June 18th, 2011
It is June and winter has really got a grip on the garden outside. Only two and a half months left to prepare the garden for spring. One of the wonderful things about living in southern Australia is the changing seasons. There are special things about each season which one looks forward to with delight and anticipation.
Winter is a time to day dream and plan. You need to take stock and if it is too wet and cold it is very important to snuggle down in a comfortable couch with a few good gardening magazines or books and do some serious dreaming. If it is not too cold or wet you can go for a walk around and look carefully at the garden beds to decide which should be cut back and mulched down against the cold. During this quiet time, when a lot of the garden is dormant I like to look critically at the planting and perhaps make some changes.
One of the very best things about gardening is that nothing is constant, you are always able to lift and change things about. New roses come into the nurseries this month, so I am thinking about where I might fit in another one. It is a real problem in my shady garden, but I am sure I can find some sort of place where another rose might just be happy. There is always the fence, maybe a climbing rose?
This afternoon, in between the rain showers, I and the ducks were busy in the vegetable patch. I don’t get very much sun during winter, so I use this time to boost up my soil with compost and such like things. It is time to use up all the compost in one of my bins to make room for the leaves. So, I put that on and then a sprinkle of lime. I let it sit for a few weeks to sweeten the soil ready for a few seedlings when spring rolls round again. It never takes long you know. The ducks love this, it is one of the only times they get to go into the vege patch, very exciting! And you never ever know what you might find in the compost bin, esp if you are a duck!
Well, happy gardening!
May 29th, 2011
My Mahonia is a beautiful evergreen shrub with hansome glossy leaves and at this time of the year in my garden it is covered with long drooping spikes of fragrant yellow flowers. The birds love it and so do I! Mahonias are really useful plants for hard conditions. Frosty or hot, shady or dry, any position seems to suit them which makes them a perfect choice for me!
It is so wonderful to step out into the garden and smell the fragrance of the flowers and sometimes I bring a few into the house so I can indulge on wet rainy afternoons without getting my feet wet. The Mahonia attracts birds, they love it, esp honeyeaters. I like to plant things that birds can enjoy, I think it is really their garden even more than my own. It seems sad to plant things that can’t help to feed all the birds that live nearby.
Well, I am off out to put the ducks into their little house for the night.
May 26th, 2011
My May garden is at the moment a rather depressing and untidy sight. It is true the weeds are winning once again. The only colour is from my dependable sasanqua camellia. This bush always lifts my spirits at this time of the year. It is a lovely deep red and it attracts the birds who love the nectar. Another hit with the birds of the garden is the pineapple sage in the back yard the little honey eaters love this one.
I have not had the time to spend out in the garden of late, but I mean to get out there very soon and make an assault on all those weeds! I am also planning to rake up all those leaves for my compost. Waste not, want not and I need the exercise!
One exciting thing in my garden is my fig tree, the leaves are dropping and the rest of the figs [the ones I have not already eaten] are juicy and ready for the bowl! Harvest time! Mr Fig tree has done very well indeed, quite enjoying his wet summer and autumn.
Well, I am off out to collect some figs – I plan to serve them with ricotta and honey, a true autumn feast.
March 27th, 2011
This piece should really be titled a day in the life of two ducks and it begins in the dark of the duck house sometime before 8 am. As it gets light around 7.30 probably before then, but it is hard to tell as I am not there at that time. I only see the results when I go to let the girls out around about 8. There they are the two eggs, laying in the nest snug and close, sometimes with a few feathers arranged on the top, sometimes almost buried in the hay. Hidden, you might say. I often wonder about the way the girls lay their eggs and long to borrow David Attenborough’s web cam so I can see wether they both sit together on the nest and lay them next to each other or if one duck does it and then the other one thinks, ‘Well, thats a good idea, perhaps I should go over there and do one of those too!’ Whatever way it happens in the dark of night, when I go to let out the girls -there they usually are!
Of course, getting let out into the back garden is a very exciting event for a duck and there is a great deal of quacking and tut tutting while they patter across and through the back gate to the safety of the back yard where I can keep an eye on them from the kitchen window. Sometimes they will head under the lemon tree or down into the sunken garden to see what delights they may find in and under the mulch. Other days they head for the little paddle pool for a bit of a wash. But whatever they decide to do first up -they move as one. Chattering to each other all the time.
You can learn quite a lot from watching ducks. If for example they are feeling a little nervous, or unsure of themselves the best thing to do is to take a drink of water. This usually makes them feel much better, more in control. Of course, being ducks some of the things they do don’t make any sense at all, but then quite often the things we humans do also make little sense. For example, if they are really scared, maybe the cat next door is close by or somebody visiting me heads out into my back yard to ‘see’ the ducks, they stop what ever they are doing and stretch out their necks and stay very still. I understand the staying still part, but they neck thing seems a little risky when you think about it.
Duck days are really busy, but there is always time for a little nap after lunch. This is best to be had on some warm grass or if the weather is a little chilly, with a bit of a wind on the back door step. And it is very upsetting for a duck when some human should want to use said step to get out of the house during nap time. Ruffled feathers indeed! After the nap it is more of the same, but very, very busy at it! Later in the afternoon, they have a bit of a confrence and decide that it is time to go to the duck house and time to let the human [thats me] know by doing a great deal of quacking. And so, the day ends. Another day in the life of a duck!
March 22nd, 2011
I have a little patch of spare empty space in a garden bed. I plan to fill it with some winter annuals such as Cinerarias or Polyanthus, I am leaning towards the Cinerarias as I have not had a place for them in the garden for quite some years and they are so rewarding to grow. So one little task for the month ahead, or what is left of it is to prepare the area I had in mind by digging in some mulch, perhaps adding a little blood & bone and then heading off to the nursery to bring home some baby plants. Cinerarias are great because they give lovely colour and don’t mind a little shade. They flower at the end of winter and it just lifts the spirits to see them.
Talking about the end of winter, although we are only just beginning autumn it is time, once again for the bulbs. March is the perfect time to plant spring flowering bulbs, especially when we have had all this rain and the ground is nice and soft. I like to get all my bulbs planted by the end of April. So, while I am out purchasing my Cinerarias I will also be checking out some bulbs. The best way to judge the correct depth to plant a bulb is to make a hole twice the depth of the bulb. If you plant closer to the surface, the bulb will be vulnerable to splitting in hot weather.
Last year I did a ‘layer’ pot which worked out very well indeed, most pleased with myself with that one! But this year I might try some coming up inbetween violas or alyssum and I have a great need for some deep blue iris. Of course I will also need a bowl of glorious scented hyacinth, so easy to grow and so incredibly rewarding. Once they start to flower they are a delight to bring inside, where they fill the whole room with their scent.
Well, I am off to buy some bulbs. Happy gardening!
March 18th, 2011
Growing flowers makes the world a more beautiful place to live. Flowers are magic, they are irresistible to birds, bees, butterflies and people as well! Flowers smell good and good smells make you happier, thats why they tell you to smell the roses!
Flowers have deep roots in the human psyche. They make us think of love, passion, harmony, peace, beauty, they are perhaps the most powerful of all human symbols. We present them at births or funerals; brides carry bouquets; lovers send flowers; flowers are brought into hospitals all over to cheer up people who are unwell.
You just can not have too many flowers in the garden, they tell you the season. You are never poor if you have flowers growing in your garden. You can give yourself the gift of a vase of flowers any time you like. You can take a bunch when you visit friends.
Flowers bring back memories. The first red rose your lover gave you, the forget-me-nots you used to pick when you were a little girl, the first camelia you saw open in your first garden. Flowers are magic. Well, I am off to smell the roses!
March 13th, 2011
March is the first month of autumn. This summer has been very wet indeed! Much of my back yard was under water for a day or so and a lot of my little plants, even some big ones either washed away or seem very unhappy and might well need to be replaced. The soil might need a little bit of a helping hand as well, with forking it over and adding in some mulch, start to build it up again, it is in a pretty poor shape at present, so there will need to be some work done before replacing those plants. The ginger lilies however are loving it!
Autumn is a very good time to inspect the garden for plants that have not coped well and to replace them. It is a chance to make some changes. I used to be so afraid to rip things out when I first began to work in the garden. If a plant was sick, I felt it my duty to do all in my power to nurse it back to health. Even in the garden centres I was drawn to the sick plants on the ‘sale tray’ down the back. Poor little things, they needed love and attention! I had to take them home and plant them and look after them. When they died I felt I had failed them in some way. But, I am over that now. I still tend to err on the side of ‘giving them a bit more of a go’ but now I am much more inclined to cut my losses and start all over again, and I avoid the ‘sale tray’ at garden centres altogether, it just isn’t worth the effort.
March is also the day- dreaming month! It is time to get out the summer catalogues and dream of which bulbs to order for the spring flowering! Of course, with the shady glade that is my garden I usually have to stick to the tried and true but one can dream…
February 28th, 2011
As the last day of summer approaches and I am busy in the garden giving the roses their summer clipping and feed I take time out to pop a chair near the alyssum growing in the tub with the rosemary and just sit for a minute or two to drink in the sweet honey scent these little white flowers provide. The ducks are busy about their day and it is good to take a little time out from weeding and clipping just to sit.
I am thinking about gardens and gardening in general and it occured to me that one of the wonderful things about gardening is that it allows for different things for different people. I think that if everybody was given a little plot all of their own the end products would all be completely different. You see this as you walk along any suburban street, each garden is an individual being. There is room for many approaches to gardening and they each give us the satisfaction of expressing ourselves. Gardening, in its humble way, is an art as well as a craft. At the same time it keeps us in touch with the earth, the seasons, and with that complex of interrelated forces which we call nature.
Gardening also teaches us about change. It was a very long time before I realised that it was ok to dig out a plant that just refused to thrive and replace it with another which was much happier or looked better there. I must admit to still feeling a little guilty, but I am learning that change is a good thing in a garden.
Well, it is time now to go out to get some more little jobs done here and there about the place, on the way I will just take a quick peep at the figs growing ripe and delicious under their veil.
February 16th, 2011This is the month to repot cyclamens, and my little white cyclamen would just love me to do just that, so this little job is first on my to do list for February. The lemon tree also would be very pleased to get a little TLC. It has had a very hard summer, even though it has had plenty of water. In fact, the poor wee thing has been drowned in the flood. It has suffered gore wasps, black sooty mould and all in all is not all that happy. So, this month is a good month to treat the lemon tree to some good citrus plant food, dig around the bottom and mulch. Mr Lemon tree might just get a little trim to tidy him up again as well.
This is also the time to give the roses their ‘summer prune’ to produce better blooms and to keep the bushes young and productive. I approach this a little like picking a bunch of long-stemmed roses, although the roses at the end are all dead. Summer pruning ensures plenty of glorious flowers in approximately six weeks time and the beautiful roses will bring us into autumn with a flourish!
After pruning I like to give the roses some good fertiliser, some blood & bone perhaps, water it in, add perhaps a touch of mulch and then wait for the autumn flush of roses to appear.
The wisteria needs to have all those long excess summer canes trimmed back, they just go a bit wild at this time of the summer, I guess you might think they were having a last fling at life before the dormant winter to come. Apart from all these jobs there is always the weeds and the vege patch so plenty to do out there, I just have to get on out there and do it!
February 11th, 2011
Well, this has been a very unusual summer down here in Melbourne. Usually in February with only one more month of summer, gardeners are wondering about how to nurse their gardens along on little or no water. But this year water has been a problem in a very different way. With the little creek down the bottom of the garden growing to be a large and very fast moving river last weekend I find quite a few of my plants down that end of the garden have been drowned or washed away in the torrent of water. But, this morning a little friend was returned – Gimble, my little garden gnome! A neighbour brought him back, a little the worse for wear, and looking a little foolish [the gnome, not the neighbour] Yes, Gimble had been on a grand adventure indeed!
I must say that when I began my gardening adventures, quite a few years ago, I never thought I would become one of those gardeners that allowed gnomes into the garden. A garden is a place for plants and maybe a few, only a few mind, ornaments. But, never gnomes! But, after a year or two of pottering about in the garden, my family began to notice. Nothing was said exactly, but when the phone rang out with no one answering it, they began to look at each other in a knowing way and say, ‘She is probably out in the garden’ When sport activity forms needed to be signed and taken back to school, they began to look for me in the garden first. So much so, that sometimes I would come strolling out from the kitchen to bring in the laundry and find an odd grumpy teen sort of person stomping about down the back, near the creek who on sighting me would yell, ‘What are you doing inside? I have been looking for you all over the backyard!’
Yes, they had all begun to notice and at Christmas they pooled together, dear children that they are, and bought me -a gnome. I was estatic! Perhaps too estatic! Because, the very next Christmas, another gnome was presented! I was overwhelmed! The third Christmas, yes, another gnome and I began to feel …well, my face must have told all because at that very moment every single one of my children looked at each other and laughed! “We were wondering how many gnomes it would take!” they said. So, that is the story of the 3 gnomes in my garden, and yes, I have given in and given them each a gnome name. They live in the back yard and I hope they will never have any more friends although I must say I was quite pleased to see Gimble returned. It was returned by my garden guru, that lovely man who helps out with advice from time to time and often laughs at my attempts in the garden. When he knocked at my door to return the errant gnome I think he had a little bit of a glint in his eye as he handed him over. ‘I am sure you wouln’t want to loose such a handsome gnome!’ he said. ‘I know how very fond you are of them.’ I thanked him very much and went out the back to put Gimble back in his now flattened garden bed. He looked a little bit like he was laughing, but I am sure I was just imagining it!