Sandstone Spring

The walk at Lees’ Pinch Lookout in the Goulburn River National Park is only an 800m round trip. At this time of year there were more native flowers blooming than I’d see in most gardens.

Fantastic rocks and sinuous young, whitely unscribbled-on Scribbly Gums formed the settings.

Yellow predominated, but apart from the simple open faces of a Hibbertia, I didn’t know these sandstone country flowers — the pea family! My forest country has little or no shrub layer, so this richness was a treat.

Backlit beauties

It’s still as cold as winter of a morning, but the irises are heading skywards for summer.

The most proudly regal flower I know, their fistfuls of blue-green broadspears of leaves were lately joined by tall spikes of tightly furled buds, and now the topmost of these are opening.

They droop their lower lips and bare their bearded tongues, but coyly hold up veils to hide their golden eyes. The texture of these beautifully veined petals is like silk — royal silk — and the dramatic colours make this bearded iris  my favourite.

The reason why I am permitted to have such beauties boldly growing in my yard is that none of the critters find irises tasty — neither the leaves nor the flowers. This has proved the case with all my bulbs.

So I am inclined to plant more iris varieties, like these delicate frilly lilacs, as there about 300 to choose from.

But I have a niggling feeling that if I do, some animal will suddenly decide they make a worthwhile feast. It’s happened before: “Get that woman complacent, off her guard — then go for it!”

I may have to remain dependent on the tougher types, like these yellow Flag irises that are multiplying happily in a soggy depression. Their blooms are smaller and less flamboyant than their dry-footed cousins, but more open.

Exotic whites

Whilst I live in the middle of 165 acres of natural bushland, a huge ‘native garden’, I appreciate my small pocket of exotic botanica, introduced plants that don’t want to go walkabout.

From my desk I am treated all day to the ethereal beauty of the white wisteria on the verandah, flowering for the second year, after 15 years of refusal. It has a light perfume, well worth keeping the window open in front of me.

On my way to the clothesline I detour around the long arches of the May bush, its clusters of simple flowers adding honey scents to the spring perfume mix in my yard.

The bees like it, but not as much as the pretty flowers of the enormous Nashi trees, although they smell rather unpleasantly like bleach, not honey.

But once past those, I can compensate with one of my favourite scents, from the friesias around the fig tree. Even better, I can pick some to take the scent inside. 

None of these exotic beauties will last long, so I make sure to look my fill while they are here. As you may have guessed, I like white flowers.

Flower roos

Beneath the new green leaves of the birch trees, the fading yellow jonquils and Erlicheers and the fresh yellow and white daffodils — whose name I’ve forgotten — quietly clump and multiply and delight each year. The iris aren’t so prolific.

I was amused to see the kangaroo family choose this little grove of flowering bulbs for a munch and a snooze in the sun. They are quite delicate in eating the native grass between the bulbs without flattening much.

I am so grateful that they don’t fancy bulb leaves or flowers!

The joey had been asleep in the centre of the flowers, but popped up to peep over and check out the world as I watched. Not too tough a life in this refuge.

Spring hits

My stone fruit trees agree with the snakes; they reckon it’s Spring. The apricot declared it first, prematurely, and lost most of the blossoms in a rainy spell.

Of them all, my favourite is the Santa Rosa plum’s simple white blossoms, their stamens topped with gold, and set in softest green. The bees like them too.

I still haven’t pruned this one so will have to share the plums with the King Parrots and the Bower Birds.

Pink is a colour of so many hues they ought to be distinctly named. The peaches and the nectarine are quite different blossoms, in progress, in composition and complexity, as well as ‘pinkness’.

Which is as it should be, given that their fruit is so different.

The cherries are yet to blossom; then will come the pome fruit: the apples and the nashis. Lucky bees and birds — and lastly, possibly lucky me!

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.