Catherine Stewart

About Catherine Stewart

Award-winning garden journalist, blogger and photographer; writer for garden magazines and co-author of 'Waterwise Gardening'; landscape designer turned landscape design judge and critic; compulsive networker and lover of generally putting fingers in lots of pies. Particularly mud pies. Creator, curator and editor of GardenDrum. Sydney, NSW.

How do I say ‘goodbye’ to my garden?

We’re moving. It’s something I want to do but I’ve gardened here for nearly 18 years and I’d be lying if I said it was going to be easy to walk away from so much thought, love and toil. Over the past five years of reading GardenDrum many of you have seen my garden develop – its painstakingly-built gabion walls; its reused concrete retaining walls; its grey, weathered deck; its Link Edge garden edging: and many of its best plants, particularly my beloved pentas. How can I tear myself away? Continue reading

Review: Influential Australian Garden People: Their Stories

For a book about garden people, rather than gardens, to succeed and hold interest, they need to be exceptional people with stories that are relevant to and resonate with everyday gardeners. Dr Anne Vale’s list is impressive, covering garden communicators and educators in print, radio and television, as well as a range of garden designers from around Australia. Continue reading

How to identify a mystery plant

I’m asked all the time to help people identify plants. Even though many of them grow in places way outside my climate zone, I’ve become a pretty good botanical and horticultural sleuth. Recently Keren in Bermuda sent me some photos of a shrub she was trying to name, without success. And I’ve also been thinking about my experiences earlier this year running from one gorgeous wildflower to the next in Yunnan, China, trying to understand what I was seeing. So what sort of characteristics do you need to look at when you’re trying to identify a mystery plant? Continue reading

Why have we fallen out of love with conifers?

For some years there’s been an autumn National Conifer Week in the UK, celebrating the diversity and adaptability of this handsome, but now under-appreciated group of plants. Do we need a World-Wide Conifer Week? Why have we fallen out of love with this handsome, versatile, adaptable and tough group of plants? Continue reading

Review: The Florilegium – Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney

I knew about this book a long time before it was published, having seen some of the beautiful art produced for the Florilegium Society at the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney. I imagined some sort of coffee-table picture book – nice but something you’d leaf through fairly quickly, just looking at the lovely pictures. I wasn’t expecting something you would have so much enjoyment reading.★★★★½ Continue reading

Herbals: Myth, Magic, Medicine

Herbarium Anboinense, 1740

Herbarium Anboinense, 1740

Exquisite rare antiquarian books plus the intriguing and fantastical stories behind many of our medicinal plants makes a fabulous Sydney exhibition. ‘HERBALS: Myths Magic, Medicine‘ at the Red Box Gallery, Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney. And don’t miss the zombie fungus! Continue reading

Review: Royal Botanic Garden Sydney – The First 200 Years

I started to read this history of a garden and soon realised that what I was actually reading was a history of so much more – a struggling settlement, a growing city, and a developing nation. More than any building or natural landscape, this Garden holds the layers of Australia’s 200 years of European settlement as well as the lighter footprint of many more years of indigenous occupation. And it is a story well-told, with multiple voices adding colour to this woven tapestry of discovery and loss, exploitation and love, export and import, neglect and care, and loyalty and deceit. ★★★★½

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Review: The Calyx reveals its Sweet Addiction at Sydney RBG

Newly opened at the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney, The Calyx is the purpose-built exhibition space that the Gardens has needed and wanted for some years. On the outside it’s an architectural and very beautiful structure occupying the site of the old glass square pyramid Tropical Centre and built on to the Ken Woolley-designed quarter-circle ‘Arc’ glasshouse which survived demolition. I like the way its stark and severe white ribs around the circular open courtyard area contrast with its green and leafy garden background, and also the wonderful shadow patterns they throw on the internal courtyard space. But what’s inside? Continue reading