THIS WEEK'S FEATURE ARTICLES
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The Kitchen Garden Guide
Summer has drifted in and out, the wind has howled and abated, rain has pelted down then evaporated, and our tomatoes are slowly ripening. Interestingly, my tomato plants are much taller than ever before, and the first tomatoes to ripen, quite early on, were the big, luscious black from Tula. The most productive this year has been jaune flamme, which I only decided to grow at the last minute. It just goes to show that it is worth planting a diverse range of tomatoes and everything else.
Autumn is an excellent time for taking cuttings. Cuttings in autumn can be semi hardwood or hardwood, but not the floppy, green, very new growth and not something that is in flower. Autumn cuttings are usually of evergreen plants. Generally, only take cuttings of deciduous plants when they have lost their leaves
Cut with clean secateurs just under some leaves, remove all the leaves from at least two growing nodes above the cut. Reduce the number of leaves on the rest of the stem, all the way to the top. Slip the cutting into the soil (pot or ground) and water thoroughly. I don’t bother with hormone powder or suchlike.
I asked a couple of my gardening friends how they prefer to strike
Sally’s beautiful garden is grown almost entirely from cuttings.
Sally is a no-nonsense gardener and her plants must not be too fussy. She chooses a spot in the ground that is damp, sheltered from wind and all but a little easterly sun. The soil is friable, but not fertilised. Into that go all her cuttings and there they stay until they shoot new leaves. Then they are transplanted to their garden site. She rarely uses pots at all.
Nick prefers to put his cuttings into medium size pots, 10 cuttings to
a pot. The mix he uses varies according to the difficulty of getting the cuttings to strike. Azaleas are tricky, geraniums are easy. Generally it contains something that holds water like coconut fibre, something that drains, like sharp sand, plus some basic potting mix. The pots are kept somewhere near the back door, out of wind and sun, so they can be kept damp and cared for.
I generally take cuttings only when
I am pruning. I have a bucket of water near me and nestle them in there while I complete the pruning. Oh dear…
Sometimes they stay in that bucket, or in a jar in the kitchen for a couple of weeks. Ideally, I would remove them from the water on the same day I cut them and put them in pots, similar to Nick’s method. However, I usually poke a few taller bamboo sticks in the pot and, after watering well, I cover the whole thing with a plastic bag, with a rubber band around the pot to hold it on. I am likely to ignore them for at least
a couple of months then I check to see how they are going and replace the bag again until they shoot new leaves. Then I remove the bag, and leave them a little longer before transplanting to individual pots.
Onions, garlic, shallots, potato onions, walking onions, leeks, elephant garlic, chives and garlic chives are all alliums, and have been grown for thousands of years in many parts of the world. Alliums all have day-length requirements, some preferring shortening days, some lengthening days, some a little more flexible. In autumn we sow and plant those that prefer or will tolerate shortening days to get them started, then lengthening days to finish off (towards next summer). These include garlic, shallots, potato onions, elephant garlic and walking onions. I have talked about growing garlic in many of these garden guides, so now it is the turn of the other alliums that are suitable to plant now.
I went to the Koonya Garlic Festival last time it was on and heard an excellent talk by Tino Carnevale all about alliums and got totally enthused. So, last autumn I planted potato onions that I got from a friend. It was a roaring success. Each one produced 10 or more small onions, some up to 20. They shot quickly, grew strong stems all winter, then bulbed up during spring but took ages to dry off, which is when they are ready to harvest. I harvested in January. They are great for pickling or throwing in a baking dish or stew.
I spoke to Tino at the Spring Bay Sunflower Festival in February.
He said you can plant the potato onions in spring too, to save on garden space, but I am going to plant them in autumn again because it was so successful.
In his book Growing Vegetables South of Australia, Steve Solomon suggests putting shallots (and late garlic varieties) in the fridge for a month, starting in early to mid March, before planting out in April. This breaks their dormancy, hurrying them into faster sprouting once planted out, and gives them plenty of shortening days to grow a good set of leaves before they start bulbing up in spring. I am going to do this for my potato onions because
I harvested so late.
Give all alliums a friable, fertile soil with good drainage, adding lime, if necessary, to about neutral or slightly alkaline, but definitely not acidic. Peter Cundall uses fire ash in place of lime and digs in old sheep manure and biochar.
Look for potato onions, elephant garlic and other alliums at markets and online, and the Crop Swap Cygnet and Surrounds facebook page.
If you would like to learn about saving seeds, join us at the Cygnet Seed Library every second Sunday at 2pm at the old Commonwealth Bank at 17 Mary Street. Details on Facebook.
Cygnet Autumn Garden Market takes place on 27 March from 12pm to 4pm at Port Cygnet Cannery. The event will raise funds for refugees moving to the Huon and will feature talks, stalls, food, and coffee. See you there.
Coriander, pennyroyal, cress
Seeds to harvest
Plant out now
Good sized European brassicas
Elephant garlic, potato onions
Having an Alfie moment
It’s not common to be happy all the time. However, feeling blue, down or depressed constantly isn’t terrific either. Life is full of ups and downs. Most people experience times when they question the meaning of their lives. It’s quite natural.
Rather than say, “I’m being stalked by the black dog”, I refer to down times as “having an Alfie moment”. Alfie (as in “What’s it all about, Alfie?”) is a song written for the film of the same name. Burt Bacharach and Hal David were given the job of writing the titular song if they could complete it in three weeks. David wasn’t initially thrilled about penning a song for “a pedestrian-sounding character named Alfie”. But write it they did, and they have no doubt found lots of meaning in the royalty cheques they regularly receive for it.
Everyone who is anyone has recorded it. Cilla Black, at the request of Burt Bacharach, recorded an extraordinary version, used for the soundtrack of the film. If you get a chance to see footage of the recording session, you can’t help but admire the professionalism of these two wonderful musicians. It wasn’t a one-take wonder, though.
Black’s recording session for Alfie took place in autumn of 1965 at Abbey Road studio one, overseen by her regular producer George Martin. It was part of the agreement that the recording be done in the UK, with Bacharach himself to do the arrangements for the recording sessions, and to play piano. This was not a modest little number: Bacharach also conducted a 48-piece orchestra, and the session featured the Breakaways as background vocalists.
Reputations made by Alfie
The first version of the film in 1966 starred Michael Caine, who was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor. Caine has been in at least 120 films and is still acting at 87. Other film versions were released in 1975 and 2004.
The most memorable version of the song is probably by Dionne Warwick, who was a favourite performer of Bacharach’s. But the song has been recorded by some 50 artists, including Cher, Sandie Shaw, Whitney Houston, Barbra Streisand, Tony Bennett, Chaka Khan, Cleo Laine, Tony Martin, Johnny Mathis, Matt Monro, Olivia Newton-John, Elaine Paige, Buddy Rich, Midge Ure, and Andy Williams. Dutch singer Conny Vandenbos recorded a Dutch-language version, and in 1968, Stevie Wonder released
a harmonica instrumental version.
Musical history or trivia?
Although Bacharach and David wanted Warwick to record the song, that didn’t happen because the film’s producers wanted a UK singer to do it. Sandie Shaw was offered the job but declined. So Black, who had recently had a UK No 1 hit with Anyone Who Had a Heart, also a Bacharach/David song, was approached. When she was invited to record Alfie in
a letter from Bacharach, she said she recalls him saying that the song had been written specially for her.
The following is courtesy of
Brian Epstein, her manager, was sent a demo of the song, originally performed by 22-year-old Kenny Karen, with Bacharach on piano, accompanied by a string ensemble. Black reacted negatively on hearing the demo “of some fella singing Alfie... I actually said to Brian, ‘I can’t do this.’ For a start - Alfie? You call your dog Alfie! ... [Couldn’t] it be Tarquin or something like that?”
Just think – instead of “having an Alfie moment” when I’m feeling blue,
I could be “having a Tarquin moment” instead. Doesn’t scan, does it? One might ask, “What’s it all about?”
Ordinary people, extraordinary talents
Brahms, Dvorak, Haydn - household names today, but fame didn’t happen overnight! The first Kettering Concert for 2021 features these three extraordinary composers in two Cello Concertos and a Cello Sonata. Tracing their musical journeys uncovers some interesting facts, many of them unrelated to music. The third fact I discover about Franz Josef Haydn from my Collins Encyclopedia of Music, is that his father was a wheelwright. (The first two are his life-span and birthplace.) The same happens when I search for Antonin Dvorak - his dad was a butcher, and also the village innkeeper. However, I soon discover that Franz Josef was such an angelic singer that he became, at an early age, one of those cherubic choirboys recruited by St Stephen’s Cathedral in Vienna. Young Antonin, the eldest of nine children, contributed to the family income from the age of six by playing the violin in his father’s inn. He showed such extraordinary talent that it soon became apparent he would not take over the family business, as had been the tradition. Johannes Brahms was the only one of these three future maestros whose family had a musical connection: Brahms Senior was a double-bass player in the local city orchestra. Johannes would have his first music lessons from his father and show
a special aptitude for the piano.
Just ordinary people
Johannes was gifted as a pianist, but less gifted in good manners; he was ungracious enough to growl at an amateur cellist accompanying him on piano who complained that Brahms played so loudly his cello couldn’t be heard. Brahms thumped the piano louder and told his cellist the audience was lucky they couldn’t hear him! Franz Josef, who sang so sweetly, proved less angelic when he indulged in his other favourite pastime as a practical joker.
His notorious mischief-making led his family to rate his chances of success in life, and music, pretty low. How wrong they were. Of Antonin Dvorak we learn that although he lived and worked happily in America for some time, such severe homesickness overcame him on a holiday visit to his Bohemian birthplace that he could not return to America. To know a little of the ‘back story’ of their lives humanises these great men and adds another dimension to our experience of their magnificent musical output.
Three of their best
An aura of the unexpected (a result of his reputation for mischief-making, perhaps?) hangs around Haydn. (During a performance of one of his symphonies a huge chandelier fell from the ceiling. No one was injured, causing this particular symphony to be dubbed the Miracle Symphony.) The manuscript for the first item listed for the Kettering Concert, his Concerto in D Major, went missing - careless! - not the first of Haydn’s to do so. Luckily, it was found. Luckily because it’s described by commentators as “sparkling”, with “brilliant technical effects”. Haydn’s biographer, H.C. Robbins Landon, writes that it displays the “talents, tone and musicianship” of the soloist. Dvorak’s Concerto, listed second for performance at Kettering, was considered the finest example of its kind. His contemporary, Brahms (and remember, he was the one from the musical family) is reported to have said, “Why on earth didn’t I know that one could write a cello concerto like this? Had I known, I would have written one long ago.” Dvorak completed this concerto while mourning the death of a woman he held very dear, his sister-in-law. Unlike much of his work, it is not evocative of his American experience and is generally held to signpost the homesickness to which he would later succumb. Brahms’ Cello Sonata in E minor is seen as a turning point in which his “wild young self” and “tempestuous youth” have now yielded to his maturity as “the greatest classical romantic composer of chamber music”. Reviewers cite a “glorious sunset coda” saying, “Brahms was the master of musical sunsets”.
The cellist, the pianist, the artist
Both musicians performing these three pieces, Jonathan Békés and Karen Smithies, are well known to Kettering audiences. Jonathon started playing the cello at 10 years old, is a member of the Tasmanian Symphony Orchestra, and is much in demand as performer, chamber musician and teacher across Australia and the world. As well-rounded as the composers he will represent at Kettering, Jonathon is a passionate Sydney Swans supporter and Hobart Hurricanes enthusiast,
a keen squash player, and an avid golfer, hiker and mountain biker. Karen has studied and performed with some of the best. She lectures at the Tasmanian Conservatorium of Music, and is on demand in the Hobart music scene as rehearsal pianist, repetiteur and accompanist. She and her husband have four children, and Karen is working to establish a music centre in her local community at Lauderdale. Art works around the walls, Tasmanian scenes from a larger body of work entitled “Ephemeral Landscapes”, will feature Woodbridge photographer Tom Polacheck. Tom says, “The beauty and magic of the camera is its ability to freeze that which is fleeting ... and allows us to perceive what otherwise would never have been consciously remembered.”
Sunday 14 March at 3pm, at the Kettering Community Hall. Visit www.ketteringconcerts.org.au to book tickets ($15) online through www.trybooking.com. No door sales.
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