Wednesday, May 30, 2007


Hi everyone!

Busy times. I've been working hard on the garden. The beds near the front verandah were full of nasty exotic things, and they're gone now. In their place I've put in lots of new things, a goodly array of small trees, shrubs, monocots and ground covers.

In this bed is an established Ceratopetalum gummiferum, a New South Wales Christmas Bush, which has magnificent red sepals in summer. Against the lattice, I've planted Pandorea pandorana (Wonga Wonga vine). In front of those is an Acacia terminalis and a Grevillea olivacea x preissii which I grew at TAFE as one of my propagation assignments, and there are a couple of Goodenia ovata (with yellow flowers), to match the Acacia. I've planted a few Lomandra longifolia and Lomandra fluviatilis here and there, and in the foreground is a Zieria prostrata. Throughout, I've sown Dichondra repens seed as a ground cover.

This bed is very floral. I've planted as centrepieces, an Acacia fimbriata, a hybrid Leptospermum and a Corymbia ficifllia x ptychocarpa--the latter two have deep pink flowers. As smaller shrubs, I've planted Lomatia silaifolia, Crowea saligna and Melaleuca thymifolia. For ground covers, I've put in Brachyscome formosa, Brachyscome angustifolia, Brachyscome multifida, Wahlenbergia stricta, Dampiera diversifolia, Chrysocephalum apiculatum which will hopefully create a carpet of pink, blue and yellow. To create textural contrast, I added a few Patersonia sericea.

Once these become established, spring will bring a mass of colour! In my not too modest opinion.

Speaking of a lack of modesty, last week I was presented with the Award for Outstanding Graduate for my TAFE horticulture course last year! I was chuffed, especially when I discovered it entailed a book voucher from the wonderful bookshop Floreligium. Today the books I ordered arrived: the latest edition of "Frogs and Reptiles of the Sydney Region" by Ken Griffiths, and "Mycelium Running: how mushrooms can help save the world". Gorgeous.

My science degree begins in July. The course I'm starting with is Foundations for Resource and Environmental Management. I'm lowering myself back into tertiary education gently, so I'm starting with one course only.

The backyard vegie patch is coming on apace. Photos soon. I've planted peas, silver beet, rocket and cabbage, as well as nasturtiums and marigolds as companion plants, and I've mulched and set up an irrigation system and a fence to keep out the wallabies. They're looking good so far: no pests.

But alas, the wallabies got to my lemon tree. Now it has no leaves and no fruit. Still, they were here first so I can't complain. I've planted a Feijoa tree, but I'm not letting any damned marsupial near it. It's thoroughly protected by a plastic guard.

And I've started work on the pond. This really excites me! My plan is to put a waterfallish thing above a crack between two sandstone platforms. The water will flow down to pond number 1, and from there into a larger pond.

: I've started a new section on my Growing Passion website, devoted to the construction of the pond. Please take a look. I'll update it frequently, as the work gets done.

The first stage is removing huge tracts of the bloody agapanthus some nong planted. The more established plants have extensive root systems, and the only way to remove them is with brute force and lots of sweat. Still, it's satisfying work. And it's nice to have help. Here's Martien, hard at it. What a fine lad.

Agapanthus massacres are quite cathartic. During one I found a lone Epacris longiflora. It is looking rather sad, but now it's lost its competitors for space, light, nutrients and water, maybe it will be happier.

I also must tell you about the website of my friends, Stewart and Susie, on their swimming-pool-turned-into-pond: Pool to Pond. Stunning, huh? They're an inspiration. If you've a pool you don't want any more, forget about the expense of filling it in. This is the environmentally wonderful solution. Wouldn't you just love these plants and animals in your backyard?

Meanwhile, I'm continuing my volunteer work at the Herbarium's Plant Pathology Lab. Loving it to pieces. I'm even getting to do DNA extractions alone and without the aid of a net!

The closing date for applications for the Herbarium AVH position has ended. I've finished my application and mailed it off. It felt like a smallish novella. Please keep your fingers crossed for me.

Check out this gorgeous diamond python resident in the neighbours' roof! It vanished, apparently, during the bushfires, and rats invaded the roof. Now it's back and the rats are gone. I know which I'd prefer.

The other day, I saw a male Superb Lyrebird (Menura novaehollandiae) in the garden, right next to the house. Wish I could have got a pic, but it ran away too quickly, alas. Damn but I love the wildlife here....

Oh, and we've got a new puppy--a border collie--Trillian, as a companion for Miepje. Isn't she beautiful? But naughty. Very, very naughty. Like Miepje, we got her from the RSPCA. Unlike Miepje, she's not in the least traumatised by her early experiences. She's ridiculously confident about the world. Smart as a button.


Unknown said...

It sounds like you're having quite an adventure settling in! The collie's beautiful, by the way.

Anonymous said...

And who said that you lived in one of the biggest cities north of Hobart! When you are finished, can you come to my place and start gardening?

Anonymous said...

An Acacia fimbriata! I am seriously jealous. Can't find them in my area (Darwin). Have you tried eating the seeds from it yet?

And that diamond python is beautiful.

Margaret said...

Seeker, no, I haven't tried eating Acacia fimbriata seeds...I didn't know they were edible. Do they have to be cooked, or ground or anything?

Is the problem in Darwin that the climate doesn't suit A. fimbriata, or just that no one grows or sells them? If it's the latter, it shouldn't be too hard to source some seeds from down south.

(I grew the one I planted from seed, by the way. It's the offspring of one I grew in my previous garden, and it's looking very happy with lots of new growth. Flowers next year, I think!)

Anonymous said...

Lomandra, (or should I call you Margaret on this blog?),

Acacia fimbriata are apparently the wattle seeds of choice for gourmet cooking. Ground up they are supposed to have a delightful taste just right for flavouring hot drinks, ice-cream, cakes, etc. Sort of nutty, coffee, chocolately kind of thing. So I am told. Don't know if they need to be cooked (roasted?) first, probably do.

They are certainly not native to the Top End of the NT, and none of the local (and quite well stocked) nurseries have them. Don't know if they would grow here. Chances are they would as Acacias are generally quite hardy and adaptable. I haven't tried sourcing seed from down south, just too busy, and it is not a high priority. There is also the quarantine and weed potential issue, though that is generally not a problem for Australian natives. I am just about to send my brother in Brisbane some Allosyncarpa ternata seeds and the Queensland Dept of Ag/Parks and Wildlife had no problem with that.

A. fimbriata is one of the few remaining unsourced species on my tree list. If you are interested in sending me a few when your tree seeds, I would be most grateful. (For my own garden, not for commercial use.) I would check first with the local experts to see if it is okay by them, quarantine and weed-wise.

I managed to score two seedlings of Terminalia kernbachii (or kaernbachii, common name Okari Nut), a few years back. They are as rare as hen's teeth up this way. One died, but the other is doing fine and flowered a little last year (though no nuts), so I am expecting big things this coming wet season and have been feeding, watering and mulching it, and having long friendly chats to it.

(See the paper 'Indigenous edible nuts in Papua New Guinea', R. Michael Bourke. To find it, Google 'Okari nut')

Besides the A. fimbriata, the other species that I really want but which has eluded me is a local native fruit called Pouteria sericea. A smallish bushy tree, reasonable looking, that produces a dark purple fruit about the size of a plum, and that is widely reputed to be a wonderful taste.


Margaret said...

Seeker, I'd be happy to send you some A. fimbriata seeds when they happen, although I doubt it will be soon. It's only a baby! But if I encounter any seed pods elsewhere in the meantime, I'll snaffle a few for you. Keep in touch!

And I'll explore the culinary side of the seeds too.

The Pouteria sericea looks interesting. If it's anything like the other native "plums", I bet it's jam packed with vitamin C and other antioxidants. Such fruits really ought to be the basis of Australian agriculture, instead of European species and models that are hugely inappropriate for our climate and soils. When oh when will we wake up?!

Anonymous said...


Thanks for that. I will certainly keep in touch. Do you want to swap email addresses?

Not hurry on the seeds, don't go out of your way, just if you come across some in your normal routine.

I agree with you that we should be systematically investigating the native flora (and fauna) for commercial potential, although that is happening more and more. However, there is a serious problem in that a lot of it is simply unsuitable for commercial production. Some of the problem is intrinsic to the various species, the Pouteria for example is quite slow growing. And some of it is because they haven't had the benefit of several centuries of selective breeding and cultivation experience, like apples have, for example. The only native that has made it into widespread (non boutique) commercial success is the macadamia nut, and the Hawaiians have made the running there, although that is changing as more farmers in Oz take them up. You probably know all this anyway.


Margaret said...

Seeker, sorry to have taken so long to respond to your last comment! Life got away with me, you know how it is. :) My email address is monocotyledon at gmail dot com. Keep in touch re matters fimbriata. (The acacias this winter/spring are spectacular here in Sydney. Or maybe it's just that each season I become more attuned to them....)