Lemon Tea trees

I love all natural lemony scents and flavours. I love lemons, and have many lemon trees of the cultivated and bush varieties, never wanting to be without lemon juice or peel in the kitchen.

But I also have two native trees with lemon-scented leaves.

This little beauty is the Lemon Myrtle (Backhousia citriodora), and I pick and dry its leaves to add whole to my teas.

On the tree, you have to crush a leaf to get the perfume. The beautiful starry clusters of flowers are a bonus I hadn’t expected from this Queensland rainforest tree.

The other is a Lemon Scented Ti-Tree or Tea Tree (Leptospermum petersonii). It too can be used to make tea, although I haven’t. It’s grown into a lovely spreading shape, and the slightest brush against the leaves does release a strong lemon scent.

From a distance — like the house — the simple white flowers seem to dust the tree with light snow.

This one has a history: it seeded itself into a pot of aloe vera I had sat beneath the only tree in the tiny back yard of an inner-Sydney semi I was renting.

I love chance seedings — and freebies! 

Orchid events

Every summer the tussocky forest floor becomes decorated with the pink and magenta spires of native Hyacinth Orchids (Dipodium punctatum). Every other year I have seen only solitary spires, and mostly that is so this summer, except for this clump of four. Their combined pinkness was so noticeable from a distance that it drew me to investigate.

Closer to the cabin, my rescued and relocated clump of indigenous King Orchids (Dendrobium speciosum) did not flower at all this  summer. Instead it seems to be putting all its energy into fat new leaf shoots, about a dozen in all, stretching up and out of their papery white sheaths.

I especially like the way the small pale green mouths first open, like baby birds, tongues ready to lap any moisture that falls. Their timing is perfect since we have had rain, and an extreme drop in temperatures — from 30ºC one day to 15ºC the next.

Complementary colours

Summer is new growth time for the verandah’s Crepuscule climbing rose, which is also indulging in a second, lighter, flush of flowers.

The new leaves are a surprisingly bright clear red, complementing the green all around them, and contrasting with the pure papery white of the Mandevilla laxa blooms, with their turned-back cuffs  and neatly furled greenish-tinged buds.

The other red/green composition was formed by a Crimson Rosella, who flew in through the cloud’s veil to check out the bird feeder ‘window’ in my summershade wall of intertwined greenery.  They come now and then — just in case I’ve donated one of my rare and sporadic handfuls of seed.

Heady honeysuckle

Some vines go crazy here; they used to need keeping in check, to be sure they didn’t take off across the grass and into the forest. The Honeysuckle was one such. But since my open gate policy, the wallabies do that job for me.

The Honeysuckle that drapes my outdoor toilet gets a severe short back and sides trim daily. The only way it can go is up and out.

The mass of woody stems below is not especially attractive, and the overall topiarised head shape is very odd, but the perpetual pruning has encouraged a mass flowering this year. I love the scent of honeysuckle, and it seems to permeate the clearing more than any other – heady indeed.

However, with such a thick crown I am very aware of needing to look up as I round the corner, duck under its fringe and take up the throne. It looks like the perfect python hunting cover to me.

But once I know I’m safe, the view’s pretty good from my doorless loo.

Out-of-reach roses

This year I have only three varieties of rose in bloom  — all climbing varieties. The others were shrubs but are now mere snapped sticks and stripped stems, some with a topknot of leaves where the wallabies and roos can’t reach.

Last year they all bloomed but the climbing ones were eaten by the possum. Since the quoll seems to have eaten the possum, where these roses have climbed out of reach of the determinedly reaching macropods, they are giving me a fabulous display in this late Spring.

The Crepuscule rose on the verandah is bursting with buds and its ragged apricot blooms are buzzing with bees. This rose has been climbing for about 15 years and its stems are thick and woody and likely to lift the battens on the verandah roof eaves where it snakes around the side, but I can’t bring myself to tell it it stop.

These roses drop their petals fairly quickly when cut, but the other two varieties last well inside. Stuck inside working away on my book, I don’t get outside much now to enjoy them where they grow, so I bring them in.

I am delighted and awed by their beauty every time I look at them. This delicate old-fashioned shell-pink beauty is Madame Carrìère and she bedecks the rusty shed walls, but only above about two metres.

The densely cupped rich yellow flowers of the Graham Thomas rose on the ‘guest wing’ are right beneath where the possum was living, and its stems were constantly broken as it climbed. Now it arches freely and blooms in profusion; I love the sheer opulence of its fat full cups!

As I never know how long any particular balance will last among the creatures here, I shall enjoy these roses while I can, and hope the macropods don’t learnt to climb.

Spring surprises

The extremely slow-to-bloom (16 years!) white wisteria is now fully out and it is so beautiful in form and colour that it deserves a follow-up post. For some reason, its delicacy makes me think of Japan, where I’ve never been. Perhaps the decorations on geisha hair combs in paintings?

The weeping habit has given my verandah view such added beauty that I am quite awed. And just look at the all the reddish new leaves on the climbing and possum-less rose!

Thanks, quoll.

The other spring surprise has been that the bird-sown Pittosporum tree in my garden has also blossomed. There are two indigenous varieties here, one more sweetly scented than the other, I believe. So I have been wondering which this one would turn out to be.

Perhaps I still don’t know, not having the two to compare, but mine definitely has a sweet perfume. It will do me. What a treat!

The bees seemed to think so too.

Welcome wisteria

For sixteen years the wisteria on my verandah has done a great job as a living shade cloth — but it has never flowered. It was given to me in a pot, grown from a cutting of a white wisteria, so the giver assured me.  I didn’t mind that it didn’t flower, given how lovely were the shape and shade of the leaves.

I bought a normal mauve flowering wisteria and planted it by the laundry.

So when the first leaf bud opened this Spring I rushed to take a photo — and then was stopped short by the odd bump to the right. A bud, a flower bud!! After thinking about it for sixteen years.

In a few days there were more, and as they opened I could see that the flowers were not white, but pale lilac.  Very pretty, subtler than its more uniform mauve cousin. They both have a lick of yellow at their throats.

The other pea-shaped flower in those shades in the garden is the Roi de Carouby snow pea’s magenta and pink, now reaching above the netting and bearing many peas daily.

Far and near

Far treats here are the changing interactions of mountain and sky.

After the rain I watch from my dripping verandah as Omo-white clouds boil and steam in and out of the nips and tucks of the densely forested southern slopes. Wisps linger to lick the gullies clean before joining the rising mass above.

Closer to me, the sun makes the leaves of the trees sparkle to show just how clean they are.

Near treats can be unexpected, novel. The remarkable could easily go unremarked in the bush; I have to be really on the lookout for a flash of different texture or colour.

Because this is not a garden, I never know when birds or animals have gifted a new plant to our forest. I can only hope they are native ones!

This vine was swinging from a sapling by the track to my dam. I have driven by here plenty of times yet have never seen this before.
It was suggested it could be a Supplejack, Ripogonum album perhaps.

But I’m not sure if its fruits bunch like this, whereas they seem to in the alternative, Smilax australis. Any thoughts?

Colouring my world

 It’s Autumn, and my yard is being coloured– by more than autumn leaves.

The indigenous Bleeding Heart Tree (Omalanthus populifolius) that I raised and planted shows how it got its name with its bright red veins that seem to drip to colour the lower leaves.

The first bunches of wattle blossom have burst out of their tightly fisted buds — small explosions of powdery gold, honey-scented. I grew lots of these from seeds that fell from a tree in my Aunty Mary’s front yard in Sydney; we didn’t know what sort it was, but perhaps it’s a Queensland Silver Wattle (Acacia podalyriifolia)?

The bird-sown gift of a Pittosporum undulatum tree, also indigenous, has fruited its mini cumquat bunches for the first time. How did I miss the flowers? The bird didn’t plant it in the position I’d have chosen, but this has soared to such a height so quickly that it clearly found the perfect spot for the tree — if not for me!

Bush bounty

I don’t plant annuals, so my garden is never the riot of colour that others manage. I rely on bushes and bulbs to surprise me with blossoms.

Outside the house yard, the surrounding bush does the same. Lately there has been an explosion of blossom on a select few of the Angophora floribunda trees. The chosen ones have been so covered that it looked like clotted cream from a short distance.
 I am assuming this is what caused the splashes of cream I could see a week earlier, way off on the far slopes of the higher ridges opposite. Too far away for detail, even with binoculars.
But in the immediate bush, I have no trouble spotting the highlights of summer wildflowers here, the Hyacinth Orchids, Dipodium punctatum. Apparently these orchids live on subterranean fungi which form on the decaying matter of the forest floor.

On tall maroon stalks, their strikingly coloured and splashed pink flowers stand and demand attention amongst the greens and beiges of the tussocks and blady grass. They get it.

A new orchid

potato-orchidThe forest here never ceases to surprise me with the apparently infinite number of plants or fungi that I have never seen before.
This tall orchid has appeared right beside the grey gum which is right beside the outdoor loo. I walk past here daily — did I miss it yesterday or has it come overnight, encouraged by the damp weather?

It is a total stranger to me — and there is a whole little family of them shooting up through the fallen leaves and bark. At first glance, the shorter ones, unopened, looked like they could be fungi.

My orchid book says it is a Potato Orchid, and I can see why, for the knobbly brown buds. But the opened flowers are prettier than potatoes — their shyly flared frills are fresh and white against the café au lait of their bells. (There is another orchid with the same common name and it looks nothing at all like a potato!)

The botanical name is Gastrodia sesamoides — meaning like sesame seeds — but how? If they are going to name the flower for the bud I’d say peanut rather than either potato or sesame.

I simply cannot call it a Potato Orchid.

When the possum’s away…

crepuscule-1The cycle of boss tenants around here changes so often I hardly have time to adjust.  

With the quoll absent I’d grown used to having all my roses eaten by the possum. When I found the dead possum in the yard I didn’t assume it was the only one, but perhaps its territory – verandah, shed and yard – hasn’t been advertised as vacant yet.

My roses are now covered in leaves and buds and blossoms; some of the varieties I haven’t seen in bloom for several years and I can’t quite accept that they won’t be munched off any night now, so I am rushing about and photographing them.

Maybe this verandah climber, the Crepuscule, doesn’t believe it either, as it’s having a most flamboyant flush, high and low and hanging in between.