Having rambled on at inordinate length in the last post about my inherited japonica camellias, I realised that I failed to include a single picture of any of them.  So below there are three lovely flowers and one unlovely one illustrating the effect after rain, wind or just a day or so in the world after opening.


Spring is coming in a rush now, the baby quince tree has popped a sprinkling of soft downy leaves together with subtle pink hints of the gorgeous blossom to come, the pear has formed a glowing spire of creamy blossom, already suffused with green, half the narcissus are finished already, and Clematis armandii is flowering its socks off in its second spring in my garden.

I even have a scattering of tulips, eye-burning Tulipa greigii are dotted rather awkwardly about, I forget they’re there each year so fail to co-locate them inwith better neighbours. Also been enjoying a successful flowering of the gorgeous Tulipa “Flaming purissima” , here surrounded by 20,000 nigella seedlings

Tulipa 'Flaming Purissima'

Tulipa ‘Flaming Purissima’

Nashi, plum and nectarine blossom is opening. I cannot like the rather harsh pink blossom of my baby nectarine tree, it’s subject to curly leaf and the birds get the (so far very small amount) of fruit anyway so it’s probably not a keeper. But home grown nectarines are so good, a completely different fruit to the tasteless commercial varieties.

And these charming  little fellows are making their presence felt

Fairy wren busy harrassing his rivals

Fairy wren busy harassing his rivals

Finally the unimpaired view of the large  bottom-of-the-garden shed that I endure over winter is being broken up by foliage

Here’s a happy dog

More joy of spring

More joy of spring


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The days are getting longer

Spring is finally sprung, even the view of the mountain is veiled with the spring blossom of the flowering dark leaved prunus that grows up in front of the bedroom window. Each morning I look out to see the wee silvereyes flitting amongst the branches finding breakfast morsels

Mountain spring blossom

The camellia japonicas are in full flower. I inherited a bulky shiny green hedge of four plants along the front of the bedroom windows, one huge red semi-double, one ethereally simple white ( I suspect it’s a seedling), one lovely very formal pale pink and one single coral (another likely seedling). They have to be clipped away from the house wall and windows to avoid damp but I’ve never quite been able to bring myself to remove them as their profusion of flowers is rather satisfying and they provide privacy from the street. They are massively vigorous and promiscuous with seedlings popping up all along their skirts, plenty of material for a Camellia hedge!

Another healthy happy camellia grows on the other side of the path to the front door which produces loads of double white blooms spattered pale pink. These unfortunately turn to bruised brown mush puppies and refuse to leave their perch, not such a pretty sight!  I did plant a row of lovely single white sasanquas to break the view of my parked car from the living room window but they have never thrived the way the inherited japonicas do, in fact they have been an abject failure, a constant disappointment, I can still see my car quite clearly!

I blame this partly on the limey washout from the concrete driveway that was installed some time before my tenure. I have since infilled with a smaller row of Sarcococca confusa cuttings — very successful, glorious scent in winter but won’t achieve the required height — and a single Choisya ternata.

The front garden is an awkward space that I’ve never felt happy with, and having to accommodate two vehicles  limits the possibilities. Early on I developed a nice little shady area in front of the mature wall hugging camellias for  specially favoured hellebores (optimistically ignoring the differing acid requirements) . They have failed to thrive, martyring themselves to black spot type afflictions, and since then the area has been colonised with three eagerly spreading Dicentra formosa / eximia /peregrina (or hybrids).  I recall that I bought one as Bacchanal,  another as Percy Picton, and the other, a lovely white flowered grey leafed one was dug up for me after I admired it in a someone else’s garden. These make a charming ferny groundcover over summer but disappear in winter, so I have added a trio of el cheapo white azaleas, and finally a nice big Daphne odora, currently being harvested for indoor scent. Unfortunately two of the azaleas also seem to consider the area too dank for their liking ….

As August has rolled on into September with alarming speed each stroll down the garden path offers little chunks of joy, like this pristine fellow supporting himself with the bare branches of a tree peony.

Fritillaria meleagris alba

More delightful bulbs are popping up with their sunny yellow smiles, Nanty, Spoirot, Fenben, Snipe, Angels whisper, Tete a Tete. Of those only Tete a Tete has been set free to romp in the grass, the others are carefully cosseted in pots. The hellebores are in full swing — it happens so quickly! —  together with the little creamy wildling freesias that seed themselves about.


Special joy promoted by the unexpected flowering of this gorgeous ghostly Iris tuberosa, (previously known by the wonderfully evocative moniker Hermodactylus tuberosus), the little bulbs were only planted last spring. I love the default olive green colouring but this uncommon silvery grey version is especially charming.

Iris tuberosa

Major chopping has been achieved with the help of a strong young man and a chainsaw, a bare stemmed and prickly Acacia derwentiana was removed from the far creek end of the garden, an ageing and mostly dead Weigela florida ‘Aureovariegata’ was dug out ready for replacement with a screening Lilly pilly, (specifically the inelegantly named Syzygium ‘Big Red’, because it was the only one at the nursery and I want to maximise spring growth), limbs were removed from the burgeoning tea tree hedge in the front before they knocked the top layer of bricks off the front wall and, with much anguished hand wringing (from me, not the young man), the top removed from another  unidentified Lilly pilly.  This lovely tree , a seedling from a tree in a previous garden,  screened my view of the neighbour’s clothes line. However it had been damaged by a bullying branch of an inherited Photinia (very) robusta, leaving three feet of bare Lilly pilly trunk two thirds of the way up its height.

I had hoped that removal of the Photinia branch last year would encourage side shoots from the Lilly pilly but so far nothing. Hence the dramatic lopping to encourage new growth from below the bare trunk level. Lastly same young man dug three deep holes by the creek and plopped in three mature Dicksonia antarctica that had been thinned out from a relative’s garden. I’m hoping they will recover from spending the last month lying in my driveway elegantly draped with an old horse rug to retain moisture. All in all a very satisfactory morning.

Species peonies are pushing ahead, the gorgeous  rotund buds of Paeonia ludlowii and the delicate pale pink Paeonia kesrouanensis blooms

Paeonia lutea and P. kesrouanensis

Another winter/spring iris, the simple Iris lazica,  starting into flower a little later than Iris unguicularis but equally charming with the bonus of shorter, neater foliage

Iris lazica

The last month has seen all the anticipatory fun of swelling buds and now tiny unfurlings of the freshest new leaves. I’ve been regretting the dearth of evergreens in the garden over winter, too many bare sticks, but now I’m happily  watching the deciduous shrubs and trees wake up

The Spotted dog coming out of hiberationzoro-stretching-copy




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40 days

If this rain goes on for much longer I’ll be expecting to see the big wooden boat come floating past.  However last weekend was delightfully sunny and spring like, I had to keep reminding myself it was not quite mid August.

It's cold today

It’s cold today


Here’s the mountain, not so long ago,  in its extreme winter garb






Hellebores and galanthus are coming on in a rush now, I compulsively check each plant regularly, lifting the hellebore faces to admire their interior decoration —  you can see that I rather like the blacks!

Hellebore ring

But there are others like this dramatically veined charmer,

Red veined hellebore

and this little beautifully stippled fat bell

Cerise stippled hellebore

I compulsively read the  faded names on the galanthus labels, trying to lock the charming details of the particular snowdrop in front of me together with the name on the label in my mind. Some of the snowdrops are delightfully individual while others merge together in a crowd of very similar pretty pendant white petals, see the small sample from the garden below;

G. alpinus bortkewitschianus, ‘Galatea’,  ‘Essie Huxley’ and ‘Imbolc’

Alpinus, Galatea, Essie, Imbolc 1

G. ‘John Gray’, ‘Brenda Troyle’, ‘Trymlet’ and ‘Warham’

John Gray, Brenda T, Trymlet, Warham 5

G. ‘Maidwell’, ‘Megan’, ‘Sam Arnott’ and ‘Sibbertoft White

Maidwell, Megan, Sam Arnott, Sibbertoft 1

And of course they look perfectly charming in the garden, especially accompanied by that pinkly perfect little cyclamen





Roses are waving their long armoured branches at me while I consider it remarkable that after 40 years of gardening I still approach the rose pruning process with a slight lack of confidence, which branch to cut, how much off etc.  Some like the lovely single Mrs. Oakley Fisher are still contributing a welcome  pop of colour with gleaming hips, they will be left til last!

In the meantime I have decided that the birds have had ample time to forage in the perennial seed heads and spent a productive afternoon making huge piles of sedum, salvia and sibirica iris stalks. A small (two foot high) tree was moved and suitable growth-inducing incantations muttered over its head while a much taller, (8 foot) so-called damson  that proved to be a thorny cherry plum after 5 years of growth was sliced down with the big loppers.

Clematis have been carefully pruned back with their delicate shoots corralled in the right direction and I have tried to cut the hydrangeas back to the first two fat buds. That always sounds so simple but so rarely do my plants display two fat buds together. So I umm and ah and probably cut away too much stalk before forcing myself to discard all that promising cutting material — there is a limit to how many hydrangeas I can fit in. Since then I’ve actually done some research and realised I may well have just finished pruning off the next seasons blooms!

Narcissus 'Glenbrook Ta-Julia Group'

Narcissus ‘Glenbrook Ta-Julia Group’

While trying to keep track of snowdrops and hellebores, there have also been the tiny bulbous delights to watch for, the bulbocodiums from the  ‘Glenbrook Ta-Julia Group

Narcissus 'The Dansant'

Glenbrook’s Narcissus ‘The Dansant’





The sparky little Narcissus ‘The Dansant’







Narcissus 'Canaliculatus'

Narcissus ‘Canaliculatus’

Not the greatest photo , but one of my favourites, the diminutive, delightfully scented and tongue-twistingly named Narcissus Canaliculatus.






Finally, the Spotted dog doing what he does best in winter

Wake me up in Spring

Wake me up in Spring please


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Perfect bells, bandit birds and wild weather

Middle of winter, perennials reduced to broken stalks and browning seedpods, sodden squelchy ground after recent rain, pretty little wrens pop popping around and home grown blackbirds hopping and flitting about — just as though they own the place!  I’ve been away on other business for a couple of weeks, the Spotted Dog was kept in fine style (probably better than that to which he is accustomed) by a couple of his admirers  so the garden has been unsupervised.

I mutter about the damage done to fruit over summer by the blackbirds, and cockies, however at least I don’t have to contend with these gorgeous King parrots pecking off magnolia buds and catkins (apologies for the blur, was taken through the kitchen window!)

King parrots at breakfast

King parrots beakfasting on magnolia buds

or a possum problem that requires this medieval armoury– yet

Medieval possum spikes

Medieval possum spikes

Things are happening underground of course, peony noses poking through, hellebores pushing up buds and leaves, millions of opium poppy, nigella and lunaria seedlings preparing to follow their older siblings through the ground, more galanthus and narcissus burrowing their way upwards — note to self, must clear some space and sow the double black opium poppy seeds I gathered in autumn.

Oh, and the sublime bells of Clematis napaulensis hanging in garlands along the fence, such a perfect combination of creamy petals and purple/pink stamens. This delight, another gift from the Plantsman, is summer dormant. The second summer after I planted it (it was too small the first summer and I forgot it was there) I muttered darkly about neighbours who carelessly used Round-up along the fence line that must have seeped through onto my clematis, causing plant death. I was thrilled when it sprang back into life the following autumn, Oh good, I thought, it’s survived being Rounded up, then the penny dropped.

Clematis cirrhosa

Clematis napaulensis.

Such a thrill to come back after a couple of weeks and see the changes, although in all honesty it is just a count of the galanthus, early narcissus and hellebores that have emerged, and continuing admiration of the brilliant chinese red bark of Acer palmatum ‘Sango Kaku’

While walking the streets of North Melbourne  recently  I was constantly delighted by the layerings of shiny wet Plane tree leaves on the dark  pavements, their complex shape and shiny raw sienna tonings occasionally enlivened by the soft yellow simply shaped elm leaves.  They pile up everywhere, making lovely little russet patches up against the tree trunks and grass tufts.

The last couple of days back home have given us the most appalling weather with wind gusts up to 165 mph, power blackouts everywhere, road closures, snowy mountain slopes and even little snowflakes fluttering past my windows. After enduring the first night with no power in a dark freezing all electric house we decamped to a friend’s house and yesterday I drove around two road closures to check my house had held onto its roof — and I’m only 10 minutes from the GPO!

The last tree dahlia left standing,has been completely smashed by the wind, Salvia karwinskii is bravely hanging on but definitely looking ragged, and I had to do an emergency beheading of a fastigiate pittosporum, originally planted to shield my bedroom window from my neighbour’s deck, to avoid it being blown over. Of course it will sprout with pittosporum vigour, and possibly should have been beheaded a while ago to encourage general bushiness, but I had waited so long for that height!  The rivulet willows have jettisoned a large branch and twenty million small ones, I’m actually surprised that there isn’t more damage.

Very tall kale

Very tall kale

The bird netting had blown off the tree kale so the small vegetable-eating birds had been enjoying a feast from the couple that remained after their pre-netting feasting episodes.

Actually I realised I had been rather stupid (what? — Moi?). This is the first time my winter greens have been stripped by some creature other than caterpillars so I carefully made little enclosures circling my tiny patches of chard and baby kale out of stiff plastic netting with bird netting draped over the top. Somehow I omitted to notice that the really useful stiff plastic netting had holes large enough for your average vegetable thieving garden sparrow to hop through.

Struggling chard

Struggling chard

The garden continues to look pretty desolate, dead sticks etc., with just  few moments of joy from more and more hellebores and galanthus popping up to say ‘Hello, don’t you just love us’?   I suspect the next post will be overflowing with hellebore and galanthus pics but for now this Cornus sibirica will have to suffice.

Red stemmed dogwood, with miscanthus and the neighbouring croquet lawn behind

Red stemmed dogwood, with miscanthus and the neighbouring croquet lawn behind


And here’s the Lounge Lizard  Spotted Dog

What? me? go outside in this weather?

What? me? go outside in this weather?







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The muscovy and the black ducks

There are a few interesting walks close by that the Spotted Dog likes to take us on, however the reliable ‘quickie’, especially when dusk is falling (too too early these days) is down through the Cascade gardens beside the rivulet , down past the Female Factory and back up the road.

The Gardens are old with a mix of mature evergreen and deciduous trees to enjoy; birches, maples, conifers, crabapples, plus a bank of (mostly) winter / spring flowering shrubs; camellias, virburnums, hydrangeas, dogwoods, daphnes, rhododendrons. The Gardens are well used for picnics, barbeques and wedding photos but never appear to be crowded. So we stroll along the path through the gardens, and come out where the rivulet is ushered into a large concrete sided pond by a long concrete spillway. At the furthest end is a boulder trap that forms an eight foot weir over which the Hobart rivulet drops and goes on its merry way. In spring we were entranced several times by a large family of wood ducks returning to the spillway pond after breakfasting on the new grass in the gardens. The wood ducks have long since departed but the pond is still home to a small flock of black ducks and a rather large and portly muscovy.

Copy muscovy 5 copy

We first encountered the pied muscovy, magnificently black and white with bright red caruncles further down the rivulet, however over summer she (default gender) has made her way upstream to the spillway, how she got up there past the 8 foot weir is a mystery. The pond is surrounded with child safe fencing that extends up the creek about 20 feet, it would have been a long waddle up through the car park, on through the rhododendron garden and along the fence until she gained access to the creek, muscovies can fly but this girl looks way too fat and heavy, she swims on an angle with her front end deep in the water.

We took the Spotted Dog for a lateish constitutional when half the state was under flood water a short while ago. The rivulet had transformed into a raging torrent and the spillway was submerged under a turbulent rolling and foaming rush of water racing into the swirling pond. We were gazing, fascinated, as one is when nature suddenly flexes muscle,  when down came the muscovy, shooting along on top of the torrent like a cork out of a bottle of bubbles. She angled off the current before being shot Whoops! over the weir and then paddled around in a desultory sort of fashion, confined to one side of the pond with no dry embankment by the powerful current in the centre. We  were a bit concerned that the duck was stuck,  her fair weather companions had clearly flown off.  A week later I was relieved to see her still happily paddling around her now quiet pond, and the thought did occur to me that what we saw was not a stricken duck but just one of many deliberate joy rides down the current.

Typical June month, cold, warm-ish, frost, rain, floods, freezing horizontal rain straight off the mountain, aagh!

Hobart Rivulet very excited after heavy rain

Hobart Rivulet very excited after heavy rain

Then a series of lovely clear crisp sunny days, the mountain still wearing its cloudy cap in the early mornings



Golden twig


The garden has transformed to bogland and I’m starting to worry about losing my lovely young Mosswhites to drowning, I suspect that is what killed off two of the initial planting of 3 expensive Betula utilis var. jacquemontii ‘Jermyns’.

The Golden ash is doing its winter bark thing and I’m able to admire it from the house, nice when the plan works.




More beautiful cyclamen flowering, I particularly love this palest pink and silver combination

Cyclamen coum Silver leaf

Cyclamen coum Silver leaf



More pink from the flamboyant Salvia karwinskii, waving gaily to me as it resists wind, frost and rain






Cheery orange and yellow Galdiolus dallenii, at least that’s what it looks like, this was another Flower Room Co-op purchase,  simply labelled “Gladilus”




The helleborus hybridus are following the Sterniis, this double is rather an uninteresting pink but is vigorously healthy and amongst the first to flower


There are some leaves still hanging on the Oak leaf hydrangea gleaming with their autumn colour. I keep meaning to take some cuttings and distribute it around the garden more widely, it has wonderful leaves and great voluptuous cones of double white flowers.


A satisfyingly resilient fuschia, simple and pretty as the leaves develop pink tonings to match the flowers in a last hurrah for the season.


One thing has been achieved from the list — the Stipa arundinacea has been moved to a small bed that surrounds a double grafted apple tree, a tree that has resolutely refused to grow! This small bed forms part of the edge of the Quince circle, a patch of grass and buttercups surrounding a young Quince tree. However when I slung the pick axe into the 6 inches of blue metal that forms the second layer under the 2 inch deep loam on the lower lawns the resulting hole immediately filled with water. Maybe not the ideal location for a grass that claims to be successful in drought conditions.

I’m also concerned for the delightful Salvia dolomitica, newly planted last winter, it grew beautifully all summer but is now drinking way too much.

Worried that some marauding creature would beat me to it, I dug my annual crop of Oxalis tuberosa, aka Oka, those tubers much beloved of the New Zealanders. Note the rather sad difference between the two properly sized tubers on top with the rest, a disappointing result as, despite resembling pink witchetty grubs, these are rather good to eat.  Note also the delightful soft coral rocks on the side, brought home some years ago in yours truly’s luggage from Alice Springs. Pity about the grubby old ice cream container, the oka are now sun baking in a fetching cane basket on the floor of the sunroom. Apparently leaving them in the sun for a while after digging sweetens the flavour.



This unidentified deciduous euphorbia (Euphorbia dulcis ‘Chameleon?)  is a brilliant autumn performer with these rich pink leaves, pity though it’s an appalling thug, really best kept in a pot, or surrounded by concrete



Galanthus 'Three Ships'

Galanthus ‘Three Ships’


Galanthus ‘Three Ships’ now opening and charmingly splashed with raindrops








I love the way the last leaves on this variegated hydrangea make a star burst pattern against the darker backdrop of the pittosporum hedge. This plant came from cuttings taken from plants edging the Cascade Gardens carpark, the originals have now disappeared



No, you can't have the spade, it's my dinner time

No, you can’t have the spade, it’s my walk time


The Spotted Dog gently making a point about his preferred activity



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I enjoy reading a few gardening blogs and they vary from amateur home gardener to professional. One that I always like is ‘View from Federal Twist’ where comments about gardens and gardening are interesting and thoughtful. One of the recent posts discussed the purpose, or deliberate lack of it, of a garden set some distance away from the house, a garden that exists purely in its own right, specifically, a garden developed at Broughton Grange in England.  The whole discussion was a refreshing counter to the many “Home Beautiful”  type of publications I’ve leafed through recently — I seem to have spent an inordinate amount of time in medical waiting rooms!  The HB articles discuss the garden as no more than a practical living extension to the house, generally hard landscaping with a few pointy plants dotted about.

Realistically most of us want to be able to both observe the garden from the house and step outside straight into it, gardens like the one at Broughton Grange would suit very few, but I’m glad someone made it. Another interesting aspect of this post were the comments, especially from the English side of the Atlantic where the gardening culture is so strong.  From my point of view it’s all a bit sterile without a real garden nurtured for the love of the plants in it. Verandahs and decks are wonderful for sitting and relaxing while gazing at the garden,  and hard landscaping very useful, and to be honest a bit more hard landscaping would go down well at my place.  I think of my garden as complementing the house rather than being an extension of it, and, as a gardener, it’s also my playground, a space that exists for me to indulge my passion for plants.

So, back to my reality and the rapidly-descending-into-mudslide-winter garden. After the plant-lashing gales came steady rain, much appreciated and I’m really not complaining but it’s slippery out there! The worm activity has been astounding, wonderful little piles of worm casts appearing everywhere, again, not complaining but I do wish they would desist from pushing them up in the joints between my nice pale pavers!

Salvia 'Indigo spires'

Salvia ‘Indigo spires’

Salvias are still providing most of the flower colour, the inexhaustible  Salvia ‘Indigo spires‘ going strong along with the lipstick pink Salvia involucrata. Salvia mexicana ‘Limelight’ is finally showing off after a slow start, I’m not sure that it really likes me though, perhaps something to do with a recent Spotted Dog digging frenzy, I should get a few cuttings going as insurance…

Salvia mexicana 'Limelight'

Salvia mexicana ‘Limelight’

Phyllis Fancy and Megan’s Magic simply flower forever (such silly names, like the recently introduced Rodney Davey Marbled Group hellebores, ‘Penny’s Pink’ is enough to put me right off the plant, despite my respect for Penelope Hobhouse!)  Phyllis happily swallows up all smaller plants nearby but is beloved by small birds so I let her be. Now the racemes, still opening their last buds, are fading to a lovely ghostly mauve grey, quite beautiful swaying  above a charming grey green prostrate juniper-like Tasmanian native, the name of which I forgot years ago . Both salvias have produced new plants in the past from stalks pruned off for use as short term stakes and markers.  In fact I’m rather careful now about checking that my impromptu salvia stakes have not taken root and infiltrated the precious creature being staked, they’re difficult to remove without damaging aforesaid precious.

On the subject of hellebores, it’s that time of the year again when the first buds are pushing through and I’m reminding myself, once again, that this year I will label all those that do not meet the grade (that very high standard set by Post Office Farm Nursery)  ready for removal

Helleborus sternii

Helleborus sternii

The Plantsman has also offloaded responsibility for what seems like a vast number of large pots containing choice Helleborus hybridus plants to my tender care — and more suitable microclimate. They have suffered a little from ‘more important things to be done’ over the last year but we have great hopes for their rejuvenation. A busy time was spent converting the ‘Crocus slope’ into the ‘Helleborus shelves’, involving the repurposing of old fence pickets raised on surplus pavers. Not smart but effective. When summer finally returns they will be re-homed in the Arctic.

Salvia karwinskii bud

Salvia karwinskii bud

Fat racemes of Salvia karwinskii  are building their strength in readiness for winter flowering — just hoping they don’t go the same way as Costa Rica Blue. Karwinskii’s canes are long and dangerously brittle and really need tying back more firmly.


I finally planted out Thymus neiceii, a gift from the Plantsman, having suddenly realised it would be perfect filling one of those rare empty spots and tumbling out over the paving in the new, hottish lower deck garden. Other gifts from the same party; Cyclamen graecum album was recently planted in a shadier part of that garden, together with the Cyclamen hederifolium with beautifully patterned leaves pictured below


Cyclamen hederifolium

The 20,000 NZ rock lilies (Arthropodium cirratum) recently pricked out into little pots were brought up from the dark Arctic zone near the creek and carefully stashed in their winter quarters, a small table under a pittosporum on the west side of the house. When I lovingly checked on them the next day, aghast and horror, half had been nipped off at the base! So its back to the Arctic zone where apparently the local snail and slug population are non climbers. Also potted up the last six orange clivia seedlings (seeds snatched from the massed council planting around the Town Hall) and hopefully placed the last seed of the small apricot one (from Franklin Square) in sand under plastic to germinate.

Pelargoniums P. reniforme (thank you Catherine) and P. sidoides both produce their delicate dancing flowers continuously in their sunny beds. I dearly love the darkest of gothic dark maroon blooms of sidoides and have spread her about but haven’t yet found her perfect partner. David Glenn suggests the acid yellow of euphorbias, so perhaps the compact Euphorbia myrsinites would be a good fit. Euphorbia myrsinites seeds itself down the gravel slope (read old bitumen/concrete driveway now breaking apart) so some judicious rehoming may be attempted. P. reniforme, in contrast to her dusky sister, is a brilliant lilac pink jewel.


Pelargonium sidoides, unfortunately looking lighter than she really is

More pretty pinks from Silene dioica, evidently confusing autumn with spring. This was acquired earlier this year from the redoubtable Flower room co-op, a common, easy, no problem plant, sweet flowers and evergreen green basal rosettes, I can’t understand why I have never grown it before.

Silene dioica

Silene dioica

The lovely Geranium cantabrigiense is adding soft pink blooms to its reliable ground cover foliage. The smaller leaved white version is even more charming and I have been transplanting pieces to shore up the edges of the paving in shady spots where the grass fails. I could never decide whether I liked distinctive scent of the foliage but after seeing one of its parents, Geranium maccrorhizum, growing in northern Greece I’m transported back to those travels by a mere whiff.

Geranium cantabrigiense

Geranium cantabrigiense

Below a photo of Geranium maccrorhizum growing on the edge of the Vikos Gorge in Epirus. The Plantsman and I also admired it growing rampantly along the road on Mount Falacro in Macedonia, another magically verdant and floriferous area.

Geranium maccrorhizum

Geranium maccrorhizum

The lastest of the roses, just a couple of blooms of R. Othello opening and putting on a brave, beautiful face. This rose is really a lovely rich crimson, I’m coming to the disappointed conclusion that my camera cannot capture pinks and crimsons successfully.

Rosa 'Othello'

Rosa ‘Othello’

There is always foliage to admire, especially as the peak flowering season ends, like the fat velvet grey leaves of Phlomis bovai morocanna, including a couple of bonus seed heads I left for the birds. While cleaning out the Iris spuria leaves (see the mess in the background, it’s an unmitigated walker, gorgeous stately blooms but infiltrates all its neighbours!) I checked to see if the phlomis had developed any rooted outriders and discovered a stash of half eaten feijoas in its centre, just beside a cosy little burrow — RATS!

Phlomis bovei moroccana

Phlomis bovei moroccana

Autumn leaf colour is nearly gone, but the fabulous spire of Pyrus calleryana ‘Chanticleer’ (at least I think that’s correct, was acquired as the Manchurian pear but simply is too fastigiate and not fat enough) continues to light up the garden, the range of warm colours in the leaves is so gorgeous and they look stunning as they fall, scattering across the green of the lawn.


On the subject of the green lawn, the last few mornings have dawned freezing and frosty, the frost remaining on the lowest lawn  and the water in the stone trough retaining floating icicles all day. I covered the recently returned-to-the-Arctic seedling NZ rock lilies with shade cloth and brought other sun loving babies up close to the house.

First winter bulbs! The deliciously violet scented Narcissus romeuxii, unfortunately tattered from slug attack but I carefully photographed the good side.

Narcissus romieuxii

Narcissus romieuxii

and the chubbly milk drop, Galanthus ‘Three ships’


Galanthus ‘Three ships’


Daphne mezureum alba


The first fresh white flowers of Daphne mezureum alba, with the promise of yellow berries to follow.


Thank heavens some people consider the dog

Thank heavens some people consider the dog






The Spotted Dog, cosy in a borrowed jacket after supervising the cleaning of the horse paddock on a cold afternoon



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Very cold, very suddenly, snow on the mountain!, then just as suddenly, all gone and back to balmy 21 degree days. Was enough to remind me that this Indian summer won’t go on for  much longer, I have to slog through another winter before the botanical delights of spring return.


Snow already!

In the meantime whilst recovering from eye surgery I’m finding simple non-eye challenging/damaging garden jobs to do, like removing all the old foliage from the hellebores and dumping them straight in my beautiful shiny new green-lidded waste bin (pity it’s such a “jolly green giant” sort of green). HCC have finally realised that gardeners are rate payers too 🙂  No more sneaking of non-compostable bundles of hellebore leaves and rose prunings into the normal household rubbish bin.  So pleased — although I’ve just been reliably informed that $50 will be added to my annual rates to cover the cost of this service, good thing I’m a gardener, otherwise I’d be paying for a service I don’t need.

Daily checking of the bulbs planted a very short time ago shows nice little green shoots coming through amid the grass, nigella and opium poppy seedlings (where do they come from!), so quick dispatch of the interlopers is accomplished at the same time.

The pink crinums (Crinum x powellii ‘Roseum’) are collapsing in their usual disreputable manner all over Brunnera macrophylla ‘Jack Frost’. I do wonder about the wisdom of having them in a smallish garden, but the blooms are magnificent, have good vase life and a lovely scent.


Collapsing crinums

The willows and ash are slowly releasing their yellow leaves,  more on the ground now than in the trees, Malus ioenesis  and the two big(ger) birches are completely bare, but the Gingko  and Coral Bark (Acer ‘Sango Kaku’) maple continue to shine like happy little yellow beacons. In fact the coral bark (the one that I think is the real deal, not a suspect seedling) has done a strange combination of bright yellow older leaves topped with a  lid of bright green new shoots, pineapple-like.


Two-toned coral bark (Acer ‘Sango Kaku’)

The diminutive Acer ‘Esk flamingo’ is looking especially lovely with shiny red stems that will gleam all winter. Looking forward to a good growth spurt this spring!


Acer ‘Esk Flamingo’

First folded buds of the hellebore season are peeping through, plus narcissus leaves  and fat pointy pinky peony shoots, far too easy for the clumsy gardener to squash underfoot!


Paeonia mascula ssp. hellenica



Paeonia macrophylla

A week later the balmy days are finished, the last few days came straight out of September, howling gales day and night! As I write the garden is being pounded by horizontal  rain screaming down from the mountain. Most of the autumn colour has blown away, all the fallen leaves I so carefully raked into a mulch carpet under the fruit trees disappeared (next door I suspect, my neighbour has been very busy with the leaf blower, dustpan and broom), three of the four tree dahlia canes cracked and toppled over the lawn, no brave fluttering white blooms in June this year!, the scarlet runner vines heaved their supports sideways, primula pots rolled across the paving disgorging their contents, those steadfastly still flowering Nicotiana elatas are lurching sideways and next door’s walnut tree scattered the garden with dead branchlets. It’s all somewhat battered, bruised  and beaten down.


Broken tree dahlia canes

Delicate blooms of a potted camellia, non-reticulata hybrid ‘Yoimachi‘ blown down and resting charmingly amongst purple flowerd Lamium maculatum.


Windfall ‘Yoimachi’ blooms

I was happily anticipating the intense violet-blue flowers with purplish bracts of Salvia “Costa Rica Blue” opening over winter — sadly all the buds have since snapped off in the gales — I have a nasty feeling that something like that happened last year. Some pinching out to encourage a lower, less vulnerable shrub may be in order?


Buds of Salvia ‘Costa Rica Blue’


Copy bee on camellia bloom copy


When the rain and wind eased off and the sun came out the bees were still happily dabbling in those blooms left on the branches






Some time has been spent patching a worn grassy area under the purple leaf plum with oddly shaped turves of fresh grass and clover sourced from the small section of the left hand side path that is actually paved. The soil and debris washes down the path, forms humus atop the bricks and grows grass. I suppose that if I kept the path clear of debris then the mat of soil and subsequent grass and clover wouldn’t happen — but life’s too short!

The worn grassy patch was much disrupted when the lower deck paving was laid and further denuded by the Spotted dog’s choice of a suitable laying-about-in-the-dust space. I have optimistically inserted plugs of Viola riviniana Purpurea Group, hoping they will form tight ground cover . Also, maybe foolishly considering its potential for extreme thuggyness, runners of the  Ajuga reptans purpurea — and that reminds me that I should acquire the “silver carpet” version with the lovely variegated leaves.

The plan is for the current extremely sporadic grass and weeds to be replaced with a charming carpet of purple-ish leaves and violet flowers, with big pavers providing a stepping stone path.  A couple of Geranium x cantabrigiense have been included at the edge of the paving to help consolidate the soil there. This project was initiated by the realisation that the muddy dog paw marks  appearing all over my light sandstone coloured paving were resulting from the dust-become-mud bowl.

The native hens  were hoarsely heehawing a cacophony all Saturday night, rival land claims or rival clan leader claims we wondered? Early next morning I scooted out between storms after seeing a young hen rushing up and down on the inside of my neighbour’s creek fence, its companions clucking anxiously on the other side. So out I went through my gate, along the creek, opened his gate (with some difficulty), removed the empty compost bin that had blown up against it, then walked along the fence to shoosh the dammed thing back down and  out the gate. It scooted for its life out the gate and across the creek, I closed everything up and was heading back up my hill in the beginings of the next storm, then what did I hear?– thuck thuck! from next door — there was another one in there! So the whole procedure was repeated, this time in pouring rain.  Curiously when this one ran out he was met by an angry vigilante group and a major fight ensued, feathers flying even as I chased them across the creek and into the blackberry thicket opposite — an elopement gone wrong perhaps?

In case you’re wondering why I was so keen to release them from the neighbour’s garden back to the creek, I was concerned that the dammed peckity creatures would escape into my garden via the many gaps under our shared paling fence. I’m blaming them for the denudement  of several young rainbow chard plants, just getting to the picking for eating stage.


Zoro and Charlie

Supervisory posts were left untended as both Spotted Dog and deputy Charlie begged to come in out of the rain, Charlie cleverly perched on a box under the eaves!


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