Archive | July 2018

National Tree Day.

Jane Ivers 1 (2)

It's National Tree Day in Australia today, a day when folk are encouraged to plant a tree. We have planted 19 trees on our suburban block to add to the five we inherited, so although we won't be planting a tree today, I think we've managed to add something to Australia's tree count.

The special day for trees causes me to reflect on trees I've known in my life and one stands out above the others, pun intended. The tree I have in mind is an Angophora floribunda or Rough Barked Apple Gum. As trees go, it isn't particularly special nor sought-after and in fact, is somewhat decried as being as poor firewood material and a 'widow-maker' owing to its propensity to drop branches without warning.

On our previous property, our little olive farm, we had a number of these trees, but the one near the house was huge and served as a bird hotel, harbouring a varied collection of our beautiful birds at different times: rosellas, galahs, butcher birds, honeyeaters, magpies, cuckoo-shrikes and bower birds, to name just a few. It was something of a bystander in the garden, that tree: when I looked through old photos, I found very few where it wasn't tucked to the side or the background of the photo, and yet it was the only tree near the house when we first built on our old sheep paddock.

A friend estimated that it was about 150 years old. I loved its sinuous branches and its massive fissured trunk. I delighted in its thousands of flowers in December and the thrumming of bees who loved it too. It was wonderful to sit under on the hottest summer day, when the temperature was degrees cooler in its shade. It was a magnificent tree, a tree to be treasured and remembered.

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Disaster and Delight: SoS July, 28

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After two weeks away, I was anxious to get back to the garden to see how everything had coped with the cold weather that has been occurring in Mudgee. I knew that there had been many frosty mornings, and in fact, two of those mornings had been around -7.5C, which is decidedly chilly. As far as the garden is concerned it was a somewhat dispiriting homecoming. A lot of it was looking much the worse for wear, with some plants leaving me to wonder if they will revive when the warmer weather arrives and quite a few seeming  to have disappeared altogether.

Here are my six for this week; not all disasters, though.

 

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ONE: My Aeonium arboreum 'Schwarzkopf' is looking very miserable indeed, even though it's under cover, and has managed in this postion in previous winters. It will recover, I'm sure, and I'll use the opportunity to trim it back into a better shape.

 

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Two: A sadder story belongs to  Coprosma repens 'Ignite' which was looking quite splendid, and is now but a shadow of its former self.  I fear there's no coming back from this sorry state.  Its leaves and stems have obviously been frozen and are squishy to touch.  Perhaps there will be some new shoots right down at ground level.  Who knows?  I thought this was a really hardy plant.

Unfortunately, the flowers of the beautiful Hakea that I posted about in SoS on July 7 are now completely dry, grey and brittle, but the plant is fine. My lovely Geranium 'Rozanne' is a small pile of soft brown leaves prompting me to worry that she won't reawaken,  and many of the other plants I thought would survive through the winter have been blitzed.

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Three:  No more sad stories now.  Some bulbs are making an appearance: tulips, narcissi, aliums and crocuses are pushing their first green spears above the mulch.   I know this as a jonquil and it's a lovely pop of colour in the winter sun; one of the first bulbs to flower.

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Four: I don't grow a lot of vegetables, but here there are cabbages, beetroot, broccoli and broad beans, and they're doing really well, even though they didn't get watered for two weeks.  Sweet peas (with weeds) are climbing up the frame.

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Five: This succulent of no particular ID has thumbed its nose at the frost and is pretty in pink, as opposed to its usual grey: an improvement, in my opinion.

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Six:  Red rumped parrots, slightly fluffed up against the cold, are sunning themselves  in the branches of the silver birches.  In the photo below, an Eastern Rosella is remonstrating with them: perhaps they invaded his territory.

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And that's my six for this week. To see what other gardeners from all over the world are doing in their plots, don't hesitate to pop over to The Propagator's site and join the fun.

Rain is forecast here today, and everyone has their fingers crossed.  It's so dry that kangaroos have moved into the showground to feed on the grass in the big oval.

Happy gardening, everyone.

Into the Outback

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Following our March road journey to Melbourne and back, and encouraged by the enjoyment we experienced on that occasion, we set out  just over two weeks ago to South Australia, a trip that covered 4500km, and provided us with many wonderful experiences,  from strikingly diverse scenery to dining on delicious seafood and much else in between.

I’ve long wanted to visit Broken Hill, the outback city almost on the border between New South Wales and South Australia. Approximately 900km away from where we live, this city is, for us, a two day car trip through semi-arid country on a long grey ribbon of road.

Broken Hill is Australia’s only heritage listed city. In addition to its long mining history, there are many old buildings of significant interest (including twenty pubs), houses built of corrugated iron or local stone and mining apparatus all set in a vast landscape. Visible from anywhere in the centre of the city is a hulking hill of tailings called the Line of Lode, from the top of which the visitor can see the city,  the mines and the surrounding semi-arid countryside.

View from the Line of Lode, Broken Hill
View from the Line of Lode, Broken Hill

Silver, lead and zinc are mined here, and have been for more than 130 years but the supply is running out and the population dwindling. There were 35 000 people living in Broken Hill in the 1950s: now there are 17 800. Once there were 70 pubs: probably most of them are still there, but many of them are empty, idle buildings. They still have their charm though, with their wide verandahs stretching out over the footpaths and their intricate lace balconies. Below is the Palace Hotel (still very much patronised) which featured prominently in the movie  'Priscilla, Queen of the Desert'.

 

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This the old convent, where we stayed.
This the old convent, where we stayed.
View of the city from the Line of Lode
View of the city from the Line of Lode

One of the most amazing things about Broken Hill is that after driving just a few minutes in the car in any direction, it’s possible to be out in the sere countryside,  and from the top of the Line of Lode mullock (or tailings) mound the view is boundless: red earth and  harsh scrubby country with an overarching blue sky in every direction. Dramatically crowning the mound is the Miners’ Memorial. Constructed from steel, its rusty colour echoes that of the surrounding landscape and commemorates every miner who lost his life working here: just over 800 of them.

The Miners' Memorial. Broken Hill
The Miners' Memorial. Broken Hill
A rose for every miner.
A rose for every miner.
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The photo above illustrates just how close the city is to the bush.  This emu has dropped into the suburbs to see if it can find something to eat!

So far this year, Broken Hill has had 18.4 ml of rain.  Less than one inch, in seven months.  The reliable eucalypts go on doing their thing, but a  majority of houses lack any kind of  garden and definitely have no lawn, merely bare dirt in front of the house.  However,  it is possible to garden in this climate- more about that in another post.

A typical Broken Hill cottage
A typical Broken Hill cottage

Broken Hill is a fascinating city: for its rawness, the tenacity of its people (and many of them are doing it hard) its architecture, its industry and its remote position in the almost-desert countryside.  Although there is a lot more to see there and I could easily have stayed longer,  I'd satisfied my curiosity up to a point,  and it was worth the long drive.  But we had to move on.  We had more ahead of us!

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SoS, July 7: Small Bright Spots.

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Although some bulbs are making an appearance, much of the garden is having its Winter rest, so this week's post is more about small spots of colour rather than any overall abundance of the kind that Spring will hopefully produce. Most  plants need to rest at some time of the year, so I'm grateful to those that  do their flowering in the coldest months of the year, bringing pleasure and brightness to cold dreary days.

Here are some of my spots of colour this week.

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One: Violas are good value plants that pop up in many places,  happily flowering in these cold temperatures.  I don't know the names of these as I planted them before I realised it was helpful to know more about plants than their common names.

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Two:  This is Grevillea 'Lady O' who flowers for most of the year.  The spidery flowers are quite small for a Grevillea, but they are a haven for  honeyeaters like the Eastern Spinebill which frequently visits our garden and enjoys the nectar and the closely packed leaves.

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Three:  Our dwarf Calamondin x citrofortunella microcarpa is having its first fruit and they are joyous spots of colour in a wintry garden.  Most people would find the compact fruit  impossible to eat straight off the tree but it makes the most delicious marmalade.

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Four: Banksia blechnifolia.  I've posted about this Western Australian banksia before, but now it really seems to be growing some flowers.  It's quite an odd plant with its moth-feeler stems,  and I'm waiting to see if the fuzzy protuberances turn into flowers.  More soon.

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Five: A small success story.  This is Hakea 'Burrendong Beauty' which is a native to this area, having been discovered in the Burrendong Arboretum in the 1980s.  It's believed to be a hybrid which occurred naturally there.  I picked a small cutting from a garden nearby a couple of years ago, managed  to strike it and it has been quietly growing since.  This winter, for the first time,  it has burst forth into flower along the length of its branches. At first the stamens are like elbows or hairpins, but they unbend to become feeler-like as the flower completes its bloom.

 

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Six: Finally, something with very little colour.  A photo of part of the garden which shows how hard you have to look for colour at this time of the year. I hope that bulbs will spring up under those silver birches before too long.  Flora, with her cornucopia of Echeveria, is keeping a close eye on things.

If you would like to see what is happening in other gardens on a Saturday, pop over to the Propagator's blog and take a look.

Weather today:  What a mixed bag.  -0.5 to 11 C, frost, then sunny and windy, then rain.  The top was 11, but only for about half an hour.  Most of the day it hovered around single digit numbers.  Brrrr!