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.


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-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.
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!

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

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.


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.


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.