Wychwood and a heartwood spoon

Hi All,

I am officially in love…I am UTTERLY in love. Yesterday my friend in the witness protection and I had a horticultural road trip to visit the utterly bewitching Wychwood gardens before Karen and Peter are able to sell this most magical of gardens to some lucky person with both the money and the eye to be able to appreciate this gem of a property. After my “dei horribilis” on Monday, closely followed by her own dei horribilis on Wednesday when we dropped in to deposit some of our wayward junipers on her doorstep. We both decided that we needed to head off into the horticultural wilderness and Wychwood was the sirens song that lured us out of bed early and pointed in a direction that neither of us points very much. I met her at Exeter, midway between our properties and we continued on in her 4 x 4 which is much more reliable than “ole Bessie” our little workhorse. We took our time enjoying all of the quaint little towns festooned with unusual murals, topiaries; wooden sculptures ANYTHING to drag the tourist dollar up from Hobart and the south where all tourists are avidly pointed by the powers that be. Up north we have some gorgeous country and some really pretty places to visit and I have NO idea why people would go down to the South apart from trekking the last vestiges of gorgeousness in the wet wilderness traced by the Gordon river. Oh… and Mt. Wellington is a bit of alright as well ;). If you want to see real Tasmanians, come up north! They certainly lay it on thick up here…wine, potatoes, onions, hippies (yup…LOTS of hippies…), more potatoes…did I mention potatoes? ;). We trundled around upsetting people driving at breakneck speed in search of a traffic accident while we just sat in the left hand lane doing the equivalent of Steve pootling up the river. We didn’t stay on the highway long because highways are for chumps (and for big trucks and angry road rage ridden drivers…) so we ducked over and wended our merry way on the side roads less travelled and enjoyed the heck out of our trip. We stopped in Deloraine, a mecca for hippies and antiques and after a veggie sausage roll, our friend in the witness protection was ready to continue driving to Mole creek and beyond. Steve had hurriedly scratched down some driving instructions but what use have 2 chattering middle aged women in a large 4 x 4 doing 80km/hour and paying NO attention to the road signs, for instructions? We did what men DON’T do, and we stopped at Mole Creek to ask at the local Information centre (that’s what it’s there for folks! 😉 ) where Wychwood was and were given instructions how to get there by a very nice lady who didn’t mind at ALL that we were lost with no idea where we were…in fact, we kept her in a job in a job stressed market for another day…


I took a million, squillion and 7 photos of Wychwood so I have had to limit today’s post to a few as we have to put Earl’s walnut draw for the Valentine’s Day spoon in as well so this photo is of the lovely little nursery at Wychwood, full of all sorts of healthy and unusual stock all grown as excess on Wychwood soil for lucky patron’s to purchase and take home to pretend that their gardens are some day going to look like Wychwood 😉


A really nice idea. Karen and Peter like to pick a selection of the plants in flower and fruit in the garden on any given day, an herbarium for the punters


As Edina from “Absolutely Fabulous” would say about the Wychwood shop…”Lots of gorgeousness sweetie…lots of little gorgeous things…”


The garden had splashes of colour all over the place. Nothing gaudy and over the top because Peter told us that he prefers foliage and texture. My sentiments exactly!

After we learned that we only had to go up the road a little ways before finding our destination we trundled off again and suddenly there it was…unmistakable amongst bare fields full of sheep, an oasis of treed greenness that silently beckoned us into its folds. I have to mention here to anyone who has been shirking their “Dear constant reader” duties and not keeping up to speed on Serendipity Farm posts that visiting Wychwood has been a dream of mine for some time now. I have stalked Peter and Karen from afar for years…I follow Karen’s wonderful Wychwood posts on “Garden Drum” a most informative collection of expert writers that document their garden journeys and adventures and I follow her on Facebook as well. To explain Wychwood isn’t easy. In a nutshell it is 2 peoples idyll and passion that bled into a sheep paddock out in the middle of woop-woop miles away from the madding crowd that evolved over a period of almost 20 years to be somewhere that any garden gnome or fairy would lust after calling “home”. 2 ½ acres of gorgeousness to the max and every turn has something special…we were lucky enough to arrive on a less than promising day…no sunny blue skies and lots of prospect of rain and even though we were there for hours (I think I must have been abducted by aliens because it felt like 5 minutes…) only 1 other couple turned up while we were there and left long before we did. We are both horticulturalists so you can only begin to imagine the “Oohing and AHing” that went on. We were up to our armpits in precious things and everywhere we turned there was something to delight our horticultural senses. So many beautiful things and a mind full of possibilities…round buxus balls festooned their merry bumbling way across a lawned area reminding me of hedgehogs on their way to a saucer of water…Our friend got VERY excited…”I have just plonked buxus down in the sand! One day, when I have filled in the gaps it might look like this!”…delight, excitement, overwhelming prospects of reward at the end of the tunnel and we were gone…wandering aimlessly taking photo after photo and being constantly reminded of the possibilities that result from someone’s willingness to “Have a bash” and get stuck in and effect change on this sort of scale. These people are collectors…I was amused when I asked Peter what a certain species of Viburnum was that he had in the garden and he told me that it was called Viburnum rhytidophyllum. I then proceeded to tell him that I had found this very viburnum deep in the undergrowth of the jungle that we call Serendipity Farm. He was suddenly very interested and asked me where this plant had been sourced. I told him that the elderly lady, who had owned this property, prior to my father, had planted all sorts of things and some of them were still alive. He told me to ask her where she had bought this shrub from because by the sounds of it, it isn’t a very common shrub in Tasmania. Ida… you were indeed a plants woman :o)


With the shop over to the left of this photo the exit into the garden has this lovely staged border of colour, texture and foliage height


Borders are the name of the day on Wychwood as are the use of grasses and medium shrubs and trees to give interest to each garden bed. Note the Gunnera manicata’s HUGE leaves looking for all the world like enormous rhubarb


To the left note the clever use of Rugosa roses acting as a hedge between one garden area and another and more massed planting and staggered borders to the right


The garden is full of little pathways like this, leading you around corners in search of the elusive secret garden behind those shrubs

Karen and Peter have made the most of this amazing space and have carefully and lovingly created a slow evolutionary march of vegetation from their initial deciduous tree plantings, lots of birches, an interesting beech, Linden and various maples to the inbetweeners…the cornus and the well placed Sambucus in all of their glorious varieties and forms providing shade, flowers and fruit for the birds, bees and butterflies that were staggering lustily whilst twittering, buzzing and flittering around respectively. A most scrumptious ornamental Japanese grape vine (Vitis coignetiae) meandered all over the small but well stocked nursery a study in gorgeous green that we were assured by Peter, was not only difficult to propagate but that rewarded the autumn spectator with a show of vibrant red magnificence. There was a chook yard with hens protesting their incarceration along with a high hedged orchard that contained a single short fat pair of gorgeous ducks and a “Cranky Goose” signposted and warned and no indemnity taken…I am used to geese. My mother once kept a flock of 50 of them and I know what geese are like. This one was timid compared to mum’s geese and our friend in the witness protection wouldn’t even go near it and stayed outside the lovely wrought iron gate with her mobile camera switched on in hope that the goose would attack thus giving her fodder to amuse her friends…I gracefully emerged unscathed (to her disappointment I might add…) but well aware that the “Hissing” behind me was indeed a warning of beak-to-pants action should I overstay my welcome…I understand gooseanese implicitly! I will share more of Wychwood in the photos that I add to this post but I am still in a daze of happiness about yesterday and am cram packed full of possibilities. Our friend and I have plans…inscrutable plans for propagating masses of perennials between us so that we can mass plant the back end out of our properties. She is still in the “sheep paddock” stage but we have the benefit of there being some strong plant foundations here on Serendipity Farm but having to pare back the layers of debris and weeds built up over 20 years of neglect to reveal the poor long suffering survivors underneath. We did learn some interesting things from Peter who told us that he never fertilises anything…”nature doesn’t fertilise anything other than dropping leaves on itself so why should we?” He mulches with pea straw etc. for humus but although the soil on the property was sandy and infertile this garden towers majestically out of the hillsides and plonked down on Mole Creek like a little piece of heaven. Wychwood is for sale by the way… Peter said it wouldn’t hurt to mention it in my blog…obviously free publicity with the way that I have been gushing over the place but it truly is a magical garden full of enticing and exciting possibilities. If anyone you know would like to live in “Clean Green” Tasmania, nestled in a basin between 3 mountain ranges with a creek on the side of the property and a garden to die for, do a bit of Google searching and I am sure that you will find a real estate agent that will be more than happy to guide you through the processes of signing your life away…but in the process, gaining a little piece of paradise that I know you won’t find anywhere else :). We exited and drove off twittering with possibilities…


Occasionally you would see something in the middle of the lawn like this large grass or a series of round topiary buxus like hedgehogs following their mum into the long grass…it was a clever way to separate garden areas and minimise turf, which is incredibly water hungry and prone to insect predation


The drop dead gorgeous enormous leaves of Vitis coignetiae a Japanese ornamental grape vine with a hint of the colour that the entire vine takes on in autumn. One of the reasons why our friend in the witness protection and I are heading back up mid April this year

We decided on heading up further north to check out a nursery that we had been to a few times over the last few years. Big Pot nursery isn’t a patch on Wychwood nursery but it has 2 things going for it. 1. It is cheap as chips and 2. It has a whole lot more “stuff” than Wychwood. We had purchased some “pretties” from Wychwood. I bought “Rudbeckia triloba”; “Ajuga reptans ‘Jungle Beauty’ and “Monarda didyama” from Wychwood and considered $18 well spent. For an upmarket garden with a twinkle of gorgeousness that would lead a body to believe that there might also be a twinkle of expense involved with their nursery stock the prices were very reasonable and I know that the plants are healthy and vital. Heading over to Big Pot and the stock is somewhat less reliable and more higgledy piggledy in nature but from $2 – $3 for perennials and extremely reasonable prices for deciduous trees (most of the smaller stock was $6) Big Pot nursery is well worth a trip to budget mindful penniless student hippies and the sign saying “Liliums $2 each” had our friend twitching with excitement. I didn’t even look sideways at the gorgeous floral tributes because they do grow on Serendipity Farm…and they are eaten on Serendipity Farm before they are able to thrust out those gorgeous blowsy flowers so lilums and I are not mano-a-mano if you know what I mean. I trundled over and found…”Sophora microphylla (N.Z. Kowhai) a lovely small tree that has lacy leaves (that promise nitrogenous advantages to the soil surrounding its roots); Salvia corrugata with scrumptious deep blue flower spikes; Sisyrinchium striatum (a lovely hardy member of the iris family that has tiny butter yellow stalks of flowers and that is very hardy); Salvia elegans or Pineapple sage with its heady scented leaves and wonderful spikes of red flowers and Eryngium alpinum, a member of the sea holly family that I am going to carpet Serendipity Farm with variations of because it has stood defiant against the advancing hoards and they have found it wanting! A most perfect plant for Serendipity Farm ;). Our friend in the witness protection also broke a piece from her pot of Ajuga reptans ‘Catlins Giant’ that was heading off in another direction and that had adventitious roots and gave it to me to pot up and coax into fruition for our garden. We will both be collecting fennel seed (Foeniculum vulgare) and Queen Anne’s lace seed (Daucus carota) from weedy specimens in ditches over the coming few weeks as the seed heads ripen and will be interspersing the resulting plants with garlic…Wychwood had a lovely patch of mixed fennel and garlic just outside their vegetable garden as a beneficial attractant and a pest deterrent. There is so MUCH to learn about gardening and luckily, the best way to do it is free…watch your garden (such as it is…) wander around it at all times of the day (hint: use a torch at night time…just sayin’…) and just “look”…watch what insects are bumbling around…are there any birds? Lizards? Frogs? Over the coming season watch how the conditions in your garden change as the seasons change and check for windy spots, hot spots, dry spots and shady spots. Learn where the sun is at any given time of the day and learn how much sunlight the objects of your horticultural desire need…just watch, listen and learn from your garden. It has so many lessons to teach you if you will only stop bumbling about yelling and listen to it! (in saying that…I am still in the bumbling stages and most definitely in the yelling stages so perhaps it’s best to do as I say, not as I do for the purposes of this lesson O.K? 😉 )


 I truely abhor photographs of “me” but in order for you to see this amazing edifice to fatherly love in the form of a kids cubby house that not only has this beautiful garden surrounding it, but it has sleeping accomodation inside and has 2 stories!, I had to post me too.  I appear to have lost one of my eyes and grown the teeth of a donkey in this shot…I scolded our friend in the witness protection for her lack of photographic skills but then I saw the photos that I took of her standing here on her phone and decided not to say anything about her lack of talent 😉 …


One side of this pathway leads off to a wonderful grass maze that I will share with you in future posts and the right hand side leads off to an orchard…an orchard that apparently contained a very cranky goose…we were warned…but hey? When have I EVER listened to warnings eh?


2 occupants of the orchard…cranky geese? I think not! These 2 ducks were quite small but incredibly stocky making them emminently squeezable…they obviously knew how cute they were and had suffered several squeezes in the past because as soon as I entered the rusted wrought iron gate into the orchard they hightailed it away from me as fast as those tiny waddling legs would toddle


“SPOTTED!”…time to make a hasty retreat to the safety of the area directly behind the rusted wrought iron gate and our friend in the witness protection with her camera phone at the ready just in case the goose decided to attack…I had to sternly remind her that “Youtube is a fickle mistress”…

Bugger! I got so excited I put too many words in this post…I hope you are still here with me as I tap out these last few stanzas and tie up the string section for that last great “Huzzah!” Well here we are at the end of the post and most of you could care less about the gardening bit and want to know who won the beautiful Valentine’s Day spoon? Well (drum roll…..) Earl picked…

Congratulations to …..


The Valentine’s Day spoon is going to Oklahoma :o)


So to all of you dear constant readers who missed out, it will soon be “Mother’s Day” (well here in Australia it will!) so you will get another chance then :o). Till Wednesday, here is a photo of the spoons to choose from…


If Little sundog wants to choose which spoon she wants and let me know in the comments section we can tee up how you are going to get your spoon. See you all on Wednesday 🙂

16 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. brymnsons
    Jan 26, 2013 @ 23:39:28

    Wonderful garden, so much eye candy. Bugger on the spoon but congrats to Little Sundog 🙂 Please put me in for mother’s day pleeeeeease x


    • narf77
      Jan 27, 2013 @ 05:22:11

      Lol! I had best start a wordpad with Kymmy as number 1 as you have already put your hand up :). Those photos only barely touch how gorgeous it was and I will be sharing a few photos for about a month (I DID take a HUGE amount of them 😉 )


  2. thinkingcowgirl
    Jan 27, 2013 @ 00:14:14

    Just having a nice saturday morning catching up on my reading…and lovely to be plunged into Fran world again. As I read about your excitement about visiting that garden – which has a strangely english feel non?!, they have obviously worked so hard to create all those secret bits, lovely. I clearly remembered a time when I felt like that, so there’s definitely still a glimmer there 😉 When I first went to see a Piet Oudolf garden I was beside myself with excitement! Last year I measured my little plot but I haven’t designed it…that’s still on the drawing board, but a few garden visits should get the juices running again. Perhaps a visit to the highline in New york, which is on my list as a must go destination ha ha. But I’ll settle for Sticky Wicket this year – a garden after my own heart not far from here…I’ll post about it.

    Have a lovely weekend!


    • narf77
      Jan 27, 2013 @ 05:40:59

      I lust after being able to see some of those amazing gardens.Peter (the male quotient of the couple that created that oasis of calm and the only one available to answer our questions that day…) is from Sweden and there is a bit of Piet Oudolf in him to say the least. I love grasses…I ADORE grasses. I didn’t realise how much I did until I started learning about landscape design and texture and colour and how valuable they are in a garden. I read an article about Piet in one of the U.K. gardening magazines that I steadfastly clung to when I was in my “perennial” phase (before reality hit home and I needed to look further afield than old blighty to get my perennial fix 😉 ), and wondering “why would anyone want to replicate a bloody meadow in their back yard?” Why? Because it’s beautiful! Form AND function. Nature bordering on civilisation and aside from the sheer natural beauty of it, it is extremely practical because most of the “ingredients” come from the landscape blending into your garden. My family come from strong Germanic stock and sometimes I think the practicalities of my lists overcome me. This year I have been learning to quickly jot things down, take my bit of paper out into the garden and “DO IT”. I collected a stack of Queen Anne’s Lace from the road verge on our dog walk yesterday and broadcaste it in the middle garden. I am actually going to collect wild fennel for a specific area of the garden to attract bees etc. I am learning more since I stopped studying and started “living” the idea of landscape design than I would have though possible but I am SO envious of you living so close to the most amazing gardens in the world…I would be stalking the gardeners ;). “Please sir…can I have a seed pod?” ;). Have a great day doing what it is that little cowgirls do (most probably something to do with cows?) and remember, soon spring will melt winters clutches on the landscape and you will see those sturdy little bulbs pierce the frozen ground and that will be the end of it for another year 🙂


  3. Littlesundog
    Jan 27, 2013 @ 01:49:57

    What a morning thrill!! I couldn’t decide which spoon to choose so I let my hubby decide… of course he liked the Tasmanian Myrtle! Steve has a real talent! These spoons are just beautiful. Thank you so much!!!! And please give Earl some “love” from Oklahoma!

    I found myself in awe of these photos of Wychwood and the stunning landscape! It was such a slice of heaven to read about while having 2 cups of coffee… might I add that I love the way you take us on these incredible day trips, so knowledgeable of the plant life, geographic area and points of interest. Each blog post is an amazing “vacation” for me, where I can wander around… taking in the beauty (and adventure) of a land I know so little about, and completely fascinated with! Thank you for taking us on these surprising and intriguing adventures!


    • narf77
      Jan 27, 2013 @ 05:46:42

      You are welcome Lori…my inner horticultural muses were buzzing to share but had to give Earl his 15 seconds of fame ;). I just read that you chose the myrtle (no surprises there, it is a most gorgeous spoon 🙂 ) so don’t worry about replying to the email that I sent you :). So glad to have another one of Steve’s spoons jetsetting it over to Oklahoma! The only thing that we know about Oklahoma is that Steve Martin’s character in “Dirty Rotten Scoundrels” (one of my favourite movies of all time) played “Ruprect” and kept yelling “OKLAHOMA” and banging a pot lid with a wooden spoon…perhaps you can reinact this scene once you get your Serendipitious Valentine’s Day spoon? ;). Oh…and that song…”OOOOOklahoma where the wind…” (can’t remember the rest of the words but I know that our own Hugh Jackman did tour with this musical for a while 😉 ). I will be sharing more of the gorgeousness of this garden over the next month and I am totally caught up in its possibilities and the fact that the garden was only 19 years old! Hopefully I have 19 years left in me and can do something customised for Serendipity on par with this 🙂


  4. christiok
    Jan 27, 2013 @ 13:38:51

    I’ve been studying the Northern Tasmania map off and on all day! I loved following your route to Wychwood, and then checking out the real estate ad with the aerial photos of the valley you trekked. What a gorgeous place! Perhaps these real estate photos were taken in the spring and not the middle/end of summer, but everything looks so lush and green. I thought Karen’s explanation for why they were selling was quite poignant…heart disease, grown kids, desire to stretch their creativity in new places…and made me think of the new cycles we are starting here on our farmlet. After 6 years, so much is “built.” The focus now can actually be living the life, whatever that means! Edeltraut’s daughter went to Tassie in 2005 for a 3 day visit, but, like you intimated, just went to Hobart! Launceston is the place to be.:)

    And congratulations to Little Sundog! The spoon we won is so gorgeous that the Bearded One has been inspired! He cut some dead madrona this afternoon and plans to whittle his own spoon art. Stay tuned.:) Happy Birthday to Steve!


    • narf77
      Jan 27, 2013 @ 14:19:51

      Steve thinks that he and the B.O. (I still chuckle when I type that 😉 ) can form a confraturnity of craftsmen and maybe even start their own guild of woodsmiths (now THAT is a mixed metaphor! 😉 ). I can’t wait to see what the B.O. makes out of that gorgeous arbutus wood. We call them Irish Strawberry trees here or maybe you have a differant kind there? Who would know! It’s fun checking out places on Google Earth and sometimes you can even zoom in and have a really good look :). Wychwood is magical, whatever season you go there and a real tribute to Karen and Peter’s amazing hard work 🙂


  5. Roz Takes
    Jan 28, 2013 @ 16:42:46

    I have just been to the “Wychwood” web site and you are right, it is the most amazing place. It must have been a heart wrenching decision to sell and I would have thought it would be worth 3 times the asking price. But the upkeep, the labarinth alone would take me a month. Oh well, one can dream.


  6. Allotment adventures with Jean
    Jan 28, 2013 @ 17:52:18

    I have really enjoyed reading this post with your wonderful descriptions and photographs of Wychwood. It looks like a magic place.


  7. Eva Taylor
    Jan 29, 2013 @ 23:11:08

    What a wonderful day you’ve had! Lots to see and do.
    I’d pick the dark spoon, so pretty.


    • narf77
      Jan 30, 2013 @ 04:48:12

      We are going to have another draw for our Mothers Day here in Australia so you are welcome to enter that draw. Every one of Steve’s spoons is different and please feel free to enter when the next draw comes. There are no strings attached, we just love to share :). Welcome to the blog and cheers for your own wonderful blog. I had to find a place for you in my overstuffed rss feed reader because your blog is amazing 🙂


  8. Chica Andaluza
    Jan 29, 2013 @ 23:58:11

    So many beautiful things in this post – and that includes you! Some stunning shots of a beautiful garden and as for those spoons…lustful sighs coming from me!


    • narf77
      Jan 30, 2013 @ 04:42:44

      We will have another draw for our Mothers Day (May) here in Aus and you can enter to win then. Steve would LOVE one of his spoons to go to Spain…he has a world domination by spoon design ;). Wychwood was absolutely magic and I would live in the shrubs at the bottom of the garden if I could just wander around there every day 🙂


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