Soil Mountains

“You’re gonna need a lot of soil to fill that hole”, said my husband after we removed part of the deck and discovered a 400mm drop to the ground. Even he didn’t know just how much! 6 cubic meters later and we’ll need more!  But the garden is definitely progressing…

When the soil arrived this morning I have to say I felt a little nervous. The truck delivering it was very large! The mound they tipped onto the driveway was much bigger than expected!

 

We’re using a granitic sand (also known as Tooborac Toppings), to create a path through the garden which will lead you  to a little seating area with a water feature.  I’m advised that this sand can be compacted down so it doesn’t just spread all over the garden!

So when another truck turned up with the sand and dumped another huge pile behind the first lot, I was started to feel very nervous! How would they move all this  by this afternoon? Will my neighbours start complaining we’re blocking the path? Will they clean up the trail of mud through the courtyard!?  Ah the joys of creating a garden!

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But the early results are very pleasing… the garden is coming together.  It even smells better 🙂 It has some order; the path is defined and the sand and earth look good together.  We might even have a garden in time for a planned birthday celebration… let’s see….

 

Williamstown Garden revival

Work is underway to return my formerly ‘aircraft-hanger’ covered garden back into a nearly wild native space for our local birds and wildlife.  I’m very excited that I’ve managed to find a local gardener who sees the same vision as me and we’re hoping to get started next week.

It’s a funny thing creating a garden.  For a while I looked out on what was just a barren patch of dry dirt which was uncovered when we removed part of our timber deck.  It looked very unloved.

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Over the past weeks, due to considerable rain and blazing sun in equal measure, weeds have established a foot hold.  Now initially, I wasn’t happy with the weeds as all I saw was the painful job ahead of removing them.  They go from a few green plants to fully- blown giant invaders seemingly overnight.  They nearly cover the bare ground now.

Strangely, now when I look out of my lounge window and I see their seeded, bobbing heads, I don’t feel annoyed in fact the opposite because the weeds have brought life back to my embryonic garden.

Already, butterflies have returned. Mostly Cabbage Whites but also lovely Dainty Swallowtails who until now only frequented the Melaleuca tree on my nature strip. I see at least one now every day and they always lift my mood as only a large, colourful butterfly can.

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Dainty Swallowtail in Melaleuca Tree

Wattlebirds and Blackbirds visit (probably after the caterpillars I am sure are being left behind!); enormous Dragonflies zip about on the hunt and Rainbow Lorikeets have visited to eat berries from my neighbours’ tree which has only been revealed due to the demolition.

A neighbour who knew about my garden renovation offered me four of her most treasured plants that she no longer had space for, now that she was moving house.  So I was gifted a large, thorn-less Lemon Tree full of fruit; a beautiful pink and white

flowering Pelargonium, a scented Yellow Rose and an Agapanthus, all potted and happy to sit on my deck until a space can be found for them in the garden (although the 42 degree days did challenge all of them).

Next stage is to bring in at least 7 cubic meters of earth and start adding structure to the garden.  The weeds will have to go but I’m sure some of them will find there way back. Along with the butterflies.

 

 

Share with your community for 2018

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Australian Black Swans Jawbone Reserve Williamstown

So a few things that will keep me busy in 2018 and may be of interest to you or a local community group! I’ve recently joined the board of Seddon Community Bank which is a part of the Bendigo Bank Group and also BirdLife Australia.
Seddon Community Bank provides sponsorship and small grants to local groups so if you know of a group looking for financial or in-kind support  around the Seddon area, please apply for assistance for 2018.
Every Bendigo community bank distributes the majority of its profits (in some cases more than 80%) back to their community so if you are not in this area, please look for your local community bank.
With this in mind, Bendigo Bank has created a family and friends offer to anyone looking for a loan or banking advice.
As it’s nearing Christmas, you may be thinking of making a donation to a worthwhile charity. If so, I can recommend to you, as a dedicated birdwatcher, BirdLife Australia.  I recently joined the board of BirdLife after many years of support and know that Australian birds and their habitats need all the assistance they can get.
You may know (how could you avoid it!) that as an avid birdwatcher, I take a lot of photos and post them on Facebook and Instagram.  Love to hear your comments 🙂
Thanks for taking time out to read my update. I wish you, your family and friends a wonderful, safe and happy Christmas and hope to meet up with you in the New Year.
PS: Please do share these links with friends and family.  Merry Christmas!

In an Australian country garden …

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Beau guarding a large Echeveria (he’s afraid of birds and butterflies so no worries there).

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.

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Australian Fairy Wren

So in beginning to plan my own garden, I can start with a few of these lessons:

  1. I love Australian native plants
  2. I love succulents
  3. 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.
  4. 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.

 

 

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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.

Fire destroys offices of the Les Twentyman Foundation in Footscray

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A fire today in Footscray  at Little Saigon Market has destroyed the offices of the Les Twentyman Foundation destroying hundreds of Christmas gifts, including 6,000 donated school books, intended for children of poor families.

The Foundation has been a part of the Western suburbs of Melbourne for over 30 years and Les Twentyman has been the major driver.

Donations can be made at www.ltfoundation.com.au and material donations can be made by phoning the organisation on 9689 480 or visiting Replenish for Health in Douglas Parade, Williamstown.

 

 

Writer in Transit: Castlemaine

It’s been raining up here in Castlemaine. Full on flooding plains type of rain. First time I’ve been up this way when it wasn’t hot enough to crisp your eyelashes.  It seems to be raining quite a bit when I go travelling at the moment – I’m sure it’s not true that I bring rain wherever I go. It’s just a coincidence.

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I’m here for the Fryerstown Antiques Fair (22-24 Jan) located in a now muddy field surrounded by giant gums raising money for the Fryerstown historic hall. There’s often a fundraising angle to much of the things I’m doing. I’m in search of good 1930’s Australian pottery and whatever treasures I can find (I’ve developed a bit of a button fetish but let’s not go there yet).

If you’re wondering about the writer in transit tag it’s an idea I can up with when I was listening to someone on the ABC talk about their time as a writer in residence at the V&A in London.  I was feeling a bit green-eyed that they’d probably get unprecedented access to all the lovely things held there. I got to wondering what really was a Writer in Residence and thought perhaps I could be one and how you apply and so on.   It then occurred to me   (I was doing the washing up at the time and looking out the window admiring the rainbow lorikeets which just goes to prove that, seriously, women really can multi-task but that’s another post)  that one could just turn up at the V&A (or the NGV or Castlemaine) and start writing what occurred to you there as you passed through it without needing anyone’s permission.  So. possibly I would be a writer in transit?

As I transit, I am actually staying up here in a wonderful bed and breakfast ‘Clevedon Manor‘ which is on the main road in Castlemaine.  It’s a Victorian mansion filled with period- appropriate furniture, lots of horse pictures and a cuckoo clock.  They’ve given me a lovely room with a bay window overlooking the hedge-enclosed garden. The bedroom has a great big silver-grey coloured metal bed with crisp white cotton sheets facing the tiled fireplace over which a gilded mirror hangs. There is a massive 2 meter tall wardrobe with a full length oval mirror in the door. My very clean private bathroom is just down the hall.

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a wistful Vivien Leigh in silk bed- jacket drinking her tea

Last night as I sat up in bed reading, I felt it would be appropriate to be wearing a pink silk, feather-trimmed bed jacket with my matching slippers at the side of my bed on the small rug, having just been served warm tea in a china cup by my personal maid. Beautiful rooms have this kind of Vivien Leigh effect on me. It is so reassuring to visit a new place and feel, well, at home.  Just at the right moment, 1st Dibs released this collection of beautiful images of gorgeous bedrooms.  Lust on these as I continue my journey through the gold-mining towns around Castlemaine.

New Year Resolves…Good New Things

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Sacred Kingfisher

It’s another January 1 and the New Year sits before us.. untouched waiting for us to decide what to do with it.

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Cheeky Currawong

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! 🙂