Away

Away from my own garden for a few weeks I’m satisfying my need for a regular plant fix by observing everything growing around me and passing comments that bore my non-plantaholic companions silly.  Late afternoon each day we take a vsd (aka  very small dog) for a walk around the streets behind the apartment building that is temporarily home for me.  These are attractive residential streets in an old and prestigious suburb lined with handsome mature trees that offer welcome shade from the Californian sun. 

Leafy streets, the ‘cobwebs’ are a popular Halloween decoration

Some of the trees were planted when this area was planned as a residential park-like estate back in the 1920s and include an eclectic mix of magnolia grandifloras, deodara cedars, camphors, Fiscus macrocarpa,  Californian sycamores (Platanus  racemosa), London planes,  Liquidambers, Californian live oaks,  European oaks, Jacarandas, tulip trees. Also of course a range of the palm trees commonly grown in LA, the Mexican fan palm, the Queen palm and the Canary Island Palm. 

The deodar cedars are huge and magnificent, spreading their long branches horizontally across the streets, each festooned with pendulous branchlets.  Many of the old Californian sycamores have lumpy gnarled trunks, some heading impossibly sideways as though the original upright trunk had been removed, now they’re looking a bit tatty with withering crispy leaves as they head toward winter. The London plane trees I’m accustomed to from home (Platanus orientalis) always have very upright trunks with a stronger pattern of blocky mottling. 

Sadly it seems that many of these trees are suffering from the drier conditions that have prevailed since 2000, exhibiting lighter leaf canopies and dieback, the magnolias from the humid south east and European oaks being particularly hard hit. Along with information about the responsibility of the residents to help look after the street trees and regulations restricting removal of trees there is a sensible movement in this area to gradually infill with appropriate Californian natives like the evergreen Californian live oak (Quercus agrifolia) Despite this I’ve noticed many of the undeniably lovely magnolias are still being planted. Much emphasis is made about the amenity the trees add to the area as well as the money value they add to real estate prices which are pretty hefty in this area already. 

Apparently there are also problems with the Canary Island palms that form part of that iconic LA skyline.  They are suffering from attack from a fusarium rot that is slowly killing them.
The houses comprise a hugely varied mix of architectural styles ranging from Spanish and pueblo through to Tudor and colonial. The effect is rather charming,  nothing is outlandishly huge or ‘look at me’

‘English’ cottage style, the house will have been extended at the back so is much bigger than it appears

Moorish Spanish meets Mexico, note the subtle Halloween decoration

These two houses are architecturally wide apart but somehow sympathetic and I love the pastel colours. The Californian plane trees are showing signs of drought and the portaloo  isn’t the best feature. Presumably it’s for the benefit of the chap working on the little side roof, two days later this pink house was white with grey trim and it’s terracotta neighbour surrounded with a maze of scaffolding.

It looks as though the facade is all that will be retained in this revamp

While the houses have generally retained their original facade,  many have been considerably renovated and expanded at the rear. Two sides of this little enclave are bordered by the Wilshire Country Club golf course which adds a premium to their value. 
The majority have very green,  very neat lawns and nature strips (aka parkways) kept immaculately mown, the effect combined with smaller evergreen planting, iceberg roses and the street trees is both cool and inviting.  However those cool green lawns come at a cost and it was interesting to note a few renegades taking a different direction.  

The huge bananas are popular and seem to be used a lot for privacy,  this garden combines them with less water hungry plants replacing the lawn.

Aesthetic extremes, lush subtropical above and spiky succulents below

Dotted here and there are front gardens and accompanying nature strips where turf has been replaced with interesting combinations of dry climate plants. Some are new to me but I recognised agastaches, lantana,  salvia leucantha and some greigii,  pelargoniums, agaves,  phlomis, rosemary, lavender, yucca, phormiums, tea trees and a mix of grasses dominated by tall pennisetums.

Plenty of food for hummingbirds here

The photo doesn’t do this succulent garden credit, it actually looked really good

A more minimalist approach

There are a couple of beautiful simple plantings of what I think is Nassella tenuissima, Mexican feather grass, unfortunately as invasive as it is beautiful 

Two more examples of nature strip alternatives to the laid turf. The spiny cactus is sending a clear “keep off the grass” message while the planting of colourful and butterfly attracting lantana should be quite pretty as it matures and mixes with the succulents to cover all the bare ground.   In line with the American tradition of open front gardens there are practically no front fences.  However I see a few evergreen hedges planted so they create a barrier across the block before the front door, and a couple of places have used a different approach by planting an attractive prickly ‘hedge’ of shrubby roses.  

A common feature are the little notices,  sometimes as many as 3, generally placed close to the houses, that warn of the armed response of whichever security firm is mentioned on the notice.  There seem to be about five providing services in this area

The amount of graveyard and ‘the walking dead’ decoratalia  is increasing daily,  

A nice contrast in Halloween decoration style below

Hibiscus are predictably popular, I really love these fluffy doubles

And this  classic single

And of course this gorgeous bird is everywhere

Strelitzia, probably reginae, bad shadow I know but the light on those orange petals!

Need some research to identify this fabulous looking climber, the length of the two ‘petals’ is about 8 inches

Here’s the spotted dog,  still enjoying those wide expanses of beach

Best holiday ever, I don’t want to go home

This time,  the last word from the vsd

I know there’s a nice smelly sock in here somewhere

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Green and cream,  with a dash of red

Three days ago I was sitting watching and listening to the steady trumble of the rain,  looking out at a white shroud instead of a mountain, thinking, drat, it’s midday and I have 20,000 things to do in the garden before I go off across the water again.  Normally I embrace the chance to get some inside jobs done while the rain waters the garden,  the things I normally ignore if the weather is halfway reasonable for gardening, but this time I had no time. So it was on with the wet weather gear and out to give the big grasses a short back and sides before their new growth comes through. The results of the variegated miscanthus haircut can be seen lying on the right hand side of the lower lawn.  

 Colours are saturated by the rain,  bright lime green of Euphorbia ‘Tassie tiger’ and Helleborus sternii leap against the Chinese laquer red of the coral bark maple.  The maple is one of the few plants I’m sorry to see leaf up, although it does produce refreshing light green foliage,  the red stems are such a joy all winter and will play so nicely with the deep red blooms of Rhododendron Bibiana when she  finally gains some height.  Contrasting with the restrained green/cream decor a  puddle of purple lunaria dominates one corner beside the shiny red path balustrade, a startling combination that reminds me of a fabulous cocktail dress once worn to perfection by Lady Diana. Unfortunately the removal of a potentially huge tortured willow has opened the view to the shed and rather shabby compost bins,  this will improve when the apple, nectarine and nashi pear leaf up and provide camouflage but a year round solution is needed. An evergreen Fairy magnolia has already been planted but it will take a while….

 Baby leaves are unfurling along the branches, on Malus ionensis they are sitting upright like so many tiny green candles before their gathering bulk weighs them down.  Through the rain the garden looks a hazy mix of green and cream  as pale green leaflets mingle with white pear and plum blossom and cream daffodils (I just realised that most of my garden daffodils are cream or white,  no King Alfreds here)

 A creamy poeticus hybrid flowering behind a blue mass of Ompholodes cappadocia, with the new red growth of tree peony ‘Vesuvium’ .

The first of the species peonies to flower in my garden,  the  gorgeous pink edged party girl Paeonia kesrouanensis, and the rotund lime and red liveried bud of Paeonia clusii, the quarry of two seed collecting trips to the White Mountains in Crete. Sadly I’ll miss her glorious white blooms this year.

 More tulips have been opening,  above Tulipa fosteriana Flaming Purissima and  little Tulipa saxatalis with its striking lilac and egg yolk combination. Also flowering in restrained numbers are Tulipa humilis odalisque with a similar colour clash of bright deep crimson with cadmium yellow centre, and the delightfully restrained rose and white Tulipa clusiana ‘Lady Jane‘. 

Primula veris

More brilliant colour from Primula veris and the regally coloured Barnhaven primula hybrids.

And still more little gems are opening like these currently anonymous yellow fritillaries and the elfin Erythronium grandiflorum

Trilliums have suddenly shot into bloom after sitting broodily with their noses just through the soil for the last few weeks and the last of the late galanthus are finally flowering.  The pot labelled G. Lady Elphinstone produced a single yellow so I thought she was lost. Then this multipetalled, yellow(ish) centred, double flowered bloom came up in a pot labelled G. Primrose Warburg, so I’m hoping it was a case of transposed labels.

Galanthus Lady Elphinstone and Trillium ovatum?

Below the brilliant white throated lapiz Tecophilaea cyanocrocus leichtlinii

More last minute jobs,  the lemon tree has been generous this year so preserved lemons are on the menu, the open mouthed salsa jars are perfectly shaped for this purpose

And the last word from the Spotted dog,  enjoying the wide open space of Bruny Island

You can have Los Angeles, this is my idea of a holiday!

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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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