Wednesday, June 11, 2008


A brief digression from the history of this garden on the basis that re-living the hernias and broken back involved in restoring the thing has caused me to come over quite faint.

Pomodori, which is to say, tomatoes, are going to feature quite heavily here. Why? Because they're my vegetable preoccupation. Actually, fruit preoccupation, because, scientifically, a tom is a fruit. In the kitchen it's deemed a vegetable, scientifically it's a fruit. I'll go with the popular flow here and deem it a vegetable.

My particular preoccupation is with heirloom tomatoes. The beauty of heirlooms is that, unlike hybrids, which will normally produce tomatoes of the same size, shape, colour and taste year after year, because they've been bred to do so, growing heirlooms offers challenge.

They can be erratic in terms of production. They can throw up, to varying degrees, different shapes and sizes, and even shades of colour. Sometimes even different colours altogether. But more of that at some later date when I'm, once more, faint.

The tomato I always grow, the tomato to which I'm most attached, is this one:

Despite how it looks on your monitor, it's actually a very dark pink rather than red. And it has a history.

It's called Pink Gaetano because that's what I named it. It would, originally, have had a name, but that name is lost in the mists of Italian time.

I learned Italian in Australia. My Italian teacher's father emigrated to Australia from Calabria in the 1950s. He took the seeds for this tomato with him. He used to grow it in his backyard in Calabria and continued to grow it in his backyard in Melbourne, saving seeds, keeping the variety pure. When Antonella, my teacher, discovered I grew tomatoes, she asked her father for seeds and passed them onto me.

His name for them? Sangue. Italian for blood. He didn't know their varietal name. His name was Gaetano, so I named the variety after him. It's a lovely tomato with a rich, nicely complex flavour. The plant thrived in the heat and humidity of Sydney with, unlike a number of varieties, no problems setting fruit in extreme conditions. Hence it loves Italy.

Beyond the name, the tomato's actual origins are a genuine mystery. It's a dark pink beefsteak variety with some degree of ribbing. Extensive research revealed that there are no known dark pink Italian heirloom beefsteak tomatoes. Yet it was grown in a Calabrian backyard. It might be that the original seeds came from elsewhere in Europe. Eastern Europe, in particular, has produced any number of dark pink beefsteak varieties.

Regardless, fifty-odd years after Gaetano took the seeds to Australia, I brought them back to Italy.

Here's this season's plant in the garden after about six weeks in the ground:

Which reminds me: I'm getting low on seeds and I'll have to save some more this season.

Salute, Gaetano!

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Sows' Ears and Silk-ish Purses

A couple of weeks, a couple of hernias and a broken back later, the sow's ear of a garden was at least heading in the right direction. Which is to say, towards silk purse territory. Or, to stretch the fabric metaphor just a tad further, which is to say, too far, the garden was now cut from a marginally different cloth.

For one thing, the steps up to the terraces had reappeared:

The terrace on the second level, my planned vegie garden, had also re-emerged:

And the top terrace, while far from pristine, at least revealed the medieval wall that was our back fence:

Pain? Agony? You betcha.

But all in a good cause.

Friday, June 6, 2008


Back to the beginning. As Robyn posted, we first saw the garden in March 2006, and it looked like this:

Okay, it wasn't the Chelsea Flower Show, but it wasn't a jungle, either.

We formally signed to buy the property in May 2006, taking possession at the end of July 2006. That's a full Spring and a tad of Summer between first setting eyes on the place and taking possession. At which point it became abundantly clear that not a weed had been bothered by the owner in the interim:

They're the steps on the left.

This was the second level terrace, destined to be the vegie patch:

And this was the top terrace beneath the medieval wall:

Guess who had just a bit of work to do?