Wednesday, October 06, 2010

Aussie gardens, a whole new world

I was chatting to a friend from the USA during the Aussie winter, saying I needed to get out and do some gardening. She asked me quite genuinely how that was possible, did the ground not freeze too hard for that? There are so many aspects of two highly similar, advanced Western civilisations that we just don't consider. Mostly due to the concepts being so "foreign" to us. We all understand the different use of words, footpath vs sidewalk, cheque vs check, neighbour vs neighbor, but ground freezing, and using a stick of butter, canned pumpkin, not owning an electric kettle? To me, these things are extremely foreign and harder to grasp than some South American civilizations eating guinea pigs for lunch.

My Australian winter in a semi-arid landscape is extremely different to the winter my friend experiences in northern United States (forgive me a moment for forgetting which state exactly..). I have other friends in Minnesota, and even some in Alberta Canada and it's crazy talking to them when they are snowed in and their kids are home from school because the roads are impassable. Snow days? In Australia? Highly unlikely. Well, perhaps in the mountains in NSW, but since I've never been there I can't say for sure. There is one place that I am aware of that it "might" snow in Western Australia each year, Bluff Knoll. A beautiful scenic hike, I sometimes hear news stories of people being surprised by bad weather and search crews being launched to save them. But as I said, this little black duck lives inland WA, in a semi-arid (semi-desert) climate. While we have eucalypt "forests" (see, even that is a term I don't use in day to day life) much of the area around me is dry salt flats (salt lakes in my own "language" lol), and low scrub like spinifex (which just corrected me by saying is actually called "triodia". But if you ever walk through this stuff, be wearing leather pants or cricketers shin pads or something. It's evil and SPIKY!).

What is the temperature range here? In winter we range from about 5C-16C, but trust me, it gets colder! This past winter we had a -6C. Bye bye anything that was once alive in the garden, the frost was so thick and heavy. In summer the average temps are more 16-32C, but again, we live semi-desert and it's not at all uncommon to have days upon days of 48C (118F). But as the Bureau of Meteorology uses statistics from all records the medians even out a lot more. Due to the salt lakes we're often on the states weather report as "lowest overnight temperature", even if that is only a -1C (30.2F). We have a dry, often windy heat. It does get humid but it's nothing compared to the tropics. Humidity usually only comes when it makes a poor effort at raining.

What I was actually getting to with this post, which has blown out beyond my imagination, was Australian gardens. I love my garden. It looks like crap because I abandoned it so long :( I've deliberately let the lawn die as Jessica is badly hay-feverish to it and it makes her eczema itch, and I've not determined what to replace it with. So far the weeds think it's heaven! It's kind of crazy that so many people here plant tropical plants like palms, and even lawn. I mean, they need so much water! We're almost always on water restrictions here, year round we can only water gardens 2 days per week (as determined by the last number of your house address, so me being at 120, the 0 indicates which days of the weeks I can water) and there's talk that soon we wont be able to water gardens with anything but grey water (from sinks, showers, washing machines). There are of course a lot of roses and other common flowers in neighbouring yards, but I personally like something low maintenance, pretty, and preferably native. I particularly love eremophila, grevillea, sturts desert pea, boronia, geraldton wax, among many many more. I am not fond of bottle brushes (although there is a well established one in my front yard) or a few others, but recognise their rightful place in our environment. I want to bring my garden to life with native Australian plants, to encourage the birds and insects which rightfully belong. Sadly, my neighbours have many cats which pose a real threat to everything. Including my plants as you will see below. Now, I am not some "it has to be Aussie!" pain-in-the-butt, as you will see below.

Here's some of what is flowering/thriving in my garden right now;

A variety of eremophila

The ever hardy little alyssums. Such tiny plants but so full of flowers, and they live year round. Yay!

Some bulbs I have planted, and some that just grew of their own accord (probably planted by previous owners and dormant for a number of years) such as snowdrops, grape hyacinths and dutch iris. The very last photo of the set below is a bulb growth, laying flat on the ground. My freaking neighbours have sooooo many cats and they're digging up all my plants to poop in my garden. I am NOT happy! They also get under my house and fight, climb with muddy prints on my car etc. I have some gladiolus bulbs to plant and am hesitant due to the pesky cats!

    Hyacinths                          Lily of the Valley              Ranunculi

I love freesias. They have such a lovely perfume, are a small and non-invasive little plant which self sows, so they grow back year after year, for free!! I missed their prime flowers, but I still thought this was a nice picture.

I also wanted to share this eucalyptus with you. It's been growing down by my gate since I bought the house, but at one point it was all white-ant (termite) eaten so dad chopped it down with a chainsaw, right back to ground level. Rather surprisingly, it grew back more vigorous than ever! It's not flowering right now, and has some kind of black spot fungi that I need to identify and treat, but it's a lovely plant. Until this morning's blog post I had no idea it was a Eucalyptus Macrcarpa but while I was googling to find links to some of the natives above, I stumbled upon this fabulous native Australian plant photo gallery which made identifying my eucalypt so much easier. Yay! Check out Australian Native Plant Society for yourself and particularly, their alphabetically listed photo gallery.

If anyone can help me identify these flowers I'd be most excited! I have owned and resided in this home for 7.5yrs now. About 4yrs ago now these bright orange flowers appeared. They seem to be a bulb, or at least to self sew like the freesias, they also grow at the same time as the freesias. The photos are terrible, they were taken on my mobile phone just as these flowers were about to die off. They have 6 petals, a yellow centre and black eyes between. The plant is also similar to a freesia in that it is low growing and the leaves and long and narrow. I haven't the faintest idea what they are, but anyone who sees them exclaims at their beauty and wants seeds. Well, if only I knew what to tell them. 

I have to finish repairing the reticulation (that I put a pick through some time ago) and plant some seeds and the potted shrubs, find something to replace the lawn with that is child play area friendly, plant the gladioli and agapanthus, deter the darn cats and just kick this garden back into shape. I did spray all the weeds occupying the space which was once lawn, it's a start. Slow and steady is my motto these days. I burn myself out otherwise then never go back to finish what I started.


Prue said...

Hi Shell,

Found you from our mutual bewilderment of Crisco at Sugar City Journal.

I am a botanist, but I have no idea what that flower is you are wondering about. My stab in the dark is that it is in the lily family, but that's all I can suggest - a better photo would help but I guess they've finished flowering now!

Prue said...

Oh, and the eremophila's are beautiful!

flower delivery in the philippines said...

Oh' this Aussie gardens was so beautiful! Wish I can also go there to see those beautiful flowers personally. Anyway, thanks for sharing.