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
Spring is just around the corner and I can barely wait! Every day, I pop down to the garden at least three times to check on its progress and any new developments!
The days are very slowly lengthening, but we still get the odd sharp frost to remind us not to get ahead of ourselves and remove any protective mulch or hessian! The days have been just beautiful with stunning sunrises, followed by clear blue sunny skies. New leaf is starting to form on the quince tree (photo below) and roses in anticipation and the Spring bulbs are starting to appear.
I love my little treasure garden in the rockery beside the steps. Photos from all angles…!!! The Paper Daisies, Coconut Ice Pink and English primroses are all in full bloom and have been joined by miniature Tête à Tête daffodils, grape hyacinth and now a royal blue hyacinth! The violets behind them are still in full bloom and have even started colonizing the steps down to the garden. In the Cutting Garden, the Paperwhite Zivas have been joined by Erlicheer Jonquils, fragrant Golden Dawn and Double Daffodil, Wintersun. The Bokassa Gold tulips are in full glory, having started the month as a closed elegant bud, gradually colouring, then opening to a beautiful golden goblet, which looks magnificent when it catches the sun! The little species tulips (photos 2 & 3) and Grandma’s Freesias (photo 1) are also in bud and the leaves of last year’s tulips (photo 4) are growing madly, though I suspect their blooms will not quite match those of last Spring! We also still have snowdrops (photo 1) and snowflakes (photos 2 and 3).
The hellebores are also persisting, despite the nasty tactics of the bowerbirds, who like to behead both hellebore and erlicheer blooms! Quite distressing, as they are still such precious specimens- I am so looking forward to the day when I have masses of hellebores and snowflakes like my neighbour’s garden, so that the odd discarded bloom doesn’t matter!!! Other plants booming in the garden include : Wallflowers in the Soho Bed; Daphne and Winter Honeysuckle, whose flowering season issadly drawing to a close;Pink Diosma and red Lady X Grevillea; the red Japonica;A few early flowers of the crab apple tree nearby;A stunning new orange daisy; and of course, the loyal camellias!So, there has still been enough flowering for the odd Winter vase. The Spring sap rising and new bulbs has revitalized my creative juices as well and I have just made 6 delightful tiny cushions to celebrate the imminent arrival of Spring! We have also been very busy in the garden: Pruning buddleias; Thinning Peony Poppy Seed, though we have a way to go! We must have had a 100 percent strike rate! The crates in the background of the first photo below will form a new compost heap in the same position;
Weeding the Soho Bed; Here are before and after shots! And planting new vegies, as well as making long wire guards to protect them from the ravages of the bowerbirds! Little did they realize about the treasures beneath the soil! The Crimson Rosellas have also been enjoying the Soho Bed and the lawn. A very tame pair of Grey Thrush have taken up residence in the garden, delighting us with their friendliness, inquisitive nature and beautiful melodic song! They seem to have struck a deal with the resident blackbirds, sharing the sundial and birdbath. Other visitors to the bird bath include a Willy Wagtail and a Lewin Honeyeater.A large mixed flock of silvereyes and fairy wrens have been doing laps of the garden, investigating all the new leaf and gobbling up any insects they can find!We have also had King Parrots and even Carrier Pidgeons! Perhaps they were delivering the message of Spring! I’m looking forward to more concrete evidence in September!!!
A quiet month in the Winter garden, but still plenty of garden tasks from pruning roses to transplanting shrubs and sowing seed for the Spring. We have had quite a mild Winter, with fewer frosts, which are lighter than last year and clear sunny days, which invite you out to the garden away from the fire! It has been so mild that the little oak tree still has its leaves as I write! Here is a view from our front verandah on a typical July day this season. All the bulbs are also peeking their heads out, including the lost Delft Blue hyacinths and miniature Tête-a-Tête daffodils (see below) in the rockery bed with the grape hyacinth and the bluebells under the crab apple tree. I have yet to find the fritillaries and the erythroniums, though I have a rough idea of where I planted them! The new tulips are growing madly- the little species tulip, Tulipa clusiana ‘Cynthia’ (foreground), is so different to its hybrid cousin, Bokassa Tulip Gold, behind it! The snowdrops, Galanthus, (1st photo) and snow flakes, Leucojum, (2nd photo) are flowering, though I am impatient to see them multiply and naturalize in the grass!And my Dutch crocus (Crocus vernus ‘Remembrance’) are up! I was so excited to see my first splash of purple, as I had no idea where they were! They look so dramatic in front of the red camellia!The hellebores are now starting to open their buds – in order, Helleborus x ballardiae ‘Pink Frost’ (1st 2 photos); single form of Oriental Rose, H. orientalis; and my double forms of oriental roses, given to me for my birthday two years ago by my Mum. The wallflowers and forget-me-nots love the Winter, providing a splash of colour in an otherwise grey and green Soho bed! The thyme is thriving around the sundial. The violets are a sea of purple under the maple tree and up the path. The pink violets are blooming less vociferously up the sweeping entrance path and are matched by the first pink flowers of the begonias further up the steps. The camellia continues to delight with its deep pink, pale pink and white blooms.The Red Riding Hood camellia is also in flower and really attracts the eye in the garden. The sweet scent of the opening daphne flowers and Winter honeysuckle blooms make me glad to be alive every time I go out the back door! The latter is a perfect home for my gift bird feeder, though we are using to hold water for the little birds instead! The currawongs are dominating the bird bath at the moment, holding group seminars of up to 5 birds at a time! Huge flocks roost in our tree overnight. The little birds don’t stand a chance, but the currawongs don’t seem to worry the larger birds: the magpies, king parrots, crimson rosellas, galahs and female bowerbirds, all of which are revelling in the vegetable patch! Even the male bower bird has made a brief appearance to supervise proceedings (last 2 photos)!
They loved all the soil disruption, as Ross weeded and dug in manure around all the shrubs, ready for the new Spring growth.Meanwhile, a pair of White-faced Herons had a long sunny grooming session in the branches overhead. They are such beautiful birds! Ross has also been busy in the vegetable garden, with lots of weeding, hoeing and preparation work, but he has planted rainbow chard and shallots. The growth is all a bit slow at the moment, but we are enjoying the fresh organic broccoli heads! We finally harvested our first crop of cumquats for the season to make marmalade and splashed out on our first lemonade fruit! Only 2 kg cumquats for this first picking, but there is more unripe fruit on the tree. The loquats are also forming fruit and it looks like it will be a bumper crop! Ross also dug up all the tough, tenacious roots of the old Kiwi vines, which were resprouting and threatening to take all the nutrients from the new citrus trees. We pruned the David Austin bed, rather vigorously this first season to encourage a good bush shape, though will probably be more lenient in future years. Here are before and after photos of their haircuts! We turned another rose (York and Lancaster) on the shed fence, then planted out 3 Albertine roses, struck from cuttings, along the back wall of the shed. We also planted a Camellia sinensis, the tea plant (photos 3 and 4), next to the Native Frangipani (photo 2) in the corner of the flat, shading the grave of our old dog, Scamp. He always did enjoy a long chat and a cuddle over a cup of tea! The Lady X grevillea behind them is positively glowing at the moment! The chaenomeles are all coming into bloom back in the main garden and the transplanted shrubs are coming into fresh leaf. I love our flowering quince corner of white and ‘apple blossom’ (pink & white) varieties, in front of the white-pink blooms of our Star-above-Star camellia.We have a red flowering quince on the bottom fence , still in bud.We even have a few daisies in bloom – some sweet little paper daisies, Rhodanthe anthemoides (photo 1 and 2), the colour of their buds mirroring the blooms of the Coconut Sundae dianthus behind- serendipity at work! ; a single white marguerite daisy (photo 3); and a spoonbill osteospermum with its metallic blue centre (photo 4). The diosma (2nd photo) is also flowering, so we may have to wait a little before moving the tank plants. They compliment the fine mauve blooms of the westringia (1st photo) behind. We also transplanted the Linum from the egg cartons and sowed fresh seed (Linum on the left and Ladybird Poppies on the right) in the cutting garden beds. Ross sowed the peony poppy seeds, which has already come up in their thousands! See the fine rivers of green in the 2nd photo. Lots of seedling thinning ahead!! I cannot wait for all the colourful Spring blooms! Having said that, I am impressed by the number of Winter flowers we have and the fact that we can still enjoy a few vases in the house. Even the last of the rosebuds pre-pruning were beautiful! We also planted a succulent in this lovely shell for the kitchen window sill.To finish, here are some lovely sky photos from July! Snowy blustery clouds as a cold change comes through and the sun struggling to get up for the day! Must have been a bad case of Monday-itis!!! Till next month…!
I don’t know if it was my imagination, but Winter seemed to start later this year with the Autumn leaves persisting into early June. Certainly, the frosts were later, the tree dahlias eventually succumbing to heavy winds rather than frosts this year! We had some wild and woolly weather in the first week of June with one quarter of our annual rainfall (247 mm) in 3 days. The gully and creek were in flood- the creek level rising high, with the fast-flowing current cutting hard into the bank and bringing down trees. The local coast also experienced enormous tides with cunjevoi and sea tulips ripped from their beds and washed up on the beach. We had so many puddles in the garden and Ross had to race out in the middle of it all to dig a trench around the cutting garden. By mid-June, the weather finally turned cold with some lovely sky effects.
The Winter garden finally arrived, its palette predominantly white and purple with a few lemons and pinks thrown in! The violets are a mass in the maple bed and along the path. My rockery is full of bulbs poking their heads up, as well as divinely-scented lemon jonquils and white Coconut Ice dianthus, both demanding obeisance every time we walk past! I also love the fresh lemony smell of the tiny flowers of the Winter Honeysuckle, as we enter the back porch. Our daphne is in full bud, promising further fragrance as the Winter progresses. The wallflowers in the Soho bed (below) and stock in the cutting garden have a warm spicy scent. The bulbs have greatly multiplied under trees and in the cutting garden with tulips, iris, daffodils, freesias and ranunculas all growing madly.
The jonquils and tiny snowdrops, Galanthus nivalis, are so pretty. I constantly look for new bulbs every day and it is always so exciting when I spot one emerging from the soil like this tiny bluebell under the crabapple tree. The hellebores are all in bud, ready to provide a splash of colour under the trees. I love the sweet diminutive forget-me-nots and the splash of gold of the Winter Jasmine, Jasminium nudiflorum, on the laneway. Here is a colourful black and gold ladybird from the bottom of the garden. I am really looking forward to seeing the japonica buds open. The camellia at the front door has already blessed us with a number of light pink and deep pink blooms. The new camellias are also in bud and Star-above-Star has had its first flower. The roses have still thrown out the odd bloom: Eglantyne (pink) and Golden Celebration (gold). My birthday Souvenir de la Malmaison is already in new leaf. I cut the last blooms of the roses and frost-damaged hydrangeas for two final bouquets for the season. I pruned the hydrangeas and all the Soho Bed roses rather severely on the weekend.We also turned and transplanted quite a few of the roses. Despite our careful observation of outer buds and planting for correct shape, my roses have a habit of sending their shoots out at 90 degrees to where I want them! Now that the roses are dormant, it is a good time to correct their positions- hence Lamarque was dug up after the heavy rains (a perfect time as the soil was so soft), turned 90 degrees and replanted, so that its long canes can diverge horizontally and create the desired fan shape up the house wall instead of growing out from the wall as before. We did the same with Cornelia, so it arches it long canes to the left over the gateway to the chooks (we have yet to build a simple wooden single arch for it), instead of throwing them up into the apple tree to its right. We transplanted Aimee Vibert from its initial position as part of the cutting garden screen behind the Soho Bed to the other side of the arch to replace the dying Kathleen. We also turned Penelope, so it was a member of the hybrid musk hedge rather than the vegetable garden! See the new hedge-line in the photo below : From front to back : Penelope, Aimee Vibert and Cornelia. We made a decision to eliminate the screening hedge between the Soho Bed and cutting gardens. There really was not enough room for the hedge and path, the mature shrubs would have cast too much shade on the cutting garden and in the end, we concluded that we actually like seeing the cutting garden. So, we transplanted the white lilac to the corner of the cutting garden, the Philadelphus to the main pergola corner next to climbing Tea rose, Adam (photos 1 and 2), the Viburnum burkwoodii ‘Anne Russell’ to the camellia border (photo 5), the Exochorda between the purple-pink lilac and the pink-and-white Japonica (photo 4) and the Flowering Currant to the front of the Snowball tree (photo 3). Its future pink Spring blooms will complement the pink Weigela on the other side of the pergola entrance. We finally moved the Alister Stella Grey rose to the shed corner to create a golden yellow arch with Rêve d’Or in front of the cumquats, lemonade and quince trees. We still have a number of potted roses, raised from last Winter’s cuttings, to transplant- a hedge of Russelliana on the fence behind the White Mulberry and an Albertine hedge along the back side wall of the shed, the old timber a perfect background for the warm pink blowsy blooms.
We are starting to feel like we are finally achieving a sense of control and structure in the garden. We plan to build a compost bay with 3 divisions against the fence behind the no-dig cutting garden (see the bamboo markers behind the garden fork). The seed dahlias are over-wintering in the front of the bed under their blanket of mulch. Ross has just redug the patch behind the dahlias prior to sowing last year’s peony poppy seed for Spring, to be succeeded by zinnias in Summer and Autumn. Both plantings should benefit from having their own area, as both are very tall and take up a lot of room. Behind the zinnias and poppies will be a strawberry patch, then a path in front of the compost bay. On the left end of the compost bay, we will create an asparagus bed and on the right end, we will grow angelica and rhubarb.There are also self-seeded peony poppies sprouting in the Soho Bed and I have some Iceland poppies in egg cartons awaiting transplantation to the cutting garden. Other pending tasks are to construct the chook fence (and chook house) behind the hybrid musk hedges and transplant the natives in the old sandy septic tank, so we can transform it into a shallow rock-lined pond. Ross has limed the vegie garden. The growth of the new vegies is a bit slow because of the cold and Winter shade. We have yet to prune the raspberries and harvest the cumquats for marmalade! Our first lemonade fruit is almost ripe! We are anticipating a huge crop of loquats this year, as it is still flowering! With all this time in the garden, we have enjoyed the company of lots of little birds from fairy wrens to brown and yellow thornbills, flycatchers, eastern spinebills and silvereyes. We will often look up to see a King Parrot quietly grazing within arm’s reach. A large flock of Little Corellas materialized briefly one week, transforming bare branches into the appearance of white blossom. The very same roosting trees were a sea of pink the following week with a large flock of galahs. The rich diversity of bird life in our garden is a constant joy. We found the perfect spot on a Winter Honeysuckle branch to hang my bronze bird feeder, a birthday gift from a dear friend. It looks like it has been there forever! I will finish with a few photos of a spectacular Winter night sky last week.
With Autumn colds, exploratory trips of the local area and the demands of general day-to-day life, we have not spent as much time as we would have liked in the garden this month, but the weather has been superb! Hence, the recent excursions to the national parks of the hinterland and the escarpment, before it gets too cold or too snowy!!! We’ve visited Tuross Falls and the Cascades (Wadbilliga National Park); Deua National Park, both covered in last week’s post, and this last weekend, Lake Crackenback Resort, between Jindabyne and Thredbo.Ross has however managed to upkeep the vegetable garden from liming the soil to planting out new vegetable seedlings (sugarloaf cabbage, cauliflower, Winter greens and onions) and sowing spinach and snow pea seed. The capsicum are still productive, but the tomatoes are taking much longer to ripen. We harvested them all today to make Green Tomato Chutney!He has also totally finished the pergola, with all the wiring done as well, so we should be able to train the climbers correctly for next season. We were rewarded with some late blooms of the climbing tea rose Adam.Other roses still throwing out blooms include: Alister Stella Gray; Jude the Obscure and Evelyn; Heritage, Eglantyne and Alnwick; Mrs Herbert Stevens and Lamarque; Icegirl and The Children’s Rose; and Mutabilis and Monsieur Tillier.As you can see from the pergola photos, the Autumn foliage of the Snowball Tree (Viburnum opulus) has been superb from muted golds (south) to fiery reds (north). The Carolina Allspice beneath the snowball tree is also turning, its golden green leaves contrasting well with the red of the latter.At the bottom of the garden, where the poplar and plums are bare, the pomegranate provides a welcome splash of gold. A softer gold carpet is forming under the Floribunda Crab Apple Tree. The maples too vary from an green-orange-red combination to more red-purple-orange hues, depending on the variety. In fact, the whole backdrop to the garden is in its most interesting and colourful phase.The Paris daisies are in full gold regalia in the Moon Bed and attract many butterflies. The dahlias are the other major highlight in the May Garden. The tree dahlias are finally in bloom, their fragile, soft mauve-pink flowers and buds superbly contrasted against the intense blue Autumn skies. This is why I still grow them, despite their instant capitulation to wind and frost!The seed dahlias have provided us with such joy and are unfortunately slowly finishing off for the season. Knowing that their days are limited, their foliage already touched up by a few early light frosts, I have started cutting them with longer stems for beautiful floral arrangements for the house. It is such a shame that they don’t flower over Winter, as they really cheer the place up with their wonderful colours. While I love the flamboyance of the deep reds, deep gold and bright oranges and pinks, I equally love the softer warm orange-pink shades. I suspect this is the last dahlia bouquet for the season!