Spr-inter

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!).

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The female Spotted Pardalote sitting just above the nesting hole
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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
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
Veronica perfoliata with flower shoots
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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).

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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!

Strange behaviour in the garden

Even as I’m sitting to write this post there’s a bump on the front window – it’s that Red Wattlebird again! For the past few days I’ve seen them scouring our windows and those of my neighbours, not for insects as I first thought, but spider’s webs. It’s nest building time! Try as I might I’ve not caught their activities with the camera as yet, but the Peewees (or mudlarks for those from further south and west from where I grew up) are another matter.

Checking out some nest building material
Checking out some nest building material

It took me a while to realise that they weren’t digging around our water chestnuts for insects or the corms. They wanted that muddy spent foliage for their nests. Peewees build the most beautiful mud nests, somewhat smaller than the large mud bowls built by Choughs. The Peewee’s mud bowl is built on a branch high enough and far out along the limb enough to make it hard for predators to get them. In the past I’ve seen these nest built out over creeks, or in the absence of a watercourse built over a busy road.

About to fly to the construction site
About to fly to the construction site

These birds are nesting in our neighbours tree, one of the few large trees still around us. I fear that the number of really tall and old trees that have been cut down in our area will be having a negative impact on the number of birds nesting in our suburbs. I’m pleased that in our own small way we are providing ‘garden services’ for those who are trying to raise their young.

PS Pardalote Palisades seems to be keeping the Currawongs and neighbourhood cats at bay. Fingers crossed.

 

Small signs

As I look around the garden I’m starting to see small signs of movement towards spring. The first new shoots on the raspberry canes and my Purple-podded peas finally starting to twine up their supports.

Purple-podded Peas 28 July 2013
Purple-podded Peas 28 July 2013

We have also seen the first signs of pardalote’s checking out our newest compost pile for a nesting site. Oh well another year without being able to access the compost. We’ll just have to start a second heap as the pardalote’s are just too precious to evict.

A Pardalote's test hole for a nesting site
A Pardalote’s test hole for a nesting site

I’ve even indulged in that most arcane of gardening activities, pruning the dead leaves off my strawberry plants – it does help remove potential sources of viral infection. I even discovered that in spite of a week of below zero minimum temperatures some of my strawberry plants are trying to set fruit! A bit too early for success I suspect.

Strawberry plants getting a bit ahead of themselves in late July.
Strawberry plants getting a bit ahead of themselves in late July.