Thursday, September 13, 2012

Tip-toe time!

Every time spring rolls around, I feel it is my favourite time of year...but then I realise I feel like that about summer and autumn as well. I'd like to wax lyrical about winter as well but in truth, my intellectual appreciation for this dormant period is tempered by the fact that the Blue Mountains are just so bloody cold. No matter how many layers I put on, winter gardening is cumbersome and often brutally windswept. I know that winter is the perfect time to consider the form of your garden, to prune dormant plants and remove any dead limbs, and improve the quality of your soil. So yes, the garden  maintenance jobs have all been ticked off the checklist but for some reason, it just isn't as rewarding as other times in the year. Put this down to my issues with instant gratification, I guess. 

One thing I have done this winter is workshop my plans for Magic Garden's reorganisation - once we put the barn in the back corner, we'll need to create a driveway from front to back. The need for this structure is entirely my husband's and I've known it was coming, since the purchase of Magic Garden was contingent on there being space for such a barn. Now that we've had a survey done and discussions with our architect proceed apace, I'm actually in a position to start planning where the new drive will go, how the garden beds will be positioned, what plants will be retained and how I want the space to look. 
Which isn't as easy as it sounds - there are so many factors to take into consideration - not the least being the desire to manipulate the layers of the planting and the landscape so that there is always something in flower and providing a focal point and a sense of depth. However, I'm proud to announce that I have come to one solid conclusion. I have some lovely lavender that will need to be relocated when we renovate the house, and I think it'll provide the perfect backdrop to a display of red tulips, much like the example shown above. The lavender is in flower pretty much all year, as I'm a conscientious dead-header and the tulips will create a pleasing contrast in the spring. All that remains is to decide on a suitable planting scheme for in front of the tulips, as they don't last particularly long and look very messy as they die off. Some type of clipped hedge should give lend a sense of formality, in contrast to the lavender's feathery branches and would neatly hide the tulip's brown foliage once their time has passed.  How's that for a plan!
My tulip inspiration shot came from a divine garden in South Leura, Cherrydell North. I love gardens that have names and I'm especially tickled by the signage on the Cherrydell North gate. This is the sort of metalwork that you rarely see anymore, it speaks of another time and place, when having something made by hand was the only way it would get done. 

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Which fungus IS that?

Turkeytail? Giant Polypore? Hairy Curtain Crust? Smokey Bracket?

Part of the winter maintenance program at Magic Garden has involved the removal of some scarily, large dead branches from some of our scarily, large trees. I'm pleased to say that I was not the person up the tree, chain saw in hand! As you can see, fungus has played a major role in the die back of this limb and according to our tree man, the tree this particular branch came from needs to be removed completely. In truth, it isn't the most majestic specimen (I feel like I'm betraying the tree by saying that!) and whilst its removal will be costly, we'll certainly gain more sun penetration in that patch of Magic Garden. 

The role of fungi in the eco-system is fundamental in the decomposition of organic matter. They're present in soil, dead matter and in symbiotic relationships with plants, animals and interestingly, other fungi. Along with yeasts and moulds and the more obvious mushrooms, Fungi are considered a kingdom within  the taxonomic structure of biology because unlike from plants, animals and bacteria, their cellular walls contain chitin rather than cellulose and this is about where the very helpful Wikipedia page lost me, to be honest! What I have learnt is when it comes to trees, it's parasitic fungi you have to watch out for, that trees which are under stress due to bark injury, broken branches or drought are more susceptible to parasitic fungi...and that identification of fungus is a job left to the professionals! 

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

it's been awhile...

I was going to wait until June 30th, just so it was properly 6 months since my last post. Confessing this make me glad I'm not Catholic; I'd definitely be crap at it and probably lapsed. It also makes me aware of my own tendencies to put things off until a more auspicious or meaningful time approaches. Which is maybe a more sophisticated form of procrastination...but procrastination all the same. But you know, my fingers are itching to just tap tap tap out something which is just this post is playing catch up. Nothing earth shattering, just a few bits and pieces that have made me smile. 
Whale Hedge 

This is an image from a piece I did recently for The Cloudscape, it's a website I work on with some of my most lovely mates. It showcases all that is designed, crafted and happening along our stretch of the Great Western Highway. If you're curious as to what's hidden behind this mountainside mammal, or want to know more  about what's happening at this particular altitude, you should check The Cloudscape out!
Something I love about travelling is taking the opportunity to visit noteworthy gardens. This shot could be in Japan, but it's actually from Mayfield Garden, just out of Oberon. I'd always felt a little bad that I'd never had a wander through this showpiece, which so relatively close to home. And now, I'm excited to say, I have! 
This shot shows the silver birch glade, under planted with hellebore. Winter flowering, the hellebore create a soft canopy which is an especially nice contrast as the trees above lose their leaves. 

I'm don't want to go into too much about Mayfield as I plan to write about it more fully for The Cloudscape. But it is a wonderful example of what can be achieved in a cool climate garden, especially one of this size. With over 40 acres to play with and 25 gardeners on staff, this garden is best described as a folly in the grandest sense of the word!

I recently made the acquaintance of this wonderful old bloke, Doug. His garden is on the corner opposite my daughter's pre-school and each summer, into autumn I have admired his spectacular display of dahlias. This is just one of the many that line his nature strip. He's been tending his predominately dahlia garden for over 50 years and when I asked why dahlias, he told me that his late wife had loved them - enough for me to get a touch teary. This is something I love; that plants and gardens can be the conduit that says I care and I want to make you happy.
I asked Doug if he had any tips for the wanna be dahlia grower and he was pretty succinct. He cuts them back each year and every other year, he'll lift before it gets too cold. He then stores the tubers in sawdust and replant in the spring. Thanks to Wikipedia, I've also recently learnt that the dahlia is the national flower of Mexico. 
I am proud to report that despite a dismal summer, my artichokes did manage to set fruit. What I am not overly proud of is that I am not nearly disciplined enough to actually prepare them and cook with them. Instead, I am thrilled by their sea anemone style of the petal structure and I'm ok with the fact that I'm happy to let the plant go to seed. Artichokes also clump up really well. I dug this one out, split it up and had around 12 pretty good sized new plants. I was dubious about a couple which didn't have much in the way of a root system, but they're a hardy plant and all are thriving. Never be afraid to get dividing, people! I would add, snails also really like artichokes so you do want to keep on eye on them shredding the leaves.  

Magic Garden Autumn 2012

Gardening is one of my preferred forms of procrastination - there's a worthwhile outcome as opposed to just sitting on a chaise lounge popping bon-bons in one's mouth - but these last 6 months, it seems that the weather has conspired against me. The summer proper was wet, wet, wet and the indian summer I'd been so optimistically  counting on, came on too late and is just so cold. Truthfully, it's been a teensy bit depressing. But there have been bright spots...discovering that a bird had made its nest at the top of one of our tulip trees has made me feel slightly more kindly towards the autumn...
but I can't wait for spring!