Posts Tagged ‘sandstone’

My winter photo


Over the years my daughter Maya has taken pictures of me in my garden, usually in the middle of winter, starting in 2009, our first winter in this house. My husband had died the previous month, so the look on my face that year was a bit not me. But over the years things have improved, on my face and in the garden.

I did not realize that the winter photo had become a tradition until I looked back and saw that I had done it most years (except for 2012).  I have never made the photos public, because in them I am wearing my worst clothes, clothes which I very often wear in the garden.



Herb bed, five years on

Okay, so putting up the carport put my herb garden in rain shadow, so now it has less herbs and more tough plants. Never mind.

Gardener in a dry land – five years on

Five years since my first post! I got started on my garden in earnest in January 2011, and started blogging in May that same year. For four years, 2011-2014 I put in loads of hours getting the garden off the ground. I have been a bit off the boil the last year or two, since I started a creative writing course, but fortunately gardens happily grow without you.

My main complaint about this place is that things take forever to grow here, but these photos will prove that this is not true. They just seem to take forever.



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 will 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 achievement. 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.






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.


Cactus flower bonanza

As usual it has been ages since a good rain, but given this is a dry place, I don’t suppose I need to go on about it. Some people believe that a flowering cactus is a sign of rain on its way, but that might just be wishful thinking!

Near the chook house.

Waiting for rain near the chook house.

Still, with this many flowering at once, I may get my hopes up.



These cactuses with the red flower came from the local rubbish dump, when I went to get mulch two or three years ago. And they do not look like trash at all.

New cactus is flowering already (photographed by Isabel)

Stolen. (photographed by Isabel)

Got these white ones just a few months ago and now look at them! They came from a house near here, and were piled up ready to go to the dump. No one was home when I went to ask for some, so I took a couple of bits anyway, and as I did that bit from Ratatouille was in my head, “it’s not stealing if no one wants it.” “Then why are we stealing it?!”

From Grandma's


The pink one came from Grandma’s garden and grew slowly in its pot for many years before being planted out (possibly 20 or more). I planted this bed near the chook house in 2010, but fail to weed it thanks to the prickles. This one has never had so many flowers before, and I used to get excited if it had three out.