Winter Wonders #2

It always amazes and delights me to see so many plants beginning to emerge and flower in the midst of winter.

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Tunnelling tulips

The days here on the Mount are cold and yesterday was particularly foggy until lunch time. Today we had some bursts of sunshine enabling us to wander down and discover some new winter wonders.

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hellebores

Ten winters ago I was tending a tropical garden. Although I loved the bougainvilleas and the bromeliads, winter was a time to grow vegetables and trim the palms. Now there are so many tasks in winter – pruning, planting, planning for the changes and simply assisting plants to survive. However, these specimens need no assistance at all.
Colourful camellias

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Just plant and stand back – they will surprise you every day! How’s your garden surviving in the winter or, for my northern hemisphere friends – this summer?

Florence to Floriade

Our winter school term has just ended and we have made the seven hour drive up to Canberra to meet up with Daughter Number Two and her husband. No, it can’t be compared to Florence, however, since Canberra celebrates its Centenary as our capital, we have come to see its yearly tulip festival, Floriade and some its culture as well.

Last September we were fortunate to take a school trip group to Italy. Travelling through Rome, Siena, Verona, Turin, Milan and Florence, we experienced a memorable time together. One year on, our thoughts turn to that remarkable excursion. I guess it has something to do with the fact that we are coming out of winter and the weather is not dissimilar to the beautiful weather we also experienced in Italy.

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Ponte Vecchio, Florence
Forgive me if I indulge in some iconic Italian reminiscing…

20130922-210400.jpg Il Duomo, Firenze

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The white marble statue of Michelangelo’s, David in the Uffizi Gallery. (Did you know that an electronic device measures the amount of movement of the marble in the statue by nano millimetres!)

The marvel that is Florence cannot be compared to any other place in the world. It is a man made splendour. Whilst in Canberra we hope to visit some lesser forms of man made art, however, for today we turn to the splendour that is nature in Spring – a celebration of floral splendour and time with family.

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Red Splendour

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The tulips are out in force

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We enjoyed a perfect sunny day, basking in the glory of tulips in full bloom. While our thoughts may return to the memories of Italy, we revel in our present time together. How do you keep your memories alive?

All the leaves are brown….

And the sky is grey… well, I did go for a walk as the song suggests, on a not-so-winter’s day. The sky may not be very grey but winter is just around the corner. The autumnal garden changes so rapidly that I thought I’d better take a walk and show you around the garden and its variant colours.

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This weeping cherry puts on a very different display in autumn. Gone are the pinks of spring and the greens of summer, now replaced by gold and russet.

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The red hues of the Japanese Maple carpet the ground.

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This maple will soon lose its red hues…

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There will be much time spent raking leaves during the month of May.

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Currently there are many interested Japanese tourists in our area admiring the seasonal changes. These wonderful colours shed a final luminescence before the barren, grey of winter sets in.

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The golden elm resplendent in its regal colours!

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This particular dogwood could glow in the dark!

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Gone are the ornamental apricots on this weeper….

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The cats joined me on the garden tour.
What ever the season in your part of the world, I wish you happy gardening in nature’s truly amazing playground! Thanks for following and may all your days be garden days!

Take a walk on the wild side …

As our autumn starts to reveal its true splendour, we should take some time to walk and wander around the neighbourhood. It’s not often that we can walk in solitude. Invariably our walk is pleasantly interrupted by a quick chat or catch up with a neighbour or two. You see we live on an unsealed dirt road. This road meanders for a couple of kilometres around a State Forest before it joins the bitumen.

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At approximately 700ft above sea level our little road is not particularly beautiful and can be described as quite rugged, however, it is the plant life at this time of year that makes it interesting. When we walked on this particular day, the last remnants of summer revealed themselves to us.

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Just a few blackberries left on this bush.

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Autumnal hues appearing.

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Walking out into the brisk day, we always see something new. It never ceases to amaze us even after ten years on the mountain. This peaceful statue gazes over tranquility itself!

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Two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and sorry I could not travel both, Robert Frost’s famous poem highlights the single choices that we make in life. The road metaphor is a common one. For us, our little, dirt road on the periphery of a grand forest, is the one which leads us home. I’m sure many of our visitors query our choices in living here – a bush land setting does come with its disadvantages especially in the summer months. Winter fogs and impenetrable sunlight often leave us flat but its when we take the time to venture out and set foot on the road that it reveals many otherwise unseen treasures. Like Frost’s poem, we are happy we took the one less travelled. most of the time, anyway!

Yesterday, we met a dear old soul who has lived up here for ninety years – he has seen it all and continues to appreciate the splendid change of season!

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I also think it takes some internal fortitude to survive the winter on a mountain. There’s the issue of heating to be taken very seriously – we haven’t lit our inside fire yet – ANZAC Day is our start date! Then there’s the burn off of summer debris – we have yet to light our Bon fire to rid us of summer detritus. Before long our wood fire will be going day and night to keep us warm. Indeed our “road” and our choices have their ups and downs – pardon the pun!

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20130422-194313.jpgLet’s hope there are not too many detours or road closures to negotiate as we enter that wonderful season of winter with all its silvery magic and dewy delights!

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Is the approaching winter season one you relish or one you would gladly relinquish?

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I hope your road at the moment is a smooth one, with few bumps and not too much of a wild ride! Enjoy the wonders of your season!

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The Rains Came

After ten weeks of no rain, suddenly the heavens opened up and we received a welcome downpour. Summer here on the mountain can be a mixed blessing. Most of the the time we indulge in sheltered, lush greenery, going about our business of watering, potting, raking or contemplating! However, when the north winds blow, dry our soil and scatter bark and branches about and the risk of grass or bush fires permeate our waking, and sometimes, sleeping thoughts, that’s when we become obsessed by the CFA (Country Fire Authority) website. Their current APP tells us how far the nearest fire is to our property. As a matter of course, we then have the cat boxes and chicken cages at the ready should we need to leave on a total fire ban day. Such is life on the Mount – a balancing act of mind over nature!

Therefore, you can easily gauge our relief when the rains eventually come. No, not like the monsoonal rains in the 1939 film with Myrna Loy and Tyrone Power – The Rains Came nor the other flooding and earth quaking 1955 The Rains of Ranchipur with Lana Turner and Richard Burton, but the soaking, refreshing and cooling rains which hopefully snuff out any lingering or smouldering embers. Both these films, you might know, are versions of Louis Bromfield’s novel set in India. As we live up here surrounded by trees we are the envy of Melburnian’s who often have to swelter while we enjoy a cooler five degrees. Further up the mountain, grand residences such as Darjeeling and Tieve Tara conjure up a romantic past as we experience what is known as a late summer or Indian Summer.

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Summer here is the least colourful of the seasons. There are few flowering plants in our garden right now. The obligatory blue agapanthus, the well-watered hydrangeas, many pots, some begonias, a few geraniums and silent hellebores are amongst the limited colours.

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Then, when least expected, a great spiny arch entangled in the camellias or rhododendrons looks you in the face. You recoil only to be greeted with tiny deep purple orbs. Your hand reaches toward the irresistible cluster.

20130217-220849.jpg The scratches and the curses of the previous encounters with this enemy are forgotten – one of the little joys of summer – blackberries! They live for another day – but only just!

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Meanwhile, we wait and pray for a little more rain, please. I might have to watch these films again! What’s it like in your part of the world right now?

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Australia Day

26th January commemorates the landing of the First Fleet in 1788 in Sydney Cove. Therefore, it is a public holiday for Aussie citizens. We also must take into account indigenous cultures who often do not see this as a day to celebrate,

As we are part of the Buick car club, we take part in the RACV display bringing our 1982 Riviera to the gardens. With milder weather setting in, there were countless classic cars to peruse. Some of my favourites were

20130126-130931.jpg 1929 Pierce Arrow which always reminds me of the Robert Lowell poem, Grandparents.

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20130126-132113.jpg even teddy got a ride!

20130126-132210.jpg there were some quirky exhibits….

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No Australia Day is complete without the local wildlife: possums, dingoes and snakes

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20130126-132511.jpg Government House is open today for those who wish to view its splendour and for me that was the magnificent magnolia!

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No doubt we live in a vast land of many contrasts and today’s outing was no different. What did you do for Australia Day or how do you commemorate your national day?

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To The Lighthouse

Our little soirée on the border of Queensland and New South Wales has seen us celebrate our anniversary by walking to Fingal Point lighthouse. Colin’s dear friend, who passed away a couple of years ago, has a memorial at the site. It is breathtaking.

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Fingal Lighthouse is only a short walk from the road but the colour of the ocean and the coolness of the air are a welcome reprieve in this hot weather.

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The area is an aboriginal sacred ground as well as being home to many native plants and wildflowers.

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Pandanus palms line the foreground to the lighthouse and the boardwalk.

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I must admit that Colin and I both have a fascination for lighthouses. This particular one is a small example with its big brother Byron Bay Lighthouse a mere fifty kilometres away and designated as the most easterly lighthouse in Australia.

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Secluded beaches are a must see and a must swim in this part of the coastline. Though not part of what is known as The Gold Coast, Fingal is much more inviting and private and only a few kilometres from the township of Kingscliff. Be mindful of the rips though and check for a patrolled beach if you are unsure.

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In some ways we are thankful to be temporarily away from the heat wave and bush fires which are gripping many parts of the country. Our thoughts go out to those who are fighting bush fires all along the eastern seaboard and to those who have lost loved ones and properties in Tasmania.

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Love / Hate Relationship

It’s been a gruelling few days. My arms ache, my legs ache and when I close my eyes I see WEEDS, WEEDS and more weeds. Our garden is quite large and the recent heavy rain and heat has encouraged everything to grow a trillion times over. But what has really made my job arduous is the ivy.
I HATE IVY. Now you will never, ever read that I hate anything – I am quite accepting, especially when it comes to nature. However, over the last ten days since I returned from the sub tropics I have given myself the task of working the garden for at least two hours a day. As I can never stop myself I often spend five or six hours out there with the cats and chickens and, yes of course, the ivy. Here is what I have to contend with…..

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A little climbing ivy!

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A variegated variety!

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Some pretty ivy…

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And then there’s the ground cover ivy….

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So, it’s this type of ground covering ivy that I am tackling – and really, to no avail. So, I have decided to not despise it but look at ways go admire and embrace its potential. Just like many things in life which are beyond our control, the ivy now for me represents steadfastness, determination and survival. It is more than just an out of control aspect of the garden. Delving into historical representations of ivy I found that it was a symbol of royalty, often woven as crowns for gods in Greek and Roman mythology. Bacchus wore a crown of ivy and of course Yuletide decorations included English Ivy in and around country households – fireplaces, candles, wreaths and, of course, to decorate the Yule log itself. In matters of love, ivy is symbolic of fidelity and constancy.

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I guess then I am looking at ivy for its potential – what it can give back to us. Yesterday, while we attended a Christmas function at the historic 1850’s homestead in Eynesbury, I couldn’t help but notice the controlled ivy feature…

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Yes, now I see its beauty and potential – sometimes we have to look at challenges in other ways. In the greater scheme of things, the ivy is part of the garden – tame it or tolerate it – but I now choose to turn it into an asset – with a little guiding hand, of course. Do I now love ivy? Let’s say, I have chosen to use it to my advantage. Have you ever had to look at challenges in creative ways? Enjoy the Yuletide preparations.

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The Peony Farm

Having just arrived back from the sub-tropics, I was reminded that some plants are unique to the colder climates. One such beautiful specimen is the peony. No sooner had I got back last weekend that I recalled I promised to go to the peony farm with our neighbour, Alex. We packed our baskets, secateurs and hats and headed for Spring Hill Peony Farm Open Day. Colin was our patient and appropriately attired driver – the pink shirt was a fluke!

Peonies really are a most superb flower and indeed an ancient one. They are revered in China and I have recently read on a site call “Peony Passions” that peonies are the traditional flower for a 12th wedding anniversary and also the floral emblem of Indiana! They come in various shades of pink and white. Our garden has two little plants, one of which has only flowered once- a stunning yellow specimen but it resides under the shade of large overhanging trees which might explain why it hasn’t flowered the last few years.

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The growing conditions for peonies require cold and an open sunny position. As you can see by this field it is in an exposed, open area and quite rough really but the peonies are very happy indeed.

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20121201-095011.jpg We came away with twenty stems for twenty dollars and they after a delight to behold.

The farm also boasted an old church which could be used for small weddings. Here’s the pink shirt followed by the delights of picking peonies!

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20121201-231413.jpg I arranged my collection in vases on the back deck. I guess I will have to move the two little plants which I have in the garden into a sunny spot if I am to achieve anything as brilliant as this.

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Happy gardening and dreaming – if you are on the other side of the world, remember that winter brings its own joys and treasures. For me, it will be back into the garden for lots more weeding, raking and burning off prior to the fire season. Isn’t nature remarkable. Enjoy every day in your garden.