Friday, March 26, 2010

surprise me!

When I think bulbs, it used to be that daffodils, jonquils and freesias were the first to come to my mind. And gorgeous as they are, I realise now how little I knew of this amazing group, what a diverse array of colour and form they offer to our outdoor spaces. The lovelies above are part of the amazing autumn reveal that is taking place in Our Magic Garden right now and to be honest, I had no idea who or what they were. They both belong to the family of bulbs known as 'Nerine', the hot pink perfection on the right is 'Rosea' and the signal box red, 'Fothergillii Major'.

Rosea is the strappier of the two, more like curling ribbon and the Major, whilst not as delicate, is a short spiky hairdo of a bloom, a spunky offering that will brighten up any space. I'm not sure if it's because previous owners have moved dirt about willy-nilly but these bulbs are popping up in small patches throughout magic garden and I'm left to imagine what they might be like planted en masse, clashing red & pink together. Love it! Love it! Love it!

So tomorrow's plan with a sick toddler in tow, is to tie wool around each clump (preferrably colour coded with a name tag! thanks to my lovely neighbour for this suggestion!) and wait for them to die off completely both I can contemplate removal before the next spring's growing season begins. Even though, the dead folliage can be irksome and ugly, you simply must bear it out as it is a crucial part of the bulb's return the next year. By definition, a bulb is any plant that stores its entire life force in its fleshy, underground storage facility. As the leaves dies off, they are nourishing the plant below. If you can't live with the obviousness of this process, I suggest you plant your bulbs behind a lower form of hedge or barrier so when the brown hits town, it's neatly out of sight & out of mind... but I do suggest an attitude readjustment - this is the wonder of plants at their very finest!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

falling in love again...

In our neck of the woods, autumn has hit thick and fast - a very rude surprise for someone returning from a brief sojourn @ qualia on Hamilton Island! This abrupt change of season has revealed some absolute garden delights, like the white anenomes above, but it has made me realise I can hardly remember what Magic Garden was like when the spring was new and the ink on the settlement papers was barely dry. I thought it might be nice to remind myself of the richness that is dormant and fill this post with warmth and colour.

Without further ado, I proudly present our majestic copper beech. Standing over 15m tall, I am reliably informed that this beauty is perhaps one of the oldest in Australia and certainly one of the finest specimens still fertile, if the quantity of conkers is anything to go by. The divine Miss and I enjoyed hours of entertainment, watching punk cockatoos execute the most death-defying moves as they crushed the seed pods in one claw, hanging on with the other. Total daredevils and it makes me curious as to the role they play in the keeping the tree healthy, a very rough kind of pruning and they definately encourage the dead wood to fall. By now, the tree is looking slightly denuded and the foliage has lost its lustre, leaving the deep brown leaves to make their way to earth. The upside is that I've discovered that there's a possum or perhaps an owl box tucked way up in the old dame's branches and I can't wait to see who the inhabitant might be. Fingers X'd for owl!

This is the view from our bedroom window. You can see the two different rhododendrens, flame orange and a somewhat more subtle musk stick pink. Magic Garden really is a showcase for both the azalea and rhodendren families, I confess that I was totally blown away by the sheer variety of colours and I didn't know that some types had such gorgeous fragrances.

Lavender will always play a substantial role in my gardens and this is the monster that grows alongside the driveway. It is a classic example of how plants propagate through layering, which can be very useful if you want to create borders and hedging without huge expense. However, if your plant isn't exactly where you want more of the same, then with special care, you can easily divide the new plants from the parent and transplant them elsewhere. Have the transplant spot ready to go and then trim any dead wood and most of the extraneous foliage from the new plant. Then most gently, use your sectuers to seperate the two and even more gently, dig your new baby out. Plant in the usual tender fashion and voila, your thriftiness means you can spend your gardening dollar elsewhere. As the embargo against new plant buying continues here at Magic Garden, I'll be investing alot of time and energy in finding ways to keep my meagre budget intact.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

It all comes out in the wash...part 2

As I hung out my first load today, the playschool song, “wet washing hanging on the line, drying very quickly when the weather’s fine,” came into my head and it reminds me that not all the days of my childhood were sunny. There were weeks each year, often around Easter and before Christmas when it seemed to rain for weeks and our covered deck would became swamped in a tangle of damp, manky washing that my mum would refuse to put in the dryer. It would be so easy to paint her as an early environmentalist when it was much more like single mum with a watchful eye on the electricity bill. I got to my mid twenties without really understanding how to get the best out if your dryer. Then I moved mountainside and my love-hate relationship with the dryer began. There’s such satisfaction in getting your load on the line, the pleasure in bringing it down and the knowledge that just for today, you are the victor in your own personal climatic challenge. But when the weather rains on my parade, I’ll admit, I get shirty very quickly. If you can catch it just as the smell in the air begins to change, adrenalin will make your fingers fly and your load may survive. Vaguely damp washing can be saved by some quality (note: quality, not quantity) time in the dryer, though this is not optimal as it just smacks of double handling and I’m a do it once, do it properly kind of girl. But if you miss the window completely and your load is wetter than when it came out of the machine, you’re back to square one and you may as well have stayed in bed with your book.

Carbon footprints and climate change aside, it seems to me that the humble washing line is in retreat. People are so quick to rip out the ugly, rather than see that the beauty behind becomes amplified in response. Of course, I understand that increased density in housing means that space is at a premium and not everyone has room to swing a cat, let alone off a Hills Hoist. But that shouldn’t justify rejecting line drying; even the smallest yards can cope with a retractable wall mounted set-up. When a sense of environmental responsibility pervades everyday life, the Hills Hoist has never been more important. Whilst the perennial sore thumb for some and the most delightful juxtaposition for others, Lance Hill’s Rotary Hoist represents a unique contribution to the fabric of our communities. When we stay at a friend’s, we expect to do so on clean sheets. When our visit ends, we strip the bed and offer to put on a load. If I get run over by a bus, I do want to be wearing clean knickers. Just as we teach our children to brush their teeth and wash their hands before they eat, the very act of washing, folding* and wearing clean clothes is the equivalent of a box of Roses chocolates, it says that you care.** And the unexpected upside is that reaching up to peg is great for your bingo wings.

*For the record, I hate folding and don’t get me started on ironing. Not all domestic arts are created equal and this is meant to be a gardening blog...but c’est la vie, I love any excuse to say, “but I digress.”

**That I have finally come to this understanding proves that I’m a grown up now and I shudder at the thought of my twenty something self, wearing the same jeans and sleeping in the same bed linen for weeks, sometimes months on end. I wish I could tack “just jokes” onto the end of that sentence, but every word is alas, true and I still believe that jeans do get softer the dirtier they’s really just a question of resource management. You have to space it out and wear other clothes in between, this constitutes airing the offending denim without compromising the leg-feel.

It all comes out in the wash...

They’re built to last – a rare thing in this age of built-in obsolescence. Maybe that goes a little way in explaining the enduring romance of the Hills Hoist. There’s no finer example where form follows function but for me, their appeal lies far beyond the utilitarian, though I adore the fact that the Hills Hoist was invented by a man to make his wife’s life easier. Under full sail, a fresh flotilla of wash windward above the earth is the very essence of satisfaction, blue skies ahead and the knowledge of a wash done well. They’re ever present and a constant reminder of a time when swinging on the clothes line was the height of risqué behaviour, something only attempted when your parent’s line of sight was obscured. And as our mum had us believing she had eyes in the back of her head, we learnt to dismount at speed very quickly. I’m a bit surprised that none of us became gymnasts!

When Magic Garden was inspected and acquired in heart and not yet mortgage, the presence of the Hills Hoist was one of the things I was most excited about. Beside myself, to be more accurate. In 2200 square metres of established gardens, this small spot of brutalist hardware completely tickled my fancy. However, Husbando (where I’m coming over all Martha, secretly I know he’d like to be a Mexican wrestler), was not so enamoured. All he sees is the ugly, explosive spike and not the promise and persuasion of sun-dried my first official project was to clear out beneath my nostalgic folly, raise the bed and create an aromatic based kitchen garden. I retained the pale apricot rose bush and there’s now a ring of lavender that will fatten up around the central pole. I’ve put in tomatoes, interplanted with basil and flat leaf parsley one side, beans and rocket on the other. There are signs the dill is coming through. A rosemary cutting from my old garden nestles against some Turkish thyme and I purchased a new sage plant because I really couldn’t wait for seeds to sprout and you really can’t live without fresh sage. Much of this stuff will grow quite tall but I’m not worried in the slightest, it’s a joy to wind up the hoist and let the wind do its work and I love the idea that my washing will dry impregnated with these scents.

Postscript: since taking these shots, we've had so much rain and attendant humidity, I'm pleased to report that there's been steroid like growth beneath my clothesline - the lavender looks plush and the tomartoes are becoming such a serious hinderance, I may have to prune them to ensure ease of rotation!

For more infomation about a true Austalian success story, check this