What’s it all for?

My son Antonio recently expressed concern that all my work in the garden might be all for naught. That in the future, when we leave this place and new owners move in, they might take a bobcat to all my labours and reduce it back to nothing but mud in minutes.

When there was nothing

When there was nothing

We have all seen it, the work done by loved ones being undone when new owners come in, and in the case of my grandparent’s front garden, put back similar to how it was before sometime after that. Only the rare garden outlives its owners by decades or centuries.

Sometimes I wonder what a new owner might do, and my main concern is where he or she will erect their large shed, as all people these days seem to want huge sheds alongside their houses. The days of a small collection of sheds down the back of the garden have passed. So I’m hoping future owners wil put one where the caravan and vegie patch are, and leave the rest of the garden in tact.

I have had other discouraging moments when I’ve planted trees thinking, ‘what’s the point, I’m going to be dead before they reach maturity,” but the years are going to pass whether or not I plant trees, so I might as well plant them.

I can also ask Antonio a similar question, “are all those boss battles worth it?”, because to me they aren’t. I chuckle at him sometimes, because he considers Facebook games to be beneath him – a total waste of time, while he, discerning gamer that he is, is actually doing something worthy.

And then I’ll quote Beth Chatto at him and tell him that there is more enjoyment from the achieving, rather than the acheivement. Although without the achievements there is no further achieving anyway. One thing I love to do is look at photos of my garden this time last year, or however many  years ago and look how far it’s come in that time. I love to watch plants suddenly take off after 3-5 years of putting down roots. I love seeing the proof that that particular year, I actually finished something!

Just last year.

Just last year.

We have gotten much joy from the improvements that have been made since I really got going early 2011, from the pond, the big slide, watching the cats run along the stone walls, the lovely shade of the carport and verandah, the feeling of safety the came from putting up walls and putting pavers and grey shale over what was once mud. Although even though we no longer step out into mud when it rains here, we still manage to find plenty of mud to step in!

And then there was the comment made by a great lady named Coral I met through the Port Augusta Garden Club; she felt that you would never have a nervous breakdown if you had a garden.

 

 

 

 

 

My first Andamooka Lily!

After years of driving past Andamooka Lilies in flower, in masses between Quorn and Port Augusta, I finally have one of my own.

My own Andamooka lily.

My own Andamooka lily.

This one I bought as a seeding at Aridlands in Port Augusta, around 2009 or 2010. I saw nothing of it until 2012, when leaves appeared for the first time. And finally, three years later, the first flower. It’s a nice touch for Leyla’s grave, as I planted Leyla here last June – that’s her saucer there (she loved milk).

Andamooka lilies on a hillside at Saltia.

Andamooka lilies on a hillside at Saltia.

The Andamooka Lily or Darling Lily (Crinum flaccidum) grows all through the Australian outback, but isn’t so common in WA. I’ve seen them around here and also around the River Murray. They come up after summer rain. When I first saw them out near Warren Gorge a few years back, I thought they were some garden plant that had escaped, but they are natives. Like jonquils they have quite a pong, but the look lovely dotted through native vegetation, and I’ve been trying to propagate them for years with no success so far. I gave Kate Llewellyn a few seeds some years ago – wonder if she’s had any luck.

I love them, and that’s why I picked them for my gravatar.

A holiday at home

Finally after six dry months we had a good rain the other week, around 60mm. We did not see the sun for over a week. All through it the children played outside, mainly on the big slide, the bottom of which fills with water, but much time was also spent on chairs on the back verandah.

On the big slide

On the big slide

The weather was so different to our usual intense days of blue skies and heat that it felt like we were somewhere different and exotic. Meals also were eaten outside, adding to the holiday mood.

Amaru outside for a change.

Amaru outside for a change.

However the holiday is over. With the ground soft at last, and no watering needed for a week or two, I have been busy working on pond #2 and pond #3.

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Reduce your risk of bushfire in the garden – Part 2

7 ways to reduce your bushfire risk in the garden.

Let’s face it, for anyone living in southern Australia (or any gardeners living in the various dry lands around the world), sooner or later you will have to face a fire at some point. But there are quite a few things you can do to protect your property, and because people like lists, I’ve made one!

1. Don’t plant gum trees or conifers close to the house, as lovely as houses nestled in the bush may look. These trees are potential fireballs and Eucalypts are said to burst into flame in high temperatures, ie those caused by an oncoming fire front.

2. Assess your risk. Where do you live? Is it heavily wooded, turned over to vineyards or mainly grassland? Which way do the winds come from? Make sure you get to a local bushfire information night before fire season comes, and find out what you can about your own specific conditions. Here in Quorn my winds come mainly from the southwest, with hot winds coming from the north (the scary ones) and cool ones coming from the southeast some mornings. My main risk here is grassfires caused by lightning strikes. While I shouldn’t have to face a huge fire front, my local deputy fire chief tells me that if the hills were to burn I would be at risk from spot fires caused by embers, and would need to keep an eye on the house (wood) should embers land on it, as we would be within range of ember attack.

My mother in Fairview Park, Adelaide, on the other hand, is mainly alright as the hills are to the east, except if the gully winds blow, as they did the other night. She only found out later that the local pub had been evacuated, but so far has lived to tell the tale.

One day it will be our turn

One day it will be our turn

3. Plant fire retardant plants.

Trees include: Kurrajong, Carob, Peppercorn, White cedar and most deciduous trees. A friend’s father who lived through the Canberra bushfires (January 2003) said a plantation of deciduous trees at his local park saved his house.

Shrubs include: Myoporum, Oleander, Old man saltbush (which surprised me).

Ground cover plants: Gazania (as weedy as it is), Lippia, Myoporum, Agapanthus, and pigface, anything fleshy or full of water.

4. Build that wall. A stone wall is an impenetrable line of defence.

5. Plant a lawn, if you have enough water for it.

6. Choose your mulch carefully, as bark will burn. Spread lots of shale, and keep it free of weeds. Save those woody mulches for the garden beds further away from the house.

7. Keep your property tidy. Keep the grass cut, have your woodpile away from the house, and try not to store too much flammable junk under your verandahs (a note to self here). Keep the gutters free of dead leaves – do this in spring.

It would also be good to get some fire fighting equipment, which I must do, but knowing me, I’ll only get to it when the hills burn, and may find it in short supply on that day.

Reduce your risk of bushfire in the garden – Part 1

At this time of the year I often wonder what I’ve done in choosing a place with such difficult growing conditions. Then there’ll be a big fire or flood somewhere and I’ll remember the benefits.

As I write the biggest bushfire in the Adelaide Hills since Ash Wednesday 1983 is raging, only 5 km from my mother’s home in the northeast suburbs of Adelaide and even closer to our dear friends the Toholkes near Birdwood. A day these people have dreaded has arrived and I pray they are safe, and their wonderful house and garden full of order too.

Toholke garden

Toholke garden

I had been living here at this house for five months when Black Saturday happened (7th Feb 2009 in Victoria), and that tragedy has shaped the garden more than I probably realize. Soon afterwards I researched what plants burn and what plants have fire resistant leaves and gardened accordingly.

The Wall

The Wall

This little wall makes me feel safe, as it is on the north side of the house, where the hottest scariest winds come from, as they did yesterday – it was apocalyptically hot.

The yellow garden

The yellow garden

The rather large shrubs in the yellow garden are Myoporum montanum, a nice fire retardant plant, as is Old Man Saltbush (Atriplex nummalaria), the grey leafed shrub to the left of it. This bed is to the West of the house, from where all our dry storms come around November.

South of the house.

South of the house.

The rather large expanse of shale spread around the south and southwest of the house is there for a reason – when the wind swings around after a nasty north wind, it comes violently from the southwest. The southwesterly also comes up each afternoon during summer except in a heatwave, and firefighters around here have had to deal with these winds many times as fires head towards towns and houses in the Flinders ranges after starting in the hills.

This deciduous tree and pigface may not even catch fire let alone burn.

 

Things to look forward to

At this time of the year there is not a lot new and exciting in the garden, except in the area of food production (for a change). For weeks we have been eating Cape Gooseberries, which flourished despite the frosts of August and the dry months that have gone by since then.

Any day now!

Any day now!

Soon we will be digging into these apricots (above) that are growing in the septic orchard. This tree has been in five years now, as have the apple trees below.These have grown a lot in the past two years, after getting a few good doses of Sharon’s poop water. Many people have said that you can’t grow apples in Quorn, but this is one of the handful of success stories about the place. Others are the school garden and the Brooker’s garden.

P1160225

We also have quinces growing in the citrus orchard near the purple garden but not much citrus as I keep promising myself that next year I will water it properly but next year never comes.

Vegie patch

Vegie patch.

Maya has been carefully tending the vegie patch this year, she can’t stay away from the place. Despite the lack of rain over spring things have been growing well. She says that the smell of the tomato plants is the best smell in the world, so that might be what draws her back each evening. I love that smell too, it takes me straight to childhood summers in the gardens of my grandparents Kramer at Modbury and Uncle Martin and Aunty Net at Lobethal. Soon we will eat our first tomatoes and I am looking forward to that blissful moment as you bite into something with real flavour that you have grown yourself.

Don’t worry bee happy

I see a bee!

Blue banded bee

Blue banded bee

A certain item came through my Facebook newsfeed today reporting that Australia’s honey production was down 50 percent etc; add that to the pineapple shortage and you might start thinking, “aarrghhhh, we’re all going to die!”

But while there have been less European bees around lately, I have noticed a lot more native bees. I don’t think I ever saw any Blue Banded bees before 2011 around here, although that could also be because I wasn’t paying much attention. But they do just as good a job at pollination, coming in for the Eremophila flowers and stopping off by the tomato plants while they are at it.

If only we could round them up and get them to make us some honey!

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