Yep sprinter is definitely here! I’m a firm believer in Tim Entwisle’s re-definition of Australian seasons. We are not quite finished with winter but the garden is well into spring, never mind the calendar.

I may not have heard the Bronze Cuckoos yet, but the Spotted Pardalote’s are actively inspecting our compost heap and drilling test nest burrows and the magpie’s are mating on our neighbour’s lawn (don’t look Gladys!).

The female Spotted Pardalote sitting just above the nesting hole
The male Spotted Pardalote waits near the nest

Elsewhere in the garden I am seeing the first flowering of the hellebore plant’s that our friend J and neighbour V, gave to me two year’s ago. Unfortunately my plan for a woodland vignette has descended into a replica of a miltary redoubt, surrounded by wire and posts to keep the marauding chickens out.

Hellebore under siege

Never believe anyone who tells you that chickens and your garden can cohabit happily. For along with all those tasty insects, they will devour your favourite plants. Our chickens appear to have inherited the palates of dissipated Roman emperors. Nothing is beyond their capability to eat, should they desire it. So far they have demolished both the leaves of my waterlily and the known toxic Small Leafed Nardoo, (Marselia angustifolia), toxic to humans that is, but obviously not to chickens. I placed both of these plants in my stone water trough, thinking that they might help oxygenate the water, but once the chickens found them they were decimated in days.

Meanwhile in the front garden my Blue Veronica (Veronica perfoliata) has put on several flower shoots and the yellow-flowered Bulbine Lily (Bulbinopsis bulbine) is thrusting out of the ground bearing fattening buds.

Veronica perfoliata with flower shoots
Bulbinopsis bulbosa, the yellow flowering Bulbine Lily

The flowers of the only Australian ground orchid in my garden, the Blunt Greenhood orchid (Pterostylis curta), have pushed up above the rosettes of leaves filling their terracotta pot. I have also sunk a pot of these orchids into the front garden. I will soon plant them out properly as I see that they have managed to survive the winter frosts (so far).

Buds of the Blunt Greenhood orchid, Pterostylis curta

We have taken advantage of this wonderfully sunny day to plant out lots of Native Bluebell’s (Wahlenbergia sp.) that my partner has a real knack for propagating. I’ve also committed three Eremophila and a Correa, grown from cuttings to the ‘mercies’ of the real garden, death by being ignored in a pot being the alternative.

Alas the weeds have also registered the upswing in the season. At least I can feed them to those marauding imperial chickens!

Some light in the winter dark

We may have passed the shortest day of the year, but here in Canberra we still have quite a bit of winter still to live through. Like my garden I’m slowly coming to life again.

On the weekend we read in the Sydney papers that now was the time to start tomato seeds. In Canberra tomato seeds would be facing this prospect with all the ‘excitement’ of a small child being forced into a cold swimming pool. Here it’s not going to happen unless you have a warm space inside to protect your seeds.

On the other hand our broad beans, which were planted very late this season have now stuck their leaves up out of the ground.

Young broadbeans making an appearance
Young broadbeans making an appearance

My friend M who was far better organised this year actually has pods on her broadbeans!

The new front garden has survived, to some degree the vicissitudes of the people doing the guttering and roof repairs, but the ongoing frosts have really had a big impact on my smaller plants. Just how bad the damage is can’t be fully assessed for another two months when chances of frost have passed, when I can see what will re-shoot and what will need pulling out.

TB’s wasabi plants are growing away quite happily and the citrus trees will shortly be having a new lot of potting mix in their pots ready for growing away into spring.

Wasabi is growing well in our cold climate, under the protection of the tree canopy
Wasabi is growing well in our cold climate, under the protection of the tree canopy

My first hellebore flower has opened.

My first Hellebore flower (well the plant did it really!)
My first Hellebore flower (well the plant did it really!)

But best and most promising of all, our boss hen has started laying eggs again. So far we’ve had one every second day. Let’s hope the other two hens get the message soon!

There is no such thing as a gratuitous chicken photo!
There is no such thing as a gratuitous chicken photo!