Saturday, April 30, 2005

Living among the Little People

No, not leprachauns but Barbie Dolls. Have been busy finishing numerous Barbie Doll outfits with a view to selling them on SHELLYC market stall tomorrow. Right now I'd love to look at something more than 11.5 inches tall and anorexic thin. Think I'll make some clothes for the 45cm dolls instead; they will seem like giants now. Never thought I would make Barbie clothes because they're so small and fiddly, but once you get used to them being that size then they are not so bad. Thank heavens for velcro. Press studs or buttons and buttonholes would be just too fiddly altogether. I have 18 dolls to model the clothes and had to spend quite a time re-doing their hair and dressing them this afternoon. I haven't played with dolls this much for years.

Did I hear someone suggest 'second childhood'?

You know winter is coming when . . .

... tissues get left in pockets and then put in the washing machine!!

Friday, April 29, 2005

Who stole it?

Can we rely on anything or anyone these days? I think not. I am wondering who stole it and if they will own up. It's really becoming a sad situation. We were promised rain for today and it didn't eventuate - not a drop - so I feel certain that someone must have stolen it somewhere along the way. I mean, the weather forecasters could not have been wrong and even the TV weather presenters said that we would get some. So where is it? If you have it out there and are keeping it all to yourself, please remember that other people were promised some too, and it would be really good if you could share some of it around. I will keep looking at the sky in the hope that you have a change of heart, realise the error of your ways, and send it over. We will accept it with gratitude and no hard feelings.

PS. Please don't send it on Sunday as the local craft markets are on that day!!

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Sniff, cough, sneeze .....

How can one feel perfectly healthy one second and in the next have a sore throat and the certain knowledge that a cold is coming? Half way through eating a cheese sandwich for lunch on Monday, and I knew what was coming. Still, I expect it will all be over in a few days and only be a common cold - I've never had the flu in my life.

Anyway, it didn't stop me planting 100 ranunculus corms in the afternoon, plus transplanting about a dozen pink Evening Primrose seedlings. I may well regret planting the latter but I can always pull them out if they become a pest. The flowers are so pretty though and don't seem to need any looking after. This morning I pruned a few dead looking branches on the pink Chinese Lantern, and then pruned a few more. Even though cuttings should be taken in the summer, how can one throw away all those potential glorious shrubs? 24 of them are now in two pots.

Yesterday I also made a foray into the vegetable garden; not usually my territory although I've been longing to see if I can do it better than R. Dug in plenty of my precious compost and planted Sugar Snap Peas and Snow Peas. At least, R. did grow them in punnets so it's a joint operation.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

Stealing ideas from the experts

We have just arrived home from a 380km round trip today looking at gardens. Four gardens were open for display in the Crookwell area, northwest of Goulburn. First stop was at the Showground where the Gardeners' Market was in full swing. Bought 6 very reasonably priced plants - red Kangaroo Paw, yellow Correa, a Japanese Maple, a Fijoa, a White Magnolia and a red Erimophola - oh dear, scarcely a botanical name in sight there.

Then went on to see a 40-year-old garden on 2 acres. Well laid out with shelter trees, ornamentals, perennials, and even a 'Cape Gooseberry' with stunning orange flowers. Got some really good ideas from that garden, especially for making a
simple(?) hothouse. Second garden was an Edna Walling garden, sometimes seen on Gardening Australia. Whilst its design and tree planting was impressive we were disappointed with the lack of colour and very little underplanting, but I think there are lots of bulbs in flower in the Spring. Third garden was a real disappointment as it was very dry and somewhat neglected. I don't mind paying to see these gardens but I do expect to see that some effort has been made to put on a show. Fourth garden was another Edna Walling garden and quite different to the earlier one. About 3 acres with lots of lawns of the most magnificent green grass (really couldn't work out what it was for a while, it's so long since we've seen any!) Beautiful location on a hill with great views, lovely mature trees enhanced by well-chosen underplanting. Quite a few ideas there, too. We had wondered what it was that took Edna Walling to such a very rural area as Crookwell when most of her work was done in Victoria. A young lady at the last garden said that her grandmother had talked Edna into coming and designing a garden for her (in 1947) as there was another renowned garden a few miles away and her grandmother wanted to at least be on a par with it. Edna took a bit of convincing to go there as it must have been very remote in those days, but she certainly left a great legacy for other gardeners to admire.

All in all, we enjoyed our day despite the terribly brown paddocks, low dams, and dry creekbeds. Now to start planning (or should that be re-planning) and see if we can make a real difference at home.

Friday, April 22, 2005

TV Weather Presenters

Are my husband and I the only people who get irritated by TV Weather Presenters? The impression they give is that the only good weather is warm, dry and sunny. If there are showers or rain forecast "that should clear away quickly" they say with a smile. Most of the country is still drought stricken and many people, especially in rural areas must feel highly incensed by this thoughtless attitude. I know that TV stations don't want doom and gloom presenters, but surely a little more consideration could be given to those who depend on rain for their very livelihood. In fact, we all do.

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Top Marks, Chloe

Yesterday's puzzle concerning 'Chinese Lanterns' has been solved, both by the original writer AND by our Chloe. The offending plant is Physalis alkekengi 'Gigantea'. Various varieties have many common names including Chinese or Japanese Lantern, Ground Cherry, Husk Tomato, Bladder Cherry, Winter Cherry, CAPE GOOSEBERRY, Golden Berry and Jamberry.

Are we confused? Of course we are! Still, unless one has studied Horticulture and all those botanical names, some of us will just have to continue using common names and then do a bit of detective work when all else fails.

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Anyone for dessert?

After turning over the top 30cm of compost yesterday I asked R. to bring out some icecream. "What for?" he asked. I said that we could have it with the perfectly baked apples from the compost heap! Shame about the grubs, though. The Granny Smiths were perfect, except for grubs, when thrown in there a few days ago; now they are cooked to perfection.

I wonder how a well-wrapped leg of lamb would go? Might be ready for dinner? Perhaps not!

Jonquils? Not even a Bronze medal!

I must say my jonquils have been well and truly put to shame by Chloe and Calidore. Mine are 7cm green spikes. Not in the race at all. Still, they are in a fairly neglected garden (waterwise) and I'm sure there must be jonquils flowering in some Canberra gardens.

Here we usually look for the first Prunus to flower, generally late June, as an indicator of approaching Spring. What fools we are, with the 3 coldest months of the year still to come.

By the way, ShellyC if your sister still can't knit, you could send her home and let her mother teach her. I did it once, I'm sure I could do it again.

Common names + Common plants = Confusion

Chloe usually refers to her plants by their botanical names which often has me rushing for a book to find out the name by which I know the plant. I then remember the botanical name for a few days/weeks before it drifts off into that giant repository of other forgotten things. However, I've just been reading a blog on another site from a girl (anyone under 50 is a 'girl' in my vocabulary) in the US, lamenting the fact that her 'Chinese Lanterns' are suckering and coming up everywhere. Now I've grown ABUTILONS (Chinese Lantern)for years and have never known them to sucker or even self-sow. I almost wish they would as it would save me having to propogate them by cuttings, which I continue to do because I love them so much. Either her Chinese Lanterns (Abutilon)are doing strange things or they are a different plant altogether. The problem is that 'common' names for plants are often common to a whole range of plants, sometimes totally unrelated.

Oh well, it looks like it's back to the books for me. Now how do I pronounce . . . .?

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Compatible Colours

Calidore referred to Monet's garden and how the flower colours related to the position of the garden beds. I hadn't given it much thought until now but seemed to have sometimes done the right thing by accident. She mentioned about having the bright colours in full sun to reflect the light - the bed along the footpath has a variety of brightly coloured gazanias and yellow daisy bushes; whilst the cooler colours radiate light - this has been achieved with white Iceberg roses, pink and white cosmos (in the summer) and blue salvia in a garden on the south side of the garage. In the evening, the roses in particular, seem to glow in the fading light.

The Big Garden (for want of a better name), which is also in full sun all day, is mainly a collection of trees, shrubs, perrenials and groundcovers chosen more for their shape and leaf colour and how they contrast with or compliment their neighbour. The colours are mostly in silver, gold, burgundy and greens with blue accents from the delphiniums and salvias.

I sometimes think it would be much easier if someone would just choose the plants and tell me where to plant them. On second thoughts, how boring would that be? No challenge at all, and it certainly wouldn't feel like it was my garden.

Friday, April 15, 2005

Micro Surgeon, or what?

When I am reincarnated (which I don't believe in anyway) I will be able to come back as a Micro Surgeon. I know I'll be good at it - I've been practising all day. Actually, transplant surgeon might be more apt because I've been transplanting tiny, and some not-so-tiny, seedlings into punnets and larger trays. Anyone that can hold onto an Ageratum with two leaves no bigger than a pinhead, separate it from its mates and then transplant it into potting mix without damaging it deserves to feel like I do - aching back, stiff fingers, headache and sore eyes. No, it wasn't really that bad, and I did have fun even if I don't know what to do with several dozen each of Carnations, Asters (which should have flowered 3 months ago, but weren't even planted until recently), Stocks, Aquilegia, Cinerarias, Ageratum, Everlastings and Strawflowers. The latter number at least 10 dozen (serves me right for saving a whole bucket of flower heads). There's a fair chance that quite a few will come up in the garden by themselves as a result of several months deadheading.
R. loves planting seeds but once they've come up he either loses interest in them or doesn't know what to do with them anyway, although he has continued to dote on the trees he has growing.

It looks like the lettuces are due for 'the treatment' tomorrow. Same conundrum - it takes two of us a week to eat a lettuce and I'm sure there are at least 100 out there!!

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Compost is Cooking

What a feeling of satisfaction to see an empty compost bin almost full again. By tomorrow it should be getting pretty warm and millions of microscopic organisms will be having a picnic devouring many barrowloads of African Daisies, alyssum, gazanias, couch grass, rose prunings, bark and twigs, leaves and horse manure. All of it, except the horse manure, had been fed through the mulcher so it's nice and fine and will decompose very quickly. I put two loads of bark and twigs through at the finish and the inside of the mulcher is almost as clean as when it was new. I try to have a supply of hard, dry bark on hand for this purpose as it's the best way I know of to clean the mulcher.

Whilst I don't want the year to go any faster than it is, or the winter to arrive any sooner, I am looking forward to collecting fallen leaves to add to the compost. I put them through the mulcher too. I often wondered if all deciduous tree leaves had equal nutritional value. On two occasions I have read recently that oak leaves have a higher nitrogen content than other leaves. Isn't it lucky that the leaves we usually collect are oak leaves. A couple of years ago, whilst looking for a good fall of leaves in one of the inner suburbs, I turned into a small street where the leaves were banked up nearly a metre deep against the kerb. I asked the owner of one house would she mind if I collected the leaves for my compost heap? This dear lady is in her 80s and was so delighted that someone wanted to take the leaves away as it was too big a job for her. So last year my husband and I went back to the same house and cleared the whole front yard. In a few weeks we will pay her another visit.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Gardening Bond

Being a gardener is like belonging to a Club, with no joining fees, rules, or committees to answer to, but the opportunity to strike up a conversation with total strangers and find a common bond. R. and I were standing at the checkout with our purchases this morning when a lady behind us came up to examine a particular plant I was buying. Neither of us had seen it before and were very taken with the flowers. I told her where to find it and off she went to get one. By the time we left the shop R. and I and the lady and her husband had discussed plants in particular and gardening in general, the delights of the Fleurieu Peninsula in SA and parts of Tasmania plus the weather and climate in both States as well as at home. I'm sure we could have put the whole world to rights had we stayed just a bit longer.

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Fun with the kids

Not much gardening today except a little watering. The grandchildren arrived just after breakfast and M. went home to sort out the girls cupboards. Impossible to do that with the girls around because all the things that are to be disposed of suddenly become their most treasured possessions and they can't live without them. M. tells me it was a very successful day and bins and bags are overflowing. At the end of the afternoon, after the usual activities of painting/drawing, DVDs, lunch, dressing and undressing 18 Barbie dolls*, blowing bubbles, playing with playdough, and after Luca's 2-hour sleep, we all went up to the nearby playground. We must have looked a sight - Grandma and two small girls and an even smaller boy, and three dolls' prams containing numerous dolls and one teddy bear. I'm sure the toys enjoyed the outing as much as the children; they certainly had their turn on the swings and the slide.

*The dolls' clothes that I began making to sell on M's. market stall have now been scaled down to Barbie size, hence the accumulation of second-hand dolls to use as models. I'm quite enjoying the challenge of making these tiny garments now that I've gotten used to their size.

Hope to visit some gardens in the Southern Highlands on Thursday to check out the autumn colours. Maybe tomorrow would be the day to go and buy a digital camera?

New Kid on the Blog

My daughter, SHELLYC, now has her own blog site. Not sure who will be keeping a check on who but at least she has a camera, so you will see photos of the grandchildren from time to time.

Monday, April 11, 2005

Weather doesn't play fair.

I looked forward to a day of rain - 70% chance they said - and 23 degrees. Okay, we did have 1.5mm overnight and 27 degrees today. I kept looking for the clouds to shade the sun so that I could plant out seedlings. Not many clouds in a clear blue sky so I planted dianthus, primulas and stocks anyway. The latter will be interesting as there was anything up to 5 seedlings in each section of the punnet, and since stocks suffer badly from transplant shock, I just planted them as they were rather than pulling them apart. Also planted 6 Bok Choy in the front garden, not to eat but to let grow tall and flower. Should be a lovely display for many weeks.

Sasanqua camellias are beginning to flower, self-sown larkspurs are coming up in droves and ranunculus are forcing their way through the mulch, so I'd better stop stomping on it.

I looked at photos of Moosey's garden and longed for a green lawn like hers. I've almost forgotten what colour green is.

The grandchildren are all coming tomorrow for the day so there won't be much gardening done, but we'll have fun doing other things.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

My Wife The Gardener

(With thanks to the unknown author.)

She dug the plot on Monday
The soil was rich and fine
She forgot to thaw out dinner ...
So out we went to dine.

She planted roses Tuesday
(She says they are a must)
They really were quite lovely
But she then forgot to dust ...

On Wednesday it was daisies
They opened with the sun
All whites and pinks and yellows
(But the laundry wasn't done!)

The poppies came on Thursday
A bright and cheery red
I guess she really was engrossed ...
She forgot to make the bed!

It was dahlias on Friday
In colours she adores
It never bothered her at all,
The crumbs upon the floors.

I hired a maid on Saturday
My week is now complete
My wife can garden all she wants
The house will still be neat!

It's nearly lunchtime Sunday
And I can't find the maid!
Oh no! I can't believe it
She's out there with a spade!

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Osteospermums ARE annuals !

At least they will be in my garden from now on. No more cutting back for a second, third or even fourth flowering. One flowering and out they go. I admit that Osteospermum (syn. Dimorphotheca - African Daisy, etc.) are so easy to grow, always green, flower readily, don't mind years of drought and months of frosts, have pretty white, mauve, purple, yellow or orange flowers, etc. etc. - but I am so bored with them. They are taking over, hiding the couch grass and snails, smothering and distorting other plants, and encouraging their offspring to come up in their hundreds. To think that I was so excited when I found the first self-sown plants years ago, carefully transplanting them, and today I've just pulled out four large barrow loads, and there's more to go. At least, they'll mulch up well and make great compost.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Delightful surprises at the Garden Centre

Whilst contemplating which plants to buy in the Garden Centre yesterday, two of the loveliest 'flowers' in my world found us. Our two youngest grandchildren were there with their mother, although Michelle hadn't seen us, but Shay (4) and Luca (21 mths.) did. It was so lovely to look down and see their smiling faces. I took Shay to the toilet and on the way we had to examine all of the colourful indoor plants, and before leaving the shop she chose a plant for herself, even though it wasn't one that Michelle particularly wanted. But it's worth it to maintain the interest. Last Tuesday, when walking the children home from pre-school, I said that I wanted to go down a particular street because I wanted to get some seeds off the trees. Shay checked every plant that we passed to see if it had seeds on that I could collect. Late in the afternoon I was working down in their garden, in between pushing Luca on the swing, when their father arrived home. Marcel lifted up a piece of black matting on the ground and the magpies had a real picnic snapping up all the black crickets. Luca tried valiantly to pick them up in his hands but couldn't quite manage it. The children are fascinated by all sorts of insects.

Of course, being at the Garden Centre meant more purchases, mainly perennials, seeds and seedlings, including a punnet of Bok Choy to be planted in the flower garden and let go to seed because they produce a wonderful display of clear yellow flowers for months. I always forget to actually pick the leaves to cook. Found packets of seeds from a French company called Vilmorin and bought a packet of Chickory, which looks rather like coarse Silver Beet except that the leaves are deep red. Just bought it for the looks as I've no idea what to do with it. I remember that it used to be grown on French Island years ago and was added to Coffee Essence. R. and I did a tour of Fr. Is. last year and had a cup of coffee made from the Coffee & Chickory essence. It certainly brought back memories of coffee years before the advent of Instant. Anyone remember it?

Oh, the Sweet Peas are coming up. Not sure if I'll get 200 but I'm happy with what I've seen so far.

I picked almost the last of Michelle's tomatoes this morning. Can you smell the relish cooking ???