July 10, 2014

The farm, the garden.

Our little cottage sits nestled into the side of a hill, facing westward towards the distant city - invisible behind the ridge of the Mt Lofty Ranges - and eventually, still further west, the sea.  West, where the sun sets, is also the place from which most of our weather blows in, battered across from Perth 3000 km away.

There are two places at the farm that I creep away to in the evening to watch night descend on the gardens.  In the Summer, when the sun is too hot and easy access is required to the clinking ice of cold drinks, we lounge on the verandah, drenched in a deep golden light. Lethargic from heatwaves and a heavy workload, we sit in  dreamy silence as the sun melts into the horizon. Friends come round and we eat salty olives and spit the pips out across the grass.  Summer is the season for working, for weddings and events, long hours in the studio and early starts leading up to wedding weekends.  The flowers in our gardens are at their peak and our main focus is watering and fretting that the plants are ok in the blazing sun.

In Winter though, I wrap myself in vast woolly jumpers and, invigorated by the frosty wind, trudge up the hillside to a bench that sits at the top of the garden.  From here there is an eagle-like view of the valley below.  The crooked roofline of the house and most of the gardens unfold down the valley to end in a series of ponds that reflect the sky and so twinkle in shades of silver and gold at the end of the day.  It's a good spot for taking stock, thinking about what needs to be done on the farm, like looking down on an aerial plan of the property.  As darkness thickens, bats flit about catching moths, and woodsmoke from the cottage chimney carries on the wind.  For just a moment life feels good and simple, as the noise of all the other stuff that fills our lives is quietened.  I do some of my best thinking here.  Winter is a good season for thinking, while Summer is all about doing.

When we found this place, advertised in the sale section of the local paper, Justin and I drove out here late one winter evening, stealing along the potholed driveway and into the garden.  No-one was living here and the cottage was locked up in its semi-dilapidated state. I wasn't that interested in the house, aside from it being a suitably crumbling stone backdrop to my future garden ( in fact, I never stepped foot inside it until we had signed the papers that would officially make it ours).  What intoxicated me was the overgrown wildness of it all - waist-high mallow and thistle, grass in the gutters, a hawthorn in the garden covered in gnarly golden lichen.  It was all about the garden really, not that there was much of one left,  just a collection of fading pickets and thickets of weeds - 5 acres in all.   It was about the possibility of what could be.

I remember feeling like I had stumbled across something important in my life, something needed at a soul level, and just the idea that it could be bought by someone else broke my heart before we had even begun.  Love at first sight.  At that stage I was not yet working with flowers, but had this overwhelming feeling that I needed to grow things. The process feels deeply romantic, and at risk of sounding much too earnest, I really do believe that it is in a garden that the secret to true happiness lies.

In any case, we made an offer to the real estate agent, and it was declined.  Somebody else had bought our little house and I was stricken, disappointed beyond words.  We moved on.  It wasn't until some weeks later that the phone rang unexpectedly one afternoon; the sale had fallen through and we were next in line.  Our cottage nestled on the hill had come back to us.

Tonight, five years on, as I sat up on my bench,  listening to blackbirds chortling about in the photinias, I was thinking about all of this, and about how it related back to the flowers.  About how sometimes in life a path is made for you before you even know it is there.

These pictures of the farm and some of our wedding florals from last season remind me that Spring and Summer will soon be upon us, and keep me motivated as we slosh about in the rain and mud...


  1. A sweet story. I too live in a house that was "incidental to the land" and take regular wanderings to my evening hill - though my garden has suffered due to work commitments overseas.

  2. Love this story, and completely agree that a garden is the secret to happiness!