Change of place, change of pace, I paid a visit to rural New South Wales for a very short break, and took a little pocket camera with me as I suspected the town of Taralga, and my friend's garden, would be looking pretty in spring.
The perfect spot to have breakfast and lunch, under the filtered shade of this silvery tree. I don't know what the tree is yet (I'll be asking a horticulturist friend to identify it for me. Edit: it's the Silver Pear, Pyrus salicifolia – thank you Elizabeth!). It provides shade from morning to mid afternoon, when the sun finally sneaks in. At that point there are still half a dozen suitable other shade trees to move to, if you're feeling energetic about being lazy.
Excuse the slight 'blurry cam' shot, but this was the view from the bedroom window. These sheep belong to a local sheep farmer, and their duty is to eat my friend's paddock. The growth is so lush the sheep can't keep up with the task at hand, and they are slowly disappearing into the sea of green.
The house I stayed in is called 'Rose Cottage' and the old rose bushes in the front garden were laden with buds that looked about a week off blooming.
Taralga is lovely old historic town with many gorgeous stone cottages and lots of charming churches (its heyday was the 1890s through to the 1920s, but it's making a comeback now). This is the old 'Cobb & Co' station house, thankfully being restored by the person who bought the ruin earlier this year. Cobb & Co were the horse-drawn Stagecoach company of the colony of New South Wales back in the mid 19th-century which played such an important role in providing transport to the growing colony. It's great to see one of their old buildings being given a spruce up and a chance of surviving long into the future.
In the front garden at Rose Cottage, everything is in a fair bit of shade, so its flowering is lagging behind all the sunny spots in other parts of the garden, and only a couple of things, such as these columbines, were out in bloom.
The herb trough in the former laundry tub was looking great. Corrugated iron and old hardwood posts are at the heart of ye olde Australian rustic country style, and the rough hewn sheds behind the cottage are simply gorgeous in this way. A bit of sensitive renovation by replacing worn beams and holey roofing iron with suitably old-looking substitutes has preserved the look, feel and usefulness of these sheds.
In sunny spots along the side of the cottage the sage is in bloom, and the acanthus next to it is about to do so. Both plants look wonderfully lush and healthy.
No country property would be complete without a couple of dogs, and these two, Rex on the left and Walter on the right, just love a visitor – because that's a new sucker to play their 'fetch the ball' game. However, there's an interesting twist on this, as each dog plays a completely different game. Walter is obsessed with the ball. Rex is obsessed with Walter. Rex in fact has no interest in the ball at all, and never chases it. He just chases Walter. But here's the interesting twist. The only time Rex shows any interest in the ball is when he picks it up and brings it to me, laying the ball at my feet, seemingly saying "I want to play the 'Chase Walter' game". So I toss the ball, Walter goes for the ball, Rex chases Walter, and they live happily ever after.
As well as enjoying my friend Fraser's great garden, his neighbour has a magnificent country garden as well, complete with a small vineyard, a chook house that feeds half a dozen neighbours, huge, productive vegie patch and charming flower garden.
Edits galore here: thank you Robyn Elliott for suggesting that it might be Cassia fistula. And thank you very much also to Sue O for pointing out that laburnums are small trees, so it might be a laburnum after all. Serves me right for guessing without researching about a cold climate plant that doesn't grow in my part of Australia. I had thought laburnums were climbers as I have always come across them in 'laburnum walks' where they are trained much like wisterias are – over a series of metal arches. So thanks to my knowledgeable readers for setting me straight. It could well be a laburnum, it might be a Cassia, and whatever it is, it's lovely. When I know what it is for sure, I will re-edit my re-edit.
And finally, here's how I got down there and back. This was the first really good country run for my new Moto Guzzi motorcycle, and I'm not sure who loved the trip more, me or the bike. It hummed along, saying to me "I'm really a highway bike, you know, I can zoom along like this for hours on end without missing a beat." And I just adored rolling down the highway, soaking up our lush green countryside looking the best it has looked for at least the last 20 years. All the winter rains here in Australia have transformed what was only recently a brown and drought-depressed land into a marvel of green good health.
These country visits are a tonic for city folk. You invariably look in the real estate windows and think "I could buy that old cottage, do it up, and move here and turn that neglected backyard into something." Risky business, visiting country towns – gives you fantasies of a different life.