Rocks and revival

I had to spend a week in the Toowoomba region lately, so I shared the time between two national parks. I wasn’t really sightseeing, as I had to work, but I prefer a bush setting for my solar powered camper/office. 

Crows Nest National Park is about 50 km up the New England Highway from Toowoomba. It’s high, and ‘rocky’ is an understatement.

Huge granite boulders are stacked and tossed about in the creek and the gorge, with uprooted tree trunks wedged amongst them from past raging floods.


The Bottlebrush Pool looked as blue as the brave kids who’d just hopped out when I arrived.


Apart from the occasional Weeping Bottlebrush in bloom, there were already quite a lot of shrubs or small trees in flower, many of which I didn’t know. Still don’t exactly, as the ranger’s promise of a flora species list didn’t eventuate.


There’d obviously been fires through some of the park, and it was heartening to see the struggling new growth at the base of shrubs and trees. There may be more rocks than topsoil here, but nature’s programmed revival is under way.


This magnificent grass tree in blossom was a stark lime green contrast to its surrounds.


The rocks are beautifully bedecked with lichen here, and in the unburnt park, away from the turmoil of the creek’s history and the falls of the cliffs, their shapes are more gently rounded. Gentle too, are the softly curving small trees that form a matted forest, a guard of honour for the sandy path. 

I found Crows Nest National Park to be one of contrasts, from the lookout over the Valley of Diamonds to the creekside picnic ground, and clearly a tough survivor.

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.



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.


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


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.

Seeds of promise

The leaves have fallen from many of my garden trees and vines, so the seed pods are spectacularly visible. This White Cedar tree is a rare deciduous native, Melia Azedarach, often called Persian Lilac for its flowers, but also Bead Tree, for the now-obvious reason. They are indigenous to my region, amongst many others.


I have just pruned back the vines on my verandah, to reduce the build up of woody old growth (for bushfires), to promote new growth in spring, and to let in maximum winter sunlight. Before I did, I captured some of the masses of seed pods.

These are from the Chilean ‘jasmine’ (which it isn’t), Mandevilla laxa, whose scented white trumpet flowers produce hundreds of paired long skinny seed pods, now ‘popped’ apart and bursting with tiny feather-winged seed darts. They obligingly self-propagate.


These papery extra-terrestrials clawing skywards are from my very tall white lilliums.


The fat velvety brown pendulums of the White Wisteria do the opposite, hanging heavy, pointing to the soil where they want to land and grow. But these I will collect and attempt to aid the process in my glasshouse. The flowers are so ethereal I want more.

Home pleasures

I am wallowing in the daily delights of my mountain, after too long away. Tassie is a permanent seductress for me, but so is home.

Even the wet days have been a treat, as I am snug and warm in the cabin, with the slow combustion fire on and banked right down. The mud brick walls hold the heat beautifully.

Being thus confined to the cabin and verandah is hardly a visual penance either, since the Glory Vine’s vibrant pinks and reds light up my once-green living blinds, while the wisteria’s slow pale gold and its ‘beanpod’ seeds interweave with the backlit evergreens.


And I noticed that the grape ivy had neatly knotted itself around my Thai temple bell!


Having more ‘free’ time between talks this year, if you don’t count doing EIS submissions, has meant I have been able to begin to tackle the long-neglected jobs here.

My outdoor pit toilet is now a visible building again, relieved of its overwhelming burden of honeysuckle (see my ‘Heady honeysuckle’
post of three years ago).

I was forced to this task because the little tank, whose tap I use for hand washing, was suddenly empty. Apart from smothering the whole shed, the vine’s fine roots had choked the gutter, the downpipe and the tank sieve entry.

It’s uncharacteristically neat now, and warmer of an autumn morning, as the sun can find the tin wall.


Natives can be spectacularly autumn-coloured too, except in reverse, as the new leaves of this Lilli-Pilli show.

Visiting the lilypads

I haven’t been down close to my small dam, my waterlily world, for months, mainly because I usually come across a red-bellied black snake there.

I’d only looked from a distance, as when the White-necked Heron came.

Today I took the camera and went there on purpose, to see how the lilies were growing and what was gadding about amongst them.

To my surprise the Heron was there! Does he visit far more often than I notice, or is this just coincidence?


With several harsh croaks he flew up into a nearby tree and assumed an aloof pose until I should leave, which he’d have to notice out of the corner of his eye, as he wasn’t deigning to be seen watching me.


But it’s no wonder he visits, quite apart from the aquatic tucker, as the little dam looks very pretty.

The two pots of waterlilies (one pink/white, one lemon/white were planted in separate spots. They are thriving, the pink spreading further than the lemon and indeed, jostling for space at its claimed end.


As always, I see lots of tiny wildlife on and around the waterlilies; the more I look, the more I see: spiders, dragonflies, beetles, grasshoppers. I see no frogs or tortoises but I know they’re here.

Back on the mountain

After almost a month away, I half-expected the critters to have taken over the last bit left to me, the cabin.

They hadn’t, really — just the usual antechinus invasion, persistent but not escalated.

The verandah wasn’t so lucky. The spiders had tied the cane chair to my dad’s coffee table, with a densely woven zig-zag mesh. No room for even a skeleton to fit their legs in between table and chair.

The possum had knocked the pot of the flourishing red Wandering Jew-type plant right off the railing to crash and empty on the ground below.  One of its trailing arms hung like a decoration, caught in the climbing rose.

The destruction is particularly aggravating as this was one of the few plants that the possum doesn’t eat.

But down on the ground most of the bulbs had bloomed while I was away. Snowdrops and yellow jonquils in their large naturalised clumps had joined the Erlicheer jonquils that were, as always, first out.

The tuberoses, strongest smelling and longest lasting when cut, were flashing their incongruous pink (left) amongst all the white and yellow and green.

Up in Queensland, it had been spring, with fruit trees in blossom and deciduous trees in bright green bud. Here we are usually about six weeks behind.

Fearing I had missed the brief bridal show in my orchard, I am relieved.

The change of seasons is still an anticipated pleasure!

However, as this is my particular Eden, the warmer weather also brings out the snake in the grass — or the snowdrops!

Taking the time to look

I have been so involved in my coal book and the ongoing issues it deals with that I have hardly had time to leave the cabin — except to charge the laptop in the camper!

And, by the way, my 18-year-old batteries are OK. It’s the inverter that’s given up.  Unfortunately BP don’t make solar batteries any more in Australia (nor does anyone else) so they are all imported and horrifically expensive.

Now there’s a manufacturing industry that ought to be supported — instead of subidising the dodo technology of coal!

Even when busy, I can’t help but notice the extraordinary sights that nature keeps offering me here. Like the dark evening sky split with blue and the last of the light — unzippered just for me.

And although I haven’t had time to take walks and see what my local fungi are up to, my north coast friend Christa has been doing more than enough for us both. She’s a person who always takes the time to look at the world around her, although these frilly-skirted fungi would have been hard to miss. Luckily Christa also usually has a camera ready, so could share the sight with me.

I keep thinking ‘tarantella’ when I look at them, gay skirts swirling as the dancers stamp and twirl. And oh, the colours! 
Can you hear the castanets?

Cloud blossoms

When I wake up to a white world it’s not usually because it has snowed — although that has happened — but because a cloud has decided to descend and join me, poor earthbound being that I am.

At such times the only bright colour is in close things, seen sans veil of finest white muslin.

My thinner north-east verandah sunshade is the Mandevilla Laxa vine, currently unfurling its pure white bells and perfuming my the air around my cabin.

Since the wallabies eat the lower parts of most ground-based vines, they have to survive to taller-than-wallaby height before they can burst into full production and show me once more why I’d planted them.

This year, given how tasty the self-seeding but fragile old-variety sweet peas would be when they popped their heads out of the ground, I broke my rule of ‘survival of the fittest’ and planted some in the pots on the wallaby-proof (so far) verandah.

With that extra metre or so leg-up they have climbed up the Mandevilla and hit the roof, adding their unmistakable scent and their candy pink colours to my cloud-white day.

Lofty Lilliums

Each summer these powerful plants re-shoot, sending up thick stems metres into the air in a race to the roof with the Glory Vine. I do have to tie them to the verandah railings before they become top heavy, as dozens of burgundy pods explode into these elegant blooms.

Beautiful as they are in cream and pink and yellow, they all used to be pure white, which only one plant now produces.

To see them I have to go outside and walk below to look up into their dripping throats — in between keeping an eye out for leeches looping their way up the side of my gumboots.

There is only one small ‘window’ in the verandah’s summer greenery where I can poke the camera through and see over the tops of the Lilliums, but perhaps the best view is from underneath anyway — despite the leeches.

Sandstone Spring

The walk at Lees’ Pinch Lookout in the Goulburn River National Park is only an 800m round trip. At this time of year there were more native flowers blooming than I’d see in most gardens.

Fantastic rocks and sinuous young, whitely unscribbled-on Scribbly Gums formed the settings.

Yellow predominated, but apart from the simple open faces of a Hibbertia, I didn’t know these sandstone country flowers — the pea family! My forest country has little or no shrub layer, so this richness was a treat.

Backlit beauties

It’s still as cold as winter of a morning, but the irises are heading skywards for summer.

The most proudly regal flower I know, their fistfuls of blue-green broadspears of leaves were lately joined by tall spikes of tightly furled buds, and now the topmost of these are opening.

They droop their lower lips and bare their bearded tongues, but coyly hold up veils to hide their golden eyes. The texture of these beautifully veined petals is like silk — royal silk — and the dramatic colours make this bearded iris  my favourite.

The reason why I am permitted to have such beauties boldly growing in my yard is that none of the critters find irises tasty — neither the leaves nor the flowers. This has proved the case with all my bulbs.

So I am inclined to plant more iris varieties, like these delicate frilly lilacs, as there about 300 to choose from.

But I have a niggling feeling that if I do, some animal will suddenly decide they make a worthwhile feast. It’s happened before: “Get that woman complacent, off her guard — then go for it!”

I may have to remain dependent on the tougher types, like these yellow Flag irises that are multiplying happily in a soggy depression. Their blooms are smaller and less flamboyant than their dry-footed cousins, but more open.

Exotic whites

Whilst I live in the middle of 165 acres of natural bushland, a huge ‘native garden’, I appreciate my small pocket of exotic botanica, introduced plants that don’t want to go walkabout.

From my desk I am treated all day to the ethereal beauty of the white wisteria on the verandah, flowering for the second year, after 15 years of refusal. It has a light perfume, well worth keeping the window open in front of me.

On my way to the clothesline I detour around the long arches of the May bush, its clusters of simple flowers adding honey scents to the spring perfume mix in my yard.

The bees like it, but not as much as the pretty flowers of the enormous Nashi trees, although they smell rather unpleasantly like bleach, not honey.

But once past those, I can compensate with one of my favourite scents, from the friesias around the fig tree. Even better, I can pick some to take the scent inside. 

None of these exotic beauties will last long, so I make sure to look my fill while they are here. As you may have guessed, I like white flowers.