I can’t believe its September! I have been so busy since June I have been very slack with posting. June was spent in the Arctic and Scandinavia, seeing the amazing flowers and wildlife, including polar bears! A trip around Iceland was also amazing! I have been meaning to do a post on that but then got into my garden and the bush and it didn’t happen!
In July I ran a workshop on designing native gardens for the Murdoch Branch of the Wildflower Society, also the subject of future blogs!
I was glad the garden was in reasonable shape though when I received a call from Colin Barlow for the Home in WA show asking if they could film a segment in my garden!
Links to the segments, on the use of Seasol and Powerfeed are below with a link to the whole show for context. Seasol application
It was a beautiful day on the 26th August when they filmed the segment, not even much wind and I think my garden looks pretty good for late winter!
The end of this week is the Landscape Design Conference in Melbourne so I will get to visit some amazing gardens in the Dandenongs and hear some wonderful speakers, hopefully to be reported in another future blog!
I have had several attempts at growing a desert rose (Adenium obesium). I have killed two with kindness, which was cruelly neglect, leaving them where they received drenching winter rain, which they didn’t like at all. I keep my third attempt away from the rain and only give it a little bit of water every couple of weeks. I have been rewarded with flowers an better yet, a seed pod!
Apparently the seeds are like dandelion seeds. I think I will put a plastic bag over the seed pod so they don’t blow away while I’m not looking.
The last few years I have been away in September/October and have missed my Japanese iris flowering. This year they have gotten in very early, flowering in early May!! I don’t know if this is climate change but it is very odd. The tropical water lilies are still flowering but I have come to expect this; they are hardly dormant for any time at all and cease flowering for only a month or so!
My autumn cyclamens, Cyclamen hederifolium, and cattleya orchids have continued to thrive under the shelter of the mulberry tree, the only place in my garden providing a “woodland environment”. I wish I could have a carpet of cyclamens as in some English gardens, but I should be grateful I can grow them at all in coastal Perth! I think I have a seed pod on one plant. I was reading an article in the Mediterranean Garden Society newsletter that described the stems spiralling around seed pods and realised I have one!
The beautiful Salvia madrensis (Forsythia sage) originating in Mexico is a new flower in my garden this autumn. It is spectacular on stems 1.5 -2 m tall, although it is a bit leggy as I have allowed the large shrub behind it to grow too large and shade it. I will cut it back to the ground after flowering and take a firm hand to the Montanoa grandiflora!
My Hakea laurina (pincushion hakea) is simply stunning this year. I took this photo from the upstairs verandah and the gorgeous site greets me every morning from the kitchen window. Such a fantastic small tree for the garden! The birds and insects love it too!
a beautiful autumn
Time flies by! I was busy all of February preparing for my Open Garden in early March. it was great to do it again and to meet so many fantastic gardeners. I’m sure we will have to get an alternative scheme up and running now the national one has ended. I feel like I only just recovered from the Open Garden and it was time to start the autumn harvest!
The quince tree was bowed over with a very heavy crop. I counted 164 as I picked them!! This year I will bottled poached quince and make jars of quince paste.
A day or two after I picked the fruit, the branches stood up straight again!
This year I used muslin jewellery bags to protect my apples and pears from fruit fly. They are cheaper than the ones sold for fruit fly exclusion but most importantly they are pretty! they seem to have worked quite well, though I put them on too late and had to take quite a lot of already stung fruit off the trees and dispose of it.
Jerusalem artichokes are the other great crop this year: very round and white compared to last year. I think I actually harvested them at the right time this year, just after the beautiful yellow daisy flowers finished. I also kept some seed for the first time this year. It will be interesting to see if it will grow. Usually I don’t bother to plant the artichokes again as I never get them all out of the ground and they just regrow themselves!
Jerusalem artichoke pulled out of the ground
lots of roasted artichokes & cream of artichoke soup!
For the first time this year the elderberry (Sambucus nigra) actually had berries! Every year I fantasise about making champagne from the flowers; this year I also fantasised about elderberry wine from the berries! I didn’t make either and I had to cut the berries off to prevent them being carried away by birds into the bush. There are many magic traditions associated with the elder http://www.incredible-edible-todmorden.co.uk/apothecary/the-elder-tree. It is said that a witch can turn herself into an elder tree and its wood is used for the making of magic wands. Elder trees were planted by houses to protect them from lightening and evil spirits. In the days when there was no separation between magic and medicine, many charms and amulets were fashioned from elder wood for all sorts of ills and sorrows. Sitting under, or more riskily sleeping under, an Elder at midsummer was said to enable one to see the faeries or even see them going to their midsummer feast. The danger was being transported into the Underworld and not being able to escape. Unfortunately the elderflower suckers badly in my garden so I am constantly keeping it under control.
Once again I must apologise for the long wait for a post. I have been travelling quite a bit. I missed my garden and the fabulous springtime bush of Western Australia but I did get to visit some beautiful gardens in southern Italy and the south of France as well as some lovely gardens in Victoria. In the couple of weeks I was home between Europe and Melbourne I worked frantically in my coastal Perth garden. I was very happy to see some poppies and sweet peas still flowering when I returned at the end of October and in fact there are still a few of each now at the beginning of December, so it has been quite a long season. Often if sweetpeas are not picked the flowering will stop as the first seeds form. This is apparently the case for most peas as the plant only aims to reproduce. The seed heads of the oriental poppies are spectacular in the garden and in a vase. Each year I gather the seeds of both the sweet peas and poppies for planting the next autumn.
A kind friend picked my broad beans for me while I was in Europe to prevent them from giving up production, and they are also still going, though they are in the last couple of weeks now. I wanted a big crop of tomatoes this year and planted a few seedlings as well as transplanting a few of the self-sown ones into this year’s solanaceae bed. When I came home I found a bumper crop, the plants sprawling everywhere, with none of the support or training I should have provided. It is too late now as trying to tie them up will lead to breakage and there seems to be no harm coming to the tomatoes on the ground, though I have now mulched under them with straw. Picking them means spotting the red amongst the foliage and then reaching in to forage. I am making lots of passata for the winter as well as enjoying fresh organic tomatoes every day. I will also have a bumper crop of grapes this year on the Hills hoist pergola that shades the vegetable garden in the summer, I just have to make sure the birds don’t beat me to it! The birds have had a fair share of the mulberries this year but there are plenty to go around and they have not found the blackberries/loganberries or strawberries yet.
The eggplants are growing well and the capsicum are fruiting. I have not been buying vegetables but just trying to keep up with what’s in the garden! I was really happy to see self-sown basil, which after a bumper winter crop of self-sown parsley, is very welcome and makes me feel almost as if the garden is managing itself. There is always plenty of work to do though. This week I am harvesting my fennel and parsnips to roast and for slicing raw in a citrus salad, and replacing my kale and celery. I am also planting rocket, radicchio and lettuce seeds. The most urgent jobs to prepare the garden for the summer are mulching and fruit fly control.
Apologies to my readers who may have noticed a long gap between blogs. I have suffered a personal tragedy and been unable to function very well for the last few weeks.
During that time all I managed to do in the garden was a daily round to collect and kill the “woolly bear” caterpillars which are the larva of a tiger moth. They were particularly bad in my garden this year. I hate to kill any caterpillars in the garden (except those of the white cabbage moth) but I was forced to as the woolly bears are voracious and indiscriminate feeders, though they do seem to prefer hairy plants such as Echium, borage and foxgloves. Worst of all they love the flower buds of the Echium and threatened to prevent it flowering at all! It is now flowering but the caterpillar pruning throughout June (while I was away) and July and early August even though I removed caterpillars every day, means it is not as glorious as in other years.
Woolly bearsOne morning's collection
Eat anything!Woolly bears seem to eat just about all plants in the garden, though I haven't seen them on garlic, leeks or onions. This one is enjoying a tree fern frond.
Echium in flowerThe pink Echium is finally flowering
Most of the plants in my perennial borders were sleeping through the winter but the Cherokee rose, Rosa laevigata, my favourite rose, started flowering in early July and is still going. It only flowers once a year and usually not over such a long period but I love its glossy foliage and open simple flowers.
The pink flowering Cestrum has flowered almost continuously since I planted it and is beloved by the honeyeaters which visit daily. I have wanted to replace this Cestrum with the purple flowering form almost since I planted it. Its name is Cestrum purpureum and I have seen a beautiful purple-flowered form so thought it would be perfect in my purple perennial border. Unfortunately the plant I bought has pink flowers and should be in the opposite pink border! It has taken several attempts but I have finally successfully struck cuttings and planted one in the pink border where it seems to be off to a good start. In the meantime I have found a purple flowering Cestrum purpureum and kept it in a pot until I can remove the now substantial original. Cestrum is a vigorous, hardy plant worthy of place in Perth gardens. I now also have a yellow night flowering Cestrum (in the yellow/orange border) and have successfully grown cuttings from this plant as well.
One of the joys of a cold climate that we don’t experience so much in Perth is the beauty of autumn leaves. There are a few trees that will grow well in our climate and provide some colour, notably the Chinese Tallow, but on the whole our deciduous trees do not develop the amazing colours seen in the ACT and Victoria.
I enjoyed a few days in Canberra in May and was spellbound by the gorgeous colours, especially on bright sunny days. the Mountain and Desert ash trees were particularly spectacular. The maples are my favourite and they can be grown in Perth if you can provide them with sufficient shelter from the sun and wind. I have seen a lovely old maple nestled into the southside of a courtyard garden in one of the Australian Open Gardens.
May has been a busy time in the garden, as in Perth it is both harvest time and the start of the growing season for many plants, a bit like Spring in the northern hemisphere as the rains hopefully come and the weather cools, Dieran in the Noongar calendar.
I have finally poached the quinces I harvested in late April. I use a recipe from Stephanie Alexander’s book (the Cook’s Companion) which requires about six hours in a moderate oven in an enamel baking dish. The result is the most wonderful fragrance throughout the house and the quince turn from hard yellow/green to a glorious crimson. It is quite hard work to cut the quince up and core them and I have found it is fine to leave the skin on rather than peeling them as recommended, which is very tedious!
The poached quince can be frozen for use as dessert, in a nut and quince cake or for a decadent breakfast (they are wonderful with porridge). The Granny Smith and Pink Lady apples are slow to ripen this year.
In the native garden many shrubs and trees are flowering, providing energy for birds as they select their mates.
Some of the wonderful small trees flowering in my garden include Eucalyptus kruseana, the first flowering since I planted it last year, and Hakea laurinia, the fabulous pincushion hakea, as well as Eucalyptus woodwardii and the Silver Princess. Its lovely that the trees are now tall enough to enjoy from the second floor windows and I can watch the bees and birds buzzing around the flowers.
Some of the smaller things flowering include Beaufortia squarrossa with its fabulous red, Grevillea pimeloides and Calytrix tetragona. I am particularly enjoying a purple thryptomene, Thryptomenestrongylophylla. I bought it at one of the Kings Park sales because I love purple flowers but was still surprised to see how lovely it really is in flower. Unfortunately the photo doesn’t really do it justice.
Autumn has been slow to arrive in Perth this year and while I have been enjoying days at the beach in April I know the garden and even more so the bush, has had enough of the hot dry weather. We planted seedlings at Wireless Hill on the 13th April, hoping for the wet autumn promised by the weather bureau and I am so glad the rain is here!
Autumn is a great time to go through the garden and ensure the soil is wetting. WA soils so easily become hydrophobic through drying out in the summer. At the Garden Show this year I met Norm from Muddy Thumbs and bought some of his liquid wetting agent. I love it as it is so easy to apply. You dilute it in a watering can and water it on, followed by a good soak with the hose. I used it throughout my front, native garden and didn’t even need to move the bark mulch. In my perennial beds I scraped back the straw mulch first and after I knew the soil was wet I incorporated Sand to Soil which should help prevent the soil becoming so hydrophobic again. When I watered the seedlings at Wireless Hill I added a squeeze of Muddy Thumbs to the water containers to help the water penetrate rather than just run off.
There have been lots of butterflies in the garden this year. After looking up my Australian butterfly books I came to the conclusion that these beauties are the American Monarch, which has been in Australia since the 1870s. This is the first time I have had these beautiful visitors and I think it must be because I have provided milkweed for them after visiting Terri’s Garden in the Open Garden Scheme. They love the perennial Ageratum and Verbena in my purple border. I have also had lots of beautiful dragonflies, hopefully breeding in the frog ponds
I have begun picking my apples. I have three trees which have been in the garden for about three years now, a Granny Smith, a Gala and a Pink Lady. The other apples are still ripening. I also have a pear tree and a quince, both with fruit ready for harvest.
I picked the Gala apples first. Opening each fruit fly exclusion bag was like opening a surprise gift, not knowing how many apples would be in each bag or whether they would be in good condition. Happily the bags have done a great job and I have nearly 50 Gala apples from my little tree! Apples keep well in the refrigerator but we may dry some with the dehydrator.
The fruit fly exclusion bags, (bought from Green Harvest)are very effective, not only against fruit fly, but codling moth and birds as well! I reuse mine and as it doesn’t rain during the summer they seem to last a couple of years at least. The fruit fly was particularly bad this summer and even though I kept my fruit fly traps (Ceratraps also from Green Harvest) well maintained I have still had fruit fly strike on tomatoes, figs and pawpaw. Many fruit flies have also been drowned in the traps.
Flowering in March
It has been a very long hot summer in Perth, with our first rain since November falling last night. Autumn is only just beginning in the garden and there are still late summer perennial flowers to enjoy like Michaelmas daisies, daylilies, salvias and ageratum. The summer annuals like the orange Cosmos Diablo are also still going strong as are the frangipanis which flower all summer long.
In the vegetable garden the Jerusalem artichokes are in full flower meaning they will soon be ready for harvest. Unlike the globe artichoke the Jerusalem artichoke is related to the sunflower. Their cheery flowers brighten the garden. The basil is continuing to thrive and I pick it for salads and pesto most days, removing the flowers so it won’t bolt to seed. The apples are almost ready, with the trees looking very strange all summer decorated with fruit fly exclusion bags.
In the bush garden there is plenty of colour and nectar for the birds provided by Banksias, some of the Grevilleas and Beaufortia squarossa, a beautiful sight throughout the summer. The red-capped gum and the Silver Princess are flowering and the grove of Euky dwarf (Eucalyptus leucoxylon) trees is in flower too, attracting a little flock of spotted pardalotes.
My pampered pots continue to surprise me with unexpected blessings. I thought my little pots of species cyclamen had died from overwatering as they lost their leaves very soon after I bought them last year but I put them in the shade where they would only receive handwatering once a week or so and they have repaid the neglect they need by returning to life as they should in late summer/early autumn.