Shades of purple

I am fortunate to have Jacaranda trees outside my house, splashing my skies and carpeting my road with purple. I call it purple, but is it really somewhere in between lilac and purple?

In fact, my Spring garden has many variations on a theme of purple, like the ubiquitous but still lovely Agapanthus plants, which were here.

I grew to dislike them due to municipal overuse, but that is similar to disliking Greensleeves because of Mr Whippy’s appropriation of it…

The nearby large and beautifully drooping branches of what I think is Duranta repens, commonly called Geisha Girl or Golden Dewdrop, was here, and its flowers are dark enough to be called purple.

The Plumbago I planted is much paler, not even aiming for purple and having trouble making lilac.

The Buddleia or Butterfly Bush is only slightly darker lilac, but deepens in the buds along its arching spires.

A pretty sight, although I am still waiting for the butterflies to find it!

One year’s promise

Having now been in this new home for a year, I am seeing the first Spring of my plantings, a promise of what my envisaged garden will be like.

Planting citrus trees was a priority, given that I grew up on an orange orchard and I still find the scent of orange blossom the most heavenly of all. I have eight little trees in; nine if you count the Kaffir Lime.

For any fruiting plant to survive the winter and burst forth with the buds that herald the fruit to come is great; the perfume of citrus is a bonus.

The most exciting for me is the spiny Native Fingerlime, absolutely covered in buds. I am sure they won’t all become those bliss bombs of limes, but surely many will?

Other flowers, like this shallot, are the first of my vegie crops to begin their next cycle of flowering, seeding and new plants appearing where they fall.

Having carried cuttings with me of favourite plants from the Mountain, like my Glory Vine, I love seeing those tiny sticks reshoot here in their first spring. By next year my verandah railings will hopefully be as bedecked in green through to Autumn pinks and reds.

The Glory Vine and the Mandevilla Laxa will mingle with my old Mountain favourite, a Crepuscule Rose.

My town Crepuscule Rose is not from a cutting, but newly bought here — because I miss it! — and looking happy. It is flanked by baby Mandevilla seedlings.

When Crepuscule gets going, as here at my Mountain cabin, it’s a wonder of recurrent ragged apricot blooms. I can’t wait.

Other newbies here having their first flowering is this ‘blue’ Solanum, in planters, growing up a trellis erected to urgently mask a most unaesthetic garage at the end of my verandah. It grew and climbed very swiftly, but it really wants to keep heading skywards, so it was perhaps not the best choice. Nevertheless, its delicate flowers, albeit unscented, are a welcome sight.

In fact, anything shooting after dormancy is welcome! Nature is so clever — and generous.

Winter exotica

Plants from cuttings and broken-off bits, of unknown future flowerings, all find a home with me. This beauty came from a community fundraiser where bits from very old plants in the Wingham courthouse garden were propagated for sale.

What a bold and beautiful and very contemporary blooming it turned out to be harbouring!

My cousin Kerrie gave me a large overgrown lump of strappy leaves and roots a few years ago, an orchid that needed dividing.

They filled five pots, and this year three have arching flower spears. How tropical they look on my mid-winter Wingham deck!

A long look into the heart of one fills me with admiration at the restrained yet jungle-wild patterning, the carefully balanced shapes.

My Chain-of-Hearts plant has accompanied me on each house/garden move for. It likes the situation here and is thriving.

But I don’t recall it having an autumnal colour event, where each leaf tries on a different shade. No matter, I am most appreciative… and grateful.

Sandstone surprises

Visiting the Brisbane Water National Park on the NSW Central Coast, I was struck by the determination of trees to survive.

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The acrobatic and colourful trunks of Angophora Costata (Sydney Blue Gum) caught my eye most, forcing their way out between slabs of sandstone and twisting their way upwards as needed — or fancied.

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I was surprised to see some wildflowers out, but they couldn’t compete with the spectacular Banksias, glowing amber in their rugged trees like lit lanterns, fringed with shining burgundy.

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Nearer the ground the dainty bells of Correa and the pale sunlit puffs of Wattle caught my eye. Both had spiky hard leaves, as befits the tough rocky environment in which they grew.

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At the base of the gully a creek had sculpted the sandstone over eons, the damp shade fostering a whole other world of plants.

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Whether ghostly green with moss, sheltering ti-tree liquid gold, or striking white with lichen, lapping at the edges, the rocks were wonderful.

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Wet or dry, it was the details that drew me: the bright leaves trapped against the rock like flies in amber, or the bush-fire limned bark flakes of an old tree up the slope, badges of survival.

Creekside beauties

There are many small birds here but they do NOT stay still for photos for me to share them with you. Swallows, Willy Wagtails, honeyeaters, finches… I will have to take to sitting outside and waiting, with camera poised. I think that’s called birdwatching.

Thankfully the flora here is slower moving.

Alongside the small creek is a narrow strip of beautiful remnant rainforest. Yes, there are too many weeds and invasive trees like Camphor Laurel, but looking up to admire one large indigenous tree, just look what I saw.

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When I returned to show friends, the orchid’s flowers had disappeared. So the flora may be slower than the birds, but I’ll have to be fast to catch their stages.

I’ve tried to identify this orchid, but I’m lost amongst the Dendrobiums; could it be Dendrobium monophyllum, also known as ‘Lily of the Valley’? The little finger petals seemed distinctive to me and closer to the drawings of this one than any other.

I have so much to learn about this new place and its inhabitants.

Of bulbs and birches

After a few days of welcome (if inconvenient for moving house) heavy rain, the bare trees are glistening in the morning sunlight, and the bulbs beneath them are struggling to lift their heads.

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I love winter birches: for their bark and the lichen it attracts, for their bobbles and fine branchlets and twigs and the raindrops they cherish.

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Some of the fat snowflake clumps are flattened…

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…the first shy daffodil heads are about to unfold, and the fallen autumn leaves escape the wind by huddling amongst new iris leaves.

Seeing beauty

As I pack and move out 36 years’ worth of my magpie collection, the cabin is far emptier than ever since it was built. I am appreciating the texture of the more revealed expanse of mud walls, freshly emphasised with the repainting (with natural paints of course).

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I am admiring each treasure before I pack it away, and loving the flowers that winter here gives me for brightening indoors.

Sometimes I’m almost too late to catch a fleeting beauty on offer…

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…like the last low rays of the sunset through my front door leadlight…

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…or the coloured glass window in front of my desk.

Who needs Spring?

Fortunately some of the most sweetly scented bulb blooms are at their best in Winter. Erlicheer are my favourite, on the plant and in a vase. They have naturalised and multiplied here, need no care, and the critters don’t eat them. In other words, a wonder plant!

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Next to my bird bath I planted this Lilli-Pilli to provide some cover for the sipping or bathing birds. The bonus for them — and me — is its abundant crop of pinkish-mauve berries. They make a great ‘flower’ arrangement indoors too, keeping their colour for weeks.

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But even the bare vines on my Winter verandah are beautiful in their shapes. The wisteria and the ornamental grape intertwine and twist around themselves and each other to provide a decorative lacework that’s better than any static iron verandah ‘lace’.

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I suspect it won’t be long before I lose that linear treat, as the wisteria seems about to bud. Hang on, there’s still a whole month of Winter to go.

Shrinking pond world

As in much of Australia, it’s been dry and hot here.

My small dam is really a large pond. Unlike my main dam, it is not springfed, but filled by runoff plus what is collected from my shed roof and piped to it. Both rely on rain of course – and we’ve had almost none.

So the levels in the pond have dropped severely and half of the pink waterlily world at the western end is on dry mud, not floating at all. Their roots would be in deeper dampness, but for how long?

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I am worried about the creatures who live in this water, the longnecked tortoises and the frogs especially. Except in the deeper centre, much of the pond resembles a brown and weedy stew more than cool water.

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As yet, the waterlilies look healthy, as pure and pretty as ever. I see some small plops and bubbles around the dinner dish leaves, so something is lively enough under there.

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I recall the charming little green frog prince I saw here years ago. I go closer, and am delighted to see another. Now all we both need is rain.

Ending at home

I am so glad to be home for the end of 2013. Since September we have all reeled from one Abbottrocity after another.

I need some peaceful time where the protected Nature here can make me briefly forget how much it is under attack elsewhere, like at Bimblebox.

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So the camper is off the ute and the wallabies have reclaimed it as just another shelter.

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In their usual fashion, the critters here step up their ownership levels if I am away too long. This time it’s the wretched possum.

He’s been taking the odd lemon but now he’s eating my oranges. They’re not ready but I’ll have to pick the lot anyway, or I’ll get none.

His most unwelcome habitation here not only means stains of possum pee on the ‘guest room’ ceiling, but I get no fruit. The parrots leave me enough not to mind their share, but with a possum about…

Not a single Nashi when normally I get hundreds, no peaches, no nectarines.

How I miss my possum-eating quoll.

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I am grateful for the flowering plants that neither the wallabies nor the possums eat — so far — like the Chaste Tree, the hydrangeas and the waterlilies, but my fruit and vegies are for eating, for sustaining my life here.

So how about the vegies, you ask? Well, I found that the bush rat has burrowed under the vegie garden netting and uprooted large parsley plants and lettuces and gnawed the turnips.

All minor annoyances, I know, compared to what others are threatened with.

I can only hope that 2014 will see the awakening of more people to the permanent damage the Federal and state governments are doing to their people, the land and water, and the planet.

These ‘leaders’ have become so extreme and blatant that one can only hope they have enough rope to ………………

Bring on the next election.

Summer Surprises

After so much rain, the early summer heat is encouraging growth and blossoming and inviting birds and bees to sample the offerings.
It doesn’t seem to bother the plants that this heat alternates erratically with chilly mornings and nights.

And of course these are all plants blessed by being despised by my munching macropods!

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My most spectacular summer surprise is always the clump of Spider Lilies. From nothing they arch forth their broad straps of leaves and then their extravagantly designed flowers, trailing enticing scarves of white and extending shamelessly come-hither stamens.

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A close second are the Lilliums, heading for the sky afresh each summer and making at least two metres before they trumpet their bunches of elegant bells.

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Far less showy but making up for this lack in abundance is the Lilli-Pilli shrub, much loved by a world of insects. Who would miss Spring with such annual Summer surprises? It’s always incredible to me that these plants resurrect themselves, unaided and unreminded, every year.

Flower balm

After last weekend, my spirit was in sore need of healing. Especially as I’d spent, not just Saturday, but the past week in town standing on hard cement all day each day, offering hopeful one-liners and how-to-vote leaflets for The Greens at the pre-poll booth too.

So getting back to the Mountain was urgent.

And no, I’m not going to comment on the election results, except to say that it is imperative now that we all get more active regarding climate change if our grandchildren are not to inherit a nightmare world.

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In the hot week away, Spring had forced many early flowerings: Jasmine, May, Wisteria, Pittosporum… scents and sights as balm for my soul.

The rock orchids above the outdoor loo were truly stunning — a frothing shower of white on one clump, while the other’s slight delay gave honeysuckle varied tones.

In the early morning light, as they caught the first sunlight, they were breathtaking.

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Unfortunately the warm weather had also brought increased bushfire worries, as escaped hazard reduction burns linger uncontrolled in difficult country. 

The air was smoky anyway but on this morning it mingled with early rising mist and this newly blooming camellia glowed like a beacon before it. As with all my camellias, it is unattractively swathed in netting to keep the wallabies and roos from eating it. The camellias were all grown from cuttings from an old garden, so are especially precious.

Even a few days there helped restore my positivity before I had to go to Sydney to speak at the 350º Divestment Forum. Always a boost to see so many people passionate about acting to save our only planet.

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