on a crooked street in the middle of France. Our Parisian friends called the region of our new-found home La France profond. They rolled their eyes meaningfully at each other and pointed to a captivating shop window on the Place Vendôme.
“How far exactly is your little place from Paris?” Frédérique carefully took a sip of champagne. Her well-groomed nails were lacquered a fashionable shade. “Chanel,” she said, when she saw me looking at her fingertips. They looked like wild strawberries against the golden sparkle in her glass.
“Three and a half hours south from here.” The imposing towers of the Notre Dame cathedral were hazy through the restaurant’s decorated windows. Further along the embankment a gilded dome reflected silently in the Seine. I could smell the unmistakable aroma of roasting chestnuts being toasted over a distant brazier. The waitress took our friend’s order first: “I would like the Confit de Canard...” She licked her glossy red lips absent-mindedly.
The little house in the Auvergne was our refuge for two exciting years. Hardy was a banker in Cape Town and I lectured at the Michaelis School of Art. Months of long leave had accumulated over the years and I spent every possible moment in La France profond. I planted beds full of bearded irises and peonies and gazed at the robins frolicking in the maybush. I had only ever seen robins on European Christmas cards. I filled canvases with my new experiences, and after my second exhibition in Paris, I decided to retire and live full time in the French countryside. Shortly after that Hardy decided he had had enough of designer suits and silk ties. He had heard very clearly the seductive Gallic call.
The little house on the crooked street in the Auvergne would be too small for two full-time Frenchmen. The search for the dream home began. Whenever Hardy visited La France profond from the Cape, we would view literally a few hundred houses. There was the stone house with deep-blue, shoulder-high hydrangeas; the watermill that could be converted into a cottage; a derelict old barn in the middle of an apple orchard... If it hadn’t been for the offensive power standards on the boundary of the little farm, it might have been our new home. There was also a castle for sale in the Loire. When the agent fetched us in a shiny limousine, I realised that our pension funds and piggybank coins wouldn’t do it. But we played along and enjoyed the sham of
10 lounges and 20 giant bedrooms. Not to mention the 45 hectares of forest. Alas, our dream house was not yet destined to be.

During a lightning visit in autumn, Hardy called very early one morning from the Gare d’Austerlitz in Paris. He had a property magazine in his hands, and he was speaking with his mouth full. Most probably a pain en chocolat or one of those irresistible éclairs that the patisserie chefs fill with an exotically flavoured crème pâtissière. The fondant icing is my favourite. Only the French can become so excited about food that it is elevated to Biblical proportions. When the humble éclair is decorated with caramel, it is called a baton de Jacob. Imagine, the staff of Jacob!
“I think I have found the house of our dreams.” Hardy was breathless with excitement. In the background the departure of the train was being announced.
“Wait! Don’t hang up,” I yelled loudly into the receiver. “I think I have found it. Close by, in Creuse.” He was listening with half an ear, chewing away. Hardy was determined that the house he had discovered in the magazine would be the right one. The conductor blew his whistle and Hardy was gone.
I felt the same. The photo of the petit chateau in my magazine held me captive. I circled the stately sandstone house waiting in the tall grass with a heart shape in neon blue koki pen.

Later that afternoon Hardy arrived at the station at Montluçon. He hardly greeted me. The magazine was rolled up like a baton and folded at the page with the house of his dreams. I froze. “Wait until we get home, I want to show you what I found. We can compare the houses later.” I said, with a poker face.
I poured a glass of wine on the veranda. The view over the landscape stretched to the volcanoes of the Auvergne. I flipped to the page with the picture of my dream house. I placed the magazine in front of him. His eyes turned bluer than ever. It was the same petit chateau as his! He had bought the city edition and I the country edition. The rest, as they say, is history.
Somewhere on a branch in a two-hundred-year-old cedar tree the barn owl rustles its wings and winks a yellow eye at the manor house with the shutters."


Louis is an acclaimed artist and it is under his  guidance that students of all levels leave La Creuzette inspired to create more and more.  Louis teaches his students in his magnificent studio which nestles amongst the tree tops and his friendly encouragement is accompanied by beautiful music - mostly opera.  How could you not be inspired!

Hardy, originally a banker, has, over the years developed into a chef extraordinaire!   In "The story of a House", they share their recipes of some of the delicious dishes they serve to guests. The exquisite photos were all styled by Louis. 

Here they prepare a meal in the Summer Kitchen

I've included a recipe from their book below:

Asparagus and crab charlotte
(Serves 4)

Asparagus and crab charlotte
(Serves 4)

1 bunch young white asparagus
1 tub Philadelphia salmon cream cheese 1 tin tuna
1 tin crab meat
1⁄2 tub thick sour cream (crème fraîche)
1 small bunch chives, chopped
1 small white onion or 2 spring onions1⁄2 lime or lemon
freshly ground salt and black pepper
1 pinch Espelette pepper
1 teaspoon turmeric
4 ripe avocados
1 handful fresh, cooked broad beans olive oil, balsamic vinegar

Cut the asparagus tips in lengths of 4–5cm from the stem (we don’t use the bottom parts of asparagus stems). Peel the asparagus with a vegetable peeler and boil in salted water for 8–10 minutes until just tender, but not mushy. Refresh in ice water, drain and keep aside.
Prepare the filling by mixing the Philadelphia cheese, tuna and drained crab. Add the sour cream, chopped chives and spring onions, lemon or lime juice, and season with salt, pepper, Espelette and turmeric. Leave for at least 1 hour in fridge.
Remove skin and pip of avocado, and cube.

To serve: Cut the asparagus in half lengthways and arrange on the inner side of a 10cm metal tart ring. Cover the bottom of the ring with avocado cubes (keep 2 tablespoons to decorate the top). Fill the asparagus ring with chilled crab meat and sprinkle with remaining avocado cubes. Drizzle with lemon juice to stop them from browning.
Chill for at least 2 hours before serving. Remove the tart ring, decorate the charlotte with halved cherry tomatoes or a bundle of fresh herbs (coriander leaves are good) scatter the broad beans around and drizzle with balsamic vinegar, olive oil, Espelette, and black pepper.
You can also prepare small charlottes instead of the bigger one by using smaller tart rings when assembling


Some of the beautiful images from the book are displayed below and  I was  so fortunate to have been given a signed copy which I cherish.   

A delightful photo!

The magnificent dining room at La Creuzette

Front and back covers of the book which fits into a beautiful sleeve, including a cookbook! I have previously written posts about La Creuzette and you can read them here and here .

Go ahead and order yourselves a copy - you won't be sorry!

Tuesday, 16 August 2016


image via

Last week I decided that I would divide and repot the Auriculas.  The ongoing care for these amazing plants is, quite frankly, laborious!  They have a reputation for being difficult to grow,  reluctant to flower, and they simply conk out for no reason.  Auriculas are demanding rather than difficult because they need alpine conditions and only do well if placed somewhere cool and airy away from the midday sun.  
Mine flowered too early last year as they were situated on the Northern verandah in full sun to keep them warm during a cold winter.  Instead of that perfect single bunch of flowers poised above the leaves,  most plants had numerous single flower stems flopping about the pot and so I decided to divide them this year so that the offsets were limited. 

One of last year's flowers 
I removed the plant from the original pot, and gently pulled it apart before planting them in two separate pots into which I had added pebbles which I hope will assist in the drainage.

Pressing down the potting mix around the Auricula

After adding pebbles to cover the soil
Some of the re-potted Auriculas

The greenhouse is brimming with pansies and foxgloves that are just about ready to plant out into the garden.
John and I comparing our handy work

I've been picking lots of Violets for my bedside table and just adore their fragrance.
Gorgeous Gladioli in the hall - store bought flowers at this time of the year are a necessity.
This is the first time I have put Wattle into a vase and perhaps the last!... They dropped within two days!
I had a group of lovely ladies over for lunch on Friday
The first tulips I have brought inside this year and I'm hoping they will flower..
I've also fed all of the indoor plants
The Hellebores are all in flower now

English Galanthus which was given to me by a friend

Delightful snowdrops dotted all over the garden
The Auriculas are doing well
The Pelargoniums are beginning to flower
My Hydrangea cuttings have all taken

The Hydrangeas cuttings beneath a cloche.
An unusual double Daffodil which was given to me by a friend

After a day in the garden,  soup for supper is usually the easiest.

The soup was delicious and so was the boiled egg on toast.

Happy week everyone!

ps - since posting this, I have read that the best time to divide the Auriculas is just after they have flowered... oh dear... fingers crossed!
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