Early spring is yellow and blue

The roll call of narcissus flowering since June has been a source of delight, many of my bulbs are housed in pots, sitting in a bed of sand in big bulb crates, this means I can take a little stroll along the unused portion of the driveway admiring them and then nip back inside out of the cold weather that rolls down off the mountain. The hardier and more common are destined to find new homes in the garden once they’ve gone dormant … and when I’ve found the space, preferably without creating any more new garden beds to maintain

Narcissus Xit is just about perfect in very way

Narcissus canaliculatus has been growing beneath a coral bark maple for a few years and I always look forward to its cheery little two tone faces. They’re growing on the top edge of a four foot stone wall so are at a perfect level for admiring and sniffing. There are also cyclamen graecum and persicum adorning that wall and I’ve added a few species iris to extend the spring joy although rampant seeding by the incumbent helleborus sternii needs to be kept under control. The mother plant, a tall and hugely floriferous plant initially purchased from the Elizabeth Town Nursery, (the home of Betty Ranicar) about 25 years ago, finally succumbed (presumably) to old age. However I’m grateful that each year she produced a profligate number of seedlings.

I’m rather fond of the airy little jonquillas, particularly the delicate deep yellow Narcissus cordubensis with the loveliest crenulated cups nodding atop strong stems. It’s dreadfully difficult to separate them though, requenii, rupicola, henriquesii, fernandesii, all golden and lovely and to my untutored eye relatively undistinguishable.




The last to flower is the winsome ‘Hillview triquilla’ with its refined citrus yellow blooms showing just a hint of petal turn back from its triandrus heritage, another little treasure.



The cyclamineus hybrids are both adorable and remarkably long lasting with their little faces always pointing into the wind, Below an unlabelled cyclamineus hybrid and Narcissus ‘Slipr’y’

And the celestial Angels, delicate and delightful in every way

These particular Narcissus bulbocodium blooms have lots of substance and long solid corollas making a contrast to the airy N. romieuxii that have been flowering all winter. Unfortunately the snails and slugs are rather taken with it too, filigree bulbocodiums are not so attractive

I watched the little pot of Narcissus W.P. Milner hopefully but it seems he is going to wait another year before offering his modest downward facing blooms

Finally just opening at the end of September, the wee Narcissus ‘Solveig’s song’ This is a simply beautiful little fellow.

Brilliant Tecophilaea cyanocrocus continued to flower till the end of August, here the the last of the ‘leichtlinii’ are just going over




I’ve always had some scillas and chionodoxas spread about under the nashi pear together with a few crocus and Narcissus ‘Tete a tete’. Quite a lot more plus some hyacinthellas joined the party in autumn and their bright blues and soft clean pinks have been so welcome over late winter. Originally they were intended to naturalise in the grass but the twitch grass and the totally dominant buttercups made it to hard for them to thrive. Now I’ve cleared most of the grass and other flat weeds out they look much happier and I will mulch over the area when they’ve died down to prevent a re-infestation of grassy weeds.

Late winter is the time for the major Tidy Up — all those interesting seed heads and autumnal leaves suddenly look messy and totally past it. The miscanthus,  and calamagrostis have been cut to the ground, Panicum ‘Heavy Metal’ and Poa labillardieri ‘Suggan Buggan’ given an all over haircut, Stipa arundinacea divided and replanted,  the roses  were given a harder than usual prune, (they missed out last year) , Rosa ‘Munstead Wood’ was purchased on a whim and planted, (although the delicate  and delectable Rosa mutabalis is still confined to the vegetable garden) and the raging battle with running buttercup and flick weed continues.

Hellebores, so eagerly anticipated during the dark days of winter, have passed through their best stage; lovely pale pinks, picotee doubles, slates, blacks, yellows, the usual assortment of dusky maroons and purples with anemone centres. I’ve diligently tagged those that I consider not worth keeping, generally they’re seedlings but also a couple of purchases that didn’t live up to their description. Now I just have to find the energy to dig them out, those massive root systems!

I have 3 Rhododendron ‘Princess Alice’, purchased for their heavenly scent. Sadly over the last 12 months I’ve noticed problems with die back and mottled leaves. I suspect some sort of mite infestation (perhaps introduced by a trio of  white azaleas I purchased from a garden centre)  So finally I’ve  taken action, spraying with a pesticide/miticide/fungicide eco oil and have crossed fingers hoping for the best

A damaged raven found sanctuary with me for a couple of weeks. It found its way to my front garden so I  of course I fed and tried to protect him (I’ll assume it was male for the sake of simplicity). Initially the problem was indicated by a sightly dropped wing, and he was clearly unable to fly. However the call of the wild was too strong and he exited though a small gap in the fence and headed off down the footpath on foot. I only realised when taking the dog out for his evening constitutional and we interrupted two raven attacking what looked like my lodger who scuttled under a bush when the attackers flew off.

The next morning he was back in the garden peering at me and the dog through one eye while waiting for breakfast. There were signs of head pecking, plus the wing was dragging more. I was concerned that one eye had been lost but after a couple of days I was being scrutinised through both eyes again. I did realise that a happy ending was unlikely … he left the front garden sanctuary again and when I went out with his breakfast all I found was a bundle of bedraggled feathers lying up against the gate on the outside. I felt quite awful that the gate was closed when he was trying to get back inside where he had been safe, trouble is, the gate is always closed to prevent an infestation of  local pademelons.

Muscari and its friends leopoldia, pseudomuscari and Muscarinia have been flowering, wonderful value in the garden and mostly hardy and tough.



Leopoldia comosa, not yet fully opened but showing its range of soft purple and lilac bells all tucked up neatly together, Bellevalia dubia are just kicking into gear, startlingly bright azure bells fading to purpley caramel as they mature,

The diminutive Muscari discolor replays close attention with those ink blue white edged  bells

The common lapis lazilu blue is always worth having but combine it with the delicate pink of ‘Gul’, pure whites and the softest sky blue of Valerie Finnis and the effect is gorgeous.

For the first time the strange little cream washed with aqua and heavily perfumed flowers of the Muscari muscarimi ‘Wisley’ are opening.

The erythronium have such perfectly balanced poise

The hepaticas provide more  beautiful blues and purples sparkling under the deciduous shrubs



Clematis armandii has been briefly glorious, and the evergreen leaves provide good cover as it continues to engulf the fence


First peony off the block is Paeonia kesrouanensis, stunning blooms as usual but only 4  this year so I’m anxious that maybe something is amiss

A splash of cheering colour from an anonymous tulip, however judging by the leaves I’m assuming it’s a greigii/kaufmaniana hybrid






Strange the things one sees in trees when walking the dog, stuck while honey hunting perhaps?

Spotted dog  enjoying romping around the Cascade paddocks, we’re both just a bit concerned about the nesting plovers though, I’ve noticed he tends to stay close when they  swoop above to warn us off ( I usually make sure I’m wearing a hooded jacket)


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Back to winter

Back to frosty Tasmania and the fun of checking for bulbs pushing their way through the soil, or potting mix, as the case may be.

I really, really don’t want to see a cable car and huge ‘Pinnacle Visitor Centre’ building sprawling above the organ pipes.

Suddenly the arctic zone is studded with snowdrops, always a relief to see them reappear after their long rest, particularly those that share their space with greedy questing willow roots.

Love the birdseye view of these two, Galanthus ‘Heffalump’ and ‘Megan’ . I have noticed a couple of other clumps that are looking a bit reduced and must remember to lift them and give them better living conditions once they go dormant.

Lady Beatrice Stanley, Eric’s Choice and Wasp brought inside to be admired, all survived another year. I do try to ensure I have at least one batch of each cultivar in the ground and some spares in a pot.

Cyclamen coum is producing lovely flowers, softest through pink through to deep cerise, above an array of leaves ranging from deep green to solid silver, the pale pink above solid silver is quite delightful. Delicate little wisps dancing below are Cyclamen rhodium ssp. peloponnesiacum,

One bonus of winter are combinations like this one down in the Arctic zone. The cyclamen leaves suffered from the sooty mould that resulted from the aphid infestation in the willows, for quite a while over late summer they were black.

The winter succession of crocus continues, the golden stars have been taking centre stage, Crocus gargaricus, olivieri, chrysanthus and cvijicii, wide open and gleaming in the brief sun. A large number of orphans have appeared, I think they’re likely Crocus kolokowii. The closed buds present a wonderful eggy yellow striped deep aubergine on the outside but they have been reluctant to open fully, demanding a really sunny day. They have also popped up in pots that bear totally different labels so I suspect they have been spreading seed far and wide.

Found an interesting colour combination of palest yellow and lilac grey in the chrysanthus hybrid below

The contrasting purple- blues with bright yellow centres of the spring crocus are also opening now, all different, Crocus abantensis, a strongly coloured sieberi and, I think, a lovely purple tommasinanus

Crocus sieberi tricolor showing off

and buds marching in formation in the rain

Crocus tommasinianus ‘Yalta’ looking charming half closed so the lovely colour contrast is displayed

Hellebores are opening in a rush now demanding to be checked regularly and their faces admired.

I try to make myself haul out the squillions of helleborus seedlings before they get past the two leaf stage, but a few always make it through. I’m determined to remove a large number of flower heads before they spill their seed this year, that has the bonus of depriving millions of aphids a free lunch. On the other hand this year I was pleased to find two chance seedlings that are worthy of garden space flowering for the first time

Love this combination of primrose and blue black, unfortunately their current dry and sunny position is not exactly hellebore heaven. It was fine until I had the shade providing overgrown photinia removed and the replacement Fairy magnolia is taking its time.

Los of dried perennial and miscanthus stalks are still waiting to be cut down, must get on to it before the new growth starts shooting up and making the job of cutting out the old stalks so fiddly avoiding damage to the new. Canna x ehemanii (syn Canna iridiflora) has grown hugely and happily in its corner of the vegetable garden — and so has the resulting pile of bamboo-like stems waiting to be chopped up further and carted to the green bin. — I think there may be more ornamentals than vegetables in there now. Running buttercup is launching constant and annoyingly successful raids for garden space from its home territory of the lawn and roses are still waving thorny branches aloft — quite a lot to do in the next few weeks, if the constant showers give me a break. Then I feel a pang of guilt complaining about the rain when so many are suffering dreadfully in drought conditions.

Too many Sedum ‘Autumn Joys’ and ‘Matronas’ grow on from where they’re carelessly left in the garden after Chelsea chop style prunings, and battalions of Salvia pratense are wandering to the front of the borders from their original back of border positions. I do love their cobalt flowers but wish they would at least hold formation.

Finally caught the black suited fellow who has been making such a mess of the sawdust bags while chasing after lunch. The sawdust is waiting (everything seems to be waiting these days) to be used as a path topping, I’m a bit concerned it may have been waiting too long as it has sort of congealed into an unpleasant mass.

Lots of miniature narcissus and iris are coming up, following the early winter displays of bulbocodiums and romieuxii. Below is a little gaggle of Narcissus x susannae and Iris winogradowii. N. susannae is a hybrid of N. triandrus and N.cantabricus but I have a nagging doubt about this one, its petals simply don’t appear sufficiently large or swept back for its triandrus genes

On our walks Spotted dog and I often pass this innovative plant container taking pride of place in a rather empty front garden. The converted bath (at least that is what I think it is) set at an angle to the walls, makes quite a dramatic statement, all very industrial with the brick wall behind and the concrete blocks below

Lastly the glorious colour of Tecophilea cynocrocus, such a wonderful rich blue, barely a hint of purple. This one needs a very dry dormant period so will disappear under the steps until it’s time to start into growth again in autumn

Spotted dog happily exploring after exchanging the beaches of Bruny for his Cascade paddocks again

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Green streets

Now that it’s summer the the church tower of  the Christ the King Roman Catholic Church emerges from a green canopy

The vision I had of Los Angeles  — as much as I had a vision before I visited, was of a hot, sunny city full of freeways and fit tanned people, lots of concrete, billboards, cars and those iconic towering palms punctuating the skyline. Mostly those elements are there in abundance, along with some sad pockets of little rag tag tent cities attended by supermarket trolleys loaded with bags of possessions.

However the revelation for me was the plethora of tree lined avenues. In the miles of residential suburbs we drove through and past most sported big beautiful street trees planted in nature strips and casting welcome shade.


and more

and more

Street trees are also in abundance in many of the commercial thoroughfares and and I noticed many young trees are being proactively planted to replace old ones past their best.

It’s a big city, there must be recent suburb developments that I missed and perhaps they resemble the barren new residential developments so common in Australia where every square seems to be given over to house, bitumen and concrete and heaven forbid, no nature strips providing green space separation between house and street.

I’ve been watching a small apartment development being built in my suburb over the last 3 months. It’s a big improvement on the old run down 1960s block that preceded it, and they’ve certainly squeezed considerably more units into the space but there’s not a skerrick of green anywhere, not even a few spiky ‘unkillables’ or ornamental grasses. Wall to wall hard surfaces cordoned off with high fences and security gate. So depressing.

By comparison with the well tended mature trees and nature strips I’ve been enjoying in LA, walking in my local reasonably green suburb now seems a little barren. I do realise that many Australian home owners will not take responsibility for what is to me to the privilege of having a nature strip. Los Angeles also has the advantage of an abundance of cheap Mexican labour with old pickups, lawn mowers and leaf blowers to tend them.

A lovely seasonal combination of Jacaranda and Bougainvillea

The trees in LA must be providing a counter to the problem of air pollution, especially considering their car population. Sadly Tasmania, while promoting its ‘clean green ‘ reputation, appears not to demand a minimum of green space or aesthetically attractive planting to both soften the bricks and mortar and provide calming spaces. Green needs to be woven throughout the streets and buildings, not just confined to a few parks.

Taking the green onto the building

I always enjoyed walking down this street, shade and lots to look at in the gardens

Lovely wobbly fence leading down the steps

A recent development (since my last trip in April) was the provision of battery powered scooters and bikes that can be collected, used and then left on the street for the next user. It’s similar business model to the blighted yellow bikes in Melbourne so I hope they don’t meet the same fate. They were dotted about, parked on the streets everywhere but most were available near and around big shopping centres (shopping centres that also boast plenty of living green installations), distance travelled is paid for via an app and judging by the number of riders they appear to be instantly popular.

However it’s not all plain sailing —  “San Francisco authorities are confiscating hundreds of illegally parked scooters, issuing citations and distributing cease-and-desist orders as of April, and kicking scooters off the streets”

Apparently the various companies (Bird, Lime and Spin) pay people $5 to $6 per scooter to take them home to plug them in overnight and return them to the streets in the morning — somehow these seems rather homely and low-tech but it does  provide a source of income for people.

Couldn’t resist this  juxtaposition of architectural plants, Italian cypresses and abundantly flowering Yuccas

And all these beautiful air cleaning trees do require maintenance

I did manage to snap this rather different view of the city and the sadly contained Los Angeles river.

The river was paved with concrete from Elysian Park to Long Beach after devastating floods in 1938 and since then hemmed in with railways, buildings and industrial centres. Now it is rarely noticed except when crossing what looks like a concrete drain. However there are current plans to revitalise sections of the river, restoring habitat and creating recreational areas, and together with that predictable fears about big development interests that may undermine the goal of community access and use.

I was interested that, apart from an afternoon and evening of stupendous and continual fireworks explosions and small random flags stuck into front gardens, the only July 4th decoration I noticed was the little American eagle whirligig below

Then back to late winter, and a spotted dog on a sunny deck

Continue reading

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Floods and sunny days, May and June

The rivulet’s brief Jekyll/Hyde switch from tame stream to roaring torrent in May that did so much damage in the Hobart CBD just failed to reach the lowest bed in the creek garden, although it did undermine the retaining wall a little. There were two positive outcomes, the huge messy pile of fallen willow branches and debris that had built up into a beaver dam beside my boundary was swept away and the swirling water laid bare a lovely layer of rocks that I’ve been picking over for my garden edges

Broken boulder trap full of debris from the May flood

Two days after I noticed the blocked boulder trap while walking the spotted dog around the ridge I heard the clanking rumble of heavy machinery, overlaid with the intermittent beep beep beep of reversing earth movers coming from that direction … I’m assuming it’s all been cleared.

All deciduous trees are bare now apart from the last tattered leaves clinging to the pear, this allows the lively stems of the golden ash to gleam from the gloom of the arctic zone, unfortunately it also reveals the less than attractive gardening flotsam hidden behind. That all will be dealt with, one day…

Malus ioensis doesn’t have colorful winter stems to parade but I like the way the rain drops hang from the shiny tangle of branches.

Salvia karwinski is waving its long brittle branches in the wind, dark pink buds just begining to open, hopefully there will be some time to enjoy them before the 10 foot canes snap in the wind but it’s a beautiful thing to have flowering in winter. A single white Dahlia imperialis bloom is struggling with them but will probably succumb to the weather, a move to more sheltered spot is on the list.

Salvia Costa Rica blue is still producing large racemes of incredibly beautiful deep blue flowers but I failed to do the critical pruning again, so brittle stems are also being broken by the wind, and by me as I walk past. It’s such a worthwhile plant I should strike cuttings for planting in a more protected position, and remember to nip new growth back, seems odd that these two big salvias with their flappy felty leaves aren’t bothered by the frost. The other salvia that that continues to flower happily is Salvia mexicana, although it’s being crowded by a slightly too willing Philadelphus coronarius, one of my nostalgia plants. Its delicious scent takes me straight back to childhood Christmases, my mother had planted a large shrub by the verandah at the front door.

A bright yellow early narcissus, one of Rod Barwick’s delightful Glenbrook Cedrics, came and went, both accompanied and then followed by a range of exquisite white and creamy yellow potted Narcissus romeuxii.

and this deep yellow unnamed seedling that I think is especially nice

Another favourite, the delicately ruffle edged Ta Julia hybrid narcissus purchased from Glenbrook a few years ago

A few odd muscari have popped up but I think it will be a couple of years before they settle into a consistent flowering pattern. Also the recently planted pot full of Tulipa saxatalis are already poking through and pots of still sleeping tulips line the steps down the mountain side of the garden.

The superficially similar winter flowering Crocus melantherus and Crocus nubigena (the species from Turkey that has remained nubigena) have been flowering for a couple of weeks. Crocus nubigena has wonderful crisp white petals with startling black anthers and orange style, it has a stylish edge that melantherus lacks and is a favourite of mine.

First of the rich purple Crocus sieberi ssp atticus has just opened along with Crocus imperatii with its lilac centre and striped buff exterior.

Cyclamen coum have been happily flowering for weeks

Cyclamen coum f. albumisium in a tiny pot, the chubby pure white flowers are set off nicely against the plain dark round leaves, I’m really pleased with it, but then I’m pleased with most of the tribe (more notes to self, must repot).

Early Galanthus are already flowering , Eric’s choice, Richard Ayres, Wendy’s gold, plus some lovely random elwesii.

Yvonne Hay, elwesii var whittalii, Three Ships and Mrs Mcnamara

Cute chubby double flowers of Galanthus Richard Ayres together with a golden crocus that is labelled Crocus cvijicii but it seems a little early

Many more are pushing through, giving me a compelling reason to head down to the arctic zone to check progress, and contemplate the necessity of relabelling before the current labels become completely illegible. Galanthus ‘Wendy’s Gold’ is looking better this year but definitely needs either repotting or planting out, possibly some of each, I like to have these growing in two different places as insurance

Hopefully sowed seeds of Lilium mackiniae, I suspect the seeds may be a couple of years old so fingers crossed for decent germination. I accidently broke the single shoot that dared come through from my only bulb last summer when I was bumbling around cleaning up and removing excess dianella that was claiming exclusive rights to the garden bed. I originally transplanted the dianella from a patch across the rivulet so it’s extremely local and very happy.

Finally moved long suffering Cardiocrinum giganticum bulbs from the shallow 8 inch boxes they have been in for at least 8 years to good deep ones that will allow a decent root run and hopefully some flowering stems. There are still more to transplant beside the rivulet where two flowered last year, plus a box of Cardiocrinum yunnanence begging for better living quarters. Two years ago one bulb flowered from its shallow home so they are surprisingly willing.

Gordonia axillaris is loaded with fat buds and just begining to open its stunningly careless white blooms with that massive boss of chrome yellow stamens. This plant died back badly a couple of years ago and I nearly removed it, fingers crossed that the recovery continues as I’m not sure what the problem was.

Meanwhile the spotted dog remains stoic

All she ever does is garden…sigh

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Willows, wasps and wingless aphids

Giant willow aphids, tuberolachnus salignus to be exact, great monstrous aphids that don’t bother with leaves, they suck the juice straight out of the stems. I don’t mind them slowing the growth of the outrageously huge willows that lean over the fence by the rivulet, but I object to the multitudes of dopey wasps drunk on honey dew and the resulting sooty mould coating all plants underneath. This is the second year of the great grey aphid infestation, it’s worrying.

The mountain revealed its winter face briefly then thankfully returned to a benign autumn presence during the last couple of weeks of soft warm days.

Autumn is rolling through rapidly, the Malus ioensis is emptied of its red and gold lacquered leaves, the nashi pear and Cornus ‘Eddies White Wonder’ are bare, the golden ash is reduced to a bright light yellow filigree. Both coral bark maples are hanging on to their yellow and amber leaves but the better one with the gloriously brilliant winter stems appears to have lost several branches to some short of dieback, research suggests vermillcilum wilt. It may have suffered a sudden shortage of water over summer and and couldn’t sustain the beautiful fresh growth I was so pleased with in spring. The walnut next door, one of my ‘borrowed ‘ trees, is displaying an all over patchwork of yellow and green while the lightning rod Pyrus calleryana is the last to shed and is only gradually revealing colour change on a couple of branches

Early morning sun lighting up the leaves, the bright red in the foreground belongs Virburnum x burkwoodii


The small sample of chrysanthemums, (those wonderful autumn flowering stalwarts) here have been woefully neglected and are offering little. But amongst the colouring leaves and bare stems there are a few straggling blooms

Wonderful wonderful salvia, it’s hard to imagine gardening without their hardworking presence. Costa Rica blue comes into its own with large deepest ultramarine blooms, involcruata continues to wave bright lipstick pink racemes above the tall grasses, Phyllis Fancy and Megan’s magic are still making pools of hazy purple and white, bees are bumbling happily on the deep velvet flowers of Purple spires.

Salvia guaranitica and Salvia Costa Rica Blue

Another plant that keeps on keeping on and works with every thing is the luminous creamy green nicotiana, this is its 3rd year, they’re rather reduced in number, must sow a fresh batch for next season

A charming and petite early muscari, Muscari sivrihisardaghlarensis, and, unlike its name, it is very little. I’m not sure if the lack of stature is normal or due to starvation, I’m interested to see how it performs next year after some TLC

Also the very first Galanthus reginae-olgae appeared from nowhere, I like the way this bloom hooked itself decorously over the scape. Further excited investigation revealed several more varieties starting to nose through the soil; Galanthus ‘Eric’s choice’, elwesii, elwesii ssp whittalii, ‘Warburton’, ‘Maidwell L’, ‘Lavinia’ and the elegant ‘Yvonne Hay’

Crocus watching season started a while ago, beginning with the lovely wispy tipped Crocus vallicola. One of my challenges is identifying unlabeled blooms, and the other is confirming that actual labels are correct. Crocus pulchellus, speciosus, pallasii, niveus, mathewii, tournefortii, cartwrightianus and wattiorum, have been popping up with their captivating little faces.

Dainty wee cyclamen flowers have been hovering above leaves for a few weeks now, but the range of luscious cyclamen leaves alone make lovely pictures

The currawongs have moved down from the mountain to share the fruits of everyone’s labours, they are constantly swooping between the garden and the bush over autumn, their repeat clinking making a foil to the white cockatoo’s screeching presence and the wattle birds gurking commentary. The clamour of the big birds interplays throughout the day, joined briefly by the repeat ‘cossick’ of green rosellas — autumn is noisy here

Fruits that the Flying Fruit Disposal Service haven’t noticed…yet. Malus ‘Jack Humm’ is quite gorgeous but the tiny ring-in I received instead of Malus ‘Gorgeous will be turfed soon.

The youthful quince that I planted about for years ago produced its first quite generous crop. I thinned the fruit assiduously and waited in hopeful anticipation. Disappointingly when I cut into the lovely yellow fruit that eventuated they were largely brown throughout as though they were bruised. I’ve never seen this before so the search is on for a remedy.

Nice to be home, but I do miss running on those beaches

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Trees, lovely trees

Trees, rarely enough of them, too few in the streets, in gardens, and in those sad yards that owners don’t care to garden. I love to see trees, shade, movement, colour, habitat, oxygen. Admittedly some trees are problematic; towering blue gums in the front garden, pinus radiata seeding through the bush, leylandii towering over the neighbours, crack willows hogging the rivulet, self seeded cherry plums splattering the footpath…

Back in this beautiful little green suburb in LA for a couple of weeks I was enjoying the amazing street trees all over again.

They’re not just in the nature strips, surprisingly quite often a magnificent tree completely dominates a small front yard, I would have difficulty coping with a giant tree like the one below in my own small front garden.

This one is definitely outsize!

It was early spring and many of the trees had barely leafed up while others already had a full leafy canopy.

Bare branches make a dramatic tracery against the brightness of the church tower lit by the late afternoon sun

Gleaming skeletal birches looked unreal against the evergreen backdrop and bright sky at Big Bear Lake

I don’t know if this was originally a single tree but the four pale trunks are eye catchingly attractive with their ruff of white lantana at the base







Another large front garden tree with little tufts of new leaves and pink flower buds, this one was kept seriously under control by pollarding that made dramatic patterns against the sky,




Some interesting combinations may be planned or were just serendipitous, but a casual grouping of a huge plane tree (Platanus occidentalis),  fan palm and coral-toned succulent on a street corner pleased me everyday as I walked past. This coral succulent/shrub is quite popular, it features often among the limited range of plants I’ve noticed in the well kept but generally unimaginative gardens here; salvia, succulents, lantana, grasses, dietes, osteospermums, jasmines, elaeagnus, agaves, leptospermums, hibiscus, occasional roses, bananas, and a plethora of  pink and white flowering Rhaphiolepsis indica (Indian hawthorn) hedges keeping everything firmly contained.

Sometimes trees end up up-ended and badly in everyone’s way, surprisingly this double lane closure on a rare wet day didn’t cause the traffic back up I expected, and luckily, considering how busy this road is, the only damage was to an empty parked car.

The architecture is very charming and accessible in this old suburb, although in many cases total renovation and extension has happened behind the 1930s facades. Sometimes only the facade and side walls remain but that is enough to retain the gentle neighbourhood ambience. Several homes have been undergoing major renovations while I’ve been perambulating these streets, one still unfinished since my visit last year

Effort is put into creating entrances that are both inviting and interesting

On a completely different note, during our weekend excursion to the ski resort of Big Bear Lake I couldn’t help noticing a considerable collection of wooden bearalia, big bears, little bears, jaunty bears everywhere. However this bear was accompanied by a rather odd sign, what was it with the Italians?

No idea why the Italians are receiving such preferential treatment

Our second field trip was a (long!) drive to San Francisco for the weekend. We enjoyed Saturday wandering around Fisherman’s wharf, and eating at the Fog Kitchen, all very touristy but fun, and I was charmed by the streets of classic San Francisco terrace houses

Sunday morning was spent picnicking at the Golden Gate park, a huge and simply fabulous amenity within the city where I coveted some magnificent flowering Geranium maderense


My constant companions in LA, the very small dog and smallest person helping unpack the groceries


And again, the spotted dog enjoyed the wide expanses of Great Bay on Bruny, I don’t think he missed me at all.

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Its been a while

Autumn already! The tricorn seedpod of the species peonies, the telltale signs of the fleeting blooms I missed in spring, are turning themselves inside out exposing a deep silvery pink inner lining and startling shiny red and black seeds.

The last of the tribe, emodi, has produced a couple of viable seeds for the first time.

A bunch of large bright pink colchicums have popped up seemingly overnight to remind me that summer is on the way out. I like them well enough but they don’t compare with smaller varieties like the coy debutante Colchicum byzantium whose creamy white petals tipped with soft pink and pretty pink stigma echo the spring display of Tulipa cretica.

Smaller colchicum species are also pushing through, somehow more charming than their large cousins, and the first of the autumn flowering crocus. A solitary Crocus specious suddenly appeared last week and just now the first creamy white Crocus vallicola looking for the sun with its wispy tipped petals.

My favourite small tree, the coral bark maple, continues its year round parade of colour as it moves into the burnished amber stage. From the sunroom window this combines dramatically with the bright pink dahlias that have made themselves at home in the vegetable garden, matching the scarlet runner beans for height. They’re a little too willing so I’m considering replacing them with a creamy white dahlia that is curently sulking under the golden ash.

A rash of rabbits in spring meant no blue campanula latifolia or Kent beauty this season, plus much reduced clumps of penstemon Huskers Red and most upsetting, no Clematis x durandii. I can’t understand why it took me so long to work out who was nipping off the nigellas and munching through the big blousy double white carnations, and possibly other plants that disappeared before I noticed. Unfortunately my fences are far from rabbit proof, and now some other unspeakable varmint is digging, casually tossing galanthus bulbs aside as they squirrel their way down hunting for heaven knows what.

Bees continue to sleep in the roses

and gloriously coloured beetles materialise from nowhere

A surplus miscanthus was successfully rehomed the other day, it is a nice plant but was thugging a beautifully scented rhododendron. Also, rather regretfully I decided to relocate the rather too successful Knautia arvensis (from the fabulous Kedross Plain) to a more challenging life elsewhere in the garden, thus leaving the sunny space originally intended for Iris pallida and its rhizomous friends. Eventually the garden will be shaded over summer by the black mulberry at which time I’ll have to devise a different planting strategy. However right now I have lots of sun loving bulbs to plant

Poa Suggan Buggan and several eucomis are lolling about after heavy rain, the eucomis have always struggled to hold their heads up but were better this summer than previously

Next door the elegant Dierama reynoldsii produced just a few arching stems of its silver and deepest pink flowers

I’ve successfully created a small new garden space measuring roughly a square metre by joining two smaller gardens. Sprayed grass with round up, chopped it over down to the blue metal layer with pick axe, dug through spent potting mix and old horse manure, then buried a range of unnamed scillas and colchicums. I have two largish pink colchicums flowering already, almost instant garden.

The new bulb garden that replaces most of the front lawn/ car parking space is coming on. The soil was a tinder dry fine hard packed silty stuff dotted with large rotting tree roots which was quite hard to break up but now, mixed with the ever useful gravel seramis combination, I’m hoping those bulbs that want great drainage will thrive there on the slight slope in full sun. It’s still in construction mode, with the shape not yet properly defined. Ad hoc rocks sourced from a defunct quarry up the street line the edges and the remaining surrounding scratch patchy lawn pathway needs some tidying up. However it’s packed with crocus, iris and colchicums so I’m hoping for great things

Meanwhile cyclamen graecum has pushed out its first velvet leaves for this season

The vegetable garden mostly grew itself this year, zucchini hastily planted way too late, self sown potatoes hogging the centre, scarlet runners as reliable as ever and forming quite a charming arch across the path when they ran out of vertical support, three Russian kale survivors struggling through a mass of seedling silver beet and chard. I was pleased to find seeds of the zucchini Romanesco, a day after I planted four Lebanese, of course they all insistently produced nothing but male flowers for the first month so the current total is three lovely crunchy zuchinis, sadly I’ll miss the rest of the crop.

Finally lifted the remaining couple of martagon lilies from a bed where they had been languishing for years. And no wonder they had been languishing, they were sitting in solid clag. Its been considerably lightened now with spent potting mix, remaining martagons replanted, a few fritillarias and a line of potted lilliums have joined them.

Just a handful of apples set this year, so despite swearing off ever bothering with netting again, I did wrap the very few bunches of fruit in netting, hoping that the birds would not realise and peck through. Good crop of nashis, too many too small because no thinning was carried out but there were still enough of reasonable size to share, the blackbirds pecked into them early then evidently discovered a treat elsewhere and left them alone. Just noticed the first wasps for the summer, I had been happily thinking it was a remarkably wasp free season. I’ve realised they’re swarming all over the big willows again but can’t see any sign of last year’s aphids, subsequent honey dew and distressing sooty mildew end result…. yet

The last lovely blooms of Jayne Austin

Finally the two thorny arching Rosa moyesii, Fred Streeter and Highdownensis that I planted for the beauty of their hips are actually hanging on to them for the first time this year and they look so beautiful, only hope they repeat the experience next year. Apparently Fred Streeter was originally released as Rosa moyesii Petworth after the garden where it first appeared, I rather prefer ‘Petworth’ with its connection to place.

My little Van Diemon quince has spent the first five years of its life shaping itself into a lovely rounded tree and jettisoning any fruit that set. This year it decided it’s ready to both produce and hang on to a crop and now its branches are proudly festooned wth fat pale yellow/green globes. I dutifully thinned the original number and watched anxiously, now I’m concerned they will be discovered by the sulphur crested cockatoos while I’m away.

The spotted dog happily wallowing in a shallow water hole after a warm ride in the car

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