Lesley Harding and Kendrah Morgan April 28, 2012
Sunday Reed with grandson Mishka among the parallel beds around 1974.
WHEN Sunday and John Reed built their modernist house at Heide in the 1960s, Sunday commenced planning and implementing a revised version of the Heide I potager, located down the hill north-west of the new residence.
If the physical design of Heide's landscape echoed that of John's childhood home Mount Pleasant, with an array of defined areas from orchard to wild garden to woodland, and the trees under his care, then the establishment of the second kitchen garden remained Sunday's domain.
Again a great deal of thought, reading, labour and love went into her project, and by this time she had accumulated nearly 30 years of experience. In this kitchen garden ornamental plants were fully integrated into the overall layout. It was modelled on the English cottage garden tradition: old roses, herbaceous perennials, culinary herbs and vegetables all growing together.
The new kitchen garden was laid out on the site of the former bull enclosure. While Sunday created narrow, parallel beds for vegetables in the western half of the kitchen garden, well serviced by perimeter paths and another down the centre, the eastern end was largely reserved for herbs and flowers. The two sections were separated by a timber arbour upon which the Italian rose 'Variegata di Bologna' was trailed.
As at Heide I, vegetables were carefully selected to satisfy Sunday's garden-to-plate ethos. Asparagus, globe and Jerusalem artichokes, broad beans, climbing beans, corn, peas, pumpkin, rhubarb, salsify and shallots were regular constituents. Salad leaves and greens included endive, French sorrel, land cress, mignonette, mache, spinach and Swiss chard, and the unusual palm tree kale 'Chou Moellier'. Sunday was adamant in her refusal to use pesticides, necessitating vigilant daily monitoring.
For the eastern section, befitting its more decorative aesthetic and in keeping with traditional design, Sunday used a square scheme with four sets of successively smaller beds within its structure, all connected by one diagonal path. Here her usual favourites, such as sweet basil, sage, rosemary, marjoram, tarragon and chives, were accompanied by harder-to-procure species, such as mandrake and hemlock. A multitude of thyme plants featured, softening the edges of the garden beds, and Sunday planted a number of chamomiles, including English, lawn and ox-eye. Mints, too, were sourced in their multiples: apple and variegated apple or 'Woolly', curly, corn, Corsican, eau-de-Cologne, ginger, horse or 'Wild' mint, pennyroyal, peppermint and watermint.
Perennial herbs, such as agrimony, tansy and lemon verbena, were planted alongside annual, biennial and seasonal plants such as parsley, cumin, coriander and Sunday's beloved chervil, so that the garden would appear as verdant as possible year-round.
In addition, a number of flowering herbs were included for their visual appeal rather than their culinary function, such as borage, lavender and bergamot.
In the vegetable plots garlic was planted for its spectacular flower and seed head, as Sunday used it infrequently for cooking. Alongside the herbs Sunday planted her favourite English cottage flowers: bearded iris, border pinks, columbines, delphiniums, forget-me-nots, foxgloves, geraniums, hollyhocks, Japanese anemones, jasmine, Marguerite daisies, pelargoniums in several varieties, periwinkles, poppies, primroses, ranunculi and a range of violets.
The more artistic layout of the beds in the eastern section reveals Sunday's true feelings about the purpose and sentiment of her kitchen garden. With vegetables and annuals in the lower beds, the upper section was delicate and perfumed, for contemplation and dreaming. Close friend Barrett Reid declared it ''a poem of a garden and as much a treasure as the most treasured paintings''.
Like any serious gardener Sunday was always actively on the lookout for seeds, bulbs and cuttings. Slips and roots of special, successful or requested plants were freely given to interested friends, and received in the same spirit.
She also regularly (and illicitly) imported seeds from overseas. This practice of ''seed smuggling'' began in the 1930s, when Moya Dyring sent Mexican sunflower seeds from Miami, along with other unspecified seeds acquired in Port Vila, Vanuatu, where her ship had docked: ''they are terribly strict about bringing seeds into the States [and] this is the only way I can send them to you; bless them and may they grow''.
As time went on Sunday made a habit of asking friends who were travelling abroad to search out rare or highly desirable seeds, particularly those of vegetables and herbs.
John and Doodie Pitblado were fellow garden enthusiasts and reliable seed sleuths. They were enlisted in 1952 to find catnip for the newly built cattery, or ''Cat Chateau'' as it was known, at Heide I.
It was sourced via a curator at London's Kew Gardens: ''by good fortune they had some seed and as we were Australians, he was kind enough to let us have a little on the strict understanding that we did not tell anyone where we got it''. Once it was acquired and posted, the Reeds were under instruction to gather all the seed they could for fear of future scarcity. The Pitblados also found seeds for the rare sea kale plant in Ireland, to Sunday's delight. Not all the seeds made it to the Reeds safely; some were discovered by customs officials and confiscated.
■This is an edited extract from Sunday's Garden: Growing Heide, Miegunyah Press, out Tuesday, $45.