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.)

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.

Pesky possums*

* Warning: alliteration ahead!

Pesky possums have been a part of life in Melbourne for as long as I can remember. I grew up in a house next to a park, so we always had possums playing. They loved to chase each other around the roof, sounding like marauding hordes. Then there is the unholy scream they make, enough to chill your bones.

I well remember one time when we were woken by our dog, Galahad barking on the front verandah. We had long ago dropped the “Sir” from his name, as he did not live up to his gentle, ethereal namesake. So image our surprise to find that a baby possum had ousted Galahad from the door mat and was keeping this big dog at bay. I felt sorry for this wee, frightened creature and went to pick it up. My reward was a bite on my finger, and later a tetanus injection that hurt more than the bite! From memory the possum scampered off, and probably grew up to be one of the marauding hordes on the roof.

Then I moved to my own house and I would listen smugly to gardening shows where there were inevitably complaints about possums.

“The possums have eaten all my rosebuds. What can I do?”

“The possums eat the rind off the lemons and leave the fruit to rot. What can I do?”

“The possums…..” “The possums….”

I say smugly because I didn’t have pesky possums. My roses and lemon tree had many other problems, but not possum problems. However, the Gardening Gods do not like smug gardeners…….and you know where I am going with this……..

Yep, I have possums, pesky possums.

My pesky possums are not pilfering the roses or the lemons (and that is not smugness ~ just give them time!). No they are plundering the vine.  And this is a problem because it is one of our main forms of summer cooling.

You may remember me talking about the vine before. We have ceiling fans rather than air conditioning, and rely on the vine to cover and shade the eastern side of the house. It’s been a great system as the morning sun doesn’t get a chance to beat into the house. But now the possums have come to play, and they just love to nibble the new shoots of the vine down to little nubs.

The weather has been hot this November ~ 36º today. We seem to have gone straight from the cold of Winter to the heat of Summer, without Spring in between. We are missing the covering of the vine.

So, I am trying to out-fox the pesky possums. Surely with some human ingenuity and the rampant growth of the vine I can get the tendrils up the wires. My thoughts are that if I can overwhelm the possums with young shoots some of them will sneak past and take hold. Armed with a ball of string and a rake I have been tying and training, trying to keep the young shoots away from places where the possums can reach out to take a nibble.

This is the state of the vine:

If you look hard you can see the string amongst the tangle of tendrils.

At the moment I think it is nil all, but it’s only half-time! And a long hot Summer ahead of us. I will let you know the final score!

Other gardening news….

It is time for the jacarandas to flower. Again I have written about them before.

I have had a delightful volunteer in the front garden, in among the onions!

A red poppy was a delightful surprise, and I wonder where she came from.

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Autumn

Autumn may be my favourite season but it’s like picking a favourite book. However, I do love Autumn. I love how it encourages us to wind down from the heat of summer, to enjoy the rain and the chilly nights, to see the world changing.

It is also a good time to garden. The weather is neither too hot nor too cold, and there is enough rain to encourage you to believe that the plants will settle in okay. The soil still has some Summer warmth, and our Winters are mild enough to let plants burble along until the burst of Spring.

I cleaned out the summer vegetables, and prepared the soil for a winter crop. This was mainly compost and warm castings.

 

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Cabbages and brussel sprouts, with onions in the background. Over by the fence is the currant bush.

Now the cabbages are starting to look like cabbages. I spent time yesterday rubbing the eggs of the cabbage moth from the back of the leaves.

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We chopped back the rosemary bush and offered sprigs to the neighbourhood.

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The spring onions, pak choi and spinach are all holding their own.

The seeds for the pak choi and spinach were a gift from Hanna and Al, to thank us for coming to their wedding. If you know Hanna you will not be surprised to hear that these little tags were all hand-created by her, with some input from Al, I am sure!

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The silver beet (chard) is begining to flourish now that it has come out from under the beans. (Who knew there was any way to slow down the growth of silver beet?!)

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Work has gone on in the very neglected back yard. For a few years now it has been left to its own devices, it is time to wrench back a bit of control. I have been planting beside the fence…..a grevillia (Robyn Gordon) and a little eremophilia vernicosa. This is described as a delightful small shrub with pink flowers in spring, drought tolerant and good for heavy soils. What more could I ask for?

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The tiny leaves of the eremophila

Also planted is a ground cover, Helichrysum argyrophyllum. It has lovely everlasting daisies from early Summer to Autumn. Behind it is a small tea tree, Leptospermum scoparium. It sounds quite spectacular with pink flowers that cascade from Spring to Autumn, with narrow leaves that provide a dramatic backdrop. (Well, that’s what the label says!)

 

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Next to them are two roses, ‘Red intuition’ and a white Iceberg. The Iceberg is very special as it was grown from a cutting for me by my sister

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There is more work to do in the back. I have a big bush to remove and more plants to plant. They won’t get in the ground now, so will have to wait until the soil warms up in Spring.

I want to leave my Autumn theme with a little poem, or a blessing. It is by one of Australia’s unique treasures, Michael Leunig, from his little book “When I talk to you”:

Autumn

We give thanks for the harvest of the heart’s work;

Seeds of faith planted with faith;

Love nurtured by love;

Courage strengthened by courage;

We give thanks for the fruits of the struggling soul,

The bitter and the sweet;

For that which has grown in adversity

And for that which has flourished in warmth and grace;

For the radiance of the spirit in autumn

And for that which must now fade and die’

We are blessed and give thanks.

Amen

How does my garden grow?

Before I show you my garden, I just want to remind you of my tree painting giveaway. If you would like to be in the draw to win it, head to my last post to leave a comment. Hugs to those of you who have already entered.

Last year my veggie patch in the front yard looked like this

with the tomatoes still in their pots and the seeds in their packets.

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The tomatoes did okay, but the volunteer plants were much more prolific. Both varieties have given us rich red tomatoes, our best for quite a few years. I think a consistent amount of water was the key.

In the back patch near the rosemary hedge I planted Kipfler potatoes. They grew well. The potatoes are small, but tasty. Despite not planting them very deep, potatoes hide in the soil and reappear the next season. So, as well as the Kipflers we also harvested purple spuds that came up elsewhere.

The corn came up strong and tall. The cobs weren’t as good as last year. It may have been a different variety or maybe too much competition. Around it I planted silverbeet and beans, and the volunteer tomatoes flourished in amongst the corn. The silverbeet certainly suffered. Who knew that it wouldn’t flourish in all possible situations?!

I deliberately planted the beans at the base of the corn, hoping that the beans would curl up the stalk, giving back nitrogen for the corn to use. The beans loved climbing up the corn, but didn’t know what to do when they reached the top!

To solve the problem I have untangled the runners from the tomatoes, silverbeet and corn and let them ramble on the Aframe that the Fella made for me quite a few years ago.

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Yesterday I had one of those extremely satisfying gardening days. I pulled out the parsley plants that had gone to seed, the old tomato bushes, dug up volunteer potatoes and sweet potatoes and dug over a bed.

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As well I took time out to watch the bees in the oregano flowers. It is difficult to cut the flower heads because there are always bees there, sometimes butterflies too. Anything that brings in the bees and insects is welcome in my garden!

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I also harvested and cooked.

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Slow roasted tomatoes are my favourite at the moment. Pop the tomatoes into a dish (cut them or not, as you like), add some oil, balsamic vinegar, parsley or any other herb you fancy, salt and paper, and some garlic cloves. Put into a slow oven 150 degrees or so until they are cooked to your liking. Mine stayed in for about an hour. I will use them tonight, with slow roasted eggplant and peppers, bought today at a farmers’ market, as the basis of a pasta sauce. ~Sigh~

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Remember to head over to Time for a tree giveaway to enter my giveaway. This is the tree painting you could win.

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Copyright: Anne Lawson 2017