Friday, 18 April 2014

The geometry of succulents

When I was a kid, I lived on a sheep farm - "Dolwendee" - which was riddled with both Prickly Pear and the dreaded Tiger Pear. It has taken me decades to come to terms with the difference between cacti and succulents, because of this.
However, the Rubicon has been crossed, and I am a fervent admirer of the shape, colour and diversity of succulents. I am aiming to expand the variety in my garden, especially those succulent with the tightly wound spirals that seem to abound on Pinterest

Thursday, 17 April 2014

Staggeringly healthy again!

Just over a year ago, when I moved from Paddington - on the south of the harbour - to Castlecrag _ on the north of the harbour - I had to detach this staghorn from the brickwall of the previous garage, creating havoc with its fronds, and with its structure. It was not in a good space for some months. However, it is a tough, resilient old biddy, and is now back to its roaring days.

According to Gardening Australia, "elkhorns have many plants growing together in communities and they have smaller, slender fronds. Whereas staghorns tend to grow as larger individuals". So, this is one of the numerous varieties of Staghorn Platycerium grande, which are endemic to the temperate forests of Eastern Australia, They are epiphyts which means that they although they grow on another plant, they don't get food, minerals or water from that host plant.

In Paddo, I used to toss in banana peels and all my veggie waste. The staghorn loved it. Here I use all that in my compost. I will try to save a couple of banana peels a week, as well as the tea-dregs from Kirsten's pot. We go through up to about 20 bananas each week.

I have spent time this evening surfing for quality elkhorns and staghorns. I have found that the place in Victoria from which I sourced my Hydrangeas, also stocks Stags and Elks. Hopefully, I will get a few more little plants for the back wall of the old garage over the off-season.

Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Going up!

I have been working on these trays of succulents for close to two months now. Hopefully, I will be able to make a start on my vertical gardens over the Easter-ANZAC Day break.

When is a staircase a fence?

Of late, Cooper has taken to sitting halfway up the stairs, just below the landing. He does this from when he is fed until the Lynn family retires to their own living quarters. Having a foot in both worlds. Monitoring comings-and-goings. Lord of all he surveys.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014

A garden short-back'n'sides

The benefit, and results, of this task today is probably more apparent to me tnan to anyone else. Tall, lanky garden growth is to be avoided. Neat'n'tidy is my motto. So, today Hamish and Paul came in with their massive ladder, and their array of long-handled cutters, and trimmed the entire back garden.
Much of the growth was designed to screen out neighbours. Not really for privacy, but rather some aimless sort of blank that insists that other houses should not even be seen! Once screening plants like Pistosterims get too high they start to lean away from the main stem of the plant and loose their screening effect anyway.

Not long after we moved in last year, I went around the entire rear garden and raised the skirt of all the plants (camelia, rhododendron, lily-pily, magnolia) to expose the understorey, which although deliberately planted, had been crowded out by the unrestrained growth. I will now go around and trim this skirt again, in the process removing the struggling Chinese Star Jasmine along the back fence which simply cannot get enough sun, and never will.

In the front, the massive red camelia was trimmed (for the first time in many years, is my guess), even though it had already set buds. The Lily-Pily on the end was removed to make way for the letter-box.

Getting ready for the winter hibernation.

Sunday, 13 April 2014

The much maligned sprout

When I was a kid Mum boiled the shit out of Brussels Sprouts, drained the water off, and served us the mushy leaves, We would have been better off, nutritionally, drinking the liquid that went down the drain. BUT, at least we were served Brussels Sprouts, probably because they were so hated that they were cheap.

I have planted three wee seedlings in a terracotta pot in the front garden. A big pot, mind you. The weather right now is so conducive to transplanting. Lots of lovely drizzle. I am dying to see if I can grow just one of these seedlings to maturity. Look at the mature plant, and its fruit. Isn't it bloomin' marvelous! As someone used to say.

I had no idea there were varieties of Brussels Sprouts, but there are. The label for mine says they are "Bressica oleracea var. gemmifera". According to this site, you can get Capitola, Cobus, Confidant, Cumulus, Franklin, Genius, Gustus, and Jade Cross. I will worry about that next season! Look at this wonderful recipe for BS roasted in mustard. Can't wait.

Saturday, 12 April 2014

What is a "cole" veggie?

A Cole vegetable is part of the "Brassica" genus, which is within the mustard family. These veggies are grown during the cooler months. However, Cole does not refer to 'cold', but is derived from the Latin for 'stem'. In our Gingerbread Garden we have Broccoli, Cauliflower, and, as from yesterday, Brussel Sprouts.
I planted two separate lots of seeds for both Broccoli, and Cauliflower. It is really hard with seeds this small, to control how many seeds jump from the creased paper into the soil. So yesterday, having cleared the snail infested beans, I thinned out the Broccoli and Cauliflower, and transplanted 20 of them into the high bed. I have not grown either of these before, so it will be fascinating to track their development. Needless to say, until the "flower" heads appear, I have no idea which is which.

Tomorrow, that most maligned of veggies, the Brussel Sprout.

Friday, 11 April 2014

In the Mind Garden - "On a Pirate Ship"

Alannah has just compleyed her first term of 'pre-school". She goes to a Kindergarten Union Pre-school two days a week Next year, when she is four, she will attend three days per week. The year she turns five - 2015 - she will go to 'big school", which will be Castle Cove Primary School. All that by way of introduction. She has finally realised that boys are okay to play with, too. In fact, they play games based on "super-heroes", and they play another game about "pirates". So, I figured she might like to know more about the lore of pirates. Not the reality of pirates, just the romance of pirates.
Perhaps all young children do this, but Alannah chooses a character in a book, and that becomes HER. I guess she "identifies". The little girl in this book is nameless, which makes it easier to identify. The book starts and ends in the little girl's bedroom, where she is playing "pirates". The illustrations are cartoonish. The pirates are heroes, and the stuff dreams are made of.
This book has been read quite a few times. It is not the best book in the world. The text requires a tough edit. But, it serves a purpose. It gives Alannah an insight into the popular image of pirates. It gives her the language of pirates, "Ship Ahoy!" She knows about treasure, she knows about gold doubloons, she knows about hot, spicy drinks.

And, the story inclues a parrot, a monkey AND a cat. She loves hearing the story. She loves looking at the pictures. And, above all, she loves discussing what the story is on about.

Thursday, 10 April 2014

A collaborative retention

Photoshopped image by Alastair
So, this morning, Kirsten and I stepped in, and around, and over, all the ideas and images from yesterday's blog-post. We streamlined and clarified our ideas, and our purpose for doing the renovation. What did we hope to achieve? I think it fair to say, we took the minimalist route. She knocked up a spot-on design which I scanned in for posterity.

I included Kirsten's brother in a heads-up to yesterday's post as he is the contractor who will be doing the work, with Darren as his labourer. And Kirsten as supervisor, and me as client. Poor bastard! So tonight, he emailed me a series of photo-shopped images of our garden, which really gives a good idea of where our design is up to. Now to work out the dimensions of the pine-logs, and beams, so that Alastair can order the required timber, concrete and bolts before his suppliers shut up shop for Easter.
Diagram by Kirsten

Retaining in a creative way

We are hoping to renovate part of our front garden during the Easter-ANZAC Day break. See the driveway? See the semi-circular curve? All that lies between the curve and the driveway is under consideration. Here is what we are hoping to achieve:
  • Remove the Lily-Pily (Cascade) that is closest to the driveway.
  • Remove the letter box, and replant it from where the Lily-pily was removed.
  • Dig out the soil between the driveway and the curve. There are many large, twisted roots beneath this soil. Place the soil on plastic sheets in the centre of the oval.
  • The length of the driveway (the bit under consideration) is 7.100 metres.The depth to be dug out - at its deepest -is 0.850 mm.
  • Pare back the soil, all the way along the top to the point below the two white porceleine animals sculptures.
  • Dislodge each of the large stones that currently define the shape of the oval. They are cemented into the line of the curve, so care will be necessary.
  • See the scatter of large white rocks halfway down the driveway (at the 4.200m mark actually? That is the point from which the jumping podium will be constructed. Go into this in a later post, as this post is about the digging out, and especially the "retaining".
Here is the area to be dug out in more detail. Along the front, below the Lily-pily "Cascade" hedge, is a brick retaining wall. In the centre front, this brick retaining wall is 9 courses deep. However, over to the left, below the letter box, only 4 courses are visible. Darren suggests that there are 9 courses all along the front.

What I want is a retaining wall to go from the top of the driveway down to the scatter of white rocks, and continue down incorporating the rocks. It goes from 850mm at the top (just to the left of the letterbox) to 100mm at the bottom. It will be pinned into the soil beneath the driveway, and be totally visible from the front porch. It must look "decorative".

Here are some examples that I have sourced from the www.

Here is a retaining wall built by Alastair. He has done a few more since. Ours will be a feature on display so he will take that into account, too. Next, I will look at the rock sculpture for the girls.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Hyacinths have a lovely bouquet

Alannah and I planted eight Hyacinth bulbs in medium-sized black, plastic pots, last Sunday in the teaming rain. We had on gum-boots, and Alannah tried to protect herself with her Minnie-Mouse brolly. Quite a sight I suspect.

I am going for perfume this growing season, teaming Hyacinth with Dwarf Stock.

Going clockwise around the images, from top, left we have
  • Hyacinth Delft Blue - an aristocrat of the garden, this magnificent Hyacinth grows strongly and flowers in a beautiful porcelain blue with a perfect shape
  • Hyacinth L'Innocence - Producing pure, white flowers with strong perfume, they look at their best when planted in formal displays in the garden or in pots
  • Hyacinth Lady Derby - the blurb for this one is worse than the others!
  • Hyacinth Splendid Cornelia - Producing romantic lavendar flowers with strong perfume, they look at their best when planted in formal displays in the garden or in pots.
Blimey, what a waste of time those descriptions are! I will try to write my own for each variety of bulb as they progress through their growing season.

Monday, 7 April 2014

Mountain goats

Yesterday's post by Kirsten showed Alannah throwing herself off our stone heap. Today we discussed how to incorporate this ledge - it looks a bit like an Olympic podium - into our redesign of the front garden, due to get underway over Easter, injuries notwithstanding.

Alannah is pretending to be "super-girl" as she mentally prepares to fling herself into mid-air and land on the grass, rolling, as she dissolves into uproarious laughter. Who would not build a structure to facilitate this!
The stone blocks which litter the driveway at the moment, are serendipitous. Darren dug them from the fence line on the other side of the driveway. We are having discussions about the design right now. We know it involves a retaining wall, a raised garden bed, an insitu garden bed edged with rock, and another load of pebbles, similar to those we scattered over the walkways in the garden beds on the other side of the front garden.

More on this over the next 10 days as we tweak the design, purchase supplies, and get the team ready for the Easter/ANZAC Dy period.

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Sisters | Week 14 2014

A photograph a week of Alannah and Juliet and, if I can, the two together.  Joining in with Jodi over at Practising Simplicity.

Alannah jumps
Front garden, Tuesday 1 April 2014

The sisters giggle
Front garden, Tuesday 1 April 2014

 Juliet has her first swimming lesson
Castle Cove, Thursday 3 April 2014