Sunday, 29 August 2010

tomatoes get an upgrade pricked out the tomato seedlings this weekend.  Turns out when you start them in those rectangular punnets their roots spread out more than I realised, so I think I tore some of them when I was trying to loosen them.  I hope they survive OK.  They got a dose of seasol and a few tiny fertilizer pellets to boost them along.  The capsicums are still too small, as you can see.  They're growing but much more slowly than the tomatoes. of tomatoes, I was disgusted to see Bunnings are already selling these huge advanced tomatoes that already have flowers.  It won't be warm enough to grow tomatoes outside for at least another month.  "Early maturing" my left foot, that's just marketing to sell them to people who don't know better, who assume that if they're for sale you must be able to grow them.  Never, ever trust Bunnings for this.  They are more than happy to sell them knowing that they'll die and you'll be back in again in a month needing another one.

spring is here weather is still quite cold, with the occasional arctic blast, but spring is definitely on its way.  The magnolias and cherry trees in the area are blooming, and my plum trees are just starting to burst.'ve actually taken out two of the ornamental plums this winter.  They get so crowded with the birches that everything goes a bit moldy by the end of the summer. But I've kept one ornamental and the two fruiting plums.  This is one of the fruiting plums that two summers ago almost died.  Last year after some TLC it set about a dozen small orange plums.  Turns out they're not very tasty.  This year, as you can see, the tree is even happier and covered with blossom.  I think I'll leave them for the possums this year, since covering it with net was a pain in the bum.

And finally, I saw these double hellebores in the garden shops this year.  No, I don't have these in my garden.  But they were so beautiful I had to take a snap.
I did, however, plant a little tiny Brunnera "Jack Frost" this weekend.  I forgot to take a photo and it's quite small anyway, but this is what it looks like eventually.  Beautiful foliage plus flowers that look like forget-me-nots.  It likes shade and tolerates drought - perfect for the spot next to the Japanese maple.

moms and pops are back ... already! November I discovered a pair of blackbirds nesting in the ficus against the garage.  I named the Moms and Pops and was amused by their antics and those of their babies.  Well today I noticed a blackbird flying into the ficus - Moms and Pops are back!  Pops is keeping an eye on the yard and snapping up the worms that are absolutely crawling in the soil after all this rain.  And Moms is already on her eggs.

Look, I don't really like blackbirds.  They're an introduced species and this is exactly why they're crowding out the natives: they're back for a second round of babies in the same year.  But they have diplomatic immunity because I love the wonder and joy of birds nesting in my yard.  Even if they are blackbirds.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

an august harvest my enthusiasm for growing fruit and veg, my harvests are usually very small - a lemon here, a handful of lettuce leaves there. But today's dinner is a celebration of spring and called for one of my largest harvests.

I'm making lamb with prosciutto with a salad of peas, broad beans, rocket, snowpeas and radish with a mint dressing. The rocket is mine, those are my Oregon Spring snowpeas, and a slightly nibbled radish. Along with the mint I'm going back out for thyme and chives later.

It's so satisfying!

p.s. I almost forgot, my cherrytime capsicums have sprouted. Took two weeks, and they're going really slowly, but they're going! The tomatoes are coming along too.

Update: here's a snap of the salad I made from this harvest.
I made fresh bread to go with it.  My first free-form loaf was an Italian bread back in May that came out like this - it didn't rise properly so it was tasty but dense.  I tried the same recipe again and it was like night and day, I didn't realise just how light and wonderful it was meant to be!  It's my best bread yet, if I do say so myself.  It tasted as good or better than bread from a bakery, pillowy soft on the inside with a crunchy crust.  Still soft and delicious the next day, too!

Saturday, 21 August 2010

starting over with orchids

Well my first experiment with orchids ended with disaster, as most of my sudden fad-interests in plants tends to do. My pretty little dendrobium came with an ugly little rot. It turned the leaves gray and the stem black until all the flowers and most of the leaves fell off. At least the garden centre gave me my money back.

I'm usually very impatient when I get excited about a new group of plants, like succulents or rex begonias. So for a little while I did roam garden shops, wondering if I should buy myself a very expensive cymbidium orchid (usually running $50-$70) because they're meant to be dead easy to grow and they're certainly prolific. But I made myself be patient when I found out that in only a few weeks, one of Australia's largest orchid shows would be coming to town.

Well I went to that show this weekend and I'm glad I waited. The two most common orchids for indoor display are Cymbidiums and Phalaenopsis. Cymbs are relatively easy to care for but there was something about their colours I didn't love - they're all a bit "dusky" and I wanted something with a cleaner, more vibrant colour. Phalaenopsis are lovely, especially the clean white ones, but I didn't trust my ability to make one re-flower. They're notoriously hard to get to flower again.

There were also Cattleyas and lady slippers, but what really caught my eye were the Oncidiums or dancing lady orchids. They just had a wildness to them that takes my breath away. So I had a chat with a few of the growers to find out if they'd suit my limited growing skills. man from Woolf Orchid Culture, all the way down from Toowoomba Queensland, pointed me to a hybrid of his that he says is particularly tough: Colmanara Space Race 'Topaz Gold'. He says the flowers will last for over a month and after flowering to put it out on the porch where it'll grow some more greenery and put out another flush of flowers in the same year. This is what the flowers will look like, though they're quite small (a bit larger than my thumbnail) with a good 20 or so per spike. now it just looks like this, but as you can see it has a flower spike just about ready to blossom as well as two more small spikes just coming up. In any case, even if I can't get it to flower again or kill it over the summer, as long as I get one good flush out of it I'll be happy. This little potential beauty only cost me $25, which is about what I spend on cut flowers every month (this guy's meant to replace those cut flowers). I'll be sure to post photos when it flowers.

In the meantime, here are some snaps from the orchid show. I think these are Odontoglossums, another one I'd love to grow except I didn't see any for sale (at least not ones in flower). Like my colmanara, I love how "wild" they look.
This one's definitely a Cymbidium and I hadn't seen a colour like this before.
These are some of the weird and wonderful specimens in the show section. No idea what most of them are!
On the right is a lady slipper orchid. On the left, an Edward Scissorhands orchid. OK, technically it's a "Bulbophyllum Elizabeth Ann Buckleberry."
And finally, I didn't even realize Phalaenopsis could come in this beautiful sunset shade! It's called "Brother Sara Gold", though I didn't see a flowering one for sale anywhere.
They are beautiful, aren't they?

Monday, 9 August 2010

august flowers

Some lovely flowers around these days, though you have to go looking for them.  The broad beans are starting to flower, though I believe they can take a long time to develop and ripen.  Not too long, I hope, I want to grow capsicum in that pot this year.
I decided I needed a better photo of the hellebores - such a beautiful dark purple!  I just wish they weren't always turned down to the ground.
And this was a surprise.  Last year I planted about 8 iris reticulata and species tulips. Most of the tulips came up but only 2 of them blossomed - not enough sunlight.  And all but 2 of the irises died - I think they dried out.  So last year I dug up the tulip bulbs and put them in a pot, but I couldn't find the iris bulbs.  Surprise!  Not only did they survive, but one of them had a baby!
They are hidden away back there though.  I'm going to try digging them up again this summer and putting them in a pot too.  Because the species tulips are peeking out of their pot and I'm hoping for a beautiful show of flowers.  Also, at least two of my three clivias have buds forming; last year only 1 blossomed.  Oh and the biggest clivia, that bloomed last year, now has two babies, though they're a good 4 years or so away from flowering themselves.  Such a promising time of year!

tomatoes are sprouting!

Before I forget ... the first tomato sprouts appeared on Friday, only 6 days after planting! I think I've finally got the hang of my heat tray setup. So far there are two from each type of tomato, and I added some miniature capsicum mid-week. So far, so good.

Monday, 2 August 2010

tomatoes go in!'ve set up my tomato-starting tray for a new year's tomatoes.  This year I adjusted the temperature before planting the seeds, so as not to fry them to death like I did last year.  It only took a few tweaks, mostly I moved it away from the window so the sunshine didn't throw the soil temperature up to 40.  When they sprout I'll turn off the heat mat and move them into the sun. 

That green mat is a new addition too.  It's capillary mat, it sucks water up.  I thought I was meant to put one end in the water dish but it just sucked up all the water and dumped it in the tray.  So instead I pour water on the mat every day or two, and the soil sucks that up.

In any case, the seeds went in on the 31st of July.  Three seeds of Oregon Spring, a medium-sized, early red variety.  And three of broad ripple yellow currant, a yellow cherry type.  I'm feeling good this year, I reckon they'll do well.

back into the garden

Whenever I'm away from the garden I love to see what's changed in the garden whilst I was gone.  A lot of flowers have come in in the last two weeks.  The violas are in full bloom.
Last year only one of my hellebores blossomed, a beautiful purple.  This year all three are blooming ... and lucky me, all three are a deep gorgeous purple (though it's hard to see in this photo).  I didn't know what colour they'd be because they came from a mixed colour batch.
And finally, the snowflakes are going gangbusters this year.  I think every clump has spread this year.  The cyclamen just keep struggling, but the snowflakes are definitely happy.  I hope they keep spreading and spreading.
My snowpeas have also powered along.  I had problems last year with long, leggy plants not thriving.  This year I chose a "bush-type" pea and put it in a larger pot, and it's thriving more than any of my plants last year.  The problem is that I still only get a few pods ripe at one time.  When we eat them in stir-fries we go through a big handful at a time, but this is only giving me 4 or 5 at a go.  I tried to grow a pea patch out the back but first the possums ate the shoots, and then rats started digging up and eating the seeds!  Maybe next year I'll have a full pea patch.
This is my first year growing broad beans.  It seems to be chugging along nicely, but I do know that they take a long time to develop.  The first flowers are only just appearing so we'll see.
And finally, I bought myself an orchid.  My stepmom had moth orchids in almost every room of her house, they were so beautiful, so I thought I'd try one myself.  I don't remember what kind it is but I loved the colour.
The garden shop also gave me a moth orchid for free.  Their shop was far too cold to keep them happy so as you can see it's looking pathetic - all the flowers dropped off.  In the words of the garden shop they "needed some TLC", mostly warmth.
I already lost all the flowers on the moth orchid, we'll see if I have the patience to keep it alive until next year when it will bloom again.  And unfortunately, my yellow orchid is starting to drop flowers and a few leaves too.  I hope it survives!