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Progress: SoS February 16 2019

We bought our present house four and a half years ago, and as so many friends told us, we had a ‘blank canvas’ to work with. My SoS this week chronicles the progress we’ve made in the garden since we moved here. All the before photos were taken by an agent, so have a professional quality about them that I am unable to achieve.

One: The view of the back garden as it was in July 2014. Behind our back fence is a paddock occupied by a lonely but rather lovely chestnut mare called Cleo. She often whinnies at the fence, being very much enamoured of the apples MrMG gives her.

Two: The back garden looking towards Cleo’s paddock now.




Three: Cleo’s view in 2014

Four: Cleo’s view now. Several mistakes were made in planting trees, including the decision to plant silver birches. I planted three: one died and the other two are finding life a bit of a struggle. As is the lawn.

Five: Front view in 2014.

Six: Front view today. Mr MG and I gathered all the rocks from a friend’s farm and built the wall ourselves. You can see the octopus tentacles of the Malus floribunda on the right. It has been in our garden for at least three years, has made very little progress and reminds me of one of those plastic air-filled madmen one sees at car yards or service stations, arms up in the air and a manic expression on the face. On the left, the more polite Snow Pear, Pyrus nivalis is growing beautifully.

That’s my six this week. For more sixes, visit The Propagator’s site.

Weather today: Sunny and 17-34. No rain in sight.

Farewell January-thank goodness! February 2, 2019

Throughout January the heat continued unabated. Although we got off lightly compared to others in Australia, several days in a row of 40 degrees, and many in excess of 36 made gardening not an option. In Mudgee, our maximum temperature for the whole month was 4.9 degrees above average, making it the hottest January ever. That makes the Paris Agreement to keep global warming to less than two degrees look shaky to say the least, in my opinion. Something climate change deniers should contemplate.

We have been lucky to have some rain. Last Tuesday a wildly clamorous and exhilarating storm with thunder and lightning that made us feel as though we were under siege, brought us 33mm for which we were exceedingly grateful.

After a few week’s absence, I am joining in with Six on Saturday, hosted by the Propagator. If you would like to either join in or see what other gardeners are experiencing, , follow this link.

My first photo (above) is of Tulbaghia or Society Garlic, a redoubtable garden member, reliable always no matter how hot the weather.

Two: A new Lagerstroemia ‘Tonto’, still only small, is enjoying the heat and growing well. Some people aren’t keen on crepe myrtles, but they grow so well in our climate and are colourful for so long, I think they’re a very worthwhile addition to the garden.

Three: White Vinca makes a sweet frill around the base of these compact Raphiolepis.

Four: Ceratostigma also known as Chinese Plumbago has a small flower, but the strength of its blue colouring makes up for its lack of size. I’m looking forward to this plant spreading itself around as it makes a pretty groundcover with leaves colouring beautifully during autumn.

Five: Once again, Sedum ‘Autumn Joy’ is preparing to flower, even though there’s easily a month of summer left.

Six: Finally, a new pair of gardening shoes, my favourites already, a Christmas present from Mr MG.

That’s my six for this week. All the hedges need cutting, there’s weeding to be done and there have been deaths in the garden which need to be dealt with, but it’s still way too hot, so a siesta is the go, I think for the rest of the afternoon, and several cool drinks tinkling with ice.

Happy gardening everyone.

Troopers: 1st January, 2019.

The weather has been relentlessly hot. Since Boxing Day, the daily maximum temperature has only once been below 35 degrees (to 34), and several times up to 38 and during all that time, only 4 mm of rain has fallen. Of course, there are places in Australia experiencing far hotter temperatures, but ours have been enough for me, thank you. Despite the not unusual climatic ordeal, my garden, which has been designed to tolerate extremes, has survived reasonably well with some watering. A thunderstorm is forecast this evening and a much more pleasant temperature of 28 degrees tomorrow.

This week I am focussing mainly on the troopers of the garden: those plants that belong in the unsung heroes category, the ones turning their petals to the sun and refusing to give in.

One:  Zinnias. It’s the first time I’ve grown these, and their germination from seed was gratifyingly speedy. They soon burst into a bright fanfare of colours, and I was so pleased with them I have planted more in the vegetable bed, having decided that growing veggies in the summer here is just too much of a challenge.

Two: Portulacas. I usually buy few punnets from the nursery, but these little gems also self seed. Once they are present in the garden, they pop up everywhere and there’s always a steady supply from mid December onwards.

Three: Agastache ‘Sweet Lilli’ and Salvia ‘Amistad’ don’t miss a beat in the hot weather. There’s a particularly prolific day lily across the lawn in the background too.

Four: My Eryngium has been temperamental for two years, and this summer is the first time it has properly flowered. Better still, I’ve noticed some seedlings dotted around so when the weather cools down a bit (a lot) I’ll transplant them. In the meantime, I’m thrilled with this heat loving plant.

Five: I think this is a Caper White butterfly. It’s relishing the nectar from our dwarf Escallonia hedge.

Six: A wheelbarrow load of homemade compost about to be added to the lemon and calomondin trees. It wasn’t a hot compost as described by the Propagator, (though you would think any compost would be hot during summer here), and it actually took quite a long time to break down, but I’m very pleased with it. It’s friable, full of goodness, and I have half a dozen more barrow loads left to disperse around the garden. Both trees (still only small) have many flowers, so I’m hoping for good crops of lemons and calomondins later in the year.

And there you have them: the first Six on Saturday for 2019. As always, do pop over to the Propagator’s blog to see what’s happening in gardening all over the world.

Weather today: Unpleasant. Hot, dry and windy, 20-37 degrees C.

Christmas Colours: December 21

Is it bending the rules of Six on Saturday to include six photos of the same thing, I wonder? Will I incur the wrath of our leader The Propagator? Time will tell, I suppose.

Recently, I wrote about the King Parrot in my post ‘A Single Man?’ as I wondered whether he had a mate, and I’m pleased to say there was a fleeting visit this morning with a female so it seems he’s not alone. Below he’s photographed with a friend* as they both enjoyed breakfasting on the ‘Pigface’ (Lampranthus), that strangely-named tough succulent found in many Australian gardens. The Pigface has proved as enticing to our garden visitors as a box of exotic chocolates might be to the chocaholics amongst us.
I’m highlighting the King Parrot this week, because I think with his scarlet and Robin Hood green colours, he’s about as Christmassy as a bird can be. He could be perched atop a Christmas tree and look perfect: a kind of antipodean angel.

The photos above were taken earlier this week and are my way of saying Happy Christmas to all of you generous, knowledgeable and entertaining bloggers I’ve met during my first full year of blogging. It has been an unexpected pleasure to be in contact with gardeners from all over the world and vicariously enjoy your gardens

To me, (not being a religious type) Christmas is really about spending time in the company of my family, enjoying some Christmas food and perhaps opening a present. We do ‘Secret Santa’ so the present-giving is simple and not overdone.
May your Christmas be full of joy and 2019 be a year of beautiful gardening weather with the right amount of rain and sunshine. Here’s hoping there’ll be no ‘Beasts from the East’ (or any other direction), fire, drought or flood, whether you live in the northern or southern hemisphere.

On Christmas Day I’ll drink a virtual glass of champagne with you all. Cheers!

*Point of clarification: it seems I was a bit too subtle here. For anyone who didn’t realise, the photos are of two male King Parrots. The visit by the female was too brief for me to be able to take a photograph of her. If you would like to see a photo of a female, one can be found in Garden Visits 3.

Rain and Dust: SoS December 15

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One:  The sky is the colour of the inside of an oyster shell, much paler than it appears in my photo, for reasons that I don't understand.  It isn't fog, or mist, it's dust.  Dust which has been present for two days.  It couldn't be called a dust storm, more a dust drift.  Australia's topsoil is drifting away.  Off to new Zealand. Mudgee town and the hills for which it’s renowned are in the background of this photo, but they're covered in a parchment shroud, and the hospital is busy with people experiencing breathing difficulties.

The dust drift follows a few days of most welcome rain (45 mm and a Christmas beetle in the gauge), although some folk nearer the coast received more than they wanted.  My garden gratefully absorbed all that it could which is good, because the next week promises highs in the low to mid 30s.t

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Two: How have I not admired this plant, Ballota pseudodictamnus, before?  It has been thriving  in the garden for at least three years, through heat and drought, and I have callously ignored it. I gathered some for a vase last week and examined it properly, noticing its felty calyxes with their central buttons which look like something an aspiring milliner might attach to a hat, or an upholsterer to a button-back chair.  An insouciant topknot completes the picture.

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Three: A new rose, the RSL rose, bred by Meilland International,  with its deep burgundy and amber petals.  Some of the proceeds from the sale of this rose go towards supporting veterans and their families.

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Four: Ornamental pomegranate flower; frou-frou worthy of a prima ballerina’s tutu. I took this as a cutting from our previous garden and was very pleased when it grew.  It's another plant that wants to be a shrub, and I want it to be a small tree.  I'm not really winning that battle, but I'm quite happy to keep removing the suckers.

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Five:  Figs.  Will they be ready by Christmas?  I hope some will, at least!

It will be a problem keeping parrots and bats away, and although I dislike the look of nets and know they impede the growth of the tree, I’ll have to cover this tree soon, or there’ll be no figs left.

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Six: Another plant that deserves a closer look:  Scabiosa stellata 'Drumsticks'.  It's new to the garden this summer and although it has rather insignificant flowers, its papery seed-heads are ping pong ball sized spheres with purple starfish inside patty pan cases. The sunlight is catching the trace of a shower in this photo.

That's my six for this week. Gardeners from all over the world are joining in Six on Saturday hosted by The Propagator.  Do join in and see what they are doing in their gardens.

Weather today: 16 - 30, and it would be sunny if there wasn't so much dust.

Hello Summer, December 1

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It's the first day of Summer here. In Australia, we don't really wait for the solstice to say that Summer has arrived, and that's hardly surprising considering the temperature is forecast to reach 31 degrees today. We are still having cool nights and mornings though, and during the last ten days we had rain, wind and a dust storm. The weather gods threw just about everything at us, except extreme heat, which is no doubt, ahead of us.  On a couple of days, it was back to winter clothes!

The garden really appreciated the 28 mm of rain we received, and I'm quite glad we avoided the 100 mm+ that some parts of Sydney received in just a few hours, causing tremendous havoc on the roads, flooding in houses and downed trees.  There were even viral images of a waterfall overflowing off Sydney Harbour Bridge, but of course that was fake news.

I'm joining in with the Six on Saturday crowd again after an absence of a week. You can discover what other SoS participants are doing in their gardens here.

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One: This is Salvia "Celestial Blue'.  A native of California, it is a hybrid of S. clevelandii and S. pachyphylla.  Its whorls of flowers remind me of the InSight lander that alighted on Mars last week and I almost expect little probes to appear to steady it in the breeze.  I have seen 'Celestial Blue' Salvias online that are much more intense than this one, so perhaps my information on its parentage is not quite correct.  I'm sure there will be a Sixer who can enlighten me.

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Two: Another Allium.  This one has a jaunty pixie cap which is almost ready to fall and expose the misty mauve flowers. I’m charmed by the way the sun is highlighting the folds in its cap.

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Three: Planted last Autumn, this early Lilium 'Eyeliner' is luminous in the early morning sun. A scattering of freckles dances across the pearly petals: it looks such a fragile flower, but it didn't miss a beat in last week's rough weather.  I'm looking forward to this bulb establishing itself in the garden.

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Four: A trio of Echeveria plants catches the sun.

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Five: During the winter Mr MG and I released our two bay trees from the pots they had inhabited for about six years, and against the advice of a couple of sixers, planted them in the garden.  One is doing very well, pushing out new growth and behaving impeccably.  The other, this one you see in the photo, is about as miserable as a plant can be and hasn't grown a single new leaf.  Those that it has are brownish, dull and unhealthy. It has, however, developed one perfectly placed sucker which is growing straight and true, albeit with leaves that are at least twice the size of normal bay leaves.  The question now is whether to amputate the parent tree and let the sucker grow. I am open to suggestion!

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Six: Another presence in the garden is this Bearded Dragon (Pogona species). In fact, I think he (or she) lives in the garden, because I've had quite a few sightings. This lizard is about 50-60 cm long from nose to tip of tail, so is not small.

That's my six for this week.  Weather today: sunny, 9-30 degrees; we didn't quite make the forecast top of 31.

A Single Man?

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He arrives in the early morning and occasionally in the evening - has been for the last week or so.  He's tempted by the 'Pig Face' and I am captivated by his knowing expression.  "I've been here before, you know," he says.

He doesn't appear to mind too much that I'm lurking in the garden, angling for a decent photo. His colours are intense in the early morning sunlight: his Robin Hood mantle with its mint green blaze and his crimson suit seem an odd camouflage.

He seems quite alone. These parrots are said to mate for life.  Where is his wife,  I wonder?

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New Additions: SoS, November, 17th

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Another cool Spring morning enticed me out early this Saturday, the sun just above the horizon and peeping into the garden, enveloping all in its warming glow and highlighting zesty colour combinations.  All the plants but one in this Saturday's Six are new to the garden this year and it has been both satisfying and exhilarating to watch them as they acclimatise themselves and begin to  fill out.

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One: Verbena bonariensis. This airy perennial has leapt out of the ground and is happily taking its place in the back row of the garden. I first saw it recommended in Piet Oudolf's book 'Dream Plants for the Natural garden'. Its scaffolding of  stalks means that it doesn't form a solid wall and I like the way other plants can be seen through it: that's Prostanthera poorinda 'Ballerina' behind it.

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Two: Do they clash, or do they not?  Geum 'Mrs J. Bradshaw' and Salvia nemerosa. I rather like this colour combination, a shrinking violet it is not.

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Three: This dwarf Gaura makes a strong statement against the background of dark foliage of the Berberis behind it which throws the white flowers into sharp focus.

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Four: Erigeron glaucus 'Seabreeze', also new to the garden, came through last winter's frosts unscathed and is now producing many daisy-like flowers in an enchanting mauve-pink. I'm hoping it will reproduce itself via contact with the ground in the way its cousin karvinskianus does, as it seems to be an excellent space filler.

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Five: Aqueligia 'Crimson Star'.  I fear my garden is too hot for this charming plant, and that I'll have to try to find a more shady home for it before too long.  This morning it was looking very happy though, lit by the rising sun.

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Six:  Not new to the garden, but surely unsung heroes, Allium sphaerocephalon  'Drumsticks' are preparing to flower.  What steadfast soldiers they are, standing to attention, their backs ramrod straight,  marching to their own tune.  They are appearing all over the garden and bring such delight with their no-nonsense approach and undemanding ways. From green flowers to purple, followed by 'bad-hair-day' seed heads, they bring interest to the garden for a very long time.

That's my six for this week.  If you would like to join in Six on Saturday, or merely look at what others are doing in their gardens, do pop over to The Propagator's blog and join in.

Weather today, sunny and 10-27 degrees C.  Happy gardening everyone.

Garden Views: SoS November 3rd

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We have had a week of warm temperatures, with most maximums being 30 degrees or over.  Disappointingly,  there have been strong hot westerly winds as well which have caused damage to some of the perennials, those that have softer stalks.  No matter, they will soon recover.  Yesterday, after an unpleasant day of wind and heat, we had a thunderstorm bringing a reviving 5ml of rain. Again, stepping outside on the cool damp grass this morning was such a pleasure.

The fire season has well and truly started with an out of control fire burning just south of Canberra. There wasn't enough rain there to extinguish the flames, although firefighters are saying they hope to have the fire under control before too long.

Six on Saturday is a meme hosted by The Propagator.  An interesting and enjoyable time can be had by popping over to his blog and reading what other gardeners are doing in their gardens.  There's such a wonderful group of interested and interesting gardeners to be found there.

My six this week are views of my garden. Here they are:

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One:  From the back of the house, part of the garden dominated at the moment by a  prostrate Ceonothus which has grown quite large and will need to be judiciously  pruned when it has finished flowering.  In the foreground dwarf salvias are coming into flower, and around the edge of the garden is an Echeveria 'hedge' which was grown (over time) from one cutting given by a friend.

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Two:  A winding gravel path behind the Ceonothus divides this part of the back garden in two.

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Three: This is 'Flora's Garden' which I featured here during the Winter, but is now full of healthy plants with a few more such as Agastache 'Sweet Lilli' to show their faces. That's Rosa 'The Prince' on the right, and in the middle Allium 'Drumsticks' are getting ready to flower.

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Four: Not a view essentially, but I do like these Romneya coulteri.  The way their petals droop reminds me of the white costumes of Whirling Dervishes as they wheel around during their mesmerising religious dance.

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Five: This is Clothesline Corner, with its inherited pavers, white stones and metal fence. A project for next Winter is to lift the pavers and cover the white stones with something of a more subdued nature, probably gravel like the path in photo number two. The metal fences, which are used so much in this area, are a problem: when the temperatures are high, those fences add to the heat.  They are being covered, but it's a slow process.  Patience- the quality I've had to learn when it comes to gardening!

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Six:  Not everything in the garden is pretty!  This is the 'Dead Pots' Society' which meets behind the shed.   Old plastic pots, a broken terracotta pot (to be used as filler in a wall somewhere), an inherited drum which we could have done without (thank you previous owners) various stakes and collections of stones.  I think most gardeners have a corner like this in their garden somewhere.  Do you?

That's my six for this week. Happy gardening everyone.

Weather today: Sunny, windy, 17-32 degrees C.

A Tale of Six Roses: SoS October 27

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This morning I stepped out over the dew dampened grass luxuriating in the early sun and relishing the peace of the neighbourhood before the lawn-mowing leaf-blowing brigade began their Saturday labours, before the dogs began to bark and the next door pool began its irritating whine.  A garden is enchanting at that early hour of the morning when the sunshine is just beginning to gild petals and leaves and the remnants of the night's dew are still fresh.

My story this week is that of six roses which have begun their first flowering of the season.  The avalanche of aphids has been somewhat halted thanks to detergent-in-water spray which has been applied several times- and I learnt the hard way not to use too much detergent.  None of my roses are unusual or particularly different, but they seem to like our climate: for such elegant, classic blooms they are remarkably hardy.

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One: Rosa 'Madame A Meilland'.  The much-loved 'Peace' rose, complete with small passenger. Look at those blushes at the edges of the petals.  She knows she's gorgeous! I've discovered that this rose, developed in France,  had different names in different European countries and was  given the name 'Peace' at the end of WW2.

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Two: Rosa 'Pierre de Ronsard' who has a habit of hanging his head, although he has nothing to be ashamed of. I was lucky to find this bolder flower.  Look at those petals: like the layers in a mille fueille cake!

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Three: Rosa 'The Prince'.  I've not been able to capture the rich velvety colour of this rose as well as I would like but I think in real life it's almost the colour of a good Mudgee Shiraz!

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Four: Rosa 'Climbing Pinkie' which perhaps could be called 'Prolific Pinkie' hasn't quite got into its stride yet and has had a dreadful case of aphids to contend with.  It's quite irrepressible and will be covered with these blushing pink flowers before too long.

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Five: Truly, I don't think this 'Calypso' rose is one for the purists, but it flowers happily all Summer- I have two in pots- and is almost disease and pest free.  Mine weren't affected by the recent aphid attack.  I like the way the petals change from this orangey-red to pink as they age.

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Six: Last, but certainly not least, 'Julia's Rose', (slightly overblown),  a new addition to my garden: so new it hasn't actually been planted yet. Starting as a peachy-pink in bud, it fades to a pale caramel as it ages.  Such an arresting and unusual colour, I can't stop gazing upon it with great admiration.

Each day for the last week the maximum temperatures have been in excess of 26 degrees, and Summer is almost upon us, even though we'd like to have a lot more Spring- meaning a continuation of the rain we've had at quite regular intervals. Soon we'll be getting out the hoses, but in the meantime, there is much enjoyment to be had in the Spring garden.

As always, to see what other gardeners are doing, go to the Propagator's blog and enjoy gardens from all over the world.

Happy gardening everyone!