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How does my garden grow? Plants

How does my veggie garden grow?

Summer is over, the crisp mornings of Autumn are here. So, how did my Summer veggie garden grow? (If you would like to see the beginnings of the summer garden, my post is here.)

I put in three tomato bushes. The fruit were really slow to develop, and in fact I thought one bush was not going to produce at all. Whitefly was a problem, even though we used yellow sticky traps. They breed so quickly that the traps need to be replaced regularly. The tomatoes were prone to the diseases the whitefly brought. We harvested some but I don’t think tomatoes are worth the effort. (Remind me of that in November, when I am raving on about planting out my tomato plants!)

The best bush of the three was Mortgage Lifter. While the fruit looked a little dodgy, the flesh was rich red, meaty and tasty.

Some of the better looking tomatoes, with an eggplant. These long skinny ones are great for stir fries.(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson)
Some of the better looking tomatoes, with an eggplant. These long skinny eggplants are great for stir fries.
(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson)

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The flowers are really pretty (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson)
The flowers are really pretty (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson)
The leaves were quite broad. (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson)
Broad leaves.
(Photo copyright: Anne Lawson)

The beans were an experiment — yellow beans. Next year I will go back to the other varieties I have grown. This variety was not very prolific. I also found that the stems seemed to break really easily.

Enough of the grumbling. Did anything grow well? The strawberries continued to produce luscious fruit. And the eggplants are still producing. The capsicums were good. I had a couple of varieties:

These black capsicums were a glorious glossy colour. They were grown in a pot. (Photo copyright:  Anne Lawson)
These black capsicums were a glorious glossy colour. They were grown in a pot. (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson)
Orange capsicums (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson)
Orange capsicums (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson)

By far and away the most successful was the pumpkin. As for many gardeners, the pumpkin plants arrived via the compost bin and quickly took over. I worried that the tendrils were about to attack unsuspecting people on the footpath!

Watch out strawberries! The pumpkin vine is coming! (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson)
Watch out strawberries! The pumpkin vine is coming! (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson)
Out onto the footpath. It would have been half way up the street if we had let it go! (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson)
Out onto the footpath. It would have been half way up the street in a trice if we had let it go! (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson)
Out to catch unwary passerbys! (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson)
Out to catch unwary passerbys! (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson)

So far we have harvested 20 pumpkins!! Yup, 20. No typo there! Pumpkin soup, roast pumpkin, pumpkin pie, pumpkin scones….. anyone know some good pumpkin recipes? Please share!!

So now we are pulling up the pumpkin vines and the tomato bushes. We will work the soil, adding compost and manure, to get the area ready for some winter vegetables. Garlic usually does well for us, as do potatoes, and silver beet likes to take over. It is always so nice to plan what is to go in. It is always an optimistic time, as everything will grow well and produce kilos of veggies! (I am such a glass half full person!)

How did your vegetable garden go this season?

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Beckler's Botanical Bounty Botanic Art My art work Plants

Finishing the practice painting

I have been making a big effort to get my practice painting finished. Here is the next sequence of photos of my work. (If you want to catch up on what I have been doing, check here.)

The top leaf and inflorescence is finished, the bottom is waiting.
The top leaf and inflorescence are finished, the lower is waiting.
Finished leaf and inflorescence
Finished leaf and inflorescence
Both leaves are finished.
Both are finished.
Close up of the second leaf and inflorescence.
Close up of the second leaf and inflorescence.

My method is to use very small brush strokes to create the effect I am looking for. That means I need to use very fine brushes as well as a magnifying glass!

I often need the magnifying glass to help with the fine brush strokes.
I often need the magnifying glass to help with the fine brush strokes.

IMG_6810Whenever possible, botanical artists work from live specimens and often go to great lengths to keep the specimen fresh. Sometimes the specimen can be replaced by a freshly picked one. Those were not options for me, as Cullen discolor is a plant growing on the red sandy soils of western New South Wales, a couple of days’ drive from my house. I am relying on the photos I took of my specimen.

The iPad is invaluable. Not only is is portable, allowing me to have the photo close by my work, but also I can enlarge the photos to get that extra bit of detail. Got to love technology!

My iPad is invaluable as it makes my photos of the Cullen portable, and I am able to enlarge sections to get a clearer image.
My iPad is invaluable as it makes my photos of the Cullen portable, and I am able to enlarge sections to get a clearer image.
Categories
How does my garden grow? Plants

How does my garden grow?

The trees in my street are beautiful jacarandas — one of my very favourite trees. I also have one in my backyard. Really, it is too big for my small yard, but I can’t bring myself to  do anything about it.

The jacarandas were out in December and were simply beautiful.

IMG_6671 IMG_6669 IMG_6670

After some heavy rain and wind the fallen petals look a little like purple snow.

 

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Beckler's Botanical Bounty Botanic Art My art work Plants

Starting to paint my painting — or practising for the practice piece!

I am going to create a watercolour painting of my plant from Menindee, Cullen discolor. I have already written about identifying it, and the Beckler’s Botanical Bounty Project that I am involved in.

 

Cullen discolor growing at Menindee. It loves the sandy red soils.
Cullen discolor growing at Menindee. It loves the sandy red soils.
A small section of the stem that I will eventually paint.
A small section of the stem that I will eventually paint.

Now to show you some of the process.

I am still a developing watercolour artist, and feel much more comfortable with pencil than a paint brush. I have begun with a practice piece, as I have to work my way through the colours and techniques that I will need for the final painting.

Actually, before that, I want to show you some detailed drawings of parts of C. discolor. These were from the live specimens I had when working in Menindee. I wanted to get as much visual information as possible while I still had the living plant.

Drawings from my sketch book
Drawings of C. discolor, from my sketch book

I needed to match the colours as accurately as possible while I had the specimen before me. I made various mixes and recorded the paints I had used. You can also see some of my notes and reminders.

IMG_6682 IMG_6683

Then I began the practice piece. Actually, it was the practice practice piece. As I was painting it I had a crisis of confidence, as I had forgotten how to paint with watercolour washes and do dry brush work. All I could remember were the faults with my technique, especially rushing to the detail too quickly and too much water.

After I had calmed myself down, I went back to basics. That’s the bigger leaf in this painting. I went bigger, slower and thought about what I was doing with each stroke. That helped me to understand how I needed to approach the work. And helped me realise that I could do this after all!

The practice practice painting.
The practice practice painting.

Thank heavens it was not the final, large work on the good (read expensive) paper! Finally I felt ready to begin the real practice painting.

The practice painting -- still to be finished, but almost there.
The practice painting — still to be finished, but almost there.

I still have to finish this painting. Obviously the stems need to be painted in. The leaves need more work, which involves a lot more dry brush work. And they need highlights added to their edges. However, I am happy I have captured the texture of the leaves. (Remember, part of the identification for C. discolor is that the leaves are tomentose to hispid —  rough, with hairs between stiff and soft/matted.) As well, I think I understand how to paint the furriness of the inflorescences. But the proof is in the pudding, as they say! Stay tuned for progress reports.

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Botanic Art My art work Plants

Plant identification #2

Correct plant identification is not only important to make sure it is on Beckler’s plant list. 

Botanic art can be defined as ‘making science visible’. Its fundamental purpose is to help both scientists and lay people identify plants. Botanic art is not a still life painting of roses in a vase. It is an accurate painting that clearly shows the parts of a plant which allow the identification of that plant. So, a botanic painting of a rose would include details such as the shape, colour, form, leaves and probably hips — the aspects that allow it to be identified as a particular variety or species.

However, there is the artistic aspect and it is important. The artist makes the decisions on the medium to use, the composition of the painting, the focal point, the size and so on. The painting allows the personality of the artist to come through.

Cullen discolor

I don’t profess to be a top class botanic artist, and my painting skills are still developing. However, I am part of Beckler’s Botanical Bounty Project, which, in turn, is part of the tradition of botany in Australia. My painting needs to be accurate.

To be able to make my painting of Cullen discolor as accurate as possible I need to understand ‘tomentose to hispid’. My painting should show a surface that is between matted soft hairs and rough firm hairs. Whether it does is up to my painting skill. I need to know that the petioles are between 2 and 7 cms long so that my drawing doesn’t make them too long or too short. And so on.

My notes

As well, it is interesting to know that C. discolor grows in sandy soils, flowers September to January and is endangered in Victoria. Not many people know what C. discolor looks like. Nor do they know C. pallidum or C. cinereum. They are unlikely to look at my paintings and say “That’s not right”. However I will know and I want it to be as correct as my skills will let me. And it may just be used as an identification tool sometime in the future.

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Botanic Art My art work Plants

Plant identification

“Is it on the List?”

Hermann Beckler collected 120 different species of plants around Menindee. It is that list that the Beckler Botanical Bounty Project is using. So correct identification is very important!

The type of habitat where we were searching for our plants

I am a gardener, not a botanist. I find it hard to hold the Latin names in my head. I have no idea of many of the botanical plant terms. So identifying plants was a huge learning curve for me — and I am still only a little way on that curve!

We have been so lucky to have had the support of a botanist whose work takes him regularly to Kinchega National Park.  As you walk with him he points to plants and says, “That’s a so and so (fill in Latin plant name here), that’s a such and such (add different Latin name). That one over there is on Beckler’s list, this one isn’t.” So he was able to help sort plants in the field. That was a massive help.

Looking for the right plants

However much we would have liked it, he couldn’t always be with us. And sometimes he was unsure. So then it was back to the reference books.

I am working on plants from the genus Cullen. This year I was working on a species Cullen discolor. But I had to be sure that my identification was correct.

Cullen discolor

It is described as ‘a perennial herb with stems prostrate to 1.5 metres’. Okay, I get those terms. Then the description said ‘tomentose to hispid’. These I discover are descriptions of hairiness. Its leaves are pinnately 3 foliate, narrow to broad, lanceolate to elliptic and less pubescent on the upper surface. The margins are toothed. There are petioles and stipules, peduncles and calyxes — and I never got to dissect the flower, which has more specialised terminology!

Reference material

So, having nutted my way through the key, and gone to botanical dictionaries and other more knowledgeable people, I am confident that this is Cullen discolor.

“Perennial herb with stems prostrate to 1.5 metres.”

At least I knew that this Cullen was ‘on the list’. Some artists went through the identification process, only to find it was one that Beckler hadn’t collected. Then it was out into the bush again to repeat the process.

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Plants Travels

East to Menindee

I want to leave the Flinders Ranges now and head almost due east for about 500 km, to Menindee. It is a small town, about an hour south-east of Broken Hill, on the Darling River and right on the edge of the Menindee Lakes system and Kinchega National Park. It is big sky country — it is so flat that the sky arches from horizon to horizon. And it is red dirt country, semi-arid. So, why there?

Well, it is fascinating. The lakes and the river attract birds from far away. The habitats away from the water are full of secret treasures — plants, insects, reptiles. (Fortunately I didn’t see any snakes, but I know they are there.) Secret because driving past in the car it all looks like boring saltbush. But stop and investigate and a world opens up.

Once you start to explore you can see the diversity, and begin to appreciate how plants can survive in such harsh environments.

But also because it is an area that features in the Burke and Wills story. For Australians those names are legendary. For others I will explain in the next few posts who they were and why their story sent me and other botanical artists to Menindee. For now, enjoy some of the beauty of Copi Hollow, and the caravan park where we stayed.

We saw this view of the lake, Copi Hollow, every time we went outside the caravan.
Looking back to the caravan park, evening light
The beautiful evening light