Six on Saturday: April 14

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Saturday has rolled around again and it's time for another six.  The Propagator is the excellent host of this meme and if you would like to see what everyone else is doing in their garden this weekend, do pay a visit to his site.

We were  kept busy watering during the week. One of the good things about so much dryness is that there are fewer weeds to bother about, except perhaps the dreadful euphorbia maculata, or spotted spurge which isn't fazed by anything the weather throws at it. I think it could grow through cement under a blowtorch.

But last night we had a thunderstorm which brought us 13 ml of rain and it was lovely to look out into the garden this morning and see the last drops of water shimmering in the sun before a breeze arrived to shake them gently to the ground.

Here are my six for this week:

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  1. An unidentified dahlia given to me  in a bag of other unidentified dahlia tubers by a friend.  I've waited ages for any of them to flower and this is the first (and perhaps only) one to cooperate.  It isn't one of the flouncy attention-seeking dahlias, but I do like its neat and orderly petals with their hints of gold in the centres.
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2. My peace rose.  Yes, I know I've shown it before, but not this particular photo, and I do love it. I think it's looking particularly fetching in the early morning sunshine. Look at those peachy-pinky gelato colours!

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3.  I wonder what this strange fungus is that appeared in the garden the other morning?  It reminds me of tripe.

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4. The flower of Hakea Petiolaris,  just emerging from its bud on the left and fully open on the right.  It's also called the ' sea urchin' hakea. The leaves are leathery and a strange greyish-green  and  the tree carries its seed pods from the previous year until it's prompted to open them, usually by a bush fire, not unlike other Australian trees such as the Banksia. I hope the seed pods won't be opening here.

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5. Beautiful little garnet berries on the Berberis Thunbergii atropurpurea. These little gems could almost hang on a necklace or be clustered together on an earring.  When the cold weather arrives, the colours on the plant will be even more intense.

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6.  Part of my front garden: dry but still coping and cunningly photographed so the neighbouring houses can't be seen-we are living in the suburbs, after all. You can see Sedum, Salvia 'Greek Skies', Perovskia,  dwarf Chrysanthemums, and Agastache 'Sweet Lili', amongst others.

 

Weather today: Sunny, slightly cloudy, and windy- a bit of everything. 15-26 C.

 

Six on Saturday, April 7. Garden Visitors 3

I have called this week's SoS 'Garden Visitors Three'  because I've previously posted Garden Visitors and Garden Visitors Two, so the title of this post seems to be quite pertinent. We have recently had a number of really delightful guests in the garden. I wish they would become permanent residents, but perhaps because there isn't really a canopy as yet, their sojourns are fleeting; a hasty stop before flitting off elsewhere.  They are visitors of the feathered variety, of course,  but because I had a lot of difficulty photographing them without a telephoto lens, the photos aren't the best quality.

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1. A male King Parrot. These large parrots can become quite tame and will eat food from a person's hand.  In our town they're almost at the most western limit of their distribution.  He is quite resplendent in his suit of scarlet and green, and he has a  a blue tail, which doesn't feature very well from this angle.

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2.A female King Parrot, looking a little ruffled: she might have spotted me loitering.  These parrots mate for life and can always be seen as a couple.  They communicate with each other by emitting sweet whistles.

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3. A male Superb Fairy Wren. He isn't monogamous at all and can be seen darting through the shrubbery with his harem of females, communicating with them with silvery calls. A fairy wren is tiny and weighs on average 10 grams. These little birds like dense foliage to keep them safe from predators:  he'd be rather prominent with his bright, almost irridescent blue livery.

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4.  Here's one of his wives.  She's quite dowdy in comparison, but very sweet nevertheless.  These birds are one of Australia's favourites.  It was really difficult to get a clear photo of the wrens because they're never still for more than a second as they dart hither and thither searching for insects.

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5.  This handsome bird in his dinner suit  is a Butcherbird.  I'm not able to identify it specifically, because I can't see enough of it and there are several different varieties.  Butcherbirds have earned their name because of their  habit of wedging animal bodies (lizards, other smaller birds or mice) into the fork of a tree, or impaling them on a broken branch (just like a butcher hanging a carcass ) before tearing them into smaller pieces.  Look at that beak!  Just made for carnage.  One of those little wrens would make a perfect meal if it wasn't hidden away in my shrubbery! Butcherbirds  are friendly to humans however (except during nesting time), and can be tamed. A redeeming feature is their call, a variety of sounds, but often a glorious, perfectly pitched sequence of notes in the cool Autumn morning air. They are related to Australian magpies and like them, are clever at mimicking other birds and animals.

You can hear an example of the Butcherbird's song here

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6. White Cheeked (or eastern) Rosella.  This Rosella often uses one of its feet, usually the right foot,  to hold food when eating on the ground or perched on a tree. Right-handed Rosellas, who would have thought it! They eat seeds, fruits and nectar.  They also, like most parrots, mate for life. This one is a male.

I hope that when the canopy in my garden becomes  thicker, more of these birds will come to stay.

 

Thanks to The Propagator for hosting the Six on Saturday meme.  Don't forget to go on over to his site to see what other gardeners are doing this week.

Weather today: Sunny, 13-31 C

Japanese Gardens in Red Earth Country.

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Dubbo (red earth, in English) is a city of nearly 40 000 people 90 minutes' drive from where I live. The red earth of Dubbo is very fertile and in good seasons the countryside around the city abounds in wheat rippling in the breeze and fields of canola adding a brilliant yellow to the landscape. It's good country, but if there isn't enough rain, as there hasn't been for some time now, everything struggles. So far this year, Dubbo has had 35 ml (2.1 inches) which isn't much when the temperatures have been in the 30s most days and quite often into the 40s.  It's been a battle there for both home and professional gardeners.

I recently visited  Dubbo and dropped in to the Japanese Gardens.  They are part of the Dubbo regional Botanic Garden along with a Biodiversity garden, a Sensory garden and Oasis Valley, a showcase of dry  'rainforests'.  A dry rainforest sounds like an oxymoron, but it’s merely a term which differentiates this forest from a tropical rainforest. You can find out more about a dry rainforest here

The Japanese garden was opened on November 23rd 2002 on the 153rd anniversary of the founding of Dubbo.  It was my intention on this warm Autumn day to see how the gardens have fared in difficult conditions and hopefully to enjoy a pleasant morning in the sun.

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I read that 'Shoyoen', the name of the garden,  means 'strolling and refreshing garden'.  I was there as soon as the garden opened (9 am)  and it was indeed refreshing to be there before the heat of the day and I did stroll around. There is certainly evidence of herbaceous struggle, but on the whole I was pleased to see many trees and shrubs flourishing in this garden which is maintained with hard work by local people,  as well as gardeners from Dubbo's sister city Minokamo in Japan.

I had a short conversation with a gardener at the beginning of my visit who told me how difficult it has been to keep the cherry trees going: some of them have already been replaced twice, because  unfortunately their trunks get sunburnt and this causes cracking and eventual death of the tree. The gardeners have now wrapped wadding around the trees' trunks to alleviate the problem of sunburn, as can be seen in the photo below.

The cherry tree on the right has wadding protecting its trunk.
The cherry tree on the right has wadding protecting its trunk.

The garden is centred around a lake containing an impressive selection of multi-coloured koi which smartly rise to the surface when a person passes,  their mouths gaping in expectation of food. Winding around the lake, a gravelled path takes the visitor past plantings of  cherry trees and ornately twisted Japanese pines up to the tea house on top of a small man-made hill.  From the summit  there's a view over the top of a waterfall to the lake and its surrounding gardens.

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My visit to these gardens was a delight. I enjoyed wandering along the meandering pathways, the sound of the waterfall in my ears.  It's a peaceful location in which to spend a morning.  Gardeners have worked very hard in adverse conditions to keep plantings alive, and indeed healthy, there were birds enjoying  seeds and waterways,  and the sun shone brightly but not too strongly.

 

If you would like to read more about the Japanese Garden in Dubbo, you can link to the website here

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Six on Saturday, March 31st.

Welcome to another Six on Saturday. This is an exciting meme where gardeners can show what's been happening in their patch during the last week. Any six things, on a Saturday. The Propagator is the host of SoS and as always you can go on over to his blog to see what everyone else is up to.

It's a case of the more things change, the more they stay the same here. It's been a week of cloudless sunny skies and warm temperatures, but at least now the nights are cooler and there's actually dew on the grass in the mornings.

Time to do some planting then:

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  1. A thrilling little group of plants arrived by post this week.  Eryngium 'Blaukappe', Verbena bonariensis, Achillea 'Terracotta', Achillea 'Salmon Beauty', Salvia nemerosa 'Violet Queen', Potentilla 'Hamlet' and  Clematis Integrifolia are waiting there on the table for me to plant them.  I may well have taken a leap of faith with the clematis, having had no luck with them so far, but I'll find a shady spot and keep my fingers crossed.
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2. Bags of bulbs, also waiting to go in.   Some I've bought locally and some rather more interesting ones have arrived by post. I'll be planting them under my perennials so that they'll be seen after the garden is cut back in winter and before the perennials start to grow back in October. I hope.

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3.  Salvia 'Indigo Spires'.  Cut to the ground in January, back to full strength by March.

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4. Proof of how hot our summer has been: this pittosporum tenufolium 'Golfball' has become severely browned off.  I can only assume that since it has been watered quite regularly, the reason for its unhappy state is the extreme heat.  I'm hoping it stops sulking soon and greens up.

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5. I planted the Gazania Tomentosa on the left as a small sprig, but it became  a garden thug that I was  forever  having to cut back.  It intimidated two Hebe 'Marie Antionette' and became a haven for kikuyu grass escapees, so it had to go. No more thuggery. On the right are the replacement plantings: Potentilla, Verbena bonariensis, Tulipa  clusiana and Tulipa kaufmanniana  to start with.

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6. The cotyledons are beginning to come into flower. This is the first of them and the first flower I've had on any cotyledon since I planted them nearly three years ago.

Weather today:  cloudless, sunny, 16-29C

Six on Saturday, March 24: Bloomin’ Bright

This morning I took a trip around my neighbourhood to look see what's in flower. Surprisingly there isn't a great deal as many gardens look a trifle tired after the extreme heat and dryness of summer, but Autumn is a very good time to see glorious natives in flower, so I've added some of them to my six this week.

As well, you can zip over to The Propagator's site to see more of what's happening in other people's gardens.

1. Eucalyptus erythrocorys  'Red Cap Gum'.  The red parts top the flowers before they emerge.  What a colour contrast!

1. Eucalyptus erythrocorys 'Red Cap Gum'. The red parts top the flowers before they emerge. What a colour contrast!

2. Corymbia ficifolia.  These eucalypts are grafted, so they grow very well SE Australia.  The bees love them as you can see, and when I turned one corymb towards me to take a photo, nectar poured out, so birds love them too.

2. Corymbia ficifolia. These eucalypts are grafted, so they grow very well SE Australia. The bees love them as you can see, and when I turned one corymb towards me to take a photo, nectar poured out, so it's easy to understand why birds love them too.

3. Eucalyptus Leucoxylon  var. macrocarpa  This eucalyptus is common in  the Central Tablelands area, is easy to grow and flowers prolifically.

3. Eucalyptus Leucoxylon var. macrocarpa:  This eucalyptus is common in the Central Tablelands area, is easy to grow and flowers prolifically.

4. The double  oleander in my garden
4. The double oleander in my garden

I wrote about this oleander in my post The Humble Oleander.  At the time I was trying to grow my oleander as a tree rather than a shrub, because I want the sun to be able to shine into the garden.  It's been a battle! The oleander is quite determined to be a shrub: it sends out shoots around its trunk and I remove them.   But it's now about twice the size that it was when I wrote the post, and is developing into a pleasing shape.

5. Rosa 'The Prince'  Grown from a cutting.
5. Rosa 'The Prince' Grown from a cutting.
6. Eucalyptus Caesia.   A bit of relief from so much pink and red!  This WA eucalyptus  is rather hard to grow on the eastern side of Australia. Its flowers were finished, but the silvery gumnuts are very beautiful too.

6. Eucalyptus Caesia. A bit of relief from so much pink and red! This WA eucalyptus is rather hard to grow on the eastern side of Australia. Its flowers were finished, but the silvery gumnuts are very beautiful too.

One Central Park

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As the Sydney visitor grinds by bus  along Broadway (we're often not very imaginative in our naming of streets or buildings here in Australia), he or she passes a sight that gladdens the heart of those who are interested in, indeed passionate about, sustainable architecture. I'm a visitor to Sydney myself these days, and I never fail to be uplifted by the vision of One Central Park.

This glossy shopping mall/apartment building, erected on the site of an old brewery,  was opened in December 2013 and has received many accolades including a five-star green rating and winner of the World's Best Tall Building award in 2014.  It has many features of sustainability, but I'm most interested in the  hanging gardens decorating the walls of the building. I've learned that these hanging gardens were very challenging to design and build, requiring special planter boxes, each with its own irrigation system, supported by floor slabs in such a way that the plants can grow without disturbing the building's walls. A special mix of soil was used in the planter boxes.

As well, there are vertical green wall panels attached to the building.  Creator, French botanist Patrick Blanc,  insisted that plants could grow on these panels as long as they had something to attach to.  There are three layers in the green wall: one of PVC and two of felt. In the outer felt layer, pockets were cut so that plants could be inserted and stapled in. The plants were tested in a wind tunnel to ascertain their suitability for this project as they have to able to withstand gusty wind, high temperatures and humidity.  It's hydroponic gardening, and water and nutrients are delivered artificially to the panels from within the building.

In all, there are about 350 species  of plants on the walls, some of which are quite rare: a variety of both exotic and native plants,  and mosses. The idea for many of the native plants came from the vegetation found around  the Wentworth Falls area in the Blue Mountains west of Sydney. Patrick Blanc said, “the vertical gardens will appear like a natural cliff as though  [one has] cut a giant slice of the Blue Mountains and put it in the middle of the city.”  Over time, microclimates have developed on the panels.

A close-up of a panel.
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I was outside this building a few days ago and gazed with great pleasure upon it, admiring the lush greenery on its walls and the panels soaring up 33 storeys.  It was a grey and rainy day, so in the photos the building appears somewhat sombre, but no matter, I'm sure that even though a bright blue sky is missing, the benefits of this building are apparent: a building that transcends the usual concept of a city building, and brings the benefits of greenery, gardening and nature to the city dweller.

 

Have you experimented with a green wall? Or seen a wonderful example somewhere?  I would love to hear about it.

Six on Saturday-March 17

Another visit to Sydney has had me photographing plants around the streets. I've barely been in my garden this week, and a walk around it upon my return revealed a lot of work to be done, but it's going to be very hot this weekend, and so unless I get out of bed very early and into the garden, I can't see much being achieved. So I'm going to be posting some Sydney blooms this week and two photos  from the garden.

Don't forget to pop over to The Propagator for a look at other Six on Saturday posts and beautiful photos of what people are doing and growing in their gardens.

1. Thunbergia laurifolia. It looked very fetching near a purple tibouchina.
1. Thunbergia laurifolia. It looked very fetching near a purple tibouchina.
2. Grevillea, possibly Cooroora cascade, leaning over someone's fence from a sinuous trunk.
2. Grevillea, possibly Cooroora cascade, leaning over someone's fence from a sinuous trunk.
3. Another Grevillea, 'Coconut Ice'.
3. Another Grevillea, 'Coconut Ice'.
4. Euphorbia milii, 'Crown of Thorns'.
4. Euphorbia milii, 'Crown of Thorns'.
5.  A different garden view- not much shade in my young garden.
5. A different garden view- not much shade in my young garden.
6. Arum pictum, planted last year.  It isn't very tall, perhaps because of the adverse conditions we've had
6. Arum pictum, planted last year. It isn't very tall, perhaps because of the adverse conditions we've had

Rain

   'Some people feel the rain, others just get wet.'  Bob Marley

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In it came from the west, muttering and grumbling as I watched anxiously, hoping it wouldn't do what it so often does: bypass us and go off to dump somewhere else. I've seen this happen so frequently this summer,  as I've obsessively checked  the radar online, that I've made myself  believe the forecast only when I see the rain in the gauge.  Seems topsy-turvy I know, but it's a bit of a safeguard against disappointment.

This time though, we were lucky.  And when the rain fell, it fell thunderously, copiously, gloriously. Fat, splashy drops.  Curtains of rain.  Gutters flooded. Our water tank (not a very large one) overflowed onto our neighbour's side path and the lawn outside the back patio was drowned in water. And I remembered how we built a gravel path across the back of the garden a couple of years ago,  because we couldn't walk across the lawn to the studio without getting our feet wet.  We haven't  had to use that path for a long time.

'It never rains but it pours' is an axiom that certainly applies to the weather in these parts.  While we've been lucky to have two such weather events in ten days (delivering 60 mm or over two inches), a friend who lives only 30 km from me has received a paltry amount of rain. You just have to be lucky.

How immensely uplifting it is to venture out into the garden and see that  exhausted plants are already invigorated. The lawn is greener too.  All the tap watering that can be done is never as efficient and life-giving as the water that comes from the sky, and there is plenty of  warm weather left for more growth  to take place before the cold sets in and everything closes down for the winter.

A slightly bedraggled garden begins to recover.
A slightly bedraggled garden begins to recover.

After the excitement of rain,  we are almost back in Summer mode again: a week of temperatures over 30 degrees awaits us. The overnight lows are a bit cooler though,  we can pull a cotton blanket up over us at night, and the garden gets a rest and time to recover a bit before the next hot day.

Six on Saturday-March 10th

My 'Six on Saturday'..... bearing in mind the garden is recovering from a difficult summer and there's not a lot to photograph.

Many thanks to the  The propagator  for hosting this meme.  Why not pop over to his blog to see more of Six on Saturday from gardeners all over the world.

1. A much magnified shot of a tiny flower on my new crepe myrtle 'Diamonds in the Dark'.
1. A much magnified shot of a tiny flower on my new crepe myrtle 'Diamonds in the Dark'.

This little tree was only planted last Spring.  It flowered briefly in December, and now it's having another go.  It will grow to about 3 metres and and I think it will be an interesting addition to the garden with its unusual combination of colours.

2. The borders are filling up.
2. The borders are filling up.
3.  One perfect 'Madame A Meilland' bud.
3. One perfect 'Madame A Meilland' bud.
4. The flower of a new Hibiscus Syriacus.
4. The flower of a new Hibiscus Syriacus.
5. keeping a watchful eye on the garden.
5. keeping a watchful eye on the garden.
6. ‘Spirit of Peace’ was released by Meilland International of France in 1995, to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the release of the famous Peace rose and mark the anniversary of the end of WWII.
6. ‘Spirit of Peace’ was released by Meilland International of France in 1995, to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the release of the famous Peace rose and mark the anniversary of the end of WWII.

Late Summer blossoms in Sydney

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Being on the coast, Sydney has a completely different climate from where I live. Hot, humid Summer, glorious Autumn, not-very-cold Winter and Spring filled with every kind of flower. Almost anything can be grown in Sydney.

The inner suburbs of Sydney are amongst the oldest  in the city.  A great many of the dwellings are Victorian and Edwardian: a mix of workers' cottages and grand mansions. They're not so old when compared with houses in Europe, but Australia's European history didn't begin until 1788. I love to walk around these areas,  looking at the houses with their filigreed cast-iron decorations, quaint balconies and ornate architectural decorations.

Sydney has suffered from a lack of rain too, during the last few months, and gardens are looking rather dry.  But some plants do well  no matter what the weather throws at them. On a recent trip I took some photos of flowers in the gardens of some of these old houses.

Tibouchina
Tibouchina
Frangipani
Frangipani
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Little shoots appear on the trunk of a very old buddleia
Little shoots appear on the trunk of a very old buddleia
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I'm so fascinated by this buddleia that I had to post a second photo.  It's in the garden of a California bungalow (popular here from about 1913) and it looks as though it was planted when the house was built!  I've never seen a buddleia  with a trunk so thick and convoluted: maybe many trunks grew together to make one tortured elephantine  shape.

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When we lived in Sydney, we had a hibiscus exactly like this one growing in our garden.  Often our black cat took great delight in climbing the tree, 'picking' a flower and bringing it inside to us. He always let us know he was coming by giving out a hibiscus-adjusted blood-curdling miaow. Black cat and pink hibiscus: striking combination. But not in the middle of the night, which sometimes happened.

Cockspur Coral tree
Cockspur Coral tree
Ixora
Ixora
Crepe Myrtle
Crepe Myrtle

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