Saturday, 24 September 2011

losing flowers, gaining flowers

My new wildcat orchid is having a hard time of it.  For some reason many of the flower buds shriveled up and of the two buds that were fattening up, one fell off!  I might only have one blossom this year.  I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong, since my space race orchid never had this problem. 

In the meantime, my space race colmanara is going great guns.  I saw a little bud today and wondered if it was another bulb or if it was a flower spike.  See it there at the base of the bulb?
Then I looked at another side and noticed the long flower spike!  It's already several centimeters long!
Look at him go!  Last year he had two spikes, I reckon I'll get at least three this year.  It'll be another month or so before they blossom but I might bring him inside soon so he's out of the wind.

Update: I brought Space Race inside and I'm glad I did - there are at least two more flower spikes forming!  There's also another one or two pseudobulbs coming in, I didn't think they grew both at the same time.

Friday, 23 September 2011

jeepers, creepers

I thought I should report on the front path to our house.  It's not a very inspiring part of the garden, more of a chore to take care of.  It's involved lots of destruction, cutting down plum trees and ornamental plums.  They were pretty, but they constantly just into the narrow path and they were so shaded by the birches they'd go mildewy by the autumn.  So now this is all that's left - three lovely birch trees with camellias at one end and my kaffir lime at the other.
But I'm slowly starting to integrate some plants into the bed.  One annoyance is that blackbirds love kicking the barkdust into the path so I'm planting some creepers to keep the bark in place.  The first thing I planted was some cuttings of Kenilworth ivy.  Remember these?  Back in January they were little threads I'd pinched from a crack in the sidewalk.  Now there are three or four lush clumps already forming little purple flowers (you can't really see them in this photo).
But I also decided to mix it up with some native violets.  They're shade-lovers and look remarkably similar to Kenilworth ivy; if you look closely the leaves are shaped slightly differently.  I had to buy these but split the plant into two before planting it.
In addition to some creepers, I'm slowly planting some taller shade-lovers along the fence.  I've planted some cuttings of plectranthus but so far one died and two aren't thriving very well, we'll see how they go.  But I also bought a little white calla lily.  It's flowering for the first time now.  It's tiny now but one day will be a big, lush clump!
Hopefully one day this walk will be a lush, beautiful welcome walk to our house.

brunnera cuttings

I love my pretty little Brunnera "Jack Frost" and decided I'd try to see if I could get it to root from cuttings. Some plants, like rosemary, mint, salvias and plectranthus, will easily grow from cuttings; you just cut a section of stem, pick off the lower leaves, and roots grow from where the leaves used to be. But I couldn't tell from my internet research whether brunnera was a plant like that. But there's no harm in trying!

So I cut this flowering stalk from my brunnera. I cut off all the flowers and cut the stem into four pieces. I tried to give each stem a section where I picked off the leaves to see if roots would grow where the leaves used to be.
Then I dipped each cutting in root-hormone powder that's meant to encourage it to grow roots. I put them in a Ziploc bag with moist potting mix and sealed it closed to keep it from drying out. Now I just wait and hope! So far they haven't shriveled up or molded.

changing of the (veggie) guard

It's the time of year when the winter veg are finishing off and it's time to make room for the summer shift.  My tomato seedlings are busing at the seams!  I've given away two already but the remaining black cherry are outgrowing their pots.  The basil sprouts are powering along quickly too.
The only problem is that their tub is occupied by beets!  At the front and in the smaller pot is silverbeet (developed for its leaves), behind that are beetroots, and behind that is the last of the kale.
I keep hoping the beetroot plumps up a bit.  I want to eat them as baby beetroot but they're still too small even for that, as you can see here.  I thinned out the smallest seedlings as I probably should have done weeks ago, and I'm hoping the remaining beetroots plump up in the next week so I can plant the tomatoes.
But in the meantime I picked some of the silverbeet to try for the first time ... and learned I don't really like silverbeet.  I like spinach and I don't mind kale and other brassicas, but silverbeet has an unpleasant sort of bitter flavour to me.  It's meant to be such an easy-to-grow garden staple but I won't be growing it again.
As you can see in that photo I'm often harvesting my herbs all year round.  My front herb bed, where I used to grow geraniums, now has chives, sage, thyme and my huge rosemary bush.  The smaller herbs are finally starting to fill out after a quiet winter.  They're all hardy sun-lovers so they should appreciate the hot spot much more than the geraniums did!
My snowpeas are finishing off their winter shift too.  One of them got some strange and sudden die-off for a while before sprouting a bit more new growth, but as you can see it's on its last legs.  I'll have to start thinking about what to grow in these two big pots this year.  Last year it was a capsicum and a zucchini, which didn't work out too well.  I'm thinking this year of trying green beans for the first time, we eat a lot of green beans.
It is well and truly spring!  Such an exciting time, preparing for the summer garden.

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

some plants for the porch

We haven't made much progress since getting the pergola put in; we finally chose an outdoor setting but it won't arrive for another fortnight.  But I've been thinking a lot about what plants to put in around the porch.

These beds used to be overflowing with the dwarf cumquats.  If my husband had his way they'd be pebbles or astroturf so we can walk on them without worrying.  I managed to convince him to try dichondra, a little low-growing native creeper.  It'll stay green all year round, unlike grass, and you can still walk on it.  They're just little tufts now but hopefully they'll spread quickly.  Now if I could just keep the blackbirds from making a mess of the new mulch...
I'm also taking some more cuttings of plecthranthus Mona lavender.  It's such a tough, gorgeous little plant I'll probably put a few in.  It's also nice to get your plants for free!
This is what Mama Lavender is looking like, by the way.  Still pretty compact and bushy although I think she might outgrow her spot this summer, considering how much she grew last year.  She's a pretty self-limiting plant though - the branches are brittle so if they grow into the path they get snapped off pretty easily.  Oh and how about those clivias?  This is their third year blooming and they've thrown out two pups (although the babies are still too small to bloom).
I'm also thinking of putting a few brunnera Jack Frost next to the porch too.  I've got this one flowering its head off in the western garden bed (the flowers are far more blue than the camera captured), it just thrives in dry shade and even when it's not in flower the leaves are so beautiful.  I'm not sure if these guys grow from cuttings but I might give it a try.
My goldfish are also having a bit of a transition period.  I figured out that their pot was leaking from a tiny crack on one side, so I had to drain it, seal the crack as best I could, then buy some pond sealer.  This took about a week to get organised, plus the sealant takes a week to dry.  The goldfish have been patient in their hotel room (aka a bucket) but I'm pretty sure they're looking forward to returning to their home!  It's getting pretty green in that bucket...
I'll keep you updated as the porch progresses!

mystery "snowflake" solved

So in my last post I was wondering what was going on with my snowflakes: one of them was looking a bit different.  Now I know why - it's not a snowflake of any sort.  It's an allium, a member of the onion family.  And although it's rather cute, its also a very rampant weed in Australia.  Now that I know what to look for, I see them a lot, mostly on road sides and rail embankments but also in people's gardens.
So I enjoyed the look of the pretty flowers one last time before pulling the whole plant out and throwing it in the bin!  Sorry little allium.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

introducing colmanara wildcat Bobcat

I just adored my colmanara space race Topaz Gold orchid that I bought at the Victorian Orchid Show last year.  As a reminder, this is what he looked like in late October last year.  He even put out two flower spikes, you can see the second one in this photo.
As I've mentioned he's still growing strongly, putting out lots of new pseudobulbs.  But he hasn't put out any flower spikes yet, and last week the orchid show was back.  So I decided to pay it a visit and get another colmanara hybrid since I was so happy with this one.  It was so great to speak to the grower again (Woolf Orchid Culture in Queensland, which I'm happy to promote).  I found out the reason my Topaz Gold was getting brown leaf tips was because I'm using normal tap water which builds up salts in their potting mix.  So far that's the only fussy thing I've found with these hybrids; I'll try leaving water in a bucket and dunking them in to water them weekly and see if that helps.

But in the meantime, here's my new addition to the colmanara hybrid clan.  Introducing colmanara wildcat Bobcat!
If she's anything like Topaz Gold, her spike won't fully open until October.  When it does the flowers will be larger than Space Race and almost entirely dark blood-red with yellow edging.  Hopefully by then my Space Race will put out some flower spikes too, and I'll have orchids in bloom most of the summer!

spring flowers

I've got to show off my daffodils. They're all open now, and only the first one open got nibbled. The rest are just perfect and so stunning. I adore them, I'm so glad I ordered them.
I just hope they like their home. At the moment there are four spots with two bulbs each, so as you can see they're just small little tufts. If they're happy there, the bulbs will slowly multiply and one day they'll form thick clumps every spring! I just worried there's not enough sunlight to keep them happy.
Here's a slight bulb mystery. My snowflakes are about finished with blooming but suddenly one of them is putting out these strange large clumps. The picture isn't great but instead of a small clump of 3 or 4 it's a big clump. They also lack the little green spots on the tips of the petals. And the petals flick outward instead of sleek (like this). Even the leaves look a bit thicker and lighter. Is it an odd seedling perhaps? Or a mystery bulb that's only flowered for the first time this year? I'll have to investigate.
There's no mystery about these beauties. I've gone for some classic primroses in the flowerpots around the front door. How can you not love their cheery brightness?
Gotta love spring flowers!

trimming the triffid fig

Every winter I give the fig tree a good hard prune to keep it a good, productive size.  It's an old tree so it grows like crazy.  But this year, I decided it was time for something more drastic.
The thick branch on the left of the photo hangs so far over the lawn that the grass in that corner is in deep shade all summer long and dies.  I bought some shade-tolerant grass seed for that corner and it's going ok but it was time for some extreme pruning.
After trimming off the smaller branches I got some help from my husband to cut off a good chunk of the thick branch.  It's so big and heavy I don't think I can put it in the council bin, I'll probably chop it up for firewood.  So now the tree is looking a bit more trim.
I'm not worried about fruit, if anything it's more productive if you keep the size under control.  And this way we've claimed back more of the lawn for human use this summer!

clearing the garden, clearing the mind

There's something therapeutic about clearing out a particularly weedy spot, just as it can feel therapeutic to clean the house.  I like the feeling of order afterward.  Remember this?
Well not long after taking that photo I lost my patience and went through like a crazy person.
Now when I walk down this path instead of feeling annoyed and stressed, I feel much more relaxed.  Not that I'll ever enjoy pulling weeds, just as I'll never really enjoy cleaning the house.  But it feels good to see a job finished.

tomatoes get an upgrade

My tomato sprouts are really coming along. Two of the Honey of Mexico are still small since they got planted late but the rest were really outgrowing their punnet. So this weekend they all got moved into some larger digs. I also put in two punnets of basil. One of the basil punnets and some of the tomatoes are going to a friend this year, it's lovely knowing I can help her establish her own brand new veggie garden.
They're growing so quickly, my only problem is that the tub where they'll be planted is currently occupied by some thriving kale and my beetroots that aren't nearly ready to harvest! Slow down tomatoes, slow down!

pergola has landed!

The patio is really coming along now!  Remember it used to look like this:
Well this week the pergola went in!
Doesn't look like much at the moment since it's so empty.  But this is just the blank canvas.  Next we'll add some outdoor lighting so we can enjoy it at night.  Next we're getting some new outdoor furniture - some kind of lounge suit with a couch and chairs.  Somewhere during all of that I'll be putting in some new plants around it.  And all of that to get ready before summer!  Better get cracking!