Wednesday, 27 April 2011

anemones at last

I decided a while back that one of my planned additions to the garden were white anemones (also called Japanese windflowers).  They're just so graceful and charming in the autumn garden after the heat of the summer has passed.  But I didn't realise just how hard that would be to achieve! 

Garden shops tend to sell plants like this when they're in flower so they're more appealing.  So as I saw the anemones flowering in my neighbours' gardens I starting asking about anemones in my local garden shop.  It took them a few weeks before they got them in ... and they were pink.  I've got nothing against pink flowers in general but to me, pink anemones just don't have the magic of the simple, clean white ones.  So I looked around at other garden shops.  Pink.  I checked back at the local.  Still pink.  Bunnings?  Pink.  I had a chat at my local and found out that they'd called every one of their suppliers, and only one had white anemones and they weren't yet big enough to sell!

So with atypical patience I asked them to put down my name and waited for my anemones to grow in some distant nursery somewhere.  Every weekend for about a month I'd stop by, just to check if they were in yet.  At last, just before Easter I got a message on my phone that started with "now don't fall out of your chair, but..."

At last they'd arrived!  As soon as I could I stopped by and sure enough, there were the little baby anemones.  And also some big, beautiful two-year-olds covered with perfect white flowers.  Now usually I'm patient enough to buy the small plant and wait a year for flowers, but not this time.  I'd waited long enough.  They weren't cheap, but they were mine!

Here's the "before" picture of where they went, in the back western bed.
And here's the after - one on each side of the vitex bed (it's hard to see the one farther from the camera).  I took out a few more tufts of the liriope; it's a tough little plant and a good contrast but boring and worth sacrificing for these beauties.  Next year they'll grow even higher, their flower heads dancing in the breeze.
I'm really starting to be happy with this corner of the garden.  The vitex is growing incredibly quickly and the hydrangeas are powering along slowly but steadily.  The Japanese maple is doing so much better in its new home and the brunnera "jack frost" (just to the side of the nearer anemone) is happy too.  I'm amazed at how big the elephant ear colocasia has grown in that back corner, so it's obvious that the two small ones at the corner of the square bed are going to have to move soon.  And I've let some wild violets take seed behind the vitex to give the dichondra "silver falls" some competition.  The marigolds and ageratum will die down over the winter but they're still going strong for now.

Now I couldn't just let you go with only that distant view of the anemones, could I?  I've been playing with my new smartphone recently and having a ball with a camera program I downloaded that lets you set all kinds of old-fashioned filters on your photos.  So here's a whimsical photo of the anemones to finish on.  I hope it captures for you the beauty that attracted me to these simple, pure, white anemones.

Saturday, 9 April 2011

winter veg

Growing vegetables in winter is, in many ways, so much more rewarding than in summer.  No scorching heat or humid mold, just slow-growing, rewarding greens.  But in the autumn, you still have to fight the dreaded cabbage white butterfly, whose babies would just love to feast on your seedlings.

This year I'm trying something new.  I've planted out my Tuscan kale seedling into the big tub and made a teepee of double-layered bird netting.  It looks messy, but it should be thick enough to keep off the butterflies (but light enough to let in the sun).  So far, so good!  By the time it outgrows this setup it should be cold enough that the butterflies have passed.
I've also got a few Chinese broccoli (gai lan) started, I just love them in stir-fries but they're not always in the shops.  I'll try successive-planting, and you need at least two or three plants per harvest for a proper portion.

I'm also planning on growing a few snowpeas this year.  I've learned a lot about growing them.  Thing one - you need a BIG pot!  It's not worth bothering if you're using small pots.  It's also not worth growing "climbing" peas in pots, they need heaps of room to spread out.  But even bush-type peas like a good support to help them grow.  You also need to know that rats will eat pea seeds and possums will eat young sprouts

So with all that in mind, I've planted a good bush variety (Oregon spring) in my largest pots with my pyramid frames.  I've also planted two bushes.  So I'm expecting a good crop this year.
I'll probably also try a few out the back where the melons usually grow, but I've not usually had luck back there between the possums and mildew.  Otherwise, that's about it this winter except maybe for some salad greens.  I've given up on the broccoli; they take too much space, time, and fertilizer for only a few heads.

I am, however, very impressed with my firecracker chillies, they're still going like crazy and I've had to give tons away.  So I've decided to try to "over winter" it - it'll die off quite a lot but with some luck and care, it'll recover in the spring and be well advanced for next summer.

new climbers

Over a year ago I planted creeping fig on the western fence to cover the ugly corrugated metal.  It got to the point where the climber looked like this.
I was getting frustrated at how slowly they were climbing upward and how much they were forming little clumps on the ground.  But when I had a closer look I found out why.  Turns out the little grabby-pads on their leaves can't grab metal!  So they can't actually climb up the fence.  Gee.  Wish I'd known that 18 months ago.  What a waste of time and money!

So I did a bit of research and decided on Chilean jasmine, Mandevilla laxa.  It's a hardy, shade-loving vine with small white flowers that should form a nice dense cover.  So far they've shot up quite quickly, despite fighting off heaps of aphids.  I've strung some wire across the fence in a zig-zag to give them something to climb on.  They climb by twisting their stems around things, so I think I need to string up more wire if I want a thicker cover.
Let's hope by next summer there's a bit of a lush cover and some lovely white flowers!

beautiful mona, hydrangeas and bees

My plectranthus Mona lavender has really come into its own!  Just look at all of those flowers.
I've got a little bud vase inside and picked a few.  It made me realise something I hadn't noticed - the "face" of the flowers is beautifully patterned.  You just can't see those details from above.
My oakleaf hydrangeas are also looking lovely.  They put out a second flush of flowers mid-summer and they're starting to colour up beautifully.
I'm also realising this year the value in having autumn-flowering plants.  I've started to notice so many bees on my salvia, basil, gaura and the last of the lavender.  They probably appreciate this last feast before winter.

citrus' little helper

Recently the garden's been overrun by aphids, including on the new growth of my designer twig.  I found heaps of these little critters all over my tree and had a bit of a panic because I'd never seen them before.  They looked kind of like a ladybug only smaller and they had some strange white powder on them.
Thanks to my friends at OzGrow garden forum, I found out it's a yellow-shouldered ladybird, one of the many "good" ladybugs that chows down on aphids.  I've never seen so many ladybugs on one plant, and they sure did a good job - the aphids are gone!  Good thing I checked before I sprayed.

No more melons

Just reporting back that the melons just didn't ripen.  The vines were completely dead so I had to pick and chuck out the melons.  So disappointing.