Friday, July 29, 2011

The morning show

There's one special advantage of having a garden which faces the morning sun; as you open the back door on a clear and sunny winter's morning, such as today's was, you are greeted by glowing colour as the sunshine radiates through the open flowers.

I love poppies for so many reasons. The crepe paper texture of the flowers is one. The colours another, so too the hairy heads of the unopened buds. And the collapsed chaos as the floppy ones keep on flowering while too delirious to stand up just adds to the sense that there's a party going on here.

Every year I grow Iceland poppies for Pammy, but I love them just as much as she does, and they're definitely at their best when they do the morning show, as pictured here.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

An artist's eye

I love it when Pammy says to me "come outside and have a look at this" because I know old eagle-eyes has done it again. And this morning she proved once more to me that an artist's eye seems to have a built-in human macro lens for details that many of us mere mortals simply don't notice. Pictured below is what she saw, in the wall pot just outside our back door.

Blooms within blooms. To most of us the colourful spike of bracts emanating from a bromeliad is a 'flower', but one of those yellow-tipped protrusions has turned itself into a trumpet shape which has opened to reveal a pollen stalk, a real bloom, however small and humble. The green lumps at the end of other yellow arms seem to promise more blooms in the next few days. These plants are truly happy here.

This morning, I was no further than a few feet away from this pot as I tootled outside to inspect the drenched garden. We've had the mother of a wet week, our wettest July for 60 years, with 285mm (11.2 inches) of rain tumbling out of the clouds since last Tuesday.

My main concern was checking on the potential drowning victims (and fortunately there were none) but if I had bothered to stop and just have a good, old-fashioned look around at all the residents here in Amateur Land, I might have seen what Pammy spotted in the wall pots.

The bromeliads are under full cover, didn't get a drop of water on them all week, but they were surrounded by moisture and mist – and maybe the soundtrack of constant rain helped as well?

"Hey, am I back in the rainforest where I belong?" the bromeliad asked itself. "Yep, yippee!"

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Good morning, everything!

It's a little habit of mine that started so long ago that I can't remember when, but each day when I open the back door that leads straight out to the garden, I always say "good morning everything". And I mean everything. Even the earthworms, the aphids, the flowers and weeds, birds and the bees. Everything. No use in discriminating, is there? We're all equals.

And on this only moderately chilly July morning, the middle of our winter, with the temperature at 10°C and likely to soar up to just 17°C by early afternoon, we had a touch of overnight rain and the garden was just lovely to behold and be in. No jobs to be done at all, just a wander around our pretty little patch here on Earth.

The first of the cinerarias decided this was the day to come out. These things will now flower for a few months, in colours so bright that lurid is the most honest way to describe them. These are here to do a job, not so much to be looked at directly, but to be looked at in a mirror, attached to the shed wall, by someone standing at the back of the house. That's the plan.

Now, the nasturtiums are Pam's plants, but this is the reason why I so readily gave in and planted something which I consider to be an invasive weed. Ahhhhhh, raindrops on nasturtium leaves in the morning...

Speaking of raindrops, for some reason they always look like a watery gel, rather than mere water, when they accumulate on these succulents.

If plants were a doggie which could wag its tail with happiness, this pelargonium would also like to press its cold wet nose up against my face while it wagged its furry tail.

Of all the vegies I grow, I like the look of parsnip foliage the best. I know there are some glam contenders out ehre (thinking cauliflowers, kales, cabbages and curly parsley for starters) but the light and cheerful green of the parsnips just seals the deal for me.

On a Sunday morning, where there isn't much gardening to be done because Huey the Rain God has sent down a shower overnight, there's only one thing to do, says Mitchell, our Librarian Gnome, and that's read a good book.

Good idea, Mitchell.

(Looking for something new and totally different to read? I'm loving the book I am reading right now, 'Leo the African', by one of my favourite authors, Amin Maalouf, a wonderful Lebanese writer. I cannot recommend Maalouf highly enough. Beautifully poetic and dazzlingly exotic in the way he brings another, completely different culture and time to life, a good one to look for and start with is 'Samarkand' but 'Leo the African' is winning me over as being every bit as good as my favourite so far, Samarkand.)

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Tibouchina madness

I have a crazy plan, and please don't tell me not to do it because I've already gone ahead and done it. Caution and craziness are total strangers around here. The craziness is my plan to save my little, struggling Tibouchina 'Groovy Baby', which I originally blogged about here, in April last year.

Poor thing, it's battling to survive, and as far as I have heard from others growing it, it's not just me who is having trouble. Let me explain, and I'll start with a nice photo of it back in happier days.

Not long after planting it in April, it began to flower, and it kept on flowering all the way through to September. I now suspect this was mistake number one. Instead of settling into its new home, all it did was produce flowers, and not new roots.

After the briefest of breathers it began to flower again in early summer, and at first I thought "what a marvel". And then the foliage started to yellow (as you can see in the photo above, taken in midsummer). Some light fertilising with an organic food, combined with a seaweed emulsion, didn't have much effect. By autumn all the flowers were gone, lots of leaves had dropped or turned yellow, whole branchlets (well, it is a tiny thing, only about 30cm tall) had died off. I cut off all the dead bits and kept up with the applications of seaweed emulsion (Seasol, which isn't a fertiliser but is a tonic for stressed plants that helps root growth).

And now for the crazy plan, which I implemented about a month ago. I pulled off all the flower buds. And I'm keeping at it, too. After I took this photo I spotted a few more flower buds, and off they came.

I see this poor little plant as being like a precocious child stage star, forced to perform for the public at far too tender an age. In the non-plant world the human child stage star becomes a burnt-out drug-addicted has-been by the time they reach 18, if they're still alive. In the plant world the plant just dies young.

And so, my crazy theory is that my little Groovy Baby needs to have a happy childhood doing nothing but growing its little leaves and roots and settling in until it gets to its full size, which is a very modest 60cm (two feet) tall and 80cm (two and a half feet) wide. Only then will this recently-reformed strict parent allow it to flower. Well, that's the theory!

So far, I am sure that it's looking healthier already (parents are so optimistic about their youngsters). It's putting on new growth, and so I am very lightly feeding it once a month with half-strength organic liquid food, plus a half-dose of seaweed tossed in for good measure.

Only time will tell, so this time next year I am hoping to be able to announce an exciting new teenage flowering sensation, 'Groovy Baby', is ready to dazzle the world with its purple-powered show. Wish us luck!

Saturday, July 2, 2011

It's happening, just slowly

Winter gardens seem to be on Valium at times. Everything happens slowly. It's all quite calm, there's not the frenetic buzz of insects and birds like you get in spring and summer. It's all a bit slow. Suddenly my action-packed inner-city garden feels like it's a country town set to 'snooze' mode. But there are signs that things are finally happening, just slowly.

The Iceland cometh. Poppy, that is. There's a couple of dozen of these people lifting their heads at the moment, the start of another winter flowering season that I hope lasts for months.

These parsnips live life at a leisurely pace. It takes anywhere between three and four weeks for the seed to germinate, and now they are plodding along nicely, but harvest time is months away. The good thing is at least they don't need much care.

Next door the English spinach is stirring into action, after a slow start from seed. Crops will be a few more weeks away, but pickings of baby leaves for salads are getting close.

Next door to the English spinach a row of recently thinned-out carrot seedlings is finally getting down to business, but these too are several weeks away from harvest.

Last year I planted brodiaea bulbs at the recommended spacing of 10cm and the effect was hopeless. Easily the biggest disappointment in the garden last year. These flowering bulbs from South Africa were meant to produce pretty blue-star flowers, and they did, but each small bloom was so far apart from its neighbour that you barely noticed them. Nevertheless I saved the bulbs and this year I have jammed them into a pot like commuters on a Tokyo subway train. My only problem with this experiment is that I might be overseas when they bloom! Rats!

I reckon it's only a few more sleeps before these cinerarias begin their lurid winter colour show. These are growing in almost full shade, but they're one of those "will flower in shade in winter" kind of annuals, with the proviso that the colours aren't necessarily in the best taste. I don't mind, I just want some action here in Quiet Town!

Speaking of action, here some real excitement. When I went outdoors with my camera this afternoon I had already made up my mind that I was going to do a blog about how nothing is happening yet, and yet here's the first of the Iceland poppies cheekily saying "nyah nyah" to my theme while flashing a pure white smile.

OK, poppy, I stand corrected. There is stuff happening here. Just not much. Not yet. Patience is a virtue, but waiting is still a bore.