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Welcome to the Victorian Flower Garden

On this site you will find lists and description of flowers common in the Victorian garden, garden designs of the nineteenth century, descriptions of gardening methods in the Victorian Age, and a section devoted to the restoration of the Victorian garden at Nonsuch.

Here is the personalised chronicle of my own garden (and house) restoration. I moved into the old run-down house and overgrown garden of Nonsuch on the island of Tasmania in early 2005. Nonsuch is a 1880s weatherboard and sandstone shingled-roofed ‘gentleman’s residence’ that has seen much better days. It once had a huge garden attached, which is now reduced to half an acre. As of mid-2006 I am well into renovation of house and renewal of the garden. The landscapers have terraced and removed, and I am moving in with my seedlings and cuttings. Much of the painful work is over, most of the hard work lies ahead.

You can follow the diary for the weekly update, and follow the story back to early 2005 when I moved into Nonsuch. The photograph and plans pages give you some idea of the layout of the house and garden.

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My Self-Sufficiency Challenge

For years I have watched the self-sufficiency movement with great interest and much yearning. The idea of self-sufficiency appeals greatly to me, it speaks to me emotively, intuitively and intellectually, and I have followed it enthusiastically through every kind of book imaginable, from John Seymour’s Self-Sufficiency books, to Jean Auel’s The Valley of the Horses (note how self-sufficient is the female protagonist in that one!) to the more recent Barbara Kingsolver’s Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. Ever since a child I have dreamed of being self sufficient, yet I acknowledge that true self-sufficiency is something that very few people – and certainly not me – can ever attain.

But we can dream, and we can do what we can. And doing ‘what I can’ is my goal for 2010.

Firstly, simply, my mission. In 2010 I will be:

  • 100% self-sufficient in herbs and vegetables. I will buy nothing in.
  • 30% self sufficient in fruits. My fruit trees and bushes are still only very young and they can’t support me yet. What I do buy in I will buy as locally as I can (being also a firm believer in the locavore movement);
  • 100% self-sufficient in all my sauces and jams and marmalades and whatever condiment I use. I will buy nothing in. I will make it all. (Easily attainable as I love preserving.)

Phew! It is a little scary but it wouldn’t be a challenge if it didn’t have a little of the scare factor. Already I am panicking over the number of onions I can grow. But I will do it. Come hell and high water and many onionless weeks, I will do it.

I will rely on my two favourite past-times-cum-skills-cum-passions – kitchen gardening and preserving. I arrived at my love of kitchen gardening via my love of preserving. Many years ago I went down to my local supermarket in search of a chutney for my luncheon sandwich. I was standing in the condiments aisle when I had a sudden astounding, earth shaking epiphany … everything for sale here was total crap. Utterly crap. Way past even being just crap. It was awful. I could barely remember the neighbourly preserves of my youth, and I scooted off home, dug out some old cooking books (I have a collection stretching back to the 17th century!) and within a day or so had produced my first ever preserve … beetroot chutney.

Having been bitten (quite severely) by the preserving bug, I then began to yearn for the freshest bestest most organic produce I could obtain – and that of course led me to kitchen gardening. I had been an ornamental gardener for years. Now I threw over the roses and daffodils for peas and potatoes.

So now to next year’s challenge. I am started already, of course. I have in my winter crops of onions and garlic and shallots which will feed me next year (yes, I am still panicking over the number of onions). I have put into place seven new raised beds and am filling them now. I have ordered new fruit trees (figs and quinces … for the 2015 challenge!!). You can follow my progress in my garden diary which I promise faithfully to keep up to date. I will also, on a day when I am too achy or the day is too rainy to garden, put up a page of my favourite preserving and cooking recipes.

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