Sunday, 26 April 2009

autumn in the garden it's definitely getting on into autumn.  We had another few days of sunny warmth with chilly nights, but as of yesterday it turned back to cold and rainy.  There aren't too many trees in Melbourne that put on an autumn show, and they tend to get a bit brown and burnt over the summer which dampens the autumn colours even further.  For example my little Japanese maple hardly has any green leaves under all the dead, burned leaves so I don't know if I'll see any colour from it this year.  But I did take a photo of the grape vine along one fence as it's now in that lovely in-between stage with shades of green, burgundy, yellow and flame.  And it should get even more stunning before the leaves fall. also swapped over my porch flowers, the salvia and alyssum were looking pretty tired.  As promised, Mari, I wanted to grow pansies but after looking at what they had I decided on violas instead.  In the garden shop they had big pots of both pansies and violas and the smaller violas looked a bit nicer when they were covered with flowers.  I'm really happy with the colours and I hope they put on a good show!

I also bought creeping fig to plant along the fence, but it's so cold and windy today that they'll have to wait.  Same with the onion seedlings I was going to plant out, until I heard there's hail in the forecast and decided against it. OK I got up the courage to plant the creeping fig.  Turns out that narrow side yard is a WIND TUNNEL.  Oh my lord it was freezing.  I'm pretty sure I set a personal record for fastest planting.  No pampering, not even any watering, just into the ground (it's going to rain this week anyway).  They don't look like much at the moment but in a few years, hopefully they'll cover the wall.

Sunday, 19 April 2009

i'm knackered

I'm sure I have this yard to thank for part of losing a bit of weight this year.  Even little things like repotting a plant or watering the veggies is better than sitting on my butt.  But man, sometimes I wear myself out!'s a pile of that nasty Kikuyu grass I mentioned earlier.  All those long vine-like things are the runners that go zipping about underground, sending up shoots.  This pile is just a fraction of all I've dug up from along the side bed where it's grown under the fence.  And of course I'll have to dig up all the grass (a mix of Kikuyu and normal clumpy grass) in the broad patch between the house and the fence. made a lot of progress this weekend.  I finished digging up along the fence, measured out the plastic bedding liner and cut it with a hack saw!  You can hardly see the liner in this photo because it's dark green, but not only did I have to dig a long, straight line, but then tuck in the liner, go back with a hand trowel and dig out some more so it could sit evenly.  Then back-fill with dirt, then add a layer of rich manure-y soil.  Yes, I still have a bunch of dirt sitting at the side of the drive way.  I was hoping I'd use more of it for this project but no.  I still have a decent-sized pile of very rich, lovely dirt.  No idea what I'm going to do with the rest of it!

Next weekend I'll dig out some more Kikuyu out of that middle patch.  It looks all brown and dirt in the photo but over 3/4 is filled with dead grass.  I have some weed mat to put down but I also need to buy some step-stones.  In the meantime though I'll reward myself next week by planting the climbers to get them started growing.

Wednesday, 15 April 2009

the pumpkin is dead ... long live the pumpkin went out this evening to take a photo of my pumpkin vine.  It had been getting more and more diseased lately, first with powdery mildew and then with aphids.  But they sometimes do this at the end of their life so I wasn't worried.  But I did want to make sure the pumpkins themselves didn't get diseased, so I was going to ask some advice of my favourite garden forum. needn't have bothered!  It went from diseased to DEAD in just a day or two!  Definitely time to harvest the last little pumpkins.  They sure ripened up quickly compared to the first batch which apparently they do later in the season.  But they're a little bit smaller than the first batch which I don't mind.  They're still cute! and you know how I was recently praising how tough elephant ear plants are?  Well guess what I found growing up from underneath the dying pumpkin vine.  It's a little elephant ear I now remember I tried to pull out when I first planted this bed, months ago.  But I didn't dig down deep enough.  And now, here's the little fighter trying again to grow back.  I think I'll reward it this time by digging it up this weekend and planting it somewhere I won't be planting things on top of it.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

new camellias

It's been a busy weekend in the garden over the long Easter break.  Re-doing the side bed was the biggest job but today I replanted two camellias that died in the summer heat.  I don't think they selected very good varieties for our climate, some of them need it to be a lot cooler and wetter.

I bought two camellias called "Paradise Blush" that are supposedly bred for the Australian climate and they're called a "summer survivor" on the tag.  The blooms look gorgeous, white with a tinge of pink, but not that it really matters since the possums tend to eat them anyway.





They're just little things now but hopefully they'll take off.  They got a good dose of compost and such when I planted them, and the rest of the row got a feed and a water too.

I also planted out this little tiny applemint plant.  I'd bought them as cuttings which meant they didn't have roots so I had them in a little pot for a few weeks.  But they'd started to make new leaves which told me they'd taken root, so I planted it out today.  It's a type of mint with a mild flavour and its leaves are variagated white and green.  It's still tiny but should look lovely when it's grown.

Sunday, 12 April 2009

i didn't intend to buy plants today... just somehow ended up happening!'ve got this narrow strip of garden bed next to where I'm planning to put in rocks and step-stones.  It's got three almost-dead nandina, two liriope (one is almost dead) and a third liriope already died.

I'd already planned on planting elephant's ears (colocasia esculenta, aka taro) as one of the plants in that bed.  Because there's one of them in the corner near the rhododendrons in constant shade that never gets watered, and it's survived the heat wave.  It just died back and re-grew when the weather was nicer.  Any plant that can thrive after this summer is worth planting again.  It's meant to be a water plant, but turns out it'll also do just fine in the soil, retreating down to it's root when it gets too dry and over the winter when it gets too cold. any case, I didn't know what I wanted to pair with the elephant ears so I wasn't in a hurray to re-do that bed.  But whilst at my favourite garden centre I asked what they'd recommend for this dry, shady spot and the lady recommended hellebores.  I'd assumed that hellebores needed lots of water but it turns out they don't!  So how could I resist buying a few?  I don't even know what colours they'll be, it's a lucky dip of mixed varieties. had elephant ears too, including exactly three types called "Amazon Queen" with black stems and bronzy leaves - absolutely stunning.  So I snapped those up too and here's what it looks like now.  It's still quite "thin" because the hellebores are still small but they'll grow up and out a bit to fill in between the elephant ears.  And when the elephant ears die back in winter, the hellebores will be blooming!

I'm pretty happy with that.

Monday, 6 April 2009

sad little maple (part 2) thought since I'm so worried about my little maple tree, that I would share how it looked in its prime.  This is what it looked like in early spring.  So in case the worst happens, at least I got a photo of what it was meant to look like.

The good news is, after a bit of consultation with my favourite garden forum I'm told that it should pull through.  I sure hope so!

Sunday, 5 April 2009

sad little maple all it's been through I'm worried my maple might cark it after all. 

First it got waterlogged in the heavy rains we got last spring, before I realized that two garden beds drained into its corner. So I had to dig it up and put it up in a bit of a raised mound.

Then I got neglectful and let it dry out too much when we had the month or two with almost no rain, and it got even more stressed and even more leaves started to brown.

Then of course we got the stupidly hot weather. More stress, more leaves dying.

But amongst all that the little guy has absolutely fought back. Even before the extreme heat it had started putting out new growth! By the end of the heat wave I thought it was on its way back - it still had about 1/3 of the old leaves, new green leaves coming out at the tips, and lots of fat leaf buds. since then it's almost as if it's giving up. There are still fat leaf buds, but most of the new growth has turned black and died. Most of the tips of the longest branches are slowly turning black.

I don't think there's anything more I can do now except hope it recovers over the winter.  The damn thing better not die, it was freaking expensive.

the next big project that the back bed is pretty much sorted I've turned my thoughts to the next big project.  I want to do something about this nasty little patch of grass on the side of the house.

It's almost always in the shade so the grass always struggles.  At first I thought I'd put some stepping stones but I'm going to go a step further than that.  I'm going to dig up the grass, put down some weed mat and stepping stones, then fill in with those white pebbles we have around the back.  We have heaps of extra pebbles both from emptying the fish pond and one of my first projects which was digging them out of the raised garden beds. addition I want to dig out a narrow bed along the fence. As you can see it's a really ugly fence.  You can also see some long straggly bits of grass growing behind the wooden boards - that's Kikuyu grass.  It's a nice and hardy turf, good for the dry climate, but it also spreads with long, thick runners and gets everywhere, including 6 inches below the wooden base to grow between the base and the metal.  Anyway I'm going to dig the grass out from there, too, and plant a climber to cover the fence.  Probably creeping fig, a dense evergreen that should cover the whole thing and grow flat against it.  Which is funny to me because it's from the same family as the fig tree and our ficus trees (the ones that look like lollipops).  What can I say, it's a hearty family of plants!

Friday, 3 April 2009


I've rounded out my plans for the narrow little bed along the garage.  This is what the thing looked like when we first moved in (on the right-hand side).  Not exactly inspiring.
First move was to plant a row of vinca along the front.  But I wanted a permanent addition as well, and after a lot of plotting and consulting I decided on clivia.  It's a funny plant, mostly it's associated with potted plants or greenhouses, or maybe a grandmother's garden up north where it's a bit more tropical.  Most of what you read about it says it likes warm shade with a fair amount of water.  But it turns out it also tolerates the hardest garden niche but the one I have the most of: dry shade. I ordered three plants from a nursery online.  Clivia are not cheap because they take at least four years to go from seed to flower, so buying one at flowering age can easily put you back $40 or $60!  No way I was going to pay that much, but I also didn't want to wait years for them to flower.  So I found this mail-order nursery that had much more reasonable prices.  I ordered one of their cheapest varieties, Sahin Twin, because they're meant to put out two stalks of flowers per year.  A few days later they arrived in the mail, a bit cramped but in otherwise good shape and very healthy looking. were sent bare-rooted and I could see why.  Their roots are like fat, pale worms, very thick.  This one actually had the smallest root ball of the three.  I'm going to guess that's why they tolerate the dry, roots like that probably store a lot of water.  But it did make it hard to plant them - how do I know I got enough dirt between those thick roots and didn't leave big air pockets?  I don't know, really. hope they do well because even though the website price was reasonable, it still wasn't cheap to buy three of them.  They look a bit floppy at the moment but I think they'll settle in before long, and I might add more soil as the dirt settles in around their roots. 

And just so you know, this is what they should look like by next summer.  Stunning, isn't it?

lots of rain! promise not to keep showing photos of my oh-so-exciting rain gauge, but we had some serious thunderstorms today and I couldn't wait to get home and check the gauge.  Look how full it is!  2.4cm, that's almost an inch in one day!

I think yesterday was our last hot day of the autumn.  Bring on the rain.