Sunday, 20 September 2009

happy little maple, the back bed, and favourite flowers'm glad to announce that the sad little maple tree survived its ordeal.  As you can see the tips of the longer branches have died, although some of them have buds that haven't sprouted yet.  But I'm very proud of its tenacity, and I hope that this year is kinder to it than last year.  Hopefully I'll remember to water it more often!  In the meantime it's going to get some coffee grinds around the roots this weekend.  It loves acidic soil and the grinds should keep the surface roots cool.  I just had to learn the hard way last year, only to put a thin layer of grounds.  Anything as thick as even 1cm turns into a hard caked crust! thought I'd add a picture of the back bed whilst I was at it.  The pansies in the raised beds are doing OK but I don't think I'd plant them back there again.  They want more sun, the blooms are large but don't last long, and any bit of rain makes them flop over.  Compare that to the smaller violas I describe in a moment...

In the meantime the oakleaf hydrangeas are starting to wake up from winter dormancy (they're too stick-like to see in the photo but they're near those lamps in the raised beds).  I also wanted to bring the perennial statice to your attention, it's those clusters of broad dark leaves with the whispy purple flowers.  They are fabulous plants, the blooms last forever, all through the autumn.  And when the autumn flowers faded it had already put out another set of buds which bloomed with the spring.  Two long shows per year, and they're tough and drought-friendly.  A great find for any Melbourne garden.

The big bed in the middle is full of manure and waiting for this year's veggies.  I'm thinking I'll try edamame soybeans, the kind you eat freshly steamed as a snack.  It's a Japanese snack I highly recommend if you haven't tried them. promised, here's another look at the violas at the front door.  Now you can see why I prefer them to the pansies ... they put out so many cheerful blossoms and they've done so all winter long.  The trick is to pick off the spent flower heads every so often so they spend their energy making more flowers instead of making seeds.  Will definitely grow again next winter. we have probably my all-time favourite flower, geraniums (pelargoniums).  I keep showing photos but I can't help myself.  I can't quite get over that twelve months ago these were tiny seedlings with maybe six leaves.  And now they're going nuts!  This is the cluster that's done so well I've had to prune it back already. clivias are doing well too.  I planted them in the autumn and they've all put out new growth, though only one decided to bloom this year.  But what a bloom!  This variety is meant to blossom twice a year, so maybe by the autumn all three plants will be ready to bloom at once.  And in the meantime, I think one of them has had a baby.  You can just see a little green leaf coming out of the bark in front of the parent.  I think it's a "pup", which would be great, I'd love to have a thick cluster of clivia in this bed.  Though I can't recommend them yet as they haven't survived a Melbourne summer yet...
And finally, another flower I can't yet recommend because I don't know if it'll survive the summer.  My hellebores survived a vicious aphid attack, and one of them decided it was ready to flower this year.  I'm very happy with the colour, they came from a mix so I didn't know what colour they'd be.  They go semi-dormant over the summer so I hope that means they'll survive the heat.

first lemon picked my first lemon from the lemon tree this week.  It's the one to the right in this photo, compared to a supermarket lemon on the left.  As you can see it was a nice colour, the skin wasn't too thick, and there weren't too many seeds.  The flavour was good but it could have been a bit juicier - perhaps not enough rain?  Overall I'm very happy with it!  There's one more ripe lemon on the tree, after that it'll be many months  before the next green ones ripen.  I love taking "credit" for fruit I had nothing to do with - the figs and the lemons have done pretty much their own thing.  Though I have been feeding the lemon tree a bit of manure, fertilizer, and mulch which is more than I can say for the fig tree.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

new kentia palm

I decided to replace the Monster Plant with an indoor palm.  I did a bit of research and decided on a Kentia palm from Lord Howe Island which is meant to be superb for indoor use.  Other palms, such as the majestic palm and the coco palm, I was specifically warned against as making bad houseplants. let my wallet win out over my sense and went to the B-store (a large, popular chain of hardware stores I shall not name) for the palm.  But there I was surrounded by majestic palms, coco palms, and Alexandra palms for sale as already huge, advanced specimens as tall as I am.  I finally found just two Kentia palms.  They cost a good third more than all of the others and they were half the size.  Once again I am reminded that when you go to the B-store, you shop at your own risk.  They are not at all interested in selling you the right product for your needs, they are interested in selling as much as possible at maybe, at best, 5% or 10% cheaper than elsewhere.  The "expertise" of their employees is shockingly bad and they are particularly known for selling plants out of season (such as continuing to sell tomato seedlings into the fall, or months before they'll be happy outside).  Only go there if you know exactly what you want and don't need any help, otherwise you'll walk out quite pleased with yourself having bought a majestic palm that will promptly die.

I felt doubly guilty because I ended up buying the pot from a nice garden shop because I didn't like the pots at the B-store ... and their Kentia palms were only $5 more than at the B-store.  And when I got it home and potted it up, I found this.  What you see in this photo is a small, very compact root ball of quite dense clay that was resting in the plastic pot of potting mix.  Thankfully it's not really root bound (when the roots constrict into a too-small pot), but I'm a little worried it'll have trouble spreading out into its new home.  But again, that's what you get when you risk buying something from the B-store.

But enough about that store, look at my lovely palm tree!  It'll keep growing to some height, but slowly enough that it should be with me for years.  I'm very happy with my little palm tree ... and even better, the cats are unimpressed which should mean they leave it well enough alone!

little baby plums of my poor abused plum trees is still in strife, it's put out very few leaves and hardly any blossoms and the possums have done their best to eat the leaflets.  But the other plum tree is now covered in these tiny baby plums!  Now the question is, when do I cover the whole tree in bird netting to keep the possums off!

Sunday, 6 September 2009

poor monster plant

My only houseplant is a gigantic Monstera deliciosa, also known as the Swiss cheese plant.  I prefer to call it the monster plant because it has absolutely thrived on neglect.  If you're really good at killing houseplants and you want something big, lush, and tropical, get one of these.  The only way to hurt it is to water it too much, which I did the first month or two after I bought it two years ago.  But to give you an idea, when I watered it too much the potting mix grew mold but the monster plant didn't even blink., the monster plant met its nemesis about a month ago.  After generally ignoring it for two years, the cats (mostly Percival) suddenly decided it made an excellent toy and proceeded to shred every leaf that was low enough to grab.  I think he got the idea from attacking the fig tree

That's why it's looking sad and wilty in this photo.  The top lucious leaves are what the whole plant used to look like, but the lower leaves are shredded or completely pulled off.  And there's the primary suspect returning to the scene of the crime. some consultation on Ozgrow forum, I was advised that they do bounce back from pruning so I cut the better part of three branches off.  They're actually the best parts of the plants, strong and healthy, so I've put them in a bucket of water to see if they'll strike as cuttings to make new plants.  I'll have to give them away as the last thing I need are more monster plants for the cats to shred.  You can see how interested they were in the carnage.

And finally the monster plant got moved to a new home on top of the filing cabinet.  It looks so small and sad now but I'm hoping it'll put out some strong new growth soon.  And though the cats can pretty easily jump up there, I'm hoping they're not dextrous enough to try to bat at the leaves from such a precarious perch.  They're no ballerinas after all.
Oh poor little monster plant, I know you'll survive!

tomato scare

I came home after a particularly warm (20C!) winter day to find my tomato seedlings had done this!
I was so upset! I wasn't sure at first if they'd just dried out or the opposite had occurred, "damping off", when they're damp for too long and get killed by fungus. I instantly splashed them with water and within an hour found out they'd dried out, because two of the seedlings had already perked back up. It's the stupid little punnet, they're so small the dirt dries out really quickly. I'll never start seeds in punnets this small again. And I was so angry because I had planned to prick them out into larger punnet just two days after this happened; if I'd done it earlier this never would have happened.

Luckily by the end of the day two of them had actually perked back up so that you couldn't even tell they once looked like this. The third still looked pretty dead, but by Saturday when I went to prick them out, the dead seedling was starting to look alive again! I decided to reward this effort by very carefully pricking it out to see what happened. I have such admiration for this drive to survive even when you're sure something's got to be dead.
This is what the setup looks like now. They ran out of room in the smaller plastic bin so now they're in a cheap plastic cat litter tray (only ever used for gardening). Along the top row are the four tomato seedlings including, on the far left, the Tommy Toe that's still struggling for life. Next are the two Serrano chilies and then the lettuce leaf and cinnamon basils which are powering along. I've left the punnet of chili seeds just in case some of them have been waiting for the last two months before they felt like sprouting. Despite a few setbacks, I have high hopes that these guys will survive to the summer.