Sunday, 19 December 2010

final plans for the west bed

I widened the front half of the west bed last weekend and decided on ajuga reptans "black scallop". It's probably the darkest form of ajuga, I though the colour would be a nice contrast to the black stems on the colocasia, and the flowers are a nice bonus. They're just little now but they'll spread a fair bit.
Not that you can see them, but here's the bed with the ajuga in.
I though long and hard about what to put between the ajuga, if anything. I finally decided on more plectranthus "mona lavender" after being given an unexpected opportunity to try to strike some cuttings. Yet another limb snapped off (dang that plant is brittle) but this time I thought I'd try to make some new plants from it. I've got a whole set of cuttings going now! On the right is Kenilworth ivy, on the left are cuttings from my tequila blue salvia, and after this photo I added some from the plectranthrus. So far none of them have died and the salvia's already sprouting new growth.
In any case, the pletranthrus should look lovely with its dark green foliage and the purple-black undersides. I still haven't seen it flower yet but it's meant to be beautiful.

second fruits great challenge for tomato growers in Australia is to have ripe (non-cherry) tomatoes before Christmas.  Well my Oregon spring delivered last week!  The white blotches are from Dipel, not disease.  The tomato actually had a very savoury, almost meaty flavour, although I'm not sure if that was just because it was a bit early.  Maybe the later fruit will sweeten up.

december update

I've been a bit slack updating what's new in the garden recently.  First up, my little vitex shrub is steadily powering along.  It used to be this small!
Speaking of small, it has a little visitor.  I just love finding praying mantises in the garden!
Not so welcome a visitor was the locust I found in the lawn.  There's a really bad plague of them this year up north in country Victoria, with sporadic sightings throughout the city.  So far I've only seen the one, who tried to escape in the rosemary.
The sunflowers are also powering along, and one of them's forming a flower head.  Unfortunately the new leaves are coming in a bit warped which is worrying.  But on the up side, as you can see, the geraniums are recovering from their combined ordeal of rust and getting the soil under them replaced.
My melons are only coming along slowly, which is disappointing.  The weather's been a bit cool for their liking.  But I also think I had unrealistic expectations for how quickly they'd grow, since last year they were around this size in December too and I was harvesting them in March.
I planted some African blue basil in the bed below them.  Last year I had some near the bird bath and the bees went absolutely nuts for it.  This year I decided it was better to put it next to the melons for pollination.  It's already got some flowers on it, yay!
Speaking of flowers, my qarabali zucchini has already put out a few male flowers even though the plant is still pretty small.  The leaves are going a bit funny as they age, though, I don't know what's going on there.
And finally, I snapped a photo of some of the neighbourhood lorikeets who were having a look into the garden.  I think they periodically stop by to see if the figs are ripe yet.  The breba (early) crop is just starting to look like it's thinking of ripening, the main crop won't be ready until autumn.  This year I put a few cheap mesh bags over some of the fruits to see if I could save a few for myself, we'll see how it goes!

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

first fruits first tomatoes are ripe!  Three little broad ripple yellow currant tomatoes.  I only tasted one, it was pretty good for a first fruit.  The first yellow pear tomatoes last year were very mealy, then very sweet and delicate.  This one wasn't mealy and a bit more tangy, but sweeter then a red cherry tomato. they definitely have some kind of disease.  More of the lower leaves are turning yellow with a bit of dying on the edges before dropping off.  Which means it's just a matter of trying to get as much fruit off of them as I can before the plant dies.

Sunday, 5 December 2010


After thinking it over for what feels like forever, I finally got plants for the lavender bed.  It ended up being a spur-of-the-moment decision: I saw a little plant called geum "pink frills" at a nursery, liked them, and brought them home.  They have nice bright foliage and peachy-pink nodding flower heads.  I think they'll be a little tender to the hot sun but I'm hoping we'll continue to have a wet summer to help establish them in their new home.  I've dug in a good-sized bucket of compost around each one to help out, the soil otherwise was pure sand that had been under weed mat which meant it was very barren.
Here's the "before" brainstorming sketch for comparison.
Geum is meant to repeat-flower all the way to autumn.  I like the colour contrast with the lavender - both the flowers and the lime-green foliage.  And although you can't tell now, I'm hoping the tall gaura behind them will be another nice compliment with pale pinky-white flowers on long stems.
Here's a close up of the flowers.  Sweet, aren't they?
I just hope they like their new home!

Speaking of the rain, I probably should mention it's been raining A LOT.  We've had the wettest spring in years, which is a mixed blessing.  It's been warm, tropical rain from up north which is unusual for Melbourne.  At first the farmers were happy but now it's rained so much they can't even harvest their crops.  And in the garden, it's meant I've been bolder with planting new things in the summer which is usually a bad idea.  But I've also had some fungal problems - rust has removed almost every leaf from my geraniums so I've been using lime sulfur to save the new leaves coming in. Ah, the joys of unpredictable Melbourne weather!

Friday, 3 December 2010

another blackbird nest

My suspicions appear to be confirmed ... the blackbirds have two sets of babies per season.  For the first time since living here, they've made a nest in the fig tree!
I don't hear babies chirping yet, so there's a chance they'll abandon this nest as they did the last one.  I do wish sometimes that something other than blackbirds would nest here.  I did see a currawong for the first time in my garden although I didn't get a snap.  They're huge black birds, but I then found out they have a habit of killing and eating small birds.  I'd rather have my thornbills eating bugs than a big giant currawong any day.

worm layering

I like my worm farm, but I'm finding it hard to get the rewards out of it I should.  It's easy enough to pour water on it to drain out the worm wee.  But getting out the casing is a pain in the bum because, well, it's full of worms!  Compost worms are a bit touchy and won't necessarily survive in the garden, so I want to keep them in the bin.  Commercially-made worm farms come with layers but my worm farm was free, just two broccoli boxes from a shop.

I got some great advice from the OzGrow garden forum, where I get all kinds of advice.  First, peel back the newspaper covering and pull off any large chunky food (in this case, some rocket).
Next, put on a layer of hessian sack.  New worm food goes on top of this.  Newspaper layer goes over that and of course the lid over that.
The worms will migrate through the hessian to eat the food above.  After a few weeks, I'll use the hessian to pull the whole layer of worms and scraps off, and below that should be a layer of worm casings.  Hopefully with fewer worms in it!

november blooms

OK so it's not November anymore but I took these snaps last week and I've been a bit slack.  The lavender in the west bed is blooming.  It's such a lovely shade of purple, the picture doesn't quite capture the shade.  For some reason I thought it blossomed a bit later, but when I checked, I posted about them blooming one year ago to the day!  I'm pretty sure they'll repeat bloom though, because I didn't clip them back until the autumn.  The gaura is still recovering from the haircut it got at planting time, but it's well on its way.
My oakleaf hydrangeas are thriving too.  Look at these flower spikes!  They're actually weighing down the branches they're so big.  I believe the flowers stay a long time, turning off-white and even pinkish before the end.  I think.
The bird bath corner is filling out well too.  The tequila blue salvia is even bigger than last year, although it is quite floppy and needs staking.  The magnolia is finally starting to sprout from where I chopped the top off last year, and the first beautiful flower has opened.  And now that the parsley's been pulled out the day lilies are actually getting a bit of sun.
I decided to take some cuttings from the salvia, it's meant to be very easy.  They're not dead yet anyway!
I'll probably put them along the fence in the east bed, we'll see how we go.  Oh and these aren't blooms, but I had a great little harvest of
rocket, parsley and radishes the other day.  The radishes obviously got
too much water all at once and two of them split.  At least they split
beautifully at the tip.

Saturday, 27 November 2010


Good news!  I sold the three huge ficus on ebay for $50, and better still, they came and dug them out for me!  I'm so happy!  Here's what the spot looked like before.
And here's what it looks like now.
I still can't quite get my head around the difference, it's so much space opened up!  You can see down the driveway more clearly now which isn't necessarily a good thing since when the gate is open it's open to the laneway.  But the yucca are staying because they provide some welcome screening.  I hope those hedges grow in where the ficus has shaded them out.

Now I just need to think about what to put there!  I'm considering some tree peonies - apparently they're very slow-growing but take surprisingly well to dry summers.  I just have to make sure they wouldn't get too much hot afternoon sun.  But I don't want to grow anything too big, no point in taking out one huge plant only to replace it with another.

I'm also deciding whether to put a "pond in a pot" in that area.  All you need is a large pot with the hole filled in and you can have waterlillies, water plants and even a few goldfish.  Yes, I know, I used to have a goldfish pond and I filled it in.  But I didn't like where it was, it felt like wastes space.  But a small one in this area ... I'll have to think about it.

Monday, 22 November 2010

chillies, tomato spots and lobelia

I finally got a chili seedling.  I wanted a serrano but didn't end up finding one, so I got a hybrid called "firecracker" that's meant to be good for pots.  I just hope it's hotter than a jalapeno, last time I grew them they weren't very hot at all.
My tomato plants are powering along looking great ... except the bottom few leaves on the Oregon spring.  They're developing these little black spots and then turning yellow.  I swear tomatoes get more diseases than anything I've ever grown.  Here are the leaves so far, I've searched and searched and the symptoms don't seem to match anything except maybe bacterial speck.
I just hope it's a fluke, it's so early in the season!

To cheer myself up, here's a photo of the blue lobelia I'm growing in my flowerpots this season.  Such a carpet of colour!  I'm a sucker for striking colours.  They're actually a little darker than in this photo, and a bit less blurry too!

the next step've managed another step toward expanding the beds. This weekend I put in the new edging in front of the lavender bed, it was pretty easy actually because the soil was so sandy and I didn't buy the really deep edging.  I pulled back the old weed mat and trimmed it off, this is the "halfway point" pictured.

I decided to replace two of the liriope with gaura, a tallish plant with little pinky-white flowers that grow on long spikes.  I'm not bothering to plant the gaura under the hose though, the liriope there has been spared.  Of course I've forgotten to take a photo of the new gaura but they're small plants so there's not much to look at yet!

This week's a hot one but I'm hoping to do the hellebore bed this weekend.  It feels good to keep moving forward!

the butterfly miracle

It happened!  Remember these ugly caterpillars?  I saw them here and there back in February.
And in May I found chrysalis.
Well yesterday I was out the front to have a look at repairing our front gate.  I saw a movement in the lemon tree, and look who I saw!
She was still emerging, her wings were still wrinkled and her body was fat.  A few hours later she was gone.  I feel so lucky to have seen her before she left!