How does my garden grow?

A gardening guru recently used floriferous to describe his garden. It fits my garden well too; it is surprisingly floriferous. Surprising because it is not particularly planned, relying on some very welcome volunteers.

Like the pale blue/darker blue starry flower in the foreground. I think it is a delphinium. Do you agree? Its small shoots appeared months ago. As the leaves didn’t look like a weed I was familiar with I let it grow. This is how it has repaid me. Smiles!

Behind are white and blue salvias. To the right, out of the picture is a mass of nasturtiums, rambling around. I certainly haven’t planted them for ages, but they happily return year upon year.

The corn flowers are have also sprung from seeds of last year’s flowers.

I am very tolerant of volunteer plants, happy to wait for them to grow, to see what they will turn out to be. I quite like some weeds. I even did a zoom talk recently about edible weeds!

I love the seed heads of salsify. That’s another plant that many see as a weed, although the root is apparently edible, but I am happy to have its company. How can I resist admiring them as the morning sun shines through the delicate seed balls?

The front garden is another area that is doing its own thing at the moment. One half it is a parsley patch. The plants are almost a metre high and in flower.

Look at the soft yellow flowers and the umbral shape of the flowers. But what I love most is how it attracts so many insects. The bees! There must be at least a dozen working away every time I go past. Hover flies hover. When you look closely you see spiders and ladybirds, which means there must be many other creatures that I don’t see.

I wonder what the passerbys think…..

Which brings me to the verandah. You may remember that I was pondering what to do with the verandah-shaped space at my front door. After workshopping it through with friends and family, I decided to pave the area. I found some pavers, ordered 15 of them, only to find out that it was going to cost $99.00 to deliver them! After I picked my jaw off the floor I said “Thank you, but can you cancel the order”. So now I am on Plan N, or there abouts, deciding to have a proper wooden verandah built. Not that the plans have gone any further. In the meantime I have put two plastic chairs out there on the sand and enjoy cups of tea in the sunshine.

There is progress planting the other part of the front yard.

It doesn’t look much, but I can see the potential! I have planted:

  • Poa labillarderi ~ a native grass that will clump to be about a metre wide. At the moment they look like grassy weeds!
  • Copper crest grevillia ~ very low growing, and hopefully will not only cover a large area but also bring in birds
  • Wahlenbergia stricta ~ these are the native bluebell, whisky little things, but quite pretty.
  • Pelargonium australe ~ this was a surprise as I didn’t know there was a native pelargonium. It has a little, pretty pink flower.
  • The taller, broad-leafed plant is a sunflower, the only plant that came up from the many seeds I sowed.

There are plans for more. I am looking for some murnong plants (a native yam) and bright yellow billy buttons.

I must tell you of my David Attenborough moment. I was sitting with my cup of tea on the ‘verandah’, reading and idly watching the insect world go about business, when I looked down. I noticed some flying insects digging in the sand. From later research I think I was watching three sand wasps at work. The digging fascinated me, as the wasp madly dug a little, then moved to another spot, madly dug a little more. All three were frantically digging. I figured that they were testing out the sand, searching for the perfect spot. Then one started to be really serious about her hole. The digging action was rapid so the hole got quite deep quite quickly. At times she would appear with larger grains in her mandible and toss the grain away from the hole. In the end I think the hole must have been about twice the length of her body, which was a couple of centimetres.

My cup of tea caught my attention for a few minutes. When I looked back at the hole I was amazed to see that she had brought a caterpillar from somewhere, which she dragged down the hole. She spent a little time down there, so I presume she was laying egg/s into the caterpillar. Up she came, and fastidiously covered it in, caterpillar and all.

I helped me remember all the interactions that are happening that we have no knowledge of. We need to slow down and look.

I know that many of you are heading into a cold and anxious Winter, so I will leave you with some flowers from other gardens. I hope they bring a smile. Stay well, my friends.

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” 

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 veggie garden grow?

I was going to show these photos in my earlier post about Autumn in my garden. However, I was using the WordPress app for the first time and finding that adding photos was a little trickier than I was expecting. I can’t seem to add captions, and that surprised me.

Let’s begin anew, with apologies for any glitches in the last one and glitches that may be there in this one!

I have told you that my veggie garden, which is in the front yard, had been a waste land over summer. In March I dug and mounded and added compost. Then I planted. Look at what is coming up.

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Remember this silver beet that had been lingering in a pot? It is much happier now. Behind the 5 silver beet plants are rapa. Nope, I had never heard of it either. It is a relative of broccoli, but you eat the leaves instead. I will keep you informed.

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The leeks are not quite big enough for leek and potato soup, but they are doing well. That’s garlic growing behind. My neighbour told me today that she gets a severe reaction from garlic. Wouldn’t it be sad not to have garlic in your diet?

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The broad beans are also doing well. I planted more seeds about two weeks
after these poked their leaves through the soil. The idea is to crop beans over a longer period. Good idea only if you like broad beans!

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Lastly, the parsley is still growing strongly!