Thursday, April 9, 2009

This n that

Well, blogger me, I've been busy lately! Unfortunately it's been the kind of busy-ness that earns money but doesn't look after gardens or provide much fun. However, with four luxurious days of Easter stretching out into the near distance, things are looking much more entertaining once more. As for what's been happening here in Amateur Land, with no time for much work lately all I have to note is a bit of this n that here and there, hence the blog title.

While I've mentioned my other zinnia patch I haven't devoted any space to this charming pocket of Zinnia angustifolia plants, which is near my lemon tree towards the back of the garden. There are just four plants pictured here. It's a low, spreading thing that will reach 70cm across, so the books say.

I'm quite taken with its pretty little orangey-yellow cluster of inner blooms, which look like so many mini frangipanis. There's no scent to speak of but the sight is cheery – it's a plant which makes you smile.

Here's the latest addition to the garden, an impulse buy (of sorts) this morning. I was at a gardening centre this morning buying mulch for a job I'll be doing at my mother-in-law's tomorrow, and while wheeling around in my usual retail centre daze I spotted this Acacia cognata 'Limelight'. Pam has been wanting me to grow one for about a year, ever since she saw an Acacia cognata at the Sydney Botanical Gardens. The one at the Botanical Gardens is fab, a small, dome-shaped foliage plant with a weepy habit – and the foliage is, as the name implies, lime-green.

Anyway, I've been a bit hesitant to get one, as my expert horticulturist friend said, when I mentioned Pam wanted me to get one, those fateful words: "Good luck – can be a bit tricky, you know". Now, with Australian natives that comment translates into "Will grow well for a while, then suddenly look sick then die within three days". Fortunately, it's all started out well. Though priced at $15.95 it had the wrong plant-label and barcode on, and I got it for $6.95. Great start – I'm feeling optimistic already! It's headed for a much larger pot and a sunny spot.

Speaking of lovely green foliage, I've tossed in this shot of the mint pot today as I plan to blog away soon about an interesting little project I have underway. Some good friends have just bought a house nearby and have blown all their dough on a kitchen renovation, so they have no money for a garden. So, I've decided to create a little garden for them, all from cuttings and seeds (hence the mint shot – I'm striking mint cuttings, which is about as tricky as breathing). My friends are both very good cooks, so a herb and salad garden is where we're headed. They haven't got a clue about gardening, which is why I think we'll start out small and see if they can master the first basic – keeping plants alive by remembering to water them – before we move onto the Bablyonian hanging gardens, etc.

This is the mint after 12 days in a jar of water. Isn't vigorous or anything, is it? I've also dug up clumps of oregano and thyme, and taken cuttings of rosemary and sage, and the seed trays of lettuce, green onions, spinach, silver beet, coriander and parsley are all making good progress, too. Once it all gets going, it should be fun to blog about later on.

My succulents are loving autumn, and several of them, such as this echeveria, are flowering their funny looking little heads off. Though succulents come from climate zones with hot, dry summers, those same climate zones also often have wet, cool winters, and so these plants have adapted to do all their growing and flowering in autumn, winter and spring. Then they shut down for the summer, living off their stored reserves of moisture (hence their 'waterwise' reputation, which is a bit misleading when it comes to their care). And though Sydney is a much more consistently moist place than their homelands, they still respond to the cooler weather and shorter daylight hours of autumn, even here, and they're all thriving now. This is when I feed them and water them if it's been dry for several days in a row.

If you think the succulents are a bit strange looking, this alarming pink fungus, which sprang up from the mulch near my lemon tree, is in a class of its own. By dawn the next day it was gone (or, more accurately, detumescent), but it hosted a hell of a party for all the local flies attracted to its alluring (but very, very slight) 'dead flesh' smell.

Autumn has also seen an explosion in the local spider population, and this year there are big numbers of what I call the 'homemaker' spiders – those which include a wrapped-up leaf within their web as a protective shell.

As I was taking my photo of Homey he/she very obligingly popped out and attended to yet another foolish insect which wandered into his/her web. He/she was out doing that amazing, spidery silk-weaving thing for a mere 20 seconds, scurrying back to its leafy address once dinner had been organised.

Speaking of organising dinner, that's what I should be doing now, instead of blogging. Here's a small part of it, some young olive-leaf rocket, a new variety which I'm growing from seed. As it's so small I won't take too much, but I need a bed of rocket for what I have in mind.

The rest of tonight's bed of rocket will come from this pot of the common type of rocket which everyone grows here, which is ready for harvesting. I'm a great believer in harvesting and eating rocket when it is very small and nicely nutty. Leave this pot for another week and the rocket will start to take on that strong, peppery flavour that very few people like.

And tonight's meal is simple. Grilled lamb cutlets served on a bed of rocket, with a combo of baked vegetables on the side.

I'm off to my mother-in-law's garden to hack back some choko vines and teach some other garden bullies a lesson tomorrow. Pam's mum is a super-keen 80-year-old gardener who's not up to the heavy work any more, but she's great fun to be with at all times. I've got all the essential supplies organised that we'll need to make it a great day with her: secateurs, gloves, loppers, trugs, fertiliser and mulch for me – and for Pam and her mum, their favourite – champagne!


Liss said...

Those Zinnias are beautiful Jamie - enjoy your long weekend! Finally got our vege garden going! We've got 2 of the 4 beds going and hopefully in the next couple of weeks will get the other two going too. I've blogged a bit about it with pics - just use tag 'garden' if you're interested :)

Thank you for the ongoing inspiration!

Chandramouli S said...

I too love that flowery head of Zinnias. They're very attractive, aren't they! So nice of you to create a garden for your friends. Good luck with it. I love your veggie updates and always grow hungry at the end. [chuckle] Off to lunch...

PhotoSynthesis said...

Love your fungi! It has the rather impressive name of Phallus rubicundus, I will leave it up to your imagination as to it's English translation. It is also know as a Stinkhorn, The flies are attracted to the odour and the slime on the tip which is rich with spores. The flies get the spores on their feet which they then spread to areas of the garden. They also ingest and excrete the spore which spreads them evenfurther afield.

Elise said...

Thanks for putting up the photo of the pink fungus...we found in our backyard and i was stunned as had never seen such a specimen before. Elise (Brisbane, Wld)

Darren Furnival said...

I have found one of the strange fungi on my front lawn; Phallus rubicundus. Thanks to Brent for the answer I was looking for.
I will be posting my pictures on my blog later, now that I have some information.
(Loftus, NSW)