Feeling a bit grim in this the first week of our stage 4 lockdown in Melbourne. Numbers of cases go up and down – up today; hospital admissions go up – by a lot today due to people from aged care homes being transferred; deaths go up – including today, a man in his thirties.
To cheer myself up I’ve been exploring the garden. It’s freezing out there!
I’ve still got a bit of colour around. First with my lovely camellias. Thankfully free of foraging possums for the first time in years! I can’t remember the name of this cerise coloured one, but I remember Kevin Heinz saying on his gardening show on 3LO (yes I’ve had it that long) that you would have to be a terrible gardener to kill this variety! Thankfully I haven’t and it looks lovely in the late afternoon sunshine.
The blooms are beautifully shaped. And this is a beautiful colour.
These ones are more delicate, but just as beautiful. Name also unknown.
It’s just outside our back door and wasn’t as affected by the possums as the ones down the back. However I lost a couple of years of flowers due to a self administered brutal prune. I’m pleased to see it back and looking so wonderful at the moment.
My biggest triumph regarding camellias relates to this one, which I’ve grown from seed. It’s opposite the one above and has been looking very healthy for years.
But hadn’t produced any flowers at all until last year when it had one. This year I counted four buds but since then have got a couple more blooms. They are quite lovely. This one was the first out and I took it early – afraid it would drop off.
Which it didn’t, here it is in full bloom. Its parent plant was light pink, but these are pure white.
Here’s another flower on the same plant that I’ve just found on the other side, near the fence. Hard to see and harder to photograph, hence the poor quality and odd angle. This makes it seven flowers this year.
As a result I’ve had some lovely vases of camellias gracing our bedroom.
My pieris japonicas have taken off this year. I bought these ages ago from Yamina Rare Plants in Monbulk – a great nursery and worth a visit online. I don’t know what the varieties I have are called. These delicate pink ones were under our Chinese pistachio tree, but when told we couldn’t water the tree because it had a fungal infection I transferred them to the right hand side of the garden where they seem to have flourished.
It’s strange how one has developed later than the other when they are side by side.
I’ve always loved the trailing bells on these plants.
I’ve got three other varieties of pieris that are well on their way to producing similarly impressive flowers.
This one looks very similar to the one above but has a different plant structure. I’ll be interested in the flowers. Neither of these has had so many flowers in the past.
And then I have this little one. Which is going to be the last to flower.
My hellebores are just starting to flower. I think they’re a bit late – but better late than never. I have three that I’ve had for a while and I’m pleased that they’ve lasted. Here’s my oldest.
They’re a bit hard to see because I’ve put up a plastic fence to keep Otto from destroying the wooden fence on the left side of our garden. Our neighbour got a labrador about a year ago and I’ve been worried Otto was going to knock it down! It might not look great but has saved both the fence and the hellebores. This is my second one which has come along nicely since I bought it last year in one of those tiny tubes.
This one was also purchased last year at a sale at the Flowers Vasette in Brunswick Street. It got a bit mucked around by Otto – before the plastic fence – so I’m pleased to see these flowers coming. This one is my most exotic hellebore.
But, as any gardener knows, it’s the surprises and recoveries that you find in unexpected places that sometimes give the greatest pleasure. I’m delighted to see this self sown plant survive a brutal yanking out of its snug place beside the fence; and I’m hopeful of flowers before the end of the season. A long shot I know. If you look very carefully you can see a single shoot in the middle of this bowl, under our ailing (dead) tree. My local nursery lady has told me not to water hellebores too much, so I’m being ruthless. We will see.
There is a nice purple corner down at the end of the garden. Common plants but colourful.
I’ve plenty of yellow in the garden. With beautifully perfumed wallflowers under the camellias.
And these plants, which have proliferated since our tree died and I stopped watering them. I don’t know the name of the plant itself, but the variety is called Eleanor. The initial plant was a gift from our neighbours – chosen for the name. They’re pretty and very long lasting. And now I have a lot.
There’s more yellow on the fence. I wasn’t sure this little basket would last, but it has, and the daisies have flowered most of the year.
Which brings me to my hanging baskets; of which I have many, and which have been a great success since I retired. My mother told me you always need blue in a garden to bring out the other colours, so they’ve had lobelia in them for a while, some more successfully than others. Recently I bought more to invigorate baskets that had previously had beautiful begonias and fuschias. Alas something has eaten every bit! Birds or rats? Gardening is not for the fainthearted. So foreseeing our current lockdown, I’ve been replanting some, with pansies as well as this trailing grey plant.
Overall the trailing plants in my hanging baskets have been a great success, including some brightly coloured geraniums that are on their way back. I love my little green balls.
I love these little green trailing balls and have them in a lot of my hanging baskets.
At the start of our very first lockdown, which seems so mild, and so successful, in retrospect, I bought some hyacinth bulbs from Tesselaar. I’m thankful that the bulbs have remained untouched while whatever it was – bird or rat – feasted on the lobelia in the same pots. The bulbs were the biggest I’ve ever seen and it looks like the flowers will be too. They’re just starting, but things are looking promising.
Another gardening project giving great pleasure is my attempt to grow a Japanese maple to bonsai. The children gave me a bonsai kit for Christmas but my first lot of seeds disappeared from the fridge; where they had been carefully placed in accordance with instructions, inside a plastic ziplock bag. Responsibility for this catastrophic loss wavers between Joe and the cleaners; a reluctant majority view within the family has settled on the former. Not to worry I have started again, and thus far have successfully germinated four seeds. I think the most successful, to date, is this one which is outside. The other one outside has just come through.
Here in the purple pot is what both of the ones inside look like. While they seem to like their spots on the window sill they continue to have very thin stems. I’m wondering whether, and if so how, I should acclimatise them to the outside world, which is where they’ll end up. It’s a challenge.
Another challenge is to see these three hydrangeas thrive – can you see them? I’ve cut down a lemon tree – having already got three others in this very small garden – seemed excessive. These are mop tops struck from Fran’s garden. She thinks they may be in the wrong spot but this is where I want them to grow! Then I can get rid of the leafy numbers that I’ve been using to hide the fence. I’m a bit worried I’ve put them in too early but they were crowding out of the pots they were in; they’ve only got very small root systems. I have my fingers crossed.
That’s the state of my garden at the moment. It’s cheered me up writing this. That’s the beauty of gardens! I’m looking forward to seeing how all of these plants survive the next six weeks.
PostScript: Here’s a photo of my left-over lobelia I’m pretty sure its the birds that have eaten it for two reasons. First there are no droppings to be seen. Second, it only got eaten when the blue flowers emerged and I think the birds are attracted to the colour and take it back to their nests.
You can see it that picture how big my hyacinth bulbs are. Below is another picture of lobelia that has thus far survived. It’s stuck between two hyacinths so maybe too hard for birds to peck! Or maybe not flowering. It’s a mystery.
It’s still August (17th) and we’re still in lockdown, so I’m adding to this blog. I can’t get a decent picture to show how wonderful the hyacinths are. And they’re not all out yet.
Self sown forget-me-nots are successfully hiding the miniature crepe myrtle while it hibernates.
These two pieris japonica’s are well and truly out. You can see my solar lamp in the middle.
And this one is just starting to have flowers; going to be spectacular.
The purple daisies are in full flight.
And we have lemons, slowly, oh so slowly, ripening on our main tree which is a Eureka I think.
The birds have moved on from nipping all my lobelia blooms to ripping out my grey trailing plants – this is my last one! Fortunately they’re not interested (at least yet) in the green balls. I thought it was minor birds but I saw a brown thrush collecting for its nest this morning.
I’ve moved the plastic fence so that I can see the hellebores better. They’re still not fully out but are quite lovely.
And and other view.
I’m over the moon that the hellebore I ripped out and repotted is coming along nicely.
And here is something else – after years, these strange flowers have emerged from one of the succulents given to me by my workmates when Mum died. I’ve been waiting for the petals to emerge but suspect they’re not going to.
Here’s another yellow plant in a hanging basket on the right of our back door. Another plant that’s taken a frustratingly long while to flower.
Before I go, I should save a picture of our dying – or more probably dead – chinese pistachio tree. We’ve had it ever since we came here – 1986 – and it’s grown beautifully, finally delivering shade to our outdoor meals and providing a great over-arching frame for the rest of the garden. Lovely coloured leaves in autumn, and later bright red seeds that currawongs feasted on. It’s succumbed, we think, to a fungal infection. Post lockdown it will have to be removed. Such a pity. Over winter it has looked as it always did – like this on a lovely sunny day, on the 17th of August.
And very dramatic against a cloudy sky on a bleaker day earlier in August (the 4th).
Finally, I’ve realised, there’s no picture of the whole garden. Here’s the view from our back door.
It’s still August – the 25th – and we’re still in lockdown so I’m going to add a picture of my latest bloom. I’ll stop updating this post at the end of August. Here is my latest Hellebore; it’s called Double White- Spotted and I bought it this season and didn’t really expect it to flower this year. I’m very impressed. I came upon it by accident this morning; the drooping nature of these plants makes it hard to see, hopefully I’ll get some more. Beautiful.