It has been a very mild Summer so far, though I suspect it is about to get hotter! Apart from the odd day in the late 30s/ early 40s, it has been more like a late Spring, which has been wonderful for gardening and has given us the opportunity to clean up and reorganize the cutting garden, which had started to get out of control! We have now moved all the Narcissi to their own little patches under trees and the ends of the pergola and arches, and the old freesias to their own bank, bordering the car parking flat, where they can run riot and naturalize to their heart’s content! We have divided all the replicating Dutch Iris, tulips and anemones, which we then replanted throughout all the newly dug beds. I was surprised how many new bulbs there were and hope they all bloom successfully next Spring! We transplanted the self-sown feverfew seedlings down the centre of the Dutch Iris and old zinnia beds and moved the latter’s self-sown seedlings on a very cool day to their own patch behind the dahlias in the recent peony poppy bed, leaving a few seedpods of the latter to dry out for seed. The zinnias are such tough plants and all have survived and are set to bloom in January. We were also fortunate in that another self-sown sunflower seedling is blooming in the same spot as last year and we have sowed the seed of some bright scarlet Mexican Sunflowers Tithonia on either side of the Helianthus annuus. They may not be successful, as the packet stipulates sowing them in Spring, but given the cooler weather we have been experiencing, I decided to give it a shot and see what happens! All going well, it should be a stunning display late Summer. The dahlias have already put on a wonderful show. I love all their rich vivid colours, as well as their more muted, softer pastel shades. They make wonderful bouquets for the house and the Christmas table! I also made a lovely, wild, blowsy bouquet from the early Summer flowers in the Soho and Moon Beds : bright blue Cornflowers, paler blue flowering salvia, mauve wallflowers, pretty white feverfew daisies, pink peony poppies and the seedpods of the latter and Nigella orientalis ‘Transformer’. While we are still getting the odd peony poppy in the Soho Bed, the cutting garden has had masses of stunning ladybird Poppies, interspersed with a few self-sown Iceland Poppy seedlings from last year. The Soho Bed has settled down from its early November peak, but it still has nice colour with the roses (Lolita, Mr Lincoln and The Childrens’ Rose), and bergamot (photo 1), stachys and blue flowering salvia, replacing the wallflowers and the geum Lady Stratheden (photo 2). We have two other blue salvias in the Moon Bed : Indigo Spires, which we bought from the nursery at Foxglove Spires, and a light blue variety, grown from a cutting from my sister’s old garden. They contrast well with the white feverfew daisies and the gold daylilies, also given to me by my sister, along with this unusual flower, whose identity I have yet to ascertain. Any suggestions? Elsewhere in the garden, roses in bloom include : Autumn Delight (photo 1) and Penelope are reflowering in the white hybrid musk hedge; Frau Dagmar Hastrup (photo 2) in the rugosa hedge; Devoniensis on the pergola (photo 3); and Alister Stella Gray (photo 4) in preparation for its future entrance arch! However, the standouts of the Summer Garden are the cooling blues and whites : the blue Convovulus maritima and the Madonna lilies with their pure white trumpets and gold stamens, heralding the start of Summer. They look so beautiful with the sun shining through their petals; The potted gardenia at the back door with its sumptuous white blooms with their exotic sharp spicy sweet scent, which always reminds me of Christmas!; The white and blue blooms of the agapanthus bank, flowering in tandem with the mauve and white Acanthus mollis; and the soft blue shade of the new hydrangeas, their huge bushes showing great promise; and finally, the honey-drenched blooms of the pink and mauve buddleias down the path, constantly full of butterflies, bees and wasps! We have also had a few exciting surprises! Our new hosta Peter Pan has flowered with sprays of mauve flowers, which complement its blue-green foliage; Our dogwood Cornus ‘Norman Hadden’ has bloomed for the very first time. Its green buds turn white, and finally a deep pink by the end of Summer; The Sprekelia (Jacobean Lily) bulb nearby at the bottom of the steps has grown back after disappearing for a long while, after a mishap with the whipper-snipper, and most exciting of all … we discovered that we actually have more Jacobean Lilies, with an up-till-then unidentified bulb at the end of the tulip bed coming into bloom with its distinctive red flower, another Christmas treat! While the NSW Christmas Bush flowers have yet to turn red (delayed due to the cold I suspect!), Lady X grevillea (photo 2) is doing the right thing with masses of red blooms for visiting honeyeaters, while the wattlebirds love my neighbour’s red hot pokers (Kniphofia), another Christmas flower (photo 1). The newly transplanted lemon verbena is also in full bloom and the rainforest plants are growing madly, including this beautiful staghorn on the loquat tree. Other garden stalwarts include the bromeliads, the pinks and geranium Rosalie in the Treasure Bed and the honeysuckle climbers on the fence. With so much in flower, the bees and butterflies are in seventh heaven. The fruit trees and vegetable garden are a mecca for the bats and the birds, though huge breeding flocks of Little Corellas and Galahs have taken over the trees, recently vacated motels for visiting flying foxes, which have now mostly disappeared to raid other areas. The skies are full of these noisy party acrobats, with the odd Sulphur-Crested and Yellow-Tailed Black cockatoo cousins joining in. The King Parrots and Crimson Rosellas are enjoying the scarlet Duranta berries, while the Satin Bowerbirds have been feasting on our beans and raspberries! This beautiful immature Crimson Parrot sent us scurrying to our bird books to confirm its identity!We were very excited when some White-Faced Herons decided to build a twiggy nest platform, high in the Black Cottonwood tree, though I suspect these two were visiting youngsters, as they don’t have the white adult face. We watch the parents’ changing of the guard (they share incubation duties) from our vantage point on the verandah. Apparently, the incubation period is 21 to 24 days, so hopefully, we will have some new baby herons for the New Year! We hope you had a wonderful Christmas and are enjoying a relaxing break. All our very Best Wishes for 2017! xxx
It has been a long month with a prolonged Spring season, but we are now finally getting some Summer heat with days in the mid-30s- a bit hot, given we haven’t had time to adjust yet (!), though we did have some beautiful soft recuperative rain last week. The Spring garden has been an absolute delight and quite magical, especially in the late afternoon sun. I think November has to be my favourite month with all the trees in their full regalia and Bearded Iris, Poppies and Roses all coming into their own. I just love the view from our verandah over our beautiful garden, with its borrowed landscape backdrop of trees of an infinite variety of foliage colour, texture, shape and form, especially in the misty rain or when the sun first comes up. The Soho Bed and Moon Bed have been such a show this Spring. The roses are in full swing. Here is a selection of blooms from each section of the garden:
Soho Bed: Hybrid Tea and David Austin roses: From left to right:
Top Row: Big Purple; Alnwick and Eglantyne
Middle Row: Heaven Scent; Our Copper Queen and Fair Bianca
Bottom Row: Lolita; Just Joey and Mister Lincoln
Moon Bed: David Austin roses: From left to right:
Top Row: Heritage; Lucetta and Windermere
Middle Row: Troilus; Jude the Obscure and Evelyn
Bottom Row: 2 photos William Morris; Golden Celebration;
Pergola: Climbing roses: From left to right:
Top Row: Adam; Souvenir de la Malmaison and Madame Alfred Carrière
Bottom Row: La Reine Victoria; New Dawn and Devoniensis;
House Walls: Climbing roses: From left to right:
Top Row: Lamarque; Mrs Herbert Stevens; Cecile Brunner
Bottom Row: Paul’s Himalayan Musk; Lamarque and Mrs Herbert Stevens;
Shed Front: From left to right:
Top Row: Viridiflora; Archiduc Joseph and Madame Isaac Pereire
Bottom Row: Fantin Latour; Fritz Nobis and Leander;
Shed Back: From left to right:
Top Row: Both photos Rêve d’Or
Bottom Row: Alister Stella Gray and Albertine;
Rugosas: From left to right:
Top Row: Roseraie de l’Hay; Russelliana (not a rugosa but at the end of rugosa hedge) and Frau Dagmar Hastrup)
Bottom Row: Frau Dagmar Hastrup ; Madame Georges Bruant and Roseraie de l’Hay
Hedge: From left to right:
Top Row: Kathleen; Stanwell Perpetual and Sombreuil
Bottom Row: Cornelia; Mutabilis and Penelope.
Cornelia has been such a show that she warrants another photo all of her own! She will eventually be supported by an arch. Sombreuil is on the other side.Unexpected: Unidentified root stocks instead of the roses I’d expected from the cuttings. Obviously, the originals had already died and been replaced by their root stocks: The deep red one is Dr. Huey, but I am not sure of the others: possibly Rosa multiflora (top left) and Rosa fortuniana (top right and bottom left), both of which have been used extensively as root stocks in the past.
The poppies have also been a visual delight from the simple wild form to the pink and purple peony poppies, which show such variation in colour and form. I love the seedheads, as well as their fairy-like appearance as they gradually lose their petals. The Iceland poppies planted last year are blooming for a second year and the new Ladybird Poppies Papaver commutatum ‘Ladybird’ are so dramatic, especially among the cornflowers, though the seed packet also obviously included corn poppy seedlings as well! They replaced the ranunculus and Dutch Iris, which had their last blooms in early November. The cornflowers and the Nigella orientalis ‘Transformer’ have persisted, as have the magical foxgloves, which have deepened in colour and have such amazing patterns in each bell. I love the seedheads of the nigella, which follow their exotic soft yellow flowers.And the dahlias, despite their initial setback with the late frosts, have returned in a myriad of bright colours.Other blooms in the garden include: Feverfew, Lady’s Mantle (Moon Bed), Italian Lavender (Soho Bed) and Calendula (Herb Garden). The Dianthus ‘Coconut Ice’ and ‘Doris’ are in full bloom in the treasure garden and the Rosalie Geranium and Convovulus provide a sea of blue. The bromeliads at the front entrance combine the blue and the pink. The blue flowering salvia in the Moon Bed is also in bloom, along with the white Aquilegia under the hydrangeas. I love the white petticoats of the Acanthus mollis. Beside the pergola, the Snowball tree Viburnum opulus has been in flower for the whole month and has almost finished, the ground beneath it covered in its fallen snow-like petals. The beautifully fragrant Philadelphus virginalis on the other side of the pergola has taken up the batten. The Carolina Allspice in front of the Snowball tree has also lasted a long time. Both honeysuckles are starting to cover the fence well and I adore their fresh sweet scent. At the bottom of the garden, the sweet peas provide fragrance and the red bottlebrush provides a splash of colour, as does the ripening fruit on the mulberry tree. We have been enjoying its berries, along with the abundant strawberries, the loquats and the produce of the vegetable garden. The birds and flying foxes are also in seventh heaven. The latter are so cute that it’s hard to begrudge them their bounty, though we do want some of the fruit! Visiting birds have included members of the Cockatoo family: Pink Galahs, Little Corellas, Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos and Black Cockatoos ; the parrot family: King Parrots, Crimson Rosellas and Eastern Rosellas and the equally colourful Rainbow Lorikeets; and the Honeyeater family: an unidentified honeyeater in the grevillea and the delightful miniscule Scarlet Honeyeater.We also have a few White-faced Herons doing the rounds.Residents include the male Satin Bowerbird; the cheeky Grey Fantails and a new baby magpie, raised in a nest high in the pepperina tree. We found this exquisite little nest in our old camellia. Shaped like an elegant wineglass and bound by spiders’ webs, I suspect it belongs to our friend, the Grey Fantail!The insects have also been revelling in the late Spring garden: Bees in the poppies and butterflies on all the flowers; beetles on the angelica seed heads and dahlias; and Orange Stink Bugs on the cumquat trees- Ross’s form of Sport and Rec at the moment! Not that he needs the extra work! Ross has been very busy in the garden: watering; sowing seed ; and transplanting the lemon verbena to the corner of the shed. He started digging up the shed bed for a cottage garden, removing the tree dahlia tubers, much to my reluctance and initial resistance and mollified only by planting one of the freshly sprouting tubers (much to his reluctance!) next to his new compost bays, supported by my neighbour’s tall buddleias. We also planned another rose arch where the rocks are positioned. As already mentioned , he finally assembled a compost bay out of recycled pallets behind the strawberry bed and it looks fantastic! He had a play with a friend’s mulcher, reducing our enormous green waste pile to a much smaller amount of mulch for the vegie bed! We also moved the potting area down to the bottom shady corner of the garden and marked out the edges of the garden beds, which we will demarcate with recycled fence palings.Our final job in November was to dig up the Narcissi from the Iris bed in the cutting garden, now that their foliage has died down, to allow more room for the Iris as they multiply. We transplanted the bulbs in groupings to naturalize in the lawn: The Ziva Paperwhites on either side of the garden end of the pergola, as shown; the Golden Dawn jonquils around the Lemonade Tree on the staircase; two groupings of Winter Sun under the Golden Hornet Crab Apple tree and the Native Frangipani and Acropolis in front of the Michelia at the entrance to the pergola and finally, the wild Pheasant’s Eye Actaea in a swathe between the birdbath and the hill, where they can run rampant to their hearts’ delight! Just have to clean up the Iris bed now and stake those layabout cornflowers!!!Meanwhile up in the house, I have been busy making felt poppy cushions, a birthday apron for a friend, who has just launched her new poetry book ‘Kangaroos in the Blood’, hence the theme of the apron (!), and our 2016 Christmas Cake and Pudding! Happy Birthday Liz! I have also had a wonderful time arranging beautiful bouquets for the house, as well as for my daughter!
Well! What a month it has been! The mid-Spring garden has more than compensated for its late start and even though the temperatures are cooler than usual, the days are still sunny. There was an excellent fall of snow on the mountains last week – now that all the ski lifts have closed! The photos below were taken on our trips to Canberra on the 19th (first photo) and 23rd October (last 2 photos) this past week. It was actually snowing in Nimmitabel on Sunday! The cooler weather has prolonged the flowering season of many of the early Spring blooms, including bluebells under the crab apple tree, tulips (early October), hellebores and clivias. The trees have all just about gained their new foliage for the season, the poplars being the last trees to come into leaf, and the plums have finished flowering, while the crab apples are in their final days (photos 3 to 5). The cockatoos (photos 3 and 4) and king parrots loved the blossoms- a bit crazy really, as they are depleting their future fruit source! The latter (photo 2) also love to graze the weeds in the vegie garden, as does the white-faced heron (photo 1)! The apples have luscious white blooms and are setting fruit already. Meantime, the loquat fruits are turning yellow, attracting king parrots and bowerbirds by day and possums and fruit bats at night, the latter occasionally waking us up with their skirmishes. I don’t think we humans will get much of a look in when it comes to the fruit! At least, the white mulberries are starting to ripen and the blueberries and raspberries are in flower. We have been feasting on delicious organic strawberries from our new bed, though I suspect a slug may also have been, as the wire guards preclude attack by birds or rabbits! The rhubarb has also provided delicious desserts and I have been substituting angelica leaves for the sugar, at least in the fruit part of rhubarb and apple crumble- a great success! We have been enjoying our own home-grown onions, lettuce, rainbow chard and baby spinach from the vegetable garden.I also made another batch of cumquat marmalade from the 1 kg fruit we harvested. I would strongly advise NOT to combine blogging with jam making, but I think I just got away with it. Even though the marmalade is darker than usual, it set brilliantly! Fortunately, the cumquat trees are still covered in lots of new blooms. I love their sweet scent as we walk past them. The Michelia has almost finished flowering too, but the Weigela next door has now replaced it. Initially, its blooms opened white and I was a little disappointed, as I had bought it as a pink weigela to complement the pink flowering currant on the other side of the pergola entrance. I thought that the plant must have been mislabelled, but to my great delight, the blooms then turned a soft pink, deepening in intensity as they age. This plant is so pretty with its colour variations! The second photo below is my neighbour’s pure white weigela. Unfortunately, the flowering currant did not flower this year (with all its moves!), but it is doing well and the snowball tree behind it has masses of lime-green, turning white, globular blooms. The choisya has a mass of white starry flowers, which look very similar to the blooms of the citrus trees behind it. The Carolina Allspice has a number of buds this year, as has the Philadelphus virginalis, and I am keen to see the form of the latter’s blooms, as when it first bloomed last year, the flowers were the correct double form, but I did find some single ones later on, which could be root stock. We will just have to wait and see! On our recent trip to the Southern Highlands, we bought a Belle Etoile Philadelphus, with large single very fragrant flowers, which we have planted next to the old lilac on the fence. Ross has cut an archway between the bamboos and a path behind the large stand to access this part of the garden.The blackbird has finished nesting in the bamboo, but a magpie has been very busy creating her brooding chamber high in the top of the Pepperina tree.Our new Katherine Havermeyer lilac is a delight and is growing and blooming well. The Chaenomeles are still throwing out the odd bloom and the red rhododendron and white azalea are in full bloom, though we will probably move the azalea into a less shaded situation after it has finished flowering. My Grevillea ‘Lady X’ is perpetually in flower (last photo)! Unlike the azalea, the Viburnum plicatum however appears to be thriving in full shade and we also bought two different hostas- Peter Pan and Allan P Mc Connell- from Moidart Nursery, near Bowral, to fill out this shady nook. I also discovered some Winter Aconite Eranthis hyemalis there- very expensive, as it is very difficult to source here in Australia- in fact, this is the only place I have ever seen it- and I may also let it run riot here among the snowdrops, though initially will put it in the treasure bed until I am sure it germinates next year! Here are the treasures we brought home! We also bought some blue primroses, a lovely deep blue auricula (photo 3), Pulsatilla vulgaris, Rhodohypoxis baurii (photo 4), a variegated Arabis procurrens and Azorella trifurcata to fill out the gaps in this bed as the grape hyacinth die down- I love their little seed pods (photo 2)! We planted the new plants in the treasure bed yesterday morning. The Lily of the Valley (photo 1) are also up and the Rosalie Geranium has returned. The Acanthus soldiers and blue Convovulus mauritanicus (photo 2) are on the march nearby. I love the pattern and form of the Acanthus, the photos below showing why their common name is Oyster Plant, and their colour really compliments the house walls. The Garden beds have been such a treat this Spring! The Cutting Garden is a delight with lots of clear royal blue, pale hyacinth blue, bright gold and clean white Dutch Iris and blue cornflowers, forming a backdrop to the bright intense jewel-like ranunculus. Such a treat! The beautifully-scented freesias (photo 1) have just about finished, but the nigella amongst it is in bud. I suspect they are the self-seeded progeny of last year’s lime-green variety (photo 2), rather than the new blue nigella, which we sowed last Autumn. The foxglove is in bloom again, its flowers displaying a similar habit to the weigela- white turning pink, from the base up (photos 3 and 4)! The Iceland Poppies from last year also self-seeded, producing white, gold and orange blooms. So stunning and long-lasting when cut. Here are more photos of the individual ranunculus blooms.The Soho Bed is such a picture and there is very little bare ground to be seen! I am a bit eclectic when it comes to style and colour, but somehow the jumble of colours seems to work – in my eyes anyway! The loyal wallflowers have been joined by a variety of other mauves and purples in the catmint, the wild poppies and the stunning Italian Lavender; blue forget-me-knot; pink thrift and verbena and gold highlights in the old gold bearded iris and now the geum. The bees, both honey bees and native bees, and butterflies are in heaven! Here are two Spring vases from the garden! The Moon Bed is also very beautiful with soft mauve bearded iris, rescued from the heavy shade of the cumquat trees and transplanted to the new Moon Bed, where they can recapture the glory of their flowering period. We did not know what colour they would be, so waited with baited breath as their blooms slowly opened. We were delighted with their dreamy colour, Ross’s favourite, and one which really suits the Moon Bed, while the gold bearded iris are perfect in our sunny Soho Bed! The blue salvia, yellow Paris daisies and day lilies and pink peony (1st photo below) are all growing madly and the roses all have fat buds and are just about to open! SO exciting! November is going to be heavenly! Even the roses from my cuttings last year are in bud! The second photo below shows the blooms of a white tree paeony Paeonia suffruticosa, which we saw at Red Cow Farm on our recent trip to the Southern Highlands , promptly purchasing a seedling, which we will plant at the bottom of the steps next to the pergola and the Philadelphus next Autumn! I will be describing this trip in more detail in my Favourite Gardens post in December. The highlight of the October roses has been the Yellow Banksia, R. banksia lutea, over the outdoor eating area. I can safely report it has now fully recovered from its drastic initial haircut and has been a mass of bright gold and softer lemon blooms! The Spirea on the fence nearby has also been a mass of blooms, but is now finishing off, while the honeysuckle is set to take over. The white banksia rose, R.banksiae alba plena, on the bottom future chook fence, has also been in full bloom, as has its partner, the Jasmine, Jasminium polyanthum. I think both of them are vigorous enough to compete with each other, as I have seen two instances out and about this Spring- a wall covered in yellow banksia and potato vine and an old pergola obliterated by a white banksia, a jasmine and a snail creeper! The Rugosas have also been beautiful, scenting the air round the vegie garden: in order, Frau Dagmar Hastrup, Mme Georges Bruant and Roseraie de L’Hay.Mutabilis and Stanwell Perpetual have also had their first blooms.My birthday Souvenir de la Malmaison appears to like her position in the middle of the pergola and her first blooms have been dreamy, though this particular lady does not like wet weather and has a tendency to ball, which is why she is in the middle rather than the more prominent ends of the pergola! Here are some other early starters in order: Just Jude (2 photos); Viridiflora; Lamarque; Alister Stella Grey; Adam; Evelyn; Paul’s Himalayan Musk rose (2 photos); Countess Bertha; and Château de Clos Vougeot (2 photos). My climbing Cécile Brünner (1st photo) on the front arch is just starting to bloom, a late small camellia beside her mirroring her form and colour (2nd photo).Spring is such a wonderful season! It’s hard dividing my time between the garden, blogging, cooking and sewing! I did finally finish assembling the small Spring cushions, helped my daughter make a bag and baked a delicious sponge for my husband’s birthday in mid-October.And we have had visitors: Oliver and his son, Fagan, who miss the budgies (who have moved to my daughter’s flat) or probably more accurately, their bird seed! A brush-tailed possum, who wants to set up residence in the roof of the shed; And finally, some Shetland ponies, who give rides to kids at the monthly markets and who are currently doing the rounds of Candelo, mowing lawns and paddocks in exchange for free feed! It’s such a great idea!
We are very lucky to live close to this wonderful national park, which encompasses a wide range of habitats from swamp and grassland to old growth forests and escarpment and gorge country and a variety of wildlife, including 48 mammal and 33 reptile species. The 115, 177 ha park was formed in 1997, amalgamating earlier national parks and state forest reserves including : Genoa, Tantawangalo, Bemboka, Yowaka and Coolangubra National Parks, which were all formed in 1994, after a major campaign to protect the last of the old growth forests in South-East New South Wales from woodchipping, which began in 1969 and continued for 25 years, despite increasing opposition. It is part of less than 10 percent of the old growth forest, which survives in Australia after 200 years of clearing. These old growth forest are incredibly important, as they provide nesting hollows for birds and arboreal marsupials. The South East Forest campaign has been documented in a film called ‘Understorey’ by David Gallant. See: https://www.facebook.com/Understorey-a-film-on-the-south-east-forest-campaigns-940034452718427/.
Last April, we spent a wonderful day exploring some of the local landmarks, including Alexander’s Hut, one of the few remaining cattleman’s mountain huts; Nunnock Swamp and Grasslands; Woolingubrah Inn; and finally Myanba Gorge. A few days later, we searched out ‘Fernleigh’, the original farm of Alexander Robinson, and tried to determine the ridge, up which he used to drive his cattle to their Summer pastures.
During our search, we photographed a pair of beautiful Wedge-Tailed Eagles, sitting high in a dead tree, looking back to the heavily forested escarpment. If this majestic bird was travelling inland from the coastal fringe, she would fly over the fertile pastures and undulating hills of ‘Fernleigh’, ‘Tantawangalo’ and Mogilla to the heavily forested 400 Million year old granite escarpment of the South Coast Range (also known as the Bega Batholith), which lies between the Victorian border in the south and Bungendore and Braidwood in the north.
Travelling west, she would cross steep-sided gorges, a myriad of swamps and rolling forest country to the open grasslands and volcanic basalt of the Monaro Tableland.
‘Fernleigh’ was the original home of the Robinson family. Every Spring, they would take 40-60 head of cattle up into the mountains to reduce the pressure of stock grazing on their lower holdings during Summer. Using dogs and an experienced beast as a leader, they would take a full day to herd their animals up this gentle ridge into the dense escarpment forests along old bridle trails : the Postman’s Track and then onto the Cattleman’s Link Trail to their Summer pastures at Alexander’s Hut, seen here in the National Parks map at the hut. For the rest of this post, I will be referring to National Parks and Wildlife Service by its acronym, NPWS. The farmers would let their heifers and poddy calves loose in the bush for a few years. Cattle moved freely between different escarpment properties, so all the cattle grazing families would muster the cattle together and shared each other’s huts. Alexander’s Hut is one of the few remaining mountain huts left. Originally, the property was owned from 1898 to 1922 by Charlie and Ethel Soloman, who ran the General Store in Cathcart.Their original hut was on the site of the current pear tree (photo below), but it burnt down and was replaced by a one-room slab hut, built by George Summerell and his sons Norm and Harry of Cathcart, who incidentally built many of the mountain huts. Local trees were felled, the logs were cut into lengths and split into slabs with broad axes, mauls and frocs, then they were dragged to the site by bullock teams. Slabs were fitted closely together into grooved timber plates at the top and bottom, then the gaps between slabs covered with thinner timber boards to reduce draughts. The roof was corrugated iron, under laid with a hessian ceiling, glued with flour paste (see photo below). There was a fireplace on the right wall, but on the later addition of a second room, the fireplace was relocated and the old fireplace wall was patched up. The property was sold to Alexander Robinson in 1922 and used by three generations of the family, until it was sold in 1990 to the Wilkinsons, who replaced the patched wall with a window and looked after the property until it came under the control of NPWS. It is possible to stay there – both camping and in the hut- a great way for absorbing the atmosphere of the early days!It is such a peaceful beautiful spot now, though it would have been very different back in the early days. Apparently, there was a rabbit plague between the 1920s and 1950s and the Robinsons would often stay up here for a fortnight to dry the skins of the trapped rabbits, before giving them to their Nimmitabel agent, who sold the skins in Melbourne and Sydney. They would often trap 60 rabbits in a night. Rabbit fur was used to make felt hats, worn by the soldiers during the world wars, and the rabbit carcasses were exported to Post War Europe during food shortages.
Since the introduction of myxamatosis, rabbit numbers are now under control, but unfortunately feral deer and pigs are still a major problem and cause considerable damage to the fragile Nunnock Grasslands and Swamp, which are both endangered ecological communities. Other threats include: the introduction of weeds; the spread of Phytophthora (dieback); climate change and illegal hunting.Nunnock Swamp (seen in the NPWS map above) was formed in a shallow depression, perched on the edge of the escarpment of the South-East Ranges (part of the Great Dividing Range), at the headwaters of several creeks. Covering more than 100 ha, this subalpine bog is comprised of a complex array of basins and arms, which reflect the underlying valleys, cut into the impervious granite rock by ancient small streamlets and which vary in degrees of saturation, according to seasonally fluctuating water levels and the particular section of the swamp. The northern part (photo above) is permanently saturated , with a large body of surface water, fringed with sedges and sphagnum moss beds (Sphagnum cristatum), and underlain with a deep layer of peat, formed over many centuries, and which acts like a huge sponge, holding lots of water.
The central and southern part of the swamp is drier and dominated by seasonally saturated shrub and grass communities with fringing woodland. Occasionally, it dries out with periodic droughts. One arm of the swamp drains to the east into the Bega River, but most of the swamp drains south-west into the tributaries of Bombala River and thence to the Snowy River in Victoria.
We had a lovely 4 km walk around the edge of the swamp, allowing us to appreciate the wide diversity of habitats:
Tall Wet Forest: Moist slopes and gullies: Brown Barrel Eucalyptus fastigata; Monkey Gum (also known as Mountain Grey Gum) E. cypellocarpa; Ribbon Gum E. viminalis; and Messmate E. obliqua; with an understorey of tall shrubs of Blanket Bush Bedfordia arborescens; Olearia; Pomaderis; Ferns and herbs.
Dry Forest: Granite ridges, exposed to the sun: Narrow-Leafed Peppermint E. radiata; Mountain Gum E. dalrympleana and Snow Gum E. pauciflora; with an understorey of Silver Banksia B. marginata and Snow Grass Poa species.Grassy Woodlands (Endangered): Fertile soils, derived from basalt and past volcanic activity: Snow Gum E. pauciflora and Ribbon Gum E. viminalis, with a sparse shrub layer of Snow Grass Poa sp.; Kangaroo Grass Themeda australis; and forbs (broad-leafed herbaceous wild flowers).
Natural Temperate Grasslands: Patches along the escarpment on exposed basalt or low lying areas, where the cold air pools or the soils are periodically water-logged, preventing the growth of tree seedlings. In October and November, they are filled with wildflowers: Granite Buttercup Ranunculus graniticola; Grass Trigger Plant Stylidium graminifolium; and Swamp Everlasting Xerochrysum palustre (see first 2 photos above).