I can no longer keep up my griping about Spring being a harbinger of Summer… the blooms are too beautiful. I can gripe about a Spring day of 30 degrees, as we had yesterday!
My Wisteria had been threatening to bring down the carport with its vigour, but a severe winter pruning has removed risk and delivered these dainty droops of lilac.
My purple Eriostemon shrub is the current native performer.
But mostly it is the English cottage garden stalwarts that are responding to Spring, albeit confusedly.
Like the May bush (Spirea), arching gracefully over my fence with masses of blossoms of the purest of white. In its northern hemisphere home, it would flower in May of course.
One native that would not look amiss in a cottage garden is the bountiful Seaside Daisy (Erigeron). Its happy little faces and its generous spillovers always make me smile.
As do the raggedy blooms of this Crépuscule rose that I am training to grow along my verandah railings; their sunny buds of deep apricot to egg yolk yellow, and paler simple flowers with their golden centres give me joy throughout much of the year. An 1864 variety, it is evergreen, fragrant, uncomplicated and honest!
I am not in the right climate for roses, but to have my old favourites around me, I will persevere.
As the orchids have been flowering over winter, they do not fill me with foreboding. Especially when bedecked with post-rain diamonds, I love seeing them outside my study window.
Not so the too-early signs of Spring, like the Ornamental Grape Vine, shooting and blossoming already. For after Spring comes Summer. Both are associated for me — and for many others — with heat and bushfires.
I love the fragrance of Freesias. I try not to regret their ephemeral nature or their harbinger of Summer status and wish hard that they naturalise here. In general bulbs do not seem to flourish in this sub-tropical climate, whereas at the Mountain they were my annual treat, great clumps of them coming up all through the lawn, untouched by the wallabies.
The little Cumquat trees offer both a visual and taste treat; I pick one bright globe and eat it every morning after I visit my Frogmouth friends. This Nagami variety has a sweet skin and tart flesh, so you get both sensations as you bite into it.
The lavender too cannot be blamed for blooming so profusely, and the bees love it for doing so in a winter short of flowers.
Who can resist sweet-smelling Freesias and Lavender? I quash my forebodings… begone doom and gloom, for the moment… and enjoy small vases of them about the house. Inhale. Smile.
Every morning I go out to check on my Frogmouth residents. They were not there the last two days and I fretted that they had left me. But no, they are back today, and not cuddled together as was usual. Is it warmer?
As I greeted them, one fixed me with its golden eye while its mate began assuming the broken branch pose. ‘I am not here’.
‘Don’t worry’, I assured them. ‘You are safe here, so please don’t go elsewhere for good!’
On my early mornings checks of the yard, I often see the intact wonders of overnight webweaving. I think this quite raggedy one on the Native Finger Lime may have its weaver at the centre? Better eyesight than mine must decide.
The maker of this more symmetrical circular web on the Acacia perangusta must be hiding amongst its leaves and blossoms.
Not having as much wildlife as I had at the Mountain, I treasure each and every creature… great and small.
This garden bed may look like one big mess, when in fact it is a cornucopia of gifts that ensure I will have ongoing vegetables and herbs to pick and eat.
All I have to do is allow the plants to live their full life span, to get long and leggy, flower and go to seed. Like the beautiful blue borage, ringed by new plants, like toddlers around their mother’s skirts. These I will dig up and plant as a border elsewhere.
My favourite salad green is rocket, (left) so I depend on these tall and healthy plants providing next summer’s crop.
Last summer’s lettuce (right) was allowed to be so straggly it fell over, but not before scattering its tiny seeds. So here are its progeny, to be picked as thinnings as they grow.
I could not eat enough of the Asian greens I planted, so most will have to be dug in as green manure, but a few will grace the garden with their yellow posies until I am sure of the next crop being bestowed on my garden, wherever their seeds choose to fall.
The Cos lettuce flowers are not showy, but the sole surviving plant, a veritable Leaning Tower of Cos, is cherished for its anticipated contribution to my table.
And this mass of Continental Parsley is the result of just one seeding plant last year. I should have thinned them, but instead I revel in the lushness, harvest them in great handfuls and treat them as a green vegetable. You can’t have enough parsley!
At least I can’t.
And all free… you just have to not mind a lack of order, of straight rows of plants.
As the ornamental grape has lost all its lovely pink leaves, I tackled the pruning of its woody infrastructure, always a little trepidatiously, but knowing from experience that it will shoot even more vigorously if I prune it hard.
And besides, the best cuttings are good for striking more plants, and the bulk of them dry to make good kindling for the fire.
But not everyone was pleased by the removal. A few grasshoppers lost their hiding places, and this lone butterfly seemed quite upset as more and more of the thin twiggy veil was cut away.
Then it landed on the railing and stayed so still for so long I worried it was stunned somehow.
It has the unfortunate name of the Common Eggfly. Most unfair for such a pretty and dainty creature. And if it’s common in general, being found from the Torres Strait and Northern Australia all the way to Sydney, it’s the only one here!
When it did fly off, it seemed agitated, fluttering in and out of the remaining vine. Had it laid eggs there?
Being confined to home doesn’t mean life is less interesting. You just have to look more.
Remember to go outside before dinner to see is there’s a sunset; autumn is a great time for sky spectacles!
And in the mornings, check out what the spiders have been up to overnight. This major engineering feat on my deck looked even more impressive when only half-lit; how was it hanging there?!
And look down.
Amongst the dull leaf litter this vibrant little Stinkhorn fungus ventures up to see what the weather is doing. It’s one of the stinkhorn family and apparently smells like rotting meat or sewage.
Often found as a solitary specimen, it is Phallus rubicundus. Can’t imagine why…
And while looking down, I was surprised to see this decorative pair remaining in place like statues, sunning themselves together even as I walked past several times, quite close.
Eastern Water Skinks, they are cherished residents here in town. Burnished bronze and gold and chocolate, with such delicate fingers and toes I fear for them — I’d like to think they know they are safe here. No need to bolt for cover when I appear…
After the long drought, we have taken on tropical storms, with rain most days. Plant growth is rampant, and the lawn mower has come out of its summer/autumn/winter retirement.
But amongst all the green I spot a flash of colour in the grass. Yellow.
Close up, it resembles several blobs of crumbed, artificially yellow battered takeaway food! But the strands of slime give it away: the first slime mould of 2020 in my yard.
This one looks like the ’Dog’s Vomit’ slime mould.
If you haven’t struck such an oddity before, this is one of a very strange and long misunderstood group of organisms (Fuligo). While no longer classed with fungi, they are included in my Fungi field guide (by A.M.Young).
It tells me they can produce cells that can ‘move about actively and ingest food rather like an amoeba. This cell feeds and reproduces by simple fission until there are perhaps thousands of daughter cells. A chemical signal then causes these cells to combine and form the fruiting structure…’.
I always find them slightly creepy.
My book says this one’s common name is Flowers of Tan, but Dog’s Vomit is much more apt.
Several days later the yellow has become a greyish mauve; now more likely to be mistaken for dried dog’s turds…
But it is not the only slimy visitor after the rain. In a much-horse-manured garden bed, crisp white snow crystals cluster and clump over a stem of my grapevine, again the slimy threads giving it away.
Others transform horse poo into snowballs. Or I could go with the food analogy and say powdered sugar…
An older one is already less snowy and within days they are all a less notable brown. Toasted desiccated coconut?
No wonder I continue to be astonished at the intricacies and varieties that Nature holds, and sometimes shows, especially the ephemeral ones. I need another lifetime to discover more of them…