Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Turning over a new leaf

Spring means new life and new leaves throughout the garden. Although many plants continue to grow throughout winter in the sub-tropics, they all seem to enjoy a new lease on life once spring is here - just as we do.
The lilly pillies have wonderful pink new foliage which will soon be followered by puffy white flowers. You can just see the buds starting to form.
The frangipanis are coming to life after their winter dormancy.

The canna that were chopped back to ground level are sending up new leaves.
Palms are unfurling new leaves.
The avocado tree has delicate pink new leaves and flowers beginning to form as well.
I tried getting a close-up of the avocado flowers and through the viewfinder spied this cute little spider.  Hopefully he's busy pollinating the flowers so we will have a crop of fruit later in the year.

The crotons have to be different. Since their leaves are normally so bright, their new leaves are green, which draws attention to them even more.

In our garden we all enjoy spring - the gardeners and the plants.
Spring is when you want to be in the garden all day every day.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Gardening - a Game

I was invited to play this game by One who is a remarkable and interesting person with a couple of great blogs. You’ll understand what I mean when you read her blog Onenezz .
As part of the game, I have to list out 10 things I enjoy doing. She specifically invited Ros to play - not Missy who, as you know, is a cute small dog and would choose chasing balls, sleeping and going for walks.

The rule of this game is to:
1) Inform who invited you
2) List the 10 things you like to do
3) Invite another 10 bloggers

Ten Things Ros Loves To Do

I love gardening - all aspects of gardening. As a child, my mother started me on the path to being a gardener. She loved growing flowers and there were usually home-grown veges as well. I can still remember my surprise the first time I helped with harvesting potatoes. Wherever I’ve lived since I have created a garden, but the garden I have today is the best. I especially love working in the garden with John – It’s double the fun when you share with someone who also enjoys it.

I love walking around our garden – discovering surprises like a newly flowering tree or shrub, checking on the progress of a plant, pulling a few weeds, making a mental note of the jobs that need doing, or sometimes just walking with bare feet on freshly mown grass.

I love exploring other gardens whether they are large botanic gardens or a tiny garden. Visiting a friend’s garden and listening to them talk about their garden is the most enjoyable. John and I visited quite a few open gardens (for inspiration) before we started Missy’s garden and continue to visit some each year. Lately, I have “visited” beautiful gardens around the world I would otherwise never get to see, and better still I get to see them through the eyes of their gardener.

I love cooking. This is another love I share with John. We are very different in the kitchen. He likes to follow the recipe precisely and I like to get creative, so mostly we take turns rather than share the kitchen.

I love using produce straight from the garden – I especially love being able to say half way through cooking a meal ‘I‘ll just nip out to the garden and get some of that” What is best is not that what I grow is chemical-free or that it’s fresh or even that it has more flavour than supermarket produce. I appreciate all those things, but the real bonus is the thrill I get knowing I grew it.

I love sharing garden produce with friends – This is a bit of a guilty pleasure. It sounds like I’m being generous, because I like to make sure I give friends the choicest fruit, the best tomatoes or the sweetest crispest lettuce. Actually I'm showing off and enjoy the compliments.

I love playing with my grandchildren – whenever I get the chance. They live 2000 kms away so we don’t get to visit each other as often as we’d like but most weekends we talk on Skype . I get to see the latest painting or how the new robot works. We read stories. We swap stories of what we’ve been doing and whether we’ve been good or naughty.  We blow kisses. Missy always waves and says hello too.

I love learning new things. School, to me, was wonderful and so was university. I even went back and did a second degree. No matter what I’m doing, whether it’s work or “hobbies” such as painting, crafts, cooking or gardening, I want to learn everything I can and master the skills involved. The current skill I want to master is photography. John and I have enrolled in a course.  I know I'll enjoy it and I'm hoping to learn a lot. Check it out here.

I love blogging. Initially it was about keeping a record of the garden and showing the family what we were doing. Then I joined Blotanical. I enjoy seeing gardens from all around the world, reading the posts, learning about plants and animals I’ve never seen before, wondering at peoples skill at garden design, photography, penmanship, feeling part of a community of gardeners and making a very small contribution to that community. I spend a lot more time reading than writing.

I love reading… and you won’t have any trouble guessing what books I read. I have a collection of gardening books, a cookbook collection, a few novels and a growing collection of children’s storybooks.

Oh dear, I sound rather boring. Maybe Missy should have answered instead.

Now I will pass the game on to 10 interesting bloggers. Feel free to accept or decline the invitation.


Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Around our neighbourhood

What makes a neighbourhood a good place to live?
I know what makes ours great. Neighbours know each other by name and say hello as they pass. They help each other out - whether it’s lending tools or baby-sitting or feeding the chooks when you go on holidays. They share garden produce and stop to discuss the weather when they go for walks. Although it’s a fairly new housing estate on the outskirts of our state capital it feels like an old fashioned country town. It’s a much gentler life than living right in the city.

When we were taking possession of our house, five years ago now, the builder stopped and said “Listen.” There was not a sound – absolute silence. We knew we had made a good choice.

It’s not always silent though.
Each morning there is a dawn chorus as the neighbourhood birds start looking for breakfast.
Then later in the day you will hear a hen or two announcing that they’ve laid an egg.
When it’s windy our wind chimes ring and the bamboo creaks.
When it rains there are frogs croaking.
And of course, when a car pulls into our driveway, there’s Missy barking.

Sometimes, well often actually, I complain about the time it takes to drive to work each day. (I hate being stuck in peak hour traffic and have been known to mention it, but that’s another story). Arriving home makes up for it.
When I get to the top of the hill I know I’m ALMOST home.
I can capture the view with my camera but not the feeling.

Karalee is located in a U-shaped bend of the Brisbane River with one road in. Our area is right at the end of that road with the nearest supermarket and shops six kilometres away. There is no through traffic and so the only cars we see belong to our neighbours and their visitors.
Every house is set on an acre of land. The people who live in the houses have chosen to live here for the quiet and the space. Most have great gardens. Many have chickens. There are lots of dogs that go for walks with their owners each afternoon. The dogs as well as the people know each other and stop for a chat along the way or greet each other through the fence.

So what do I like about our neighbouhood?

The miniature horses on the corner block who are super-cute,
the boat ramp to the river,
the walking track through the nature reserve,

the neighbours, and of course, their wonderful  gardens.

Monday, 20 September 2010

My Favourite Butterflies

The Ulysses butterfly (Papilio ulysses) has brilliant electric blue upper wings, trimmed in black.
When flying or feeding they can be easily seen, but not easily photographed. The underside of their wings are dull brown, so that when wings are closed they easily camouflage. Their wingspan is 100 - 130 mm (9 cm). Their caterpillar is green and white to blend in with the plants it feeds on. One of their favourite food plants is the euodia ( Melicope vitiflora ). When I lived at Trinity Beach, near Cairns, they regularly visited my euodia, but I'll never see them in my Brisbane garden. They only live in the Tropics.
The Cairns Birdwing (Ornithoptera euphorion) is Australia’s largest butterfly species, with females reaching a wingspan of up to 16 cm. Males are usually a few centimeters smaller and are the flashy gender. They have a predominately black upper wing with emerald green flashes. The female lacks the green coloring, having a plain black upper wing with white patches. The female is the larger of the two sexes.
The larvae or caterpillars of this species breed on several species of pipe vine, including Aristolochia tagala and Pararistolochia deltantha. The leaves of the introduced Dutchman's Pipe (Aristolochia elegans) will kill the larvae of this species and several other swallowtail butterflies in Australia. It should not be planted anywhere in Queensland, New South Wales or the Northern Territory. The Brisbane area has a similar, slightly smaller, butterfly called the Richmond Birdwing which also relies on Pararistolochia deltantha. I've planted the vine and hope that one day they find it.

I took these photos at the Australian Butterfly Sanctuary in Kuranda (near Cairns) when we were there a while ago.
I went looking for the photos to see if I could identify a caterpillar Africanaussie had found in her garden, and decided they would make a great subject for Mosaic Monday.
As you walk through the butterfly house, hundreds of tropical butterflies are going about their lives in the jungle-like enclosure. You can see many more beautiful mosaics at Dear Little Red House.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

The boys down at the worm farm

Let me introduce the other workers in Missy’s garden – our worms.

We acquired the worm farm from John's brother-in-law, who had bought it but didn’t want it anymore. Not sure what sort of problems he had. We have found the boys so easy to care for. I know worms aren't boys. They are hermaphrodites. But we call them the boys because John is surrounded by females – Ros, Missy and the chickens – so he needs to think he has some male company.
The boys give us vermi-compost - castings, broken down organic matter, bedding, worms, worm cocoons, and other organisms which is intensely rich & loaded with good bacteria that the worms excrete when they digest their food.
They also give us vermi-extract or worm tea – a liquid extract which is one of the easiest methods of re-applying microbial life and micro-nutrients back on to leaf and soil surfaces. It’s an organic soil improver and a nutrient source. When collected it’s almost black and too strong to use on the garden. It needs to be watered down until it looks like weak tea. We use it mainly on the vegetable patch but can also be used on pot plants or anywhere else in the garden. Our veges have been much healthier since we started using it.

They get fed whatever vegetable scraps are handy. They are not a fussy bunch at all. As long as you chop it up, they will dispose of many things that the chickens turn their noses up at and that won’t rot down in the compost bins. I try to provide them with some variety.
- egg shells and avocado skins.
- teabags and coffee filters
- any vegetable and a majority of fruits. (not citrus) from the kitchen or the vege patch
- newspapers, cardboard. Be sure to moisten and tear into small strips
- any cereal or biscuits/cake that has gone stale or past its use-by date.
- mushrooms.
- bananas and the skins
- and, of course, leftovers  - except meat! (unless you want a smelly worm farm and blowflies)
Other things to keep out – Fresh manures. These often have active vermicides in them so if you added these to your worm farm you would end up killing your entire population over night. Also avoid food with a high concentrations of fats, salts, vinegars or food that is heavily spiced.

We cover the food with a damp hessian bag. This helps keep them cool and moist and protects them from insects. They eventually eat the bag.
Apart from feeding them and making sure they don’t dry out, they require little else. We keep them in the greenhouse under a bench to protect them from the heat and heavy rain.
Harvesting the compost with this worm farm’s multi-tray system is simply a matter of feeding them to attract as many as possible to the top layer, then removing the bottom tray.

Friday, 17 September 2010

Red, white and just a touch of blue

A lot of people go for early morning walks around our neighbourhood. Hopefully none of them saw me in my PJs and dressing gown with camera in hand catching what's in flower at the moment.
red & white vinca rosea
white wisteria
red prostrate calliandra tweedii

and his big brother

then into the front yard -  his cousin calliandra haematocephala 'Alba'
who lives near the red flowering coral plant - russellia equisetiformis
the red poinsettias

hippiastrum and dietes along the front fence line (a very quick snap) 
and just to show the entire garden isn't red and white - an iris.

Have a great weekend and check out more flowers in Fertiliser Friday at Tootsie Tme

Monday, 13 September 2010

We can sing a rainbow

Over the weekend we visited a wonderful local garden displaying the diversity of plants that thrive in the subtropics. "Coucals of Mt Crosby" is a private garden set on 2 acres. It is owned by Jim and Jan Flanigan who designed, built and maintain the garden surrounding their family home. The garden is a feast for the senses with pathways linking an ever-changing garden tapestry in all the colours of the rainbow.  If you would like to see more of the garden they have their own website:
By the way, a coucal is a pheasant-like bird that is relatively common in this area.

We can sing a rainbow, sing  a RAINBOW too.

If you'd like to see many more beautiful garden mosaics visit Dear Little Red House

Saturday, 11 September 2010

Using up the last of the tomatoes

The tomato vines I planted in autumn are coming to the end of their run (as you can see) and I'll soon be planting different varieties that do better in the warmer months.  In Queensland, tomatoes grow best in winter. In summer, they suffer if it's too hot or if we get heavy rain, but what's a salad without tomato, so I still try to grow some over summer as well.
The larger varieties have virtually finished fruiting at moment but the Romas, and cherry & grape tomatoes are still well laden. To use up the last of them I make a simple  "allpurpose" tomato sauce which can be frozen and used with a variety of dishes.

Tomato Sauce - Pasta Sauce or Coulis
1 kg tomatoes (roughly chopped)
3 shallots (finely chopped
2 cloves garlic (crushed)
a few sprigs of thyme
1/4 cup each chopped basil & oregano leaves
1 1/2 tabs olive oil
Heat olive oil in pan and add chopped shallots and garlic. Saute until soft. Add the tomatoes and herbs. Stir well. Cover and simmer for around 20 mins (until thick). For a tomato sauce to serve with pasta, add some fresh chopped herbs just before serving. To make a coulis or sauce to serve with a meat and vegetable pie, puree in a blender and press through a fine sieve. Both can be frozen and keep for months. It can be used in many recipes instead of canned crushed tomatoes or tomatoe puree.

Another favourite is this yummy tart - makes a great weekend lunch.

Tomato and Black Olive Tart
6-8 Roma tomatoes (firm) - sliced
75g/3oz Brie cheese - cubed
approx 16 pitted black olives - sliced
3 eggs (beaten)
1 1/4 cups milk
2 tabs chopped fresh herbs (I use basil, rosemary and oregano)
Short Pastry  (frozen sheet or your favourite recipe)
Preheat oven to 190 degrees C/375 degrees F. Line a recangulat flan tin or shallow quiche pan with the pastry. Bake for 15-20 mins (until base is crisp and lightly browned). Once the base has cooled slightly, arrange the tomatoes, cheese and olives in the flan case. Mix together the eggs, milk and herbs. Pour the egg mixture into the case. Bake for about 40 minutes until just firm and turning golden.     
The tart can be served immediately or warmed up the next day. It doesn't freeze and thaw all that well.

Monday, 6 September 2010

The very first rule of photography

We have decided to redesign part of the garden near the back patio to feature a variety of ferns and cycads rather than the heliconias and gingers which die back and look a bit ragged each winter. Daryl, a friend of John’s, had offered to give us some hollow Ironbark logs which we will plant up. So over the weekend we hooked up the trailer to go and collect the logs.

Rather than take the SLR I grabbed our little camera on my way out the door so we could record the event. You see I’d been reading Gail’s advice from Clay and Limestone and remembered Rule 1. Always take your camera with you.

The logs were great. We loaded them onto the trailer then went for a walk to a look around the property.. Daryl showed us where a small honeyeater had made a nest in his large Gymea Lily. I raced back to the car to get the camera and pushed the button to turn it on. That’s right. ..You guessed it. …Flat battery.

Soon after, we saw a pair of King Parrots sitting in a nearby tree – literally posing for a photo shoot. Further on along the track a green tree snake decided it was better to pretend to be a stick and remain totally still rather than to hide. But, of course, I was carrying a useless camera.

I learnt a valuable lesson.

In future I will check that the camera is working before I set out.

I will remember writing this post.

I will (hopefully) say to myself “What’s the very first rule of photography?”

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Hibiscus - Fertiliser Friday

Hibiscus are such showoffs, I thought they deserved to feature in my first contribution to Fertiliser Friday.
They flower for most of the year
and in return only ask for food and water and an occasional prune.

You'll find many more flowers being flaunted at Fertiliser Friday hosted by Tootsie Time Posted by Picasa


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