On the Anzac Day long weekend, John and Liz Baker welcomed visitors to their town garden in Griffith for Open Gardens Canberra. The glorious autumn weather drew more than 400 people and Liz said "it was brilliant". Many who are setting up new gardens and others who have recently moved to townhouses with courtyards said it was an inspiration as the Bakers have lived there for only 11 years.
Meyer lemon and Tahitian lime trees are planted in a small patio area near the front door. The garden is filled with sculptures by well-known artists but some are from the John and Elizabeth Baker Design Prize, an award given at the Australian National University College of Arts and Social Sciences to recognise outstanding students. Liz said it showed that you don't have to spend a fortune on art to make your garden more interesting. The works, including ceramic chooks and iron snails, complement a low maintenance garden filled with clipped domes of lavender, ground cover thymes and perennials.
A trellis the width of the back garden hides the productive garden with its five raised vegetable beds, currently in transition from summer/autumn crops being harvested to edibles for winter just planted. One bed is devoted to purple garlic, some corms saved by Liz and more from the Heritage Nursery in Yarralumla. Other plantings include rossa lunga di primavera - Italian pink onions - from World Kitchen, leeks, Florence fennel from the Community Seed Bank Australia, spring onions and three varieties of English spinach grown from seed.
Diggers limelight beans produced kilos of beans and they have the bush bean idelight from The Lost Seed Company. The bed of strawberry plants is so vigorous that Liz says the compost must be very rich. Three tumbling compost containers take all the household green waste.
John has recently built a trellis along the back garden wall with wires so Liz can espalier young fruit trees including a Josephine pear, apricot, pink lady/gala apple, fruit salad tree, white peach/yellow plum and both female and male kiwi fruit vine, as well as three blueberry bushes which gave a good crop this year. The black Genoa fig tree supplied kilos of fruit and the Bakers bought from Diggers a bird/insect/flying fox exclusion net with a door and it has kept out the fruit fly.
Beside the potting area are Seville orange, blood orange and mandarin tree, planted because Liz is a keen jam and marmalade maker. Her fig jam comes with special ingredients including sherry and it looks pink instead of brown and tastes like strawberry. Her Seville marmalade benefits from a slosh of Irish whiskey. It is made from trees at Old Graham, the Bakers' country garden at Hovells Creek which was planted with more than 100 fruit trees around 1877. It was recently visited by the ACT National Trust and, this month, a Southern Highlands Garden History group.
Liz gives excess fruit to a Canberran who lives in Weston. She, Rosemary, makes conserves to raise funds for the Cancer Council from jams and marmalades sold at Belconnen Fresh Food Markets twice a month.
For Kitchen Garden, Liz shares a favourite recipe that uses homegrown fennel and garlic.
Farfalle with beans, fennel and sausage
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
a packet of four Pialligo Estate Smokehouse* pork, fennel and chilli sausages, skin removed
1 very large fennel bulb, halved and thinly sliced, fronds removed
2 medium brown onions, diced
8 cloves garlic, chopped
1 1/2l chicken stock
2 x 400g tins crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup black eye beans, soaked then cooked (approximately 30 mins) or 400g tin butter or other beans, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups dry farfalle pasta, cooked
60g grated parmesan
Heat olive oil in a cast-iron pot over medium heat, add the sausage meat, break it up with a spoon and cook until golden. Add fennel, onion, garlic and saute until soft and aromatic.
Add stock and tomatoes, bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook for 30-40 minutes until saucy consistency.
Add beans and parsley, then farfalle. Simmer and toss together for a couple of minutes to heat through. Sprinkle with parmesan and reserved fennel fronds.
*The sausages were made by Dario Campagna, now the head butcher at the Pialligo Estate Smokehouse. Dario appeared in this column (Kitchen Garden, March 12, 2018) when he was a barista at EQ Cafe in Deakin and he was growing cucumbers, eggplants, lettuces, English spinach, zucchini and strawberries on his balcony in Phillip. The sausages are sold at Pialligo Market Grocer.