May days and smoky mountain

The month of May is at a close and so too most of the trees in our garden have shed their autumnal foliage.  In the house, the wood fire heater has been cranked up and we have braced ourselves for some wintry weather. Here at 700 metres altitude we sometimes get snow, certainly we experience ice and frost. However, the garden copes very well.  This year autumn has been very dry with some trees going into distress. Now, the rains have come, and it always amazes me to see the first pop of camellia buds.

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I am in the garden every day no matter the weather. Last weekend we set fire to some very large mounds of debris, accumulated throughout the summer. The Country Fire Association sets the fire season and we cannot light any outside fires, but once this is lifted, usually the end of April – this year it was the 3rd of May,  we can begin to burn off. Our neighbours gather around, and we celebrate the arrival of cooler weather and banish the thought of bushfires from our minds – albeit until next summer.

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We have a saying here on the Mount – “all summer we fear seeing smoke and all winter we create smoke” – smoky mountain indeed. Happy gardening everyone – no matter the season where you live.

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Peppermint Gum

To my non-Aussie readers you may presume this post will tout the benefits of masticating a certain confectionery. No. Or indeed if you are crafty you may presume a perfumed, gluey substance suitable for many projects.

To my Aussie readers you will immediately visualise that tall eucalyptus specimen which abounds throughout our wide, brown land. The eucalyptus is a beautiful tree, habitat to our koala and available in many varieties: blue gum (eucalyptus globulus); yellow gum (leucoxylon); some are lemon scented and others have fascinating trunks – my favourite, the scribble gum (haemastoma) much admired on our trips to Fraser Island, off the Queensland Coast, its bark looks like a child has taken a crayon and scribbled across it.

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(meanjin.com.au)

Despite its importance to the landscape, this particular specimen, the peppermint gum has caused us many sleepless nights.

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As you can see it has a double trunk and is positioned three metre behind our bedroom! So with much deliberation and a thick cheque book, it had to go. We didn’t want to have to call the SES one stormy night. Remember what happened to our neighbour’s tree recently….

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Fortunately we have a fantastic arborist who, with his team, climb up and safely bring the tree down. Guess Mr Peppermint will have a second life as firewood!

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Let the stacking begin! Just in case you’re wondering, it doesn’t smell of peppermint at all!

Mountain Perils

Living on the Mount can be serene and immensely beautiful, however, it can also be very perilous. A silent kangaroo – camouflaged; a wombat hole, deep enough to fall in to and….

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this sight which greeted us a few doors down the dirt road….

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A shallow root system and high winds toppled this tree onto its owner’s driveway missing their “For Sale” sign and water tank! Take care this winter, everyone on the Mount!

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Happy

The popular Pharrell Williams song, Happy, was apparently written with the idea of trying to capture what it felt like to be in a good mood. Many famous poets also captured the essence of happiness by reflecting on nature.

Nature always wears the colours of the spirit

Ralph Waldo Emerson.

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After a day at school we arrive back home to this….and I am content and I am constantly amazed…

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… and I am so grateful for this garden…..

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… its surreal colours, its serene corners ….

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Autumn is a second spring
when every leaf is a flower
Albert Camnus

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and I am happy

It might seem crazy what I’m about to say
Sunshine she’s here, you can take a break…

Read more: Pharrell Williams – Happy Lyrics | MetroLyrics

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What aspect of nature makes you happy?

Happy Valentine’s Day from a secret friend

We have a tall, dark, 6 foot stranger living in our garden. We thought we heard him a few weeks ago. We thought we saw him a few days ago. Then today, here he was staring straight at us. He kept looking at us as we stood in shock. He had never been so close before. We were a little frightened at his stillness. He was hungry and thirsty; he was big and strong. He looked straight at us today, on Valentine’s day. He even left a few deposits!

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Due to the recent bush fires in our area, kangaroos are coming closer and closer to houses seeking a little fresh grass. Colin came out to look; Whitey cat was too use smelling the flowers to notice.

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See you later big guy, but please don’t surprise me behind the camelias!

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Go to the back of the block, sit down and stop

As any one with a large (or even not so large) garden knows, there are always jobs to do: extensive seasonal tasks like pruning and planting as well as weekend jobs such as raking and weeding. With so many tasks we are often left with little time and energy to simply sit and contemplate our efforts let alone the stillness and solace a garden can bring. So today, after we finished the mowing (well, Colin actually did that), the raking and the wheelbarrowing I have decided to spend some time at the back of the block, simply sitting and contemplating.

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Though quite rugged and unruly, the back of our block extends to the next street via a series of steps. Flanked by rhododendrons, emerging, acanthus it winds its way down and up the hillside.

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It can be a wild old place, this bush land but the newly mowed pathways help.

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These little moments of quiet in our frantic world seem few and far between. The habits of keeping busy, keeping time and keeping track suffuse those little moments when we allow ourselves to stop, sit and listen to the rustling of the leaves in the breeze, chirping of the birds and the buzz of the insects. That’s what I’m doing now sitting on these old chairs. Join me for the outlook.

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Here on the Mount it can be up to seven degrees cooler than in the city. The cool weather and the altitude can also impede our time outside. In my first few years here I used to garden in mid July wearing two pairs of gloves and two pairs of socks – on my feet, that is! By the time Spring came along I could sit back and enjoy my hard work. Some of those rewards are still evident in this cold climate garden.

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The first iris of the season

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The clematis searching for sun
Sitting here in the sun, I am reminded that the garden offers us such peace if we allow it to show us how to slow down and discover what it wants to tell us. How does the garden speak to you?

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Share your gardening comments with me, I’d like to read your thoughts and suggestions for utilising both tasks and down time in the garden.

What a winter, but what a wonder…

Ten years on the Mount and what a winter we’ve had. Last weekend we tried to burn our ever increasing pile of winter debris, to no avail. Instead we set about trimming the abundant camellias – one of which shot over the roof of the house! I salvaged its ruby blooms.

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What good is the warmth of summer without the cold of winter to give it sweetness. (John Steinbeck)

It’s been a winter of mists, fogs and log fires. Nothing new here really, but this year every weekend brought with it the wonder of winter! In early August, I raced up to the Mount when I heard there was “snow on them there hills”! I have done this a handful of times over the years, much to the bemusement of friends and family. The last time we had snow on the back deck was August, 2008 but each year, the Mount, at elevation 1013m, is dusted with the soft, white ice. We are 750 metres, so often we just get sleet.

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One weekend we ventured to our favourite country town, only to be confronted with thick lunchtime fog!

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Daylesford on a not so clear day…

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Brrrrrrr, I can hear you exclaim! Yes indeed, it is quite chilly.

Top five mountain garden tips for winter
1. Weed, weed and then weed again
2. Rake those leaves and clear those paths
3. Watch the bulbs emerge
4. Visit the camellias or pay homage to any floral friend – they love to be admired!
5. Smell the clean, intoxicating air
But there’s one more
Head for that log fire at the end of the day!

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Emerging camellias

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The beauty of winter can be seen in every turn. The sparsity of foliage is countered by the abundance of those beacons of colour; those buds and blooms that wink at us around each corner of the garden. We can only be in awe.
Thy knowest, winter tames, man, woman and beast. William Shakespeare’s, The Taming of the Shrew.

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As we prepare for a few more chilly days, wear our coats, scarves and gloves, may the wonder of winter be kind to us!

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Today’s view from the back yard deck. How is your winter (or summer) experience?

Deep Winter Blooms

Up here on the Mount, winters are very interesting indeed. While the rest of the surrounding area is bathed in sunlight, here we wallow in mist and cloud cover. It’s not so bad really. I love the cold and especially the distinctive half-light of the mountain. Ten years ago it was during July when we first saw this house and garden. It was the the shimmering droplets of rain on the trees and winding pathways which attracted us the most.

However, the mountain is ever changing. Just when we think it cannot get any greyer, the garden invites us to admire its unexpected colour. In deep winter, bursts of colour illuminate the low light.

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This little begonia has been flowering for months. However, apart from this. The natural cycle from dormancy to delight begins.

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The weeping apricot which we see from our lounge rooms window has begun to transform itself.

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Further down the path, this giant, pink camellia has burst into bloom.

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Yes, it’s all pinks at the moment!
Hellebores are coming to life. They are the true winter rose!

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More pink camellias.

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But wait – I spot a red one!

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Tulip bulbs are ready of go!

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The view from the back yard deck in winter.

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Despite the lack of sun shine, the vegetable patch seems to be thriving, albeit it, slowly.

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To our northern hemisphere readers, enjoy your wonderful summer. As we keep the heaters running and the wood chopped here on Mount, we can glimpse the preludes to Spring.

How’s your summer or winter experience?