Party Season Planting

Gardening guru Matt Leacy from Landart Landscapes shares his tips on creating gardens that are both edible and beautiful for the end of year party season and Christmas Day celebrations.

Whether it’s a simple get-together with friends or a joyous banquet with the whole family, Matt has come up with these smart and easy gardening ideas to help your garden produce edible and decorative props to be enjoyed over the coming months.

1. Potted mint

Growing mint by seed can be painfully tricky, so head to your local nursery for inexpensive seedlings.  Once it’s under way, and with regular water and a little shade, mint will grow vigorously, so pots are the best option – and will ensure that surrounding plants aren’t overtaken or destroyed. With just a little TLC, you will have flourishing mint all summer long to garnish your classic lemonades, iced teas, watermelon salads or to shred through jugs of mojitos.

2. Grow rocket yourself – at home

Baby rocket is ideal to have on hand in your garden for summer salads, to add crunch to sandwiches and for side dishes. Baby rocket is sweet and nutty as opposed to grown rocket which is often quite spicy. The advantage of growing rocket at home is that it grows extremely quickly, and is also easy to grow from seed. Simply sprinkle the seeds on soil, lightly cover with seed-raising mix and water gently for a moist start to some healthy salad greens. You can’t go wrong with a light rocket, watermelon and pine nut salad as a tantalising entrĂ©e.

3. Plant tomatoes in the sunshine

Red and juicy tomatoes are always a crowd pleaser, particularly when it comes to fresh salads, pasta sauce or just a healthy summer snack.  And home grown tomatoes that have soaked up plenty of sunshine are always so much more full of flavour than store-bought tomatoes that have often been stored in cool rooms. Lots of strong and direct sunlight will also help make tomatoes nice and stocky. Planted now, you will be harvesting a good haul of garden fresh tomatoes before Christmas.

Enjoy weekend brunches of bruschetta using your diced red tomatoes mixed with olive oil. Place on top of toasted, crusty bread and garnish with a bit of basil (also from your garden!) to really be transported to the hills of Tuscany.

4. Use versatile lillypillies for festive gardening

While lillypillies are hardy and generally easy to maintain, they can be prone to pests and diseases – especially psyllids, so check for any deformed new growth, little lumps, or spots before you buy, and check regularly once you have your plant at home.  A quick wipe or spray with White Oil insecticide will cure most issues for lillypillies. Syzygium leuhmanii is completely psyllid resistant.

Lillypilly hedging and topiary are perfect for low maintenance and quick growing ornamental decoration in gardens. Lillypillies provide anything from a vibrant pink to creamy white flowers and red, purple or white berries for an added festive feel to garden settings, ensuring they are an ideal addition to all outdoor entertaining areas.  They also grow well in pots as well as garden beds, adding to their versatility.

5. Grow your own Christmas tree

Wollemi Pines are great for creating an authentic and very merry Christmas vibe around the house and garden. By having your own native Christmas tree, not only will you not need to buy another one next year, but you will also be helping conserve a unique endangered species (the Wollemi Pine is one of the world’s oldest and rarest trees and was discovered in Australia).

The look and shape of the Wollemi Pine is perfect for a decorated Christmas tree, or for something less traditional try another Australian native – the bottle brush (decorated with garlands wound through the branches, already festooned with festive red bottle brush flowers), or prune a lillypilly into a cone Christmas tree shape.

For a softer, fuller-looking Christmas native, try Adenanthos sericeus. Native to West Australia, it looks a bit like a pine tree but is as cuddly as a teddy bear.

With Christmas just around the corner, these tips will make sure you enjoy home-grown condiments for chilled drinks and summery salads, as well as bringing life to outdoor entertaining.

Collectors’ Item

Chris and Michel Ruygrok are fond of change: repainting a wall, refurbishing a lamp, rearranging the artworks or revamping a piece of furniture.

The couple view their home as an endless project, though they have plenty to do in their day jobs: Chris works as a kindergarten teacher and Michel is busy designing interiors. Both of them are very creative and love visiting flea markets and collectors’ fairs. The result of their shared passion is visible in every corner of their house – a large building in the centre of Haarlem, in the Netherlands, dating from about 1900. The property consists of two floors with an attic, and behind it stretches a garden covering more than 20m2.

Chris and Michel have lived in the house for a dozen years, but the couple have been making their mark on it for a great deal longer. Chris explains, “Thirty years ago, when I started my career as a kindergarten teacher, we would get to know the parents of the children in their homes. I first set foot in this house on one of these visits and immediately I found it to be a very special place. We became friends with the family living here and when Michel started his business as an interior designer and decorator, our friends in this house gave him his first project. So you could say that although we did not yet live there, the house already felt a bit like home.”

Estida, Michel’s interior design business, is based in Amsterdam – a 20 minute train ride away – and most of his focus is on hotels and restaurants. While most of his professional work is on a large scale, approaching a domestic space is different. “A house mirrors the person living there,” he says.

He continues: “Twelve years ago, our friends sold the house and we bought it. The foundation and structure of the house were in good shape, but it had to be renovated thoroughly. For eight weeks a contractor and a painting company were busy in the house. I went there every night to do the ceilings, the walls and to fit in a lot of personal accents, like wall paintings. Even after this big renovation, every year we start a kind of new special project in the house, such as the garden, the stairs or the attic. It is a never ending story.”

Over the years, the house has changed with the family. Their daughter Elizabeth, now 19, is student at the film academy in nearby Amsterdam. She splits her life between living at home and with her boyfriend. From a previous marriage, Chris has an adult son and daughter and she enjoys being a grandmother to several grandchildren.

Objects with stories

Michel and Chris love their urban surroundings. Nicknamed Bloemenstad, or “flower city”, Haarlem has been the centre of the Dutch tulip-growing district since the 1630s and even now is surrounded by fields of vibrant blooms each spring.
Occasionally, Michel dreams of being the lord of a manor in a more rural setting but, after years spent gathering and tweaking each part of it, he says would take a lot of convincing to leave this house. “Every object has its own story and all of them have been collected with much love,” he explains. “All things together make the interior. It accumulates all the time, and nothing is taken out.”

Click on the below images to enlarge.