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.

Rain Tumbled Down

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Rain fell today. We had 27ml of steady rain, not the sudden over-in-a-minute kind, but the sort that sinks into the garden and refreshes. It was a proper Event. The hills behind our house were enshrouded with mist, as sombre as the grey sky, and the rain tumbled down for most of the day.

In town people were jubilant, exclaiming about the wet weather to complete strangers, stepping happily around puddles and enjoying using an umbrella for the first time in ages. There was a perceptible feeling of positivity in the air. It's always like that when there's a good fall.

By the afternoon the clouds were clearing, the last tendrils of mist were creeping up the hills and the sun was making an effort to break through. Remnant raindrops clinging to leaves were glittering jewel-like in watery beams.
I won’t have to worry about watering the garden now for some time as the weather isn't hot enough to dry it out the way it does in the Summer.



   '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.

An Endurance Test


February has become an endurance test for gardens and gardeners alike in the Central Tablelands of New South Wales. What's left of lawns is crackling underfoot and the rolling countryside is as brown and crisp as newly baked loaves of bread. The hills around the town are grey-blue with exhausted eucalypts and we all wait for rain, hoping that it won't come in the form of a dry, fire-starting thunderstorm. During the heat of the day the robinia in my back garden folds up its leaves to reduce exposure to the sun while the leaves on other plants hang down for the same reason-either that or lack of water.  The weather has been very hot, far hotter than it should be, and the effects of the small amount of rain that has fallen have been negligible.  No one has mentioned the 'D' word yet, but it can't be far off.

A friend of mine queried my tagline.  “It’s not a harsh climate,” he said. “It isn’t a desert here.” And that’s true. But another friend, who lives on the edge of the town, told me how the local kangaroos are coming down from the hills onto her lawn to eat because there’s no feed left for them in the bush. The kangaroos were drinking from her bird bath she said, and when she put a bigger bowl of water on  the ground, kangaroos, birds and lizards arrived to drink from it.  So the climate can be pretty harsh, I think, especially during long periods without rain, and also during long cold winters with heavy frost.

Yet despite everything the weather has thrown at us, and with careful watering, some plants continue to survive, and even do well. I wandered around the garden to record some of the better performers:

Sedum 'Autumn Joy' is coming into flower.
Sedum 'Autumn Joy' is coming into flower.

Rose 'Calypso'
Rose 'Calypso'

Salvia Microphylla
Salvia Microphylla

Humble little portulaca and alyssum keep looking colourful.
Humble little portulaca and alyssum keep looking colourful.

Grevillea 'Soopa Doopa'
Grevillea 'Soopa Doopa'

Society Garlic



A few representatives from our National coat of arms out in the paddocks.

Challenging Weather

We are having a brutal summer. In Australia we have a tendency to think we have a monopoly on hot weather, and of course, we don't, but just now I'm feeling a bit put-upon in the garden. We've had a string of days in the high 30s and only 9.5 mm of rain in January so far. Today the temperature is forecast to reach 38 degrees and an uncompromising breeze is gusting, bringing with it a tang of smoke from the Pilliga, we're told, over 300 kilometres away, where a huge bushfire is raging. Around us there are storms, but you have to be lucky to snag one, and just now the clouds seem to be intent on wandering off to rain elsewhere.

Despite the water we've put on our garden (always thinking of the water bills), many plants are struggling in the unrelentingly sweltering days, even the toughest ones like the oleander, the echeverias and the salvias. I've only had this garden for just over three years, so the trees I've planted (some of them are mistakes: why did I plant silver birches in this climate?) are not tall enough to provide shade yet.

I know it will rain again eventually. In the meantime, mulch is the order of the day. And more water, I guess, while we wait and hope for a storm.

Grey skies all around
Grey skies all around

The fig tree is struggling
The fig tree is struggling