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.
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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. 
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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).

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.
blooms-1
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.
blooms-4
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.