Sunday, December 23, 2012

Dry, Dry, Dry

Since I last posted we have had a really dry spell and promised rain has not arrived. No water restrictions yet, so we are using the sprinkler to keep things going, but it is costing an arm and a leg. We have decided to invest in a couple of large water tanks to use in the garden, but that won't happen until later this summer. Meanwhile we water as sparingly as possible without losing any plants. Today's 39.9 did not help at all!!!

We are having a second flush of roses and the hydrangeas and agapanthas are coming along nicely, but I thought I would feature some rather nice Australian natives today.

My favourite without a doubt is this one a regular visitor. This fellow is called Kenneth and we have been acquaintenances for a couple of years now.

I really like this pretty banksia. The flowers are not noticeable unless you really look intothe heart of the bush, but they are a gorgeous colour.
I love Kangaroo Paw, but don't have much luck keeping it alive and flowering for more than a few years. They are indigenous to Western Australia where they thrive on the sandy soils. I don't think our heavy clay loams really suit them.

My favourite at the moment is this beautiful tree. Blueberry Ash - Elaeocarpus reticulans. The flowers are tiny, but absolutely exquisite, like miniature ballerinas.

How could you not love them?

Liz Needle

Wednesday, December 12, 2012


The first fuschsia was discovered in the Caribbean in1696/7 by a French monk and botanist, Charles Plumier. He named the new genus after the german botanist Leonhart Fuchs.

Since then many other types of fuchsia have been discovered and bred until today we have many hundreds of varieties. I really love the very simple small single fuchsias and while I can admire the lush beauty of the large double varieties, I have no real desire to grow them. My fuchsias are not delicate and fragile - they have to tough it out with the rest of the garden plants.

Very simple and dainty, this little pink beauty is so easy to grow. This one was here when we came  - 40 years ago, so it must be very hardy.

This is another old variety - simple and elegant and greatly loved by the honey eaters and the Eastern Spinebills. In fact the spinebills have built a nest in this bush right outside our bedroom window.

The variety below always makes me think of  flower fairies dancing

This bush was damaged by the rain a few weeks back, but the lowers still look OK.

This one has the ccolours reversed - dark below and pale above.

And for the tiniest flowers ever, there is this species which the bees love.  This plant - growing to 2-3 metres is beautiful when it flowers, but is very frost tender and needs protection.

Liz Needle

Monday, December 3, 2012

Birds and Bees

One of the things I love about Spring in the garden is the variety of birds and insects that visit. Mark is keeping a log of bird visitors and so far he has he has recorded over 30 species.

My favourites are the grey shrike thrush who have nested in the shed and are now raising two nestlings. They are very protective little birds and as soon as anyone approaches the shed one of them is on guard in the nearby trees calling out  continuous warnings to the mate sitting on the nest. As  we get closer to the shed, the warnings become more frequent and they become less frequent as we walk away. It is lovely to see that although they cry warnings, they are not scared of us and remain on the nest if we have to go into the shed. We had planned to build a chook yard in part of the shed, but are holding off until the nest is empty.

We also had a pardelote's nest in a heap of weeds and soil that we had built up for compost. They too seemed unconcerned about the humans moving around and even mowing lawns in their vicinity.

Each morning and evening the birds come in and feed on our back lawn. I know the practice of throwing out seed for native birds is sometimes frowned upon, but during the winter the pickings are slim around here and I like to think the birds feel welcome and safe in the garden.

This is one of a pair of galahs who nest in our old River Red Gum every year. One of this pair has only one leg, but does quite well regardless.

We get dozens of rosellas of various hues from red fellows like this one to pale yellow ones. I only throw seed out about once a week, but the birds never fail to know its there and they flock in to feed.  They must have a very efficient means of communication.

Insects are another lot of visitors that love the Spring and spend time collecting nectar from the flowering trees and shrubs.

Liz Needle

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Australian Natives

Reading my blogs and looking at the photos, it would be easy to assume that our garden consists entirely of non-native species.  This is actually not so. I have to admit that I prefer exotics in a garden setting - I find them more to my taste, but then I was born to and raised by an enthusiastic English gentleman gardener.

 I spent my childhood nurturing violets, primroses, pansies, sweet peas, delphiniums, hollyhocks, antirrhinums and so on. Dad did try a few Australian natives, but they weren't readily available and they didn't really like his mollycoddling, fertilising and cultivating.

When we first moved to Lenswood 40 years ago, we did plant a lot of natives, but local species weren't available and most of those we could buy at nurseries did not like our heavy clay soils and frosts. A few of them have survived, but we had more success with my old favourite European plants, so we stuck with what we knew best. 

However we now have an extensive area of natives which we really enjoy - as do the birds and koalas. These are a few of the Spring flowering ones
Pale lemon callistemon

pink callistemon

Grevillea - not sure which

This pretty thing dies back each year then shoots out in Spring. So sweet.

Grevillea robusta

Banksia longifolia - Giant Candles

And finally some of the visitors that enjoy the eucalyptus patch. Mother and daughter didn't stay long unfortunately. I think our resident male koala may have chased them away.

Liz Needle 

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Around the Garden

The garden is looking somewhat tired at the moment. We have had a very dry Spring and after a wet, mild winter when a lot of strong growth happened, the plants are beginning to suffer.

Aesthetically it doesn't help that the winter bulbs have died off leaving their old leaves and stalks. I'll need to get on and cover the beds with mulch.

The vegetable garden has been thriving in the warm weather, although a lot of the earlier crop has gone to seed very quickly. So far this season we have picked broad beans, spinach, kale, lettuces, beetroot, radishes, zucchini, globe artichokes, broccoli, cauliflower and spring onions. 

 Coming on are sweetcorn, beans, cabbages, potatoes, eggplant, tomatoes, carrots, turnips, celery, celeriac, squash, pumpkins,celeriac, cucumbers, capsicum and chillies.


Other plants are also showing their fruitfulness. The pomegranites are flowering prolifically this year for the first time. Hopefully we may see some fruit - the fruit costs about $5 each in the shops at present, so we planted these in the hope that we could one day supply Mark with fruit for his restaurant.

The quince tree has a good crop again. Unfortunately last year we only harvested a handful as the Rosellas beat us to them. This year we are planning a big net to foil the little poachers. Years ago we had apples, plums, and pears, but we gave up as we rarely got a ripe one. The birds however had very full bellies.

We have loquats and figs, though the fig is struggling. And we also have a macadamia flowering. We harvest so many of these, but are yet to find an efficient way of cracking the shell. The chestnut trees are about to flower and we have a small crop of pistachios. Must find out what we do about the raw fruit. I wish our nut trees were as simple as almonds and walnuts!!

Liz Needle

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Tulip tree.

This is a Liriodendron - a nice tree with attractive leaves and lovely yellow autumn leaves but nothing to set it apart from any other tree?.Known as the Tulip Tree.

But look what appears in Spring. Aren't they exquisite?  I just love these shy little beauties. Not so little either - about the size of your ordinary tulip - but to my eyes just astonishingly beautiful.

It was some years before we even realised the tree flowered. You don't really notice the flowers at first glance, so well do they blend in with the leaves, but once seen, never forgotten. I get quite excited when they appear.

The flowering chestnut  has the same effect on me. I'll show you when they start blossoming. 

Liz Needle

Sunday, November 18, 2012

New Toy

Don has a new toy - a new ride-on mower complete with trailer. Today he drove up to the old dairy and brought down two trailer loads of composted manure - straw/goat poo/cow poo. Very old and powdery.   I've gone for broke and put it on a section of the garden where the plants are not thriving. Will either kill them or cure them.

Now a change from roses.  Each morning I am greeted by these cheeky , happy little faces. Love the colours and they are so easy to grow.

Aren't the purple and orange ones delightful. I must get some more; they look lovely in terracotta pots

Out the front the Dutch iris are flowering. They look very dramatic against the willow trees.  I have a bright yellow one as well, but it's noy flowering yet. I must get the blue. Love that deep colour.

These little perennials look pretty together - Cerastium and Nepeta.

Another pretty spot at the moment is around the sun dial - Thymes and mini Agapanthas. It looks a bit scruffy because I snapped this before the new mower arrived. But I like the casual look.

Liz Needle

Saturday, November 17, 2012

A Rose by Any Other Name......

The garden is a pretty sight at the moment with the roses flowering and other late spring flowers on display. Watering is becoming a problem and unless we have some rain the garden will have a miserable summer. Water restrictions will soon be enforced  and we will struggle to keep lawns green and plants alive.

Meantime we continue to enjoy the roses.

 I can't for the life of me remember the names of these two roses. They both make a colourful display although the purple one below is only a spring flowering rose so we can only enjoy its pretty old world charm once a year. They are both singles and have that lovely two tone look as they fade.

The purple rose is very vigourous and would take over if I let it. Thankfully it has very few thorns.

 Both of these roses are David Austin roses - Belle Story or Lucetta(not sure which) on the left and Mary Rose below. I think it is Belle Story - one of my favourites anyway.

The rose below is a mistake in a way. Well, not really a mistake, but it is the root stock of another rose that died and I liked it so much that I have let it go.

 This gorgeous purple/red below is another of my favourites, but it is another one I can't name, though it is quite distinctive. I did have a map of my rose garden, but it has disappeared into the mists of time so to speak. Below left is Buff Beauty, a lovely soft apricot  

 The pink rose on the left is  Shady Lady, so called because it tolerates shade. This one actually is in the sun. Most of my roses tolerate a degree of shade. They don't really get much choice.
More next time. I'm not sure if anyone is reading my blog, but if you are, I hope you are enjoying the flowers as much as i do.

Liz Needle

Monday, November 12, 2012

Roses, roses, roses

"Love thou the rose, yet leave it on its stem". from 'The Wanderer' by Edward Robert Bulwer-Lytton, Earl of Lytton.

I do so agree with that comment. There is nothing to my mind so lovely as a rose bathed with the morning dew and flushed with first sunli
ght. Most of my roses are heritage or David Austin roses and they just hate being inside in a vase. They sulk, wilt and drop their petals, which suits me fine as I love seeing them in the garden.

Heritage by David Austin

True they often don't have the vigor of the modern rose and mine in particular don't as they have to cope with a lot of shade from the surrounding trees, but they reward me with their subtle colours and sweet perfume. I love walking through the garden, savouring the scent of the lime and lemon blossoms mingling with the rose perfume. 

Golden Wedding                                                         


Please don't ask me to name them all. Somewhere I do have a map I made of the garden some years ago, but I can't find it and I have a terrible memory for plant names.My daughter Jo is brilliant at it, but I am not. If I thought about it for long enough they might come back to me, but don't hold your breath.

This variegated one is a new variety that took my eye. I used to have a number of old variegated varieties, but most of them were not very hardy and did not survive the neglect.
I find roses are usually hardy and very forgiving of poor treatment, but we lost a lot of them when the council decided to spray the road verge on a windy day!!!

Prospero (I think)

Close up of Fritz Nobis                                   

My lovely old 'Fritz Nobis' (below) nearly died from the  spray ovedose, but we nursed it back to health and this year - 3 years later - is beginning to look good again

Liz Needle