Is it art, decoration or an environmental statement?
My artist friend, Victoria Bradbury, who gives Jimmy the Poodle oodles of love while Col and I are away, also gave me a wonderful artistic homecoming gift. The rough stepping stones that are a short-cut from the veranda to the backyard had come alive with beautiful swirls in subtle earthy colours that seemed to emanate from the stone itself. Vicki used the surrounding sandstone pebbles as her “crayons” so the pigments did literally come from the stones.
I absolutely love using stones in garden design, hence my rustic steps, but the shape of the large flat paving stone leading from the veranda particularly draws me.
Years ago I used it at the background on which to photograph the coloured glow sticks used to attract fish to trawler nets. The sticks that wash up on our beaches, some of which still have coloured liquid in them, add to plastic pollution of the ocean and shoreline. Despite their negative impact on the environment, they did seem to have artistic possibilities. At the time I was doing a photo collage art project using rubbish collected from the beach.
The little girls who helped their father build her are young women now. Time has rusted away her marmaid tail but she still has pert Madonna breasts. She’s growing old gracefully, with a garland of yellow flowers blooming, crown-like around her head in the spring. Once apon a time she had the letterbox suspended above her head too. Now the postie obligingly leans down from his motor bike to deliver the mail, a concession to an ageing beauty.
You enter Coombe Yarra Valley Restaurant through this imposing hedge that protects seven acres of gardens surrounding Coombe Cottage. The restaurant, which uses fabulous local produce, and can turn out beautifully cooked dishes for 150, incorporates the old stables and garages.
Coombe Cottage, the main house, was the home of world renowned opera singer Dame Nellie Melba (1861-1931) in her later years. She purchased the 60 acre property in 1909. Architect John Grainger, father of composer Percy Grainger, extended the existing small house which was then renamed Coombe Cottage. Melba commissioned the long-serving second director of Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens,William Guilfoyle, to design her garden.
There is a sense of drama about the garden. A long avenue of trees form an imposing driveway to the house, which, though surprisingly modest, surely witnessed many illustrious guests. Charlie Chaplin is reputed to have jumped stark naked into the pool precluding further invitations.
Coldstream is 47km from Melbourne. There is a small museum and cellar door at the restaurant, as well as guided tours of the grounds. Well worth a visit.
Tea and Treasure is the the name of a quaint cafe in an old weatherboard house with pretty verandas in Port Macquirie, New South Wales. The tiny ‘tea garden’ along the fence delighted me almost as much as the pet galah that the owner produced from the ‘birds nest’ under the counter.