Over the fence: the plot thick­ens for mur­der mys­tery ac­tor

Known to ABC view­ers as De­tec­tive In­spec­tor Jack Robin­son in Miss Fisher’s Mur­der Mys­ter­ies, this ac­tor finds calm and clar­ity get­ting his hands dirty in the vegie patch

Gardening Australia - - CONTENTS - Words AB Bishop

In­ner-city liv­ing has its ad­van­tages, but when ac­tor and for­mer elite cy­clist Nathan Page and his wife de­cided the time was ripe to buy a house, the lure of coun­try Vic­to­ria pre­vailed. The cou­ple’s two young chil­dren were the im­pe­tus for buy­ing their 1ha prop­erty in 2014. “Bike rid­ing is such a big part of my life, and I want it to be a part of my boys’ lives,” ex­plains Nathan. “This was also an op­por­tu­nity to have a gar­den and grow our own pro­duce. When you’re rent­ing in Melbourne, you can’t im­part your vi­sion too much.”

Al­though Nathan’s mum, dad and older brother are “pretty handy in the gar­den”, sink­ing a fork in the ground was a new ex­pe­ri­ence for the ac­tor, who is known to many for his role as De­tec­tive In­spec­tor Jack Robin­son in ABC TV’s Miss Fisher’s Mur­der Mys­ter­ies. “I’ve re­alised gar­den­ing is hard work and costs money!” he says. “The learn­ing is fan­tas­tic, and it doesn’t ever stop, as the sea­sons and the en­vi­ron­ment are con­stantly chang­ing.”

“The learn­ing doesn’t ever stop, as the sea­sons are con­stantly chang­ing”

With a mostly bare block, Nathan took in­spi­ra­tion from the nearby Gar­den of St Erth, Frog­more Gar­dens and Spring Hill Nurs­ery. He and a land­scaper mate de­signed a cot­tage-style per­ma­cul­ture gar­den that com­ple­ments the ex­ist­ing weath­er­board home. They in­cor­po­rated a fenced kitchen gar­den, chook enclosure and a flower and herb gar­den, ac­cessed via gravel paths, in­spired by nat­u­ral­is­tic Dutch land­scape de­signer Piet Oul­dolf.

“I wanted to at­tract bees, and needed some­where to plonk the herbs,” he says. “I throw down pack­ets of herb and flower mixes or meadow mixes, and off they go. I’m so sur­prised that co­rian­der and corn­flower are amaz­ingly re­silient. I’ve al­ways as­so­ci­ated co­rian­der with cur­ries and balmy cli­mates, but they thrive even when they’re hit by frost.”

in the gar­den

The kitchen gar­den fea­tures raised beds that Nathan has filled with im­ported soil, com­bined with the gar­den’s own. Com­post suc­cess has so far eluded the keen novice, but the fam­ily’s six ISA Brown chooks are prov­ing use­ful for more than just eggs.

“They’re a much more re­li­able source of com­post!” says Nathan. “They lay won­der­fully, and are friendly crea­tures that my boys can pick up. The kitchen gar­den is the cen­tre­piece. You look on to it from the house. It’s so easy to nip out and pick some­thing or, if it’s freezing cold, to get some­one else to!” In the warmer months, the boys en­joy pick­ing fresh straw­ber­ries from the patch.

The fence around the kitchen gar­den ex­cludes the chooks and Lola the puppy, and pro­vides struc­ture for berries and vines. Blue­ber­ries and stone fruit will soon join dwarf ap­ples and pears.

One senses that grow­ing pro­duce is a vis­ceral ex­pe­ri­ence for Nathan. While he’s de­lighted with the co­pi­ous bounty, in­clud­ing all sorts of gar­lic va­ri­eties, a bumper crop of cap­sicum and “far too many toma­toes”, he’s just as cap­ti­vated by the dead co­rian­der um­bels and ar­ti­choke flow­ers, which he says are far too pretty for them to eat. “I sim­ply love look­ing at them.” Cab­bages in the gar­den are “at­tacked and pil­laged by crea­tures that come out of ev­ery­where at night”, but the kale, sil­ver­beet and rocket have star­ring roles. “Any­thing that can cop a frost and doesn’t need too much af­fec­tion I’m happy with. The green stuff is what I love to eat the most. I love grab­bing a hand­ful and stick­ing it in a bowl. Sim­ple is best.”

Nathan de­lights in shar­ing the foodie ex­pe­ri­ence with his fam­ily. “When Mum’s away, we make a dish we in­vented called The Awe­some! You start with steamed rice in a bowl, throw in spinach from the gar­den that’s been wilted, some stir-fried beef, a healthy hit of may­on­naise, and an egg on top from the chooks. They eat the whole lot, and I can’t tell you how happy that makes me feel, be­cause try­ing to get food into th­ese kids isn’t easy, and I know there are no chem­i­cals on it.” Away from the house and used mostly in sum­mer, a ‘se­cret gar­den’ con­tains a ma­ture English oak, a birch tree, large pin oaks and an or­na­men­tal pear.

feel­ing grounded

Gar­den­ing sat­is­fies Nathan on nu­mer­ous lev­els, as it does for so many other peo­ple who love get­ting into na­ture and work­ing in their gar­den. “I’m such a phys­i­cal hu­man be­ing. I love the labour­ing and repet­i­tive­ness of gar­den­ing,” he says. “Re­hears­ing inside can be­come stag­nant

and in­tel­lec­tual, but here my feet are lit­er­ally on the ground, and that helps my craft. With gar­den­ing you need pa­tience and an un­der­stand­ing that there are so many ways to get it wrong.

“I’ve learned that per­fec­tion is the killer, and it’s ac­tu­ally not even what you’re look­ing for. You have to slow down and ac­cept it’s not 100 per cent con­trol­lable by you, and that takes the stress out of other ar­eas in my life as well. The more I re­alise that there are so many vari­ables, the more I’m at peace.”

“Any­thing that can cop a frost and doesn’t need too much af­fec­tion I’m happy with”

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