Getting moving!

Mid-afternoon it hit me, OMG I haven’t planted any seeds for summer crops! I’d like to blame it on any manner of distractions, including re-planting the front garden (going pretty well), but I’ve clearly been drifting along these past few weeks.

Wahlenberia, aka 'Native' Bluebell, an established clump enjoying the new soil in the front garden
Wahlenberia, aka ‘Native’ Bluebell, an established clump enjoying the new soil in the front garden

Luckily we have boxes, I do mean it, of seeds so I pulled out some trays and pots and got stuck in. Peas and beans are at the top of the list. Purple Podded Peas, Snow Peas and Lazy Housewife Beansand some White Eggplants. All of theses seeds have come from our own plants so they are well adapted to our garden.

I also planted some Sweetcorn Honey Bicolour that was such a success last year but #### I just checked and confirmed my suspicion that this variety is a hybrid so the seeds will either be sterile or revert to one of the parent stock. So I’ll have to get out some other corns seeds instead. 

Plant labels from old plastic milk cartons
Plant labels from old plastic milk cartons

I made labels for the pots from an old milk container, but couldn’t get my pencil or marker to stay put. I ended up covering the end with masking tape and writing on that. As I worked I settled in to the rhythym of the afternoon, not too hot and a pleasant breeze. I could see House Sparrows moving around the old kale plants, a sure sign that the plants are failing and as they do so attracting insects to their decaying leaves. I also noticed that my Alpine Strawberry already had some fruit – which disappeared shortly after this photo was taken!

Alpine Strawberry with fruit.
Alpine Strawberry with fruit.

I checked out the regular strawberries and found my first ripe fruit of the season there as well. Time to feed the chooks their afternoon scratch and toss the chicks some green weeds to tear apart with their voracious little bills.

Time too to pick young broadbean pods and asparagus from the garden which are joining an eggplant for a Japanese inspired dinner this evening.

Dinner is on the way.
Dinner is on the way.

Happy spring seed raising to you.

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Elsewhere in the garden

I’ve long been inspired by our native bushland, particularly heath and grassland communities. But as those who have experienced the notion that ‘Australian native gardens don’t need any work’ find out the hard way, just shoving lots of plants into the ground doesn’t result in an attractive landscape. While my garden has worked rather better than that I’ve never quite managed to achieve the look I was after. As many of my original plantings are now starting to go downhill it is definitely time to give it another go. 

The practical inspiration for my garden renovation has come from two books that I read over the winter months. First off was The Layered Garden: design lessons for year-round beauty from Brandywine Cottage, by David L Culp with Adam Levine. In this book Culp ably demonstrates how to make a garden with year round interest, based on a woodland approach in his own garden in Pennsylvania.

The Layered Garden: Design Lessons for Year-round Beauty from Brandywine Cottage

At first Planting: a new Perspective, by Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury, with a very scary array of planting guides seemed rather daunting, but the authors use the planting schemes to demonstrate a basic formula for planting that promotes interest throughout the year. This is a mix of plants that are fixtures of the garden year round and those that literally or figuratively disappear or recede for long parts of the year. I’m probably not explaining this too well, so I urge you to give the book a go. I found it a pretty interesting read with lots of wonderful illustrations to go with the words.

Planting: A New Perspective

So where to begin. My choice of ground to start this work, as you can see, is not very promising,but it is on the other side of the yard from where we found the termites. Until the termites go I can’t dig where they might be disturbed. This will be a garden renovation of many parts.

A sorry piece of ground for a new garden!
A sorry piece of ground for a new garden!

I spent the morning clearing the area. At least the chooks were happy to get all the weeds that I dug out. By the time I finished the initial digging and adding some compost things were looking rather better. The space is only about 1.5 metres square so its not a lot to start with.

Newly dug over, things are looking up for my garden.
Newly dug over, things are looking up for my garden.

I spent the next few weeks adding a lot more compost and doing a lot more digging in of manures before I started planting. My feature plants are two varieties of pink flowering Correa, Correa pulchella X ‘Pink Carpet’ and Correa ‘Annabell’; the yellow flowering shrub Ozothamnus diotophyllus ‘Gold Dust’ and Zieria prostrata ‘Carpet Star’. The taller plants will grow about 1 metre in height and the two ‘carpet’ plants will spread between 1-2 metres. I’m also using Pelargonium rodneyanum (Magenta Cranesbill) as a filler plant. This will gradually spread around the garden and can be dug out if it gets too exuberant. The remaining plants in this area are ephemeral annuals. I’ve included plenty of Wahlenbergia sp (Native Bluebell) and several plants of the Bulbinopsis bulbosa (Bulbine Lily).

The Bulbine lillies are still flowering wildly attracting plenty of Hoverfly’s which are a great garden predator, as well as a common pollinator of Australian plants.

A hoverfly pollinating a Bulbine Lily
A hoverfly pollinating a Bulbine Lily

I’ve also dug out and divided a clump of one of the most striking of our local plants Eryngium rostratutm (Blue Devil) which has the most stunning spiky blue/purple flowerheads. I’ve planted the new pieces in several places around the garden to encourage the spread of this handsome plant.

You can see from the photo below that I aim to keep the majority of the plants in this part of the garden fairly low. This allows the winter sun into the front of the house.

The new section of front garden.
The new section of front garden.

I’ve also extended some of the planting into the existing garden, adjacent to the new section. I hope in this way to start integrating the newer plantings with the existing garden. At least I’ve managed to get some of those poor plants that I bought pre-termite  moratorium, into the ground. Now I have to go and pot on the remaining plants so they can survive until I get the all clear to continue the renovation.

 

Local Spring update

Following on from my earlier post about tuning in to my local landscape I have the following few updates.

The weather continues to be highly changeable with very strong winds and bouts of rain. While I haven’t spotted any fledgling Wedgtailed Eagles, a pair of Australian Ravens are happily nesting in my neighbours Blue Gum, and have been for the past month. This year they have built a new nest about 1 and a 1/2 metres from the one they used last year.

The native clematis (Clematis aristata) that grows here abouts is in splendid bloom. This specimen is in my garden and is creating a floriferous halo over one of my correas.

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What this clematis lacks in showy individual blooms it makes up for in sheer abundance of flowers. Once finished flowering it will develop the fluffy white seeds that give it its common name of ‘Old Man’s Beard’.

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Also just starting to break through are our ‘bluebells’, in this case Wahlenbergia communis, a native herb that grows commonly and widely throughout SE Australia and has had the happy knack of surviving, as ours did, even after the land has been subdivided. Once I found it growing on my nature strip I was keen to encourage this plant’s presence in my garden. The best way to do this is not to mow it down until the end of summer, if possible, to allow seed to set. It will flower throughout summer and its blue-mauve flowers make a great display in contrast to the yellow paper daisies I’m also cultivating on the nature strip.

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The plant grows from tubers underground, with very deep roots, which makes it difficult to transplant. It dies back over winter and these rosette’s are the sign of its return.

This plant is a close relative of our ACT floral emblem the ‘Royal Bluebell’, Wahlenbergia gloriosa. However W. gloriosa only naturally flowers in our sub-alpine areas of the ACT. It’s intensely coloured and much larger flowers make it a truly wonderful sight. While you can sometimes buy specimens of W. gloriosa they are difficult to grow in our gardens, preferring a moist shady spot which can be hard to maintain through our hot summers.