Seasonal delights

Tamie Fraser in her garden flanked by two 'Tamie' camellias.OPEN Gardens Australia is the second-largest scheme of its kind after Britain's National Garden Scheme, which also opens gardens to the public.
Nanjing Night Net

Like the NGS, which this year celebrates its 85th anniversary, its Australian contemporary is in celebratory mood, having reached a 25-year milestone.

The 2012-13 season of the Victorian division of Open Gardens Australia will be launched on Tuesday by the scheme's president, Tamie Fraser, at Rippon Lea Estate. The first garden to open tomorrow week will be Dame Elisabeth Murdoch's Cruden Farm, with its magnificent fields of daffodils.

Fraser, who has opened her Merricks garden a number of times and will open it for the last time in February, says owners who share their gardens with the public are very generous.

''It's such a privilege for people to go into someone else's private space and see what they have,'' she says. ''You do bare your soul when you open your garden to the public but you do get tremendous knowledge from people coming in to see your garden.''

The Frasers' hillside garden affords stunning views from the house and includes a section devoted to native trees, rose beds, hedges and perennials, including Malcolm Fraser's pride and joy, the camellia walk, which has been floriferous this year.

Other special events include the opening on September 16 of seven cottages at Bickleigh Vale Village in Mooroolbark, which were created by Edna Walling.

The annual plant fair will be held in March at Sir Roderick Carnegie's Woodend property Flint Hill, which features a large woodland garden with specimen trees underplanted with rhododendrons and azaleas, formal lawns and shrubberies.

Fraser says the plant fair is a popular event on the Open Gardens calendar, attracting 10,000 visitors when it was held at Thurulgoona, her property in Merricks.

In a first for the scheme, two twilight openings will be held on Australia Day: Bagnols, a French-inspired garden designed by Paul Bangay at Shoreham; and Rick Eckersley's Musk Cottage at Flinders, which will include musicians, wine and food.

Usually, the season ends on the Mother's Day weekend but this time it will continue through winter and include Gunyah, a large vegetable garden in Pascoe Vale, and Attila Kapitany's stunning display of architectural agaves, aloes and yuccas.

There will also be an Australian plants workshop and a ''conversation'' on Gardens and Gardening Today: Sustainability, Direction, Design, which will feature eight experts, including Carolyn Blackman, Phillip Johnson, Michael McCoy and Sharon Harris.

A tour of nine significant gardens in the Western District will be hosted by the organisation's chief executive, Richard Barley, and there is an opportunity to learn about palms from Jo Wilkins, a self-confessed ''palm-aholic''.

Open Gardens Australia grew from Victoria's open-garden scheme, established in 1987, to a national scheme in 2000. It was renamed last year to better reflect its role for the public.

Garden owners charge nominal fees to visit their gardens (the standard fee is $6), with 35 per cent returned to them or to a charity of their choice and 65 per cent to Open Gardens Australia, which receives no government money.

Each season, surplus funds are distributed to community garden projects under its Community Garden Grants Awards scheme. The recipients in the 2011-12 season were Buda house and garden at Castlemaine, to help with its garden restoration, and renewal works at the late Margot Knox's mosaic garden in Hawthorn.

■The new guide lists 500 gardens across the country and is available for $19 from opengarden南京夜网.au.


Going green

Greenlink indigenous plant nursery is holding its open day today from 9am-noon. 41 Wimmera Street, Box Hill North.

Karma camellias

Camellias Victoria is holding a display of camellias, including plant sales, today (1-5pm) and tomorrow (10am-4.30pm). Mount Waverley Community Centre, 47 Miller Crescent. $5. Also this weekend at the centre is the Waverley Garden Club's 50th anniversary of its floral art group.

Yellow hosts

The 56th annual Leongatha Daffodil and Floral Show runs from Thursday to Saturday at Leongatha Memorial Hall, McCartin Street, with flowers, plants and refreshments. $5. Phone 5668 6334.

Orchid spectacular

Thousands of orchids will be on display from Friday to Sunday at Springers Leisure Centre, 400 Cheltenham Road, Keysborough. 9am-5pm (Sunday until 4pm). Adults $6, concession $4. Phone 9786 1938.

Sexy spiders

On Tuesday, the Friends of Burnley Gardens will present a talk by Professor Mark Elgar about the sex lives of spiders and other interesting arachnid facts. Members $3, non-members $10. Quad 6, Burnley Gardens, 500 Yarra Boulevard, Richmond. 7pm for 7.30pm. Bookings essential, phone 9035 6861.


Japanese floral art (ikebana) will be exhibited from Wednesday to Saturday (10am-5pm) at Kazari Collector, 450 Malvern Road, Prahran.

Events to [email protected]南京夜网 two weeks in advance.

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Patients left in limbo as Alzheimer’s trial awaits ethical approval

IAN and Pat Cleaver ''made a mutual contract nearly 60 years ago, and that's not meaning a legal contract'', Mr Cleaver said. ''It's a contract between ourselves to look after one another.''
Nanjing Night Net

Mrs Cleaver's Alzheimer's disease makes her dependent on her 85-year-old husband, who still manages the couple's sheep and wheat property near Nyngan. Sometimes she joins him on the truck. Other times she spends a day at an aged care facility.

''Pat's not at an unworkable stage but I guess the progression of it means she will be,'' said Mr Cleaver, who hopes some of his wife's failing abilities will return if she can join a Queensland clinical trial of a radical new therapy.

But despite accepting more than $100,000 in donations from families of dementia patients, and signing up hundreds of potential participants such as 81-year-old Mrs Cleaver, Griffith University does not have the necessary research ethics approval to go ahead with the study, which will be limited to only 12 patients.

The proposal, to test a controversial drug injection technique that some relatives say produces stunning recovery, was condemned this week as cruel and unethical for raising unrealistic hopes and linking fund-raising to the possibility of participation.

A professor of medical education at the University of Sydney, Merrilyn Walton, said Griffith was ''overstating the results in a positive frame … to generate money from a particularly vulnerable group who are very interested in research, very invested in a cure.''

A professor of ageing and mental health at the University of NSW's dementia collaborative research centre, Henry Brodaty, said the study, which will not compare the drug to a placebo, would ''achieve very little. It's not going to give any definitive answers.''

Professor Brodaty said the treatment - which involves injecting the powerful immune system drug etanercept between the bones of the neck, then tilting the patient to trap it in brain fluid - was being promoted without sufficient scientific backing.

''I hope it works but until we've got more evidence … it worries me,'' he said. ''People get so excited and pin so much hope on this … I think it's cruel.''

The director of the Griffith institute of health and medical research, Lyn Griffiths, acknowledged the trial's future was uncertain. Three doctors would travel to California next week to receive training from the private clinic that pioneered the injections.

''We don't know whether they will complete the training or whether [the university's human research ethics committee] will be happy with it,'' she said.

The university would also need to find a hospital prepared to perform the procedure.

Professor Griffiths said the university had raised more than the $100,000 required for training, administration and drug supplies, and would not accept further money. After the Herald submitted questions, the university removed the donations button from the trial website.

Professor Griffiths defended the promotion of the trial. ''There's a real need for treatments,'' she said. ''I don't think there was any sense people were hoodwinked.''

Mr Cleaver is frustrated by the delay. ''They said quite emphatically they were ready to start,'' he said. ''We have this drug available and it doesn't seem logical not to use it.''

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Shelf space is fully booked

Anyone toying with the idea of writing a cookbook should visit my desk. That's not an open invitation but it could be a sobering experience.
Nanjing Night Net

The books desk - for want of a better description - groans beneath about 10 piles of 10 books apiece. All are relatively recent releases and the Christmas titles have not yet begun.

What shouts ''buy me'' above all others? A celebrity - preferably television - is the sure and fast way. As for the rest, it is endlessly fascinating to see how trends emerge.

Pretty is very 2012. After years of blinding white on white, book covers have images of lace, doilies and ornate spoons.

As for the recipes, why choose a snappy name when you can list almost every element? Hence Alice Hart has ''stuffed firepit venison with roast pear, port sauce and perfect mash''. If 1.3 kilograms of potatoes did anything less than caress my arteries with utter deliciousness when accompanied by 350 millilitres of single cream and up to 240 grams of butter, I'd be asking Macquarie to redefine ''perfect'' in the dictionary.

Pendolino restaurant's owner and chef, Nino Zoccali, has recipe names that read like an ingredients list. Take Pugliese tagliatelle with fresh and dried fava beans, salted dried ricotta, parsley, mint and basil. He writes: ''For those who have never heard of this dish …'' It's unusual, but barely a secret with that as a title.

Italian is also big in 2012, with Zoccali's offering joined by Giovanni Pilu's book on Sardinian food and Amanda Tabberer's travels down the Amalfi Coast.

Johnnie Mountain cooks with a passion for pork in Pig, which promises to demystify the meat. I'm not sure I'll take up his invitation with such dishes as toad in the hole with onion gravy. It looks very, um, English boarding school.

Prince Charles's stepson, Tom Parker Bowles, also offers toad in the hole, saying it was one school meal ''I actually found edible'', but spares us a picture. He gets the prize for the recipe with the weirdest name: ''A simple dish for bachelors and widowers to impress their guests''. The meal's main ingredient, chicken, is the same as his mum's classic recipe, although the future king's Camilla chops off ''that dangly bit'' above the cavity and puts it on top of the roast chicken. What dangly bit, I'm left wondering.

Parker Bowles confides his wife threatens to shove the recipe ''where the sun doesn't beam'' if she hears about it one more time. A choice little vignette on royal life.

Meanwhile, Bill Granger publishes Easy - or maybe that's a tautology. Can his recipes get any easier?

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Schools jittery as Gillard delays education reforms

THE federal government has delayed its long-awaited response to the first major review of school funding in 40 years amid anger over lack of consultation and concerns some private schools would be worse off.
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The Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, was expected to announce the reforms early next week. However, a spokeswoman for School Education Minister Peter Garrett said it would now be ''in the next few weeks''.

The delay comes as the Victorian government, the Catholic Education Office and the Independent Schools Council of Australia warned some schools would lose out if the Gonski reforms were adopted.

This has been denied repeatedly by Mr Garrett, who insists no school will lose a single dollar.

Victorian Education Minister Martin Dixon said the delay suggested ''some of the real concerns raised by stakeholders are starting to bite''.

''It just shows you that they have gone into this whole process unprepared and with unreal expectations,'' Mr Dixon said. ''We run the second-largest [education] system in the country and they have not spoken to us in a realistic way. It has been an absolute travesty of the Federation.''

The Gonski review recommended the federal and state governments boost spending on education by $5 billion a year, based on 2009 figures, with the lion's share to go to public schools. The model aims to address disadvantage by allocating a standard amount for every student, with loadings for students with a disability and those from low-income, indigenous and non-English-speaking backgrounds.

The federal government is likely to contribute about $3 billion from 2014, with the states also required to chip in. Commonwealth funding will be conditional on the states agreeing to reforms to improve teacher quality, such as annual performance reviews.

The current funding model - which the Gonski report said was ''unnecessarily complex'' and lacked ''coherence and transparency'' - expires at the end of 2013.

Mr Dixon said this week it was ''just ludicrous'' for the federal government to suggest a new funding model would be in place for 2014. ''It just shows how out of touch it is and how it is just about getting over the hump of the next election.''

Federal opposition spokesman on education Christopher Pyne said the Coalition would support any legislation to extend the existing funding model for two years.

''We would be pleased if the government would take up our offer so schools can plan budgets. This current uncertainty is unacceptable and is creating real trouble in the non-government school sector amongst principals and governing councils who can't plan and parents who don't know what school fees are going to be.''

The Coalition has pledged to repeal any legislation to introduce the Gonski reforms if it is elected to government.

Modelling by the Victorian government showed more than 50 per cent of Catholic schools would lose funding, which the executive director of Melbourne's Catholic Education Office, Stephen Elder, said could result in fee increases of $800 to $6000.

The Independent Schools Council of Australia has also warned one in six private schools would be worse off and would have to raise fees.

But the federal government says the review panel modelling assumes government and Catholic education systems will redistribute funding to ensure no school is worse off.

Mr Elder told The Saturday Age last night the wait was making everyone nervous. ''We just want to know - the suspense is wearing everyone out unnecessarily.'' Independent Schools Victoria chief executive Michelle Green said: ''I think it's clear with something like this reaching agreement with the states and territories is not going to be easy.

[email protected]南京夜网.au

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