You have to have a good sense of faith to be a gardener- not the bended knee faith of praying, although a fair bit of time is spent on bended knees! But the kind of faith that what you do now, will have an impact on the future at some point. When you sow that lettuce seed, or plant garlic bulbs, there is faith and hope that in that simple act of gardening, you will be able to harvest a crop to feed your family and friends…Sometimes it works, and other times, for lots of different reasons, it doesn’t. However, its always worth a try!
Months ago, late September, in fact, we planted a bed of dahlias and sunflowers at the rear of the house. This has always been a funny area, a space which most people have, cluttered with rubbish bins, the clothes line, and a storage area for half used bags of potting mix and the like. In our early gardening days, this area was home to beds made of galvanised tin, filled to the brim of collected oak leaves and manure, grass cuttings and boxes and boxes of fruit shop waste- no excursion beyond the gate ever returned without bounty of some kind. I’m sure my mother was horrified as her precious grandchild was tucked in between bags of horse manure and grass clippings! This was the home of many a great dahlia flower- with imaginative names, collected and preserved by a man called Hedley, who grew his dahlias in a place called Lima South. In the height of summer you would traverse the highway, passing through golden pastures of scorched grass towards the Mansfield area. Once over the bridge at Boonie Doon, which at that stage spanned padlocks of grass and gum trees, you turned left, then left again up a dirt track until you came to a paddock filled with all manner of dahlia flowers, sparkling like jewels , with Hedley, a gentleman in his late eighties presiding over them. Tough decisions were made, notes exchanged and promises made of a letter later in the year, outlining the order taken…
Duly, as promised, the handwritten letter would arrive in October and later, after cheques were mailed in return, a box of dahlia tubers would arrive, and be lovingly planted into the beautifully composted soil. A few months later, the jewels were our s to behold and rejoice in. But time passes and with extensions and renovations, prolonged dry years and probably lack of attention to attacks made on the fresh new growth by snails and rabbits, our tubers from Hedley had all but disappeared.
Deciding this was the year to plan a dahlia frenzy, we remodelled the beds, spread lots of gravel and did a big tidy up- and again planted dahlia tubers in good faith of things to come. Sadly, not Hedleys’ treasures, just a few random packs from Tesselars end of season sale, but still, nuggets of happiness!
The thing I don’t understand is generally, I have strong views of what is acceptable colour in the world of flowers ( and most things actually!) but these views fly out the window when presented with dahlias- the gaudier, the better! They also have the most random names, like “Bracken Sarah”, Formby Crest” or “Elma Elizabeth”. They are, in some ways, the bogan of the flower world- loud and brash, the brighter the better- unashamed to strut their stuff, and if it makes you feel uncomfortable, thats actually your problem, not theirs…
Perhaps, Im a little jealous…
This year, we hope to get to the other side of town, just past Geelong to enjoy the dahlia display. We do often promise ourselves these pilgrimages, but do find it a struggle to leave our patch of the Valley! If you feel you can For more info, please visit Country Dahlias webpage. Or if you are really keen and inspired head over to the Australian Dahlia Society, where there are lots of details of clubs around the country!
Have you put your tree up yet? Ours at home has been up now for two weeks, living with a nine year old that has been asking for the tree to be put up since Grand Final weekend, things tend to happen!! Lots of different christmas decorations are in store now, and we have even managed to snaffle a few for the Online shop too! We seem to have a circus theme occurring…
The ever popular Melbourne range B Sirrius is in store now…The popular Messenger Bag shape is back, as well as wallets, three zip purses, useful for just about everything (!), cute wallets and luggage tags.
We have the catalogue handy and are happy to order what you would like, if we don’t have it in stock!
Spring has sprung in the Yarra Valley, the grass is green and the skys are clearing as we head into the prettiest season of the year. Over winter, there was much work happening behind closed doors, with the result being beautiful new places to visit with the opening of Coombe Cottage and Meletos of Stones. Meanwhile, lots of the artistically talented people of the Yarra Valley have been working hard to prepare their pieces for the Yarra Valley Open Studios this weekend. Growing in popularity each year, displaying a diverse range, including photography, textiles, ceramics, paintings, and so many more. To taste a sample of whats’ on offer, Oakridge Winery is hosting an overview exhibition, so you can see what takes your fancy! (and maybe indulge in a little food and wine while you are there!)
In celebration of the Yarra Valley Open Studio Weekend, morris brown is hosting a wonderful display of curios, collections, prints and paintings, all beautifully framed by local framer, Michele Tanner. Michele is the one woman show behind Michele Tanner- Bespoke Framing, and her work speaks for itself. She has had a busy time preparing other peoples work for display, but also found a little time to put together a collection of works that so suit morris brown. Take the time to study the matching of the frames, to the tiniest detail in what is being framed. It is truly beautiful. I have already mentally installed several pieces on different walls in my house! The collections of old watch faces are gorgeous, and become significant pieces when curated this way, and the over the top framing of a tiny Tasmanian Devil swap card is a stand out!
Framing is almost like the accessory to the outfit, and can make or break a piece of artwork in how it corresponds with the piece. A tricky game… Michele was kind enough to let us explore her world a little more…
What attracted you to the Yarra Valley, and how long have you lived here for?
I fell in love with the Yarra Valley when I moved out around 15 years ago, it is ridiculously beautiful here, it’s both energising and inspiring. I feel very lucky to live in the country side, i don’t have to commute and seldom have a need to travel into the city, apart for entertainment…everything is here. I feel a real part of a community here now, it’s full of such wonderful people. Our pace of life seems a lot less stressed than that of the city, there is more time to live, breathe and appreciate an idyllic life.
The Valley has a vibrant artists scene, what are some of the things you enjoy about it, and how have you got involved with it over time?
The Yarra Valley has a large artists scene and I really enjoy working with them. I appreciate the way artists can communicate emotions visually, I have found them inspiring and encouraging. I can relate to them as I am a creative soul and love to hear about what they do, how they do it. I think its fun to bounce around ideas with them, framing their work for them is doubly fun!Often, we find our “thing” by accident, was that the case with your framing business, or was it something you always had an interest in?My first Picture framing job was an employment add I applied for out of the blue after I had to leave my hairdressing job due to dermatitis, so many more chemicals back then! Framing Forum was the most fantastically creative job, I worked for a clever, enterprising artist, Janne Kearney and we had so much fun, it didn’t seem like work at all! After that business was sold I worked for a number of framers but never really enjoyed that much freedom and creativity, some were like supermarkets and some quite conservative and stiff. Then I started my own business and rediscovered my passion for design.I have worked as a picture framer for around 14 years, strangely I found a majority to be absolutely boring, (sorry) but they are lacking any personal interest in art and were not what you would call creative personalities. The choice of mouldings offered was really limited… homogenised even. I think if we are encouraging people to spend once on good products we don’t at sometime regret and want to replace, we should have a real choice. There is no love in mass produced “stuff” it may be “cheap” but it has no love in it. (It also often turns out to be morally expensive)In some ways framing can either make or break a great piece of art, by giving it the finish that elevates it to a higher level, or detracts and distracts from the piece itself. how do you ensure you find the balance and compromise required?I always like to find out if customer has an idea of what they want…a style, an era, a colour, feel or texture…then I usually set up samples to view, including some fairly out there alternatives. Sometimes the combination that works is the last thing you expected, it is always good to view a lot of choice to be sure it’s just right. My consultations are free and there with no obligation and I am always happy to show people the different possibilities without any pressure.I am lucky, I seem to have a good eye for my work. I have seen so many pieces framed over many years and I have a very clear view of the finished piece by looking at a corner sample. From this experience I can see if it will be over whelmed, underwhelmed or sit comfortably and honour a piece. Generally, I like to keep things looking fairly contemporary but I do enjoy going over board with particular pieces, it can take it to another level to treat an image in a special way. I have included in my work for Morris Brown a number of examples of this – another level…the tripple framed Tasmanian Tiger is by far the most elaborate, this inexpensive little swap card is treated very seriously and this extinct animal is honoured .Favourite artist, alive, or not, local, or not (!) and why?I don’t have a favourite artist, I do like being affected and feeling inspired by art. I enjoy a number of different art forms such as short films, mixed media- I really like films like Švankmajer’s Alice, sculptures like Lisa Roet’s with her huge Chimpanzee’s bust, Bernault Smilde and his man made indoor clouds, Julia deVille with her dark decorated victorian taxidermy. I am keeping a keen, appreciative eye on the Australian contemporary artists – Sandra Hill paintings stands out, currently at Tarrawarra’s BIENNIAL 2014 “Behind my Mask”. I also think Michael Cook’s photograph “Majority rule” is pretty special.Framing is obviously an art form in itself, but outside of this, do you pursue any other creative passions?I have always been very creative and I feel totally driven now (after exposure to artists around me) to pick up a brush and get painting but I’m still not quite sure where to start…I guess picking up the brush would be a start. Time to do this would be great!Favourite places and spaces in the Valley; what do you enjoy doing here?My favourite things to do in the Yarra Valley is to be outside, to bike ride along the trail with my kids or recently I have ridden up to Toolangi with friends. It is rather special to and walk around the weir’s or the Maroondah Dam, or spending time at the Healesville sanctuary with kids and visitors. I also can’t help but enjoy the fabulous food around the valley and it’s the wonderful, farmers markets, cafés, restaurants, cool wine bars and wineries. I couldn’t live anywhere else, it’s absolutely wonderful.
Thanks Michele for sharing your life and beautiful work with us. It has been great to watch people respond to her work with such enthusiasm. We wish everyone involved in this weekends Open Studios a very happy weekend, and with blue skies predicted, the Yarra Valley will be looking its sparkling best!!
We had a great response to our birthday competition. Thanks so much for all your liking, sharing, popping your heads in to say happy birthday , the emails and lovely comments so many of you made…
As promised, we drew the winners of the seven $25 morris brown Gift Vouchers today, and they are~
Please contact us via email, email@example.com to arrange to collect your voucher from either our Heathmont or Healesville stores!
Stay tuned, we will be having other giveaways in the coming months, you all seem to like them, and so do we !
It is fitting that our Sunday Drive in the Yarra Valley this weekend of our seventh birthday, is to visit the exhibition of local Healesville artist, Clare James. Clare has been a constant visitor to morris brown in the years since we opened, and it has been with great delight ,we have gotten to know Clare and her little family. It has also been a pleasure to see her work feature on lovely cushions, and on beautifully made bags by Melbourne based Nancy Bird, which we have been fortunate to sell, but more importantly it has been wonderful to spend a little time looking to the world as Clare does. A passionate environmentalist, creator, gardener and so many other things, her current work is a joy- the words below are taken from Clares’ reference to her exhibition, now on show at the beautiful Yering Station, at Yarra Glen.
“I thought I needed to escape. a yearning to leave behind stories in the news of a changing climate, of war, and of nature being destroyed. My anxiety felt bigger than me. Run to the mountains, disappear into the desert, go and clean my mind in the ocean? I have a family I need to protect. I decided instead to sleep in my garden. Get to know another side of this place that calms me and is seemingly familiar. Meet her micro world and her nocturnal world, her star world and her weather world from a little tent on the lawn. So I disappeared into nature, in a tent, in my backyard for 31 nights.”
Just a few snippets of what took my fancy! Such a lovely space to be in. A great weekend for a drive, the Valley in winter, with its foggy mornings and chilly air is gorgeous. Wander past and see us at morris brown, under the elm tree in the main street of Healesville, just hanging about as we have done for the past seven years! Put your name in the draw to win one of seven $25 Gift Vouchers… After all, you don’t turn seven every day!!
First, we need to begin with a warning- if you are in a hurry, do not click on the links listed through the post below… you may loose several minutes, which seem to turn into hours in a blink of an eye, meaning mundane events, such as cleaning, cooking and vaguely acting like a responsible mother doesn’t happen, and chaos can occur!
In my next life, Id like to be a stone mason who does floristry – or a florist, who does stone masonary…either way, my hands would be pretty trashed ! A strange combination, one so permanent, hard and definite, and one so soft, delicate and fleeting. But both immensely creative and detailed, both looking for that perfect piece to finish off the jigsaw…Both Jen and I love arranging flowers for the shop- Jens’ flowers are always amazing and sourced from her garden. This is the type of creativity that appeals to us, the much more naturalistic floristry that is gaining in popularity, championed by Henry Hudson Blog, Miss Pickering and others. So imagine our delight to find another like minded soul hiding right under our noses…
Coldstream is one of those places all to common in Australia, where the main highway allows people to fly through, windows up in their own world, on their way to who knows where. Sometimes its these places, that turn up nuggets of gold, and Sugar Bee Flowers is one such find. Located in the Gateway Shopping Precinct of Coldstream, Sugar Bee is in good company next to Cunliffe and Waters, the Yarra Valley Tea Company, etc. ( and the fish and chips aren’t bad either!) I was completely blown away when I drove in one day and saw her sweet shopfront ( appointment only) and her simple, yet rustic display- ladders, watering cans and Billy Buttons get me every time! All things we love, here at morris brown. So, I decided to find out more about who was behind the window…and lo and behold, I found Youki. Below is a little of her story; we hope you enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed asking stickybeak questions!
One of the more obvious questions is how does a Japanese Girl find herself immersed in life in the Yarra Valley?
Ha ha, that’s a funny question. Well, I came to Australia when I was 11, grew up in Sydney, then moved around the East Coast then settled down in the Yarra Valley 2 years ago. It is THE very best place I have ever lived – beautiful scenery everywhere you go, beautiful people, beautiful food… I really can’t compliment enough about the Yarra Valley. I just love it.
Traditionally, the Japanese style of floristry flower arranging, is far more structured and formal, yet one of the reasons we admire your work so much is thatit is so free; are you self taught or did you work with someone to learn the skills you have today
Aww thank you! It really means a lot when people recognise me for free, loose floral designs. I studied floristry back in Sydney where I learned all the basics, did work experience in several florists, then the rest is I guess self taught! I love it when the flowers look like a piece of nature.
Your arrangements see to focus on the seasonality of the flowers, using what is available at that time. In today’s world, consumers are accustomed to having what they want, when they want it. Do you find it difficult to convince clients that this is a great way to go, or do most people accept this?
I am very lucky because most of my clients understand that flowers ARE seasonal and what’s not there, is not there. Also, there are cases that flowers we were planning to use are not available due to weather, etc. While brides get disappointed, they understand and are happy to go with the alternative. I think Melbournians have a really good understanding of nature, which I really appreciate (trust me, I lived in NSW and QLD and VIC is the best flower state).
I know it’s like asking a mother what is her favourite child, but if you only had one flower to work with, what would you choose and why?
That is a tough question but I’d probably go with David Austin roses. They are pretty, they are fragrant, and their stems are often not straight which always makes it interesting to work with. They look nice on their own, and with others. It’s just the fine sharp thorns that’s the problem! I’ve had one stuck in my finger for 2 weeks now.
You work and have a family: how do you juggle all that needs to happen in the day.
It is a constant juggle, and it’s a common struggle for many, many mothers out there. I’m lucky because I leave for the market at 3AM while hubby and kids are sleeping, and I work mostly on the weekends while hubby is at home with the kids. I do miss out on the family weekend fun but that’s fine – I’ve got the winter wedding off-season to enjoy that.
Favourite Yarra Valley destinations and why?
That’s so hard!! There are so many beautiful places I would visit on my day off. I love visiting the cafes and beautiful wineries and I love enjoying a little walk at the dam and the Badger Weir… There is so many things to see and do!!
Where do you go for inspiration- what magazines, blogs or other sources of inspiration do you turn too?
There are many different blogs that I follow including wedding blogs like http://www.polkadotbride.com, ruffledblog.com, hellomay.com.au; and my favourite florists’ blogs including my absolute favourite saipua.com, and few others like floragrubb.com/cutting, www.floretflowers.com/blog, tenthmeadow.blogspot.com.au, http://ariellaflowers.cometc. We also can’t go past Pinterest for some beautiful pictures! I can’t look at beautiful flowers for too long though, because my heart will literally start hurting and I run out of breath (it sounds so stupid but it’s true) so I keep it to checking 2 or 3 per day. ( Have to agree, I lost hours looking at them, when I was meant to be doing the links, oops!)
Recently, in the January edition of Belle magazine there was a feature highlighting several Australian florists: if you could work with any floral designer / florist who would you choose?
It was a great article. There are many admirable floral designers/florists in Australia with great skills and talent and I would love to work with any of them! I’m going to have to give you a really boring answer and I’d say there is always things to learn from others, and there is no particular one that I’d like to work with; I’d love to work with any of them!!
When you look at a posy, like the one featured above, it looks so simple, yet perfect. There in lies the talent. Because it is never so simple, and while floristry has such a creative pull, the reality is it is loads of hard work, some not so glamorous…No doubt, sometime in the near future, if you attend a wedding at one of the fabulous venues scattered across the Yarra Valley, you may just be admiring the handiwork of Sugar Bee Flowers, one of the amazingly talented people that call the Valley home. Thanks so much Youki for sharing your stories and your photographs of your beautiful work with us. Youki has a lovely blog where she documents many of her weddings, and you can find it here, if you’d like to see a little more flower power!
Please note, all photographs displayed are property of Sugar Bee Flowers