I have the amazing opportunity to create a garden from scratch. Before we bought this house, I have always had to work with the garden I’ve been given… on more than one occasion I’ve lived in a rental house and my main aim has been to keep the garden alive for the next owner inspection. When I last owned my own home I knew next to nothing about which plants to choose, how to keep them alive or even what I really liked.
Over the years of tending these gardens and killing more plants than I care to admit, I have learned a few things, I’m glad to say. During those years, I experimented with plants in pots in lieu of my own garden so I planted bulbs and watched what would grow where; I planted a lot of succulents and absolutely fell in love with them. Who can’t love a plant that replicates itself?! Echeverias and Sempervivums and other succulents create little clones of themselves and so you can create whole gardens from just a few plants and a bit of patience. After a bit of investigation, I learnt that in some countries Sempervivums are called ‘Hens and Chickens’ because of this habit of replicating their own little baby plants. In other countries they are called ‘house leaks’ as they are used in some countries to grow on the roofs of houses to little plug leaks. I love that!.
Australian natives plants offer an amazing range of subtle, hardy and in many cases, very beautiful plants that can be chosen to suit your local environment. There are many varieties like the gorgeous Grevilleas. So while many of us still choose to plant up our gardens with roses and other ‘exotics’, Australian native plants are becoming increasingly popular not least because of their tolerance of our extreme weather and low rainfall.
If you’ve read earlier posts, you’ll know i love Australian birdlife and a native garden is a great way to attract native birds. They need all the help they can get as their natural habitats are disappearing. Many Australian birds are very small and need protection from large predators like our very large aggressive ravens, butcherbirds and magpies. Suburban cats are an absolute menace. So planting ground cover for little birds is essential if they are to find hiding places away from predators.
So in beginning to plan my own garden, I can start with a few of these lessons:
- I love Australian native plants
- I love succulents
- These two broad plant types for the most part go very well together as they require little attention and not a lot of water – both useful things for an amateur (read uneducated) gardener in a state where rainfall is intermittent.
- I love Australian birdlife and want to attract them so that I can enjoy them and photograph them and give then a little haven in an inner city suburb
This all means I want to create an Australian native garden in my very own backyard.
Over the next few months (and years as gardens are a lifetime commitment), I will be changing my 60sqm of dirt into a native Australian garden.
The garden I have to work with was, until a few weeks ago, covered by a huge aircraft-hanger construction that was supposed to be a pergola. Made of thick pine planks, many struts, brackets, screws and nails, this construction was not only incredibly ugly in my opinion, it took up 3/4 of the garden leaving me just room for a patch of scrawny grass with a few paving stones leading to a small and inefficient shed.
This is all gone… including half of the cedar deck which covered most of the garden. The decking was repurposed to create a new deck to host our spa.
Now that the pergola has gone, the spa has been repositioned, the shed has been dismantled and redistributed and the essential water tank has been rotated so it’s in a more practical location, we are ready to start to build the garden.
Actually.we are ready to start planning to build the garden. I really couldn’t envisage what I had to work with until the space was cleared. What I’m left with is a rather big hole… ! When I reduced the deck I realised the ground beneath it was more than 30cms below the deck. We’re going to need a serious amount of topsoil before we can even think about putting in a plant.
I am entering that wonderful design stage… I can see what I have to work with and I know roughly what I want to create. Next step is to get some professional advice (we used professionals to dismantle the aircraft hanger and move the deck and water tank around – couldn’t have done it without help). Possibly I wont plant much until next winter/spring as in Melbourne we are entering the end of spring and beginning of summer and many young plants wont enjoy the 42 degree days we’ll get in the summer. But I will wait to see what my gardener advises. Until then. Stay tuned.
It’s another January 1 and the New Year sits before us.. untouched waiting for us to decide what to do with it.
A Good Thing
You can choose to make no resolutions about the NY. Many do (or is that don’t). While I understand it feels like a waste of time if you don’t follow through, at least you had a goal to aim for. Is it better to have no goals at all and take what comes?
So this year my resolution is specifically vague. I’ve resolved to do something new (and positive) every day. That is, something I’ve never done before. So that’s specific. And the vagueness is that I’m not going to plan what that ‘new good thing‘ is. I’m just making a commitment to do something new every day. It doesn’t have to be incredibly dangerous, exciting or mind-bending, it just needs to be new.
So. January 1. I kayaked down the Goulburn River to birdwatch and enjoy the gorgeous scenery. Well not all of the GR but a nice, friendly non-rapid bit with my husband and a friend who showed us the way, let us use his kayaks and drove us back and forth! That is friendship, I’m sure. In return, I pointed out the birds I recognised… a few Darters, lots of Little Corellas, 2 wonderful, delighting Kingfishers, lots of ducks, a Currawong singing in the trees, lots of noisy Cockatoos.
As we were visiting friends in a beautiful part of the Victorian farming region, perhaps it was easier to find something to do that I’d never done before. The more difficult thing will be to discover something different just as part of my normal everyday routine when I’m at home with the cat and wondering why I can’t watch foxtel for another hour. Let’s see.
Happy New Year. And may many unexpected, happy, healthy and magical experiences come to you whether you resolved it that way or not! PS Thanks BirdLife for the photos … I was too busy trying to stay in the Kayak to take photos! 🙂
Each year the sudden festooning of lampposts with Christmas decorations, mince pies in the supermarket and Christmas carols at my local cafe take me by surprise! “It’s Christmas!”, they yell! “Already?” I want to yell back!
This year is no exception .. perhaps because while I was visiting Sydney I was amazed to see – before Halloween was even over – some bright spark had already installed a 6.5 tonne Swarovski crystal-decorated tree in the Queen Victoria Buildings ! Now I think that’s really a bit early! It was very beautiful though.
It may sound it, but I’m not a cynic and I actually really like celebrating the end of the year, cooking Christmas cake, eating Christmas cake…
This prompted me to consider the various fundraising appeals and campaigns that are attempting to encourage us each to think about someone or something that needs the gift even more.
Here are a few that caught my attention:
Chairity begins at home
Each beautifully designed chair will be auctioned off for chairity… sorry, charity… a great idea and a wonderful way to combine art, creativity and heartfelt innovation. For more info visit Cult Design.
If you’ve already started shopping and perhaps like me you have a ‘gift drawer’ where you put things you’ve taken a fancy to but you’re not sure who they’re for (ok, that might just be me), how about buying a toy for a boy or girl you’ll probably never meet. Berry Street is a wonderful children’s organisation which since 1877 has focused on the rights of children to have a safe and happy home. With their Christmas appeal, you can buy a gift on line, make a donation or get gift tags for your own choice of gift. They only accept new toys and really need gifts for children aged 11-16+
Raining Cats and Dogs!
If you have a cat, budgie, fish or a dog, give them an extra squeeze of affection (maybe not the fish) this festive season when so many cats and dogs are abandoned. Hard to believe I know but some owners find the cost of kennels or catteries to onerous and just leave their pets to fend for themselves. And definitely please DO NOT give pets as gifts – these are often the unfortunate creatures that end up at lost dogs and cat shelters when their new owners find they cannot look after them. Consider this story in the Daily Telegraph last year but this sad story is the same every year. If you’d like to support your favourite animal shelter, they often need blankets and financial donations are usually well received. Lort Smith had a great event ‘Pause for a cause‘ to raise money for the hospital, walking around Melbourne’s ‘Tan’ at the Botanical Gardens with over 100 dogs! What a great sight that would have been! Woof!
Cockatoos need you too!
Let’s not forget our feathered friends this Christmas. As a bird-lover I’m biased but it is easy to forget that we have so many beautiful native birds on the edge of extinction. Visit BirdLife.org.au and see what you can do to help. You can become a BirdLife member for just $1.50 a week! Seems a small amount to help save beautiful birds like our waders, or the amazing Red Tailed Black Cockatoos. What’s your favourite bird? Perhaps make a donation instead of a bought present for a friend. I know they’d love it 🙂 (And keep your cat in at night, also a good gift to our feathered friends!)
Finally, this time of year can bring up a range of different and conflicting emotions. If you need someone to talk to, consider the Samaritans. They have a help line for anyone needing a bit of support. Reach out if you need to. Or consider Lifeline who are there to help with many difficult situations.
Wishing you and your loved ones a safe and happy Festive Season. And if you think it’s too early to be saying this, blame Swarovski! 🙂
February 5th, 2012
I am rather taken with birdwatching at the moment and as such I have turned into a ‘twitcher’. The Oxford Dictionary defines a ‘twitcher’ as …. well, ‘someone who twitches’ (not that helpful I would have thought if you went to the dictionary to find out what the word ‘twitch’ meant!) I didn’t really understand why that moniker was used for bird-watchers until I became one and started to ‘twitch’ my head in the general direction of any movement in a bush or shrub that might turn out to be a species of bird that I havent seen before. Hence the Oxford Dictionary’s second definition: ‘British informal: a birdwatcher whose main aim is to collect sightings of rare birds.’ That’s me.
Of course, becoming a bird watcher is a relatively simple thing as there are birds around us all the time. Most are very common and not particularly exciting to view such as Indian Miners or pigeons. But others are so glorious that I want to tell everyone I meet after I’ve had such an encounter about what they missed by not being with me at the time. This does not normally have the expected effect. In fact, mostly once people realise that the ‘rare sighting’ I am describing does not involve the latest celebrity or at the very least some random footballer, their eyes glaze over and they mutter the words ‘twitcher’ (or at least I think that’s what they’re say, it could of course be ‘twit’. but I choose the former).
Australian birds are fascinating. I particularly like the raucous calls of wattlebirds outside my window in the morning. Add to that they are aeronautical wonders able to catch their prey (moths, flies, butterflies) on the wing with some amazing manuevers. I have two regular visitors to my garden. A red wattlebird (red wattles under his chin and a yellowish lower breast) and a little wattlebird and sometimes they’re out there at the same time.
Magpies warbling are a joy to listen to. I really wonder what they are saying to each other.
Honeyeaters of all kinds enthrall me and seeing a spinebill honeyeater or a new holland honeyeater, makes my day.
Of course, becoming a bird watcher inevitably turns you into something else. An amateur photographer. Because no-one believes you’ve seen your wonder unless you can show them a picture. Sad but true. The wild albino fairy wren at Werribee Open Range Zoo is like a mystical creamy coloured fairy that NO-ONE but those who have seen it believe in. I have seen it and my blobby, blurred photo proved nothing (the average fairy wren is only about 3″ high and I was photographing it from about 15 metres without a tripod… and with my shaky hands (excitement!) no chance!) So in order to gain greater pleasure from my hobby I must collect proof. Not in the way of actual birds or eggs or even feathers: but photos. So I’m an amateur photographer and birdo. Add that to keeping my blog up to date and having a social life, one wonders when I have time to work….? I’m wondering about that too 🙂
I’m an infrequent but enthusiastic bike rider and I tend to take my bike out to combine two of my other interests: photography and bird watching so I was pleased to see two ideas to help the world of cycling and its riders and those of us who stop along the ride to take photos of the scenery, interesting birds or just general randomness!
If you like to buy biking accessories – you know who you are you lycra-clad enthusiast you – you may be interested in the Rider+ loyalty programme created just for bikers. I havent used it but its being promoted by Bicycle Victoria and looks like a good idea. Rider+ is a joint initiative of the Bicycle Network which is a network of premium bike stores. Of even more interest to me is the Tripod Bike! Yanko Designs describe it as being inspired by the camera tripod, and provides a unique solution for custom fitting a bike to individual users. The bike features a camera mount located between the handle bars! So all your photo-cyclists, visit www.yankodesign.com for more info. If you’d like to find out about Rider+ visit www.riderplus.org for more info.