Home is where…

I’m loving being home for a spell, especially as the weather is so beautifully verging on Autumn.

Here it’s green and fresh and clear and the wallabies and I are fully appreciating it! All the ‘garden’ trees, like the Chinese Tallow Tree, look happy.

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For some reason the Lemon Ti-Tree is only flowering on one of the two main branches, the western one. This tree self-sowed in a potplant in one of my too-many inner Sydney rented homes (as a tenant, not a landlord!). Like me, it is thriving much better up here.

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Its widely spreading branches offer the wallabies a choice of sun and shade during the day and they take full advantage of it. I have wondered if the lemon-scented leaves, when brushed against, give them any flea protection? They spend a lot of time de-fleaing themselves — and each other.

Last Autumn colours

As the last red leaves fell from the Glory Vine, this exquisite little nest, round as tennis ball and about the same size, was revealed. It was knitted with gossamer threads and moss onto three twigs, like grandma making a sock by going round and round on her three needles.

Quite empty, it and its twiggy frame now adorn my verandah collection.

The other verandah drapery is the wisteria, the leaves now mainly butter yellow, edging to amber before they fall. It fills the window behind my desk, and as the afternoon light behind them sets them aglow it helps me bear having to be in here at the computer instead of outdoors on such beautiful still sunny days.

But yellow is also the adamant all-year-round colour of the NO GAS groups in many areas, like Bunnan and Merriwa in the Hunter.  The T-shirts are bold and un-missable, with the simplest of messages worn defiantly centre front.

This photo was taken at the May 1 Rally by friend Sandra Stewart, and sent on to me later. It’s me and my two good friends Alyson Shepherd and Doug Blackwell; although they’ve moved to the north coast from the Merriwa district, they came down to join old mates at the rally.

Yellow definitely predominated on that Autumn day!

Last glories

The temperature is dropping to 5ºC to 7ºC of a morning. Autumn’s not over but my verandah colour effects almost are.

The white-flowering wisteria is more gold than green, and when backlit by the sun, it’s an absolute visual gift to me whenever I look up from my computer.

The developing definition of the curving vine stems is a bonus, as is the increased visibility of the small birds who hop about on them.

By the way, the lilac-flowering wisteria elsewhere is still all green.

The flamboyant Glory Vine is dropping its last red leaves to lie crisping on the grass; the western lattice is almost see-through once more. The long low afternoon sun now reaches across the verandah and brightens the house.

It feels like winter and I like it, cosy enough here in the house with the slow combustion wood heater banked down and on duty 24 hours.

Autumn flower

There’s little flowering right now in my forest, but this pink one caught my eye. Hadn’t seen it before, and there was only one. 
So, naturally, I got the camera and went closer.

Which is when I realised it was a fungus, fleshy rather than flowery, fat-stemmed, the cap splitting into ‘petals’, lightly frilled, with a gill-fluted white petticoat.

And I have tried to find out what it could be called, but failed. Neither my books, nor Gaye’s Fungi site, nor the web, have revealed its identity.

One of the mysterious aspects of fungi is how a single specimen can appear, delight and confuse me, and disappear, never to return in that spot– or not for the decades I’m around.

Easygoing rednecks

As the damp and chilly days increase in frequency, the Eastern Red-necked Wallabies really appreciate a sunny spell, to dry out — and to doze.

I counted thirteen lazing about on this sunny aftermath morning, enjoying that I’d finally mown some more of the orchard.

Some stick to their regular spots nearer the cabin, like my washing mother and joey duo featured last week. I love the demure way they cross their black-gloved paws, like good convent girls. Although the nuns would have been telling them to cross their legs too, in my day; the sprawl is most unladylike.

As the leaves yellow and fall from the Nashi trees, I am noticing the wallabies like to munch on them.  Either I was unobservant last autumn or they hadn’t developed the taste — or they are just being as unpredictable as ever.

They can’t reach the leaves on this tree when they’re green and attached, so now must be like manna from heaven!

Colour journey

Even from inside my cabin, Autumn leaves are adding colour in an everchanging wealth of combinations. I really have to keep my eyes open — and camera ready — for new effects every day.

I step out on to the verandah, and the effect is quite different, between the wisteria’s green and gold and the Glory Vine’s red and pink. The yellow chairs seem more at home and the table demands a green tablecloth.

I walk to the steps and find the older leaves are so ‘wine-dark’ as to be almost purple, stunning against the butter-yellow (left). I like the way the wisteria paces itself, retaining bright greens as backdrops for their more mature yellows.

I leave the steps, and the small Chinese Tallow Tree (right) flashes the full gamut of colours at me, sometimes all on a single leaf, sometimes having a bet both ways, half-summer, half-autumn, and the deep pink stems holding it all together, artistically, and adding to the riot.

With a month of Autumn to go, I know I’ll have more visual treats ahead. As a colourist, isn’t nature amazing?

Oyster and tomato fungi, anyone?

Being Autumn, alternately damp and cold, then dry and warm, I’m on the alert for more weird and wonderful fungi. 

These fleshy tree-huggers are new to me. I was taken by the way their lightly frilled skirts droop into points like nippled udders. 

I think they are a type of oyster mushroom, Pleurotus ostreatus, which would be edible, but I wouldn’t dare try them.
Perhaps someone will identify them for me.

A few days later, these two isolated individuals showed up on the forest floor. Tomato-red, I think I have tracked them down to be Stropharia aurantiaca.

They don’t have a common name, so Tomato fungi they will be for me. 

They aren’t noted as edible, but given my cowardly nature in such matters, I’ll just enjoy their cheery appearance on a bleak day.

 For me, common or not, all fungi are magic — sudden appearances, startling colours and shapes, as much appreciated for the surprise, the element of discovery they provide, as for the visual treat.

Autumn decor

I love, love Autumn. The few deciduous vines and trees offer enough colour to keep me delighted; their sparsity keeps me from being complacent about their offerings.

The Glory vine on my verandah changes its dress daily, and every change of light brings new interest. It has the western side all to itself.

On the northwest side it shares with the wisteria, whose leaves are slowly turning butter yellow. I have only to raise my head from this keyboard to enjoy the tapestry of colours and shapes that they make together, even more interesting for being backlit.

As for the overall clothing, the shading and decorating, that these riotous vines provide — who could invent it but Nature?

Perfect pods

The small details of the plant world often make me wish I’d become a botanist. In my day, if they were ‘going on’ after high school, girls did nursing or teaching — to tide them over until they got married.

I have been unable to decide whether, had I been born later, I’d have studied botany or industrial design. I see similarities between the two – functionality and beauty.

The young indigenous Native Frangipani trees (Hymenosporum flavum) that I have raised and planted are themselves seeding now. A new generation. The pods look like green four-lobed fruit until they brown, split in two, and fan out their channels of round, rimmed seeds like decks of cards, or stacks of coins.

These delicate and quaint beauties made me think of Leunig’s Mr Curly cartoons, of swans, of shy creatures unknown.

I couldn’t draw a more exquisitely curving line than they each have. The seed pods are woody but feather-light, carrying one black seed each in a shapely niche.

The shrub they are from, a hakea, is not indigenous and to my shame I have forgotten what it is called, but it had creamy fountains of flowers and the butterflies loved it.

I usually note down everything I plant, so if someone can please enlighten me, I will remedy that omission!

Green Glory Vine

Noticing that the first reddish tones of Autumn were appearing in some leaves of the Glory Vine that clothes the western ends of my verandah and mud walled cabin, I decided I’d better celebrate its green stage before I lost it for the year.

I am always astonished at how vigorous it is, how far it grows over summer from being totally cut back to woody stumps each winter.

Despite — or perhaps because of? — the wallabies nibbling the lower shoots and trying to get at more from my verandah, it was even more far-reaching.  As you see, I netted the bottom vines, barred my verandah access, and off it took!

As it reached higher I strung more wires for it, which were greedily seized, enveloped and looped about, gradually  greening and cooling the afternoon light through the windows.

Don’t worry about it blocking that door — there’s a bookshelf on the other side anyway!

The door is there because the cabin was only ever half-built, one wing of the original — and still intended — ‘V’ design. One day.

Once on the verandah the Glory Vine takes second place to the Wisteria, threading its broad fans through the finer fronds, adding texture as well as pattern and of course, more shade, to this western corner.

So before I start waxing lyrical about the riotous colours of Autumn — glory to the green Glory Vine!

Damp glory

Typical of April, it’s been raining here, offering the sort of disappointingly drizzly days I associated with Saturdays when I was a child. The main splash of colour I see from my desk is the Glory Vine, the grapeless ornamental grape vine that decorates and shades my verandah.

Its job nearly done for the year, the leaves are rapidly changing colour.

But not uniformly or in unison. Some are already deep burgundy with blackish veins, presaging their winter demise, while others stay summer green, stained at the edges with strawberry juice.

In between these extremes there are pale lemons and limes, vivid rusts and scarlets, splotches and streaks like blood, a riot of colour dripping with raindrops — just for me.

Paddock perfection

Can you imagine anything more purely beautiful than this fungus? It had popped up in the the orchard paddock and was gleaming white at me across all the soggy green. There was another further up the hill.

Each was alone in its perfection, a setting befitting the creation.

It is Macrolepiota dolichaula, I discover, and am surprised it is ‘very common’ in eastern Australia. What a wonderful world where such beauty is common! My examples are about 150mm diameter across their snowily tufted tops, below which the dainty picot edges set the parasols off beautifully.

The central peak reminds me of a meringue, slightly crazing as it cooks to pinkish brown. My book reckons some people eat these regularly but others ‘suffer stomach upsets’. I think I’ll be content to feast on the sight alone.