Bagworm

DSCN9242 (2)

Whatever is a bag worm, do I hear you enquire?  Indeed, I didn't know myself (despite having often seen them ) until quite recently when I discovered one of these interesting creatures dragging its home laboriously behind itself across our gravelly path.  Fascinated,  I watched its action as it ventured, half out of its cocoon,  to grab the next couple of stones with its strong front legs,  and then with the rest of its body pull its twig-decorated shelter behind it.

Saunders Case Moths (Metura elongatus) for that is their real name, spend most of their lives in these cleverly constructed cocoons.  Even mating takes place (with difficulty) inside the cocoon.

The caterpillars can 'extend' their homes as they grow bigger themselves, by adding twigs woven in with their own silk, an onerous task. They move around by using three pairs of legs to pull themselves and their cocoon along.  It's a very slow process. When they are ready to pupate, they attach themselves to a handy tree or post  by silk threads, as shown in my first photo.

The female,  who lives all her life in her cocoon ( no emancipation in this species) lays many eggs and dies within the case. She doesn’t develop wings.

The male moths, however, emerge from their cocoons in orange and black suits complete with wings, ready to search for a mate and begin the cycle all over again.

Until recently, a metal power pole on a roundabout in our town hosted scores of these case moths or bagworms.  It seems they were very appreciative of the plants growing below, which rapidly showed signs of ill-health thanks to the caterpillars’ ministrations. After the moths departed, the cases hung and swayed in the breezes, slowly disintegrating over time, their occupants long gone.

 

DSCN9180 (2)

Because I know so little about these creatures, I resorted to an information sheet from the Queensland Government to fill in some of the details.

Bounteous: SoS September 29

RSCN9249 - Copy

It was like snow in my garden this morning!  White Pyrus petals were drifting, tossed here and there by the breeze, flurried across the garden and coming to rest, eventually, on the lawn.

Almost overnight, it seems, Spring has really arrived, and I am in an unusual quandary: that of having many plants to choose for this week's Six on Saturday.  Each week gardeners join to present six things from their garden to showcase.  The Propagator is the host of this popular meme, so do visit his site to see what gardeners from all over the world are doing.

Here are the finalists in my 'personal six competition'  for this week:

DSCN9233 (2) - Copy

One:  Crabapple, Malus floribunda.  This tree has been in the garden about three years and hasn't been in a hurry to grow.  It's a very odd shape, but then perhaps that is common to the species.  It's flinging its fat flowery arms  into the blue sky as if shouting, 'Hallelujah, Spring is here!'

DSCN9206 (2) - Copy

Two:  Only recently have I become aware of this plant, thanks to Northern Hemisphere blogging friends-you know who you are.  I've never been very fond of orange shades in the garden, but I am in thrall to this Geum 'Totally Tangerine' which I planted recently.  I find the colour mesmerising and the shape beauteous.  I've planted three, and though there have been whispers of slight thuggishness from some quarters, at this stage I am watching its development with delight and hoping it will fill up empty spaces in the garden.

DSCN9202

Three: Ranunculus No ID.  I planted some bulbs a few years ago and they have spread themselves around the garden in a very satisfying way.  I sometimes think they are somewhat looked down upon by gardeners for being a bit too ordinary, but I love them- trouble free and undemanding, they seem to be ignored by snails too. These white ones are delicately tinged by the last rays of the sun and  I'm mesmerised by their beauty every time I see them.

DSCN9218 (2)

Four: The aforementioned Pyrus, an inherited tree, one of five.  I don't know its name, but its columnar shape seems to suggest calleryna 'Capital' or 'Chanticleer'.

DSCN9218 (3)
DSCN9225 - Copy

Five: Continuing with a bit of a white theme here, this is Rodanthemum.  Is it hosmariense?  I'm not sure, but I particularly like the feathery grey foliage and the mass of flowers.  It grows very well from cuttings too- always an added bonus.

DSCN9274 - Copy
DSCN9272 - Copy

Six: Was it because we had a very cold winter that my cabbages and broccoli were so slow to mature?  I don't know, but here they are, ready to be eaten just when we're beginning to think  about salads! Not only do they look very healthy, but they've been ignored by white butterflies and are almost free of caterpillar holes.  It's of some concern to me that I've seen so few white butterflies: I feel it's a portentous sign of the ills that are besetting our climate and the damage being caused to our insect populations.

Sorry to end on a low note.  That's my six for this week.  Do look at what others are doing in their gardens and happy gardening everyone.

Weather today: 10-18C and sunny.

Noble Narcissi: SoS, September 16

DSCN9107 (2)

For weeks I wondered where all the snails disappeared to.  During Winter, with the small amounts of rain we had, I sometimes  went out into the garden to find snails, and to my surprise, they mostly eluded me despite searches under and around their favourite hiding places. However, one night last week, with warmer temperatures and a good fall of rain, they swarmed across the garden like schoolchildren being let out of class and achieved large amounts of damage.

Some of my photos for this week's six, which is celebrating Narcissi, bear testament to the marauding of the snails. I apologise in advance for the lack of identification, and hope that some more knowledgeable plantspersons will be able to assist.

DSCN9116

One:  Narcissus 'Red Rocket', not nearly as red as the picture on the packet, but charming nevertheless, complete with small visitor.

DSCN9165

Two: Narcissus 'Ice King'.  This becomes surprisingly yellow as it ages, so much so that I have questioned my own identification.

DSCN9162

Three: I don't know the name of this one, but she could be called 'Weight of the World'.

DSCN9114

Four: Narcissus 'Butterfly Pickup'

DSCN9131

Five:  Narcissus No ID.  I love the whiteness and simplicity of this narcissus. I’ll make up a name: ‘Blanc et Blanc’!

DSCN9129

Six: Also Narcissus No ID, with a great deal of damage from the slimy molluscs.

 

That's my six for this week.  As always, the venerable host of this meme, the Propagator, has more sixes on his blog.  Click here to find out more.

 

Weather today: 3 to 28 degrees C and windy.

Furled

DSCN9102 (2)

I apprecite tulips. I enjoy seeing colourful massed displays, but I'm not overly enamoured of them in my garden, partly because they need to be lifted each year and replanted in Autumn or early Winter.

I admit I purchased my Tulipa kaufmanniana 'Heart's Delight' from Lambley Nursery because the accompanying information stated that they can be left to naturalise.  I read that these tulips originated in Turkistan where they grow in the wild and they were introduced in to Europe in 1877 by a Dutch company-of course!  I think they are not particularly well-known here in Australia.

I was completely unprepared for the pleasure these small tulips have provided in my early Spring garden.  They are only about 15 cm tall at the most but what they lack in size, they more than make up for in impact.

DSCN9147

Every evening the petals close up completely, furled protectively around the inner parts,  showing their cerise-coloured undersides.

As the sun rises, they begin to uncurl.  It's almost possible to see it happening.  I feel if I had the patience, and a comfortable seat, I could watch this greeting of the day, as it occurs.

DSCN9125

Finally they open fully and display the inside of their creamy petals, butter yellow anthers and scallops of pink.

 

DSCN9103
DSCN9102

No wonder that this tulip is called 'Heart's Delight'.  It has captured my heart for fully a week.

Do you have a favourite tulip?

SoS: September 1: Still frosty.

DSCN9015 (2)

Today is considered to be the first day of Spring in Australia, although technically speaking, real Spring doesn't begin until the equinox on 23rd September.  It seems, however, that Winter hasn't quite finished with us yet here, in the Central Tablelands of NSW.

We've had some rain, a good amount for us, and a cold front swept up from the south, bringing with it cold temperatures and frosty mornings.   The evidence is featured in my six this week.

RSCN9052

One:  Frost crystals on a viola flower.  It never ceases to amaze me how these delicate little flowers can be bowed down by frost and yet after the sun rises, they lift their heads and carry on with their day as though it were the balmiest of weather.

DSCN9025 (2)

Two:  Frosty broccoli leaves.  I like the way dew drops have frozen into pearls along the edges of the leaves.  These plants have been in the ground for many weeks and I'm beginning to wonder if they'll ever have flowers.  It seems to me that by the time they do, it will be time for us to be eating salads!

DSCN9017 (2)

Three:  Erigeron glaucus 'Sea breeze', recently planted, so I'm glad it's holding its own during the cold weather.

DSCN9042
RSCN9047

Four:  Iris reticulata, also planted earlier this year, and these are the first flowers.  First is 'Dijit' and second No ID, which means the packet just said Iris reticulala.   I think these petite irises are delightful and look forward to them proliferating over the next few years. Clumps would be good.

DSCN9059
DSCN9057

Five:  The first two Narcissi to appear.  On the left, 'Replete' and on the right another No ID.   Many of my bulbs were planted last Autumn and are making their first appearance, so it's exciting to see their flowers. But there's no such thing as a host yet.  Thanks Mr Wordsworth for the burden of unrealistic expectations.

DSCN9011 (2)

Six: Someone else was finding the mornings cold this week, as he searched for seeds on our cream-coloured frost-bitten lawn.

That's my six for this week.  Was it cheating to add so many frosty photos?

As ever, our leader the Propagator, is hosting this very popular meme.  Don't forget to visit his blog to find out what other gardeners from all corners of the globe are doing in their gardens.

Mintaro: a step back in time.

DSCN8487 (2)

When travelling on a touring holiday, it's a good idea to take note of those brown signposts that point to tourist attractions, and it's exactly what we did when driving through the Clare Valley area of South Australia recently. Having already passed a sign to the historic town of Mintaro before we realised what we'd missed, we were pleased to see another and quickly turned off the main road.

We had no idea what to expect, and so were delighted to arrive in this sweet, almost untouched-by-modern-times village. After parking the car, we wrapped up (it was a bit nippy) and wandered along the main street admiring Mintaro's old buildings, trees and gardens.

DSCN8446

Mintaro, present population 188, dates from about 1849. It was once a staging post on the journey from Burra Mines to Port Wakefield.  At Burra, copper had been discovered, and it was carried by bullock teams to the port for shipment overseas.  Mintaro enjoyed prosperity until it was decided that the copper should be taken to port by a different route.  I wonder if the Ficus tree in the photo above dates from that time: it certainly seems big enough!

DSCN8475

In later years, Mintaro became better known for its slate.  Mintaro Slate Quarry is thought to be the oldest continuously operated quarry in South Australia, possibly in the whole of Australia.  As well, the countryside around this area is famous for wineries and farming.  The rolling hills were luxuriantly green when we were there, the vineyards with their neatly tiered rows looked prosperous and little Mintaro was a charming break on our journey south.

DSCN8450
DSCN8476
DSCN8482

The photos, by the way, were taken by Mr MG, who's a better photographer than I am. He takes arty shots.

RSCN8465

And closeups.

RSCN8467

We enjoyed a coffee and a chat at Reilley's Restaurant where there was a jolly group of locals who knew we were not from anywhere nearby.  'You're not pronouncing the name correctly,' said one man.  'It's Mint-air-o.'  Who would have thought?

 

SoS: August 18

DSCN8997 (3)

It has been quite an miserable day here in the Central Tablelands of NSW.  There was a -3 degree frost to start with.  I have to admit that it was very pleasant early this morning sitting in the sun at the Growers' market sipping excellent coffee, eating a bacon and egg roll and chatting with friends. Soon after however, the day clouded over,  a cold wind got up and a sprinkling of raindrops was hurled across the dry brown lawn, and over the frost-bitten garden.  We are in for a wintry week with very low morning temperatures and winds being blown north straight off the Southern Alps.  I ventured out again this afternoon to find a six for today and it was a very short sortie indeed.

DSCN9004 (2)

TOne: I think this is Ipheion uniflorum which provides a nice spot of colour in late winter.  It will end up being a nuisance I'm sure,  as it multiplies very rapidly, but in the meantime I'm enjoying its blue blooms.

DSCN8999

Two:  No ID jonquil.  I think it's gorgeous: such a lovely creamy colour with that tinge of yellow in the centre.

DSCN8997 (2)

Three:  Prunus blireana is just coming into flower: flowers that could well be dislodged by tomorrow's gales.

DSCN8995

Four:  Last week's iris has produced more blooms.

DSCN9001
DSCN9002

Five:  Tulipa 'Double Margarita'.  The stem of this tulip is very short and the buds appeared at ground level.  Is this normal, I wonder, or is it to do with a lack of rain?  I expected these blooms to be swaying voluptuously on svelte stalks, but instead they're vertically challenged blobs.

DSCN8965 (2)

Six:  Acacia baileyana or Cootamundra wattle.  I'm cheating a bit here as this isn't in the garden, but it's nearby!  In fact, it's everywhere, self-seeding very readily,  and because of that it's suggested by environmental groups that other wattles should be grown instead.  However, a sure sign that spring is on its way, is when Cootamundra wattle begins to flower.

 

And that's my six for this week.  Under the guidance of our illustrious leader the Propagator, other gardeners  are showing wonderful things going on in their gardens.  Do take a look.

Fit for the Climate

DSCN8329 (2)

In the very south of South Australia, at the bottom of the Eyre Peninsula, we spent a couple of  days in Port Lincoln. The climate there is a so-called Mediterranean climate, so rain falls in the winter and the summers are very hot and dry.  We were astounded at how green everything was after the severe drought conditions further north in South Australia and in New South Wales.  This doesn't mean drought doesn't occur here; it does, but at the time of our visit, the countryside was looking lush, with huge paddocks- broadacre farming at its broadest -given over to crops.

DSCN8325

 

On a day trip to Coffin Bay, and anticipating the seafood platter that would await us there, we came to a sudden halt at the sight of this delightful private garden.

Now this garden obviously belongs to people who are completely in tune with their climate.  No frilly unsuitable flowers for them.  Don't misunderstand me, I'm all for frilly and unsuitable and fall into that trap frequently, but these gardeners must have a plan and appear to have followed it unwaveringly.  Not only are the plants carefully chosen, but the garden is beautifully shaped into sinuous curves and garden rooms.

DSCN8327
DSCN8329
DSCN8328

Judging by some of the plants that can be seen, including what is, perhaps a banana palm towards the back, I'm guessing that frost isn't a serious problem in this area. The red agave makes a wonderful strong statement, as do the grey leafed cotyledons, and santolinas- or are they artemisia? It wasn't easy to tell from a distance.  There is an interesting variety of heights and shapes from ground covers to trees. We stood, hoping we didn't look suspicious,  and admired the beauty of this garden for a short time before resuming our journey.

There's a lot to recommend the idea of planting entirely to suit the climate of your garden.  Is that what you do? Or are you like I am sometimes,  trying to grow something when you know deep down, that you're doomed to failure.

Arid Botanics

DSCN8255 (2)

As you might guess, the Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden in Port Augusta, South Australia,  is devoted entirely to plants that grow in the driest parts of this continent. To the casual observer, the arid areas might seem dull and lifeless, but there's plenty to see: discovery requires careful observation.

The Botanical garden was established in 1993 to encourage a wider appreciation of the flora that grows in the arid zones. The 250 hectare garden is located in a stunning setting with views over the Upper Spencer Gulf to the Flinders Ranges. The visitor can wander along one (or more) of the walks within the park and enjoy the plants, birds and reptiles that make this area their home.

DSCN8178 (2)
DSCN8409

There are sculptures scattered about the garden, including this one, which is near the entrance, and is reflective of the tortured appearance  of some native Australian plants. Or maybe it’s some kind of demented Triffid bent on mischief. Fortunately it’s firmly bolted to its plinth.

DSCN8423
DSCN8183

Eremophilas, also known as emu bush, native fuchsia or turkey bush, belong to a large group of around 200 named plants and many of them grow in the Botanical Garden.  As it is Winter, not all were flowering at their best at the time of our visit, but these two were quite lovely. The garden is home to a large selection of these plants.

DSCN8226

There are many species of eucalypts in the garden, some considered rare, perhaps because their habitats have been compromised in some way:  logging, aggressive clearing of land for farming or encroachment by human habitation. This Eucalyptus youngiana or Ooldea Mallee had the most amazing gumnuts.  New buttons for your cardigan, anyone?  Unfortunately it wasn't the right time to see them but its flowers are very large, as you can imagine, and a strawberry jam pink.

DSCN8222
DSCN8223

Grass trees, or Xanthorrhoea, are unique native plants and are extremely tough, withstanding fire and drought.  The brown flower spike has gone to seed now, but birds love them when they are fully in flower and they probably love the seeds too.  Just look at the uncompromising position of this grass tree.  You would be forgiven for wondering if any plant would survive in that environment.

DSCN8411

This Wattle is just beginning to bloom.  September 1st is Wattle Day in Australia, but I am sure on any given day; rain, hail, sun, drought, or  fire, a wattle will be flowering somewhere in the country. Those jaunty yellow pom-poms are very attractive to bees.

DSCN8248
DSCN8246
DSCN8216
DSCN8250
DSCN8253
DSCN8249
DSCN8201

We were lucky to see this.  Somewhat out of season, this Swainsona formosa, or Sturt's Desert Pea, the  floral emblem of South Australia, was doing its best to bloom, but only putting out a couple of flowers. But what flowers they were!  They come in several shades of pink and red, some without the black centre or ‘boss’, and more commonly with an even darker boss than the one above. They can even be white! In their natural habitat, Sturt’s Desert Pea plants spread out in a large mat, and I imagine they would be a wonderful sight to see. They are protected: it’s forbidden to even take a seed from a plant. Seeds can be purchased though, and I am going to try growing some this summer.

DSCN8217

Another feature of this botanical garden is the area displaying ideas for the home gardener to try, using native plants instead of more water-hungry exotics.

When we visited, there had been very little rain in this part of South Australia for a long time, and to be truthful,  some plants, even though drought hardy,  were showing signs of stress.  Generally speaking though, it's just amazing how resilient our natives are in this climate.

If you would like to read more about The Australian Arid Lands Botanical Garden, you can find some more information  here.

I like the idea of a Botanical Garden catering for a specific climate.  Do you know of any gardens like this?

Something Stirred. SoS August 4

20180804_093519 (3)

Winter is not over yet. Although the days are becoming noticeably longer, it's still very chilly overnight, and I know from experience that it's quite possible for us to be faced with frost well into September before we can say for sure that the cold weather has finished for this year.

A large percentage of New South Wales is in severe drought, having received in some areas, less than half the average yearly rainfall to date, and the outlook for rain is grim. The State Government drought assistance package is now over $1 billion in an effort to bring drought relief to those on the land, and people from the city and the country have been donating money for feed. On our recent trip, we saw massive loads of hay bales being trucked from as far away as South Australia to needy farmers further north. The situation is dire.

Despite the cold and lack of decent rain, there are some signs of Spring and my post this Saturday is about those early stirrings in the garden beds.

DSCN8808

One: Yellow Iris, given to me by a friend.  I don't know its name, but I'm sure someone will be able to identify it.  It isn't tall. Is it Iris lutescens? That's the closest I could find on Google.

20180804_093302 (2)

Two:  Two years ago, while visiting an open garden, I purchased a Galanthus (possibly nivali, I'm not sure) and two years later, this is how far it has grown. I bought only one (which is something I nearly always do with plant purchases) as I wasn't sure how it would cope in my garden, especially in the heat and dryness of summer, but I planted it under the silver birches, and whilst it couldn't be said that it has galloped away, it seems to be holding its own, albeit in a less than exuberant fashion.

20180804_093519 (2)

Three:  Erysimum 'Bowles Mauve' is coming into flower.  What a stayer this perennial wallflower is.  It blooms for a very long time and although the shrub has a shortish life, it is easily propagated from cuttings.

20180804_095036

Four: Scilla peruviana which, despite its name, comes from the Mediterranean area.  I have never grown these before, so I'm looking forward to seeing the flowers emerge.

20180804_093206 (2)

Five:  Iberis sempervirens aka Candytuft.  Another unpretentious and reliable early flowering plant. It isn’t fully out yet but in week or so it will be a mass of white flowers.

20180804_093604 (2)

Six:  These plants are much happier growing in our climate than Galanthus.  They're Leucojum or snowflakes which are often confused with snowdrops.  They're not nearly as desirable, but grow willingly and put on a good show.  They're just appearing now.

And that's my rather humble, wintry six for this week.  As always, more sixes are to be found on the Propagator's blog.  Do drop over and have a look at what other people are doing in their gardens.

Weather here today: 4-16 C, partly sunny.