How does my garden grow?

My front garden is changing from a veggie patch to an indigenous garden. Last year I realised that a veggie garden was just too time consuming for me to keep up.

I have been reading about the plants that were here before colonization, and how the First Peoples cultivated the land to harvest grains and roots. It makes sense to me that the native plants are the ones that are suited to my garden, and therefore should flourish. That’s the plan, and so far they seem to be. The ones I showed you a few months ago bulked up nicely over the Summer and Autumn.

You can see some of them from back then in the feature photo, where they are being overwhelmed by the parsley plants.

The other hoped for benefit is that they will attract and nurture native insects.

So, some photos

These are my favourites at the moment. The one at the back — is a native pelargonium. I think it dies back to in Winter, but at the moment the red leaves glow with the Sun shining through them. In front is a Wahlenbergia. Its delicate blue flower is peeking through the pelargonium.

To those walking past with their dogs and takeaway coffees I am sure the garden looks a little unkempt, an out of the ordinary garden. However I am fine with that. I see that the plants are settling in, bulking up and will strut their stuff when the time comes. That’s when I will become a neighbourhood trend setter!

And I am still in love with my new fence 💕

How does my garden grow?

When I take photos of my garden I am quite conscious of that there are things I do not want to show in the photo. They are the embarrassing piles of junk that lurk, the odds and ends that I never seem to get around to moving somewhere else.

And the falling down fence.

Every time I walked down the sideway I mentally closed my eyes and thought “Some day”. Consequently it got weedy and became another junk pile. Something else to get done.

That’s the Fella up the ladder, taming the vine

Even though it was an eyesore that I hated, I knew that it was only one of many things on the “To Do” list, the “Some Day” list.

Then we were approached by George, our next-door neighbour about getting a new fence. YES!!! He did all the organising ~ all we had to do was get our side cleared. That was a great opportunity to get to the weeds down the back, cut back plants and move some of the accumulated junk. (Goodness know how the football you can see in one of the photos got stuck between the fence and the shed!)

Today was New Fence Day.

By 7:00 a squad of eight men were in action, and by about 7:45 the old fence was down! I was blown away by their efficiency. They knew exactly what they were doing, and who was to do each part of the job. They had everything they needed, including concrete drills to remove the old concrete to put in the posts. By the time the new uprights were concreted in the squad was ready for smoko. Then off they went again, nailing the palings, to be finished by 11:15! Anyone need a good fencing company? Just ask me!

Now I have a new, upright fence ~ and a big smile on my face (and something crossed off my Someday list!). In my next “How does my garden grow?” post I can proudly show off more of my garden. No more cropping photos.

An extra bonus is as I put things back to rights I am cleaning up and sorting some of those piles of junk. Next thing on the list is to get the outside of the house painted.

How does my garden grow?

Today thousands of people around the country are marching to demand safer places for women to work, walk and live in, demanding that we be listened to and that things change. Revelations of rapes and sexual assaults in our federal parliament have, rightly, dominated discussions everywhere, except, it appears, in the Cabinet rooms of the Prime Minister and other Ministers.

I do not want to trivialise this issue by talking about my garden. However, the right of all women to feel safe and blossom is such an important issue that I can’t do it justice at the moment, but I am standing alongside of all those who are marching. I may write more later.

If you are interested in knowing more, you can read here.


So, how does my garden grow? Last time I wrote about it I described it as ‘floriferous’; today my adjective would be ‘bedraggled’. I can’t even blame a blistering Summer, as it is has been the coolest Summer for 17 years. So, let’s put it down to not being able to move as easily as I have in the past. Over the past few months I have been doing what I can, and accepting that I can’t do everything. I am moving more freely now and able to do more, so Autumn should see good results.

Things have survived in the front yard. Do I remember me telling you how I was changing to native plants? They seem to have survived, and will hopefully bulk up more over time. I have planted a couple more plants, and started to put some in pots. The pots have the added bonus of giving height to the ‘design’ (😂🤣😂) as the other things are rather low growing.

(Would you like to know why I have a pot of feathers there too? Well, I will tell you all about it in the next Letter from My Studio. Sign up for it here.)

I planted out some petunias, hoping they would take over the front of the front. Instead I have this stunted little thing. 😩 The flower is almost bigger than the plant!

Some parts still happily do their own thing, with only a little repotting and cutting back from me. And the bees love the salvia.

We are changing our composting system. We have been using those round compost bins that lurk at the bottom of many people’s gardens. In it I would put bigger kitchen scraps, garden clippings and Autumn leaves. Maintaining the bins (ie stirring them) has been at the bottom of my To Do List for quite a while, leading me to shut the lid very quickly every time I would dump the kitchen waste.

We also have a worm farm. And a council green bin that takes food scraps.

It’s obvious that the new plan is to ditch the compost bins, use the worm farm for smaller kitchen waste and put the rest into the green bin. We can get compost from the council when we need it.

Today I gave the worm farm a much needed clean out. I now have a couple of tubs of well developed castings to be spread around the garden…..so that maybe the adjective I will use next time to describe my garden will be ‘floriferous’ again! 😊

How does my garden grow?

It is a year since I last wrote about my garden ~ well I think it is. Lately I have been planning changes.

Very little has been done over the last seven months of staying at home. It may have been in March when I bought potting mix with the grand idea of repotting during this time at home. eventually I opened the bags over the weekend! Much to the chagrin of a trillion ants that have happily nested in the pots for who knows how long, I repotted the mint, an ivy geranium (which is actually a pelargonium) and a couple of succulents. Still a few more pots to go (and more ants to annoy!), but I have run out of potting mix. It looks like more online shopping. (Our shops are only open for click and collect.)

Newly minted mint

It is out the front where the larger plans are underway. You may know that the front yard is where we have been growing our veggies as it faces north and gets sun most of the day. However, the last eighteen months ~ the Fella’s medical issues and the virus ~ have made me realise that it is impractical to have a veggie garden. It is a question of priorities. To have a proper patch, with rotations and well maintained soil takes time and thought that I have to, and want to, spend elsewhere. It means that this year it has been a jumble of weeds.

So, my plan is to plant out the front with plants that are indigenous to my area, things like kangaroo grass and murnong, a native yam. I found a great pack of 10 tubes of plants from nursery I like. However, I am foiled by the pandemic again. The nursery is not delivering because they have a large backlog of orders. I could do a pick up, but it is outside of my 5 km radius. Patience.

The weeds are still growing well!

The other part of the plan for the front of the house is the verandah. For an embarrassing number of years it has been an area of unwanted junk ~ old plasterboard sheeting, bits of wood etc. This year I decided it was time for a council hard rubbish collection, so more unwanted stuff accumulated. The pandemic thwarted me again because I couldn’t book the collection. Until yesterday when they came and took it all away!

It went from this….

to this…..

in the space of a few minutes! Hurrah!

Now the observant among you will realise that we don’t actually have a verandah, just a verandah-shaped space. My current project is come up with some temporary solution before decking is put in. However, I know that temporary becomes permanent quite easily around here, so it has to be something quite nice. But easy. My thoughts involve big pots and some comfy chairs to enjoy the sunshine and chat to neighbours as they pass by.

Out the back, the Fella, AKA the Undergardener, took out a big bush, which opened up some space. This space is one of the few in the back garden that all day sun, which is why the rose flourishes. The spot for veggies, just a few that take my fancy. I sowed in some silver beet and spring onion seeds, and haven’t seen a single sprout. The dandelions love it though.

I take heart from the flowers that grow despite the lack of attention over the last year. They just do their own thing and I love them for it.

Now, I am going to take a chair out onto the verandah and have a read in the beautiful sunshine. Celebrate the small things. Take care.

Beeutiful, belicious 🐝

There is a world out there…..

Let me show you some of the bee magnets in my garden.

Salvias. I love them, and so do the bees. Also I have seen a wattle bird drinking the nectar. Now a wattle bird is more the size of a blackbird than a hummingbird. The stems certainly sway when this bird comes to drink, making me fear for the bush when I see one feeding, as salvias are quite brittle. The bees are much more gentle.

I have also had a couple of blue banded native bees visit. Maybe it is the intense blue of the flower. They do say that bees are attracted to blue.

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Rosemary. If you have one, you know how the bees love it. If you don’t, think about popping one into your garden. They grow well in pots. I am going to plant a prostrate one at some point.

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Sedum, Autumn Joy, I think. Not only does it attract bees, but the dried flower heads make a lovely feature either kept on the plant in a winter garden or brought indoors. And it is so easy to split the base and roots and replant elsewhere.

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However the most attractive flower to bees is this little unassuming one ~ oregano, if I remember right. It flowers for ages and whenever I look there are usually at least half a dozen bees in attendance. The bush sprawls its way over everything else, but I never have the heart to cut it back until flowering has well and truely finished. By that time it is already sprouting new shoots from the base.

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Of course bees are not the only good helpers in the garden, so I like to encourage others too. This strategy has the added benefit of allowing me to be lazy, letting things go to seed instead of clearing and tidying. Hover flies and ladybirds love the parsley flowers and the newly setting seeds. So parsley umbels stay, set seed and drop their seed everywhere. Parsley seed is best sown fresh. Consequently I have way more parsley than I could ever use.

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If you are stuck inside, longing for the outside world, my Instagram posts might help a little. On every daily walk I try to find something in the outside world that makes me feel good. When I can’t walk outside, I will post from my garden. And there is usually a bit of arty/sewing going on there too.

Stay well my friends  🙏🏽

 

A catch-up in my garden

How about this…two posts in one week! It may be an indication that life is returning to some sort of normality. Fingers crossed.

In my last post I wrote about an issue with my computer, explaining that I had to leave it at the shop for a few days, a few internet-free days. Did I miss Facebook? No way, especially as that is where the hacked message came from. However, I did miss this blogging world. I missed finding out what you were up to, catching up on the news.

I think it is a special place we have nurtured, a warm and welcoming space. We have built friendships across the globe. While we may never meet in person, we are friends. Dr Snail posted recently about the loss of her blogging friend Patricia. It is a loss that touches all of us who may have read Patricia’s wise posts.

So, come my friends and sit with me in my Spring garden. Let’s forget about droughts and fires and the insanity of the world for a little. We will have tea, or coffee, or even a glass of wine, and cake and natter about whatever comes to mind! We will find a little space in our lives to just sit and enjoy.

For my garden is now in a fit state to have visitors. The weeds have gone. I have moaned about them before and some got to be about a metre high.

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The compost bins were being engulfed.

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And then my brother came and like a whirlwind uprooted them all.

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Thanks to his hard work I have weed free spaces and can easily find the compost bins.

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I am delighted by the flowers that have not only survived the neglect, but seem to have thrived on it.

 

 

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Sit with me and enjoy the foxgloves that I planted last year and are coming into their own this Spring. Admire the three different coloured irises ~ you can see one of them behind the foxgloves. The aran lilies are past their best, but the salvias are thriving, and it seems to be a glorious year for roses. (Remember how pruning the roses was the only thing I did in the garden over Winter? I am reaping the reward of finding that small pocket of time!)

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Let’s admire the complexity and beauty of the foxglove spires. Can’t you just imagine the little fox paws inside these?

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It is still rather weedy out the front, but let’s ignore them and admire the poppies that are exploding into flower.

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I must show you the seed heads of the salsify. I am not sure that the neighbours love these seed blowing in the wind, but I think they are wondrous.

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I managed to get the tomatoes in before Cup Day ~ that’s the marker for the right time to plant tomatoes in Melbourne. (And yes, we do get a public holiday for a horse race. We get another for the grand final of the Australian Football League. That’s how obsessed with sport many Melbournians tend to be ~ the rest of us just enjoy the day off!) There are strawberries to be harvested too.

Thank you for sitting and strolling with me, for taking some deep breaths and enjoying what the botanical world has to show. Your company is very special to me and I thank you for that too. Here’s to friendship, and foxgloves!

 

 

Time to stop and prune the roses

My original intention was to write a post with a very different tone. I was halfway through it when I was called away. That gave me time to reflect on what, and how, I had been thinking. The original was to be of the ‘poor me’ type, the ‘give me a break’ type. I had even written an opening disclaimer telling you to flee without reading more!

As you know my Fella, aka Terry, and my Mum, aka Mum, have been in hospital. Mum’s discharge date was put back a number of times. I was the sibling to pick her up, so my plans had to change as well. (Fingers crossed that she is on her way home as I write.) Then, the other night Terry woke me as he needed to go to Emergency ~ thankfully not heart issues, the reason for his earlier hospital stay, but a very badly infected toe.

I fully expected them to dress the wound, give him antibiotics and send him home…..but no. He has been admitted while they investigate the circulation in his feet and legs. It was that news that made me start the original post.

You see, I like to be in control of my time, I like to be organised. While I am content to make Terry and Mum my priorities I get frustrated. Both are within the Hospital System which has to work at its own pace, with the best interest of the patients in mind. So with each visit there will be different news, or maybe no definite news, leading to changes of plans. And my plans have to change too.

While I was walking home from yet another hospital visit (different ward, different view!) I suddenly thought “I have no control over this, let’s just roll with it.” There’s a quote along the lines of Life happens while you are busy making other plans. Life can just do its own thing and I will give up trying to wrest it into my shape for a little while.

However, there is a collorary thought ~ make the most of the pockets of time.

That brings me to the roses of the title of the post. I had a pocket of time when I came back from the hospital, and the roses were calling, as August is almost too late to prune them in Melbourne. I could have mooched around, pretending to tidy up, or I could have blobbed on the couch. Neither would have given me back a little bit of control. So I grabbed the secateurs and braved the garden.

Now I have to warn you that while I have done nothing in the garden for at least 6 weeks, the plants, especially the weeds have been very busy. The following photos show the garden warts weeds and all. You may have some fun identifying many of the different weed species!

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I am being positive, enjoying the contrast of the silver succulent with the green weeds!

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So, one rose bush before pruning.

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And after. That’s better.

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Hidden between the mallows and the winter grass and the nettles are some treasures, doing their own thing. Some are a little munched around the edges, but look how many flowers are on the blue berry bush! (That’s the last photo.) You can also tell that I have recently discovered the ‘selective focus’ function on my phone camera. It blurs the backgrounds, making the weeds look rather attractive, as though I grow them specially to be background plants!

Yesterday I grabbed another pocket of time and went up to Kyneton to see my exhibition for the first time. I was so proud to see my work hanging there! I will write a post and show you photos. However, if you can’t wait, make sure you are on my newsletter list, as I will be showing off there very soon. To add your name, click here. (No spammy stuff, I promise.)

My heart is heavy

Australia voted yesterday. There are two parties that could expect to form government ~ the right-wing Liberal Party and the more moderate Labor Party. The Liberals have been in government for quite a few years, and what a chaotic, mean spirited and clueless Government it was. The Labor Party was consistently ahead in the polls, although the leader, Bill Shorten, who happens to be my Member of Parliament, was always behind Scott Morrison.

So, I was quietly confident, and quietly excited, because the Labor Party was talking about policies that would give some hope to the issues we face. They talked about closing tax loop holes that would free up money to be spent on cancer care; the Liberals called it a Retirement Tax. Labor had policies and ideas to do something about climate change. The Liberals, who have a rotten record on climate change, wanted to know where the money was coming from; Shorten rightly pointed out that we couldn’t afford not to act.

And so it went on. Labor proposed ideas, the Liberals harped on about high taxes and ‘you can’t trust Bill’.

Watching the count last night was a shock. Not only did the Liberals return to government, but with a bigger majority. They won seats. Morrison is hailed as the Miracle Worker, winning the unwinable election.

Meeks has more detail on her blog Meeka’s Mind.

To add to my woes of the last 24 hours, there was no Democracy Sausage at my Polling Booth 😳 and our teapot had an accident (yes, I am looking at you my Lovely Fella!).

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I had a restless night last night, despairing over what this says about us as Australians and as world citizens.

This election has been a choice, and I feel that voters have chosen self-interest rather than a better future for us all. The Liberals are no friends of the environment. Malcolm Turnbull was dumped as Prime Minister because of the climate skeptics in his party. The huge Adani coal mine will go ahead and the nonsense of ‘clean coal’ will be investigated. The talk about ‘future generations’ is simply talk.

My mind spun last night, and then got stuck on one thought ~ I felt powerless, without control. So, I need to take control of the things I can, starting with my garden.

Why the garden?

  • It brings me joy, digging and planting brings me peace, and I need that.
  • There’s exercise too, well known for regulating mood.
  • In my little patch I can encourage pollinators and microorganisms and birds and butterflies. The world needs havens for these.
  • It helps me monitor seasonal changes and moon cycles.
  • My veggie garden is in the front yard, getting maximum sun, encouraging others to see that even a little bit of soil can grow something. Many vegetables are very easy to grow.
  • Because it is in the front yard the Fella and I can do a little to help foster community. We often have conversations with people walking past. Indeed just yesterday I had a chat with a neighbour originally from Lebanon about rosemary. She told me that it made a very soothing tea for colds. Last time I wrote about my garden I told you that we have a system with another neighbour ~ her veggie scraps for our excess produce.

Fired up, today I went to the local nursery and bought:

  • pea straw for compost (organic, but in a plastic wrapper ~ go figure that one)
  • Zoopoo ~ compost from animals’ waste at the zoo!
  • Red mustard seedlings

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  • Seed potoates

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I don’t plant them very deep, and then cover them with mulch

  • Spring onion seedlings
  • Garlic
  • Seed packets of turnips, pal choy and swedes

Already growing are the peas, an earlier sowing of garlic and silver beet.

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We are heading into Winter, even though the weather is still warm and dry, but things are still flowering in the backyard.

Nerines

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a corn flower

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a foxglove (yep, that’s a bath at the back of it….don’t ask….)

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the white correa

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and who can resist a dandelion?

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The pots are doing well (can you see my new Japanese fish kite?)

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and the worms seem happy in their little worm farm. (This photo looks a little strange….the washing is hanging on the line a couple of metres behind the worm farm, not dangling in it!)

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There are other ways to help the world too, but my little patch of healthy garden is an important start for me. Let me leave you with this quote, where Leonard Woolf, husband of Virginia Woolf is speaking:

I will end… with a little scene that took place in the last months of peace. They were the most terrible months of my life, for, helplessly and hopelessly, one watched the inevitable approach of war. One of the most horrible things at that time was to listen on the wireless to the speeches of Hitler—the savage and insane ravings of a vindictive underdog who suddenly saw himself to be all-powerful. We were in Rodmell during the late summer of 1939, and I used to listen to those ranting, raving speeches. One afternoon I was planting in the orchard under an apple-tree iris reticulata, those lovely violet flowers… Suddenly I heard Virginia’s voice calling to me from the sitting room window: “Hitler is making a speech.” I shouted back, “I shan’t come. I’m planting iris and they will be flowering long after he is dead.” Last March, twenty-one years after Hitler committed suicide in the bunker, a few of those violet flowers still flowered under the apple-tree in the orchard. Leonard Woolf, “Downhill all the way: An autobiography of the years 1919 to 1939” 

How does my garden grow?

We are having very stable Autumn weather at the moment. It’s my favourite time of the year, especially to garden. The soil is still warm enough to plant things in (although very dry) but the cooler nights are turning the leaves into glorious reds and yellows.

But it is dry ~ our driest start to a year on record. That’s a scary stat, because we are well used to dry conditions. So, let’s hope for the rains to come soon.

Let’s turn our eyes away from that for a little while, and look to what is happening in the garden, because I have been trying to get things under control.

As you know the front yard is our veggie patch. The corn, beans and tomatoes are finished, and I cleared away all that debris. We left the corn roots to rot down into the soil ~ it’s not just laziness!

At the moment there is nothing to see, except the spread compost. If you had x-ray eyes you would see the pea seeds and snow peas seeds beginning to germinate under the soil.

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Nothing to see here!

The bees have been very active over the last couple of months. At the moment the rosemary bush is one of the few food sources for them. It looks scraggly, but the bees are loving it. And I have been delighted to see a native blue banded bee. It is a beautiful bee, with quite a loud buzz. They are solitary bees and you can find out more about them here. The backyard bird bath is too deep for bees, so I set up their own water station  in a shallow bowl and stones under the rosemary. I will say that I’ve never seen them use it!

The other thing to show you before we head down the back is the containers ready for my neighbour to collect. Dagmar lives in a flat, with no chance for her own garden. Like all of us, she hates wasting her food scraps, so we have set up a system where she leaves her scraps and coffee grinds. We put them into the compost or worm farm and return the washed container. The drop off point is the blue stone block near the tap.

Chillies are the only produce to share with her at the moment.

The backyard is looking more under control too (well, parts of it).

The salvia is growing so well I have planted two more.

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A helebore made it through years of neglect, so I figure they grow well in the garden too. Two more have gone in.

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The tatty one on the right is the older plant. One of the new plants is at the back, behind the foxgloves.

Mum gave me a punnet of corn flowers. They are doing well, growing at the base of the sedum.

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The poor fuchsia isn’t doing so well. It may need more sun. And a repot.

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The pelargonium is flowering well, but something gets in and munches the flowers before the bud opens. Any thoughts?

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But the begonias are thriving on neglect

While our vine is looking rather tatty, and there are so many leaves to sweep…

I am lucky to be able to enjoy the neighbour’s tree from my back door. Autumn is a magical season.

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How does my garden grow?

It’s quite a while since I have done a gardening post. But before I get to that, let me wish each of you the best for 2019. I hope it is a calm and healthy year for you. We can certainly do with both.

In my last post I spoke about my lack of New Year celebrations. Well, this year I did see some fireworks. The Fella and I walked to Footscray Park and watched them on the bridge over the Maribyrnong River, then walked home! Fireworks always make me smile.

The walk home was good too, because all the families were leaving the celebrations, and I could see how diverse my community is. We had all come together for this. That made me smile too.

Now on to the garden….with a slight detour to talk about the weather, like all good Melbournians love to do. It does affect the garden, so there is some connection.

Many parts of Australia, including my favourite arid inland place, Menindee, have been experiencing prolonged hot conditions, with many days well over 40 degrees C. Our Summer has been pretty mild. Then we copped the blast of heat yesterday.

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But we were really lucky because the cool change came through mid-afternoon and the temperature plummeted, 10 or so degrees in about 20 minutes.

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Melbourne can be like that. My Fella says “Melbourne doesn’t have weather, it has samples”. 😉

Today it is 18 degrees, with a misty rain, which my garden will be loving. Nice way to bring it back to the garden. But a little more weather…..Our Winter was dry, but we had some good Spring rains. I mention that because the garden loved the rain and flourished.

The garden has been something of a work in progress, as gardens usually are. Over the last couple of years some plants have gone and some planted. Then, in the lead up to my Open Studio, the Fella and I had a Big Clean Up. It helped that it was the annual council  hard rubbish collection. We got rid of buckets of unknown garden stuff ~ potting mix? worm castings? ash? We cleaned and cleared and weeded and swept. Very satisfying.

The other difference was the garden hose we bought this time last year. I have no connection to the company, but I am quite happy to spruik my Hoselink hose. It wasn’t the cheapest on the market, but it works wonderfully. It is a relief to not battle old bits of hose snaking the way through the garden. It retracts like a dream.

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The fitting is brass, not plastic that breaks up in the sun. It has so many settings and a great feature that allows me to adjust the flow without having to go anywhere near the tap. That’s the yellow lever three quarters of the way down. My only slight criticism is that it is heavy, and might be an issue for someone with arthritis.

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Now, let me show you some pretty pictures of how my garden is growing…..

The roses are abundant. I love salvias and this one is a stunner ~ dark blue and black. It looks great with the nasturtiums that are taking over. Nasturtiums make me smile!

Many of the plants have flourished with the Spring rains and repotting.

These plants (I forget what they are called) cause me grief, as they want to take over the garden. However, they fill in the area under the maple and I enjoy their flowers, and the bees love them. I am ruthless whenever I see a seedling trying to escape the strict boundaries I have set for it.

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Our vine has featured in posts before. We don’t have air-conditioning, instead use the vine to shade the house. The pesky possums are still eating the new tips and slowing the growth. That makes the vine more determined to grow, and it is getting up over the supporting wires. In fact, I can see further growth when I compare these photos of a week ago to today. It might be there next time the really hot weather hits. Yay vine!

The front yard, where we grow the veggies is doing okay too. We have corn and beans powering along. The strawberries continue to be lush and have started to produce for the Summer.

[You will just have to imagine these photos, because the gremlins are in my WordPress photos and not allowing me to upload. Anyone else having problems?]

The marjoram is something else that the bees love. You wouldn’t think these flowers would be a bee magnet, would you? So it stays, even though it does get droopy (but then, don’t we all!)

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While I haven’t been blogging much of late, I have been creating. I’m sewing more pumpkins (scroll down the page in the link to see a previous one) and creating landscape trees (again, scroll down). My Letter From the Studio will start up again for the new year soon. So, if you would like to keep in touch with my art work, sign up for the letter, or leave me a note in the comments and I can add your email address to the list.