Yesterday was our Winter Solstice – the shortest day of the year. In the Northern Hemisphere the winter solstice or Yuletide coincides with Christmas and all the feasting and traditions that are associated with Christmas and New Year but here it generally passes unnoticed and unappreciated.
There is some cause for celebration though. From today the days start getting longer. Granted the temperatures won’t warm up for a while yet but the sun will rise a little earlier and set a little later each day now until December. Before too long the sun will wake me up instead of the alarm clock and there’ll be enough light to see the garden when I get home from work. It is no wonder so many religions have celebrations involving the winter solstice.
Poinsettia provide a bold splash of colour throughout the garden. Each year after flowering they are cut back to a fraction of their size and the cutting strike so readily that from one plant you can soon have many.
Calliandra are also in bloom. The birds love these flowers and will hang upside down on a branch while feeding on the nectar. I haven't been able to get a photo though because as soon as they see me with the camera they fly away.
The red, green and white of the garden reminds me of Christmas which, as I said, is celebrated during the winter soltice in the Northern Hemisphere. It got me thinking....
When Europeans settled Australia a little over 200 years ago they brought with them their customs and traditions. This included our four seasons as well as celebrations - so that we still associate Yuletide with Christmas.
Our indigenous people who have inhabited Australia for much longer (about 50,000 years longer) have seasonal calendars that are related to this land and the seasonal events that occur here. Tribes from different parts of Australia developed different seasons recognising the diversity across the continent but all relate change of season to recognisable natural events.
Their seasons are based on when certain trees flower or when animals migrate or give birth. Their seasons are also related to our climate and take heed of wet and dry seasons as well as hot and cold.
The Bureau of Meterology has developed a site called Indigenous Weather Knowledge . It currently has seasonal weather calendars developed over thousands of years by a few indigenous communities. They hope to expand on this over time.
This is a calendar from the Kakadu region showing the seasons determined by the weather patterns, the blooming of flora, animal behaviour and other natural events. It makes sense doesn't it?
Researchers also want to tap the wealth of knowledge the traditional owners of this land hold to look at long-term climate variability and their insights into caring for the environment.
In many parts of Australia our seasons really don't match those we have adopted from Europe. Should they change perhaps? In the north of Australia the locals don't refer to four seasons, they refer to 'the wet' and 'the dry' and 'the build up'. They have already adapted to what really happens. If indigenous knowledge of climate and seasons becomes freely available, then maybe people will adopt seasons that suit our country. It won't happen overnight but maybe over generations. Who knows.
Greg Lehman, at Monash University who has undertaken expanding the scope of the Bureau's website, will be talking to indigenous people over the next few years. This is part of what he says on the subject - "The fundamental difference between Western and Aboriginal views of the weather is the holistic approach of the indigenous approach." "Knowledge about weather and seasons is related to everything else you do in your life." "For me one of the biggest problems we have is people don't understand the land and the country. It's important for a sustainable future," "We need to understand that there is a very well developed knowledge of climate in Australia that has been here all the time but that European people have yet to appreciate."
As gardeners, we have some appreciation of seasonal events in the environment determining what we should be doing in our gardens, but can't even imagine the depth of knowledge that was built up over 50,000 years of being in tune with the land.
I find it exciting that at least some of this ancient but relevant and important knowledge is becoming available to us all.
..... and since it's Friday as well I am linking to Tootsies Fertiliser Friday. Check out what's happening in gardens from other parts of the world (where it's summer).
Ferns are one of the most ancient and interesting plants on the planet. As I have discovered they can be quite a versatile garden plant too. We have a fernery at the side of the house with ferns in pots and hanging baskets as well as planted directly in the ground. Being on the southern side of the house it is in shade for most of the day and the ground stays quite cool and damp even on the hottest of days. The conditions are ideal for ferns - a little too ideal - We are in the process of digging out some of the ferns that are overcrowding their neighbours. I'm hoping to transplant them to other parts of the garden.
Quite a few ferns are thriving in various parts of the garden.
As you would expect, the Australian tree fern Cynathea cooperii does well in our area. Eventually I'm hoping these will become tall enough to provide shade for ferns to grow under them.
Already, there are some in a hollow log in this garden.
Maidenhair fern (Adiantum spp) is well known as an indoor plant but grows happily in the ground both in my fernery and in the garden.
In fact, I have more success with maidenhair in the ground than in pots of hanging baskets. The soil doesn't dry out as fast and if I forget to water no harm is done.
It likes shade and moisture and needs protection from wind.
Drynaria rigidula 'whitei'
Basket or oak leaf ferns have two types of leaves - the typical long green frond and a flat brown lraf that forms around the edge of the basket. It will do well in a basket or in the fork of a tree.
Drynaria rigidula ‘whitei” with it's fine frilly fronds is one of my favourites.
This catapillar fern is growing so well in the ground it needs to be divided and moved. I'll probably put some in a hanging basket and some in the ground where it can spread.
Birds Nest Ferns are quite adaptable as well. They grow well in pots, in the ground as as epiphytes in trees.
This is a new aquisition - a King Fern - definitely one to be planted in the ground. It will grow much taller than I am so I've given it heaps of room.
Another reasonably recent purchase was this electric fern - named because the fronds have a irredescent bluish green glow. I bought a special pot on a stand for this pampered plant to spill over. It's sitting on the back patio though because I still haven't decided on the right place for it.
I've planted out quite a few under the shade of the golden cane palms and at the moment placing bromeliads and other shade lovers in pots in amongst them. This is where I think the electric fern probably belongs.
Some of them have quite a deal of growing yet to reach their mature size. They are just babies.
In case you think ferns need to be pampered and are too much work. These have self seeded at the edge of the dry creek bed. The top group actually are in full sun for much of the day with the only ill effect the occasional sunburn.
These came up through the pavers like weeds.
So many interesting shapes and forms - no wonder I love them.
The second weekend in June has always been the Queen's birthday long weekend. From this year it's been moved to October and we had this weekend to celebrate the jubilee as an extra day off. (A bonus for living in a place called Queensland I think). By the way, I'm not sure when the Queen's actual birthday is, but I suspect it's not in June or October.
We made the most of the break and booked a couple of nights at O'Reilly's Rainforest Retreat in the Lamington National Park.
I need a rainforest fix from time to time. It's the best way I've found to re-charge the batteries.
Since Saturday was also our anniverary we decided to stop off on the way for lunch at the nearby winery.
The winery is at the base of the mountain in the Canungra Valley.
We had been there before for wine tasting and love their wines but had never had a meal there.
We chose a picnic basket of goodies including fresh baked bread and of course a bottle of local wine
and took it to a table down by the stream.
It was a beautiful day and hard to leave such an idyllic spot, but we had to move on.
As we drove up the mountain into the rainforest, it started to rain. Not much of a surprise really - that's why they're called rainforests. It was a wet weekend, but the rain didn't bother us.
In fact, rain makes the forest shimmer and sparkle.
The fungi were amazing.
We went on a few different short walks, but stayed clear of the 25 km ones.
The canopy walk is quite near the guesthouse.
It gives you a different view of the forest.
....instead of up.
We met a few of the locals as well. Just near our room, was a bird feeding area. The local parrots are so used to human contact they have no fear.
They will eat out of your hand and climb on your shoulders or head.
These guys are not camera shy at all.
Then, of an evening, you can warm up by sitting by the fireplace reading a book - or just sitting.
This place is about 2 hours drive from where we live.
No wonder I love living in Queensland.
I've been collecting succulents to add to my wall and although I'm not ready to admit to a new obsession just yet. I do think it's a possibility. There are so many different forms, each with its own interesting pattern and colour.
We decided to leave the plants in pots rather than plant directly into wire baskets so they can be moved and rearranged from time to time. I've also decided to add some extra pots around and in front of the wall.
There's still a couple of spaces yet to fill. It's a work in progress (like most of our garden).
But, even before it's finished, I'm thinking of other succulent projects.
Mark and Gaz (Alternative Eden) showed us a huge succulent bowl. I loved that idea.
Maybe a grouping of pots near the vegie garden or at our front entrance?
I have some empty bonsai pots that would make interesting mini-gardens....
I've already started propogating from my fledgling succulent collecton. I hope they multiply quickly.
What a dismal wet weeekend. With the shorter days over Winter, the only chance I have to be out in the garden is on the weekends, so I look forward to getting my hands in the dirt. This weekend it rained almost constantly, so no gardening got done. Then, of course, Monday morning is here and clear blue skies. Ggrrr!!!
I did race out in a short break between showers to check on the progress of the vegie patch.
John has built the potato tower higher. There's plenty of drainage so they should survive the downpour and give us a good harvest in a few weeks.
The snow peas are growing well. No flowers yet, but they look healthy. The strawberries planted in front of them are doing well also.
The garlic is looking good. I only bought one bulb so I'm pleased that every clove seems to be shooting. Probably should have pulled that weed out while I was there instead of just taking photos.
The lettuce are ready to harvest. We had one in a salad for lunch on Sunday. I've scattered more seed around the bed but I'm not confident any will come up. They were seeds left over from last year so may not be any good.
No such problem with the rocket. I was a bit heavy handed with the seed so I'll need to thin them out a bit.
There's a row of bok choy on the other side of this bed at about the same stage.
The broccolli is growing well. Something is having a nibble, but no real damage. Behind them are snap peas, not growing as quickly as the snow peas but OK. John fertilised during the week so that should give them a boost.
Chives, spring onions and Italian parsley. I've planted a few more spring onion seeds two weeks ago but they haven't come up yet. I planted curly parsley seed as well and it hasn't come up either. Maybe they were washed away or rotted away with all this rain.
I'd also planted some seed trays with silverbeet, spinach, beetroot and kale and put them in the greenhouse. Nothing there yet either.
Coriander does well in Winter here. In Summer it bolts to seed too quickly or shivels in the heat.
Comfrey loves this rain. John has been harvesting leaves to add to the compost bin. The red flowers nearby are pineapple sage. I let it grow wild in this area.
A touch of colour starting to appear on the grape tomatoes. They are in a raised bed with lots of added compost so will hopefully survive the drenching without any harm.
Next weekend is a long weekend - 3 days off, so I'm hoping for fine weather.