Living walls


Each summer my verandah grows its own walls on the west and north-west.

Although the ornamental grape and the wisteria have been pruned right back to leafless woody stems, come spring they begin to reach out for each other and interwine.

By Christmas they have made dense, multi-layered walls of greenery that keep my verandah shaded, cool and dry.


Just like man-made walls, they incorporate a window and a door, although if I am away for more than few days I return to catch them trying to fill in the gaps, tendrils searching across thin air for the other side.

Apart from their practical function, unlike shadecloth for example, they are beautiful and varied in colour and form.

And they’re free!

Spring shades

Pinks, mauves, magentas, purples – spring is hitting the full spectrum now in its flower offerings.

In the forest, the native Indigofera bushes have burst into prominence with masses of pinkish-mauve pea flowers, carried at about chest-height below the eucalypts. Normally their delicate foliage renders them less visible. Any garden would be graced by these.

In my garden, though, it’s the large and flamboyant blooms of the irises that are catching my eye most often: exotically arranged coloured flags of petals, pink up, magenta down, a dusting of gold feathers, deep purple silk buds.

They even hold their own against the riotous backdrop of the lavender.

Winter morning

Mist rises from the mountains opposite as morning light grows stronger. It reveals light snow has fallen overnight up there at 5000 feet.

That’s in the wilderness area, so only the wallabies will be marking the snowfall with their prints.

But the sun is rising too, and the mist begins to glow, tinged with rose as the long low rays penetrate it.

The snow will melt during the day; the brief glimpses I get are rewards for the cold morning, and a reminder that I’m not in Sydney!

Season of moss and lichen

After being cabinbound for a week, when a morning came with no rain threatening, I seized the camera, donned gumboots and went a-walking.

Most blatantly rainloving of all were the mosses, drab in dry times, at their party best now.

On rocks in the gullies they glowed like textured velvet in a rich range of shades of green, with shapes and heights varying as the best of garden designers would recommend.

Set off by the splotches and splatters of the hardy lichens, decorated with an occasional fallen leaf or wallaby scat, my moss gardens are at their best.

On the rocks of the drier ridges, I find the plumped-up mosses glowing less in rainforest brights than in sage and thyme blues, honey browns. Here the lichens stand up amongst it like vivid corals – the flowers in this garden.

Spring or autumn or?

Some of my garden shrubs are exhibiting extremely strange behaviour this autumn. Like the May bush, the Banksia rose, and the honeysuckle that smothers the outdoor loo.

It would seem they aren’t sure what season it is. When they ought to be winding down and closing up shop for the winter, they are putting out just one or two isolated sprays of blossom!

Totally out of season, but the plants, like the animals, have been so confused by the strange weather this last year that they seem to be having a bet each way.

Just in case this autumn is spring, and the other spring doesn’t come, their genes have told them to bloom, but only tentatively.

Rosey harvest

rosellas on lawn
It’s easy to see when the predominant native grass in my `lawn’ is seeding, because the yard is taken over by a purposeful band of crimson rosellas.

They proceed en masse up the slope, through thin grass as tall as themselves.

Standing on one leg, each daintily grasps a seedhead stem with the claw of the other, bends it towards their beak and neatly strips it, rather as we’d munch sideways along a cob of corn.

The harvest appears organised and amicable: no crossing of territory, no debate about personal patches, not one squawk of protest.

It is a silent harvest, though highly visible, as the richness of their red and blue plumage turns my plain yard into a moving tapestry.
rosellas closeup

Crazy season

nashi pearsWith temperatures veering from 13 to 35 degrees, neither the fauna nor the flora know what’s going on here.

The snakes don’t know whether to hibernate or hunt, I’ve had to bring out the winter woollies, the autumn crocus are blooming and the ornamental grapevine began changing into its autumn colours only halfway through summer, while still putting out new green shoots.

On top of that we had 251mm in January: that’s nearly 10 inches, old style!! The track’s a squelchy mess, the back roof’s leaking and I’m sick of wearing gumboots.

And while I’m having a whinge, the king parrots and the crimson rosellas have eaten more than their share of nashi pears.

But I shouldn’t have worried. I’ve picked what’s left and now I’m condemned to nashi-ing for days: nashi butter, nashi and ginger jam, nashi Bavarian, nashi and date and walnut chutney, nashis in red wine…

Anyone got any more recipes?

Free summer blinds

stepsIn Autumn the ornamental grape and wisteria vines on my verandah were a visual treat — a rich riot of warm colours.

The vines are bare by winter, allowing the low sun to enter my house.

No matter how severely I trim them back, come Spring they always take off with such vigour that here we are at the beginning of Summer with fully drawn blinds of many different shades, shapes and textures of green.

green shade

in flower‘Pray enter a refuge from the glare and heat of summer’, say my front steps, leading to a doorway in the vines.

They do not lie. Once on the wide verandah, which is my summer living area, the contrast is extreme, the shade is dense and cool, the very light is green.

And to think these passive solar blinds are free, with guaranteed annual installation!

Up the north-eastern end of the verandah, morning summer sunlight is welcome, so the free blinds are allowed to be of more lacey material.

The climbing Crepuscule rose is finishing its blooming, just as the ‘Chilean Jasmine’, Mandevilla Laxa, is beginning — highly perfumed white clusters on delicate twining stems.

Summer lighting

Now that the sun is back to having the full sweep of the sky for rising and setting, it’s reaching windows that have not been sunstruck for months.

Even through my closed eyelids, somehow I know that the morning sunlight has snuck over the ridge to the east and is stroking the edges of my bedspread, browsing over my wall of books — and implying I ought to be up.

Given that I only like to work outdoors in the cooler ends of summer days, usually I take the hint and arise. I’ll spend a couple of hours raking horse manure or reclaiming parts of the yard that have been neglected over this last busy year. Then I feel I deserve breakfast.

decorated window

Later in the day the sun is now lighting up a fixed window high under the western gable. It was a plain multi-paned window, decorated only with fly spottings until I got the bright idea of filling in the panes it with those flat-backed iridescent glass beads sold in bargain shops.

On the inside, I glued them on with clear silicone into a vaguely Arabic-cum-Art Nouveau pattern in cool colours, thinking this would create a cooling impression. However, the iridescence proved to be only evident from the outside, and really only in summer when the sunlight was low and bright enough to reach it.

I also thought the extra glass layer might increase the insulating qualities of the window, but when I indulge in this sort of nest-decorating behaviour, I can always find a practical reason why I must do it ahead of pressing work. Once it’s done, the visual pleasure it gives me is reason enough.

Spring is sprung


My deciduous trees and the roses are risking sudden death by budding while the possum’s still about, but it’s in the forest that Spring has really made a grand entrance. Its greens and browns and greys are being splashed and draped with mauves and purples, whites and creams, as shrubs and vines flower.

The delicate Indigofera is prettier than any garden shrub, with its pinkish/mauve spires and ferny foliage.

Above it was Clematis aristata, which climbs saplings and crowns them with its drifts of white stars and new green leaves, bending them in graceful arches.

Nobody planted them, nobody tends or prunes them. They’re just part of the annual Spring show here.

But this is the Garden of Eden, so the snakes come with the flowers.


Today I saw my first red-bellied black snake, a few metres away from my low bedroom window.

It was very fat and alert, head erect, bright of eye, but not moving quickly;  it’s still a bit chilly here. I needed to watch where it went in case it was a new co-tenant.

But no, having come through the fence to let me know to watch where I’m walking even more carefully from now, it wound its way back up the slope and out under the gate.

Nevertheless, I put my gumboots on to go over to the vegie garden, and each slinky curve of hoses half-hidden in grass was suspect!