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! 🙂
A little addendum to my last post. BirdLife has just put out their formal Christmas campaign and given how much I like birds and want to protect them, I’m giving them an extra plug. They have some really lovely bird-related products in their online store. And who can resist a baby bird in a santa hat?!
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! 🙂
World Environment Day. What are we celebrating?
World Environment Day (WED) celebrations are happening around the country and around the world to acknowledge our progress and to encourage further action to protect our blue planet. There are lots of dinners and other celebrations but… what are we trying to achieve? Saving the rainforest, saving the whales, fighting palm oil plantation owners, reducing the hole in the ozone layer…. Is it all too big? Too hard to get a clear indication of what we want to see happen?
Goals like the Millennium Development Goals around Environmental Sustainability do help us. The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) are a set of eight goals set by United Nations member countries with the goal of halving world poverty by 2015. Goal number 7 is about Ensuring Environmental Sustainability Under these they have specific targets:
• Target 9: Integrate the principles of sustainable development into country policies and programmes; reverse loss of environmental resources.
• Target 10: Reduce by half the proportion of people without sustainable access to safe drinking water.
• Target 11: Achieve significant improvement in the lives of at least 100 million slum dwellers by 2020.
Oxfam and other international aid organizations are working hard to help achieve the Millennium goals. And they do a better job of spelling out what is needed. Read here on Oxfam’s website: ‘What are the Millennium Goals?’
According to the World Health Organisation, we have made some progress. In 2010, “the world met the United Nations Millennium Development Goals target on access to safe drinking-water, as measured by the proxy indicator of access to improved drinking-water sources, but more needs to be done to achieve the sanitation target.” I think this means we’re doing something right but still have a way to go. So this is something to celebrate this World Environment Day.
And what are we doing in Australia? With one of the highest extinction rates on the planet and the most cryptic, unique and enigmatic of species under our protection, we also have plenty of work to do if we want to hold up our end of workload that is protecting our planet. The appointment of an Australian Threatened Species Commissioner in July 2014 was a good step. After almost a year in the job, it will be interesting to see what he has and can achieve.
In the Commissioner’s report after his first 6 months he states: “Australia’s extinction history is unacceptable. Australia has lost 29 mammals since European settlement. According to the Action Plan for Australian Mammals, another 56 land-based mammals are at risk of extinction, and 11 of these are critically endangered. The total list of threatened species has grown to over 1750 plants and animals. The Threatened Species Commissioner model brings a new national focus and effort to secure our threatened flora and fauna.”
He has invested in feral control and some specific projects for some of Victoria’s critically endangered species but the jury is still out.
More information about the Threatened Species Commissioner’s role is available on the department’s website and on the Commissioner’s Facebook and Twitter feeds.
The investigation in to non-profit conservation organisations and a threat to remove their tax-deductible status is NOT a good step. According to a report on the ABC’s website by Conor Duffy, a parliamentary inquiry into the Register of Environmental organisations has asked for submissions, with some Government MPs agitating for a reduction in of the register of more than 600 environmental orgs. There is a suggestion the list should only include those orgs which do ‘practical’ environmental work. Putting more pressure on to orgs. with limited resources will not assist the cause of environmental protection in Australia.
So. The various dinners, events, festivals and awards will acknowledge the great work being done by our green community around Australia and around the world. It will highlight the work still to be done and the need, now more than ever, to Act Local and Think Global.
World Environment Day Festival on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, which has some fantastic workshops and activities. . The United Nations with its “Think Global; Act Local” slogan has WED Awards for the best performers (perhaps they should consider some ‘must do better’ awards too?) The Wilderness Society is launching a new campaign on WED with an event at the Provincial Hotel in Fitzroy.
May we have even more to celebrate next year.