Sunday, April 08, 2012


Now that my Nexus gallery show is behind me and the school holidays have started I can get back to the garden which is suffering slightly from weeks of neglect. Oh well. All you can do is put on your wellies and gloves, grab a fork and get stuck in, which is what I have been doing. Before I take you off down the garden you might like a look at the gorgeous exotic Tacca Chantrieri flowers ("Black Bat Flower" or more colloquially "Cat's Whiskers") that have popped up in our shady palm/bromeliad planter next to the veranda. You may remember us planting it up in November last year: now the small plants we put in are big plants and they seem to be enjoying themselves!

Down in the veggie garden things are a little out of control. We had a big mouse problem (they ate all but four of our pumpkins * sniff *), but they were eaten in turn by some large pythons which moved in. Unfortunately for the pythons I had carefully netted everything to keep out the wallabies... When I went down to the garden last week it was rather whiffy as a two-metre long python had met an untimely end caught in the mesh around the watermelons... I've learned my lesson and will start using metal mesh which is less likely to result in death for snakes. It's not that I'm a snake lover but I do appreciate the drop in rodent numbers that accompanies the arrival of a friendly python! In fact I know we have a few around now as I came upon a little hatchling - about 50 centimeters long - blinking at me from its perch wrapped around the sprayer handle a week or two ago.

I hope it grows up to be a very successful rodent-hunter and stays around our garden. On the other hand, I will be quite happy if the red-bellied black snake Toby decided to 'play' with on our back steps at 10pm the other night disappears. We don't have many snakes around the house and the more we get on top of the paddocks and the long grass, the fewer we'll see (I hope).

One of the big challenges about living on our block is that we have a LOT of land to maintain, but this year we seem to have worked out what we need to do - and we have the right tools and equipment to do it. Dearest husband is getting a lot of exercise almost every day, hauling the walk-behind-slasher we were given by friends down to the orchard and adjacent areas and keeping the grass down. Thanks to his Herculean efforts our orchard now looks like an orchard with short grass and thriving trees. Our mandarin even has once tiny baby fruit on it! Mind you, we got a bit too enthusiastic recently: after watching garden TV and studiously noting down the ingredients for various DIY insecticides we failed to shake up the white oil ingredients sufficiently and nearly suffocated our citrus trees because we didn't realise we were spraying them with almost pure oil... Dearest husband realised next day and managed to wash some of it off, but I'm not sure if one tree will survive. I doubt if it has scale insect now, though.

I've spent a few hours over the last couple of days digging over what was the potato patch, gathering up the last tiny spuds and replenishing the soil. I've also ripped out the tomato plants and cut back the rampant sweet potatoes. The aubergines, peppers and chillis are still doing really well, and we have some more fruit ripening on the watermelon vines as well as spring onions, leeks, the last of the carrots, parsnips, chicory and some Tuscan kale, but I'm about to plant broccoli, more tomatoes, spinach and I've already put in some lettuce which are enjoying the autumn sunshine. We've also got a few raspberries and longberries which is amazing considering how little attention they've been given, and the dahlias are still flowering their little tubers off after 6 months in bloom! Probably time to cut them back and feed them... they must be exhausted.

I'll leave you with pictures of the delicious aquatic ginger flower that's in the pond next to our bedroom window (I can smell it from bed! Mmmmm), and some unidentified seeds that came in a pod in a truckload of wood. I wonder if they're from the Black Bean tree (Castanospermum Australe) which is a BIG tree of 40+m and grows in this part of the world, but the photos I've seen of the seedpods show a much darker brown pod and rounder seeds. Do you know what they are? I'd like to try germinating the seeds but I'm not sure if/where I should plant the resulting saplings. I'm doing well with germination at the moment: I have 8 Pandanus sp. growing from seed and have recently taken cuttings of lavenders and gardenias which have all survived.


ronnie said...

I'm so jealous of your GORGEOUS bat flower - wish I could grow one down here..... and of your rodent munchers (like you I'm fond of pythons.... not so of poisonous snakes..... I reassure myself whenever I encounter a black snake that 'an abundance of blacks means a lack of browns'.....oo I hope so because the eastern brown scares the be-jezus out of me!)

isn't it just wonderful working in the garden in autumn?

Amanda said...

I'm impressed with how you've adapted tothe rodent-python cycle. I first encountered it when a friend moved to northern NSW and was a bit horrorfied! Mind you, in her case it was actually happening INSIDE the house!!

Fiona Dempster said...

What a great weekend for the garden and for all those beautiful things. Can I share a weird red belly black story from yesterday? We were digging the veggie patch (to put our new potatoes in...) and a rbb just lifted its head and about 20cm out of the trench Barry just dug - then disappeared. we gingerly kept digging and planting, then in the next trench out it came again - from about 15cm down ingthe soil - like it was in a burrow. NEVER have I heard of that. too weird for words. Like Ronnie I work on the more blacks = less browns; and don't mind the pythons for their rodent appetites. But rbbs should not be lurking underground in the veggie patch - just plain wrong!

Julie Hutchinson said...

Hi Sara, your seeds are Blackbean Tree seeds. They are native to the Nambucca area. they would make a mess of your head if they fell on it. the trees grow easily from seed and make a very big tree. There are some in Bellingen in William Street (I think that's the street). We had some in pots on our verandah for years - they make a nice pot plant.
That's a gorgeous snake.


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