Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Melaleuca thymifolia and other matters.

Suddenly, my hort course is over for the year. Last week I had my last exam (Pests and Diseases. Identifying the Queensland Fruit Fly was a bit tricky, but I nailed it. Not literally. You can't nail Queensland Fruit Flies. Too small. In fact a number of them could dance on the head of a nail, if the mood took them and they were Jesuits.)

And today, I dropped in to college to clean up my cucumber patch and retrieve my stakes and trellis. It now looks very forlorn, but next year, it'll be tended lovingly by another student. I said bye to my favourite teachers (are you reading, Mark, Ian and John?) who are immersed in marking. Poor sods. I'll be missing the first month of my course next year, because of the internship. Things will be frenetic when I return.

A few weeks ago, I mentioned that I'd visited the Botanic Gardens and bought a few tubestock plants, including a Melaleuca thymifolia. It's now in flower, despite its youth, and the inflorescences are extraordinarily delicate. Most of this species seem to have pink flowers, but mine is a white variety. . . .

Once this plant is grown up I suspect it'll be a stunner.

Happy Planting!



Thursday, November 23, 2006

Plant Science Internship

I am absolutely over the moon. I've been accepted into the Plant Science Internship Program at the National Herbarium at the Sydney Botanic Gardens!

The internship takes place over January and February next year, full time. (This means that I'll have to miss my first month of my TAFE studies, but I think I'll be able to manage that okay with the support of my hort friends.)

From the Program's website:
This program offers undergraduates and recent graduates in the plant sciences advanced working experience in a leading scientific institution. The work program is supported by task-specific training and a professional-level introduction to key areas in Australian plant science and conservation. Specific training is given in skills for job-seeking and higher study....

The program is for students at the end of second or third year, and recent graduates, in botany, ecology, forestry, general biology (with plant interests), scientific horticulture, and related subjects. The program will benefit those seeking professional or technical careers in plant sciences or conservation management....

Interns work full-time on a voluntary, unpaid basis, assisting scientific staff on work of real scientific value. In return, Interns receive extensive practical training in botany, plant conservation, collections management, and job-seeking in the scientific workforce....

Training sessions are led by professional scientists and technicians from the Botanic Gardens Trust and other institutions. Training complements and extends that given at university....
  • Work sessions
    • Interns work in teams under staff supervision on routine and advanced tasks of specimen preparation, plant identification, collections management, and some research assistance.
    • We attempt to accommodate interns’ interests, but allocation to work teams and tasks is at our discretion. The scientific context of all work is made clear – you will be making a real contribution to the running of the Herbarium and its programs, and the skills you acquire will be applicable in many other jobs, especially in science and conservation....

  • Training About 40% of time is spent in training sessions. Again, these will be relevant to a wide range of science jobs. You will become familiar with:
    • key sources of information on the Australian flora
    • plant identification resources
    • key sources of information in conservation science and policy
    • principles and practice of the curation of scientific collections

  • Seminar sessions will focus on theoretical and practical issues in botany and conservation, including current major research programs.

  • Field training will include specimen selection and collection, field data recording, and permit and access protocols.
In other words, bliss on a stick.

I fully intend to write here about my experiences at the Herbarium. And take lots of photos with the trusty camera.

Callooh! Callay! O frabjous day!

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

The Assassin's cousin

Another bug, spotted today at TAFE on a corn leaf. Not as pretty as the assassin bug, but it looks seriously mean. As I got in close and personal to take photos, it looked like it wanted to take a piece of me.

(I've edited this post because I'd wrongly identified this as another Assassin Bug. Insect Mark saw the photo and put me right: it's actually a Crusader Bug, family Coreidae.)

Assassins and crusaders! The bug world is nothing if not full of drama.

Friday, November 03, 2006


Tonight, we ate the first squash from my vegie patch.

Aren't they pretty? They certainly tasted good.

Not a great photo, but doing a macro shot at night isn't easy.

Yesterday, part of my lunch was snowpeas from my patch. So crisp, sweet and perfect!

I love growing my own stuff to eat. My ideal garden would have four raised vegie beds (four for efficient crop rotation) of 1x3 metres. Should keep us fed. Well, along with the chooks and the goats and the orchard. I'll barter fruit and vegies for the odd bit of meat.

Thank you, Edna.

I'm doing a little spring-tidying up of my patio, where I have lots of pots of sundry plants. The aspect is North-Westerly, so it gets a lot of sun and heat.

Most recently, I've had a row of pots with lobelia spilling out over the garden wall, but they were getting a bit scruffy.

I've replaced them with a few ground cover herbs: Lemon Variegated Thyme, Golden Thyme, Variegated Oregano and and Creeping Thyme 'Doone Valley'. Hopefully they will give a similar cascading effect--with the advantage of being edible.

Here they are. I'll post another photo when they've grown.

This is vaguely inspired by Edna Walling, who'd often use plants not generally thought of as decorative, to great effect. I love informal, rambling designs with lots of terracotta and stone and nooks and crannies. My garden is nothing like that yet. But one day....

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Watch and be boggled.

Following on from my mate Ibn's comments about Australian wildflowers, I heartily recommend these images from Georgie Sharp at Flickr. Click on the slide-show and prepare to be gobsmacked.

I had a wonderfully horticultural weekend. On Saturday, my TAFE friend Julia introduced me to her friend Jill and Jill's remarkable garden near Yarramalong on the NSW Central Coast. I'll post some of the photos I took soon. I collected some Leptospermum petersonii capsules, now in a paper bag on the dashboard of my car so they'll open in the heat. And today, my daughter Maxine was rehearsing at the Sydney Opera House for a combined schools choir concert, so I busied myself by wandering about the Royal Botanical Gardens, where there just happened to be a tubestock sale. Oh my. I bought a few wee ones:

Friday, October 27, 2006

Stylidium productum

This clever little flower (only around 7mm in length) is from a trigger plant, Stylidium productum, local to the Sydney region.

The column extending from the centre of the flower to the right is a fusion of two stamens with the style. When an insect lands on the flower, the column is triggered and flicks across the insect. It can be reset a number of times.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Assassin

Firstly, thanks to all who have visited the blog and posted, and to those who have visited silently and stealthily and left no sign. You all make me want make it as good as my skills allow!

At TAFE today, we were appalled to find an array of damage from sundry pests. In one case, the larvae of Sciarids (Fungus Gnats) had so infested the tomato crop of Margaret D. that all but four of the plants had to be sacrificed. The adults are also all over the leaves of our potatoes, but it's the maggots that do the damage.

But the good guys were there too. Like this assassin bug, above, family Reduviidae. Assassin bugs, as the name suggests, are predators, and eat caterpillers by sucking out their precious bodily juices. Isn't it stunningly gorgeous?

Meanwhile, my cornichon cucumbers are close to harvest! I'm hoping that I'll pick them next week. They need only be little, because I'm going to pickle them. See the latest on the website.

I've also updated my Recommended Books page, to include some new additions to my bookshelf:

Botany for Gardeners by Brian Capon
Resurrection in a Bucket by Margaret Simons
Fruit and Vegetable Gardening in Australia by Michael Pollock
A Primer of Ecological Genetics by Conner and Hartl

And there's a new section: Insect Gallery. My early xmas present was a Panasonic DMC-FZ7 Lumix with 12x optical zoom. I love it to pieces. And now that I can take better macros, this part of the site is liable to grow fast! One of my teachers at TAFE is Mark Latham (no, not the one who trashes Panasonic DMC-FZ7 Lumixes with 12x optical zoom) and apart from being a botanist, he's also an entomologist. (And I just know you're going to enjoy these pages, Mark!) He's a fabulous resource, not to mention someone whose insect-obsessive personality is deeply reassuring to someone like me.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


The only real reason I'm posting this is so I can put up a photo. Okay, I confess. I'm playing.

This is the flower of a corn plant, one of the crops we're growing at TAFE.

Website changes

One of the reasons I started this blog was because I'd had a bit of a whinge on Botany Photo of the Day about Googlepages' 100 photo limit for websites hosted there. A kind soul at BPotD, MMW, suggested that I join Flickr to house my photos and use this place. Sage advice indeed.

Now I can put new photos on Flickr so they can be accessed from the website, and this blog will allow me to have actual conversations (I hope!) rather than just having my site transmit itself out into the ether with no visible response.

Something I plan to use this blog for is to let people know of changes to the website. So now, I happily announce that I've updated the Great TAFE Pond Project.

Last week, my Pruning and Planting class began clearing the areas around the ponds. We're now talking about what plants should go in. Needless to say, I'm eager to include indigenous species that will provide appropriate habitat for frogs. I'm preparing a list of suggested species.... Lots of Lomandra, Dianella, sedges and rushes, as well as ground cover that frogs are happy to traverse.

I lose my blogging virginity.

Welcome! Having started my Growing Passion website, I decided it was time to enter the world of the blog. At this point, I'm not sure how well I'll be able to integrate the site and this blog, but time will tell. Ideally, it will be reasonably fluid moving between the two.

So if you've found your way here through my website, please, post a message and say hi!