One of the basic rules of summer here in Sydney, if you're sensible, is to get the gardening jobs done in the early morning or the late evening and avoid the humid heat of midday. But I'm nowhere near as sensible as I should be. I started late, around 9.30, thanks to a long but very enjoyable Saturday night being the sober 'designated driver' while all around me got merrily, pleasantly plastered at a Japanese restaurant. Got them all home safely, which is the main thing, then slept in. Had a good-sized checklist of jobs to do, then amazed myself by getting them all done. So I thought I should finish up with a cool drink inside, blogging up a lap of the summer garden here in Amateur Land.
It's summer, the perfect excuse for a fragrant frangipani shot. The wonderful thing about the classic Sydney frangipani – the one with the white flower with the yellow centre – is there's never anything you need to do to them, apart from enjoy them. The rule here is 'neglect them' and they thrive on local rainfall and nothing else. Try to water or feed them and they won't do as well. Just talk to them and tell them they're beautiful, and that's it.
Here's my star hospital ward patient showing great signs of recovery after a near-death experience. This is Grevillea 'Superb', and it came very close to carking it lately. Had a mystery disease, which sent the leaves brown and stopped its usual constant flowering in its tracks. Pruning didn't help. And then I read about fungal diseases and a treatment of 'phosphorous acid', sold here as 'Anti-Rot', which you apply as a spray. Four weeks after the Anti-Rot all the leaves are green and lovely, the flowers rich with nectar and life is good again for our patient. Phew!
No problems for the other backyard Grevillea, named 'Peaches & Cream' for its two-toned flowers. It's just starting to get underway with its flowering, but it's looking in rude good health. Again, no special care needed here at all.
Everything is just sparkling for this pineapple lily, which has taken two whole years to flower. I've discovered that I haven't been giving it enough sun (always the problem with small gardens, where lots of plants nearer the fences or too close to bigger plants get only part sun). The flowering should be more dense, apparently, but I don't mind at all. Looks nice as is.
The low, spreading Zinnia angustifolia is nothing if not multicoloured. I have six plants – two orange, one yellow, one white, this one which is light pink, and another dark pink, with white edges. Like the frangipanis, these guys need hardly any help from me, apart from a bit of water to help them settle in while they were babies.
Also in flower and setting fruit, our potted cumquats received their six-weekly feed this morning. In fact this morning was feeding time at the plant zoo, with everything that needed a feed getting its favourite tucker. And this year I'm getting more organised! There's a calendar up on the wall in the shed, and I've started writing down which plants are fed what, on which date. Last year I found feeding potted cumquats every six weeks a real test of my memory. Somehow six-week intervals are so much harder to keep track of than monthly or six-monthly feeds. So the calendar should help me stay on the program a bit better.
My beloved potted curry tree needed a bit of attention this morning. A liquid feed, plus trimming off the numerous little suckers – mini curry trees a few inches high – which try to make a break for it from the congested roots near the soil surface. The berries are forming again. As an experiment, last year I planted several ripe berries in potting mix – and they all came up! That makes me suspect this could become an environmental weed if planted close to bushland, but where I am in the inner-city that's probably not an issue.
My turn to cook dinner tonight, and sage will be one of the main flavours to accompany the veal cutlets I'll be cooking. On the side there'll be carrots harvested from the potager patch, plus my favourite way of cooking fresh garden peas, with prosciutto.
Another greedy feeder, my mint pot happily accepted a liquid feed this morning. I'm planning on doing a little post on mint soon, as I routinely cut back mint all the way to the pot rim, then watch it bounce back within a couple of weeks. I've photographed it step by step, so it's a really good thing to do to potted mint when it looks a bit scrappy.
I did a fair bit of work in the potager patch this morning, pulling out the ornamental kale which had gone berserk in the heat, harvesting all of the carrots and some of the silver beet, and planting new seedlings of silver beet and lettuce, plus a couple of rows of spring onion (shallot) seed as well.
The gaps on the left side of the potager patch are where the silver beet came out, and the big, dark gap at the back is where the kale came out. As the vegies grow fast it should all fill out and look a lot better about four weeks from now. The extra bit of curly parsley border down the right side of the patch is coming along nicely now, thanks to a fair bit of water and some regular light liquid feeds. (The shrub at the back is the Grevillea Peaches & Cream, now about 18 months old).
I've learned my lesson and will only try growing the kale in winter from now on, but it's a beautiful plant with wondrous leaf colours. Serves me right for buying seedlings when I saw them.
Another summer job which began today was the annual "repelling of the barbarian invaders" ie, my neighbour, Nick's, fabulously vigorous grapevine. Every year Nick's vine makes a grab for hanging baskets and other bits and pieces on my side of the fence, and every few weeks I just hack it back. Pictured here, the very first invading tendril of grapevine has seized hold of the pelargonium's hanging basket chain.
I've been a bit slack about keeping the bird feeder clean and stocked up. I don't believe in putting out seed regularly, as it's bad for the birds to become dependent on an artificial food source, especially if I then go away for a while. However, I see no harm in a few random feeds every now and then. I found this lovely ceramic feeder in a little town called Tilba Tilba, on the NSW South Coast.
At the other end of the backyard the main birdbath got its routine, daily, clean-up and change of water. I keep a couple of different stones to provide a landing spot for smaller birds. I need a few stones, as each will become a bit slimy after a day or two in the water. Sitting the spare stones in the sun kills any slime, and the system seems to work OK.
Today, instead of a bird, a bee was my first customer to the new, cool water. Thirsty work, collecting pollen!
I haven't photographed all the jobs I did, but I did plenty, such as trimming the murraya hedge which screens the compost bins; tidying my bonsai fig tree; repotting some succulents and bromeliads after I discovered ants trying to set up colonies inside the potting mix; cutting back my Christmas bush now that its flowering has ended; feeding the orchids; potting up some more fast-growing rocket, sowing seed for the next crop of carrots, and even more spring onions, which I'll plant as seedlings wherever I find a spare bare spot. And, of course, the gardener's perennial task – weeding! How could I forget the weeding? Did lots of that, too!
For the life of me I could never join a gymnasium (to be honest, the music they play there on its own would keep me out of there), because the best exercise in the world is working in the garden. It's certainly the most interesting exercise I know!