Friday, June 4, 2010

A visit to Davids' house - April

I arrived at Davids' house and parked under a large oak tree in the back streets of Olinda on Mt Dandenong.  I was to meet David and Margaret Angus - two people whom i had never set eyes on before. I had been corresponding with Margaret from Southern Cross seed savers and she kindly agreed to organise a few gardens for a stick beak. I was very interested in Davids' garden as it was on the same soil and a very similar altitude to our place, so what i saw at his place would be almost directly applicable to my place.

I was not disappointed. The first plant of note on our wander around the garden was a Chilean guava which were offered to help ourselves to. The fruit were just ripe and delicious - quite guava like but no noticeable seeds.

Another plant which i head read about was the Yacon which is sort of a bit like a Dahlia with an edible starchy root. I did not however expect it to grow as tall as me. I think David had eaten them but they were by no means about to replace potatoes on his menu.

That was not the last of the supersized vegetables in his garden. I wanted to keep lingering and marvelling at things such as the hip high Rhubarb plants with  with 50cm wide leaves and gigantic stems to match. However David was onto the next thing down the garden path.

What a feast! One thing after another i saw and wanted to have one growing myself. The Oxalis tuberosus or Oca is a small tuber that is popular in New Zealand but relatively unheard of in this country. I have never tried them but i'm wondering if they might be a good stand by crop to have in the ground when other things fail.

David had a number of very admirable bean trellises holding up several varieties of heirloom beans which he was growing out for the local seedsavers group and making available to its members.  Most of his beans he need to pick and bring them inside to dry as the wetaher doesn't allow them to dry very well on the vine.

Ukranian noodle bean below.

I was just generally full or admiration for Davids methodical work on his garden beds, productive plantings and local knowledge. The hot house too was full of plants in different stages of growth. A special variety of Peas had gone in (Delta louise - specially bred by David Murray) as well as tomatoes still hanging on from the summer, bountiful capsicums and also chilies and Basil. David recommeded a book called "The four season harvest" by Eloit Coleman i think and i will get onto it when the time comes.

Other trees of note were two types of Persimmon, Tamarillo a variety of semi wild quince which aparrrently was growing very fast - and also had some big thorns. David had a thriving lime tree and a japanese mardarin which was also doing beautifully. He did have a Fejoia which had never done well for him.

After our walk we retired to the kitchen to talk seeds and have a cuppa and also showed the children where the rasberry patch was to be found, which kept them busy for a little while.

To top this all off David also supplies vegetables, fruit and eggs to the "hills organic box scheme" HOBS. Everyone was all pretty happy with this arrangement besides his daughter  who had to battle for her once safe supply of eggs and organic produce. Though there must have been a few eggs left for the lovely baked things we were offered.

Now that i have seen Davids' garden i vow to return to get cuttings and bulbs when the time comes to plant our place out. As i told Margaret there's nothing more than i love to do on my holidays than look at gardens and this one is high on the list of the most interesting food gardens i have seen.


  1. WOW great variety vegetables.
    Fejoia's mine falling to the ground,
    overload of them,if anyone wants

  2. Hello chris: thanks for the write up. Margaret tells me your garden is well worth a look She has plans.
    The flat white butter beans you photographed are Ukrainian noodle beans; the snow peas in the green house are delta louise. these were bred by David Murray and a great job he did. His books are worth a look if you can get them.
    The bible on organic greenhouses is The Four Season Harvest by Eliot Coleman: a really eye-opening book on what can be done in a pretty hostile climate.
    Anyway I'm glad you enjoyed the visit. The kids were great.
    David N

  3. Thanks, for the varietal names David - and a big thanks for sparing the time to show us around. Very enjoyable and memorable.

  4. Hi Lyn - would happily have some excess Fejoias but i'm a bit too far away at the moment!

  5. David's garden really is amazing.. particularly considering like us it's not massively unusual to have enough snow for it to stick for at least a few hours over winter.

    Best wishes for your move. Are you going to be local to the mountain?

    Kind Regards

  6. Hi Belinda, I'm looking forward to seeing David's garden again - not as much as starting my own though! I will be on another mountain - half way down Mt Toole-Be-Wong. We do have rellos on Mt Dnadenong though so we will be up and down occassionally. Haven't they forecast snow for this week???

  7. Gosh I hope not... it certainly isn't feeling anywhere near that cold, a lot more likely in September. That said there is good reason that I won't plant out any of my frost tender plants until after November starts :-)

    A links to some locals out there jic you're interested

    Kind Regards

  8. Thanks Belinda, I'm on to Tenderbreak and have had a tour, and have been collaborating with Moora moora folk on orchard fence design (one of my earlier posts). I love seeing the market garden up there. Are you taking orders still for seedlings as i have used your gmail adress to place an order.

  9. nice rhubarb... you've got a pond on your property right? We used to grow rhubarb as a pondside crop in our vege garden, loves wet feet that one. When you cook it, try it the Dutch way with a little sugar, raisins and freshly made custard. Another thing I used to love was mums' strawberry-rhubarb jam, great combo. GL with the new garden!

  10. Hey Judes - wich this was my garden, but i am still working on it. Thanks for the Rhubarb recipe idea. We do have a pond - so growing Rhubard there might be a god idea. i wonder if deer would eat it? despite the fact that the leaves are poisonous? They have demolished our lemon tree this winter.