Changes in the garden can happen so surreptitiously one is barely aware of them especially in our harsh climate. This season Cape weed is the exception to this and don’t we have an inundation of that everywhere at the moment?!
Every day I walk around my garden talking to my plants, pulling a weed here or there, looking for leaf growth or flower buds, and keeping an eye on bugs to make sure they don’t think they have free reign. In the last couple of weeks I have had several surprises, free gifts, pop up unexpectedly in little clusters. The excitement of seeing the miracle of new plants pushing through the soil never palls for me.
This week I found seedlings of Derwentia arenaria blue emerging where a plant had died, and further along masses of Xerochrysum viscosum pushing up firmly and briskly to fill every last bit of space under one of my plum trees. I’m also hoping that some of the seedlings I have seen are clones of my Ammobium alatum because I have found it nigh on impossible to get this plant to produce babies. In the pebble path I have Leuchochrysum albicans making itself at home and Craspedia variabilis naturalising. The wonderful thing about all this is that whilst I place plants ever so carefully how I think they should look, nature seems to have a way of making it all look so much more happily casual.
Bulbine glauca, Solanum linearifolium, Poa labillardieri, Swainsonia galegifolia have all sent seedlings up recently, despite the bitter cold nights. These wonderful gifts can be seen as weediness, and definitely one needs to pull a few out where they are going to encroach on other plants, but I like to see them as the free gift that they are to fill in those empty spots and make the garden lush and full.
Up at the nursery, production of plants is going full steam ahead too. There are seeds of all sorts sprouting, and cuttings growing roots quietly unseen. There are trays and trays of tiny new plants enjoying the warmth, for now, of the green house.
On another note………..just when we thought COVID was nearly over and things might get back to some semblance of normality we have new outbreaks of infection in some communities. For some people this means back into lockdown and for the rest of us a general unease of not knowing what is coming next. What we do already know is that the Australian Native Plant Society spring plant sale at the Australian National Botanic Gardens has been regretfully cancelled again. Although we thought this was a distinct possibility we had been gearing up toward it anyway. So, as we did in autumn, we will have a plant sale at the nursery of all the plants we would have taken to the Botanic garden sale and more. We will let you know details of this sale closer to the time. Until then keep an eye on the plant lists on our website. I update these as new plants become ready for sale.
This last week Iris and I have decided to commit to being ‘open’ at regular times. For now, Tuesday and Friday between 9am and 3pm I will be in attendance at the nursery. On Saturday and Sunday between 9am and 3pm Iris will be available to sell plants. Outside of these hours it is likely that we will be available too but best to call first before coming out just to make sure. And be aware that these hours are likely to change as we come into spring but I will advertise any changes on Facebook or Google maps and/or you are always welcome to call me on my mobile or Iris on her landline to make sure.
And now that all that Autumn planting is done, done, done it is time for me to be slowing down. My poor old arthritic hands have taken such a beating in the last couple of months as I have frantically improved my soil, planted, and mulched. Most nights I have fallen into bed almost too tired to sleep but I tell you what, every minute of it was worth it. The garden is looking fuller than it was and I know that these lovely plants will settle their roots in over winter and be more likely to survive next summer because of it.
No doubt I will find a few more plants to pop in over winter because I never actually stop but now is the time to dream and scheme about spring planting. It is time to stand back to view the garden with a quieter eye trying to imagine how that plant would look amassed in a swirl or would that area look better with something taller as a backdrop, is this plant in the right place, is that plant past its best and need to come out.
With plenty of time over the cold months to dream and scheme it is no wonder we are all raring to go at the first sign of warm weather. I for one will be waiting!
These fabulous plants (below) are all flowering in my garden at the moment. I cant get enough of the glorious colours.
The sites were all out in the open, all had the same amount of rain but such different outcomes. So why would that soil still be dry?
In sandy soils the water may drain through the soil profile so quickly that it could be dry after a very short time but sandy soils are not normal around this neck of the woods and for this reason I know it was not a case of the water draining away but rather one where the water didn’t sink in in the first place.
There are several reasons why water may not sink into soil. If the rain is very heavy it may simply run off before it has time to sink in. But our rain last week was gentle and steady so there has to be another reason. In my paddock there are two other reasons. The first is that in places there has been vehicle traffic and/or horse traffic. Any sort of repeated traffic over an area can compact soil very quickly. The previous owners of my property had a horse and the horse quite clearly had very specific routes he took round the paddock. After five years without a horse in residence those pathways are still as clear as day and that is because the ground has been compacted leaving no air spaces between the soil particles making it hard for water to sink in and therefore hard for plants to grow. The second reason I don’t get water running into the soil is that in places the soil in the paddock is dusty and hydrophobic. Hydrophobic soil (soil which repels rather than soaks up water) is caused by excessive hot dry weather of which we had plenty over summer and/or the coating of soil particles with waxy organic compounds from the breakdown of waxy leaves such as Eucalyptus leaves. There is a very clear and informative article in the ABC Organic Gardener magazine if you are needing some help to fix a problem like mine.
Finally another problem you may have which stops moisture entering the soil in your garden is the compaction of mulch which you will have added to the soil surface in good faith to help retain moisture. Again this can happen for two reasons. Frequent foot traffic over a garden bed will compact your mulch regardless of its particle size but a mulch with a fine particle size will compact easily no matter how careful you are not to tramp over it. A good chunky mulch (mulch made up of particles over 5 mm in size) with no more than 5% fine material is vital to help prevent compaction issues. Chunky mulches allow water to freely flow through to the ground below and at the same time reduces evaporation form the soil to the air. Mulches with fine particles (particles of less than 5 mm in size) capture water before it gets to the soil so the soil remains dry and they also then allow that water to evaporate into the air.
So if your plants continue not to grow despite a wonderful four days of rain I suggest you pop out and have a little dig around your plants and check if the water has actually soaked in.
I am not trying to taunt those of you who have been house bound but I have been out and about in this glorious autumn weather. Yesterday I was savouring the brilliant reds and yellows and oranges of the deciduous trees as I drove to a garden consultation appointment in Canberra and a plant delivery in Hall. In Canberra my client had noticed an increase in native birds as the native plants we had planted in the last couple of years start to get bigger and flower. The visit was to advise on some infill ideas for this delightful courtyard garden. The delivery of plants to Hall was to another native plant lover who is trying to get rid of ivy and periwinkle without poisonous sprays and replace with natives to attract native fauna. Its so special that we have a growing number of people who value what is uniquely Australian and want to do it justice. I couldn’t help singing at the top of my voice to the radio for the pure joy of it.
Earlier in the week I drove to Yass to visit a clients garden. Gorgeous rows of white standard roses lined the brick path to the front door underplanted with fabulously intricate ballerina flowers of Fuchsia in pinks and purples. Simply exquisite. She wanted to plant a large area in native plants to ‘bring back the birds’ but at the same time could enjoy the beauty of the exotic plantings of the previous owner.
And a couple of weeks ago I visited a clients garden in Canberra where the natives have been planted to blend seamlessly with the reserve right across the front of the house. The native birds flitted in and out, bright splashes of colour, while I collected cuttings and found treasures I hadn’t seen before.
This week I am out and about again. I am off to Bango to have a look at a garden. Oh gosh I love it all. If there is anything I love as much as propagating plants it is to be invited into your domain to enjoy the diverse way in which each of you puts together our plants to created something special.