The Festive Season 2017

It has been a wonderful festive season with the return of my daughter from Berlin for three weeks and long-awaited visits from old friends to relaxing lunches and beach trips on the warmer days, as well as plentiful rain, resulting in a blowsy overgrown garden, full of colour!BlogFestiveSeason2517-12-15 17.43.06BlogFestiveSeason2517-12-08 08.39.13OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA While the roses are taking a break, except for the wonderfully generous Archiduc Joseph, the sunflower patch has been prolific and the honeysuckle has scaled the side fence.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABlogFestiveSeason2517-12-16 09.10.54OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe self-seeded pumpkin, tree dahlia and tree salvia are also heading to the heavens, the latter never missing a beat after its transplantation from the Moon Bed, and a remnant kiwi fruit vine hitching a ride on the tree dahlia!BlogFestiveSeason2517-12-12 08.44.18BlogFestiveSeason2517-12-13 08.42.31Here is a sample of the plants in bloom this Summer:

Roses:

Left to Right and Top to Bottom:

Heritage, Archiduc Joseph (2 photos), Ice Girl, William Morris and The Children’s Rose:

White: Gardenias; Hydrangeas; and Madonna Lilies:

Purples and Pinks: Buddleias, Poppies, Hydrangeas, Geraniums, Bergamot and Dahlias;

Golds and Reds: Dahlias and Calendulas; Meadow Lea Dahlia and Gladioli; Ladybird Poppies and Alstroemeria; Red Dahlia and Pomegranate; and Sunflowers.

Hopefully, the flowers of the pomegranate will develop into fruit! We have had a wonderful fruit season with raspberries for breakfast every morning and now strawberries and plums.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABlogFestiveSeason2517-12-08 15.45.47BlogFestiveSeason2517-12-13 08.02.43BlogFestiveSeason2517-12-02 13.00.44BlogFestiveSeason2517-11-29 11.37.43We have also been harvesting the chamomile flowers daily to dry for a relaxing tea.BlogFestiveSeason2517-12-02 15.07.20BlogFestiveSeason2517-12-08 15.46.22 We only just caught the wild plums (photo above) in time after a mini-raid by a party of hungry Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos and are now watching the ripening of the purple plums with eagle eyes, in case they suffer the same fate!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABlogFestiveSeason2517-12-12 08.55.19 We are similarly vigilant with the apples (third photo), though the cockatoos have not yet discovered our Golden Hornet crab apples (first and second photos).BlogFestiveSeason2517-12-21 11.42.30BlogFestiveSeason2517-12-07 09.09.18OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA The Elder tree (Sambucus) is also growing fast and has blossomed for the first time. I look forward to using the flowers in future years to make elderflower cordial!BlogFestiveSeason2517-12-13 08.44.36Here are some photos of the local inhabitants of the garden:

A blue-tongued lizard sunbaking; a butterfly resting and another butterfly feasting on a buddleia flower; and a happy snail exploring after rain :BlogFestiveSeason2517-12-04 09.42.27BlogFestiveSeason2517-12-04 08.53.00BlogFestiveSeason2517-12-08 15.42.58BlogFestiveSeason5017-12-02 13.02.37And the birds: Huge flocks of very noisy Little Corellas (photos 1 and 2), who wake us up every morning at 5 am (!); and a pair of Crimson Rosellas, grazing in the Soho Bed:OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABlogFestiveSeason2517-12-23 18.04.09OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWith all the wonderful colour in the garden, I have been spoilt for choice and have revelled in making beautiful bouquets for the house! Here is a bucket of freshly-cut blooms, ready for arranging!BlogFestiveSeason2517-12-24 07.48.37From simple blue agapanthus to a single rose bloom (Lucetta):

Soft Pinks and Purples:BlogFestiveSeason2517-11-30 11.11.46BlogFestiveSeason2517-12-16 15.00.16BlogFestiveSeason2517-12-20 07.55.54And bright golds, oranges, reds and purples: BlogFestiveSeason2517-11-30 11.22.09BlogFestiveSeason2517-12-16 14.28.15BlogFestiveSeason2517-12-07 09.43.54BlogFestiveSeason2517-12-09 16.20.39-4BlogFestiveSeason2517-12-16 15.01.40To the vibrant colours of the Christmas table:BlogFestiveSeason2517-12-24 08.41.30BlogFestiveSeason2517-12-24 08.12.18Other creative pursuits included home-made Christmas gifts: a spectacle case for my Mum:BlogFestiveSeason2517-12-13 08.46.18 and a table runner for my friend Heather to compliment the set of Russian vintage wooden folk art spoons, which I found for her!BlogFestiveSeason2517-12-04 17.35.51 We have also been loving the musical sessions with both my daughters, who are keen musicians and composers. Here is a photo of my youngest Caro playing at Bodalla Dairy.BlogFestiveSeason2517-12-10 14.31.30I will finish with a photo of our beautiful Christmas Tree!OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA I hope you all had a wonderful Christmas and enjoy your New Year!

The December Garden

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!blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-15-11-45-28blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-09-11-31-25 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!blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-19-11-09-27blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-19-11-09-34 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.blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-13-17-35-53blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-13-12-01-34 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.blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-09-11-33-23blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-09-11-33-28 The dahlias have already put on a wonderful show.blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-09-17-23-43blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-09-11-34-14 I love all their rich vivid colours, as well as their more muted, softer pastel shades.blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-05-18-15-11blogdecgarden20reszdimg_0116blogdecgarden20reszd2016-11-29-18-46-24blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-09-17-21-12 They make wonderful bouquets for the house and the Christmas table!blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-16-08-23-28blogdecgarden20reszdimg_0156blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-09-11-52-00 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’.blogdecgarden20reszdimg_0127blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-18-14-04-14  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.blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-16-18-17-20blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-16-18-17-25blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-18-14-04-33blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-03-10-22-56 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),blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-18-14-09-29blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-08-17-58-02blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-13-18-52-50 and bergamot (photo 1), stachys and blue flowering salvia, replacing the wallflowers and the geum Lady Stratheden (photo 2).blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-16-18-10-36blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-16-18-10-54 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.blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-14-20-58-40blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-08-17-58-54blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-14-20-59-13 They contrast well with the white feverfew daisies and the gold daylilies, also given to me by my sister,blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-05-12-26-29blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-06-18-17-11 along with this unusual flower, whose identity I have yet to ascertain. Any suggestions?blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-05-18-20-31blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-16-18-11-59 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!blogdecgarden20reszd2016-11-30-18-50-11blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-05-12-24-04blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-17-19-40-36blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-18-14-10-48 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.blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-09-11-27-29blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-12-16-53-47blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-06-18-30-45 They look so beautiful with the sun shining through their petals;blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-10-19-00-22blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-07-07-47-09 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!;blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-09-11-16-47blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-09-17-11-59blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-08-17-41-34 The white and blue blooms of the agapanthus bank, flowering in tandem with the mauve and white Acanthus mollis;blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-12-10-00-36 and the soft blue shade of the new hydrangeas, their huge bushes showing great promise;blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-17-19-50-41blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-18-14-11-54 and finally, the honey-drenched blooms of the pink and mauve buddleias down the path, constantly full of butterflies, bees and wasps!blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-01-16-40-50blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-05-18-18-02blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-01-16-41-17blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-09-11-18-31blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-09-11-21-09blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-15-12-18-55 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;blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-13-12-01-05blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-13-12-01-10 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;blognovgarden20reszdimg_0083blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-06-18-28-38 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!blognovgarden20reszdimg_0084blogdecgarden20reszdimg_0112 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).blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-16-17-55-28blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-09-17-15-02 The newly transplanted lemon verbena is also in full bloomblogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-09-17-18-11blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-03-10-25-19 and the rainforest plants are growing madly, including this beautiful staghorn on the loquat tree.blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-05-12-30-55 Other garden stalwarts include the bromeliads, the pinks and geranium Rosalie in the Treasure Bedblogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-06-18-28-53blogdecgarden20reszd2016-11-30-18-46-22blogdecgarden20reszd2016-11-30-19-00-07 and the honeysuckle climbers on the fence.blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-09-11-23-31blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-09-11-23-51 With so much in flower, the bees and butterflies are in seventh heaven.blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-03-10-27-14blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-12-10-03-16blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-08-17-57-03blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-03-10-23-26 The fruit trees and vegetable garden are a mecca for the bats and the birds,blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-15-18-23-45blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-05-18-13-27blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-13-18-47-54 though huge breeding flocks of Little Corellas and Galahs have taken over the trees,blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-14-20-49-59blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-23-21-39-57 recently vacated motels for visiting flying foxes, which have now mostly disappeared to raid other areas.blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-01-12-20-58blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-09-21-00-53blogdecgarden20reszd2016-11-29-21-00-23 The skies are full of these noisy party acrobats, with the odd Sulphur-Crested and Yellow-Tailed Black cockatoo cousins joining in.blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-18-10-42-29blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-23-21-36-17blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-23-21-36-23blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-18-21-06-21blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-21-08-32-03blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-18-11-07-15blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-18-11-07-31 The King Parrots and Crimson Rosellas are enjoying the scarlet Duranta berries,blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-01-17-12-36blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-02-17-28-48blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-18-17-22-13 while the Satin Bowerbirds have been feasting on our beans and raspberries!blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-15-19-34-20blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-18-10-39-07 This beautiful immature Crimson Parrot sent us scurrying to our bird books to confirm its identity!blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-21-20-27-50blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-21-20-27-59We 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.blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-01-18-13-22blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-01-18-17-14 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!blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-06-18-23-55blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-06-18-26-22blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-06-18-26-58 We hope you had a wonderful Christmas and are enjoying a relaxing break. All our very Best Wishes for 2017! xxxblogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-23-11-16-14blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-23-11-16-25blogdecgarden20reszd2016-12-09-12-11-29

Sunflowers: December Feature Plant

What better way to celebrate the start of Summer than with a feature post on the wonderful exuberant Sunflower, Helianthus annuus!BlogSummerDays20%ReszdIMG_3870 Sunflowers belong to the daisy family, Asteraceae, and the genus Helianthus has over 70 species, most of them native to North America, except for three species from South America. Most are ornamental, frost-hardy herbaceous perennials, like the Jerusalem Artichoke, Helianthus tuberosus, but the Common Sunflower, familiar to most people, is an annual, as indicated by its species name: ‘annuus’. The genus name Helianthus is derived from two Greek words: ‘helios’ meaning ‘sun’ and ‘anthos’ meaning ‘flower’.BlogJanGarden20%Reszd2015-12-31 15.26.43Mythology

In Greece, the sunflower is a symbol of the water nymph Clytie, who was turned into a sunflower after she lost her love Apollo, and constantly faces the sun, awaiting the return of his chariot. The visual similarity of the flower to the sun makes it a symbol of worship and faithfulness in many religions. In fact, the Incas used South American sunflowers to worship the sun in their temples, where priestesses wore necklaces of sunflowers, cast in gold, as well as sunflower crowns. The Hopi Indians of North America also used sunflowers in their tribal rituals, as well as for food and a purple dye. In China, the sunflower is an auspicious symbol, denoting long life and good luck, its bright yellow colour symbolising vitality, intelligence and happiness. Vincent Van Gogh is famous for his series of paintings, depicting sunflowers in vases, one of which sold for $39 Million in 1987. Here is my daughter’s sunflower painting- just as special and always makes me feel happy.BlogJanGarden20%ReszdIMG_5641Habitat and Distribution

Native to North America, the sunflower was first domesticated in South-Western USA over 5000 years ago and soon became widespread throughout the Americas. Spanish conquistador, Francisco Pizzaro, saw large crops in 16th century Peru and the sunflower was carried back to Spain, where it was cultivated and hybridized. By the 19th century, it was being cultivated on a wide scale in Russia, the Ukraine and the Caucasus regions for the manufacture of vegetable oil. The sunflower  is the State flower of Kansas and the National flower of Russia. Mostly grown in temperate areas, it is now also grown as a commercial crop in the United States, Argentina, India, China, Turkey, the European Union (mainly France and Spain) and South Africa. In Queensland, it is widely grown in the Central Highlands and on the Darling Downs, as seen in the photo below.blogsunflowers50reszdimage-158Description

Helianthus annuus is an annual forb, which grows up to 5 metres tall, with a well-developed tap root, which extends up to 3 metres into the soil. There are now a number of cultivars, varying in colour (yellow, orange, rust red) and height, from dwarf varieties less than 1 metre tall to taller cultivars over 3.5 metres tall.blogsunflowers50reszdimage-159 The tallest sunflower ever recorded was 7.76 metres tall, though there is a German record of 8.23 metres tall! There is also a discrepancy in growth rates: one source states 30 centimetres in one day, while another estimate is 2 metres in 6 months- that’s 182 days. For mathematicians, that’s 2000 centimetres in 182 days or 11 centimetres a day! Suffice to say that they are one of the fastest growing plants in the world! Our Burgundy Spray sunflower reached 2 metres last year and was harvested and ploughed in at 20 weeks- that’s 5 months- but we did use plenty of manure!BlogButterflyHeaven 20%Reszd2015-12-01 17.20.36 BlogSummerDays20%Reszd2015-12-27 12.02.02The erect stem is rough and hairy and is branched in many wild varieties, but unbranched in cultivated varieties.BlogJanGarden20%Reszd2016-01-03 10.11.21 The petiolate leaves are dentate (toothed margins) and sticky. The lower leaves are opposite and ovate or heart-shaped, while the leaves higher up the stem are arranged spirally.

blogsunflowers50reszdimage-157

Blooming in Summer, the inflorescence is a terminal head (capitulum), 10 to 50 centimetres in diameter, with a world record of 87.63 centimetres.BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-23 20.05.37 Each flower head is surrounded by three rows of bracts (phyllaries)- see photo above- and is composed of sterile outer yellow (or orange/ rust red) ray florets, which attract pollinators, and fertile inner brownish disc florets.blogsunflowers50reszdimage-160 A single flower head may have up to two thousand disc florets, each with the potential to develop into a seed. If there are multiple flower heads on the same plant, the number of disc florets per head will be much lower.BlogSummerDays20%Reszd2015-12-28 09.50.43 The disc florets open in sequence, beginning at the periphery of the disc and moving inward. The disc florets are arranged in spiral whorls from the centre of the flowerhead, according to the famous Fibonacci sequence, which allows for the uniform packing of the maximum number of seeds on a seed head without any central overcrowding or bare patches at the outside edges. The Fibonacci sequence is a number set, in which each number is the sum of the previous two numbers: ie 1, 1, 2, 3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34, 55, 89, 144, 233, 377, 610 and so on, and was described by Fibonacci (also known as Leonardo of Pisa) in his book : Liber Abaci in 1202.image-159-copy-copy

In the case of sunflowers, count the clockwise and counterclockwise spirals that reach the outer edge, and you’ll usually find a pair of numbers from the sequence: 34 and 55, or 55 and 89, or—with very large sunflowers—89 and 144. Another interesting mathematical fact is that each floret is oriented to the next by the Golden Angle, 137.5 degrees.BlogJanGarden20%Reszd2016-01-03 19.38.59 Botanists have not yet been able to determine a mechanistic model that fully explains how the sunflower seed patterns arise, as some  plants don’t always show perfect Fibonacci numbers. A study published by the Royal Society Open Science on 18 May 2016 of 657 sunflower photos revealed one in five flowers had either a non-Fibonacci spiralling pattern or more complicated patterns, including near-Fibonacci sequences and other mathematical patterns that compete and clash across the flower head. See: http://rsos.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/3/5/160091 . Another interesting link is: https://plus.maths.org/content/sunflowers. Click on the first article in the search results: ‘Citizen scientists count sunflower spirals’ by Marianne Freiberger.

For more information about sunflowers and the Fibonnaci sequence, see :

http://momath.org/home/fibonacci-numbers-of-sunflower-seed-spirals/

and    https://www.mathsisfun.com/numbers/nature-golden-ratio-fibonacci.html.BlogJanGarden20%Reszd2016-01-05 16.04.53Another fascinating fact about sunflowers is their heliotropism (sun tracking) when young. During growth, sunflower leaves and flowers tilt to face the sun during the day, accounting for their French and Portuguese names: Tournesol (French) and Girassol (Portuguese). As the buds open, the flexible part of the stem tissue (the pulvinus) hardens and heliotropism ceases, the sunflower blooms permanently facing east, thereby acting as a living compass!BlogSummerDays20%Reszd2015-12-27 17.41.12 Sunflowers are pollinated by bees, though some modern varieties are fully self-fertile. The following website has some interesting information about sunflower pollination, which highlights the importance of bees. See: http://www.pollinator.ca/bestpractices/sunflowers.html. Initially, each floret is male, the pollen-bearing anthers extending above the rim of the floret, then later on, the style emerges and the stigmatic lobes spread, opening the receptive surfaces for pollination – see the photo below. If there is enough pollinator activity, the pollen is removed from each floret before the stigma opens, reducing the chances for self-pollination. The resultant seeds are 15 to 25 mm long and vary in colour from white to brown and black and even striped.BlogFeb Garden20%Reszd2016-02-12 10.24.58Growing Conditions and Propagation

Heat and drought-tolerant, sunflowers are very easy to grow in most climates, so long as they have full sun all day  (6 to 8 hours) and well-dug, nutrient-rich, well-drained soil. They are propagated by seed. Dig the seed bed well with plenty of manure/ compost, as they are heavy feeders, then rake the soil level. Broadcast the seed and rake into the surface or plant seeds individually to a depth of 2 cm. In cool temperate climates, sow seed in Spring after the last frost (we sowed our Burgundy Spray sunflower seeds on 7 October last year); in warm temperate climates, from late Winter to late Spring; and in frost-free subtropical and tropical regions, seed can be sown all year round, though Autumn to Spring is best. Sunflowers prefer long, hot Summers and hot wet humid Summers increase the risk of fungal diseases like downy or powdery mildew or rust. Mulch the seedbed with chopped sugar cane or lucerne to retain moisture, keep the soil cool and deter pigeons or mice. As the seedlings develop, thin them according to the size of the plants. Giant Russian sunflowers grow to over 4m high with a flowerhead of 5o cm, so require 1.5 m between each plant.BlogJanGarden20%ReszdIMG_5166 Water or foliar feed weekly with seaweed extract in the morning, so that the foliage is dry by sunset, also reducing the risk of fungal mould and rot. For show flowers and maximum seed production, apply two handfuls of poultry manure per square metre when the seedlings are 15 cm high and a 4 cm layer of well-rotted cow manure and compost when they reach 0.5 m in height. Stake the stems when necessary- old pantihose are good. The dwarf varieties should flower within 10 to 12 weeks of sowing, while the taller varieties take 12 to 16 weeks to bloom. Our Burgundy Spray sunflower had its first bloom open at 12 weeks, just in time to celebrate the New Year! We harvested the seeds on the 23 February 2016.BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-25 11.10.42

If your plants are affected by fungal disease, a general fungicide can be applied. Slugs and snails love browsing on the stems and leaves of sunflowers, so spray the seedlings with an organic snail bait or a mixture of 1 part espresso coffee to 3 parts of water, then mulch, repeating after heavy rain or irrigation. Bees and butterflies love the flowers, while birds, rodents, squirrels and deer are attracted to the sunflower seed, though large amounts are fatal to the latter! There are numerous insect pests, most of which attack other plants as well. More information on these insects and their management can be found on :http://ipmguidelinesforgrains.com.au/wp-content/uploads/Sunflower_IPM-Workshops_north-March2013.pdf and https://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/plantsci/pests/e1457.pdf BlogFeb Garden20%ReszdIMG_0005 (2) Seed heads should be harvested when very dry ie once the back of the flower heads are turning yellow or brown. Tie paper bags over their heads, then cut the stems and hang upside-down in a dry, well-ventilated place till fully dry.BlogFeb Garden20%Reszd2016-02-12 10.21.10 The seed head can be sharply struck or rubbed across an old washboard to release the seeds. To process sunflower seed for consumption, soak them overnight in a bucket of 1 gallon (4.5 litres) water and 1 cup salt. Redry in a 250 degree Fahrenheit (120 degrees Celsius) oven for 4 to 5 hours and store in airtight containers.For replanting,  the seeds are viable for 5 years, according to: http://tcpermaculture.com/site/2013/06/14/how-long-will-seeds-last-stay-viable/, but if you want to check their viability before planting, see: http://homeguides.sfgate.com/check-sunflower-seeds-viable-68389.html.

Uses

Sunflowers are grown extensively throughout the world for human and animal food and sunflower oil production. There are two types grown. The first is oilseed, a very small black seed  with a very high  oil content , which  is processed into sunflower oil and meal and is also the seed of choice of most bird feeders. The second type is non-oilseed (confectionery sunflower), a larger black and white striped seed used in a variety of food products from snacks to bread. Sunflower seeds are rich in healthy fats, oil, vitamin E, protein, fibre and minerals and can be eaten raw or roasted for a savory snack or ground into a seed paste (Sun Butter) like peanut butter. They are excellent for promoting heart health and lowering cholesterol. The seeds can also be ground into a sunflower meal and used as a substitute for wheat flour in breads and cakes and the seed husks can be ground into a coffee-like beverage.blogsunflowers20reszdimg_0176 Sunflowers are also widely used as an animal food, mainly for birds (seeds) and cattle (forage crop or a high protein meal, which is a by-product of sunflower oil extraction and is often blended with soya bean meal). The seeds can also be pressed to make an  oil, which has been used in salads and for cooking, margarine production and in industry : as drying oils for paints and varnishes and in beauty products like soap and cosmetics. However, readers should be aware that there is some research about health risks associated with cooking with vegetable oils. See these links for further information: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/health/news/11981884/Cooking-with-vegetable-oils-releases-toxic-cancer-causing-chemicals-say-experts.html and https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20886885. The cooking oil is recycled as a biofuel. For more on the commercial industry overview of sunflowers in the United States, see: http://www.sunflowernsa.com  and   http://www.soyatech.com/sunflower_facts.htm. Sunflower oil can also be used in medicine: for constipation and lowering bad LDL cholesterol or applied directly to the skin for poorly healing wounds, skin injuries, psoriasis and arthritis and as a massage oil.blogsunflowers20reszdimg_0171Native Americans also grew sunflowers for food and oil, medicine, fibre and dyes , as well as to provide shelter for crops of maize, pumpkins and beans. The juice from the stems was used to treat wounds and an infusion of the plant in water was used to treat kidney and chest pain. The fibre from the stalks could be made into cloth and both the seeds and flower heads yielded a dye: purple, blue and black from the seeds and a bright yellow from the flowers.image-159-copySunflowers can also be grown as a green manure crop, the plants being dug into the ground once the seedlings reach a height of 30 cm. The plants can bioaccumulate heavy metals in contaminated soil, like lead, arsenic and uranium, and were used to remove nuclear fallout after the Chernobyl and Fukushima disasters.image-160-copy-copyAnd finally, sunflowers are commonly used in floristry and are often given on the third wedding anniversary as a sign of adoration, strength and loyalty. Stems should be cut early in the morning before the flowerbuds are fully open- preferably ½ to ¾ open. If buying them, the leaves should be a strong green colour and the stems should be strong. They must be sold with a water source, as they shock easily. Remove any foliage below water level and cut the stems on a sharp diagonal (2 to 4 cm from the stem ends), under water if possible to avoid air blockages in the stems. Do NOT bash the stems. Use a preservative to maintain open flowers and change the vase water daily. The flowers have a vase life of 7 to 10 days. The leaves will wilt and die before the flowers, so only retain the upper leaves. To help prevent leaf drooping, add 10 drops of household detergent to 5 litres of water and leave in this solution for 1 to 3  hours, but no longer than overnight. If the leaves do start to droop, immediately recut the stems up to 6 cm and place in deep water with preservative for up to 3 hours. If the flowers droop completely, recut the stems and place them in boiling water to clear the blockage quickly (though the lifespan of the flower will be halved).

I really enjoyed researching my last feature post for this year. The sunflower is a fascinating plant and I hope you enjoyed the post as much as I enjoyed writing it.  If I have whetted your appetite to know more, it would be worth trying to source ‘Sunflowers: the Secret History’ by Joe Pappalardo. See: http://www.overlookpress.com/sunflowers-the-secret-history.html.

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The January Garden

What a wonderful Summer we have been enjoying! Perfect temperatures in the late-20s with some mid-30s and the odd scorcher above 40 degrees Celsius, as well as Summer storms and beautiful rain, resulting in flooded creeks and river beds early in the new year. It is always good to see a decent amount of water in Candelo Creek and the birds love it! I couldn’t catch the fast-flying reed warblers, but I did see this gorgeous swamp hen on her grassy platform, which was at the back right of the large central island in the 2nd photo.

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Looking down Candelo Creek from the bridge
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Looking up Candelo Creek from the bridge

BlogJanGarden20%Reszd2016-01-03 10.02.51There has been so much growth in the garden! The stems of the climbing roses on the Main Pergola are so long and are urging its immediate construction! We ordered 4 freshly-cut, 3.2 m long stringybark posts yesterday, so the roses and I can’t wait for the building to start!BlogJanGarden20%Reszd2016-01-03 10.06.23Ross also wired up Lamarque, the climbing rose on the front wall of the house, to train its increasingly wayward canes, as well as making a raspberry trellis at the back of the northern vegie patch. We will transplant all the new canes to the vacant half of the trellis this Winter, so have sowed some multi-coloured sweet pea seed for a last crop in Autumn.

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Educating Lamarque!
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Ross sowing Sweet Pea seeds under the new raspberry trellis

We also planted some very special dahlia seeds given to us by a dear friend. I can’t wait to see the colour combinations in Autumn. While Ross was sowing seed, I collected the bupleurium seed.

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Planting the special Dahlia seed
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Bupleurium seedhead

When we were ordering the pergola posts, we also picked up 50 old red bricks, so we were able to complete the brick edging around the Moon Bed. It looks terrific and will make maintenance so much easier. I would really like to edge the Soho Bed in a similar fashion, though we might have to use smaller broken bricks on their ends because of the continuous curve of the circle.

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Ross laying the brick edging of the Moon Bed
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I didn’t even notice Ross’s deviation joke!!!

We have also done lots of watering, weeding and mulching throughout the month, not to mention giving that rampant pumpkin a severe haircut!!!BlogJanGarden20%ReszdIMG_5799BlogJanGarden20%ReszdIMG_6747BlogJanGarden20%ReszdIMG_5490All Ross’s hard work in the garden is now paying off! Even though the potato plants have struggled, we still had a good crop and we are harvesting red and gold heritage tomatoes every day. We made a second batch of Wild Plum Jam and more Basil Pesto.BlogJanGarden20%ReszdIMG_5146BlogJanGarden20%ReszdIMG_4529BlogJanGarden20%ReszdIMG_5131BlogJanGarden20%ReszdIMG_5733BlogJanGarden20%Reszd2016-01-05 16.13.20We feast on delicious fresh salads, divine home-made pesto and tasty pizzas for lunch! The pizzas were made with our own onion, tomatoes, capsicum, basil and pesto.

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All home-grown except for the eggs!!!

BlogJanGarden20%ReszdIMG_5406The plums have been superb! We have been eagerly awaiting the ripening of the large purple plums and after a spell of warm days, we harvested 2 buckets worth. We kept a third of the ripest to eat for breakfast, then experimented with 2 different recipes : http://www.taste.com.au/recipes/11891/dolous+dark+plum+jam and http://www.sbs.com.au/food/recipes/backyard-plum-jam. Both have similar ingredients, but their method and timing differ. The first probably set better than the 2nd, but both are delicious and we now have 15 jars of divine Plum Jam for our pantry. And there are still more plums on the tree!BlogJanGarden20%ReszdIMG_5849

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Ingredients for Plum Jam : Plums, water, sugar and lemon juice. I didn’t end up using the limes, as I had enough juice from the old lemons in the tub!

BlogJanGarden20%ReszdIMG_5794Our neighbour’s pear tree also has a bumper crop!BlogJanGarden20%ReszdIMG_5782We have had plenty of avian visitors to the garden, keeping a close eye on the ripening of the fruit. We have chased off a number of raiding parties of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos.

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Yum-a-Plum!!!
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This smart cookie was cleaning up the fallen plums underneath the tree
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Munching on plums
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This bird definitely needs a bib!!!

Oliver and Twist have been regular visitors to the verandah. They seem to like our company and chatter away to us, good-naturedly accepting our less-than-perfect-host behaviour by refusing to feed them! They like nibbling away at the fresh winged seeds of the nearby maple.

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I love the under-colours of the female King Parrots!
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Twist on the verandah
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Oliver is the more confident of the two!
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Oliver sheltering from the rain
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A Maple seed feast

The Crimson Rosellas are also enjoying the Duranta berries and at least one of them has been led astray by Oliver and has tried joining him on the verandah!BlogJanGarden20%ReszdIMG_5316BlogJanGarden20%Reszd2016-01-03 14.39.03

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Crimson Rosellas also have beautiful colours underneath!

We even have a young Butcher-Bird, much to the alarm of the other bird parents.BlogJanGarden20%ReszdIMG_5298The January garden is full of flowers! We have been so impressed with the pink sweet peas, which despite their late start, have positively exploded and are enjoying a long season!BlogJanGarden20%ReszdIMG_5213BlogJanGarden20%ReszdIMG_5216The Burgundy sunflowers are equally impressive for their colour, boldness and vigour, producing many many flower heads.BlogJanGarden20%ReszdIMG_5166

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Sunflowers after rain

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This bloom literally glows!
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Caroline’s wonderful watercolour painting also looks alive!
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The geometric form of the new blooms is stunning!

The dahlias are still brightening up the cutting garden with their generosity, as are the calendulas.BlogJanGarden20%ReszdIMG_5487

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This wet dahlia bud has a metallic glow!

They have been joined by exotic scarlet, gold, orange and pink zinnias. Their colours are so intense, as is the purple of the cosmos.BlogJanGarden20%ReszdIMG_6764BlogJanGarden20%ReszdIMG_6766BlogJanGarden20%ReszdIMG_6741BlogJanGarden20%ReszdIMG_6650BlogJanGarden20%ReszdIMG_5831BlogJanGarden20%Reszd2016-01-05 17.32.17The Tree Dahlias have surpassed the shed roof and the corner of the house is a mass of blue and mauve hydrangea mopheads. They are my monthly feature plant for February!BlogHydrangeas20%ReszdIMG_5331BlogHydrangeas20%ReszdIMG_5333The agapanthus provide a sea of blue to cool the senses on the really hot days.BlogJanGarden20%ReszdIMG_5221And the roses continue to romance us! The Moon Bed looks so pretty with it soft pink, cream and gold David Austin roses.

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Golden Celebration
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Heritage
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Troilus
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Lucetta

The Soho Bed is also undergoing a fresh burst of blooms.

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Lolita
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Just Joey
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Ice Girl
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Mr. Lincoln

The climbers are also throwing out fresh blooms.

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Devoniensis
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An older bloom of Devoniensis
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Mme Alfred Carrière
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Alister Stella Gray

My rose cuttings from last Winter are thriving and their roots have reached the base of their 2nd larger pots already, so we have decided to plant them out in their final positions over the next few weeks to make the most of the growing season.

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Planting cuttings of Mme Isaac Pereire and Fantin Latour on the shed fence
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Planting the species rose : R. foetida bicolor on the bottom fence
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The Reve d’Or cutting has a flower
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The Leander cutting also has a bloom

The diversity of the insect world in the garden continues to astound us. We discovered the culprit, which defoliated our potato plants : the larvae of the 28-spotted ladybird (Epilachna vigintoctopunctata). It appears that not all ladybirds are good!!!BlogJanGarden20%Reszd2016-01-05 17.27.51BlogJanGarden20%Reszd2016-01-05 16.15.13BlogJanGarden20%Reszd2016-01-03 19.37.34These red beetles were much more attractive, but had little impact on either the pumpkins or the sunflowers!BlogJanGarden20%ReszdIMG_5121BlogJanGarden20%Reszd2016-01-05 16.06.51These beetles were mating on rhubarb leaves.BlogJanGarden20%Reszd2016-01-05 16.10.56I love the jewel-like beetles on the raspberry below. One could almost forgo that berry for their beauty!But not our precious cumquats for the 2016 marmalade season!BlogJanGarden20%Reszd2016-01-05 16.18.18

Our stink bugs continue to thwart Ross’s efforts to eliminate them!  Unfortunately, their awful smell cancels out any benign thoughts or appreciation of their own unique beauty!

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The Cumquat Battle
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Post-War breeding!
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First of the Baby Boomers!
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Almost armour-plated!

This little moth is in heaven!

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Heritage Moth (as in rose!)

The handsome Orchard Butterfly is back, flitting heavily from the buddleias to the Soho Bed.BlogJanGarden20%ReszdIMG_5625BlogJanGarden20%ReszdIMG_5599There are some stunning wasps and spiders.BlogJanGarden20%Reszd2016-01-05 16.28.02BlogJanGarden20%Reszd2016-01-05 16.30.32BlogJanGarden20%Reszd2016-01-03 15.20.28These cute little grasshoppers are hopefully behaving themselves!

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His antennae extend beyond the photo edge!
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Ready for Lift-Off!!!

Summer also means lots of beautiful bouquets for the house!

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Dahlias, Catmint and Sweet Peas
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Monbretia, Calendulas, Poppies, Feverfew, Blue Salvia and Stock
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Sweet Peas, Stock and Catmint

And it’s been so wonderful having our daughter here on holidays. Lots of exploring our beautiful local area, as well as relaxing at home. Caroline always enjoys sewing when she visits and made this beautiful cushion- the pattern sourced from : http://cluckclucksew.com/2011/03/tutorial-sprocket-pillows.html.

We actually made it a little larger, so she could use it as a floor cushion. We had a quick impromptu lesson on tassel-making from the habadashery lady, as she had no gold tassels in stock, then Caro made all 12 from gold embroidery thread within half an hour! I was very impressed!!! We had even more fun attaching the central buttons! Having pulled both buttons together tight, we were trying to hide the thread end and actually lost the entire needle inside the cushion!!! Fortunately, we were able to retrieve it and disaster was averted!!!BlogJanGarden20%Reszd2016-01-16 20.21.33BlogJanGarden20%Reszd2016-01-16 20.21.06Caro has also had a lot of fun with her watercolours. Having had a lesson from her friend on the way over, she really developed her technique over the holidays. She loves painting animals, especially in quirky or fantastical  situations. Here is some of her work!BlogJanGarden20%ReszdIMG_5802BlogJanGarden20%Reszd2016-01-05 15.48.43BlogJanGarden20%ReszdIMG_6652BlogJanGarden20%Reszd2016-01-11 18.47.42BlogJanGarden20%ReszdIMG_5464

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Summer Days

The first garden post of 2016 and what a wonderful Summer we are having! Apart from a few scorchers, followed by recuperative rain, the days have been long and sunny and in the very civilized mid-twenties!!! Perfect for eating ice creams, swimming at the beach (or pool, if the thought of swimming with sting rays doesn’t appeal! See Caro’s great photos below), sun baking, feasting on plums, seed saving and …. making Mint Jelly, of course!!!

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My daughter’s icecream cone- a selfie of sorts!
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A lovely afternoon at Terrace Beach

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Our local swimming hole, home of the sting rays below
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Swimming companions
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Who wouldn’t want to swim with them?!!!
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Our resident Blue-Tongue Lizard sunbaking

Our mint, like the pumpkins, zucchinis, sunflowers, tree dahlias and hydrangeas, was indulging in EXCESSIVE growth, so my son gave it a severe haircut and brought in 2 massive jugs of Garden Mint and Peppermint. The kitchen smelt divine!!! I tied the latter into bunches for drying in the shed. We love our Peppermint Tea!BlogSummerDays20%Reszd2015-12-26 12.06.26BlogSummerDays20%Reszd2015-12-26 12.06.47BlogSummerDays20%Reszd2015-12-26 13.11.05And obviously, Mint Jelly was the way to go to make the best use of that beautiful Garden Mint, but we had no pectin and the apples, which we had bought before Christmas, were looking far too old to have much pectin in them still!!! Luckily, we have lots of new green apples ripening on the tree, so I picked a basketful from the lower branches. Ross had been wanting to prune them, as they were scraping the ground, but I had wanted the apples first, so it was a win-win situation and now there is much more light under the tree for the camellia to grow.

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Pruned at long last!
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Still plenty of apples!
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Home-grown ingredients for Mint Jelly

I found a lovely recipe for Mint Jelly on the internet. See : http://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/mint_jelly/, though it only yielded 2 jars (compared to the 4 jars cited)and I did have to suspend the muslin bag of mushed apple & mint over the bowl overnight. I boiled the juice and sugar mix for a full 20 minutes and was VERY impressed with the jelly formation!! It’s a beautiful golden colour- I decided not to add green food colouring, which is what gives commercial Mint Jelly its green colour! Can’t wait for a leg of roast lamb now!!! Don’t you just love these preserving jars- a Christmas gift from a dear friend.

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Roughly chopped apples (no peeling or coring) and chopped mint
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Cooking with vinegar prior to mashing
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Apple pulp suspended in a muslin cloth overnight to strain the juice
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Very impressive jelly formation
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Our very first Mint Jelly ever!

My next task was to make plum jam. There are far too many fallen fruits on the grass below the plum tree. Why should birds have all the fun!!!BlogSummerDays20%Reszd2015-12-26 12.57.35BlogSummerDays20%Reszd2015-12-27 12.08.19BlogSummerDays20%Reszd2015-12-27 12.08.11BlogSummerDays20%Reszd2015-12-27 12.06.20There was a very quiet Sulphur-crested Cockatoo (hard to believe, I know!), munching into the plums when I took this photo and all you could hear was the slight rustle of leaves and the gentle plop of fruit as it hit the ground! The cockatoo in the last photo kept on eating while we were harvesting plums.BlogSummerDays20%Reszd2015-12-27 11.58.06BlogSummerDays20%Reszd2015-12-27 11.57.13

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Sprung!

There were also a couple resting in the nearby poplar tree- having their lunchtime nap, grooming, surveying the fruit canopies for future plunder and generally minding their own business- for the moment anyway!!!BlogSummerDays20%Reszd2015-12-27 12.34.13BlogSummerDays20%Reszd2015-12-27 12.06.52BlogSummerDays20%Reszd2015-12-27 12.41.29BlogSummerDays20%Reszd2015-12-27 12.35.34

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Perhaps not so quiet!

Last Wednesday, the huge population of Little Corellas suddenly vanished into thin air! I’d love to know where they went to and why then?! It is SO quiet without them (and rather relaxing I must admit) !! We still see the odd little grouping and a few galahs, but the majority have gone. There must have been a great New Year’s Eve Party somewhere else!!!

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Cockatoo cousins: Three Little Corellas

While I was photographing the Sulphur-crested Cockatoos from the verandah, a resident pair of Striated Pardalotes were feeding on insects in the old Pepperina tree. They are such lovely quiet little birds!BlogSummerDays20%Reszd2015-12-27 12.38.31BlogSummerDays20%Reszd2015-12-27 12.38.55

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Not so quiet either, but quieter than the cockatoos!

BlogSummerDays20%Reszd2015-12-27 12.43.31And on the evening of New Year’s Day, Oliver decided to pay a visit- no doubt wanting to start the year the way he meant to carry on. Alas, Ross wouldn’t let us succumb to his advances (the King Parrot that is!)!!!

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A very quiet, obviously hand-fed King Parrot!
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Oliver returns to try and retrain us for 2016!
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Such a beautiful bird- how could we resist?!! (But we did !!!)

All fired up with the success of my Mint Jelly and wanting to make the most of the plum crop before those cockatoos ate them all, we harvested the closest ripe plums, then made 6 bottles of Wild Plum Jam, following this lovely recipe : http://www.cottagesmallholder.com/two-wild-plum-jam-recipes-38/.BlogSummerDays20%Reszd2015-12-27 17.45.05BlogSummerDays20%Reszd2015-12-27 17.45.22BlogSummerDays20%Reszd2015-12-27 18.01.05

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Washed plums in water

Because quite a few of the plums were deep red and fully ripe and the rest were soft, we decided to use the 2nd recipe, though we did split the plums, which weren’t fully ripe. It is a very easy straightforward recipe. We had 1.5 Kg of fruit and I used 1 Kg of caster sugar. The most tedious bit (and it really wasn’t too much of a problem!) was fishing out the pips at the end, though I managed to remove many of them during the last stage of the boiling process, using a slotted spoon and long tweezers.

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Warm sugar added and set to boil
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Depipped setting jam
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Bottling
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Wild Plum Jam

Then we bottled the setting jam in my friend’s beautiful jars, labelled them and stored them in the pantry. I love the red glow through the glass. It reminds me of the wonderful image in Salmonberries (the film with the beautiful haunting soundtrack, which introduced us to the magnificent voice of KD Lang)) of light filtering through Summer-made jams on glass shelves in the window of the librarian’s cottage in the depths of the freezing snowy white Alaskan Winter! Quite magical!!!

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Wild Plum Jam
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Late afternoon sun shining through bottles of Wild Plum Jam and Mint Jelly

This week, I also processed all the dried poppy and tulip seeds for sowing next year, though I just couldn’t discard the attractive tulip seed heads. Next time, I will cut them with longer stems, as I think they would look great in flower arrangements! I should have saved some of the poppy heads for this purpose too, but had to cut into the seed heads to get all the seed. Mind you, there were millions of seeds, and there are still a few poppy plants in the Soho Bed, so I will definitely reserve a few flower head stems next time!!! Amazing that those tiny little seeds hold so much life potential and grow into such enormous plants with such beautiful blowsy blooms!!! Nature really is a miracle!!!BlogSummerDays20%Reszd2015-12-27 11.09.09

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Processing Peony Poppy seedheads
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Peony Poppy seed

Pity help me when it comes to processing sunflower seeds! The heads are enormous!!!

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Velvety brown ‘Burgundy Spray’ Sunflowers
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This beetle’s colour complements the sunflower head
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Hitching a ride!

They dominate the garden and the lead plant is now taller than the maple  behind it in the photo. I love the way their nodding heads follow the sun – the 1st photo was taken in the morning (flower head facing east- full face on in photo), the 3rd that afternoon (flower head has turned to the south – towards the left edge of photo).BlogSummerDays20%Reszd2015-12-27 12.02.02BlogSummerDays20%ReszdIMG_3870BlogSummerDays20%Reszd2015-12-27 17.41.12The Soho Bed looks so lovely, now that most of the brown dying poppy plants have been removed and the garden has been weeded. Time for some more mulch!!!BlogSummerDays20%Reszd2015-12-27 10.50.15BlogSummerDays20%Reszd2015-12-27 12.09.25The roses are still superb …

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Penelope
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Penelope is one of my favourites!
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Cornelia
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Lucetta
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Alister Stella Gray
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Golden Celebration
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Evelyn
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Jude the Obscure

We are starting to really enjoy the produce of the vegie garden. We ran out of our supply of store-bought potatoes the other day and Ross was able to pop down to our own ‘store’ to collect some Desiree potatoes and some small Dutch Creams. I still get such a kick out of being able to pick our own vegies straight out of the garden with maximum nutritional goodness and freshness! The tomatoes are just about ready to harvest too.

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Tom Thumb Cherry Tomatoes
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Rouge de Marmande Tomatoes
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A baby pumpkin forming

We planted Angelica in the cutting garden, pink Bergamot and yellow Geum in the Soho Bed and Sage in a pot by the kitchen door. I love Angelica- not only is it a pretty plant, but it is a great sugar substitute! It will grow much larger than the photo below, so we have planted it at the back of the Cutting Garden.BlogSummerDays20%Reszd2015-12-29 10.31.45And the first of the Zinnias is flowering! I love their bold bright colours!!BlogSummerDays20%Reszd2016-01-01 11.36.07It is so hard to believe that we have almost been here a full year! The garden has developed so much and we are very happy with the basic design. It is wonderful seeing established beds, as we had envisaged them, compared to the bare lawn when we first arrived. Ross is a fantastic gardener and the resident blackbirds have done a stirling job under his supervision! I am looking forward to seeing the shrubs and hedges reach their full potential, as well as building all the garden structures : the Main Pergola and wooden arches to mark either end of the central path, the compost bays and chook shed & yard and finally the glass house!

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Our garden by the end of 2015
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The Under Gardener surveying the vegie patch
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Looking back at the Cutting Garden from the shade of the Wild Plum tree
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Monbretias lining the side path- apart from the pots, it is much the same as when we first arrived
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Summer is definitely here!

Because we have completed the seasonal cycle for 2015, rather than repeat myself, I will focus on new developments in the garden and special events, as well as perhaps taking a more in-depth look at some of the stand-out flowers of the month. I will leave you with a photo of my neighbour’s front hedge of 4 O’Clock Flower, also known as Beauty-of-the-Night or Marvel of Peru  (Mirabilis jalapa), which contrasts beautifully with her lovely blue house. I love all the variation in colours, especially when combined in the one flower! Another marvellous creation of Mother Nature!BlogSummerDays20%Reszd2015-12-25 19.00.04BlogSummerDays20%Reszd2015-12-25 19.01.16BlogSummerDays20%Reszd2015-12-25 19.01.50BlogSummerDays20%Reszd2015-12-25 19.01.35BlogSummerDays20%Reszd2015-12-25 19.01.45‘Mirabilis’ means ‘wonderful’ in Latin, so on that note….!

All our Love and Very Best Wishes for a Mirabilis 2016!!!BlogSummerDays20%Reszd2015-12-28 15.47.25P.S. Fireworks over Merimbula to usher in 2016! It’s obviously going to be a year full of music!BlogSummerDays20%Reszd2015-12-31 22.59.55-1BlogSummerDays20%ReszdIMG_4167BlogSummerDays20%ReszdIMG_4165BlogSummerDays20%ReszdIMG_4188BlogSummerDays40%ReszdIMG_4178 - Copy (2)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Festive Season

Seasons Greetings! We hope you all had a wonderful relaxing Christmas and are now gearing up for New Year. We had a lovely first Christmas here in Candelo with perfect weather in the mid-twenties.BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-23 10.21.17 My daughter was up early and not because she couldn’t wait! She has been babysitting our neighbour’s beautiful black Labradors and they were very impatient for the day to begin! Caro took the following photos:

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Photogenic Dougal in Black-and-White
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Everything a girl could want: a guitar, computer, mobile phone and a friend staying over!
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Dougal and Jamie with their Christmas toys
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Do you have to go up for Christmas?

We started the day in a very civilized fashion with delicious fruit, sourdough toast and lime marmalade and tea before sitting down to open our gifts.

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Christmas 2015
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The youngest always distributes the presents!
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A reminder of Caro’s field study on moulting Fairy Penguins
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Christmas breakfast

My daughter has rediscovered water colour painting and has been busy this past week making beautiful cards for all her family and friends.

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Watercolour cards for Christmas
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A kookaburra for Ross and a hedgehog for me
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More cute watercolour cards
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A Christmas card for sister Jen and her boyfriend
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The fox and the butterfly

We organized Christmas lunch, then I popped down to the neighbour’s house for a Christmas photo shoot with the dogs! They are such characters!! It was quite a saga getting them to wear their antlers at the same time and long enough to be photographed!BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-23 13.25.10BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-23 13.23.51BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-23 13.28.17I love Dougal’s eyes! He is such a handsome fellow, but a bit of a rogue!BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-23 13.28.41BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-23 13.29.08Caro has a real soft spot for Jamie!BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-23 13.26.44Lunch was delicious! Roast turkey with fig, orange and cranberry stuffing, ham, roast potatoes, roast pumpkin with rosemary, little onions roasted in thyme and balsalmic vinegar, green beans and a delicious home-grown, red cabbage dish. We crashed for a much-needed sleep, forgetting that we had left the pudding on to boil! Luckily, Ross topped up the water and even though it boiled for an extra hour than it should have, it didn’t affect it and I think it was the best Christmas Pudding ever! Thank you Syd for the tip about Gladwrap – a perfect seal (see my late November post: Christmas Pudding Wishes : https://candeloblooms.com/2015/11/26/christmas-pudding-wishes/) . We were also very impressed with the Christmas Cake this year- lovely and moist and not burnt for once!!!BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-23 15.21.47BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-23 17.42.47BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-23 17.40.09The festive season has also definitely begun in the bird world! The Little Corellas (white) and Pink Galahs are loving the ripe Duranta berries.BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-20 10.13.25BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-22 20.27.54BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-20 10.07.44BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-22 20.28.02Some of their more rogueish elements have also started on the plums and apples!BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-19 20.59.37BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-20 10.08.24BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-20 10.13.59I am always amazed at the pink plumage of Galahs and Little Corellas are such endearing clowns with their blue eye patches and engaging antics!BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-25 20.27.20BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-22 20.28.28BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-20 10.08.51We are still treated nightly to their aerial manouevres and mass flock spectacles, occasionally livened up with a blur of pink from the galahs joining in!

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A blur of pink!
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Mixed flock of Little Corellas with the odd Galah!
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The density of the flocks always amazes me!
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A tree decked in pink!
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Night-time companions

It is lovely having the Eastern Spinebills back in the garden and the verandah is an ideal spot to watch them sucking the nectar from the agapanthus.BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-24 12.37.58The latter are now in full bloom and absolutely stunning!BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-23 13.35.37BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-22 18.29.53BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-25 19.03.26BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-22 18.30.44The hydrangeas are forming giant flower heads of soft mauve, blue and pink.BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-25 19.06.29BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-25 19.06.22BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-23 20.10.44BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-25 19.06.41We were thrilled to discover a Blue-banded Bee (Amegilla cingulata) in the Soho Bed. ‘Cingulata’ comes from the Latin ‘Cingulum’ (belt), referring to the bands. Apparently, the males have 5 stripes and the females 4 stripes on their abdomen. These beautiful Australian native bees are quite solitary, unlike their Honey Bee cousins. The males cling to the plant stems overnight, while the females live in burrows in the soil or soft stone and have a limited foraging range within 300 m of their nest, so they must be resident in the garden! Perhaps they nest in between the old bricks of the Soho Bed path. Apparently, they love blue flowers, so they should feel very at home in our garden with all the lavender, blue salvia, agapanthus and hydrangeas! Photo 1 shows a Blue-banded Bee on a Lavender stalk. The 2nd photo is a close-up, in case you could not find it! BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-21 11.58.47BlogFestiveSeason30%Reszd2015-12-21 11.58.47 (2)Here is a Honey Bee on a rose leaf.

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The Soho Bed is the home of the Blue-banded Bee.BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-21 11.28.50Perhaps, the female has her nest in between the old bricks of the path, shown in Photo 5, with the Pink Verbena.BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-23 19.59.52The insect world and its ingenious defensive mechanisms and camouflage never ceases to amaze me! If I was a bird, I wouldn’t want to eat this spiky spider with its yellow dots.BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-19 16.12.49 Nor this spider with the scary face on its bottom!!! BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-19 16.44.26This spiky furry caterpillar would be quite a mouthful! (Caro’s photo)BlogFestiveSeason70%Reszd2015-12-20 06.38.27

I love all their patterns and dots.BlogFestiveSeason40%Reszd2015-12-19 16.36.19 (2)BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-25 11.11.19BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-21 11.55.48BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-21 10.51.59BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-22 18.30.22We felt pretty special finding this Christmas Beetle down in the vegie garden on Christmas Day.BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-22 18.27.23Another very exciting discovery on the day after Boxing Day was the opening of the sunflower blooms, all ready for the New Year!BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-23 20.05.37BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-25 11.10.42BlogFestiveSeason20%Reszd2015-12-25 11.11.04The pumpkin flowers are prolific and their parent plants and the zucchini plants continue their relentless march across the garden, consuming everything in their path!

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A pumpkin flower
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Heading for the Moon (Bed)!
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Pumpkin Attack!

I love all the warm colours in the garden too : the Dahlias, the Red Hot Pokers, the Calla Lily seeds and all the ripening fruit and vegies.