Showtime

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.

Unwelcome Spring?

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.

Shades of purple

I am fortunate to have Jacaranda trees outside my house, splashing my skies and carpeting my road with purple. I call it purple, but is it really somewhere in between lilac and purple?

In fact, my Spring garden has many variations on a theme of purple, like the ubiquitous but still lovely Agapanthus plants, which were here.

I grew to dislike them due to municipal overuse, but that is similar to disliking Greensleeves because of Mr Whippy’s appropriation of it…

The nearby large and beautifully drooping branches of what I think is Duranta repens, commonly called Geisha Girl or Golden Dewdrop, was here, and its flowers are dark enough to be called purple.

The Plumbago I planted is much paler, not even aiming for purple and having trouble making lilac.

The Buddleia or Butterfly Bush is only slightly darker lilac, but deepens in the buds along its arching spires.

A pretty sight, although I am still waiting for the butterflies to find it!

One year’s promise

Having now been in this new home for a year, I am seeing the first Spring of my plantings, a promise of what my envisaged garden will be like.

Planting citrus trees was a priority, given that I grew up on an orange orchard and I still find the scent of orange blossom the most heavenly of all. I have eight little trees in; nine if you count the Kaffir Lime.

For any fruiting plant to survive the winter and burst forth with the buds that herald the fruit to come is great; the perfume of citrus is a bonus.

The most exciting for me is the spiny Native Fingerlime, absolutely covered in buds. I am sure they won’t all become those bliss bombs of limes, but surely many will?

Other flowers, like this shallot, are the first of my vegie crops to begin their next cycle of flowering, seeding and new plants appearing where they fall.

Having carried cuttings with me of favourite plants from the Mountain, like my Glory Vine, I love seeing those tiny sticks reshoot here in their first spring. By next year my verandah railings will hopefully be as bedecked in green through to Autumn pinks and reds.

The Glory Vine and the Mandevilla Laxa will mingle with my old Mountain favourite, a Crepuscule Rose.

My town Crepuscule Rose is not from a cutting, but newly bought here — because I miss it! — and looking happy. It is flanked by baby Mandevilla seedlings.

When Crepuscule gets going, as here at my Mountain cabin, it’s a wonder of recurrent ragged apricot blooms. I can’t wait.

Other newbies here having their first flowering is this ‘blue’ Solanum, in planters, growing up a trellis erected to urgently mask a most unaesthetic garage at the end of my verandah. It grew and climbed very swiftly, but it really wants to keep heading skywards, so it was perhaps not the best choice. Nevertheless, its delicate flowers, albeit unscented, are a welcome sight.

In fact, anything shooting after dormancy is welcome! Nature is so clever — and generous.

Finch flurries

Now that Spring is showing itself and the weeds amongst my ‘lawn’ are seeding, clouds of teeny grass finches are harvesting them.

The ones now visiting are gorgeous little birds — Red-browed Finches, native to Eastern Australia’s coastal edge, or at least east of the Dividing Range.

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They have a red rump, pink legs, a red brow and beak, with soft grey and olive green in between. They flutter up and resettle like consecutive musical keys, just a foot away from where they were when I startled them.

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Heads down feeding, with their olive backs as camouflage they are quite hard to spot from a distance. Only the frequent flurries give them away. I have a flock of about 10 delighting me at present.

Building for babies

This Spring the Welcome Swallows and the Willy Wagtails have both chosen to raise their families on my verandah.

The Willy Wagtails built a tidy and solid new nest, a smooth cylinder of cobwebs and grass and bodily fluids.

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The slack Swallows just re-used the old one; didn’t even shore up the crumbling structure, just did an interior makeover with more feathers.

But at least two of the Swallow babies survived and flew and still kept returning to the nest area as home base.

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When the Willy Wagtail decided hers was good enough, she sat. And sat. A rare occasion for the hyperactive Wagtail to be still long enough for me to get a photo.

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When she sat less often, I waited for the first peeps, but heard none. Compared to Swallow babies, these are quiet — just bundles of fluff and beak, huddled together in a tiny nest.

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There look to be four of them, as yet far less handsome than their dapper parents. They are all keen to be ready for a feed when a parent appears.

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The parents are kept frantically busy, catching food and returning to feed one chick at a time, putting their own beak right down the chick’s throat.

At this rate they’ll outgrow that nest very soon…

October storms

September was wet enough, but appropriately gentle.

October is delivering its rain in tropical tantrums, with sunshowers and rainbows and start-stop deluges.

This double rainbow appeared on the very first day of the month, to announce how things were going to be.

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A week later and we were treated to another fulsome beauty. Sadly, no pot of gold has ever been found by me, however hard I’ve looked.

The plants love the frequent drinks — not that they need extra encouragement to grow here. Weeds like dock are over my head already.

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This wallaby approves of the state of my ‘lawn’ at least.

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The swallow family don’t seem to mind being alternatively drenched and baked. Like me, they have to make the best of what the gods deliver…

Another day in Paradise

The end of a Spring day when the sun is still setting north of west brings the last of the light low over my ridge’s shoulder. 
It finds the far escarpment and paints it gold.

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The wallabies have been in clover — literally — as Spring has sprung with flushes of flowers on welcome plants and weeds alike.

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Birds arrive that I have not regularly seen here, to feed on blossoms and seed heads. Lorikeets hang upside-down in the callistemons, galahs waddlle through the yet unmown grass, beaks full of booty.

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Under the verandah roof the swallows are nestbuilding, perhaps even eggsitting by now, so this hopeful kookaburra keeps perching on the nearest star post.

The swallow parents divebomb his head relentlessly; he just keeps ducking. When they occasionally connect, he flinches, wobbles slightly, refluffs his feathers — and stays put.

Morning glories

Spring is here, with welcome rain freshening the creek, which had slowed and dropped alarmingly.

Having only one tank here, when I used to have four, is nerve-wracking.

Nights are still cool enough for a fire, and mornings are bright and crisp.

Not so crisp as to make me want to stay in bed, however. I am happy that the light is waking me up earlier, so sunrises are back on my radar.

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Dews are heavy of a morning, bringing endless varieties of bejewelled webbing designs.

The grand she-oaks are especially favoured, with one branch bearing an unusual flag-shaped web.

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The small Acacia Baileyana wattle that I planted only months ago had not been forgotten. 

It hasn’t flowered yet, but who needs flowers when you have strings of pearls?

Mothers’ morning — and mayhem

Soaking up the morning sun in front of my solar power shed door was this wallaby mum and her helpful joey. In between de-fleaing mum and racing around the shed, he’d return for a drink.

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She left her pouch open to the sun’s warmth and his frequent suckling. Within the pale pink pleats, is that a long nipple I see?

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In fact there were three mums and their joeys of varying ages.

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Or there were, until a randy male burst in to check out the ladies, who all took off, scattering panicked joeys as they went.

It’s definitely spring. As I write, there’s a great deal of grunting, coughing and thumping as five ready males chase a female round and round my house, under the verandah and back out, in and out of the shed, around my ute, through the orchard, around the big shed, then the small shed, back round the house… they’re all panting, it’s been going for abut 10 minutes, and they’re moving way too fast for me to take a photo.

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Now one has her cornered under my verandah; they’ve gone quiet so I do get the camera. Three other agitated males are hanging about the steps.

The pair seem to be ignoring each other for a while, then the grunting starts again — and it’s the female. Clearly, she’s saying ‘No!’ Which the blokes accept, sort of; there’s no forcing, but they keep up the chase.

And they’re off again!

Flower balm

After last weekend, my spirit was in sore need of healing. Especially as I’d spent, not just Saturday, but the past week in town standing on hard cement all day each day, offering hopeful one-liners and how-to-vote leaflets for The Greens at the pre-poll booth too.

So getting back to the Mountain was urgent.

And no, I’m not going to comment on the election results, except to say that it is imperative now that we all get more active regarding climate change if our grandchildren are not to inherit a nightmare world.

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In the hot week away, Spring had forced many early flowerings: Jasmine, May, Wisteria, Pittosporum… scents and sights as balm for my soul.

The rock orchids above the outdoor loo were truly stunning — a frothing shower of white on one clump, while the other’s slight delay gave honeysuckle varied tones.

In the early morning light, as they caught the first sunlight, they were breathtaking.

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Unfortunately the warm weather had also brought increased bushfire worries, as escaped hazard reduction burns linger uncontrolled in difficult country. 

The air was smoky anyway but on this morning it mingled with early rising mist and this newly blooming camellia glowed like a beacon before it. As with all my camellias, it is unattractively swathed in netting to keep the wallabies and roos from eating it. The camellias were all grown from cuttings from an old garden, so are especially precious.

Even a few days there helped restore my positivity before I had to go to Sydney to speak at the 350º Divestment Forum. Always a boost to see so many people passionate about acting to save our only planet.

Who needs roses?

The resident macropods have killed all my roses bushes by their perseverance in eating every shoot or bud that dares to peek through the sad grey wood of the remnants.

But they do not eat bulb leaves or flowers. I don’t know why, but I am very, very grateful, because each winter I am treated to displays like these.

The Erlicheer jonquils (above) come first, forming a perfumed bank below my now bare verandah vines. Their dense clusters are a little like roses;  I love the deep buttery depths of their cream petals.

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The tall white jonquils of a simpler, more open design are less strongly scented, while the orange-hearted yellow ones are mainly there for colour and cheeriness — and because they keep coming back each year.

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My childhood favourite was always the clumps of snowflakes, dainty white bells whose picot edges are decorated with just the right amount of green.

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Before their flowering gives a lighter touch, there’s a different charm in the strong blades of the leaves as they jostle for space around the birch tree. I ought to be separating these clumps; people say they will flower more if I do, but when a clump like this comes out it is as bountiful as I can imagine.