Friday, 4 September 2015



Spring is here at last!! I always love spring but this year I've been looking forward to it's arrival more than usual. This year I get to plant for the long term, after missing out on gardening last spring during our building work, and losing a lot of plants and landscaping in the process.

I can't wait to remake my garden with new plants and a new layout. Gardening is my meditation and my exercise. It's a creative outlet for me  and a part of my plan for a more natural and healthy life - growing and cooking my own food organically and preserving the excess, while composting our green and food waste and making a cooler, healthier environment for our house and a home and food source for local creatures

And I love doing it.

To celebrate I have shouted myself a whole heap of perennial flowering plants and seeds. And impatient to start I actually ordered a lot of the plants as bare root perennials way back in July.

You might not have gardened this way before but its worth thinking about. Many of the online nurseries I buy from are busiest in winter and spring. This is the perfect time to be putting most plants in. It gives them time to establish a root system before the stresses of hot summer days.

Also I love flowering perennials but they are are impossible to find at local nurseries. It makes me really happy that they are increasingly available to buy online. There are some great online resources for every type of plant now. I found a great Ebay seller this year and have ordered from a couple of established nurseries as well. A great resource for finding these is the Nurseries Online website.

I've also splurged on seeds, which are a much cheaper way of building up a garden. You need more patience, and some of the plants you want aren't easy to find or grow from seed, but for vegetable gardening there is no better way.

The change in season means each day more and more of my little bare plants are sending up new shoots and leaves. New spring plantings of seeds are emerging and my winter crops are hitting their stride. I can't wait to share more photos of the garden as it matures.

If you're interested to see pictures of the flowering plants I'm growing see my pinterest Plants board. And for an idea of what I'm after, a wild and thriving grass and flower garden, I love the Trolles garden in Sweden or check out my Garden board on Pinterest.

For my own records I've made a list of this year's new plants below. From past experience I know that not all of these will be happy in my garden. Some will die, some will sulk, but then others will thrive and grow and take over!

A gardener learns from their mistakes and triumphs and I have a few of both to teach me. Also plants don't live forever and if they die it just means space for new ones!

Geum "Pink Frills'
Veronicastrum 'Pink Glow'
Geum 'Flames of Passion'
Persicaria 'Red Dragon'
Artemesia Rosenschleier
Aster 'Lady in Black'
Eupatorium Gateway
Achillea 'Salmon Beauty'
Miscanthus Gold Bar
Tulbaghia Violacea White (Society Garlic)
Filipendula Ulmaria Flore Pleno
Filipendula Rubra Magnifica
Canna 'Henry Cohn'
Sanguisorba 'Oakbank Red'
Potentilla 'Ron McBeath'
Phygelius 'Raspberry Swirl'
Physalis alkekengi
Anemone Japonica white
Anemone Japonice pink
Bergenia cordifolia
Cosmos atrosanguineus (Chocolate Cosmos)
Eryngium alpinum (Sea Holly)
Echinacea purpurea 'Magnus'
Limonium perezii (Statice)
Punica granatum nana (dwarf pomegranate)
Anthriscus sylvestris 'Ravenswing'
Astilbe simplicifolia 'Sprite'
Helenium 'Rubinzwerg'
Phlomis samia
Astrantia 'Buckland'
Francoa sonchifolia 'Dr Tom Smith'
Geranium x monacense 'Muldoon'
Leucanthemum x superbum 'Shaggy Gem' (Shasta Daisy)
Helleborus x hybridus 'Duke of Burgundy'
Pelargonium sidoides
Penstemon digitalis 'Husker's Red'
Geranium 'Stephanie'

Actinidia kolomikta
Hydrangea petiolaris
Clematis Tangutica
Cobaea Scandens
Trachelospermum jasminoides
Parthenocissus tricuspidata
Pandorea Pandorana

And this is what I'm growing from seed and seedling:

Vegies and Herbs
Rainbow chard, Spinach, Spring onions, Garland serrate leaf (salad leaf plant), Rocket,
Tatsoi, Radish Black Spanish, Radish Watermelon, Pak Choi, Lebanese cucumbers, Cucamelon, Purple Climbing Beans, Scarlet Runner Beans, Spaghetti Squash, Bull's Blood Beetroot, Broad Beans, Parsley, Artichokes, Snow Peas, Kale, Tomatoes, Strawberries, Lemon Thyme, Dill, Garlic.

Black Ball cornflowers, Achillea Cerise Queen, Zinnia, Echinacea purpurea, Sunflowers.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

what to eat - winter


I love food and I love cooking... sometimes.

I have bursts when I am inspired when I search for new recipes and new flavours, and I love the whole process of chopping, stirring, cooking.

But I also have times when cooking everyday for five people is a chore. And that's when Mr Flowerpress and I just cook old favourites, quick tried and true meals.

I find that half the battle in those times is deciding what to make.

This little post is a catchup for me as much as you, keeping track of all the good stuff we've been eating this winter. A reminder of all the new and interesting food we've cooked, those recipes I need to remember and cook again!

Like most people I search for warm, filling comfort food in cold weather. This winter has been no different, soups, casseroles and pies have featured.

I have had a craving for fennel, such a winter vegetable and it seems to feature at the greengrocers much more these days, especially in my Italian neighbourhood. One night I was inspired to make a chicken and fennel pie, inspired by a favourite Karen Martini recipe for Chicken and Mushroom pie. Not everyone around here likes mushrooms but they all like fennel. It was a winner and I made it for guests who came a week or so later. I might write up my recipe here one day as I actually took some photos of the method the second time round. And its simple. That plaited top is actually quick to make but looks so pretty.

Another new recipe Pea and Feta fritters is a simple, quick family filler. I made this again last night with Colcannon, a cabbage and mash recipe. They made a really quick and filling vegetarian meal.

A great vegie dish I make often is my old favourite Minestrone. Miss A asked for this in the week she was doing her trial exams which made me happy. The recipe is really simple. I will blog it sometime. I made it with this amazing cheese bread from a video I found online. Mmm, that went quickly!

Speaking of vegie recipes, have you cooked any Ottolenghi recipes. I tried his Cauliflower Cake. That's it at the top of the page. Isn't it beautiful. It was delicious, vegetarian, quite unique, and very popular with the troops.

My sister gave me a Luke Nguyen book for my birthday last year. I love Luke's food and the recipes are delicious so I've made a couple more than once - the Chicken and Lemongrass (SO delicious and easy) and these Chargrilled Pork Skewers (yum!).

My brother is a great cook. He made some delicious gyoza type dumplings for me a few months ago. I tried to replicate them one night and had them with delicious Kewpie Japanese dressing (from Coles in the Asian section). Deeelicious. I've got it written down somewhere. Really simple but effective. Must share that.

The other thing I've been cooking are homemade dips. We love dips around here but with three teenagers they go pretty fast. Homemade is quick, cheap and so easy. I'm slowly building my repertoire. Homemade hummous and baba ganouj are delicious and easy. Another blog post due on those.

Apologies for my underwhelming food photography. I mostly cook at night and am way too hungry to style anything and I know it looks pretty unappetising in the low light. But you get the idea.

Out of the house I've had a few memorable meals. We've really enjoyed eating at Jasmin1 in Leichhardt, fantastic Lebanese food, the best I've had, the famous dumplings at New Shanghai and a new place Luyu and YumYum in Newtown (where I tried the caviar dumplings) and recently we discovered Afghan takeaway from Bamiyan in Five Dock. What a fabulous cuisine (and the Afghans make dumplings too!) I'd never tried it before. Must go back and taste test again!

I'd love to hear what you've been cooking. I hope I've inspired you to try one of these recipes. And don't forget to look in my Recipes section for my own recipes and others I like to cook.

Tuesday, 18 August 2015

homemade orange spray


I'm a big fan of natural cleaning in my home. I think homes like gardens are safer, healthier and nicer places without chemicals.

So I always buy 'eco' cleaners which have more natural ingredients and are gentler on the environment. In some areas though I've experimented with making my own so I know exactly what is going into the product and to save money. I've been surprised at how simple the recipes for natural cleaners are.

Previously I've made bathroom soap and clothes detergent. The clothes detergent is a standout, we haven't gone back since we started making our own. If you haven't tried it do! A batch gives us nine or so bottles and saves us hundreds of dollars a year. Our clothes are just as clean (or even cleaner actually since our old washing machine blew up this year and we invested in a new front loader!). And its quick to do.

I've always hated manufactured smells too, which is one of the nice things about homemade cleaners, you can use natural scents or leave them unscented.

Similarly home made soap is a luxury, and one I must get round to making again. It also makes a lovely gift.

In the kitchen I often use bicarb of soda in place of commercial cleaners. It can be awkward and messy in some situations though, like on vertical surfaces, and I like to use a spray cleaner then. The 'eco' one I've used for years is Orange Power, which is made from orange oil. It smells nice, its natural, and works as well as chemical versions.

A while ago though I read about making your own Orange Spray and I filed it away in my mental filing cabinet (that one with all the jumbled folders and papers falling out of every drawer!) and its been on my mind for a while as a 'must try' project.

Fast forward to the other day when we were on orange duty for the boys' soccer game. I came home with a large container of orange peels. A light bulb went on, at last I was ready to make some spray. You might have seen my post on instagram. Here's the method I used in case you want to make it too.

Orange Spray Method

Take a large jar or container (I used this big jar left over from bulk buy kalamata olives. It holds about two litres worth of liquid.)

My oranges half filled the container which I then covered with white vinegar, about one litre's worth.

But first I washed my peels and removed the left over orange flesh.

From what I read you can either fill the jar in one go like I did or add orange, lemon or mandarin peels as you have them till the jar is full. Keep the jar on the kitchen bench or pantry and fill it as you go. They don't seem to rot or go off, I suppose the vinegar preserves them.

When the jar is full put it aside for two weeks at least to absorb the citrus oils. You know its working when the liquid changes colour to orange.

Then strain out your peels and pith, put your orange spray into a recycled spray bottle and away you go! Smells delicious and works well.

p.s. Yes that's a mandarin, no oranges in the house today!!