Welcome wisteria

For sixteen years the wisteria on my verandah has done a great job as a living shade cloth — but it has never flowered. It was given to me in a pot, grown from a cutting of a white wisteria, so the giver assured me.  I didn’t mind that it didn’t flower, given how lovely were the shape and shade of the leaves.

I bought a normal mauve flowering wisteria and planted it by the laundry.

So when the first leaf bud opened this Spring I rushed to take a photo — and then was stopped short by the odd bump to the right. A bud, a flower bud!! After thinking about it for sixteen years.

In a few days there were more, and as they opened I could see that the flowers were not white, but pale lilac.  Very pretty, subtler than its more uniform mauve cousin. They both have a lick of yellow at their throats.

The other pea-shaped flower in those shades in the garden is the Roi de Carouby snow pea’s magenta and pink, now reaching above the netting and bearing many peas daily.

Sharing my spring

A few warm days, a fat black snake with a lunchtime bulge basking in the sun, and then five degree mornings again.

I know to keep an eye out now, but I have been watching the wallabies and roos accept the snake’s presence, and even close progress, and show no sign of anxiety.

I must learn to be still.

I saw the snake again today — and managed to keep on hanging out the washing.

Almost daily an echidna potters though the yard, weaving its waddling way between the groups of macropods that laze and graze — usually around 20, not counting joeys in pouches.

I enjoy their easy acceptance of each other, as I do when the wallabies let me pass very close and don’t move. No echidna is at ease with me yet.

Yesterday I saw the first satin bower bird pecking around the bay tree, darting in and out from its low growing shelter. She could have been a ceramic figurine, with her subtle colouring and well-defined bumps of breast feathers.

There will be many more, ready for what fruit the parrots leave. While the trees bear only blossom my feelings are simple: admiration.

My latest resident

I have more to tell about my trip to Western Australia, but in between I have to keep you up-to-date with the ongoing news on the mountain. On the second day of Spring, the Diamond Python arrived. 

The day was warm and sunny; I was hanging out washing. Out of the corner of one eye, this is what I saw.

Now I know better than to panic about a non-venomous python — at least, not when it’s out on the open lawn, rather than in my shower, or trying to come inside.

So you could say I was pretty relaxed about watching it from only a slight distance. I do marvel at the way it seems to follow itself in one long and powerful undulation.

I also wanted to see where it was heading with such uphill purpose, past the vegetable garden, past the Nashi tree.

I should have known. Of course it was heading for the shed. As I watched it ooze effortlessly up the stems of the massive jasmine vine, it seemed to know exactly where it was going. 

Did this mean it had previously resided in the woody twists and weaves of vine that so thickly covers this old tin wall before? 

Or was it aiming for one of the many gaps beneath the unlined roof? Had it lived inside the shed — and how often had I missed its bright patterning draped across the dim rafters while I pottered about below?

Yes, I know it means I won’t have bush rats in there — but what about baby quolls?

And what about me? I’m nervous enough already going in to that overcrowded and shadowy place, always with one eye on the dark recesses beside my feet. If I have to keep the other eye on the dark spaces above my head, or in between — finding anything will be very difficult!

Signs of Spring

It’s September, so it must be Spring, but at this altitude we are often some weeks behind in flowering times.

I shudder to think what the wallabies will do to the tender green buds of trees like this birch, but at least they can't reach to the top.

I love the way bulbs have naturalised and thickened into clumps over the years — and I love that wallabies don’t find them tasty.

The winter snowflakes and the jonquils of several varieties, both white and yellow, look perfectly at home around such deciduous trees.

The abundant yellow jonquils like these above may look like mini daffodils but they lack the stateliness as well as the size.

My daffodils only bloom with Spring here, so for me they are the true harbinger. And they have arrived!

Only trouble is, if Spring is here, can snakes be far behind?

My reptilian residents

jacky-lizardAs the weather warms up so does the action round here — at least as far as my cold-blooded residents are concerned.

My favourite is the sprightly Jacky lizard; perky and patterned and with such dainty digits!

I wouldn’t mind a few more of these little blokes darting about the yard.
My least favourite is the red-bellied black snake. Impressively muscular as it ripples across my grass and into my gardens, I see it almost every day now, always in a different spot. So my eyes are engaged in a constant flicker to check where it is, as I don’t want to startle it and cause it to panic my way.

I also have to thump about with the hoe first to check in any clumps I want to work on, because it can become invisible in a surprisingly small amount of cover.

This is the first year I have been sure I had a resident black snake rather than a visitor, just passing through. There’s nothing I can do about it – but I don’t like it! I wish it was winter again.

Spring heads—and tails

hardenbergiaIt’s spring! In the bush, dead spars of tree trunks have sprouted flamboyant purple head-dresses as Hardenbergia stems have reached the top and found the light.
red-belly-blackIn the garden the winter bulbs aren’t even finished, the spring ones haven’t started; there are many clumps of green strappy leaves gathering food for the bulbs for next year—so I can’t mow these areas yet.

But I won’t be weeding by hand after spotting amongst several of them the tail end of my apparently resident red-bellied black snake.

It’s now a case of where haven’t I seen it yet.

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?!!

Indoor Spring

nectarine-1I have now managed to prune four of my fruit trees so as to be able to net them later. It has to be gradual, as my thumb joints don’t like too much secateur work at a time.

One of these trees, the nectarine, had so many closed buds that I felt like a murderess – well, an abortionist really, or at least a very wasteful woman, as I thought of all those nectarine fruits that would never be.

The other prunings, the peaches and the plum, were not so advanced; I could bear to pile them up to burn. But not these tiny tight buds of deep rose colour.

So I brought them indoors and filled several large vases with their tall twiggy promises.
nectarine-2Now, one week later, Spring has come to my cabin interior as those buds have burst into fragile pink blooms with spangles of stamens and even an occasional bright green leaf unfolding.

As there are still closed buds, the range of shades from translucent pink to rich burgundy offer an extra visual treat.

Given that these blossoms are usually outdoors, on the tree, I have never smelt them before. In a closed environment, it isn’t pleasant, being reminiscent of ammonia, and even overpowers that of the vase of jonquils in my bedroom. Perhaps it’s the nectarines’ revenge for being picked prematurely.

But most things – and people – do not excel in every sense: the beauty of these blossoms is enough.

I just remove them from my bedroom at night.

The bounty of bulbs

bulbs-1Each year the front yard explodes with the bounty of winter-flowering bulbs: tuberoses, jonquils of at least five different types, including the highly-perfumed and multi-layered clusters of the Erlicheers, and the dainty arches of the snowdrops.

I know the latter are properly named ‘snowflakes’, but childhood memories and habits, as well as their drooping stems and rounded heads, insist they remain ‘drops’.
bulbs-2The bees didn’t care about terminology as they crawled inside each little green-dotted cup.
bulbs-3The springtime daffodils are just beginning to unfurl their papery sheaths, so for a few weeks I will have the bounty of both seasons from my bulbs.

They all grow anywhere, fight their way up through tough grass, need no care from me, continue to multiply, expanding into bigger and bigger clumps each season — and offer their collective beauty to delight my indoor days.

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.

Wild purple

Even before Spring had officially sprung, the forest began to deck itself in royal purple.

Twining up saplings, threading through the spiky clumps of Lomandra and Dianella, or just running for glory through the grass — the Purple Coral Pea, Hardenbergia Violacea.

It’s also called False Sarsparilla, which doesn’t seem fair, as it’s just being itself, as if that isn’t gorgeous enough. The tough, heavily-veined leaves you can see here belong to it.

Much less showy, in fact so shy that it takes a lot of careful and close looking to find it, is the Wild Violet, Viola betonicifolia.

It’s also called the Purple Violet, which seemed a bit silly to me, but then they could hardly say the Violet Violet, could they?

It has distinctive long sword-shaped serrated leaves at the base of the single stem, if you’re looking out of season: you can see two in this photo, at roughly 12 and 3 o’clock.