21 Louth Park Road
Maitland South, NSW 2320

Talking Gardens

Spring 2017 Talking Garden (Oct 22)

Our spring 2017 talking gardens tour was a wonderful success. Thanks to all those who attended – only through your participation can we continue to provide these wonderful insights into our local community. Our tour was booked out and we even had a standby list. It is very heartwarming to see so many people interested in local food.

The morning started at the departure site opposite the Old Maitland Gaol. Blackbird Artisan Bakery (who supplied bread, mini lemon tarts and scones for our high tea) was open for coffee so we were able to caffein-ate ourselves before we boarded the bus.

Eileen enjoys morning tea in the suburban food forest.

Our first  stop was at a suburban food forest in East Maitland. Guests were in awe of the prolific amount of food that the garden produced, the teas and tinctures that could be made from a wide variety of plants and the biodiversity within the garden. We enjoyed a light morning tea with, of course, a tea made using plants picked from the garden. Our hosts provided a guided tour through the garden. After the guided tour – during morning tea – guests had time to wander through the garden and explore the many hidden treasures for themselves. The garden is so prolific that some guests had trouble spotting the chickens and ducks that are part of the garden’s biodiversity.

By late morning we arrived at our second garden at Oakhampton. This is small market garden featured in our Living in the Ark series in 2016. It is an ex-mining site that was remediated to a very poor state. Owners Austin and Laurel Breiner have worked for over a decade to bring it back from the brink. It now boasts a market garden, an orchard with around 70 trees and a rainforest. We were fortunate enough to have lunch in the rainforest – high tea (no less) – and take time to relax and enjoy each other’s company.

Our high tea menu consisted of three layers – traditionally made up of a layer of sandwiches (using Blackbird Artisan Bakery bread), a layer of sweets and pastries and then topped off by a layer of scones.

The menu boasted local and seasonal produce including:
coronation chicken sandwiches (chicken from Little Hill Farm)
smoked salmon with cream cheese and herb sandwiches (herbs from Within Radius), and egg and lettuce
egg and lettuce sandwiches (using Just Been Laid eggs and Within Radius lettuce)
honey and ginger gems (using local honey)
Portugese tarts (using Largs Grower eggs)
lemon cheesecake (using Cooranbong lemons)
scones from Blackbird – flavoured using local ingredients (and jam from Anne Kelly – also using local fruits).
peppermint tea from Within Radius, Earl Grey tea and Peterson House sparking wines were also served.

Our multi-talented bus driver, John, serves lunch to guests.

During lunch our volunteer bus driver, John Clarke, turned his hand to service during high tea (left). This may be a timely moment to extend our thanks to volunteers such as John who help make our events a success.

It was a warm day and hard to drag ourselves away from the cool understorey of the rainforest but it was worth it when, at our third stop of the day, we saw how a community garden in Telarah helps feed those in need. At Mother Moira’s community garden was saw the inspiring work done by volunteers. Produce from the community garden is distributed fresh to locals in need and also used in the community kitchen to prepare meals.

Our guides Kerry and Margaret were wonderful hosts. We heard stories about people currently living in their cars (with children) who are assisted by the food grown in the garden. This was such a stark contrast to the high tea and sparkling wine we had enjoyed only an hour earlier in the rainforest and only goes to reinforce the importance of volunteers in our community.

Our final stop for the day was at the Telarah Public School. Here we visited the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen school garden and enjoyed afternoon tea in the school kitchen (where the children prepare food picked from the garden).

There is no doubt that the diversity of the food gardens we visited was part of the recipe for success. So what did our guests have to say?

Thank you for guiding us safely through an enjoyable and tasty slow food gardens day Liz.

​Thanks for such a pleasurable day! I’m feeling totally inspired! xx

Thank you for such a great day out seeing all the different gardens.

Acknowledgement: Our Spring 2017 Talking Gardens tour was organised by Liz Griffiths and Anne Kelly with help from John Clarke.

Talking Farms

Our next Talking Gardens tour will be to local small-scale farms. Stay tuned for details.

Summer’s 2016 Talking Garden (Planting)

Our inaugural Talking Gardens was held in the tranquil setting of Purple Pear Farm on Sunday 31 January. Owners Mark and Kate were wonderful hosts and, together with the work of our guests, helped to make the day a great success.

Kate took us through techniques, tips and tricks for sowing and transplanting and shared her knowledge of soils, plants, and insects – both beneficial and non-beneficial – as we potted-up a range of plants. Guests meandered through the mandala garden, harvested plants, and made potting mix from soils and composted materials sourced from the farm.

Of course, no trip to Purple Pear Farm would be complete without some wonderful home-grown or home-made produce. To this end our afternoon was rounded out with a lovely home-made lunch created by Mark and some volunteers, served straight from the pizza oven in an alfresco setting.

By the end of the day we had a large range of potted plants that will be nurtured by Mark and Kate until late April. The plants will then be taken to Tocal and displayed in the Good Food and Wine area at Tocal Small Field Days. The plants will form the basis of our Autumn Talking Gardens event – Biodiversity in the Garden. So if you missed the first event, you can at least see our work on show at Tocal.

We would like to welcome newcomers who attended the event and thank everyone who brought plants, pots, energy, enthusiams, and the all-important gardening gloves. Together we have created the foundation of what will become our biodiverse garden at Tocal.