Sunday, July 31, 2011

Lime time

Today it's glorious outside, it might even be warmer outside than in the house. I can even venture outside barefoot. It's the kind of day where we've opened every window and door to let the sunshine in. It really feels a lot like Spring already. An early Spring? That would be nice, a good way to balance out the early Winter! SP and I made a bit of a tour of MIL's garden, to see what may be seen out there on this radiant July day.

First up, I looked to see how all my propagation of four weeks ago is going. The raspberries I dug up don't look like much from a distance, in fact you could be forgiven for thinking they'd died, but up close their little green noses are poking out of the stems and soil. Yesterday I dug up half a dozen extras, hoping for a raspberry filled Summer;

The white Japanese windflowers are also doing well, as are most of the correas;

But the jury's still out on the penstemons. They're all looking a bit limp and wan;

We cut a whole heap of coriander, and I mean a heap! I chopped it all down and have frozen it in water to use at our leisure. There's still three times this again in the garden;

We found a splash of unexpected brilliance in the red leaves of a rhubarb;

And a sweet surprise from a ground cover pelegonium - or geranium - which has been hiding in the violets and soursobs, I didn't even know she was there until she showed her blushing face;

And lastly we looked at the lemons and limes.

SP helped me collect some of the 'balls,'

So expensive in the shops, and so abundant in MIL's garden! If there were ever fruit trees that paid for themselves in greens and golds, then citrus are it in our Mediterranean climate.

I hope you're all enjoying your Sundays. xx

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Roofing beams!

Just a quickie tonight, to say 'Look, look! We might have a roof over our heads in a week!'

Here's Chef-D helping put up the LVLs, or 'the long bits that the short bits go in between' (I am so clued in with this building bizzo, oh yes.) His hand's aren't really that red. Those are gloves.

And I just had to show you this funky photo taken by my boy at twilight with it's colours: Indigo and gold.

Next week: roofing iron!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Winter wednesday #9

Winter Wednesday #9 comes to you from the beach (last week).

Just because there's something a bit special about the beach during Winter. It's cold, blowy, you don't dare go in the water, and you have the place almost to yourself as you explore and collect shells, stones and seaweed beads.

[Forecast of 20 degrees Celsius tomorrow, WOOHOOOOO!]

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Happiness is a nursery voucher

Ah, my family know me well! What better gift for this junior gardener than a garden nursery voucher? The good thing about vouchers is that they tend to make me buy things I wouldn't normally be able to justify. As I'm trying to make my garden mostly edibles, I don't get very many purely ornamental plants because I think I should be spending money on the edible stuff first, especially since I don't generally have a lot of money to spend (it's worth noting that even though I'd like some new shoes and clothes, I'm buying plants instead!)

Anyway, the other day I got to spend a very pleasant 40 minutes wandering around the nursery choosing some plants. I probably could have spent longer there, except SP was getting very bored and threw her sock away in protest (and I couldn't find it either, yet another small sock lost into the ether.)

On this visit, I bought a white creeping thyme, tansy (a new one for me, I've never grown it before), chamomile, delphiniums and the piece de resistance: a white hellebore (Helleborus niger). I love hellebores. They're a kind of unassuming plant, the flowers tend to tuck their faces down towards the ground as though they're a little shy. They're supposed to be able to cope with a lot of shade, so fingers crossed it does because I've planted it in my 'difficult' area, the one behind the new rose bed on in the front garden.

I can never leave well enough alone though, and went to another nursery the next day (no voucher this time, just a credit card!) and bought half a dozen other new plants: a few more native grasses, and a white azalea - another plant I've never grown before and I'm hoping will be happy in the south shady patch.

SP just had to check that I had bought the right plants.

I just love the way that Poa australis holds it's leaves in a spiral shape when viewed from above, although I think this is more obvious in real life than in my photo...

Here's where most of those new plants went... in my new rose bed! Yes, I've finished moving the Icebergs. I should have taken a picture after I'd put in the other small new plants as well, but of course, I forgot. The part at the back is the difficult shady/damp spot.

And last but not least, a sign I must be doing something right. An earthworm. The fattest earthworm I have ever seen. That is a full sized spade it's oozing over!

To be honest, I don't actually like worms very much. They give me the creeps, even though I know they're good critters (deep inside, under all that shiny, slippery blobbyness...eugh). But so long as I don't actually have to touch it then it's ok. When I first started putting plants in under the roses I didn't find any worms at all. The previous house owners had brought in 'garden loam' and then plonked in the roses and that was that. The soil was, well, hard to explain because it wasn't really anything. Very little organic matter, and some of it even smelled a little bad and might have been anaerobic. Every plant I've put in has gone in with a 'starter' of compost, manure, blood and bone and Seasol, and slowly but surely it's paying off. Most of my plants are happy and healthy and the worms are there, migrating from Heaven knows where, busily burrowing away and doing their earth-moving thing. So I'm happy to see even the fattest worm in Adelaide, even if he-she did send a cold finger down my spine.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sad and sorry fellow

SP has this book, This Little Nose, by Jan Ormerod. She's a bit obsessed with it. It's about a baby with a cold, and I could practically read out the whole thing from memory because I've had to read it to her approximately 3107 times over the last couple of months: this little nose is a very little nose... who's a poor, little, grumpy person? Who's a nosey, furry fellow? Anyway, I've developed this odd thing now where every time I look at the plant below, I mix up Ormerod's words in my head: Who's a sad and sorry fellow?

I can hear you now, "um, what is that? Some sort of cactus?"

Well, yes it is, it's a Dragonfruit cactus, or Pitaya (Hylocereus undatus). Dragonfruits are quite nice. We eat them all the time when we are travelling and I think they taste a little like a bland kiwifruit. We don't eat them often at home because they are too expensive to buy regularly.

I bought this plant online. I figured if I even got just a couple of fruit off it it would have paid for itself. I had visions of piles of lurid pink fruits, even though I knew our climate down here in SA is not the greatest for this plant. It's a tropical species, so I thought it would be OK during summer and would just suffer a little in winter.

So my plant arrived. It looked fantastic! And then I left it outside for a few weeks. In Adelaide. In June. Turns out dragonfruit don't like the cold at all.

One stem promptly rotted right off.

Another couple have developed these rusty spots. I won't even show you close ups of the browned off, dried out stems.

Oops. I'm sorry, poor little plant! I brought it inside a week ago and it's sitting by the sink in the warm and dry, and I'm happy to say that at least it doesn't look any worse now. Serves me right for buying plants I know aren't suitable. I've done a bit of reading about dragonfruit since then too. I need to plant it in a smallish pot with potting mix and have some sort of climbing support for it (that part I already knew, having seen them growing in Vietnam), but I've also learnt that the plant needs to be at least 10 pounds before it will fruit, and that some need to be cross-pollinated, at midnight like some kind of vampire plant, by bats/moths/hand. Eep! The flowers are really lovely though. I wonder if I need to buy him a friend? Maybe I should get a second one right away to save time if I find out that this one will not self-pollinate? But then I might not kill one plant, but two! Decisions, decisions.

[A bit off topic, but have you noticed how often I refer to my plants as male? Even though they're for fruit so must be female or at least bisexual? Just one of my oddities!]

Winter rainbows

Isn't this glorious? Sunny rainbow chard :) When I planted it as seedlings I noticed that even the tiny roots of each plant were brightly coloured.

Red, pink, orange, yellow... Brilliant in the stems and extends right through to the leaf veins. Pinks and reds have darker burgundy leaves, and yellows and oranges have bright green leaves.

I chopped it up with the first of the spring onions out of my vegetable garden. The 'red legs' spring onions have a pink blush on the outer layers.

I made a frittata with it all. I took photos, but deemed them far too ugly to share. Frittata is not such a sexy looking dish! But the rainbow chard is certainly very photogenic. You never see it for sale in green grocers, I wonder why that is? I bet people would buy it, attracted like magpies to the artist's colours.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Not quite snow

Yesterday morning it was very, very cold. Now, we do get light frosts up here in the hills at MIL's house during Winter fairly frequently, but because I'm not an early-bird (at all) I hardly ever get to see it. But yesterday there was still frost all over the ground at 10am, ample time for me to get dressed, have my coffee etc, then go for a wander out in the garden with my camera.

This first shot was taken out of the window by D, because he didn't want to go outside!

Apparently I am made of sturdier stuff and I went out and got closer...

...and closer still. It looks a little like ash after a fire, I think.

We could only hope the frost might knock off the soursobs. Ha!

But the ferns and grasses with their lacey garlends are so beautiful;

and look how the frost covers the raspberry leaves, but not over it's veins. I wonder why that is?

Something a bit special and rare for me, who would think that Winter could be so lovely?

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

White Winter Wednesday (#8)

Less showy than it's purple and mauve cousins, white Hardenbergia violacea "Alba" still managed to get ahead and flower before the others in my garden. Very pretty with it's subtle green flecks, almost bridal, a welcome addition to the Winter garden.

Happy Winter Wednesday, all!

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Fruity census

I wanted to finish moving the roses today, but first D and I were under instructions to go and look at bathroom wares to try to pin down what we would like. This is important, we're told, so that the plumber actually knows what to do when they get to work on our house. So after dropping SP off to spend the day with her great-grandmother, auntie, and cousin, D and I spent the entire day driving around Adelaide looking at various bathroom and plumbing supply showrooms and shops. By the end of today we found ourselves completely brain-frizzled and blinded by too many choices in chrome. We thought we had a pretty good idea of what we wanted, but we've ended up more confused than ever. I don't think I can look at another tap for a few days or I'll feel slightly ill and in desperate need of a coffee (or a scotch).

But while we were driving around in the car I entertained myself by making a little mental list of the (perennial) fruit plants in our garden so far. It turns out D has been bragging about our garden to people at work! People are apparently impressed, but I wonder if they realise that the biggest of our fruit trees are only three feet tall, and a number of them are as small at eight inches? We are going to be waiting some years for a truly bumper fruit crop, but this is why I planted so many fruit plants straight away: to minimise the waiting.

So, here it is, the Fruit Census so far:
  1. Persimmons (1 x Nightingale, 1 x Fuyu) = 2
  2. Quince (1 x pineapple) = 1
  3. Plums (1 x Satuma, 1 x Damson, 1 x Wickson, 1 x Santa Rosa) = 4
  4. Figs (2 x White Adriatic, 1 x Brown Turkey, 1 x Black Genoa, 1 x Diggers' 'Gambler's Choice' ie Unknown!) = 5
  5. Pomegranate (1 x Wonderful) = 1
  6. Guava-type fruits (1 x Chilean guava, 1 x Fejoia) = 2
  7. Passion fruit (1 x banana) = 1
  8. Kiwifruit (1 x Hayward) = 1
  9. Apricot (1 x Moorpark) = 1
  10. Mulberry (1 x black) = 1
  11. Limes (1 x Tahitian, 1 x Kaffir) = 2
  12. Lemon (1 x Meyer[?]) = 1
  13. Currants (1 x black, 1 x white, 1 x red) = 3
  14. Blueberries (3 plants of which I can't remember the variety) = 3
  15. Dragonfruit (1 x pearl which I shouldn't count because I've almost killed it already) = 1
  16. Natives (Lilly Pilly, native raspberries and Muntries) = 5
This makes 35 perennial fruit plants in total so far; not too shabby! D and I lay in bed last night while SP was sleeping, talking about our garden (which is how I knew he'd been talking about it at work, and apparently even promoting the cause of heirloom vegetables!), and I got all warm and fuzzy and buzzy as I thought about it. I am so looking forward to watching my dozens of babies grow over the years ahead and eating fruit from them, it's really very exciting!

So what's next on the hit list? Another female kiwifruit or two, a normal passion fruit, sweet apple berry (Billardiera cymosa), maybe a mandarin or cumquat but I'd prefer a calamansi (or calamondin? Some people on the interweb think they are the same thing, and some disagree, which just leaves me confused), and while I'm thinking about citrus these are pretty cool: Released by the CSIRO in 2009, or thereabouts, these new Australian native lime cultivars look pretty fun and funky.

Dreaming, dreaming... you can never have too many fruit plants. I wonder if I will say the same thing when we are completely overrun in 20 years?

How many fruit plants do you have in your garden? Do you have room for one or two more?

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Weekend house and garden round-up

Lots 'n' lots going on out there at our chilly hill's cottage over the last few days:

The aloes we'd pulled up months and months ago were just slobbing it in our yard, getting in the way. I'd been muttering about putting them up on Ebay or Gumtree for sale, before realising that I really wasn't going to be bothered and who was going to pay for a bunch of daggy old aloes anyway? So we put them in a box out by the gate, and within a day they were gone, so now I have a clear conscience about getting rid of them and hopefully someone else will get a nice little succulent feature in their yard.

I got around to potting up my little fig trees and pomegranate. I've not yet decided where they're going to go exactly, or even if they'll stay in pots or go in the garden, but at least they have homes for now. They don't look like much at the moment, these wee plants, but give them a few years and watch them grow. A bundle of green weeds makes a nice green mulchy blanket for baby plants, don't you think?

The broccolini had flowered after the heads became too aphid infested for me to consider eating and I've let it all go for ages because it's so pretty and fluffy. I've since cut back three out of four plants to see if they'll have another round of edible heads, but if they do this time I'll be watching and will try out some of the anti-aphid methods I've been reading about. I left broccolini #4 with it's flowers to bring insects - hopefully beneficial ones - into the garden.

I've started moving the roses. This shot shows roughly where I intend them to go in the front garden leading up to the front porch (decorated with renovation mess). I've marked out their new homes with piles of compost and manure. The first five roses were moved this afternoon before it got too cold to continue. The green fuzz over the soil is a green manure crop I sowed recently - very late - although I'm not sure it will get a chance to do much work before I dig it up again to put more little plants in (I get cheaper plants at my new job, WOOHOO!)

Look, how cute is this girl? She's a blueberry, and she's covered in flower buds even though she's only about 6 inches high!

And last but certainly not least... more walls! Very exciting, as you can see by SP's face :P


Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Front garden

OK, at last I have managed to get a picture up of the rough draft of the front garden design! (Click to enlarge.) Now, it's a photo of a hand-drawn piece, so the quality is not that crash-hot, and I have already fiddled with a few things so it's not correct in any case, but you'll get the idea... I hope! I'm not really a garden designer of course, but I think it looks OK on paper (that's a trap, probably, just because it works on paper doesn't mean it will work in real life!) It shows the trees as I hope they'll look in five or more years from now, and it doesn't show every single plant that will be in there, but only the more structural elements.

Basically it goes:
1. Persimmons
2. Roses (and all other swirly blue bits too)
3. Existing street trees, Eucalypts, from WA I suspect.
4. Native groundcovers and small plants
5. Upcycled concrete paver path
6. Lavender hedge (Hidcote)
7. Lomandra 'hedges'
8. Dodonea small trees/large shrubs
9. Ornamental plum.

The top right section by the house is shaded day in, day out, year round, and is a bit soggy as well. I'm not really sure what to do with that part just yet, but I'm sure to come up with something over the years. I have photos of my nature strip takeover here, and you can see a few dodgy photos of the front-yard-work-in-progress over here. I've been trying to take better ones, but it's surprisingly hard to photograph all in one. I will persist :)

Winter Wednesday #7

This winter wednesday I am happy for...

Walls! Specifically, the wall of our future laundry, which is the first wall to go up in our extension. I even helped push it up there! And then stood there holding it halfway up all by myself (plus a prop or two) while FIL rushed around to get a ladder because he'd forgotten to move that black protective plastic hanging from the roof out of the way! Nervous much? Nerves of steel, I have!

SP and I went for a bit of a drive today, and as we passed up and over the hills I had time to reflect that I actually live in quite a nice city (Australians, don't laugh! Adelaide IS nice). Surely there are not that many places in the world where we have weather as beautiful as this in the middle of Winter? OK, sure, last monday it hailed so much it banked up like snow, but in a couple of hours it had all melted, and now, a week later, the sun was out and it was hardly even muddy in our building-site-backyard. So, Adelaide, another thing to be grateful for.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

More on strawbs

On Friday I promised I'd do a gardening post next, but I had my wires crossed and needed to do the second-hand love post first, then the gardening one, so you get two in one day today :)

About a week ago, or a little more maybe, I got the next round of bare-rooted strawberries in the post. This time I'd bought Cambridge Rivals and Aromas.

And in true Katie-style, and direct contradiction of my pledge to label things properly, when I unwrapped them I happily snipped the labels away from the plastic, cut away the plastic wrapping, popped my new plants in glasses of water, and then realised I hadn't paid any attention to which label went with which bundle so I didn't know which was which. Thanks to a helpful person on the Diggers' FB page I think the Aromas were the ones with more leaf, but I can't be sure.

I went off and spent my birthday money on a couple of strawberry pots (which are surprisingly hard to find!) and some terracotta dishes. I would have liked glazed pots, but there was nothing in either shape to be had. I splashed out on premium potting mix too.
I potted them up, and couldn't help thinking, as I laid out their roots, that they looked just like a group of ladies settling down to afternoon tea with their skirts spread neatly around them.

Then I took a picture as a record, and admired how lovely and tall my Aquadulce broad beans are getting in the background, and how lush the nasturtium is (on the right) and then I realised how crooked those pots are!

And then, just for fun, I took a picture of the whole potty shambles along that garden bed there :) Man, I can hardly wait to have my backyard back so I can do things properly.

Just FYI, in that first polystyrene container is 20 pots with freshly sown Anigozanthus seed. The first batch which was sown in Summer had about a 5% germination rate, and then they were all frizzled off by the heat; I'm seeing if I have more success with them in Winter. Also in this pot is half a dozen experimental Goodenia amplexans cuttings. They have no rooting hormone on them and varying amounts of stem/leaf. Basically I gave my Goodenia bush out the front a bit of a haircut and then stuck the trimmings in pots to see what will happen. (Top left fluffy plant: a Rodanthe paper daisy I couldn't resist at the garden centre the other day.)

Speaking of things out the front, here is a progress shot with my back to the house looking out to the road on the Western side of the garden. Bottom left twig is the Fuyu persimmon, top left barely visible twig is the Nightingale persimmon, along the fence is the lavender hedge, and along the wall is the latest Lomandra border which I have creeping around the corner to intersect with the lavender. Also visible are the concrete upcycled pavers I'm hoping to start setting in soon, and a pile of crap I need to get rid of.

This week I will also take a picture of the rough draft of my front garden plan for you. I've only been meaning to do it for two or three months!