Visions of Green (man)

Greenman tags

Post by Gareth Hart.

Terrariums and miniature gardens are wonderful creations for Winter – the perfect way to satisfy your green thumb, whilst rugged up in your pyjamas and never taking off those moccasins!

I met with Carol Tregonning, who creates stunning terrariums and miniature gardens from her delightful studio in Sassafras.

Carol is a very giving soul, I left her beautifully peaceful studio with many gifts from the kindness of her heart and the lushness of her garden, which is ironic, because her sellable creations would be a beautiful gift for anyone.

“It’s like a meditation for me. Being here, making them up, and caring for them and watching them grow. It’s really peaceful.”

Carol Tregonning is an art therapist, who works with dreams and art therapy and considers making miniature gardens as a little like the art therapy she does with herself. Her passion oozes through her designs, and whilst not a designer per se, or having studied design, Carol does enjoy the design aspect of her work. This design element is very strong in her creations.

“I just love nature, and I love design. I would have loved to have done design.”

Carol Tregonning terrariums Carol Tregonning terrarium

Her gardens are created with delicacy and intricacy, using a range of unique plants, and often accompanied by the rich green textures of moss, baby tears or duck weed.

They are never the same. I don’t make them up all the same. I just make them as I go and see what comes through, instead of having an idea about them. And then people have their own individual bowl/terrarium. I like people to be able to come in and say ‘I love that, so I’ll have that one’. And then they have their own garden to take home.”

The name Green Man alludes to a mythical nature spirit that is found across all ages and cultures of the world, representing a symbol of rebirth, which is associated with nature, wild life and plant growth. Carol was inspired to call her business Greenman after she herself saw a green man in a vision. Carols own Green Man, her trade mark business name, allows others to see into the microcosm of her world. And as many of her terrariums are predominantly housed in glass, you can see right into them, right into the miniature worlds that Carol creates. Through these creations, I have a sense that Carol allows her clients to see a tiny part of her original vision.


You can find Carol’s creations at a range of stores locally including The Courtyard (Sassafras), Quirky Werx (Mt Dandenong), and the Mt Dandenong Organic Shop.

Greenman terrarium

So how do they work? gives us the insight we need:

Bottle gardens [terrariums] work because their sealed space creates an entirely self-sufficient ecosystem in which plants can survive by using photosynthesis to recycle nutrients.

Light is absorbed by proteins containing chlorophylls (a green pigment). Some of that light energy is stored in the form of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a molecule that stores energy. The rest is used to remove electrons from the water being absorbed from the soil through the plant’s roots. These electrons then become ‘free’ – and are used in chemical reactions that convert carbon dioxide into carbohydrates, releasing oxygen.

This photosynthesis process is the opposite of the cellular respiration that occurs in other organisms, including humans, where carbohydrates containing energy react with oxygen to produce carbon dioxide, water, and release chemical energy.

But the eco-system also uses cellular respiration to break down decaying material shed by the plant. In this part of the process, bacteria inside the soil of the bottle garden absorbs the plant’s waste oxygen and releasing carbon dioxide which the growing plant can reuse.

And, of course, at night, when there is no sunlight to drive photosynthesis, the plant will also use cellular respiration to keep itself alive by breaking down the stored nutrients.

Because the bottle garden is a closed environment, that means its water cycle is also a self-contained process. The water in the bottle gets taken up by plants’ roots, is released into the air during transpiration, and condenses down into the potting mixture, where the cycle begins again.




The Couryard Sassafrass

The Courtyard

The Couryard Sassafrass

Post by Amy Middleton.

I simply love how the hills keep catching me by surprise. Just when I think I have found all the gorgeous and quirky little shops that pepper the townships, I happen upon another retail wonder… The Courtyard.

Catherine Court opened the doors of The Courtyard just over a year ago and her shop is an absolute delight. You will find it just outside of Sassafras village on the Mt Dandenong Tourist Road.

Catherine has fine taste in gift and home wares and I couldn’t help but notice how many of our local artists and makers were featured in the shop. Original art by Emma Jennings, Tracey Roberts and Jacqui Christians is hung throughout the space… and everyone knows just how much I love keeping it local!


It excites me that people like Catherine are brave enough to start small businesses on the outskirts of the main villages because the less obvious locations always have something special to offer. The Courtyard includes seven rooms of beautiful objects displayed in a gorgeous converted house lined with original floorboards and crisp white walls. Catherine is delightful too… after all, any shop owner who has a basket of free organic herbs for customers to help themselves to has already won me over.

Be sure to pop in to The Courtyard next time you are in the area or when you need to buy something special.

courtyard2 courtyard3
or check out their facebook page.

Sonja Schaeffner at Morwell

Strike Team 1314 Hernes Oak Fire Gippsland Feb 2014 – Selby CFA

Sonja Schaeffner at Morwell

No make up needed. Sonja Schaeffner at Morwell.

Adriana Alvarez spoke with Selby CFA at the height of the bushfire season.

At the Selby CFA, brigade members are strolling in for their usual Sunday morning training session. It’s a small team who spend a lot of time together and their friendly banter shows they have formed a strong bond. Not all the team will be here today because it’s been a very busy season and some of the brigade are out on duty fighting fires in the NSW town of Delegate close to the Victorian border.

Their priority is to fight fires in the local area but they will travel to help other CFA crews where they are needed. This year the brigade has fought fires in the Grampians, Delegate and more recently in Morwell. Martha McKelvey, a first lieutenant, and husband John Hansen, a third lieutenant, come in and talk about the importance of following procedure. The paramilitary style operation must run with ordered efficiency if it is to contain fires and keep fire fighters and the public, safe. Safety out in the field is of the utmost importance.

John has come in despite having been out fighting containment lines just the day before, he discusses the training and how the safety of the crews always comes first. The crew are always looking out for each other and constantly on the look out for dangers. The training ensures everyone knows how to use the equipment, checking that it’s all in good working order and practising all the things they would do in a fire situation. “The training you get is very valuable in your personal life and all aspects of your career,” says John. “For example one of the courses, called Fire Line Leadership, is basically a management leadership course, which covers all sorts of conflict resolution and that sort of thing. Everything we do needs to be formally qualified by training. That really came out of Ash Wednesday and Black Saturday. If I’m going to use a chainsaw I first have to be qualified.”

The brigade which was started in 1926 has 48 members including fire fighters and support crew. Support crew don’t go out to fight fires but do the important role of upkeep, cleaning, making lunches, fundraising, etc. “Fundraising is a big thing for the brigade as well, not everything is paid by the CFA. One of the trucks we have at the moment is completely funded by the community so we do a lot of sausage sizzles,” laughs Sonja Schaeffner.

Anyone 18 years and over can become a volunteer firefighter. At the moment their numbers are quite healthy but they always need people. People bring a huge diversity of skills to the brigade and they come from all walks of life. It’s a real mix and being volunteers it’s a fairly healthy atmosphere.

Sonja sums it up beautifully, “When I first joined the brigade I didn’t realise how much I would get personally from the people around here, that’s amazing. Not just what we do but the people that are in the brigade, the relationships you form with them. You don’t need to get paid if you get that, really.”

These photos of the Hernes Oak and Morwell fire in Gippsland were taken by Sonja Schaeffner as the day unfolded.

Hernes Oak fire morning

The fire started two days earlier ignited by a lightning strike, so far it had burned 150 ha. Our shift began at 6am. Driving along Mc Donalds track to our fill point, air support was also attacking the fire from above. Our task was not to let the fire jump into the nearby paddocks.

Hernes Oak fire afternoon

The wind change came…..and the fire jumped containment lines into a paddock. We filled up as quick as possible while listening to the radio traffic becoming frantic. At first sight of the grassfire we quickly get onto it. Despite all efforts we were unable to stop the fire before it reached the blue gum plantation. Now unstoppable, all we could do was watch it burn until it was safe to move on.

Hernes Oak fire

Marina and I were just happy to make it through safely.

Hernes Oak fire, Morwell Gippsland

Back at the fill point it’s a very different view from the morning. The view from above shows the fire now running towards Morwell and into open cut coal mines. Our next stop was the Hazelwood open cut mine.

Morwell fire 2014

After a 12 hour shift we were on the way back to our accommodation when the fire jumped the Princess Freeway and threatened Morwell. All of Morwell was filled with thick smoke and the fire seemed to come from 3 sides. Another grass fire attack started and kept us busy for a few hours.


Morwell fire

A quick break.


We finished the shift at 12am after 18 hours on the fire ground.

Hernes Oak and Morwell fire 2014

The next morning we went blacking out in a pine plantation which had burned over night.

To find out more about the Selby CFA click here.