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).

Indoor Spring

nectarine-1I have now managed to prune four of my fruit trees so as to be able to net them later. It has to be gradual, as my thumb joints don’t like too much secateur work at a time.

One of these trees, the nectarine, had so many closed buds that I felt like a murderess – well, an abortionist really, or at least a very wasteful woman, as I thought of all those nectarine fruits that would never be.

The other prunings, the peaches and the plum, were not so advanced; I could bear to pile them up to burn. But not these tiny tight buds of deep rose colour.

So I brought them indoors and filled several large vases with their tall twiggy promises.
nectarine-2Now, one week later, Spring has come to my cabin interior as those buds have burst into fragile pink blooms with spangles of stamens and even an occasional bright green leaf unfolding.

As there are still closed buds, the range of shades from translucent pink to rich burgundy offer an extra visual treat.

Given that these blossoms are usually outdoors, on the tree, I have never smelt them before. In a closed environment, it isn’t pleasant, being reminiscent of ammonia, and even overpowers that of the vase of jonquils in my bedroom. Perhaps it’s the nectarines’ revenge for being picked prematurely.

But most things – and people – do not excel in every sense: the beauty of these blossoms is enough.

I just remove them from my bedroom at night.

The bounty of bulbs

bulbs-1Each year the front yard explodes with the bounty of winter-flowering bulbs: tuberoses, jonquils of at least five different types, including the highly-perfumed and multi-layered clusters of the Erlicheers, and the dainty arches of the snowdrops.

I know the latter are properly named ‘snowflakes’, but childhood memories and habits, as well as their drooping stems and rounded heads, insist they remain ‘drops’.
bulbs-2The bees didn’t care about terminology as they crawled inside each little green-dotted cup.
bulbs-3The springtime daffodils are just beginning to unfurl their papery sheaths, so for a few weeks I will have the bounty of both seasons from my bulbs.

They all grow anywhere, fight their way up through tough grass, need no care from me, continue to multiply, expanding into bigger and bigger clumps each season — and offer their collective beauty to delight my indoor days.

My winter roses

camellia-1-280This being August, it’s still winter. Yet there’s plenty of flowers: the wattle is out, the jonquils are in full bloom and the first daffodil has opened to the spring-like warmth of the sun.

Unfortunately it’s woken up the snakes too, as I have seen my first black snake — sunning itself on very short grass in the orchard where I had gone to give the citrus an overdue dose of seaweed spray. They didn’t get it; I’ll try again in the morning when it’s too cool for sunbaking — I hope.

I’ve also seen the first Welcome Swallow dashing about in the sky over my clearing, although I don’t yet know where they’re going to nest this year.

But even before this warm spell of weather, one of my young camellias has been putting out glorious red buds amongst its dark green and glossy foliage – so unlike the bush behind it. Grown from cuttings taken from camellia trees that were higher than the old house that they surrounded, this red one has done best of all here, even in this unimproved soil where most plants turn yellow.

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It’s especially valued by me because it’s an old variety, and because as the buds unfurl they look like roses before they fully open to show their central stamen cluster. And to have roses is rare here because the possums eat them, buds and leaves and thorns and all.

I’m almost afraid to say that they don’t eat camellias — in case I jinx such a glorious gift and they start munching on my beautiful winter roses.

If only they had a scent I’d pull out all the poor twisted twigs that the possums made of my rose bushes, and give up hope of a bloom in summer.

Fleshy blooms

There are few flowering plants in bloom now. The wattle is almost ready but as yet is grey-green with just a promise of gold. Most of the bulbs have shot through the grass but only one or two isolated jonquils have opened their scent to the light and air.

And yet from the damp edges of my verandah I can see clumps of creamy-beige flowers pushing up old mown grass. They are not something I have planted; I have never seen these in my yard before.
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blooms-2When the rain eased I went closer. Not flowers, but extremely over-populated fungi. Cream to pale caramel, delicate yet fleshy all at once, their lightly fringed caps upturn like the faces of flowers. Fighting for space and light, they fold and layer and then triumphantly open — my blooms.

 

 

 

 

 
blooms-3 A few days later they are still there, and then I think I see a new colony several metres away, near the leafless birch trees.
These are in two separate spots. The lower one is definitely the same sort as my fleshy beige blooms, but a small cluster right amongst the jonquils seems whiter.
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Indeed they are, perhaps because the most recently emerged, but they are also more convoluted and this I think must be because they have had to grow through the jonquil bulbs and around their leaves, tougher than grass.

Look out! Triffids!

triffid
My favourite tool is my hoe. After 30 years of loyal service it needed a new handle, which I’d loosely put on just before heading off for the weekend.

The bright new handle showed up how poorly I’d treated the hoe head and I vowed to give it a good sand and oil before it went back out on duty.

I left it leaning aginst a chair on the verandah, to remind myself to do so.

In those two days the Chilean Jasmine sent up a tendril between the boards, found the hoe and claimed it, looping around the handle and heading for the sky.

You’d swear it had an intelligence to do so: as always, I think of John Wyndham’s triffids.

Summer whites

whites-1
Not cricket apparel or cool clothes, but flowers: free gifts that appear each summer to brighten my days and my by-then mostly green garden.

They all receive my admiration but none of them need or receive any attention in between.

The Spider Lilies are extraordinary, delicate space age creatures that prance and arabesque from fleshy  bulbs and leaves. Beside them flower the herbs yarrow and meadowsweet; the nearby oregano is about to burst into white flower spikes too.

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Twining daintily along my verandah and perfuming my evenings is the Mandevilla laxa, commonly called Chilean Jasmine, although it isn’t a jasmine at all.

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And the shed is being overwhelmed by a rioting fountain of Chinese Star Jasmine.

The scent of these flowers comes to me separately and together at different spots in the garden.

Sweet summer whites.

Hardy and rewarding lavenders


While the forest flashes purple, the tough garden lavenders are blooming too. Some lavenders do well here, beautiful to see and to smell, needing little attention beyond the occasional prune, appealing to neither possums nor horses, but adored by bees.

My most prolific is the French Lavender, Angustifolia dentata (see the finely ‘toothed’ leaves), which grows very easily from cuttings and doesn’t care how poor the soil I stick it in. The colour of the small flowers on the spikes is truly lavender, not purple.


The other one that flourishes here is the Italian Lavender, Lavendula stoechas, much darker and stranger in shape.

The petals on the spikes are very small, very deep purple, but the the tall lavender bracts on top remain like feather head-dresses even after the petals are finished. It makes a most impressive bush.

How generous such plants are, to flower like this every year and demand so little of me.