Early October in the Garden

To my mind, October is really when the first stirrings of spring start to become that all-out marathon as most shrubs and trees get in on the act to peak between now and November.

At this time of year in the mountains, the weather is incredibly variable: for the last two weeks we had really cold, wet and blustery conditions (including frost, sleet and even hail) which damaged a lot of flowers – this weekend we are forecast to have a nation-wide El-Niño five day heat wave….yuck 😦

So I do apologise in advance that the pictured flowers aren’t ‘perfect’, but no garden should be perfect anyway…

The cold period has helped prolong the winter and early spring flowering plants:


In the shadier areas of the garden, it is still winter. L:R Primula vulgaris ‘High Tea Drumcliff’, Cyclamen & Pulmonaria

Daffodils and early tulips are still giving a nice display, but the petals of the poppy took a beating with the sleet/hail:


L:R Narcissus; Tulipa sp. & Papaver nudicaule; first spot flowers of Rosa banksiae in the hedgerow.

Azaleas and more Narcissus:



L:R Osteospermum & Tulipa bokassa ‘Baby Doll’ ; Nepeta and Hyacinthoides hispanica; Anemone nemorosa

But the foul weather has made a lot of the azalea flowers rather tatty:


The flowers of the red and cerise azaleas look a bit bedraggled with the sleet and frost; a De Caen anemone contrasts with the saturated cerise of the Kurume azalea


More battered flowers – but the pale pink of Azalea ‘Inga’ seem to do just fine


Rhododendron ‘Robyn’ is still putting on a great display – this is now its sixth week. Primulas against the flowers of Rhododendron ‘President Roosevelt’ and the beautiful new foliage of Heuchera ‘Purple Palace’

Still, there’s warm colours:


L:R Erysimum; Eschscholzia californica hybrid; Indica Azalea ‘Goyet’

And cool:


L:R Dutch Iris; Anemone coronaria ‘De Caen Hollandia’; Viola labradorica

And of course, the big jumble of colours thanks to the ever-popular ‘mixed’ collections that are always offered:


Lastly, now that parts of the garden are a year old, it has finally started to fill out…don’t get me wrong, because I am using cuttings and tube-stock (plant plugs) there are still plenty of itty-bitty plants everywhere, but for the first time, I can start to appreciate more of what the garden will start to look like as it matures:


Front Garden looking east this fence will eventually be removed as it isn’t the actual property boundary; Part of the newly-laid terraces in the back garden…this represents only a tiny portion of the garden – there is still much to do!!!!

Happy Gardening 🙂

This Week in the Garden.

Even though it is cold and wet today, we’ve had weeks of sunny and mild weather, meaning spring continues its early march. And it is mostly the bulbs that are early to flower, especially in the sheltered micro-climate of the secret garden area where Tulips are commanding my attention:




Clockwise L-R: Mixed Tulips (Monet Series); Species Tulip (Tulipa bakerei) ‘Lilac Wonder’; Bokassa Tulips ‘Baby Doll’

Narcissi in the other areas of the garden have finally started to open:


The Cockatoo has actually left the white Narcissi alone!

Compare this to the Narcissi in the secret garden area which are so far ahead:


The scent in the secret garden is heavenly on still, sunny days…let me tell you!

The first Freesias have opened:


Muscari still continue to put on a lovely display. The secret garden area was the first to open, and now the rest of the garden is following suit.


I love the contrast between the Erysimum and the Muscari:


Most of the Erysimum in the garden have started blooming and I really adore some of the burnt reds and oranges:


Pink Muscari are something of a disappointment. They have really only just started opening, and the pink is very subtle (to say the least). As they fill out in the next year or so, they may look impressive, but for now, I’ll reserve judgement. The garden centre did however include an unknown bulb in the mix which is far lovelier than the Muscari!


Ipheon continue to give a lovely display and have been going since mid winter which is quite incredible.


Anemone and Ranunculus are also starting to show promise:


But not everything in the garden is early. In areas which only receive partial sun, my cold climate wins out.

For instance, when I lived in the UK, Cyclamen and Pulmonaria were considered mid-late winter flowers. However here, they have only just started to open, but are delightful none-the-less.


Happy Gardening!

Wednesday Vignette – Cherries on the Mountain

Mt Fuji it isn’t, and I don’t think that the Japanese will be clamouring to enjoy Hanami under the first cherry blossoms  on one of my hell-strips, but to me the view across the valley is just as lovely on a bright, breezy morning.


We are looking North: the furthest blue hill that we are looking down on just to the right of the power-pole is the Mt Tomah Botanic Gardens.

If you are ever in the Blue Mountains, the Mt Tomah gardens are spectacular, and it is just a short trip to the magical garden village of Mt Wilson.

Linking up with Anna at Flutter and Hum. Do check out what has caught the eye of other gardeners around the globe this Wednesday!


In the Garden This Week

Since the start of Spring most days have reached at least 12°C / 54°F.

Now while to many folks that doesn’t sound very warm, the garden certainly thinks otherwise. Add to that lots of intermittent rain showers and an absence of heavy frosts, and plants are really starting to wake up.

Here are some snippets from around the garden this week.

Papaver nudicaule lights up the entrance to the Secret Garden area (elsewhere in the garden, Poppies haven’t even begun to bud yet).


Hopefully I get some yellows and pinks to round out the mix…I seem to mostly end up with oranges and whites 🙂 Regardless, in my climate, these will go on spot-flowering for another year.

Despite the efforts of a single cockatoo who sneaks into the garden without the flock to eat white daffodils, many have lived to flower: WhiteDaffs

I think I may have finally caught the culprit in the act.


Luckily no two cockatoos look alike, so catching this killer should be easy (yeah right!)


I can’t exactly blame the Cockatoo…some of those daffodils have a striking resemblance to a fried egg 🙂

The yellow Narcissus have basically been left alone:


It’s also amazing how far ahead the sheltered ‘Secret Garden’ area is compared to the rest of the garden… and so many other bulbs are joining in the spring chorus, all weeks early thanks to the sheltered micro-climate:



Erysimum are starting to bloom:


Other temporary little sub-shrubs are also putting on a lovely show. While some were killed by winter weather, in the sheltered areas, Osteospermums put on seemingly impossible mass displays:


Assuming they have sufficient rainfall, these will go on blooming well into summer.

Other Asteraceæ flowers must surely be running out of puff after blooming almost constantly since autumn:


Limonium perezii is producing lovely new flowers: make sure you dead-head these as they are short-lived if allowed to go to seed. The Limonium will soon be surrounded by Freesia blooms.


In the Photinia hedgerow that runs along the Western boundary, a solitary Prunus cerasifera lights up the gloom with pretty pinkish-white flowers:


At this time of year in terms of shrubs with impact, the award would still go to the early-flowering Rhododendrons.

The first up is Rhododendron chrysodoron x burmanicum:


Often considered a little tender, this one did fine in its sheltered spot during the winter…however, late frosts can ruin the buds.

Rhododendron spinuliferum ‘Crossbill’, continues to shine and is slightly more hardy:


The first buds have opened on the largest of the Kurumes; more will continue until October, when it becomes a blinding mass of colour:


Rhododendron ‘Robyn’ is now close to its peak flowering. It will eventually reach about 1.2m / 4′ tall & wide and will really look pretty in this spot close to the porch.


The resident Magpie wants some food and will keep following me around until I relent. Magpies start nesting in June and they seldom abandon a nest…these two were caught out by a very cold July and August.

If June hadn’t been so mild, they probably would have created a nest lower down the mountain to guarantee food.

Here they were being fed during (what I hope will be) the last snow-fall a couple of weeks ago. If you’ve ever wondered what a cold, wet, pregnant magpie looks like, well wonder no more:


But back to the Early Rhododendrons.

A ruddy, intense magenta is the colour of choice for most of them.  The smallest of the existing ones is in the hedgerow:


But this is nothing to the ones below.

Planted well before my time it is stuffed in a 1m / 3′ wide space between the fence and my garage. No wonder it is leggy, but still pretty when in bloom. If it had the space, it would have grown to the proportions of my next door neighbours one:


I know some people aren’t fans of Rhododendrons, but regardless, they light up the garden at a time of year normally reserved for looking down to get any colour. And they do it unabashedly.

Happy Gardening 🙂

Spring Stirrings

On this, the last weekend of Winter, a week of showers, sun and mild weather has the garden already looking to the season ahead, and I couldn’t be more pleased.


To me, Crocus epitomises the first of the spring flowers

All over the garden, plants are warming up for the Spring foot-race that becomes an all out marathon in the weeks ahead.

I’ve already shown the Muscari armeniacum which have been blooming in the most sheltered area of the garden, but I love them, and they deserve another look.


Muscari armeniacum

It shows the power of the micro-climate: elsewhere in the garden, the Muscari have only just started to emerge, such as this little pink variety….


Hard to believe this is in the same garden it is so far behind!

Narcissi are the stalwart of the early spring garden. The dwarf varieties have been flowering for weeks, and while they are fading, still look good enough to bring a smile:


The taller Narcissus varieties have also started to open




I’ll have to be quick however, there is a Cockatoo that is visiting the garden who likes to munch on all of the flower spikes. I am finding half-chewed stems everywhere (!)

Unfortunately for the daffodils, the Cockatoo also takes all of the leaves off, which means the bulbs will likely perish, and unfortunately for me, the Cockatoo only seems to like the more unusual varieties, leaving the bog-standard yellow ones untouched 😦

The very first Anemone coronaria has opened.

I adore these flowers.

This was part of a mixed “De-Caan” hybrid pack, so there should also be some red and white ones to follow, but so far I can see only blue buds….


Ipheon uniflorum have been in flower since mid-winter but continue to look lovely:


Helleborus continue to impress with their deep, rich colours:


In the most sheltered areas of the garden, Primulas are in almost full-swing:




Bellis perennis have kept a vigil all winter-long, and are still lovely:


Papaver nudicale, normally a short-lived annual for most gardeners, spot flower for most of the year, but the first spring flushes are still a joy to behold.


Shrubs are also getting in on the act, with the earliest-blooming azaleas starting to make an appearance.

These lovely blooms belong to Rhododendron spinuliferum ‘Crossbill’:


The ever brash crimson of the early flowering Azalea indica ‘Red-wing’:


Another early flowering Rhododendron (unknown cultivar) in brilliant magenta:


And what of the early flowering variety that got caught in a snow-fall two weeks ago as I planted it? Many expressed concerns that it would be okay. Well, here it is; the carmine buds of Rhododendron ‘Robyn’ have turned to a soft lilac-pink:


The Camellia japonica ‘Hino-Maru’ in the hedge-row along the property line is also delightful:


And, lastly for this weeks’ wrap-up is the delightful scent of my little Daphne odora in bloom.


Amazing to think that such a small plant can fill the air with a delightful fragrance!

Happy Gardening 🙂


I admit it.

I’m very excited about the fact that these have flowered for me. This is the first time I have been able to grow Lupins since living in London (and even then I had to grow them in a pot because of the heavy clay).

Despite their ubiquitousness in the last decade or so, it isn’t widely appreciated that Russell Lupin hybrids almost became extinct after the death of George Russell in 1951.

His Lupins all but succumbed to the cucumber mosaic virus and of the 150 or so named varieties that he bred, only a dozen were able to be ‘re-discovered’ during the 1970s and re-bred at a nursery close to where George Russell spent over 20 years perfecting his flowers, so while there these ‘Russells’ are probably not quite the same as the ones bred by the man himself, I am certainly grateful for their reintroduction!

At any rate, I love their glorious early summer display. As I have put them in the most wind sheltered spot of the garden, I haven’t had to stake them. There should be quite a few more blooms this summer and next; in Spring 2015, now that I know what each flower colour is, I shall take basal cuttings of those I like so I can get more of these for years to come.

IMG_0736 IMG_0748 IMG_0794 IMG_0792 IMG_0796 IMG_0798 I didn’t quite get all of the garish colours I had hoped for, but not to worry….I can keep hunting throughout the year. Happy Gardening 🙂

Early ‘late’ flowering Rhododendron

While the rest of the world tips into winter, here we have just endured a record breaking heatwave.

Last Sunday we reached 34°C/93°F, smashing the old record of 33°C/91°F to become our new hottest day ever…(the day-time average here at this time of year is 19°C/66°F)

So, after a warm October, a warm November and then a heat wave, the garden thinks it’s in summer!

I know that many readers in the western parts of the UK will be horrified to see a post about Rhododendron ponticum given how weedy it is in that part of the country, but here it is only moderately inclined to self-seed.

Normally, this would be in flower around Christmas, but this year it is a month early. I love its pale purple blooms: but you can see how warm it has been by the substantial amounts of new growth…


Rhododendron ponticum

Certainly, whatever your experience with this plant, it is hard to deny the joy that the last of the Rhododendrons bring as the garden signals the change to hot weather…

Happy Gardening 🙂

The Wattlebird and the Case of the Missing Air Plant

A friend from Sydney gave me quite a bit of Spanish Moss (Tillandsia usneoides) from her garden. In Sydney, Spanish Moss grows quite well, but while it will survive here (just) in the mountains, it needs a lot of protection, and it never really thrives.

Undeterred, I hung it from the Japanese Maple, and had been enjoying it for the last five or six months when one day about 10 weeks ago it simply vanished.

I put it down to some of the many blustery gales that we get here and had to console myself with the one or two strands left behind.

That is, until yesterday.

Wattlebirds (Anthochaera carunculata) are a native honey eater, and are very common here, but recently they’ve been behaving very aggressively towards every other bird/animal that enters the garden.


Wattlebird (courtesy Wikipedia)

All this activity has been centred on a large cotoneaster bush along one side of the house. It had been very overgrown, but instead of ripping it out when I moved in, I gave it a haircut while I decided what to do with it. Consequently, it has densely leafed up and is quite a nice shape.

So, I went to investigate.


Wattlebird in its nest. (Image has been brightened/adjusted to make the bird visible)

This explains all of the aggressive activity in the garden of late. So, I took a closer look at the nest (waiting until the mother wasn’t guarding it of course)….


Nest and my missing Spanish Moss

And lo and behold, all my missing Spanish Moss has formed the base of the nest.

Very cute.

But wait……


Baby Wattlebird

There’s the little chick.

It’s amazing to see all of the elements from my garden and shed that have been put to use: the Spanish Moss on the base and edges, my straw mulch that features in every photo lines part of the  inside, but the pièce de résistance has to be the excess white insulation wool that I stored after the renovation at the very back of my shed…the brave wattle bird had to go inside the shed and pull bits off to make that.

As if the act of, and engineering involved in, nest building weren’t amazing enough, to look at all of the layers used…just incredible!

At least my Spanish Moss has been put to good use.

Happy Gardening 🙂

And they call it poppy love….

As spring transitions abruptly to summer, across the garden poppies are opening or, in some cases, giving a repeat performance!

Poppies are honestly one of the easiest of all flowers to grow; they don’t need too much water, and are unfussed by soil type. I love the airiness they give to the garden.


Delicate Shirley poppy (Papaver rhoeas)


Iceland poppies come back for an umpteenth showing

The Iceland poppy, Papaver nudicaule, which back in July tantalised with the promise of buds that didn’t open until late September to announce the warmth of spring. It’s amazing to think that with just regular dead-heading, they are still blooming and are now announcing the heat of summer: when I lived in Sydney, Iceland poppies would be lucky to live past September, let alone flower again in October and November!

In the background are the earliest of the Rock Roses, Cistus ladanifer, and the first of the foxglove spires.

A cultivar of the common poppy, Papaver orientale, has opened to reveal a striking black centre against pillar-box red:


And lastly, the California poppy with its yellow and cream trumpets will always make me smile even though I know it will end up seeding through the garden:


Eschscholzia californica

Happy gardening 🙂



On the eastern side of the house is one of the shadiest parts of the garden.

In addition to the dense shade cast by the house from midday, there is a paling fence, six large Eucalyptus oreades a large rhododendron blocking the light from the north and a 40 year old Japanese maple.

So there is a lot of root competition: that, combined with the shade make for tough conditions for plants to grow. But it is also very sheltered by the trees which means that despite frosts of -7°C (19°F), I was able to get Fuchsias, which were struck from cuttings, to grow outside this winter.

With the warmth of summer, they are now blooming.





Each one has grown quite substantially since planted back in June. Sadly, as I took them all from cuttings from un-named plants on a friends veranda, I haven’t the foggiest idea of the cultivar details.

In this bed, I have also tried some impatiens seedlings: the impatiens rust/downy mildew that is affecting the whole world has managed to arrive in Australia as well, but it isn’t widespread in the cooler zones (in most parts of Australia, Impatiens are a perennial as there is little frost: in areas like mine where they die back, they tend to be seldom planted) so fingers crossed they will all put on a show until the first frosts in about 6 months’ time.

Happy Gardening 🙂