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!

Monday, 15 November 2010

update on the west bed discovering how hard it would be to take out the pebbles in the eastern bed, I thought I'd have a look at the situation in the western bed. I was happy to see that in this bed, they put a layer of weed mat over the sandy base before putting on the rocks. Which means it only took about 30 minutes to clear away this whole strip of rocks. It's also going to be easy enough to put in new edging since I can just peel back the weed mat and dig into the sand.

Now I just need to get the edging and keep thinking about what to plant! I'm thinking I'll replace the liriope with some gaura aka dancing butterflies, a nice tall narrow flower. Not sure what I'll plant in front of that yet.

geranium surgery started feeling bad for the geraniums on one side of my house.  They got bad rust during the winter which made them lose a lot of leaves.  Then as soon as it warmed up a bit they dried out.  The soil in the bed is awful builder's infill, almost pure sand.  I've tried putting compost on top but sand just makes it disappear.  Between the hot afternoon sun on the house bricks and the dry soil, I was very worried about them surviving the summer.  So I decided to perform a bit of geranium surgery. dug each one out partially or completely and dug out four buckets of sandy soil.  As you can see here, even after all that rain patches were still dry.  Some of the sand was compacted down very solid into those clumps.  I replaced the sand with compost from the bin (full of worms!) and a bit more of the manury soil I've got leftover. the geraniums each got a haircut - all the flowers and buds came off plus a few branches.  Some of them lost a lot of roots and are looking wilty today but they all got a dose of seasol to help them along.  And the weather this week is perfect for their recovery - low 20s and cloudy with drizzle.  My only worry is that the rust will keep eating at them in the wet.

I've also planted a pair of sunflowers in the bed this year, at the base of those two stakes.  I'm hoping they'll cast a bit of shade to give them a bit of shelter this summer.  I'm just hoping my geraniums recover!

Monday, 8 November 2010

using the bird bath don't see birds in the birdbath too often, let alone when I have the camera in hand, so I was glad to get this snap of a very wet blackbird today.

Oh and as you can just see, the tequlia blue salvia is already starting to flower.  It should keep flowering right through to autumn, I love this plant!

plectranthus "mona lavender" part of my mission to introduce more lush, foresty plants around the place I decided to try out a relatively new variety of plant, plectranthus "Mona Lavender." I'd never seen them before but they were stunning - green leaves with purple-black undersides and flowers that look like lavender. I had one in mind for this spot, where that purplish scraggly hebe bush is next to the garage door. I never liked that hebe, it doesn't get enough sun so it's leggy and never flowers. It's only good for catching the door when it opens too far. plectranthrus had a hard time of it before it was properly planted out. First a branch got snapped off overnight, I'm guessing one of the cats got to it. Then I started faffing about finding a good-sized rock or paver to put in the ground to keep the door from swinging into the plectranthus. But of course, before said rock was in place I went to get something from the garage without closing the door and it - as usual - sung open and into the newly-planted plectranthus, snapping off another branch. So it's a bit smaller than when I first bought it, but it should be fine. I'm told that once it settles in it should take off quickly and fill the space out nicely. The flowers will just be a nice bonus! Look at that foliage! The green really isn't as yellow as it looks in the photo but the purple-black really is that dark. It looks great near those little begonias. They're the same ones I planted last year but they survived the winter so I'm leaving them be.

a third big project other two projects on my list weren't big enough, yes I'm aiming for a third.  This is the east side bed, an ugly little strip next to the water heater and clothes line.  All it's got going for it are some little hebe, one of which is 3/4 dead.  I want to grow a small spreading tree and some lush, foresty perennials.  I started by digging out some of the pebbles to see if I could widen the bed.  Unfortunately that's not going to happen anytime soon.  I wanted to move the step-stones closer to the house, but it appears that each one is on a thick bed of concrete.  So the pebbles are going back on.

Despite that annoying setback, after about a week of consideration I decided to start by pulling out the dead hebe and replacing it with a tree.  I really wanted another Japanese maple, but I've seen how badly they get burned in a hot summer.  So I decided on a crepe myrtle, variety "Sioux" (yes, my sister, your favourite plant!).  It's just little now, but should grow a few metres high and wide, but I should be able to keep the size under control.  The flowers are pink and the leaves turn bright orange in autumn.  It started out like this...
...but I wanted to trim back some of the lower branches.  I'd rather it be a tall, narrow tree than a multi-stemmed shrub.
Not sure if I should cut off that other low branch or not. east bed looks like this now - not very different yet!  It'll get there someday.  I'm picturing at least one more tall narrow shrub or something between the crepe myrtle and the corner (that's the bird bath corner).  Eventually I'd like it to be underplanted with foresty things like hellebore, clivia, anemone, brunnera "jack frost" or some more tall salvias.  I also want to get some dense groundcovers like native violets and ajuga purpurea under there so the blackbirds stop kicking the mulch onto the pebbles.

First steps!

Monday, 1 November 2010

a new pet*

*Not actually a pet.  But it's little and cute enough to be!
After seeing all those beautiful bonsai in Canberra, I've been thinking about wanting a bonsai. But they're very picky to take care of and need to be outside, so I decided to give it a miss.  But then I saw this adorable little plant in a local florist shop.  He was there for over a month, all alone, with no-one to love him.  He kept looking at me with those adorable puppydog eyes, and finally I gave in.

He's not a real bonsai.  He can stay inside and you have to keep water in the dish all the time.  I just hope I can keep him happy! 

i'm siiiiinging in the rain...

OK not necessarily singing, but man, the rain was nuts this weekend.  We got almost 85mm across two days, I think that's our average rainfall for the whole month but in one weekend.  We've had the wettest October in something like 25 years.  Excellent! poor wet crow wasn't looking too happy though.  They don't usually come into my garden but this guy was just outside the back door.  I had a look to see what he was doing so close to the house, and he was pulling something long and white out of the crown of the evergreens along the back.  No idea what it was, but he ate it, found a second one, and at that one too.

Speaking of birdies, I should mention that Moms and Pops the blackbirds didn't end up nesting in the yard this year.  After seeing Moms on the nest for a day or two, they were gone.  They must not have gone far, though, because I now see them around with a few grown babies flapping about.  The cats haven't gotten near them this year, thankfully.