Summer Garden

I love how Google Photos randomly chooses a pic to enhance. Which version do you prefer? 

‘Mum, you’ll love the camera! It even has a beauty tool!’

‘ A beauty tool?’

‘It makes your selfies look great!’

I’ve never taken a selfie, but now that I have a beauty tool at my disposal, you never know … maybe I’ll be able to master the knack … It’s a temptation, isn’t it – a new and improved you for all the world to see!  Maybe when it’s not so hot and sticky and I feel inclined to use a hair dryer … and put some make-up on … and wear something not resembling a tent! To put the phone’s camera to the test however, I decided to experiment on the garden instead. Before it wilts  horribly under the onslaught of the heatwave affecting most of Eastern Australia.

Up till now, the garden has survived the summer really well. It’s rained at just the right time so everything has grown madly as usual. Late spring saw the front yard come alive when the flame tree and white Jacaranda flowered. But these soon gave way to a beautiful leafy canopy, wafting around in the afternoon sea breeze.

What a change!

For the first time, our hydrangeas looked lovely. Even though it rains a lot in Byron Bay, where we live is very sandy. No amount of soil improvement has been enough to sustain hydrangeas in open garden beds, so last autumn,  I transferred all of them to self watering pots, gave them a specialised fertilizer and they have bloomed all summer, in shades of blue, pink and white.

The white one has been my favourite but they’re all pretty, I think.

The creepers and the butterfly bush have flowered all summer too and are still punching out flowers giving us something to admire as we have our morning  tea on the back patio.

Unlike some butterfly bushes, this is a prolific orange variety
Deep red, pink and while mandevilias  just flower and flower

And for the first time, the varieagated ginger flowered. Together with the bromeliads, they have brightened up the under story of the Frangipani tree.

How amazing is that flower! Hope I have the name right… the plant was a gift from a friend so hopefully I’ve remembered correctly

Everywhere I look, plants need pruning but they will have to wait until its cooler. Meanwhile, we just have to duck our heads as we wander around.


The veggie garden is looking a bit sad. The tomatoes are nearly finished, the rhuburb has turned up its toes and died as has the greek basil and our espaliered lemon tree. On a positive note, the passionfruit are ripening nicely and the herbs are hanging on.

The summer garden continues to surprise us. We spotted the pink and red frangipani  just beginning to flower, yesterday. It’s very late but I planted them in a very shady spot when they prefer full sun.

from little cuttings, big things grow

 So I’ve experimented! Still lots to learn including the beauty and panorama features but my phone has given me a snapshot of the summer garden with. the tap of a finger. Ah technology, you’ve got to love it! I hope your garden is surviving as well.

Melissa’s Kitchen High Tea

PicMonkey Collage
The scene is set!

 “Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue  and a silver sixpence in her shoe,” are tokens of good luck that a bride traditionally carries on her wedding day. Something old represents continuity; something new offers optimism for the future; something borrowed symbolises borrowed happiness; something blue stands for love and fidelity; and a sixpence in your shoe is a wish for good fortune and prosperity.

This traditional rhyme captures the hopes, good wishes and above all else, the love that brings friends and family together for a wedding. What it doesn’t capture is the fun involved; both in the preparations and the event itself. To begin the countdown to the wedding and wishing for Lissa to feel a connection with our family’s country traditions, I decided to host a kitchen tea for her. I felt sure, that fueled with champagne, my friends, the bridesmaids and Lissa’s girlfriends would offer her hilarious and sage advice concerning her future wifely duties. I envisioned this event in the back garden and thankfully, the weather gods complied.

party table decorated with herb challenge
Table decorated with hot pink table runner, ferns, pansies and the Herb Challenge ready to go

Unfortunately, I couldn’t serve just champagne for Afternoon Tea. My wonderful girlfriend, Julie offered to help me with the cooking but I couldn’t leave everything to her, much as I wanted to.

The wonderful, thoughtful and hardworking Julie
The wonderful, thoughtful and hardworking Julie

So, I practised my high tea skills. Alas, I’m no Adriano Zumbo. I had to cross chocolate macaroons off the menu as mine resembled the dark side of the Moon. I experimented with gluten free vanilla cup cakes, wrestling with piping bags and butter cream frosting. (It looked so easy on Youtube!) Still, they passed the taste test and didn’t look too bad when I smothered them in decorations. Wanting to serve mini lemon and caramel tarts, I blind baked pastry for the first time. Imagine my relief when they came out perfectly. Not a burnt crust among them! I only had to practice the time-honoured country art of scone making. I had assured Melissa that Scone making was in our genes! My mother could turn out a wonderful batch of scones in no time flat without having to measure a thing: surely so could I? Friends gave me the lemonade and cream recipe, however the scones didn’t rise enough for my liking. Next came a melted butter recipe. Disappointment ruled my kitchen! Finally, I adapted a traditional recipe and remembering Mum’s secret touches, a great batch.emerged from the oven needing only strawberry jam and cream.

Feeling reasonably confident that my guests wouldn’t starve, I organised the games that we would play. In keeping with the culinary theme, I decided on an identify a herb game.

Geranium is not a herb is it?
Geranium is not a herb is it?

There were ten herbs to identify including Lovage and the Mother of all Herbs There was much merriment and discussion as the pots were passed around, closely examined and answer sheets filled in.

The girls are having fun
Rachek, bride to be, Melissa, Toni and Helen
And so is the bride to be

There was also a Masterchef Challenge. The wonderful people at the Pass Cafe provided a tray of their unique gluten free brownies and a list of the ingredients. Everyone had to taste and decide what the ingredients were. These were so delicious that it was difficult to concentrate on separating the tastes in your mouth! This did provide a great segue into Afternoon Tea proper.

Chocolate brownie bliss
Chocolate brownie bliss
So much deliciousness
So much deliciousness

It was very difficult to choose what to have first! One good thing about fine china cups, saucers and plates is that the plates are small so that you don’t feel guilty about having seconds or indeed thirds. I couldn’t resist Leone’s White chocolate berry cheesecake or Julie’s chicken and cucumber sandwiches. And  I really do think that tea tastes so much better in bone china tea cups, don’t you?

Feeling very relaxed and replete, it was time for Lissa to open her presents. Helen got proceedings off to a hilarious start. She had Lissa don kitchen attire that would keep her future husband, Ben very interested in the kitchen, though one could wonder what was on the menu!

All that's missing is the g-string
All that’s missing is the g-string

Each lovely gift came with a family recipe and the story behind it.  I had sent the recipe cards out with the invitations.  Lissa was thrilled. I’m sure, she’ll enjoy making each of them  and adding to them as she embraces married life.

My gift was a sentimental one.As  Lissa loves candles,  I asked Kate Hogan,  Lissa’s cousin, creator of beautiful hand-crafted soy candles produced under her brand (  to make three special candles for Melissa. They will celebrate Ben and Melissa’s first Christmas as a married couple, their first anniversary and the birth of their first child. I wrote a small verse for each candle and Kate and her sister, Mel, did the rest. They were simply stunning.

it smells so good
it smells so good

It was time for more fun. The bridesmaids, Toni and Brooke, volunteered to be models as the rest of us created two alternative wedding dresses for Melissa out of toilet paper and masking tape. Don’t they look adorable?

Here come the brides
Here come the brides

More champagne and all too soon, it was home time. It had been such a fun afternoon!  Lissa and I had put together a small collection of kitchen goodies which we wrapped in a flour sack tea towel to thank our guests for coming.



Love is definitely in the air!