Monday, October 26, 2020

Well, that didn't last long

Well, there I was thinking that gardening is a safe and easy way to pass the time, and I end up in the emergency ward at Westmead Hospital with a broken ankle.

The short version of the story is that I was doing some gardening at Pam's mother's townhouse, fixing up the mess of pots and plants on her ground-floor balcony. The last phase of the successful operation was to hose down the balcony, then return the hose back to the garden area behind her townhouse.

It was such a low balcony that the 60cm (2 feet) drop from the tiled floor onto the grass below presented no obvious dangers, and so off I jumped. My left foot landed on the soft green lawn perfectly, no problems. But my right foot landed right on top of a hidden concrete edging strip around the lawn. Suddenly a little 60cm drop felt like a plummet into the abyss. Ouch.

And pictured below, this is how my right ankle looked about four hours later, in the Emergency Ward.

The prognosis isn't too bad, but it doesn't involve any gardening. I need to have my leg in plaster, and my right leg comfortably elevated, for about six weeks. Then more X-Rays and I'll find out what comes next.

So, dear readers, following my long garden-blogging lay-off from late 2018 until just a month or so ago in 2020, and my brief re-appearance, I'm afraid there's going to be a short lay-off from gardening blogging at least until December, and perhaps until early 2021, depending on how things go.

All I can recommend is that no matter how small the drop, no matter how safe it looks, don't jump off any balconies whatsoever. I have learned my lesson the painful way. I am grounded!

Friday, October 9, 2020

Waiting for Good-o


It's hardly rational, but I always manage to have moments of silent panic each year when my Louisiana irises start to bloom. I blame the blue ones, because they show up early. Too early in fact. About two weeks before the white ones.

And I really love the white ones. So, every year, there's a two week period when I manage to convince myself that maybe I've done something wrong, and the white ones won't appear at all. Silly boy. 

Double delight this morning, two white Louisiana irises.

It was only few days ago that I wondered 'had I accidentally thrown out the white-flowered plants' rhizomes last year while repotting?' No, surely not. 

But I am keen enough that, every now and then, just for a few nano-seconds of self-doubt, I allow these thoughts a subversive whisper in my ear.
That's all history now. Last year I had to repot my Louisiana irises, as they had multiplied so much they had totally outgrown their pot. In fact, I had to set up a second, smaller water garden pot to cope with the overload. Even then I still had to toss out some excess rhizomes, simply because I had so many. These things are really vigorous growers, but I must admit it's a nice problem to have. 

Louisiana iris flowers telegraph the colours to come a few
days in advance.

It's hard to be there for the actual moment the flowers open,
but these guys are sooo close.

Then, next thing you know, they're open and if you could
talk to them they'd say they've been open for ages. Where were you?

Of course the thing that makes my white irises so special to
me is the green bits. A totally all-white iris with no green stripey bits would be a pale imitation of the real thing.

There are tinges of green deep within each bloom, but it's the stripes that really get me. They look like they're hand-painted with a slender brush.

The whole glorious flower show will all be over two weeks from now. That'll be it for another year, but the wait for Good-o has been worth it yet again. 

However, when you factor in the two weeks of glorious blue irises prior to the white ones, it's a month-long, very delightful way to announce to everyone that spring is well and truly here. 

Friday, October 2, 2020

The natives are restful


Pammy sees to it that the interiors of our house are always brightened by flowers in vases, whether they're picked from the garden or bought home from a florist's shop.

And in the last few weeks it has been gorgeous natives — lots of them — that have been filling the house with their beautiful blooms. I find the effect quite restful.

Flannel flowers, my favourite native flowers. While everyone naturally thinks of them as white, I am also captivated by their subtle greens that feature not only in the centre, but are also flecked on the petals, especially as they start to fade. And besides, they look like soft fabric.

How come all the native beauty? Pammy has been running a series of weekend art classes (all sold out, the series finished last weekend) at two venues in Sydney. Pictured above is a shot from her class at Acquire@Design in King Street Newtown.

Run by dressmaker and fashion designer Karen Kwok, Acquire is a designer store selling original fashions, plus a skilfully curated, eclectic selection of designer homewares. And it has a big, long, wide dressmaker's table in the centre, where small classes can relax and learn watercolour skills following Pammy's expert tuition. 

Pam's other weekend courses are conducted at Connie Dimas Jewellery in Dulwich Hill. Connie is an innovative jewellery designer, and she also has a big table to cater for a variety of art classes for small groups.

To finish off all the plugs, I'd better tell you where to find Pamela Horsnell the artist and art teacher online. She is on Instagram at @pamelahorsnellartist, and her website is at 

Onto the flower show!

This is Banksia coccinea, commonly called the scarlet banksia, and most commonly a scarlet-red flower too. But there are orange forms like this one, and it's such a good cut flower for vases. This specimen is two weeks old and still looking good.

Not sure what kind of wattle this is, but it's pretty while it lasts, which unfortunately is not that long. But when seen as part of a huge shrub in bloom in gardens, it's a show-stopper.

With this yellow-flowered eucalyptus, you get spectacular gumnuts which, when their browny-red lids pop off, reveal outrageously big, yellow blooms. Nectar-eating birds can spot them from a mile away.

Kangaroo paws come in many colours, but I always remember driving along narrow coastal roads in Western Australia in springtime, with yellow kangaroo paws six feet high forming a big beautiful golden wall on both sides of the road, the way tall grasses do. It seemed other-worldly to be in a sea of kangaroo paws.

Like the Banksia above, this pink waratah is two weeks old and still going strong. For overseas readers who might not be familiar with waratahs, each bloom is up to five or so inches across, and in the wild each waratah shrub in bloom can have a few dozen of these stunners. They're the official state emblem of my home state, New South Wales, where they grow in abundance in our cooler zones, such as up in the mountains.

Speaking of wild waratahs, the closest we can get to that is the bunch of waratahs grown by our friend Lou on his South Coast property at Bermagui. Unlike the waratahs sold in florist's shops, which stay tightly packed for quite some time, Lou's native versions opened out within a few days of arriving.

When you mention native flora it's not just all about flowers. There's gumnuts, and these come in so many captivating sizes and shapes that any good display of natives in vases should include some gumnuts. These little ones (that look like they are dusted in icing sugar) will be going back to Connie Dimas' jewellery store, where Connie will use them as templates for some new creations.

The gumnut leftovers of a yellow eucalyptus flower show. And did I mention that eucalyptus leaves are just as varied, beautiful and desirable as gumnuts?

Another gumnut pic to show you, with a flannel flower on the side.

Beloved of florists, Geraldton wax seems simple at first glance, that is until you peer into what is going on inside each bloom...

A vase of flannel flowers will brighten any room, soothe any aching soul.

These bottlebrush flowers might not look that spectacular, but go easy on them: they're just tough street kids fending for themselves. The streets in my area have countless red Callistemons (bottlebrushes) in bloom right now, an excellent street tree.

And last but not least, a big 'thank you' to our friend Jolanda, who allowed Pam to pop around to her garden, secateurs in hand, and trim off a selection of grevillea blooms, gumnuts and eucalyptus foliage for use in her native flora art classes.