Archive for April, 2010

Pineapple Sage & Honey-eaters

April 30th, 2010

Pineapple Sage

Out in the back garden my Pineapple Sage {salvia elegans} has burst into full flower and this has brought all the little honey-eaters to visit my garden every day!  I have a special view from my kitchen sink, so entertaining while washing dishes!  Lucky me!  Pineapple sage is a wonderful plant with bright red tubular flowers that honey-eaters love to draw nectar from.  You can use the flowers in salads or if you are out in the garden you can pluck one and sip the nectar yourself, but you do feel a little guilty doing this as the poor little honey-eaters flutter about and look at you in a reproachful sort of way.

The bright red flower of the Pineapple Sage

I love my Pineapple Sage, it is really easy to grow and produces a distinctive pineapple smell when the leaves are brushed as you walk past or when you are in amongst it weeding.  You can’t use the leaves in cooking at all but you can use the flowers.  A friend of mine makes a delicious salad with red, yellow and green peppers, salad mix, then tosses the flowers through, it looks very pretty but I don’t use the flowers at all myself.  I grow the plant only to attract the birds. 

Happy gardening!

Tags: , ,
Posted in Gardening | Comments (3)

Ducks & Daylight Saving

April 28th, 2010

Hazel

Daylight saving brings many problems and it is hard, when you are a duck, to get used to change.  It has been round about a month since we changed over and moved our clocks back an hour.  Everyone has got used to the winter hours now, except my ducks.  Now when I come home I find Waddles and Hazel crowding round on the top step quacking away for me to walk them over into the safety of their little duck house.  The neighbours are beginning to notice!  It is the afternoon that is the problem.  Waddles, Hazel & I have come to an agreement about the morning…they get let out at the same time as they did in summer.   It looks like being a long winter.  I have tried doing it gradual  …over a weekend, but the ducks will have none of it.  So, I struggle on.  I am sure we will get there in the end.  I baked a batch of biscuits for my neighbour, and explained the situation, he was very understanding.  It could be worse he said, it could be a rooster, they crow on the full moon, he informed me.

Hazel & Waddles when they were little

Yes, ducks are wonderful as pets but they do have their little habits and being locked up at 4 is one of them at the moment.  I should however get them used to the little change in routine by the end of winter.   Still, gardening with ducks is heaps of fun.  They love to be right in the thick of it when I am weeding, or doing just about anything outside.  They even mooch about at my feet while I do the boring things, like hanging out the washing.  They eat all the snails and slugs, while adding their very own fertilizer, just to be extra helpful.

We hand reared our ducks, brought them home when they were just one day old.  They have been lots of fun ever since.

Happy gardening!

Tags: ,
Posted in Gardening | Comments (0)

Bulb madness

April 25th, 2010

My bulbs, waiting to be planted!

Well, here in Melbourne, the bulb season – the planting bulb season, is almost at an end!  Rushed up to my favourite bulb farm only to find that they had almost sold out!  There is a little debate between gardeners from whom I seek advice about final dates but they all agree I had better hurry and plant these bulbs I have just bought before it is too late!  It is kind of like a final exam!  The lady at the bulb farm fixed me with a steely eye and advised that I should definately plant before Mothers Day.  She had that sort of look that said, ‘Can I trust you with these bulbs?   Will they be going to a good home where they will be cared for and properly treated?’  I paid my money and brought my treasures home.  

My layer pot, doing its thing!

Other high authorities, the man at the end of the street my very own gardening guru, said I had better get my skates on and those bulbs need to be in the ground by Monday or the end of the month at the latest!  Otherwise, he said, I was just wasting my money.  A thing he has come to be used to with me and my gardening efforts.  So, this afternoon, armed with potting mix, pots and bulbs of course, I will head out into the garden.  My mission?  To put my little charges under the ground!  How deep?  Well, about twice the depth of the bulb itself.  I have heard different stories from different people but it all becomes a little confused and this basic bit of advice also came from my gardening guru, he also muttered that ‘I am 85 years old, but I have never seen anything like it’  – He was referring to my holding one of my smaller bulbs against my finger to see where double the bulb was measured against the lines on my fingers….my little finger is just right for freesias and my thumb, amazingly, is just right for hyacinths.  By this time my gardening guru had disappeared down his garden path.  A little habit he has. 

'Blossom'- my little hyacinth

I have planted some bulbs already of course, I did my layer bulb pot and I put a single hyacinth in a vase in a cupboard to do its thing and promptly forgot all about it!  Got a huge suprise the other day when I went to look for some undercoat to put on my kitchen window and there it was, having filled its little vase with roots, god bless it!  Well, I said to my little plant, look at you!  I shall call you Blossom, and you shall be mine!  It was a touching moment for us both!  So, you see, bulbs are magic!

Well, I am off out into the garden to indulge in a little bulb madness in a madcap, fun filled afternoon, just me and the ducks and my magic bulbs!

The ducks

Happy gardeining!

Tags:
Posted in Gardening | Comments (0)

Autumn Days

April 20th, 2010

Autumn colours are at their best at the moment.  I have not got around to that walk in amongst the tall autumn trees in the nearby hills as yet but it is high on my agenda as the autumn colour season passes so very quickly.   But there is less time to garden in the evenings now.  So that means most of the work outdoors must be done on the weekend.  This leaves little time to get on with things, and there is so much to do!

I have been very busy emptying the compost bins and using the contents for mulching and digging in to improve my soil.  Garden compost does the soil a power of good, and using it up at this time of the year makes room for more material, which is on its way, in the form of autumn leaves.  Then the next batch of compost is ready for the spring!

My baby broad beansMy broad beans have started to come up!  So my vege patch is not looking quite so bare.  I will add a few garlic bulbs quite soon.  It is nearly time to harvest what is left of my basil for it will not survive when the weather gets colder.  I do this by having one  last beautiful feast of pasta with my basil & cream sauce, served with, of course a lovely red.  Then I take all the rest of the leaves & freeze in ice cube trays topped up with water.  Then when I need some fresh basil over winter I have just to pop in a cube from the freezer.  The next best thing really!

I have been having lots of birds visiting my garden lately, beautiful garden friends, garden birds are a joy.  The little finches love to splash about in the little water bath I put out for them and I can watch them from my kitchen window.  They are so cute, but don’t stay in the one spot for a quick picture, unlike the rosellas & parrots.

Any way I am off out to pick some basil, while I can.

Cheers, and happy gardening!

Tags: , , ,
Posted in Gardening | Comments (2)

April Plant

April 18th, 2010

Camellia Sasanqua

Camellia sasanquas are in flower at the moment; they are one of the early flowering Camellia  family.  They can be recognised by their smaller, sharper foliage and more open habit of growth.  They have a very long flowering period, which, here in Victoria can start as early as late February and extend right through until June.  My beautiful red Sasanqua has just begun to bloom and it heralds the onset of the Camellia season with my other japonica varieties of camellia to follow over the winter.

The sasanqua varieties have single to semi-double flowers with rich yellow stamens, and come in colours ranging from white to paile pink right through to the one I enjoy in my garden, a dark deep red.  Many have a delicious pungent spicy scent, reminiscent of the Spice Isles.

Camellias are not hard to grow provided the soil is acid, well-drained and rich in organic material.  You can grow them in tubs and they are quite tolerant of frost.  The other joy of camellias in general is that you can cut them and bring them inside to enjoy, the bush thrives on this sort of light pruning and it improves branching and growth.

Tags:
Posted in Plant of the Month | Comments (1)

Herbs are magic

April 15th, 2010

Basil

I love to grow herbs, I love to come in from the garden with a lavish bunch of basil or rosemary and use it in my evening meal.  A small amount of herbs can totally change the flavour of a dish, lifting it from boring to gourmet.  At other times they can be a glorious extravagance, like pesto.  If you don’t have a herb, buy a pot of it!  It will cost about the same.  In this way you can eat your herb and still have it next week, and maybe next month, even next year!

Lemon BalmOur seasons are marked by the herbs we eat.  I indulge in lashings of basil in Summer!  I don’t dry any herbs, I like to eat what is fresh, and let my life flow, just a little with the seasons.

Their use and their generosity as plants in my garden make them a very worthwhile addition to my gardening pleasure.   It is difficult to generalise about growing herbs.  For example, basil is an annual and loves to be fed, in fact it is almost impossibe to overfeed it, like its flavour, it is a strong rampant grower.  But basil has little in common with a bay tree.  Both are ‘herbs’, in other words, useful plants.  That is the definition of a herb – a useful plant.  Aren’t they just! 

I like to grow my herbs in amongst my other plants, for they are beautiful as plants themselves.  At the moment, my rosemary is flowering and the small blue flowers are really lovely! If I had the room I would love to plant out an old fashioned basic herb garden, maybe in the shape of a wagon wheel, perhaps with a bird bath in the centre!  How lovely that would be. 

Most herbs need the sort of care you provide any of your plants.  They need to be mulched, they like a feed & although many of them are hardy, even drought tolerant, they do need to be watered over the summer months.  Prune herbs in Spring to late Summer.  New growth is better at resisting heat, cold and disease.  But if you pick them often you won’t need to prune.  Because herbs are useful plants, you need to use them!!  Herbs need to be used!  After all, that is why you grow them!  Herbs that are picked often are healthier, firstly because the more you use a plant the more you’ll notice it needs feeding, mulching or picking off the odd bug.

Rosemary

If  you don’t have a spot for a herb garden, try growing them in hanging baskets or in a large pot or barrel by your door.  Herbs are fun and rewarding. 

Happy gardening!

Tags: ,
Posted in Gardening | Comments (0)

April Jobs

April 10th, 2010

Correa, the native fuchsia

Correa, the native fuchsia

There are many little jobs awaiting me out in the garden this month.  Bulb season is still with us, and the time to plant spring flowering bulbs can slip away if you are not too careful.  Can’t let that pot wait too much longer before I fill it with some pretty spring flowering bulbs.  I have a particular pot I save just for Hyacinths, usually I plant them & pop them in the back of some garden bed & just forget all about them until they shoot up in spring.  Then I get all excited & bring them up on the balcony, where the ducks can’t eat them, and watch & wait.  This little task never fails to bring me a great deal of joy!  Simple pleasures!  It is always best to try to finish planting your bulbs by the end of April.  I will need to head out to the shops to purchase some spring excitment in the form of bulbs! 

Did anyone say 'snail'?

Did anyone say 'snail'?

Waddles & Hazel  are looking forward to the rain because they know that the slugs & snails begin to appear as the soft rains of autumn begin.  This is the best time to get on out there and get on top of the weeding for me, accompanied with my two slug & snail hunting ducks.  Of course, if you don’t have ducks you might have to head out late at night with a torch & a bucket to protect any new seedlings you might have that look like tasty treats for slugs & snails. 

This month is also a very good month for planting violas and pansy! 

 

Garden -Dec09 044Outside of my own garden, April is the perfect month to visit other gardens in the hills and enjoy the beauty of the autumn foliage.  In fact walks are best in autumn, the crisp cool air and the colours of the leaves as they turn.  A walk through a botanic garden is a wonderful treat at this time of the year.  You don’t have to be a small child to enjoy scrunching through autumn leaves, speaking of which, they will be starting to fall very soon, so I need to dust off my rake.

Tags: , ,
Posted in Gardening | Comments (0)

Butterfly Gardening

April 6th, 2010

butterflies04

Butterfly watching, like bird watching, is a fast-growing pastime for many people, and the art of bringing these beautiful flying jewels into your own backyard is one to aspire too.  Butterfly gardening means planting trees, shrubs, or flowers that butterflies use for food.  Butterflies are not only beautiful to watch, but beneficial as well, playing an important role in nature.  Without the pollinating work of butterflies and other insects such as bees, our world would be without many of the fruits and vegetables we love.

A monarch butterfly

A monarch butterfly

The more types of habitat you have in your garden, the more species of butterflies you will attract.  Habitats frequented by butterflies include boggy areas, shady areas, sunny flower beds and grassy areas.  Plant your nectar plants in the sun, if you can.  Butterflies generally feed only in the sun.  Try to provide some water by using a birdbath or other shallow container.  Place stones in the bottom of the container and add just enough water to come to the top edge of the stones.  The stones give the butterfly a place to land without getting wet.

GardenMarch10 025Some wonderful nectar plants to try to include in your garden are, violets, oregano, aster, buddleia, cosmos, any of the daisy family, just to name a few.  I also notice that the butterflies in my garden seem to be attracted to the lavender and sweet william, plants that love the sun.   Butterflies also seem to prefer brightly coloured flowers.  Their favourite colours in order are red, orange, purple, pink, blue and white.  Of course, it goes without saying that you should try not to use insecticides of any kind if your want to attract butterflies to your garden. 

Happy gardening.

Tags:
Posted in Gardening | Comments (0)

The April Garden

April 4th, 2010

Dahlias still delight

Dahlias still delight

April is the perfect month for gardening, the days are long and mellow and the soil is still warm from the summer sun.  The days lately seem to be calling you outside to play.  But just lately I seem to be very busy and not have the long days to spend.  How frustrating!  But, you cannot deny that in the past week or two it has been beautiful gardening weather!

my red sasanqua camellia

my red sasanqua camellia

It is still bulb time, time to plant heaps of things!  I mean, when you think of it, doesn’t it make more sense to plant in the autumn?  If you plant in the spring, the little plant has only a couple of months growth and then its tiny root system has to cope with the heat of the summer.  But if you plant now they will have two good months of growing time before the winter cold sets in, then they may grow more slowly, of course, throughout winter and then put on a burst of growth when the spring comes.  All the more reason for getting out in that garden!!

Pineapple Sage, the honey eaters love it!

Pineapple Sage, the honey eaters love it!

One thing that is growing with abundance out there in my garden is weeds!!  So, have to get on to them pretty soon.  I plan to make myself real comfortable out there with a little pad for my knees or my bottom and just enjoy being out in the still warm weather!  In fact if you plant yourself in the centre of the garden and quietly work away the little finches dart about above sometimes and it can be a quite pleasant job.  Time seems to slow to a moderate pace and you can enjoy the garden from a different perspective. 

GardenApril10 020My red sasanqua camellia is covered with blooms and out the back the pineapple sage is beginning to send out its red flowers that the honey eaters love so much.  My pineapple sage is just where I can view the little honey eaters from my kitchen window, so this time of year, I enjoy watching them flit about while I wash up.  My new fig tree has figs!! They are slowly ripening.  Hopefully my possum wont know what they are.  But a friend of mine says I should cover them just in case!  Molly, my possum, is a funny creature, a lady of very particular taste.  Last year I planted out a pot of pansies, yellow, orange and blue.  I had bought ones already flowering from the nursery for a quick colour lift!  They looked a picture!  Very pleased with myself I went to bed only to find that Molly the possum had eaten all the yellow & orange ones.  Apparently blue ones do not appeal. Or, perhaps Molly couldn’t see them in the night being a dark colour.  Who can tell, not me.  But  now I only plant blue ones and never do they get eaten!  Molly also likes yellow roses but lucky for me not red ones!  My neighbours possum does like red ones and thinks I am very lucky with Molly.

Now I must away to plant myself amongst the weeds and start to make a difference!

Happy gardening!

Tags: , , , ,
Posted in Gardening | Comments (1)