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.
crepuscule-2

Over-the-top orchids

orchids-1Drivng back from the Gloucester district a few weeks ago, I passed above the very steep and narrow, very special gully near Dungog where a remnant rainforest of giant trees like figs and stinging trees and white cedars stand tall and proud amidst a dense jungle of vines competing for the light.

I am always freshly struck by the sight of this small pocket of grandeur, a reminder of how so much of the country around here must have been like once.

This time, however, my eye caught unusual splashes of white high up in a native fig. It was some distance downhill before I could pull over and walk back.
orchids-2Thanks to the magic of my zoom lens, I could be sure that they were King Orchids (Dendrobium speciosum, var. hillii) Hundreds of feet up, several fat clumps of them had colonised in forks of the trunk, clinging on with their fleshy fingers as they climbed along the broad branches. A staghorn shared their treehouse.

These spectacular sprays of white were even more so because they were here in this special, natural place – no gardener had placed them there.
orchids-3At the time, my orphaned clumps of the same orchid had been still in bud, my place being so much higher in altitude.
Now, their turn has come.

Grounded, they are closer to me and I can see their colour range from cream to white, the dab of yellow in each throat, and the tiny maroon ‘freckles’ that lead to it. And I can smell them —  honeysweet like wattle, but with an edge of musk.

They are part of the view from my outdoor loo, which will tell you partly why it was designed deliberately door-less. 
orchids-4

Blessing the blossoms

blossoms-1I have two of these shrubs planted in my yard. They are native, although not indigenous to the area, but  this is my garden after all. I think they are Melaleuca ericiflolia, or Swamp Paperbark. This Spring everything seems blessed with an abundance of blossoms, in excess of years past.

This butterfly is taking full advantage of the bounty; I think it’s a Plain Tiger or Lesser Wanderer (Danaus chrysippus), thanks to Martin Purvis. Please tell me, anyone, if I’m wrong.

The bees were enjoying the yellow-tipped cream brushes too. Bees must be run off their little feet right now, as the garden is such a riot of blossom.
blossoms-2My two huge nashi pear trees are decked out in bridal white — so pure and pretty that it hurts my heart to see it.

Nashis do very well here, giving me and the parrots and the bower birds more fruit than we can eat. The beauty of nashis is that they will ripen off the tree, and to an astonishing honey sweetness.

I feel sorry for people who have only tried supermarket nashis, which are always unripe.

Dressing up a shed

pandorea-1aMy shed is made from rusty but sound old corrugated iron, with no charm in shape or design to allow me to call it ‘rustic’. So it has to be disguised.

Originally a lovely Madame Carrière climbing rose graced the eastern end, but the possum’s munching has almost made that disappear.

This spring however, for the first time, a native beauty has taken on the role of dressing up the shed.

Since I planted it just around this corner of the shed several years ago, my Pandorea pandorana vine has struggled.

Last year I looped it around the drainpipe to get full sun and it clearly loves this position.
pandorea-2It never has much in the way of foliage and what it has is very fine, but now it has burst into a mass of clustered blossom bells, flaunting their frilly cream skirts and showing off their maroon streaked undersides.

Its common name is Wonga Wonga vine. Without knowing its meaning, I find the sound much less attractive than ‘Pandorea’, so I don’t use it. My Pandorea is a party girl!

Garden gifts

gift-1Just spring, and another of my old-fashioned camellia bushes has come into bloom. Grown from cuttings taken from the garden of an old house in Port Macquarie, this one is lolly pink, streaked with strawberry. A candy camellia. Ain’t she sweet?
gift-2In a less domesticated part of my yard, three native plants have formed a dainty trio. A young Omalanthus tree, often called the Bleeding Heart Tree, only as tall as myself, has been wreathed in thin vines: the clinging bridal shower of Clematis aristata, Traveller’s Joy, and the purple pea highlights of Hardenbergia, Native Sarsparilla. The tree I propagated and planted, the vines are surprise gifts of nature.

The lime green leaves of the Clematis are echoed by the long budding racemes of the King Orchids (Dendrobium speciosum, var. hillii) . A spectacular native orchid, it will be even more so when the flowers are open.
gift-3Found in my rainforest gully years ago, the increasing weight of this clump had probably caused the casuarina branch on which it had grown to come crashing down. I relocated it to rocks at the base of a stringybark in my yard, where it has fleshily multiplied since.

Whoever said the Australian bush is drab?!!

Buddleia butterfly

My spindly Buddleias can’t be called bushes because they never get bushy enough, despite my annual pruning. But the stems that do shoot and flower each year affirm the plant’s common name of ‘Butterfly Bush’ nevertheless, because those creatures love it.

These are white buddleias, rather than the more common purple, and mostly I have seen my local Wanderer butterflies dashing over them in between their ongoing intensive love affair with my lavender bushes.

But this day, I saw a different, most beautiful and elegant butterfly, who could not leave the buddleia spires alone and was not interested in the lavender.

It was a very active butterfly and a very windy day, so the long stems were swishing about most inconveniently for my weaving camera.

As usual, my books were inadequate; I actually only have children’s butterfly I.D. books. But a Blackle online search introduced me to the wonderful world of Martin Purvis and his Australian butterflies website.

Thanks to Martin, I think my butterlfy is Macleays Swallowtail (Graphium macleayanus).