Tiny treasures of winter

Blossom still shining white against blue sky and falling confetti like all over the steps,  it seems to have been flowering for ages, the mahogany of the first baby leaves are  only now beginning to break through the mass of white.  I’ve enjoyed the dramatic blue/white combination even more this year since the new clear double glazed windows have replaced the previous opaque one in the bathroom. 

Strange how things lost turn up. I was busy scrabbling around under the birch trees yanking out random clumps of grass that had migrated from the lawn and  when I straightened up  I was clutching a pair of glasses.  I was momentarily nonplussed,  thinking ‘but I wasn’t wearing glasses’,  then looked closely and realized they were a pair missing for months, the grass had grown through them.  I usually have my sunglasses attached with a lanyard and have a bad habit of chucking unattached glasses to the ground without realizing, I must have thrown this expensive light sensitive pair down months ago. Sadly a thorough clean up has not managed to remove a blur patch that months of sun and frost created. 

I grew up picking vase-fulls of snowflakes from huge clumps in my mother’s garden, I don’t think snowdrops had reached my country town (possibly still haven’t) back then.   The snowflakes of my childhood were graceful but robust Leucojum aestivum with smallish white bells nodding atop slender stalks, . Now I have many clumps of snowdrops but only a couple of very small,  and recently acquired, clumps of  snowflakes.  My new snowflakes are the much more substantial species,  Leucojum vernum, both the yellow amd the green tipped varieties and currently I’m admiring them everyday. 

Erythroniums have become rather a passion as they have gently multiplied from those planted by the Plantsman over the years as refugees to my cool moist creekside garden.  I’ve garnered a few more since then to intermingle with anemones amd galanthus in the woodland beds that are coming into being as the birches and ginkgo mature enough to provide gentle summer shade.  A  primrose yellow eranthis has emerged in soft contrast to the usual brighter yellow,  the effect of a range of yellows is more enjoyable than a solid mass of chrome. 
Galanthus have continued to show off, my anxious nurturing seems to have encouraged them.  

Galanthus nivalis sibbertoft  white

The late galanthus varieties are still looking wonderful with buds continuing to open as they share their space with brilliant violet flowering hepaticas, also appearing to be happily bulking up.  The creekside beds are always in danger of being overrun by crack willow roots stealthily sneaking along underground seeking the extra nutrients i hand out to my pets, in autumn I carefully ran the handfork along just under the surface amd lifted mats of fibrous willow roots,  luckily they seem to mostly congregate very close to the surface. 

A few chinodooxas  are flowering pretty blues and pinks  and trilliums are pushing through.  Unfortunately those outside the fence take a bit of a beating from pademelons and  waterhens, the waterhen are having shrieking parties all hours of the day and night, hopefully they will settle down once the territories and partnerships are sorted.  I’m trying to ensure I have plenty of plants safe inside,  currently squeezed into boxes behind the shed but they seem to be doing ok. I’m considering moving some arums and arisaemas into that area as they don’t appear to be palatable to the local wildlife.

Miniature narcissus are continuing to open,  the hoop petticoat range have been flowering for months ….. now it’s the turn of the the cyclamineus hybrids with their little laid back ears, and the petite trumpets like Narcissus jacetanus, and the supremely elegant N. Snipe. The angels,  Angel’s tears and Angel’s breath, are firm favorites,  that gorgeous creamy pale yellow,  and such demure little bells. 

Narcissus x sussanae forgot to extend her stems so her  flowers peer kitten-like over the edge of the pot, very pretty.

  My interest in romulea has been aroused after realizing how they provide tiny but wonderfully bright pops of colour, but I should be careful I don’t end up with a desert in summer after all these spring beauties have gone to sleep

After performing duty as a car park for many months I’ve been perplexed about whether to restore or repurpose the always tatty front lawn area. Then the decision was made for me when I was hunting for a site to rehome a large clump of iris unguicularis and this convenient,  intermittantly weedy, sunny unused space offered itself.   So far the iris has been joined by several vagrant crocus and a couple of tiny euphorbia rigida seedlings

A couple of hellebores grown from Ashwood seed have finally flowered, two beautiful dark red doubles.  One with a circular outline and the other with more pointed petals rimmed in a darker shade, they still don’t approach the older deep ruby red ashwood single in colour but are most attractive. 

First flower from Ashwood claret double seed

Ruby red Ashwood single

A couple of frits have also joined the first flowering show,  a five inch Fritillaria imperialis produced a single soft orange bell,  and a similarly short Fritillaria raddeana produced a couple of  palest creamy primrose bells delicately veined in green. 

Meanwhile  the spotted dog has been regretfully left at home

You’re leaving me? why can’t I come to Port Douglas with you? I don’t like the cold either!

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Snowdrops and crocus are lighting up winter


Suddenly things are moving fast,  especially with the  bright sunny days we’ve enjoyed recently.  The twiggy branch ends of the dark leaved ornamental plum outside my bedroom window have been thickening up with dark pink buds clustering  along their sides,  now the first few are opening to little white blossoms, nothing spectacular but the first blossom is always fun.

Hellebores are just beginning to show their faces. First the excitement of seeing the Post Office farm nursery purchases of 2015 flowering for the first time, so far two lovely blacks, the single being a better quality black that the double, plus a very large flowered pale lemony primrose on a very sturdy plant. The primrose is an impressively large substantial bloom but when I compare colour with those in my garden originally from Hill View years ago it’s no better. A fair number of rescue pots of hellebores that had been badly neglected in their former home are pushing up flowering buds for the first time this year, they occupy a bit too much space so this is my opportunity to discard any that aren’t sufficiently attractive to keep, but the three comely ladies below are definite keepers

The Canna ehamanii clump that offers so much value over summer is rustling its great brown frosted sails in the breeze now.  Will have to tackle pruning it back to the ground to make way for the spring growth but I’ll leave it for a while so the top can protect the base from the currently frequent frosts.

Galanthus are coming in an unseemly rush, doubles  Lady Beatrix Stanley,  Rodmarten,  Dionysus, Heffalump, and  singles  Maidwell L,  John Gray,  Mrs Mcnamara, Mrs Thompson (in her varied forms),  Ikariae, Wasp, and the lesser known Erics choice — more pushing up every day with their little noses pointing to the sky.

Below clockwise from the left; Lady Beatrix Stanley, Rosemary Burnham, Spindlestone surprise, Dionysus and Heffalump

Vase of pearly drops

G. Lady Beatrix is a particularly dainty double with only two tiny green dots on each inner petal, both she and Dionysus flounce elegantly suspended on extended pedicles.  G. Rosemary Burnham is very charming but I was stunned to see single bulbs priced across a range of 30 to 125 pounds sterling in UK nurseries. Galanthus Erics choice (flowering for the first time for me) initially looked a little haphazard but the later blooms are displaying a light elegance with their soft green markings and long outer petals. Frustratingly a hunt on the Internet and check through the Snowdrop book failed to offer any pics of Erics choice for comparison, however he seems happy this year with roots exploring out through the pot into the compost below. I’ll be careful not to move that pot till christmas!

Galanthus Eric’s choice

A couple of  hepaticas are putting out their perfect little china doll flowers rather early and the hamamelis is already strung with tiny yellow ribbons. It was a  struggling transplant a few years ago from the Plantsman’s much warmer and dryer garden so I don’t know which of the many yellow flowered varieties it is, but the reputedly sweet scent, while pleasant, is slightly acrid. The scent that always stops me in my tracks at this time of the year is that emanating from the miniscule wispy flowers on the Sarcococca bushes growing near the front door, getting noticeably stronger as the evening darkens. There are usually lots of babies growing underneath and I keep meaning to nurture and plant them further afield — one day!

Dahlias have all browned off in the series of frosts over the last couple of weeks, the job of cutting the tall ungainly stalks back had been started but all gardening work both here and at 400 will cease briefly while I recover from a knee arthroscopy.   This year time must be found  to remove the top layer of tubers that have piled up in mounds at least a foot off the ground — I say that every year, oh dear.

So many more lovely treats to enjoy in winter, miniature narcissus (correctly identified I hope) with a very early tulip grown from seed collected on the Akrotiri Peninsula

Narcissus Kojak and Narcissus obesus flanking the lovely Tulipa cretica

 

Two weeks in a row I had the joy of watching wedge tail eagles floating above me at Lesley Vale as they scoured the paddocks for small furry lunches,  and now we’ve turned the solstice corner the Blue wrens are courting in the cherry plum

Still reading, enjoying and learning from Ian Young’s bulb log on the SRGC website,  the pics of their garden are stunning,  and are inciting a dangerous passion for erythronium.  I’m inspired to sow more seed, finally started on some of last years galanthus seed plus the last of the three year old crocus seed from our 2014 trip.  Tulips and cyclamen are still waiting,  fingers crossed life will emerge from those tiny packages. Success with seeds will of course present me with the problem of  finding spaces to squeeze more plants in and I haven’t the time to dig up more lawn

Seeds soaking

Crocus continue to open and shine in the sun, although rather too much overhead sun for these photos —

Crocus biflorus ssp isauricus, gargaricus and adanensis

especially pleasing is the positively incandescent Crocus cvijicii from the top of Tria Pente Pigadia in Mount Vermion, a very steep and laborious climb that I attempted twice and succeeded with once (knees again!)

Crocus cvijicii

We also gathered a single year old hip of a flowering Rosa alpina two thirds of the way up that ski run, the single result of which is now in my garden.

Another beautiful surprise is the first bloom on this Iris aucheri (plus honey bee on the far left) which looks far too delicate to open in the middle of winter. Its perky little friend  on the right has no label, but is maybe a histrioides ? I’m a little concerned about aucheri coping with  the amount of morning dew this garden receives channeling its way down those deeply v-ed juno leaves and causing rot.

Medley of cyclamen

 

The label on this pot reads Cyclamen repandum, which doesn’t seem likely for any of the assortment that have arranged themselves so attractively together.  I can only assume cross seeding from neighbouring pots.

 

A new bed at last, and a decent blanket, perhaps I’ll stay after all, spring can’t be too far away?

 

Spotted dog christening his new and decidedly expensive bed-with-special-dog-warming-foam filling, and finding it perfectly satisfactory

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Dark MoFo time, frosty time

First, and most exciting, things first,  the latest addition to the family, meet young Thomas

Now back to the garden — cold mornings with a  pink suffused mountain, autumn leaves now scattered underfoot, looking wonderful lighting up the ground,  but leaving the trees bereft till spring.  All except for the Pyrus calleryana (labelled as Pyrus ussuriensis, ie Manchurian Pear) that releases its brilliant gold and red leaves very reluctantly, later even than the walnut next door.  Possibly a good thing that it was mislabelled as the fastigiate habit is much less intrusive considering its foolish placement!  Over the month that I’ve been trying to finish this post even the pear now is only clinging to a few rag tag leaves and the red gold littering the lawn has turned to black.

Pinky mountain

A couple of sharply frosty mornings later in the month with snow wending its way down the mountain side have set the coral bark maple gleaming red stems again, this year connecting colour wise with both the deep pink racemes of Salvia karwinskii and  the new shiny red fence backdrop to the lower lily garden.  The impact of the red  fence  might be a little too much when the green scarlet runners that are  currently crawling over it have died down, and there is only the Salvia Costa Rica blue that grew itself from a pruning used as a lily stake left.  The plan was a triple red/pink  connection through winter and early spring with a red flowering chaenomeles that is still only a knee high to a grasshopper…

Red stems, pink racemes and shiny red fence

Diminutive hydrangea ‘Pia’ has lit up this little corner at the edge of the lower deck for the last couple of months, simplest things can give so much pleasure

Hydrangea Pia in Autumn garb

Wintery flowering Salvia karwinskii has been budding up and waving long canes about, sadly they tend to be smashed together with its companion the Jack-and-the-Beanstalk spike of Dahlia imperialis when we get the inevitable cyclonic winds, pity I didn’t follow this advice “When new growth gets to a metre high, nip the tips out. The canes won’t get as tall but will be sturdier and more resistant to wind damage.”  Closer inspection of both plants revealed damage from those recent hard frosts that had me washing ice off the windscreen  with numb fingers in the morning —

The employment of a SYM, aka a Strong Young Man, resulted in the removal of one sad standard Malus Echtermeyer  to a position that will hopefully suit it better, maybe even encourage it to strive for the description that encouraged its purchase in the first place, ie.  “A graceful, weeping tree with bronze leaved pendulous branches that are covered in masses of rose crimson flowers”. He also lopped to the ground a couple of monster pittosporums and two useless plum trees (plus a whole lot of other minor stuff). The plum tree removal has had the sad effect of revealing the bottom shed far too clearly  but I’m planning their replacement with one of the Jury Fairy magnolias (syn. Michelia) that has languished in a pot for over a year now.

Frosty morning through the window, too much shed, recently transplanted Malus Echtermeyer listing to the left, but lovely Red barked maple

More snowdrops pushing through,  Galanthus ‘Three ships’ has been flowering for a month or so, The Pearl, Rodmarten , Maidwell L , Mrs. Mcnamara, Yvonne Hay and some of the elwesiis are following close behind. Plus a lovely unnamed child with charming soft green inverted ‘v’s on each outer petal. It’s possibly a hybrid seedling that planted itself as I found it growing in a buildup of used potting mix and general debris near the named galanthus pots at 400. Can’t believe it is already nearly a year since I was picking and photographing them under the Plantsman’s watchful eye

Various Narcissus romeuxii are flowering, mostly delightfully delicate pale yellow.   I struggle to remember the range of named varieties but they are all beautiful and I rather like a mix of slightly different seedlings.  I’m very impressed with my single bloom of Narcissus bulbicodium obesus (?– labelled as Glenbrook’s Olumbo but I don’t think so) a bright yellow fully fat fellow.

Pale green nicotiana, matches everything

 

Nicotiana still soldiering on,  an amazingly good value plant but getting tired after two years, I must sow seed for a new batch, its a fabulous filler and also long lasting as a cut flower.

 

 

 

I had an interesting encounter when I pulled out the horse’s super heavy winter rug now the nights are getting really cold. I like to check the lining after it has been hanging up in the shed for six months or so and shake out any spiders that have taken up residence. This time, after hoisting the rug over my shoulder and carrying it across the paddock before giving it a bit of a shake out on the ground,  I was totally surprised to find a small oblong furry creature clinging firmly to the rug lining, after the initial ‘dead mouse’ reaction it took a couple of moments to recognise that it was a very sleepy wee bat. After carefully returning the little bat to hang on to a spare rug stored in the dark shed further inspection uncovered a dopey European wasp and a huntsman that required re-housing.

Remarkably rectangular bat

A couple more troopers keeping on making lovely little pictures in the midst of winter desolation,  Salvia Indigo spires falling all over Euphorbia myrsinites and next door icy pink Silene dioica threaded with Helictotrichon sempervirens  (Blue oat grass)

The winter flowering crocus are showing their little faces now, I’m increasingly obsessed…

The browny gold one is labelled C. cancellatus lycius but that’s very unlikely, my untutored guess is C. x paulinae, a natural hybrid between C. ancyrensis and abantensis  …. and next door is one of the C. nubigena group

Crocus harveyi (photo Tom Mitchell)

And this crocus collected by the Plantsman and I in 2012 on the very small and very delightful Greek island of Ikaria as one of the Crocus nubigena group, now established by Janis Ruskans as a separate species, Crocus harveyi.

Crocus country on Ikaria

 

Strange to think when we were scrabbling around on that ridge in Ikaria collecting the seed we had no idea that five years later it would carry his name.

It’s cold out there and I don’t want to know

 

 

 

 

Spotted dog isn’t too keen on winter, he’d like to move to Noosa, sometimes I think I’d like to join him

 

 

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Its dark early now

It happens every year, without fail, I should be used to it after all these years, but I still get a shock at how quickly the nights lengthen after autumn dances in — the effect being greatly exacerbated by the return to Eastern Standard Time.  At least it means that I eat at a reasonable hour, instead of peering hopefully into the fridge at 8.30  when I finally come in from the garden during summer.

Dark coming early in the Arctic zone

There is a small-ish apple tree, a Fuji, growing at the bottom of my garden in the Arctic zone.  It’s struggled a bit over the years,  producing rather pathetic crops that failed to develop past the golf ball stage.  However this year it produced a bountiful crop about half of which have reached persimmon size, still small despite assiduous thinning on my part  The apples ripen very late here so they provide the bird population with a feast  when most other sources of foods are drying up.  In order to allow some fruit to ripen on the tree I spent a morning struggling with the difficult task of festooning the tree with two large pieces of bird netting. The aim was to exclude the charming little silver eye population who choose to over-winter here rather than migrate to the mainland. The next morning most of the silver eye population were happily enjoying breakfast inside the net. Shooing them out presented some difficulty as they never remember where they get in, followed by another hour of tracking down gaps and either tying or clothes pegging them together.  This worked well for a couple of weeks except for the big wattle birds who pecked the apples through the net, ripping holes in the process.

Oh dear, there’s a horrid human looking at me,  now where was that hole!

 Finally I gave up after discovering a  lone silver eye inside again and another frustrating hour ensued while I  removed the net,  unhooking it from endless fruit spurs while struggling on tippy toes. A large basket of apples was gathered as darkness fell,  the pecked ones for cooking,  the golf balls for the horse and the decent sized clean ones hopefully for storage. At least my endeavours gave the apples another couple of weeks of ripening on the tree but next year I’ve resolved there will be a netting tent supported by pipe arches, the proper sort I see in other people’s gardens. Of course it may be eight years before I get a decent crop again.

In the mean time the big wattlebirds are also enjoying nectar from the beautiful dangling flowers of Canna x Ehemanii

 

 

Three layers to be skinned, they need to be good to be worth the trouble

 

 

Another crop did unusually well this year,  the old chestnut trees at the brewery always produce a ton of chestnuts but generally they are slim specimens not worth the inordinate amount of trouble takes to glean something edible from those spiny casings.  The Plantsman and I collected a few a couple of times but the resulting spine infested fingers were just too high a price.  This year while on our morning walk Spotted dog and I noticed that an amazing crop of close to full size nuts had appeared scattered under the trees and across the car park,  where they had been knocked down by the possums.  I filled my pockets till they bulged like chipmunk cheeks and returned the next morning with big bags to collect the overnight fall.  It was a brief window of opportunity,  two days later the early morning harvest was nothing but empty husks,  every possum in a ten mile radius had joined in the feast. 

Malus ioensis having its brief fling of colour

Malus ionensis flaunted its brilliant pink and orange leaves briefly before releasing them to carpet the ground. Sharp mornings are causing the butter yellow leaves of the ash and the birches to follow suit. The ginko turned soft yellow overnight but holds its display for much longer.  The huge backdrop of willows are slowly blanketing the ground by the creek with their leaves but unfortunately they’re also covering the plants below with sooty mould.

Horrid infestation spreading to the gate post!

I had noticed a welcome dearth of wasps over summer and put it down to the few extremely cold nights we had last winter. However when I was down by the creek  an intense humming overhead finally alerted me to the fact that they hadn’t all died, instead they were all busy supping honey dew produced by a plague of black aphids layered along the branches of the willows. The resulting sooty mould is coating the plants below so I’m praying for an early frost to wipe them out. Its not happened before so I’m curious as to what has triggered such a horrid aphid explosion.

Another gorgeous autumn colourer, Cornus Eddies White wonder becomes Eddie’s Red Wonder. It’s the time of the year for peering into miniature narcissus pots to check for those delightful little spikes of green coming through, soon some of the little hoop petticoats will follow.  The autumn flowering crocus have been successively producing their guileless flowers for the last couple of months, Creamy Crocus vallicola first, followed by banaticus, nudiflorus, longiflorus, oreocreticus, goulimyi, tournefortii, and all the others that I can’t remember.  The location labels transport me back to places like Kosmas, Gythio, Chios, Samos, Vikas Gorge, Kajmakcalan, where we had collected the seed.

Crocus tournfortii collected at Mega Livadi, Serifos

Crocus goulimyi from the Peloponnese

Every so often,  presumably depending on prevailing air currents,  air temperatures, and other meteorological  divinations,  a brilliantly multi-coloured sail swoops down from the mountain,  sashays around above the house, swings across the road and disappears momentarily through a gap between tree and hillside, reappearing nicely placed to touch down on the Cascade paddocks.  I was interested to read that one of the perils of hang gliding off the Organ pipes was the danger of the sail being shredded by wedge tail eagles determined to drive out the interloper — as if hang gliding isn’t enough danger by itself.

Swoop around, duck through the trees, then touchdown

And Charlie came for another sleepover 🙂

We’ve been good, can we come in now?

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End of Summer – its all over now

A mini spree of warm days and gentle Greek evenings carried us through the last days of summer and well into the first month of autumn, those lovely evenings are closing in by minutes each day and now April is here I’m shocked to find that is dark by 6.30.

Portly pied muscovy regarding us thoughtfully

Spotted dog and I took a long perambulation down the rivulet linear park one beautiful evening in March, and it  was really lovely to see a couple of young fathers out each with a gaggle of small bike riding children.

On the way back we  stopped to chat with the pied muscovy who was balancing on the lip of the weir while engaging in some serious chest feather preening.

 

 

Platypus frolicking in the spillway

 

Then to our delight,  mine anyway – I’m not sure that the dog noticed, a platypus appeared, cruising,  ducking and diving, and being generally delightful. After first spying it a couple of years ago in a large dark waterhole behind the brewery we always keep an eye out when passing, peering hopefully into the depths. but rarely catch a glimpse.

 

I was pleased to wake to to a damp morning with autumn rain forecast, it was quite a relief  for both the garden and me as it gave me a chance to get on with ‘inside stuff’ that has been waiting for ages. Replacement of all the windows in the house has caused total chaos as furniture has been shoved around and the wake up call regarding the mounting problem of ‘ too much stuff ‘ was made loud and clear

The older dahlia clumps have been flowering gaily for ages although I’ve noticed the patches are not so vigorous as in previous years. This is probably a combination of overcrowded tubers literally mounding up out of the ground on top of each other and the encroaching growth of nearby shrubs reducing the direct sunlight hours received. There will be a surplus of pretty pink but reliably tough dahlia tubers available later this year.

Cyclamen are the current treasures pushing up their delicate pink and white blooms in various nooks and crannies throughout the garden.  Like galanthus in late winter the autumn flowering cyclamen are an annual treat that beg for close inspection.

Wee treasure, Cyclamen mirabile

Sadly labelling hasn’t been as assiduous as it should have so in some cases I’m struggling with identification.

Small Colchicum species

The first colchicums  have suddenly appeared,  the large varieties rushing to open their soft pink goblets then tipping  over like skittles.  The Plantsman placed them  in bare ground between boulders by the creek but aesthetically they would look more attractive planted amongst  light grass to help keep them upright.

 

I prefer the smaller ones with their lilliputian charm and less untidy when they topple

Colchicum autumnale alboplenum

Malus Golden hornet is struggling  under its load of crabapples again, the weight causing its branches to hang down attractively as it repeats last year’s gold and purple entwining with Verbena bonariensis.

Crinum powelii (?) (it was one of the few plants here when I arrived so that’s the best I can do with identification) is an untidy beast with huge strappy leaves that disintegrate disgracefully as the ethereal softest pink trumpets open atop their chest high stems. Best placed behind something bushy in the garden but gorgeous  and long lasting as a cut flower

Crinum powelii ?

Crocus banaticum spreading ts petals wide

 

One of the early autumn flowering crocus, and my personal favourite, Crocus banaticus brought inside to show off its remarkably large iris-like  blooms. This crocus likes, actually thrives in, damp conditions so I find it easier to keep alive than many of its beautiful friends who demand a long hot bake over summer

 

I was very surprised to see this little chap appear unheralded and unlabelled in one of the creek beds, Galanthus peshmenii I presume, but very early.  The Plantsman and I had plans to visit it in its native haunts among the limestone rocks of Kastellorizo, a tiny Greek island off the southern coast of Turkey.  The  labelled clump of its autumn flowering brethren Galanthus reginae-olgae nearby are still fast asleep — that is, assuming some ghastly catastrophe hasn’t befallen them over summer.  It probably hasn’t, but I worry til I see those pale green shoots spearing through

Galanthus peshmenii — I assume

One very hot day the Spotted dog noticed the horse’s water trough and found it very agreeable

Either it’s too small or I’m too big, but if I just keep turning around I’ll spiral down into the water!

 

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Days shortening, autumn approaching

The current bling in the garden is Lilium henryi flowering its socks off. I’ve grown the elegant creamy version, originally purchased from Glenbrook, for years and it’s never failed to impress, elegant turkscaps drifting above the prickly Austen rose ‘The moth’, and a half finished  painting waits for completion, again put off till next season. Now both the the cream and the original soft orange blooms are nodding in the breeze. The orange bulbs were a happy acquisition last year, thank you Catherine, and have done really well.

Lilium henryi

Lilium henryi

There is a sprinkling of hepaticas in the garden courtesy of the Plantsman whose own garden was a little hot and dry for their liking. He popped them in amongst the galanthus in the creek beds and they seem to have settled in nicely under the deciduous canopy of the willows.  Now I’m a total convert to their miniature jewel like charms and have planted more inside the creek fence despite it being difficult to ensure they’re not thugged out by the heavy duty perennials that I’m struggling to keep in check at the moment. They will flower in spring, delicious little dots of lilac, blue and pink, but in the mean time one can enjoy their attractively trilobed leaves.

The layer of hay that was laid down on the creek beds to prevent the blackbirds/water hen from further spreading the mulch of aged horse manure has been lifted to allow autumn flowering Galanthus reginae-olgae to come through. Unfortunately the aforesaid birds-of-destruction have cottoned on to the presence of the wormy manure layer and are scattering the hay wherever they can get under the layer of bird netting — dammed nuisance.

Buddleia arch

Buddleia arch

Above the accidental Buddleia arch the crocus slope is gradually coming into being. It was originally optimistically imagined as a fast draining scree of soil and gravel on top of the concrete but I’ve since concluded that it will have to remain a collection of pots. Any planting I do on the driveway needs to be easily removeable, just in case it needs to be actually be used as a driveway at some point in the future (admittedly an unlikely scenario)  Several long plastic troughs in a tasteful shade of charcoal have been purchased to house a selection of the hot/dry-loving bulbs, different species being carefully kept apart within each trough by buried sections of milk cartons cut to size. The plan is that by placing these long troughs  across the driveway the problem of water pooling in the lower side of the pots on the steep slope will be alleviated.  I could have created a set of level terraces  using planks (or whatever else came to hand) but that would offer cover and comfort to the snake that has been observed sun baking in that area in previous years and I really prefer not to encourage him.

Perambulations over the last couple of months with the spotted dog through the Cascade gardens and past the rivulet spillway had failed to spy the pied muscovy. I was concerned that he/she may have been accosted by Mr Reynard one evening — but joy! yesterday there he/she was,  paddling slowly and majestically,  bow very low in the water, looking hopefully for tit bits from passers by.   The Cascade bunnies are being supplied with apples and carrots in order to win their trust, poor little suckers, and thus entice them into traps. What happens after that isn’t spelt out clearly on the council sign but there is still quite a party of untrapped individuals gallivanting about.

Peaceful gardening over the last couple of weekends has been punctuated by the sudden appearance of a small pack of two, a German shepherd and a large staffie cross, barking furiously at a nonplussed Spotted dog through the creek gate. With some encouragement from me they went tearing off along the creek (straight across the lower creek beds!) and soon after a cacophony of barking indicated that they were giving the dogs along the ridge a good deal of cheek. A bit later the warning sound of agitated barking from the caged dog a couple of houses away, plus unusual alertness on the part of the Spotted dog, had me ready with hose in hand to aim at their rapidly retreating rear ends. They made a real nuisance of themselves going AWOL for a few days, I was unwilling to take the dog walking around the ridge but no sign of them over the last week so hopefully they’ve been safely confined to barracks by their errant owners.

Peonia mascula ssp. hellenica

Peonia mascula ssp. hellenica

Species peonies are swinging into their second seasonal act as their seed pods ripen, turning themselves inside out to show off  extravagant shiny  black and scarlet combinations. Normally the Plantsman would have me carefully collecting them for sowing later but this year I’ll leave them to ornament the garden.  Nashi pears are ripening with the fruit bigger and better than previously,  the flying fruit disposal service (big gurking wattle birds have just moved in!) have only tried a few topmost pears so far but as soon as they stab the fruit the wasps gleefully take over and hollow it out. Luckily very few wasps in evidence this year, maybe a consequence of the cold winter. The snowberry shrub (Symphoricarpos albus) under the old Kentish cherry has a lovely crop of fat puffy white berries that are great for vases but its wandering ways have placed it on the removal list for this winter.

Brunsvigia ?

Brunsvigia ?

This gorgeous blue creature suddenly appeared in a pot whose contents I had completely forgotten,  for some reason I think it’s a brunsvigia, but Google will only offer me pink, red and white versions. More research required..

 

 

 

 

 

 

One sad casualty of the very wet season seems to be the Acer davisii that I planted for its delightful green and white striped snake bark trunk.  The leaves have failed to develop much past a couple of centimetres,  instead they’re shrivelling and dropping off. I’m also concerned about the health of a precious little pink flowered  Cornus kousa planted in the same bed.  However the Verbena bonariensis have thrived, the flower heads floating happily above my head, mixing it with the golden hornet crabs and welcoming visitors like the one illustrated

Verbena bonariensis

Verbena bonariensis with friend

Add usual the salvias continue to shine and dahlias, despite showing pressure from over crowding,  are picking up their game now. Another wintery job coming up is separating out the mounds of dahlia tubers in order to replant a select few.

Cyclamen hederafolium

Cyclamen hederifolium’s ethereal blooms

Cyclamen purpurascens and hederifolium  are displaying their first tentative flowers for the season, they’re so delightful I’ve planted out several more from pots in the rocky edges of the path with suitable good fortune-inducing incantations and accompanying bell ringing. C. hederifolium should be happy but that small native digging critter is still  a clear and present danger.

Hydrangea quercifolia Snowflake-

Hydrangea quercifolia Snowflake- trussed up to allow access for window replacement

This week has seen the replacement of the original shabby cold-conducting aluminium fly traps that framed my windows with smart double glazed affairs. The bank balance is groaning but I’m looking forward to a toasty winter.  Window replacement required the moving of many very large pots away from the house walls, brutal pruning of camellias  and the ignominious trussing up of Hydrangea quercifolia ‘Snowflake’ with the usual bright blue hay bale twine. The  Oakleaf hydrangea found life good this year, maybe something to do with a failure to prune on my part, and is flowering generously,  gorgeous big panicles of delicate double blooms, greenish cream with hints of pinky russet.

Punk Zoro

Punk dog

 

Spotted dog sporting his latest look after lurking under the lilies

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2017 two weeks old, and it’s still wet

However did Christmas and the new  year whip by so fast,  I’m not ready to leave 2016

It has rained consistently for several days over the New year, on and off, mizzle, showers, then, just in case we were napping, a big heavy tropical flash flood wall of water.  Was an immense relief to get 82 bales of freshly cut hay safely stacked away for the horse over winter.  Since I sold the horse float and the big unit for pulling it I have had to rely on other people to deliver hay each year , it’s become an annual source of anxiety until all has been safely organised, paid for and stored in the shed.

The effect of the soft rain drops held by the flowers of Cotinus ‘Grace’  is very beautiful

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

A favourite rhodo,  Rhododendron ‘Laramie’ purchased for its fabulous indumentum,  has curled its drooping leaf edges up to show their furry undersides before dropping them.  ‘Laramie’ had been growing and flowering happily in that pot for several years so I’m putting the death throes down to rotting roots – will try planting it out and hope for recovery

Salvia guaranitica 'Costa Rica Blue'

Salvia guaranitica ‘Costa Rica Blue’

Salvia ‘Costa Rica Blue‘ seems to have finally come into its own after I realised it needed a bit of judicious pruning. It has  6 foot stems coming up from the base adorned with bright green tropical looking leaves setting off the racemes of soft ultramarine flowers. It continues from summer until first frost, giving deeper notes beneath the towering heads  of Verbena bonariensis.  The verbena has done a real Jack’s beanstalk act this year, its soft lilac dancing around the golden ash with the much darker blooms of Clematis ‘Aotearoa’

Verbena and Clematis 'Aotearoa' mingling in the ash

Verbena and Clematis ‘Aotearoa’ mingling in the ash

Constant inundation of the Galanthus pots has also been worrying me, I suspect they haven’t had time to drain properly and the wet combined with summery heat threatens rotting. Fingers crossed until I see the first leaves of the season emerge, these are plants that I cannot replace.  I spread aged horse manure (very old) over the creek beds then covered them with freshly slashed long grass from the cascade paddocks to prevent the blackbirds from scattering the aforesaid horse manure in search of worms.  Then a covering of plastic trellis netting was required for further protection against the local blackbird mob and the resident native hen family. I’m hoping this action won’t gain the attention of the willow roots. The downside is that I must remember to remove the grass mulch before the Galanthus start to wake up, and in  the case of the autumn flowering Galanthus reginae-olgae this will be late summer.

Five!!

Five!

On the subject of blackbirds there has been an explosion of families this year,  shiny black papas and soft brown mamas darting to and fro with hapless worm lunches made all the easier to procure by the constant mizzle.  Now,  two weeks later,  I’m regularly startled by a startled fledgling whirring off from its hiding place in a flurry of immature wing feathers

Lilium Night flyer

Lilium Night flyer

Lilies have been lovely,  despite some ferocious wind,  this year I remembered to prune the monster Rosa ‘Bloomfield abundance’ that towers over a couple of pink trumpets before the lily buds were ripped to shreds.  Other pots with tall orientals have had to be regularly righted after tipping over in the wind, need better placement but not possible last year.  Despite my best efforts to eradicate them last year rapacious double tiger lilies are still trying to take over the bottom bed from the more precious martagons and duchartreis. They’re really quite ugly, like weird orange octopodes.  I’m removing the scarlet runners from this bed (grew too many to eat anyway)  and will devote it to lilies — plus current residents, a big clump of chives, a healthy daphne and a beautiful black hellebore. As  the side path runs down behind it on a higher level one gets a nice eye level view of the taller varieties.

golden-lilies-1I love the pure yellowness of L. Citronella’s neat turbans,  2 pots of bulbils grown on from last year are now a tray full of healthy babies waiting to be planted out.

Also lots of potting and repotting and planting out has been happening with the species cyclamen, one of my very favourite plants.   Those planted out in the garden tend to be upset and uprooted by some small furry native critter, or a small black feathered import, so more precious treasures are safer in pots.

The sadly broken Betula Moss white has new growth bursting forth so now I have a quandary, do I let two or three shoots develop for a nice multi-stemmed effect or do I sternly limit growth to the strongest and stay with the single, albeit slightly bent, trunk

birch-trunks

Thrilled to finally see the softest pinky cream layer appearing on the trunk of the only  remaining Betula utilis var. jacquemontii.  I’m a little disappointed that my original matching set (cliched design but classic) of three jacquemontiis has been replaced through various misadventure by a single jacquemontii, 2 Moss whites, (one recently inadvertantly stooled) and a common silver birch that is silvering up nicely, maybe that reflects the general chaos that is my garden, it can’t even manage a simple cliche!

Cleaning out the old flowering stems of the Iris wattii by the front door revealed a kitchen implement whose disappearance I had been puzzling over since the last jam making season

So that's where the mouli sieve has been hiding

So that’s where the mouli sieve has been hiding

And something so beautiful, despite a couple of tiny chewed bits, on a very small first year plant. This clematis hasn’t made much growth at all, I envisioned it leaping up to the trellis on top of the paling fence and draping itself luxuriously about the neighbouring lily pily, but it’s still crouching a foot off the ground so I’m a little concerned about its long term viability

Clematis flora plena, first flowers

Clematis flora plena, first flowers

And the Spotted dog, stickybeaking at activity in someone else’s garden during his daily constitutional

Yes, definitely a cat over there

Yes, definitely a cat over there

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