The sun rises slowly these wintry mornings

Governors Bay Jetty resize 650 blogGovernor’s Bay Jetty – photographer Rebecca Bijl

The sun seems to take forever to rise during these colder months, this morning being no exception.  Sneaking the first daylight sitting on my verandah cup of tea in hand I am reminded how good (and slightly smug) I feel experiencing  this undisturbed quite spiritual time of day.  Not sure whether there is a physiological explanation for this but for me it works every time.  Something to do with seizing the day rather than it seizing you!  Watching the sun come up knowing it is disappearing on the opposite side of the world makes me feel small and insignificant but somehow part of the larger picture,  if that makes sense!

A dear friend of mine is currently researching and writing about positive psychology and she tells me that enjoyment of nature and being outside is one of the key contributing factors to mental well being.   So there we go, that’s why gathering feels so good and seems to feed the soul!   Set your alarm a little earlier tomorrow perhaps!

Sunrise paddock DH

Sunrise at Diamond Harbour

Rediscovering the Camellia

Camellia sketchbookCamelia StylingYesterday I was inspired by a flower that quite frankly, I’d disregarded for many, many years.  Wandering around a friend’s garden, my attention was drawn to the most beautiful rose-pink blooms brightening up an otherwise rather dreary winter backdrop . The  Camellia.  I guess part of the reason for this former disregard could be blamed on those soggy, brown-tinged blooms, some still hanging (barely!) on the bush and others laying like a mushy carpet underfoot that one often sees.  The particular delicate rose-pink Camellia variety  I discovered, is nothing short of spectacular though.  Enormous rose-pink waxy flowers with prominent golden stamens and glossy dark green foliage.

It reminded me how important it is to keep looking at materials with a fresh eye and observe them during different stages of their life-cycle. I am now totally inspired to experiment with camellia in all kinds of ways.  I know the fragile flowers won’t last long out of water, but a simple wreath using stems of foliage and only the sculptural buds would make a striking table decoration for a special dinner.  The glossy dark green foliage alone is worth keeping an eye open for, as it lasts a long time and gives arrangements  a rather opulent sense.

I have been researching Camellia websites and discover that there are a vast (think almost 250) species of this wonderfully versatile shrub.  So a Camellia to suit everyone.  Guillio Nuccio Camellia with its deep rose flowers is my current favourite.  Simply gorgeous.

Spindletree wreath

winter wreath with spindletree

Even in the depths of mid winter when all the trees are bare and the landscape is grey, if you look hard enough you’ll find nature providing a most-timely splash of colour.  Here we’ve woven flowering pink spindle tree stems with muehlenbeckia to make this winter wreath which so accurately echoes the wintry landscape.

Rachel photographed this elegant antique tin wreath that she saw at a cemetery in a little French village.  Quite beautifully distressed-looking and colours befitting of our winter landscape.

Antique Tin French Wreath portrait

Harvesting grapevine canes

Sally gathering grapevine resize

   new grapevine wreath blog against grey

It’s that time of year again.  Grapevines are being heavily pruned back following harvest time.  Discarded canes are normally either burnt or left to mulch into the ground around the vines roots.  We can’t let this precious material go to waste, so one crisp sunny morning we hopped into the van and headed north to one of our favourite local vineyards,  Tiki Wines and started gathering.  Selecting the most pliable and longest canes we could,  we started filling up the van.  It still always surprises me how many canes you need for just one wreath.

The beauty of grapevine as a wreath base lies in its strength and architectural qualities.  Although the canes like most natural materials will shrink as they dry, if you wire the wreath in several positions you should find a base like this can be refreshed and reused regularly and will last a long time.

Floral and botanical styling

Succulent & Pumpkin copy resizeWho’d have thought the humble pumpkin could look so good!?

Styling using natural gathered materials and collections, or pre-loved baskets, tins and ceramics seems to have a far greater relevance and meaning than spending $$$ on wares from the local home store.  Not to mention their ability to trigger memories of a previous time and place.

Baby Pumpkin & Nuts dif angle

For Rachel and me floral and botanical styling comes down to combining harmonious props with materials exhibiting subtle colour combinations and contrasting form and textures.  Some ideas for styling to share.

Group baskets filled with shells or stones on outdoor steps, decorate tables with  natural vine wreaths and tea lights in tiny glass vases, drape delicate garlands of sycamore pods around door frames, hang birds nests together as an installation on a fence,  or hand-tie bunches of aromatic eucalyptus or golden yarrow upside down on kitchen walls.  Experiment and have fun!

I’ve been browsing through a beautiful book I borrowed from the library over the past few days.  Photographer Martyn Thompson’s collection of ‘Interiors’. He  captures varying spaces quite poetically with his use of light and shadows and  I notice that often it’s  the  natural elements within the room that evoke emotion and atmosphere.

Also check out interiors stylist Sibella  Court expounding the joys of collecting and gathering in her beautiful book Bowerbird.  It is an inspiring and informative read.

My office walls at home are covered with torn-out magazine images, photographs and artists’ postcards pinned alongside drying gingko leaves, hydrangea florets and seedpods.  The natural elements in particular, offer an evocative and sentimental contrast to all the technology and screens surrounding me.

One of our favourite bloggers, Australian stylist/photographer Pia Jane Bijkerk created an elegant flower wall that featured in Anthology Magazine seen below.  She too adores observing the gradual transformation of plant material as it gracefully ages and decays. Perhaps the inspiration for her ‘wall’ originated from botanical herbaria which catalogue  and display preserved plant specimens.

I warn you though.  As hard as it might seem, a de-clutter is required every now and then.  Even the most exquisite seedpod can start to look a little tired after a while!Anthology Magazine blog Flower Wall

Photograph Anthology Magazine ‘Decorating Flowers on The Wall’

Roasted beet salad with pomegranate molasses

ImageIf you’re new to our blog you may wonder why we are featuring a culinary category in amongst flora and art.   Aside from having been involved in the research and publication of a couple of cookery books in the past,  food and cooking has always been a life-long passion of mine. My shelves at home are crammed with cookery books, torn-out recipes and magazines that I’ve collected over the years.

In ‘Gathering Tales’ we will bring you one of our favourite recipes each month. The common theme running through this tried and tested collection will be seasonal dishes using ingredients that we have gathered from gardens or markets.

This roasted beet salad with a tangy dressing (originally a Yotam Ottolenghi), is a favourite for  pot luck gatherings when you’ve no idea what everyone else will bring.  It’s quite beautiful-looking and will work with pretty much any kind of meat or fish.  Try and find an assortment of different beetroot varieties if you can.

2-3 large beetroots
3 large sticks rhubarb (cut into chunks)
2 tblsp brown sugar
3 tsp balsamic vinegar
3/4 tblsp pomegranate molasses
2 tblsp maple syrup
2 tblsp olive oil
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1 small red onion (sliced thinly)
Handful fresh herbs (parsley or coriander – whatever you can get your hands on)
Salt & pepper

Wrap the beets in tin foil and put into a pre-heated oven set at 200C for around an hour (time will depend on size so just keep an eye on them).  Take them out once a knife goes through the centre.  Set aside to cool, then peel and cut into small dice.
Toss the rhubarb with sugar and spread over a foil-lined oven tray and roast for around 10 minutes.  Rhubarb should be soft but not mushy.  Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl whisk the vinegar, pomegranate molasses, maple syrup, oil, allspice and some seasoning.  Add the sliced onion and set aside for a few moments before adding fresh herbs and beetroot.  Stir and season and just before serving gently fold in rhubarb.

Guaranteed to produce the WOW factor at the table.