Thursday, October 4, 2018

Pam and Jamie's holiday snaps



Everyone comfy on their bean bags? Good. Settle back and relax as we bring you the latest holiday snaps from Garden Amateur's two little garden/art/nature lovers as we tour southern Australia in very early spring. First slide please, projectionist!

What a colourful way to announce to the world that we have left the city and are out in the country. All through our trip we saw huge, far-as-the-eye-can-see fields of canola crops in flower. This is where we first saw them, in Cowra, about 4.5 hours west of Sydney, where our real objective was to see the Japanese gardens there.

We stayed at the Vineyard Motel, which is far enough out of town to make us feel like we were among the paddocks. As well as enjoying its cool misty mornings, Pam and I almost froze to death at night, standing outside looking up at the dazzling Milky Way on a perfectly cloudless, starry sparkly night. It's good for the soul to stare at the Milky Way.


Next morning, straight off to the Cowra Japanese Gardens, which were a couple of weeks short of being in full bloom, but still beautiful to behold with their clipped balls of greenery and tumbling streams.

They don't just plonk seats here and there at Cowra. Each is perfectly placed to take in a wonderful view of the garden, and this one high on the hill has its own little bamboo-posted walkway that feels almost ceremonial.

Taking advantage of a perfect seat placement, en plein air watercolour artist Pammy spent some very productive time capturing the scene. Wherever we travel, she takes a small painting kit with her.


Late September and early October is the peak blossom-filled time to visit the Cowra Japanese Garden, but we've been there at other times of year and it's always a wonderful place to wander for a few hours.


Next stop, Mitta Mitta in Victoria. In the same mountain zone as better-known Beechworth, Mitta Mitta is in a lush valley, from which you can see snow-covered Mount Bogong looming large.

Lucky us! We stayed at this cottage that is part of the Witches Garden (about which I will be doing a separate posting in a few days, as it has a large, gorgeous garden which will be open to visitors in early November). 

This cottage was a city couple's 'escape to the country fantasy' come true: beautiful stream flowing behind it, superb garden, log fires, big country kitchen, total privacy, native birds galore. We could've stayed for weeks.



As well as these rosellas, there were kookaburras cacking their heads off and dazzling king parrots hanging around, knowing that we had been given a big jar of birdseed to keep them happy.


However, we weren't just in Mitta Mitta for fun. Pam was there to teach a watercolour art class organised by her great mate, Marg (left), and the snazzy new Mitta Mitta Community Hall was a perfect venue.

Mitta Mitta has some very dedicated artists, but they weren't so familiar with watercolours, and that's where Pammy showed them the ropes. Here's one of her 5-minute quick landscape demos that she did for them.


That cane chair on the verandah proved to be the perfect spot for Pam to whip out the painting kit one day and enjoy some quality time painting that birch tree and those camellias.

She's only half-way finished at this stage, and I might be biased but I even love what she does with her watercolour palette — she ought to frame that as an abstract work, too.


After Mitta Mitta we headed through Bendigo and Castlemaine to see our dear friends Amanda and Mike in Kyneton, but on the way we stopped off in Bendigo to see the Chinese gardens there. We were the only ones there ... so serene.

If I was ever going to remodel a garden and its outdoor spaces, I think I'd ask a Chinese architect to come and lend a hand. Pammy could do the frescoes.

We stayed in Melbourne a few days, saw more old friends, and on our way out we stopped off at Ballarat. Why is it that houses by the water (actually rowing sheds on Lake Wendouree) seem so perfectly tranquil?


Lots of Aussies would know that Ballarat in not the most direct way home from Melbourne, and that's because we headed way out to western Victoria, where these elegant, gently weeping yellow-flowered gum trees proliferated.

We were venturing out west to ride the "Silo Art Trail" which features a set of six very large silos painted with portraits of local people by street artists. This one above is my favourite, and it's in Brim. 


This one, in Rupanyup, features a local netballer and a footballer. The whole trail of six silos is about a 200km drive, but out there the roads are straight and empty, so each leg of the journey doesn't take long.

It gets so amazingly flat out here, real "big sky country" that at one stage Pammy said "I think I can see the curvature of the Earth on the horizon." For really big skies, you need clouds, of course, so thanks Huey.


This area is so flat and outbacky that it even has several salt lakes. This is Lake Tyrrell, which was still carrying some water from winter rains when we visited, but the summer's heat bakes it white and shimmery. 

From the Wimmera Region and its painted silos, we had many more miles to cover before we made it back to Sydney, but on the way as we crossed the Murray River at Barham, we spotted some river boats sitting on the slowly moving river and fantasised about maybe floating down the Murray some time in the future. Who knows?

As I mentioned earlier in this posting, I'm planning on doing something about the wonderful Witches Garden at Mitta Mitta soon. It's open under the Open Garden Scheme in early November, so if you can somehow manage to be there, do not miss out on the chance to visit Mitta Mitta, see the garden, and maybe even stay a while in the gorgeous country cottage there.




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