Saturday, June 9, 2007


Vinnie the corporate climber, strangled everyone

A few weeks ago I re-hung the wire that supports a climber out on the patio. Each week since then I've spent some time with some nylon cord tying up new shoots. My long term goal is to have a lush climber roof. I expect it will take about five years to get where I'm going.

One thing I've noticed is that left to themselves many of the new shoots will start climbing back up themselves. This isn't such a good idea because as the branch thickens it must eventually strangle itself. The shoot grows without thought of the future. The plant itself cares nothing for the individual shoot. Some shoots will survive and that is all the plant cares about. There must be growth regardless of the price. The shoot expends it's energy expanding. The plant expends it's energy creating new shoots. But we the gardener have a long time plan. So we expend our energy manipulating the shoots towards our long term goal. What we do helps the shoot because we increase the individual shhots chances of survival. We help the plant because we provide more opportunities for new growth.

The plant reminds me of a business. It needs to grow so it expends it's energy creating new shoots (this could mean a bigger store, a new store, a new product line). The business doesn't care about the long term impact of it's growth it only cares about growth. So who is the gardener? As individuals we can't do much to effect the business. We can form groups to effect change and sometimes these groups can make a difference. But for groups to make a difference they need to focus on individual shoots (i.e processing oil in a specific way causes pollution). This focus can make it difficult to keep an eye on the long term goal. Inevitably the real gardener is the government.

The current Australian government believes in letting the market find it's own way and has worked hard to give the market more freedom. This has lead to much growth and now we are in an election year they point to this growth as proof of their competance. But we all know what eventually happens when the gardener hands over responsibility to the garden.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Climber Gets Wired


Over the weekend I finally had a chance to fix two mistakes I made over five years ago. The mistakes relate to a climber that grows in the BBQ area. This climber is quite spectacular when it flowers and if properly supported it could be even better. When we moved into the house the climber was barely at the top of the post that supports the pergola. To help support it I tied four pieces of wire half the length of the pergola (about 8 metres). Over the coming years I trained the climber along the wire by wrapping it around the wire. So did you spot my errors. The first was that I used a fine wire that was unable to support the current weight of the climber. The second was training the climber around the wire. A strategy that has been slowly strangling the climber the further along the wire it went.

Climber re-wired 20/05/2007

To overcome the first problem I replaced what remains of the original wire with a thicker wire (3mm diameter) commonly used to support shade cloth. To overcome the second problem I am using a soft nylon tie that will expand as the climber grows and thickens.

Sunday, May 13, 2007

Bloom Day May, 2007


13/05/2007 Acacia


13/05/2007 Pelargonium


13/05/2007 Pelargonium

Hebe Abbey Rose

13/05/2007 Hebe Abbey Rose

Hebe Snowdrift

13/05/2007 Hebe Snowdrift

Hebe (Plectranthus?)

13/05/2007 Hebe

Correa Decumbens

13/05/2007 Correa Decumbens

Correa Dusky Bell

13/05/2007 Correa Dusky Bell

Correa Glabra x Decumbens

13/05/2007 Correa Glabra x Decumbens

Also flowering (but I couldn't get a decent photo):

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Potted Bamboo

13/05/2007 Bamboo

A little while ago I posted about a deceased climber from outside our bedroom. It's absence has been sorely missed if only for the extra privacy it provided. We have been wondering about how best to approach this space. At the same time we've been wondering what to do with a largish bowl that we'd used as a fish pond. Water restrictions and no rain have seen the water evaporate and the fish die from our pond. We loved our little fish pond. But it seems a little unrealistic during a drought. So we have decided to solve two problems by using the ex-fish pond for a bamboo plant. Bamboo is notriously invasive. We are hoping the bowl will keep it in check while giving it space to grow.

Saturday, March 31, 2007

Some new additions

We've had a few showers over the last fortnight and there is still some moisture in the soil. Taking into the reckoning that our last round of plantings are now well established we decided to go plant shopping.
  • For the back fence we bought two Acacia iteaphylla (Flinders Range Wattle)
  • For the same bed a Pittosporum Sunburst to go with an existing Pittosporum. This new one has a variegated leaf with gold veins blending to green at the edge of the leaf.
  • There is a small strip against the houses back wall of the house that has always been a problem. We're trying Correa Mallee Pink here. The flowers are unusually open for Correas and are a lovely pale pink colour. It was a love at first sight sort of purchase. The kind were you've decided to buy and then need to justify it by finding a suitable position. This is our seventh different Correa and each time we shop we find some more variations so I expect it won't be the last.
  • Finally I wanted to get some ground covers for the lawn bed at the front. We'd planted two prostrate grevilleas in the drive bed. These are doing really well and I was keen to get some more. Wasn't able to find the same but picked up Grevillea Crithmifolia. It's more compact that the Grevillea Curviloba. So I'll need to have more to cover the area I need it to cover.

Saturday, March 24, 2007

Not Playing Possum Anymore

07_02_27 Possum25/03/07 Keeping out possums

We have a regular nocturnal visitor to our garden. But there have been three occasions recently when our visitor (a possum) decided that it was worth taking a look inside. It's a bit disturbing waking up at 3am to noises in the next room. It's also no fun trying to hustle a nervous possum out the front door in your PJ's. We're assuming the possums coming down the chimney so today I took some action and covered the chimney top with chicken wire. Simple, a bit rough and ready but hopefully we won't get anymore late night visits.

25/03/07 Keeping out possums (w Garden)

Some Rain at last

25/03/07 Rain fills bird bath

The last 36 hours we've seen some real rain. It's amazing how quickly the remaining lawn turns green after a shower. The biggest sign for me is that the bird baths now have water in them after months of being dry. I hope this is the start of the end with regards the drought. I have lots of things I'd love to be doing with the garden when the water restrictions ease.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Bloom Day : March

In the spirit of bloom day (read more) heres some photos:

Hebe Abbey Rose

Hebe Abbey Rose

Correa glabra x decumbens

Correa glabra x decumbens

Acacia in flower


Correa Glabra 17 01 2007

Correa Glabra


Dietes Iridioides

There are also a couple of the Grevilleas with small flowers and some big red Pelagoniums near the washing line. But I don't have any photos of these yet. The last two photos were taken awhile ago. But the Dietes (there are three of these in total) bloomed again on the and the Correa Glabra never stopped flowering .

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Drought Victim

I have just removed a climber from the fence outside our bedroom. It's been unwell for a while. But the drought was really the last straw. I would have liked to leave it a bit longer as it provides shade to our room through the worst of the summer heat. But it was so dead it was a fire risk.

Side of house with dead climber

I'm unsure what to do here. I'm considering mirroring the shading on the other side of the house which has parallel beams of wood and trellis. With the trellis a climber would have a proper support and the area would be quite shady while the climber grew. But the problem is finding a climber that will working in a small area with little shade or water.

Side of house without dead climber

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Midnight in the Garden

Most nights we get a nocturnal visitor. Usually we hear the possum bouncing across our roof at high speed just after we turn out the lights. But if we keep an eye out we often see the possum scrounging for food while the lights are still on. The other night I got a photo. The first photo is the view from the lounge that you may see while waiting for the possum. The second is the possum in one of the trees.

07_02_27 garden at night
07_02_27 Possum

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Lounge View

A couple of photos of the view from our lounge:

Leaf 25/02/2007
View 25/02/2007

Cropped by layout. Click to view from Flickr

Tagged : The Poisoned Chalice of Blogging

The poisoned chalice has been passed to me; I have been tagged Colin & Carol of Mediterranean Garden Spain. So here I go with 5 things you probably don't know about me:

  • I am currently obsessed by Jyte

  • I can't start the day without coffee and Dilbert

  • I started my working life as an electrician

  • The best book I've read is The Brothers Karamazov By Fyodor Dostoevsky

  • I've been married for 18 years and two weeks

So now it's my turn to tag someone : Pam of Digging

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Thin Rose Wedge

Rose Bed - before

I have finally arrived at the last posting on our front yard makeover. This post is about a thin triangular bed that is edged by the front path, the garage and the front wall. The front wall has a single window facing onto this bed from the front lounge. The window makes this an important bed despite it's size. The front lounge is where we often sit to read and unwind or to have a cuppa with visitors. We usually call it the quiet lounge as the television is down the other end of the house.

When we bought the house this bed had six iceberg roses and a bunch of annuals (a fairly standard makeover when you're planning on selling a house). Anyway the roses remain and consequently we call this the rose bed. We eventually replaced the annuals with lavender and gauri. But it had become rather overgrown from neglect.

For some reason this bed was never included in the gardens irrigation system. Probably because the front path was in before they realised there was a problem. At some point in the past an attempt was made to fix this oversight by running some pipe from the end of one of the beds over the path. To stop visitors from tripping over this pipe it was mortared into one of the path joints (which limited them to the smallest avilable tubing ; 6mm ?). This pipe was too small to be really useful. But that didn't matter as it inevitably became blocked. One of the lawn sprinklers was close enough to path that it actually watered this bed. That is right up until the day that water restrictions stopped us from watering the lawn.

Rose Bed - after

The solution was to run the irrigation tubing to this bed. When I replaced most of the lawn with a new garden bed I removed the lawn sprinklers and was then able to run tubing to the rose bed. The biggest problem with this was getting the tubing under the path. I had to dig a hole under the path (about 1 metre) big enough to get the pipe through. This turned out to be a nasty job taking far too many hours. The main problem being that there wasn't enough room to use a shovel between the garage and path.

We have left the roses and added three quite distinct hebe's. But this is just a beginning and we are considering our options for the edge. We will have some time to ponder this as we don't plan to do any further planting until the water restrictions ease or the weather cools.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Dietes Iridiodes

Front Strip 06_10_21

Alongside setting up the new lawn bed there are two other beds in the front yard that needed attention. The bed I want to mention today is one that edges the front lawn on three sides. The other is the rose bed which I'll look at next week.

All of this edge bed was peppered with weeds. But that was easily sorted with a good dig over and some mulch. There was also a dead plum tree on one side that needed to be dug out. But the real problem was the front boundary. This area was originally hedged with seaside daisies. We'd always planned to remove these daisies as soon as we came up with a better idea. But here we are five years later with the drought forcing the issue. Nothing seems to kill seaside daisies. But that doesn't mean they look good.

One plant that has been a great success in the back yard is Dietes Iridiodes. These are South African plants which seem well suited to our dry climate. They have long strap like leaves and spectacular iris like (hence Iridiodes) flowers. We have been growing these in isolation in the backyard. But the idea is that they will look great planted in a group. They are certainly hardy. In the last four months they have flourished despite the drought. We do give them a fortnightly slosh of greywater but they've never looked like they needed it. I shall keep you posted on their progress.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

My Flickr Slideshow

I was trying out some widgetbox widgets the other day on the blog. But in the end I decided to remove them. They made the page really slow to load and they didn't offer enough design flexibility (i.e the ads didn't fit in and I couldn't get rid of them). The widget I was particularly interested in was a Flickr slideshow.

All the photos I use on this blog are hosted by Flickr. My Flickr account is a rather eclectic mix of photos. Which is why it's great that you can filter them with tags. Anyway I liked the idea of a Flickr slideshow widget so much I decided to make my own. You should be able to see it in action at the bottom of the sidebar. I have it setup to show my photos tagged as flower. But it can get anyones public photos with multiple tags if necessary. Selecting the slideshow should take you to that images Flickr page

Web development is my day job. But work projects are never this simple. It was kind of relaxing to have a small programming exercise. It's the same reason I started to get more involved in the garden. It's good to come home and work on something a bit simpler.

Saturday, February 3, 2007

Selected drought related statistics

Just wanted to share a few excerpts from our local water authorities news letter:

In 2006, the regions major catchment resevoir, the West Barwon Reservoir, received it's lowest rainfall on record. Rainfall to mid-December was a disappointing 606 millimeters compared to the average if 1148 millimeters.

At the end of 2006, towns in the greater Geelong water supply region were on Stage 4 water restrictions, the most stringent since the 1967 drought.

An interesting aside is that sewerage voluems have decreased by as much as 15 per cent...This is probably the result of people using greywater from their showers and launderies.

Excerpts from Barwon Water News . Vol 17, 2007

Friday, February 2, 2007

Belladonna Lillies

A couple of photos of the Belladonna Lilly freshly opened today.

Belladonna Lilly
Belladonna Lilly

Book Review : Australian Native Plants

Australian Native Plants, 5th Edition

Today I want to rave on about a book we were given for Christmas : Australian Native Plants, 5th edition (John W. Wrigley & Murray Fagg). It's not a new book. It was first printed in 1979 and this edition was released in 2003 and reprinted last year. I imagine that anyone interested in Australian natives would be quite familiar with it. But in case you've never heard of it I'd just like to add my voice to the chorus of praise. This is a very good book. In fact it's everything I look for in a reference book. It has all of the information that you could occassionally need organised so it can be easily found.

The book has two main areas. The first eight chapters provide an overview of Australian natives followed by comprehensive (though not exhaustive) chapters on selection, propagation, care, pests and diseases. Each of these chapters is well illustrated which is essential for the wannabe gardener.

The next three chapters, which represents the bulk of the book, groups the 3500 plant entries into ground covers, shrubs and trees. Each chapter is ordered alphabetically with each major species (ie grevillea, acacia etc) starting with an overview followed by individual plant entries. The book doesn't cover every plant from every species. But the entries for each species are a fair reflection of their prominence and variety. Obviously species like grevillea will be represented in all three chapters. Where this occurs a pointer is provided to the main species overview.

Each plant entry provides all the features you'd expect (description, propagation, cultivation) and uses symbols to quickly identify the plants main features. An explanation of these symbols in featured on the front and back flaps of the books dust cover as well as being printed on the books first content page. Nearly 20 symbols are used and include things like; bird attracting, perfumed, attractive fruits, recommended for foliage etc. Similarly, color coded symbols show the recommended climactic regions for each plant with a map of Australia showing the 8 climactic regions (adjacent the symbols legend). I guess it would be nice for overseas readers if a description was provided for each climatic region to help assess a plants suitability for their region.

The book contains over 1000 colour photographs representing close to a third of the plants covered. There is also an illustrated glossary at the back of the book for those of us who don't know what 'etiolation' means.

If you have an interest in the rich cornucopia that is Australian native plants then you probably need this book. After a month of living with this book I can't imagine ever living without it.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Living with less Lawn

Lawn as it was

This is the second part of a retrospective series of garden projects from the last six months.

Inspired by my attack on the Drive Bed it was time to do something about the front lawn. Lawn is the first thing you can't water when water restrictions are introduced. So living with less lawn seems a good starting point for a drought prosperous garden.

Lawn bed with soaker hose

The job : take a big bite out of the front lawn. The first step was to work out the beds shape with the garden hose and then mark it with flouro spray paint. Next we seperated soil from turf used a couple of old milk crates. The holes in the bottom of the crates were large enough to catch the grass tufts and pass the soil, making an ideal filter. Then we added a layer of new compost enriched soil and set up the soaker hose. Soaker hose would be great if it wasn't so fond of curling up. In the end I played to it's strength and let it curl, which looked kind of interesting, before covering it with mulch.

New bed with plants

To get the bed going we planted 2 Callistemons (Bottle Brush), a Hebe, a Banksia and two Correa's. The Callistemon's should grow to roof height and make the house's entrance more private. The larger of the two is Callistemon pallidus which has a lemon flower (will post the first flowers when they arrive). We had a red Callistemon in our last house. It hung over the path to the front door which looked great. But the flowers played havoc in the gutters. Both of these are planted well clear of the house and so shouldn't be a problem.

My partners father had spent many years trying to grow Banksia's (a couple of blocks from our current address) without much success and she has been reminding me of this since I planted this one. It was off to a great start until the temperature hit 41° a couple of weeks ago. It now has an equal number of green and brown leaves; I'm waiting for a sign that it's will survive.

lawn bed layout

Sunday, January 21, 2007

The Drive

The Drive bed 21st October 2006

For the last few years I kaven't had much time gardening. But late last year I felt there was an empty space (metaphorically : certainly not in the garden because it was full of weeds). I was looking for a project to fill that space and the small bed beside the driveway seemed a good place to begin.

It was probably the most neglected bed on the block. It was the bed at the furtherest point of the watering system and hence had the poorest water pressure (back when we could water). The bed can't be seen from any point inside the house and was therefore easily forgotten. It had no edging and attracted every piece of scrap paper in the street. We had never really done anything with this bed and so it was filled with seaside daisies. When we moved in there were seaside daisies everywhere.

Now don't get me wrong. Seaside daisies are alright. They are almost impossible to kill and can look great with regular watering and a trim. They are also ideal for catching scrap paper go a very unattractive brown/burgundy color when they don't get enough water; not an ideal plant in a drought.

The Drive Bed : design

So what we decided to do was to edge the bed with sleepers, remove all the seaside daisy, mulch and re-plant. It's a small bed so there wasn't room for many plants. Looking around at what was working in the front garden we decided to go for Correa's. Correa's seem to thrive when they have a support like a wall or fence to grow against. This made them an ideal choice for this bed. We chose:

  • Correa Glabra x Decumbens

  • Correa Reflexa Dwarf

  • Correa Decumbens.

Correa Glabra 17 01 2007

Each has very different and distinctive leaves. The Correa Glabra has been particularly successful and has had a constant showing of flowers since early November. To finish off each end of the bed we planted Grevillea Curviloba as a groundcover.

I was inspired by this beds transformation and this has spurred me on to tackle the rest of the front yard. But that will need to wait for another post.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Why do we Garden?

I posted this as a comment over at "As the Garden Grows" but I wanted to preserve it here as well.

Gardening enriches our lives and enriches the world. It is a creative activity. So often we are involved in activities that don't create anything (i.e watching TV). They don't add anything to the richness of life. But when we garden we enrich the world. Creating something gives us a sense of achievement. This is particularly true with gardens. We have a constant reminder of our efforts everytime we walk in the garden or look out of the window. I think it is more rewarding than may other creative activities because it is an ongoing process. A painter works on a painting for a period of time and then he moves onto another painting. It is a record of his perspective at a specific point in time. But gardening is an ongoing process that is evidence of a changing perspective and also of a consistent approach to the world. The longer we garden the more rewarding it is.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

The Big Picture about our Little Garden

Photo : Side Garden

I want to put my grand gardening plans into perspective. In my experience when people talk seriously about their Gardens they are usually talking about at least an acre. Even when you look at a "Small Garden" book they seem to be talking about something much bigger than the typical suburban block. But all we have is a typical suburban block. So my goal is to have the best garden possible with the limited space available.

A central theme of this garden will be drought. We are currently living through one of the biggests droughts in Australia's history. In December last year our region moved to Stage 4 water restrictions. What that means for us is no watering. This morning there has been some spots of rain. This is the only rain we've seen in the last month. Therefore the only water going onto the garden is greywater captured from showers and laundry. A lot of people are installing greywater tanks to capture this run off. But that's not currently an option on our budget. Which means that washing time is bucket time. But there is only so much that can be done with greywater. Currently this water is going to plants with a serious droop or with leaves that are shrivelled from the heat. But there's still not enough greywater to cover all of those plants. Consequently I'm starting to consider what plants I'm willing to lose.

Drought is one of the ground rules for our new garden. This is a dry region in a dry country. Plants need to be chosen because they are drought hardy (as opposed to drought tolerant). I want the garden to look green and propsperous without needing to water. Consequently we took stock of what was working and there were two plants we'd planted when we first moved here that provided our guide; an acacia and a correa. Both looked great and both were rarely watered. In fact the Correa (Baeuerlenii) seems to have doubled in size since we stopped watering it (we were drowning the poor thing). Planting Australian natives is hardly a revelation and we've always had them as part of the mix. But before it was a choice where now it seems an imperative. Don't get me wrong we won't be restricting ourselves to natives. But whatever we choose must be drought hardy. Next time there is a drought I won't be making life and death decisions from the pointy end of a greywater bucket.

Monday, January 15, 2007

When is a garden not a Garden

Tiger Lillies

I'm not a great gardener. In fact I'm pretty lazy when it comes to gardening. But I love looking at peoples gardens and I wish I had one.

I don't want to give the wrong impression. We have plants around the house and mostly they aren't weeds. But there is, I believe, a point where a collection of plants becomes a garden. The Oxford Dictionary seems rather generous to me when it defines a garden as "a piece of ground adjoining a private residence used for growing flowers etc". Perhaps I should be making a distinction between a garden and a Garden (a distinction that the Oxford is unwilling to make). Perhaps I already have a garden and what I wish I had is a Garden.

The purpose of this blog is to chart the transformation of my garden into a Garden. The process began a few months ago in October, 2006. At that time I thought about a garden blog. But I wasn't really sure about blogging and I held off. Blogging takes committment in the same way that having a Garden takes committment. Like a garden a blog requires regular attention. An empty archive acting as a call to action in the same way as an over grown garden does. Perhaps it can work both ways. A neglected blog may encourage gardening and a neglected garden may encourage blogging. I guess we'll.

I want to warn you in advance; I plan to do some retrospective blogging. I want a full account of the work already done.