Garden invader

fence-1My vegie garden has been so variously girded and further girded that I felt it was a fortress.

It has fine aviary wire netting dug in at the base – against small mammals like bush rats; a moat of gravel against the kikuyu; is swathed to head height in floppy chicken wire for horses (originally) and for possums; and has an added aviary wire overlay to varying heights from about 700mm to 1metre – for the snakes.

I had been at ease in there for weeks as I weeded and planted for Spring, as I could see that no critters were lurking in there. After having been away during the wild dust storms lately, the spring growth in there was looking sad and dirty. I went to hose it.

As I touched the garden gate I saw my red-bellied black snake stretched out comfortably on the earth of my vegie garden, threaded amongst the self-sown rocket seedlings in front of my garlic.

How had it got in — and could it get out? It surely could not have got through the aviary wire??!! (which you can’t see here but is on the outside of these layers of netting.)
blacksnake-1As I watched it slither in and out of my once harmless young vegie rows, erratically rearing up to poke at the netting, I indulged in a longish bout of teary despair. Fearing it was trapped, I phoned a snake-wise friend who said my aviary wire was nowhere near high enough and yes, the snake could have climbed up the netting until it reached the larger holes. I hadn’t imagined it would make such an effort — why would it bother??

I was advised to open the gate and watch until it went out. But when I returned I couldn’t see it; nor could I on each half-hourly check that afternoon. It must have got out.

Next day I saw it on the grass elsewhere in the yard — but I am still unable to go into the garden until I can afford to add a new higher layer of fine netting.

But how to be sure the invader is outside the fortress when I do?

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?!!

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.
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.

Possum presents

possum-1
A Crepuscule rose climbs along my verandah railings, the blooms of which I am very fond. Unfortunately I only get to admire them on the far branches that hang suspended in mid-air.

The rest are eaten by the brush-tailed possum.
possum-2
No doubt it thinks it makes a fair exchange. It munches on flowers and leaves and breaks off stems and branches, makes a deposit on the railing by way of payment and waddles off to the next rose bush.
possum-3a
But whether currants or coal, I haven’t yet found a use for these little black offerings, so am not happy about the exchange at all. I could do without the presents and the presence — of any possum!

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.

whites-2

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.

whites-3

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.

Fungi favour orange

The cleared slope was a fairly uniformly well-grazed green. Except for a spot of orange today.

I walked over to see what it was and found a small cluster of coral fungi blooming fleshily all by itself in the middle of nowhere.

A species of Ramaria, it would seem, or else paprika cauliflower cheese made from a rather spindly cauli.

Back home another incongruous splash of orange drew me to the orchard, to the sawn-off base of a self-sown avocado tree who’d had 10 years to prove it could fruit, and didn’t, meanwhile shading my vegie patch.

It was ringed with tough orange frilly fans, while others were elegantly striped, in less garish cream and grey and brown. I think it’s Trametes versicolor.

On top of the stump was a cluster of funny little greenish-grey nubs, like lost teeth. What they are I cannot imagine!

Garden variety

You may have heard the odd expression, ‘the common or garden variety’.

It’s used pejoratively, meaning nothing special.

I find this odd because my small vegetable and herb garden produces some of my most beautiful flowers in the course of their ‘common or garden’ duties of feeding me.

Like the Roi de Carouby snow pea, who drapes my netting fence with softly spotted green leaves and suspends stunning two-toned blooms in pink and burgundy, which turn into large and deliciously crisp peas.

They almost never make it to my table because I eat them as I see them, reluctantly leaving a few to grow fatly podded for seed for next season.

Or how about the borage plants, with their exquisitely shaped and detailed flowers — blue and burgundy petals and purplish-black stamens.

The flowers hang like space age lanterns below their clusters of exotic hairy buds.

The crinkled borage leaves are hairy too, and both flowers and leaves smell like cucumber.

I use the flower petals in salads and add just a few leaves to juices, as a tonic, but many claims are made for this herb, such as increasing milk flow in nursing mothers, or to give courage in battle. I could use the latter at times!

But I wouldn’t care if it was good for nothing but beauty, as I never plant annual flowers and the generous borage self-sows every year.