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SoS May 26: Autumn Colours

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This Autumn has been one of the most colourful I've seen here in the Central Tablelands of NSW. Russet, garnet, butterscotch and gold leaves bedeck trees in many gardens and lawns carry  mantles of colour. I wonder if the prolonged dry spell is the reason for all this glory.  The weather continues to be warm and sunny but distressingly dry. It's wonderful weather for being outside gardening.

Six on Saturday continues apace with gardeners showing what is happening in their plot.  If you would like to see what others are experiencing in their gardens, pop over to The Propagator's blog to take part.

Here are my six:

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  1. Following an inspirational post about geraniums from Ali over at The Mindful Gardener, I visited our local nursery and bought one.  It was the only one available, actually.  She's Geranium hybrid x wallichianum 'Rozanne' which is a long name for a tiny plant.  What an ethereal blue she is with her finely drawn darker veins. I've found a sheltered spot and hope Rozanne does well.
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2.  Unidentified Pelargonium.  I love the brilliant colour of this pelargonium which is much stronger in real life than in my photo.  When the frosts arrive, this plant will be badly affected, but is sheltered enough to survive the winter, its burnt and battered outer  leaves protecting those underneath.

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3.  I planted this Arum pictum last year having read that it is quite self-contained and sensible and won't spread wantonly.  However, it looks to me as though it's indulging in some sneaky thuggery.  You can see it's grown quite large in a short period of time and is about to lean on my Scilla peruviana which has been producing strong healthy leaves.  The flowers are interesting but the flowering period is very brief.  I wonder if anyone else has had experience with this plant?

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4. Verbena bonnariensis.  Planted as an infant a  month ago, 75 cm tall and flowering already.

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5.  Late afternoon sun shining on standard Escallonia.  It has a terrible aphid infestation which seems to be common to these plants.

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6. In the front garden,  Pyrus nivalis the Snow Pear,  is clothed in leaves of gold.  This is the best colour I've seen it display since it was planted three years ago: again, perhaps the effect of our dry Autumn.

Weather today: 1.3 - 21 degrees C and sunny.

Six on Saturday, May 19th

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It's astonishing how quickly Saturdays seem to roll around. I've no sooner read everyone's Sixes than it's time to prepare another one of my own.

Six on Saturday is hosted by The Propagator. Participants are invited to show six things from their garden: flowers or vegetables, trees or shrubs, paths or gardens, successes or failures. Six things. From a garden.

Don't forget to drop in to The Propagator's blog to catch up on what other gardeners are doing.

Since last week the weather here has been glorious. Cold in the mornings, yes, but the days have been full of sunshine. People are still wearing shorts! Wonderful weather for gardening.

Here are my six for this week:

  1. Leucodendron salignum.   The label describes it as 'Red Devil' but something tells me this plant is wrongly labelled! The second picture is a different view of an older flower on the same shrub.  Various websites tell me it must have plenty of sun or the flowers won't colour. Well, sun is something it's had in abundance, so my guess is an incorrect label.
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2. Last of the Iceberg roses. They will flower sporadically until they're pruned in July, but I'm not expecting too much more from them.

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3. A garden view.  The two poor bay trees on each side of the steps have been in those pots for at least five years.  They are very sulky, and who would blame them?  They're going to be released from their misery next week, all going according to plan, and planted  in the ground.

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4.  An iris flowered! It was the only one, and who could possibly guess that this would happen?  Its time with us was fleeting: in two days it was finished.  There will be more of course, but not for a while.

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5.  Crepe Myrtle.  Unlike last week's crepe myrtle, this one is a shrub which was given to us as a house-warming present.  I don't know its name as it began as a cutting from the friend's garden.  It's looking rather autumnal with its tiara of berries.

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6.  This week's unsung heroine is Alyssum,  (it was Lobelia last week, you may remember),  another flower that will brighten our garden during winter with splashes of pink, mauve, apricot, purple and white. There’s even a yellow one, although I have never seen it. Alyssum self seeds readily, filling small spaces in a very obliging manner.

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Weather today:  0 -19 degrees C and sunny.  Of course!

Happy gardening everyone.

Six on Saturday, May 12th

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Autumn is finally well-esconced in the Central Tablelands of New South Wales, and in fact even Winter made its looming presence felt yesterday with a blast of cold air  bringing us a little rain, strong wind and snow to some places. The maximum temperature here was 11 degrees C and that was only for about five minutes. It was a day for settling snugly by the fire and doing indoor things. The weather  was better today, but even so, Winter is prising the fabric of the days apart with its icy fingers and threatening an imminent arrival. You can feel it in the sneaky chilly breeze.

Six on Saturday is the mushrooming meme hosted by The Propagator. To see what other green-fingered folk have happening in their  gardens,  drop in to his blog where you'll find inspiring gardens and ideas.

As the season comes to a close, it's becoming more difficult to find six things in my garden on a Saturday, but here are mine for this week.

 

  1. Agastache 'Sweet Lili' is having a last pirouette before closing down for the Winter.  She has flowered constantly since last October.  A star performer who has danced through the summer despite everything the season threw at her.
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2.  Caught re-handed!  A King Parrot helps himself to olives.  As a consequence the few olives we had were harvested soon afterwards.  I wonder that the parrots can eat olives off the tree as they taste very bitter. Needs must when the drought bites.

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3,  The flowers of Erica melanthera 'Ruby Shepherd'.  It's a winter-flowering shrub, so should bring  brightness to the garden when many other plants are dormant. It's a very recent addition to the garden and only very small, but I like it so much I've decided more must be found forthwith.

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4. Lobelia flowers.  An underrated plant, lobelia will flower for most of the winter here. The flowers are like indigo butterflies.

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5. Banksia blechhnifolia. This is a Western Australian native.  Plants from WA can sulk a little over on this side of Australia, but this one has been behaving quite well.  These furry growths are at the end of the stems and they remind me, in close-up,  of moths'  feelers waving inquisitively.  So far there has been only one flower on this plant and I'll have to wait until about September to see some more.

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6.  Crepe Myrtle 'Natchez'.  Here are the beautiful Autumn leaves.  It's only a small tree but is so hardy and beautiful in every season.

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Weather today: Cloudy.  6-16 degrees Celcius.

Happy gardening everyone!

Six on Saturday, May 5th

The last two weeks have seen us touring around Victoria, and SoS wasn't possible during that time. I wondered how the garden would look after a fortnight, but all was in order upon our return. Our watering system did its work well, as did a friend who kindly watered pot plants.

Six on Saturday is a meme hosted by The Propagator and if you are interested in seeing what other people have in their gardens, drop in on his blog to find out what's been happening in the past week. Horticultural delights await, I can assure you.

Here are my six on Saturday:

  1. Leptospermum scoparium 'Kea' bloomed in our abscence. It's a dwarf plant that will keep on flowering for weeks and has an abundance of petite white flowers whose stamens look like sea anemone tentacles in miniature.
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2. The olives ripened while we were away and now must be picked and pickled.  I think they're Manzanilla: they're very large and healthy.

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3. Correa pulchella 'Ring-a Ding Ding' (I won't take responsibility for the name), also known as Australian Fuchsia, although they're not related.  What a star this plant is: covered with flowers which also last for weeks, tough: drought and frost hardy.

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4. Rosa 'Climbing Pinkie' has been rampageous in her climbing habit, although not in flowering, but I managed to capture a slightly blowsy cluster of blooms.

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5. After a very dodgy start that involved much yellowing and dropping of leaves during the summer, my dwarf Meyer lemon has decided to behave itself and is flowering its socks off.

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6.  My little group of plants purchased from Lambley Gardens. Iris cretensis 'Starkers Pink', Erigeron glaucus 'Seabreeze', Ceratostigma, Erica 'Ruby Shepherd', Sedum 'Postman's Pride', Salvia microphhylla ‘Ribambelle', Salvia 'Celestial Blue', Tulipa 'Queen of Night' and Tulipa 'Menton'.

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Weather today: Sunny and perfect, 0.4-21 degrees C. Frosts are coming soon!

Happy gardening everyone.

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.

 

Olives

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The olives are looking good. Large green drupes are hanging from the branches of our Manzanillo tree which has been in the ground three years and has grown rapidly. Last October it was almost white with flowers, but a not uncommon hot westerly  wind blew angrily through and scorched those blossoms so we are left with just enough olives to pickle,  perhaps two jars. It's a big change from having 500 trees, which is what we had on our olive farm. There's more about that in my post 'Where did all this start?' We now have two trees: the other one is a California Queen, but it isn't doing as well. It hasn't seemed like such a good specimen from the start but I won't give up on it as I know olives can be cajoled into behaving themselves.

Olive trees  manage very well in dry and difficult conditions, and  in fact they are renowned for being tough.  They can be seen all around the Mediterranean, clinging obdurately  to limestone mountainsides, growing in the smallest amount of soil.  But we irrigated our olive grove, and fed the trees with 'Dynamic Lifter' -chook manure- and they repaid us handsomely in beautiful fruit which produced top-quality, fragrant, delicious oil.

Olive trees can grow to a venerable age.  I was lucky enough to see an ancient reputed to be 900 years old near  the Pont du Gard in southern France  when I visited there some years ago. Although the tree didn't have a very tall crown, its trunk was very sturdy and furrowed with ridges and crevices which surely denote great age.  It was very well cared-for and I wonder if it will still be there in another 900 years.  It could be: the olive tree of Vouves on the island of Crete is estimated to be between 2000 and 3000 years old.

Today there's quite a breeze blowing and the branches of my olive trees are tossing in the wind, the leaves displaying their silvery undersides. I love to see them there, just as I loved the trees on the farm robustly standing in their rows dealing with the elements in their implacable way.

Our last harvest at the farm was two tonnes, all picked by hand, with the help of friends. What a difference it is to have two jars' worth!

Our resident emu checks out the olives.
Our resident emu checks out the olives.
The olive grove.
The olive grove.

An Iceberg

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Iceberg roses are found all around Australia, often in their standard form, gracing front gardens. I have inherited two in my front garden on each side of the door, standing sentinel like Hans Christian Andersen's Steadfast Tin Soldier. And constant they are, flowering for many months of the year, and requiring not much more than a feed and a water even in the harshest summer. They flower prolifically. The flowers tend not to be very big, but what they lack in size, they make up for in abundance. I find that  once the current crop of flowers is spent and I cut the rose back into the shape of a large cob loaf, new growth will spring up and before too long another white blizzard appears.

This rose is one of my favourites. Some people think it's over-represented in gardens, but I think its reliability puts it right near the top of the list. It's quite resistant  to rust, for one thing, and I don't think I've ever sprayed mine.  The Iceberg was developed in Germany in 1958, and also comes in pink and burgundy these days.  I've grown the burgundy iceberg and it's just as hardy.  

When we lived on our olive farm we had iceberg roses in the garden along the front of the house. They also performed well and it gave us much pleasure when we arrived late on a Friday after a long trip from Sydney, to see them there. Better still, kangaroos seemed to disdain them, although they would eat plenty of other plants in the garden especially if they had grass-like leaves.

Recently, my husband penned this:

We are townies now, but
the Icebergs at the front door
are redolent of another time and
bring to recall those white orbs
that bobbed in the headlights as
we pulled up at the front of our
farmstead late at night after
the four hour drive from Sydney, at
last returned to our ancient narrow valley
to be greeted by the curtsying of snow-coloured
roses, (an introduced species) which had
patiently waited a week for our return
as we less patiently had for our reunion.

Do you have a favourite rose?  There are so many beauties it's almost impossible to choose, but I'd  love to hear about yours.

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Thanks for the Memories

Hibiscus Syriacus
Hibiscus Syriacus

Some years ago,  when  we lived on our olive farm beside the  Cudgegong River, we spent many pleasant evenings with neighbours further along the river, often sitting around a campfire, talking well into the night, solving the world's problems, or not, as the case may be.  It was a particularly agreeable place to be with soft grass and lofty she-oaks highlighted by the fire's flames.

Often we would see the resident geese, escorted by their gander, waddling their way down to the water to spend their nights away from the mischief of foxes and if we were lucky, we might see a possum tucked away in a tree's hollow.  Around us were the sounds of  night animals; kangaroos and wombats and the last notes of birds as they settled down for the night.

A sweet memory from those times was the sight of the flowers of a nearby small tree, like crisp white butterflies quivering in the reflected light of the fire.  They seemed to rival the stars in brightness.

This small tree is called the Hibiscus Syriacus, named so because it was once collected from gardens in Syria.  It has a smaller, less showy flower than other hibiscuses and it comes in a variety of colours.  It's the white one I prefer, and the one in the riverbank garden was a double one with a touch of red in the centre.  It flowers prolifically and for a long time through the warm weather, and it's deciduous, which is perhaps why it can survive our cold winters here in the Central Tablelands where we sometimes have frosts down to -7 degrees celsius.

Eventually we riparian dwellers all left our beautiful riverside for various reasons and moved on to other destinations, other chapters of our lives.  But before we went, I took a cutting of that old white hibiscus, struck it, and it's growing in my suburban garden now: a plant of  dreams and reminiscence.

Good times, G&R, thanks for the memories.

Postscript:  An observant blogger pointed out to me that I had misidentified this plant. I originally thought it was an alyogyne, also a type of Hibiscus, and  I have corrected my error.  It's nice to know that someone reads my blogs so carefully!

Amongst the she-oaks, by the river
Amongst the she-oaks, by the river
The Hibiscus is there, just coming into flower
The Hibiscus is there, just coming into flower
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Garden Visitors 2

“Fig jam this year,” I thought last week, as I surveyed the figs developing on my fig tree. I have to admit that I’ve been quite proud of this three-year-old fig as I grew it from a cutting given to me by a friend, but  I haven’t been able to identify it. This year it has more figs than ever before and they are ripening much earlier, I’m guessing due to the very hot dry weather we’ve been having.

A few nights ago, when we were on the back verandah enjoying the coolness brought by a miniscule one ml of rain that arrived late in the evening, something quite large and heavy landed in the top of one of our silver birch trees. It soon set off again, leaving us to guess what it was. Trevor surmised that it was a flying fox, but I wasn’t so sure.

Next morning there was damage to the figs, several of them torn from the tree and others half eaten, and although I hadn’t ascertained who the culprit was, I made hasty visit to the local hardware to buy netting. Soon the tree was wrapped up like a hot air balloon readying for take-off. That night we clearly saw bats winging across the night sky and even swooping down into the garden to inspect the tree, their leathery wings sounding like umbrellas being flapped to remove raindrops. “It will be fine,” I thought, “we have the net now.”

Not so. More damage this morning, and the outermost figs eaten right through the netting. There wasn’t much more I could do, except secure the net more tightly and hope for the best. I picked some of the fruit, but then the insidious thought: what if the bats have contaminated the fruit somehow?

A visit to NSW Health   http://www.health.nsw.gov.au/environment/factsheets/Pages/flying-foxes.aspx   provides the answer: as long as the skin is not broken, a thorough washing prior to consumption is all that is needed.  Bats can carry diseases, but you are more likely to catch something if you are scratched or bitten,  so they are creatures to be cautious around. I’m not planning to be around them, if I can help it.

I lurked in the dark garden for quite some time  to try to get a photo, but it was very difficult, and I don’t have enough patience to stay out there for hours. Rather surprisingly there were far fewer bats than the previous night. I managed to get one photo, but it isn’t clear enough to identify the flying fox correctly.

The Environment NSWwebsite http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/topics/animals-and-plants/native-animals/native-animal-facts/flying-foxes  seems to indicate that the flying fox most usually found west of the Blue Mountains is the Little Red Flying Fox, although it didn’t look little to me.

Fascinating though these creatures are, they  are not welcome in my garden, but I have no say in the matter.  I’m still hoping there will be enough figs to make jam!

Garden Visitors

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We are very fortunate to have two Australian Magpies as visitors to our garden. In a recent poll taken by The Guardian (Australia) newspaper, the magpie was voted Australia's most popular bird. This was in spite of the fact that a magpie can swoop on an unsuspecting passer-by and inflict serious damage. To an Australian, the carolling sound of the magpie's call is as evocative as the scent of gum leaves or the sound of breakers crashing onto the beach.

Magpies are found all over Australia, although some people would be surprised to know that their numbers are in decline. The usual suspects seem to be responsible for this sorry state: overuse of pesticides, feral animals, loss of habitat and competition from other aggressive birds.

When magpies find a choice piece of real estate, they are quick to make it their home, and it will remain their home for many, many years. It doesn't even have to be a spread: a small garden will do, as long as there are insects and grubs there for the taking. If you also happen to inhabit that place, your new residents will quickly learn to recognise you and will have very little fear of you, allowing you to approach them or feed them.

It's true, magpies can swoop upon people who venture into their territory during nesting time, but your tenants should not swoop you, because they know you. Fear of 'swoopage' has led to sights such as cyclists with plastic spikes glued to their helmets, and it was once thought that a plastic ice cream bucket with a pair of eyes painted on the back was also an effective deterrent. I haven't tried this one myself.

The ornithologoical name for the magpie is Gymnorhina tibicen. The tibicen part means 'flautist' and refers to the magpie's renowned singing, called carolling. The song is very beautiful, and some people tell of hearing magpies imitate other birds as well. How versatile!

I'm looking forward to becoming friendly with our pair. I love to see them in the garden, their heads to one side listening for breakfast in the lawn and to hear them up on the roof warbling in the mornings. It's a very joyous, uplifting  sound.

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