Sunday, April 29, 2007

Back at the Blogface

Photo: a swamp wallaby in our new garden.

Finally, the prodigal blogger returns. Sorry about the delay. It's been quite a year and it's only April! First the Herbarium Plant Science Internship (details to come, I promise!), the slings and arrows of outrageous house purchasing, the move, the unpacking.... Photos of the house, both before and after the move, are here.

I've quit my horticulture course, somewhat alas. To be frank, the Internship thoroughly spoilt me, and horticulture just isn't enough any more. I'm studying to get ready for the science degree I mentioned last post, I'm working one day a week at the Botanic Gardens' Plant Disease Diagnostic Unit, and I am hoping to score a two day a week gig at the Herbarium working on Australia's Virtual Herbarium soon.

The Plant Path Lab is an utter wonder. I get to do wizzo things like examine nematodes from soil samples to check for the bad guys; prepare cultures of sundry microfungi and identify them under the microscope; and lately, even participate in polymerase chain reactions to do DNA identifications of fungi; and I'm shortly to go on field trips to National Parks with one of the Lab's scientists, collecting soil samples to search for phytophthera (an exceeding nasty micro-organism that attacks the roots of many native plants). I'll be doing the GPS measurements, drawing on one of the zillions of fascinating things I learned during the Internship. And I do some of the grunt work of labs: pouring out agar, doing the dishes, that sort of stuff. I'm working with some wonderful people, like Sue Bullock and Ed Liew. I am learning so much each week, my brain is bursting. Partly with joy.

And, of course, there is the new garden, which is filling me with bliss. Each day reveals a new delight. I keep finding tiny plants that aren't there because someone planted them. They just live there. And the animals! There are the swamp wallabies which visit daily (and have already eaten some of my newly planted seedlings. Grr.), and a boggling range of birds, including the Wonga pigeon, the Barking Owl, the Eastern Whipbird, the Spotted Pardalote, and a large range of parrots. And frogs! So many frogs. There are a couple of creeks behind our house that come alive with frog calls after rain. It'll be fascinating to see what moves into my new pond. When I've constructed it....

So far, the gardening has been limited to creating a vegie patch and planting a range of herbs (I'll start some pages with photos on my main website soon), and this weekend, we cleared out a garden bed in front of the verandah, removing various introduced species such as a large camellia and a hydrangea. I've planted Pandorea pandorana to grow up a trellis Martien made me, Acacia terminalis, Zieria prostrata (a threatened species) Lomandra fluviatilis (also a threatened species), Lomandra longifolia, Goodenia ovata, and sown Dichondra repens seed as a ground cover. Photos soon.

But I'm neglecting the gastropods here. Take a look at these gorgeous creatures: Triboniophorus graeffei. They're endemic to Australia and are, as you can see, quite remarkable. These two are engaged in humpy-bumpy. I guess it's pretty obvious why they might be called Red Triangle Slugs.

More soon!




Gerry said...

Great update Maggie - what a wonderful journey you are on :).

Margaret said...

Is that Canberra Gerry? Great to hear from you! Hope all's well in your part of the world. (Well, apart from the obvious, on Capitol Hill.... We all know about that.)

Anonymous said...

Yep, it's me :)

Margaret said...

In that case, Gerry--we expect you to come and visit us in The Bush soon! Spare bed and all. :)

Anonymous said...

Hi Margaret,

Where did you get the photo of the Red-Triangle Slug? The red-on-white colouring is really impressive.

Margaret said...

Hi Lachlan. The slug was in our garden. We have many of them, particularly after rain when they climb the trees to eat the thin layer of algae growing there.

It is gorgeous, isn't it?