Tag Archives: gardening

First observations and impressions of a traveler in Europe

After only 2 weeks in the UK I have made some interesting observations. Although I was in London, rather the out skirts, I have not been once into the center of London. I did not feel like it and wanted to spend the time to catch up with family and some friends. The ones who live in the East of London šŸ™‚

Observations of English gardens

I am no stranger to London after all I lived there twice for a couple of years. So no, I have not headed to the many attractions that London offers. Instead I have had my first experience to garden in this climatic zone. The job waiting me was to trim and clear a rather overgrown part of a well established cottage garden.

observations, English garden, lush garden, flowers

A typical English garden during the summer. Lush, green and colourful and I was allowed to make my mark!

In Australia I have come across some nasty vegetation. The kind that can tear your clothes or cut through your garden gloves. A bougainvillea thorn can cause infection as I have found out several times. Some garden companies refuse to handle Bougainvillea for that reason.

As I found out the English garden can compete! Roses, Pyracanta and Berberis to name a few. All with thorns that can mutilate you!

This would not be so bad if the local council would provide adequate means to get rid of the garden waste. They think they have come up with a ‘fantastic’ solution. They charge 50 pounds for 50 bags that you can fill up and they pick them up on a regular base. Sounds like it could work.

Well just have a look at the picture below and judge for yourself! The only good thing about these bags is that the plastic used is environmentally friendly. It apparently breaks down easily….!

observations, garden waste, garden bags

Flimsy garden bags not suited for normal garden waste, let alone those with thorns!

More people obviously are not impressed – hence the article in the local paper šŸ˜Æ

Anyway, apart from flimsy bags my time in London was pleasant. Before I change the subject however I have noticed something else that I like to mention.

Observations of London street scenes

A while back I was discussing prices with my friend Greg in Brisbane. He said that he was very happy to pay a bit more in Australia. He pointed out that Australia was a very clean country and public services work well. I had never considered it in that way but after being in London for a couple of days I noticed how right he was.

London is rather dirty. The streets are dirty, the street signs are often so polluted that you can barely read them. Many public bins are full to the brim and people leave house hold and garden waste on the street for days.

observations, garden waste, council services

Garden waste that is left out for days for the council to pick up is a common sight

It is probably an accepted sight for Londoners but for me coming from a cleaner country, it was very noticeable. So dear friend in Brisbane, you have a fair point!

A family reunion in The Netherlands

My next stop will be Amsterdam or actually the smaller city of Haarlem very close to the capital. I assume you all know that Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands. Quite often people assume wrongly that the capital is The Hague as that is where the government resides already since 1588. Amsterdam is the place where the inauguration of kings and queens take place – it is the royal city.

The reason I am going to Haarlem is a family reunion. Family in the way of cousins and cousines. We had a spontaneous reunion a Ā couple of years ago and we decided then that the next one would be after my return to Europe. Last time my sister hosted it and this time one of my cousins will open his house for the invasion.

It was special to catch up with all these cousins. There are no more aunties and uncles so apart from memories and old pictures we have no means to find out about our past. One of my cousins created a file with pictures dating back to the late 1800’s. Quite special.

One of my Brisbane friends lent me once a book about a Dutch watch maker family who helped Jewish people during WW2 the nazi holocaust. Their house is in Haarlem and is now a museum. My friend has asked me the favour to check it out for her and take some pictures for her to see. I will gladly do this and I am even taking along some of my family who lives in Haarlem but never have been to the house themselves.

A bit of nostalgia

It seems that my tour around Europe so far is full with nostalgia. It feels like that and it will be nice to pass some of this on to my kids who grew up without strong links to the Netherlands. Although one of them has decided that The Netherlands is the place where she wants to study! She is a Dutch citizen, but does not speak Dutch – so far. She has assured me that this will be different by the end of the year Ā šŸ˜†

I’m looking forward to arriving in Haarlem and go a bit down memory lane with cousins and second cousins. Goodbye to London for now until later this year when we have a wedding of a London cousin. The first wedding we can go to since we emigrated to Australia 25 years ago. So quite special!

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observations, relaxation, feeling at ease

 

 

 

The ultimate tropical paradise exists!

Three months ago I was invited for a garden consultation for what I would call “the ultimate tropical paradise”.

tropical, subtropical, rainforest, shady plants

Lush tropical paradise with lots of hot pinks to create a spiel of colour

I love gardening and I have a small and successful garden business. It began years ago as a hobby for a couple of hours per week. Over time word got around and now I have a waiting list.

I have roughly 25 clients and they all use my services on a regular base, some weekly, some fortnightly and others monthly. My oldest client dates back at least 5 years.

I have been thinking for a while how to blog about my gardening and I have decided to discuss and showcase one of my gardens every month. I will start with one of my favourites – the tropical paradise garden where I initially was afraid to do more damage than good!

The ultimate tropical paradise

The lay-out of this garden is simple yet problematic as it is at the bottom of a sloping site. From street level and the front of the house to the garden at the back is roughly the equivalent of 3-4 floors. Therefore it is definitely a garden that keeps me fit.

palm tree, pony tail, shade, tropical paradise

Palms and Pony tails trees provide shade for the other plants and help to create the tropical rain forest look

The site has a large number of big palm trees that gives the garden a lot of shade and only dappled sun. As a result it was possible to create a ‘rainforest’ look with a wide range of tropical plants that prefer mostly shady conditions.

Walking into this garden makes you feel like you are entering a tropical fairy tale land. It is an abundance of greens and red foliage with clusters of gorgeous Bromeliads and many orchids in bloom. If this garden would enter a competition, it would surely win!

orchid, tiger orchid, yellow flower

Yellow tiger orchid, a common orchid in Australia

My role as the gardener

You may like to ask, what it is that I actually have to do there? And to be honest that is exactly what I asked myself when I came for my initial consultation. The garden felt perfectly finished as it was.

It shows however how much work you need to do to keep such a garden up to the level it is. When I started I filled up bag after bag with rubbish such as dead leaves, broken branches and weeds. All pretty much invisible at first glance.

bromeliad, red bromeliad

Bromeliad with the red centres give a splash of colour to many gardens

One thing I did and still do is dividing the Bromeliads and give them a bigger pot and new soil. Many of the Bromeliad pots sit in metal rings that are attached to the palms. A brilliant way to create balance in shape and colour on all levels.

I also like to go on the deck above and assess whether the view on the garden has the right balance in shape, colour and height. To be honest there is enough work for me to spend a couple of hours per fortnight in this garden.

view, tropical paradise

A view on the garden from the deck above

One of my favourite things to do is to take cuttings from existing plants. After they have grown roots I plant them in those areas that need a bit more height, shape or colour

tropical paradise, pink Draecaena

Dracaena Marginata, a great example for taking cutting and replanting

I love working in a garden like this and to me it is a ‘gardener’s dream‘ come true.

Not for every climate

A little warning for those who live in moderate climates. All these plants need warm temperatures and will die in frost. Funny is that many of them were on my mum’s window sill in the house in The Netherlands where I grew up. My love for tropical plants dates back to a very young age!

Have a look for yourself!

easydone gardening, garden business, creative gardening

 

Creativity is what I need most the coming year!

Creativity has always been a part of my life. I think it started with making my own clothes when I was a teenager. I had to find a way to prevent my mum making waist high trousers for me when hipsters were the go!

Maybe even photography was the first attempt. I have memories of hanging out in the dark room with my father dipping pictures into various chemical baths.

There are definitely some creative genes in my family and I like to credit my father for some of them.

Creativity is in the genes?

My father was a keen amateur photographer. I am sure he would have been a professional if he would have been living in a different time. He was born in 1920, almost 100 years ago.

If you are good at maths you know now that I am not a spring chicken anymore either! I have to tell you though that he was an older father….

dark room, photography, black and white pictures

Busy in the ‘dark room’. many people may not even know what this is.

He had his own dark room and I was in there from a very young age. He used to print tiny pictures in black and white for my sister and I. We would stick them in little notebooks. I wish I still had one of those…..

He also created garden designs. We had many rolls of paper with drawings of gardens in the most beautiful rendered colours. Somehow gone lost. What planet was I on when these things were for grabs??

Some of his skills and passions were passed on to me. I love photography and have a good eye for a well balanced composition in a photo. I found out that I have a couple of cousins who have the same talent!

Lover of DYO, creativity and handmade

There was a ‘creativity‘ stint inĀ interior design some 10 years ago. I even had my own business called ‘Homeworks Design’. It went quite well until some worldwide economic down-turn happened and people stopped wanting to pay for services like that.

I may have done some different things since then but somehow I am always dabbling at some form of DYO, craft or art. I can recall painting houses, creating gardens, mosaics, a revival of working with fabrics and a growing interest in upgrading furniture and making treasures out of pieces of old and recycled wood.

housepainting, scaffolding, creativity in painting

Painting our house. Ā A big job but also a huge saving. I was told I saved 25k by doing inside and outside myself.

The attraction to compositionĀ and the draw to creativity got me into professional gardening. Gardening is probably so far my most successful little enterprise. It started off with a total overhaul of our own garden when we owned a house in Brisbane.

After selling the house I was contracted to maintain the garden for a fee during two years. Somehow news spread around and I got some more clients.

This happened in 2011 and now 5 years later I have a ‘great hobby turned business’ happening. I have a growing pool of clients where I go monthly, fortnightly or weekly. If I would stay in Australia I would be at the point where you start thinking about hiring staff. To be honest, it sounds like a nightmare!

gardening, hobby turned business, creative gardening, creativity

In action in one of my gardens. This crow bar is my most used tool and can compete with arm exercises in the gym

Planning to leave Australia

It is quite ironic that my garden business is currently in a bit of a booming stage considering our intention to leave Australia in 2017. I do feel I have ‘discovered’ my gardening niche and think that I can replicate building a similar business anywhere. One of my goals before we leave is to publish an e-book about ‘creative and common sense gardening’.

We have been in Australia since 1991 but feel that we have some more of Ā ‘Europe’ in us. On top of that our youngest daughter wants to leave with us and study in the Netherlands.

beach, Australia, nature,

One of the many gorgeous deserted beaches in Australia. This is ‘Point Lookout’ on Stradbroke Island

kangaroo, wallabee, Australian National Park

Such a typical Australian sight! Wallabies, a type of small Kangaroos roaming around

I know that many people would consider us idiots as they would love to be able to come and live in Australia. It has always been a popular country for immigration. Especially now with the ‘unstable’ situation of Europe during the last year or so.

They say that ‘home is where the heart is’ and to be honest, my heart is not in Australia anymore. It is a very beautiful country – my ‘humble’ reasons to emigrate 25 years ago were climate and nature.

I do think Australia can compete with many countries when it comes to natural beauty. It is still possible to have a whole beach to yourself or camp in a National Park without seeing another soul.

In the meantime we have bought a house in the South of France with the possible intention to live there. Is that where the heart is? Well, I can only say, time will tell…..

 

easydone, blog, limoux, happy upcycling

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

gardening is common sense, low budget garden

Gardening is common sense most of the time – here is why!

Yesterday during a coffee with one of my long term garden clients, we concluded that many times gardening is common sense.

My client told me that I have totally transformed her garden into its current shape with only recycled and re-used plants. Ā All plants in her garden were either there already in some form, split and re-used or given to her by friends or clients of mine.

As the 13th project of my 52 week up-cycle and upgrade challenge I like to describe how this garden came to fruition over time and what we did to keep the costs low.

agave, low maintenance, drought friendly

Agaves are a good example of low maintenance, drought friendly and easy to transfer plants

I never realised the above but she was right. She had not spent a single cent on plants. Over time we did plant a couple of new plants in her garden but all of those were presents for her birthday, Mothers day or Christmas.

This type of sharing used to be the norm. People were happy to pass on cuttings and rejuvenate their gardens in that way. Somewhere along the lines nurseries became popular and started supplying people with plants for their gardens. The exchange of cuttings seem to be a thing from the past…..

My love for re-using and recycling!

One of my passions is recycling and I realised that I have done exactly that in this garden. On my first visit to my client’s house I was shown a large garden overgrown with weeds, some up to the size of a small tree. She needed help in clearing and creating a low maintenance but attractive outdoor area.

In the beginning, it could be a slow process as she sometimes left it too long between my garden sessions. The result was that I had to repeat the same work on the same areas. The weeds in Queensland can be very invasive and due to the climate they grow in a dazzling speed.

mulch, weed mat, preparation, gardening is common sense

A native garden prepared with weed mat and at least 10 cm of bark or mulch

In the end I did get on top of it and my suggestion of weed mat and a 10 cm thick layer of mulch worked wonders. Over time we have added plants from a number of sources and the garden has transformed in a lush green paradise that she loves.

Preparing a successful garden!

I believe that time spent on preparing a garden bed is essential. It pays off to remove as many weeds as possible. Add the weed mat and the mulch and the garden is largely under control in the ‘weed department’.

I still go monthly to do a maintenance session but the majority of the weeds tend to grow from her landscaped areas such as lawn and pebbled drainage areas in to the garden beds. The garden beds themselves remain virtually weed free.

gardening is common sense, weeds, maintenance

The edge of this garden bed needs frequent weeding as weeds from the lawn grow into the garden

This garden is a great example of how to create an attractive garden. It shows that gardening is common sense. The result is a garden that fits the climate, uses minimal water and is built primarily from free plants.

It also shows that it pays off to take climate conditions, type of soil and suitable plants into consideration. You end up with a better garden that can survive more or less by itself.

This may horrify the lovers of dainty little flowers or plants that love acidic soils. Queensland does not really offer the climate and soil for such plants so if you want them you will have to adapt the garden to suit these plants which can be costly. It could mean a lot of maintenance and a high water bill!

Gardening is common sense

sun loving plants, drought friendly, gardening is common sense

Sun loving plants that thrive in the heat and harsh Queensland weather condition

More often than not, gardening is common sense. The choice of garden dictates the amount of work and money you are going to spend on it. If you want tropical plants in Europe you may need a hot house or have plants in the house. If you like an olive tree but live in a humid environment you may get diseases. Many plants don’t like frost or are shade lovers.

Take these things into consideration otherwise your garden will be an ongoing nightmare. Essentially we looked what plants were growing well in her garden. Consequently we let these plants dictate what type of garden we would build. The result is obvious!

low maintenance, Australian native plants, succulents, gardening is common sense

Drought friendly plants such as Australian natives or succulents are suitable for low maintenance garden

You may like to create an attractive garden but find it hard to decide where to start. Or you are frustrated with the choices you need to make. In either case feel free to ask for advice. I am very happy to give you some tips to consider and start off with.

I also like to thank my client for letting me show case her garden publicly. it is always a pleasure to work in her garden and to finish my session with a cup of tea, a chat and a piece of her ‘famous’ New York cheese cake.

Enjoy gardening!

easydone, blog, limoux, happy upcycling

gardening, design, upgrade

How to pull off the perfect garden!

Recently I wrote a blurb about how I started gardeningĀ and how much I have enjoyed this little business venture. I started doing it to upgrade our own garden, ended up getting paid for maintaining that garden after selling the house and somehow must have got a bit of a reputation as the phone started ringing.

gardening, garden design, upgrade, budget

Happy contemplating the result

It is a matter of…….

Clever gardening is all about composition. An effective combination of shape, colour and height just like you see in a good photo or painting. The same goes for a design for an interior or an exterior of a house.

When it appeals to the eye, all these factors are present in a way that creates a sense of harmony and balance. When it is not right, one of these elements is out of proportion. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Believe it, it is not……

I did a stint as interior designer and one of the things I noticed in many rooms is where people hang pictures. They are almost always too high and are not positioned on the wall in balance with other items in the room such as furniture, lamps, doors, windows and so on.

It is hard to say why it works or not, it is perception, I suppose. Even further, you could debate the right or wrong, but in general in a ‘good’ design, there is a sense of things falling in place. And they don’t when a composition is out.

Enough words. Pictures say a thousand words so here we go!

The right variation

When a garden has a wow factor it is often the right differentiation in shapes, height and colour as shown in the picture below.

balance, height, plants, shape

An attractive combination of colour, shape and height

The right balance

lack of balance, agaves, empty, garden bed

A before shot of a garden bed that would benefit of redistribution of plants

design, balance, garden, agave

By simply relocating and splitting plants the garden bed becomes more appealing to the eye

The right quantities

garden, clay, too wet,

A sad looking clay garden bed with similar plants in shape and colour

garden bed, balance, tropical

Garden bed in balance for height, colour and shape

The right purpose

Sometimes a garden just does not work. A lawn under a jungle of palm trees will create more moss than grass. Turn it into a tropical outdoor area by creating a patio and some tropical garden beds.

front garden, make-over, patio, tropical garden

A moss lawn turned into a lovely outdoor setting

design, patio, tropical plants

Low maintenance tropical plants give the patio shape and colour

The last couple of pictures require a bit more structural change and investment. However it shows that it is possible to create something beautiful in an area that seemed suitable for nothing.

If you like what you see and would like more tips subscribe to my blog or even better get in touch and ask me personally.

Check out and like my Facebook pageĀ https://www.facebook.com/easydonedecor/ for more design and make-over advice!

See you soon!

easydone, blog, limoux,