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This page contains excerpts from my main diary regarding to gardening, starting when I moved to Dereel in July 2007. It is up to date to Friday, 4 July 2008. The most recent entry is here.

I'm no longer maintaining this diary; it's far too long, and it's easier to access my main diary and limit the view to “gardening”. In the following, click on the date header to get to the full diary entry.

Monday, 9 July 2007

Rearranged my day and decided first to look at the house, discovering in the process some nice plants in the garden, along with a device that looked as if it might be a bore:


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Tuesday, 7 August 2007

In the evening, started looking at the garden. That's another can of worms that'll keep us busy for some time to come.

Thursday, 9 August 2007

We've been here a month! Not that there's much to show for it. Somehow didn't even do much work, apart from tidying up the garden beds to the north of the house.

Saturday, 11 August 2007

Into town today to do a few things, and as usual took all day and only got some of them done. Gradually the weather is looking better, and we're spending more time working in the garden. It's amazing how little we seem to be doing.

Sunday, 12 August 2007

More work around the house. Started assembling a water bed for Yvonne, and she went to pick up some mulch which we spread in the garden. Also took the opportunity to bring over the remaining plants which had been waiting at Chris' place for over two months:


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Things are getting more and more settled. Hopefully life will get more interesting when we're finished here.

Saturday, 1 September 2007

The garden continues to surprise us; just about every week there's some new flower. This week there's a black lily:


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Tuesday, 4 September 2007

Last month it hardly rained at all. We started measuring our local rainfall on 8 August. Since then we have had 19.3 mm of rain, and there's still no significant rain in sight, and the Bureau of Meteorology predicts less than average rainfall for our part of Victoria. So we're thinking of installing a ground water pump (“bore”, as it's called in Australia), especially since we're right next door to the Dereel “Lagoon” (also, more accurately, called “swamp”), and Chris Yeardley brought by an analysis made of her bore water which shows that the quality compares favourably with that of German mains water: you could probably brew with it. On the other hand, the property we looked at in Swansons Road a few months back had a bore with water obviously high in iron:


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Look at the colour of the water tank on the left. Clearly there's a wide range of possibilities.

Off to take a look at the community bore round the corner, with intent to get some water from there, but it's not clear that passers-by are meant to start the pump, which looks like it's been there for ever:


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Saturday, 8 September 2007

Yvonne and Chris Yeardley spent the afternoon tearing down the fences that made up the greyhound runs, happily not requiring much involvement on my part:


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Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Spring is coming! And Yvonne found out the natural way:


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Also did some work in the garden, and discovered dozens of rhizomes under bushes, where they can't grow. I think they're irises:


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They look quite like the ones shown in Wikipedia. I wonder where I can put them.

Monday, 1 October 2007

In the afternoon, much work in the garden, ...

Tuesday, 2 October 2007

More work in the garden, ...

Saturday, 6 October 2007

Spent most of the day in the garden today, tearing out large sections of a daisy-like plant that is all round the house:


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It's quite pretty, but there's just too much, and it was completely overgrown. Took the mess over to Chris' place, where she intends to plant it round her house; I expect that she won't have any trouble.

Sunday, 7 October 2007

More garden work today, ...

Monday, 8 October 2007

More garden work ...

Sunday, 14 October 2007

In the afternoon, more plans for the immediate future. The grass is maturing far too early, and there's every chance that we'll have to mow hay before the end of the month. Where do we put it? In the shed:


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That again means that we need to put in the planned container or second shed where the pigsties are currently, so they need demolition. Got started, but despite the flimsy structure, pulling them apart wasn't that easy:


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Monday, 15 October 2007

Summer is here! Suddenly, almost without warning, it's warm, and we were almost at the point where we had to turn the air conditioners to “cool”. And, of course, we have problems with water. There was supposed to be a 4 day rain period at the end of last week; in fact, we got nearly 2 mm of rain, not enough to make any significant difference. Roll on the bore.

Wednesday, 17 October 2007

Also decided to take another look at the pigsty, and continued demolishing it. The number of nails is phenomenal. Despite all precautions, managed to put one through my sandal and into my foot:


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Off to the Ballarat Base hospital, where they saw to me in record time, giving me a tetanus injection—I wonder when the last one was—and put on a bandage. Hopefully nothing else will be needed.

Saturday, 20 October 2007

Summer seems to be here already! I currently don't have an outside thermometer, but the temperatures must have been in the high 20s, and for once I was able to use the air conditioner in earnest.

Didn't do too much all day. As a result of the heat, had to collect a lot of water from Chris—when will these bore diggers finally establish contact? We could really do with them now. Also a bit of pruning; it looks as if, despite all wind, it's more comfortable in the garden than it was in Wantadilla.

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Yesterday was warm enough, but today the temperatures went up over 30°—summer already seems to be here, and the garden isn't liking it at all. Instead of rain, our rainfall measurement beaker contained something more reminiscent of biblical plagues:


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Monday, 22 October 2007

My foot is healing up nicely. What a pity that I forgot to take my allopurinol pill yesterday, and now I have an attack of gout on the same foot. sigh.

The weather has changed completely since yesterday. The temperature must have dropped by 15°, if not 20°—high time I got an external thermometer—and it drizzled all day. Thank God for that!

Thursday, 25 October 2007

The Bureau of Meteorology seems to be more accurate with its forecasts for Victoria than for South Australia, but today they made a big mistake: instead of the hot, dry weather they predicted, we got 2.5 mm of rain, which nowadays looks like a lot. I can live with that, but I fear it's going to be too little, too late to save our hay crop.

Tuesday, 30 October 2007

In the afternoon, finally got over my laziness and continued to demolish the pigsty. With the exception of one corner, where we need to remove a dropper, it's all on the ground now. Time to call the scrap metal people.

Wednesday, 31 October 2007

... did some work in the garden and finally removed the old swing and slide that was under the trees. With a bit of irrigation, that area will be quite nice in summer.

Saturday, 3 November 2007

When we bought it, the house had a surprising number of mainly dilapidated sheds. I've already mentioned the “garage” and the now dismantled pigsties; there were also some others to the north-east of the house, visible in the exterior photos that I try to take every Saturday:


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There's also another shed behind that one; Yvonne originally wanted to use both as horse stables, which would have meant a lot of work. A couple of months ago we converted the right-hand side of the shed into a tack room; now we've decided that the rest would conveniently house the garden equipment. The horses won't need any particular shelter until autumn, at least 5 months away, so we can cross that bridge when we come to it. Spent some time removing the interior of the shed, which had previously been used for the dogs.

Paul, the hay mower, came along to look at our pitiful excuse for hay; he thinks that yesterday's rain might help. So might today's; we had quite a bit in the evening, possibly more than yesterday, in the process discovering a leak in the roof which came down through one of the light fittings in the hallway. When it finally stops raining we're going to have to get up on the flat part of the roof and find out why there are bricks and chicken wire up there.

Sunday, 4 November 2007

Woke at 2:47 this morning to discover that the power had failed again, and that the UPS for the HiFi system had already failed. There's not much I can do about that without a generator, so went back to sleep. At 8:00 there was still no power, so called Powercor on 13 24 12 to hear a message telling me that there were no incidents reported in the area, and that I would have a wait of 15 minutes before I could speak to anybody. Gave up on that and had breakfast, then out to look at the rainfall. The measuring beaker hadn't overflowed, but the scale conveniently stops at 33 mm:


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Took it in and measured the volume and the surface area—for reference, the beaker has an opening 78.5 mm wide, corresponding to 48.4 cm². Based on that, the 257 ml in the beaker correspond to a rainfall of 53.1 mm, more than in the whole of September and October. Now why couldn't it have fallen more uniformly? From being dried up, the paddocks are now overflowing with water:


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Also discovered that the storm had done quite some damage—one tree completely knocked down, another split and lying over the electric fence, and lots of debris on the road.

[Then back home] to remove the fallen trees, in pouring rain—between 9:00 and 15:00 we had another 17 mm of rain. The toys I bought on Friday came in handy with that job.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

There was a funny noise coming from the other side of the lagoon most of today, sounding something like machinery running, so I went down there to the hall to take a look. Nothing. In fact, the noise was fainter than from home. Back home, went down to the lagoon and discovered that the noise was coming from the lagoon: now that it has rained, there are thousands, possibly millions of frogs and insects making a concerted noise. I suppose we'll have to get used to that.

Sunday, 11 November 2007

We're gradually setting up a shaded area to sit in in the garden, under some trees which drop small white flowers:


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Very pleasant, much more so than at Wantadilla, where the wind made it impracticable to sit outside most of the time. Yvonne suggests that we name this place “Gottadilla”.

Monday, 12 November 2007

In the afternoon, Gary Murray, the bore man, showed up and finally started drilling our bore:


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They got about 10 metres when the pump broke down and spent the next hour trying to repair it, finally leaving with the pump. Hopefully they'll get it finished tomorrow with no further problems.

Tuesday, 13 November 2007

The bore people came back today, replaced their pump and spent all day drilling. Finally, round 16:30, they struck water at 48 metres, but carried on digging until 54 metres:


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So our work is cut out for tomorrow: get a bore pump.

Wednesday, 14 November 2007

Into town today to look after the rest of the equipment for the bore. That stuff is expensive! There are apparently only two companies in Ballarat who install bore pumps. The first quoted us a complete price of $2715, and the other $2900. After some discussion, went with the more expensive variety: the pump is more durable, especially where the bores can contain a lot of sand, and in addition they can do it next week, while the other company would not be able to do it for 2 to 3 weeks.

Delivery times and prices seem to be the order of the day. We need two tanks: a header tank to take the water pumped out of the bore, which wasn't included in the quote, and a tank to replace the rusted-out tanks behind the shed:


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They have got a lot more expensive since we installed the 11500 litre tank in Wantadilla, and the delivery times can be up to 6 months. Found a couple in stock at Landmark, and they promised to deliver on Friday.

In the afternoon, took another look at the pump that had seized up a couple of months ago, and with information given me by Lyndon of Ballarat Pumps, was able to get the thing going and pump out the remaining 1500 litres or so of the water we collected the weekend before last. What a waste! We calculated, while deciding on the size of the tank to put there, that we probably collected 7500 litres on the shed over that weekend.

Friday, 16 November 2007

Summer is here, and the rains of two weeks ago are a distant memory. The bird bath was full after the rains, but now it's nearly dry again from evaporation. The thermometer hit 38° in the shade, and though this proved to be inaccurate, the real temperature was still round 36°.

Saturday, 17 November 2007

Another warm day spent mainly inside, though we did get a few drops of rain.

Did a bit of work in the garden in the afternoon. Judy, our neighbour from across the road, has given us about 50 Hebes, which desperately need to be planted. As soon as we have water (hopefully Tuesday) we'll be able to plant them, and today we started clearing the way: they'll go to the north of the house, just in front of the fence to the paddock.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Simon from Landmark turned up today with the water tanks we ordered last Wednesday, and without the fittings I needed. Damn!

That wasn't the only thing that went wrong today. It didn't help that the temperatures were in the mid-30s, and that thousands of tiny wasp-like insects were swarming all round the house. I suppose it's better than the flies we had in Wantadilla, but they're still irritating.

Yvonne off to town in the afternoon to buy the remaining fittings, while I tried to reconnect the down pipes from the shed, helped by Yvonne on her return:


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To my surprise, that pipe was almost exactly the correct length, to within a millimetre or two. The other side of the shed will have to wait for more equipment.

Tuesday, 20 November 2007

The rains of two weeks ago are a distant memory: the water in the birdbath, which had been full, evaporated correctly. Fortunately, Matthew from Ballarat Pumps along today to install the bore pump:


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That went surprisingly quickly, and two hours after he had arrived the header tank was full and I was filling up a bath tub (which Matthew had kindly helped me move—it's cast iron and must weigh 100 kg) with water for the horses.

After that, I was reminded of the passage in The Song of the Artesian Water:

If the Lord won't send us water, oh, we'll get it from the devil;

Almost as if to make a point, I had barely started heavily watering the garden when it started to rain, the first time in days. Over to Chris' place with a couple of litres of still rather cloudy water to look for some soap—we only use liquid forms, which I believe don't have a problem with hard water—and discovered that our bore water is as soft as they come. That's a pleasant discovery; assuming that it doesn't create too much scale, we could use it in the washing machine. More analysis to come; started boiling down 3 litres to see how much dissolved solids there are.

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

It's still raining! We've had over 15 mm of rain in the past 24 hours, and the weather is about 20° cooler. It's such a relief to know that when it dries out again, we'll still have enough water, but there's also quite a bit of work to do laying pipes and setting up the garden beds we can now populate.

More work on the “analysis” of my first water sample. 3 litres boiled dry gave 800 mg of solids, or about 260 ppm. That's not too bad for normal tap water in some parts of the world, but in this case a large proportion was obviously the suspended solids in the water, which will gradually go away. About 10% was soluble in hydrochloric acid, but not in acetic acid, and gave a brown colour which suggested iron. How much? That would be about 25 ppm iron, still more than we would like. But a lot of that could still be from the suspended solids, so I need another clean sample to compare.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

Finally it's time to make hay! Paul Ludovici came along hours after he promised, keeping Yvonne's nerves on edge. Finally he arrived and got through things in record time:


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In the meantime, spent some time relocating the compost heap, which had been in the middle of the covered sitting area. To our surprise, the lower half had already composted nicely—it was still a child's sand pit when we arrived in July this year. Left it behind to wait for the arrival of the soil for the plant beds, after which we can mix it in.

Next time I went past the heap, I saw something slimy, which we think is the Thing that came out of the Swamp:


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The question is, should we look after it or let it find its own equilibrium? It must have survived for at least 5 months, and when we came there was no compost heap there.

Monday, 26 November 2007

Hay making time is always nerve-wracking. This year the weather has been exceptionally dry, but of course once we cut the hay, we have rain predicted for the day it's supposed to be baled. We're planning to put the hay in the left side of the old garage, which currently has the contents of the old Mike Smith Memorial Room. And they need to go into the shipping container which hasn't been delivered yet because Alan, the scrap metal man who is removing the remains of the pigsty, needs to fix the head gasket on his truck. We can't wait for that any longer, so agreed to have it delivered on Wednesday, the day they're expecting not just rain but also possible thunderstorms. Hopefully they'll be as accurate as even in their forecast.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Out into a stinking hot garden this morning to finally transplant some seedlings, now that we have enough water to keep them alive. While I was working there, the rubbish truck came by—as on every Tuesday—but this time the driver got out and came into the garden. On closer examination, discovered that it wasn't the rubbish truck, but Mick from Dial-a-box come to deliver our shipping container:


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That went surprisingly well and accurately, and he couldn't have been there for more than 20 minutes. Not a moment too soon, either, since Paul Ludovici was due to come and bale the hay before the threatened storm, and we needed to put it into the garage as quickly as possible.

Shortly later Yvonne turned up with Chris Yeardley and Pam Hay, but there wasn't really much to do; first we needed to clear out the left side of the shed:


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That was a job for few people. Grabbed both sack trollies and discovered that they had flat tyres, so grabbed my terribly bad foot pump and discovered that it was worse than useless: it actually deflated the tyres that were still inflated. Threw that away in disgust, and then started carrying out larger objects, but didn't get very far before the rain arrived:


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It was some of the heaviest rain we've had since we arrived here, accompanied by hail and thunder. We had 15 mm of rain in two hours. What we didn't have was Paul bloody Ludovici, who thus managed to completely ruin our entire hay crop. Yvonne sent me off to tell call him and tell him that his services were no longer needed: she was too angry. That's about $2000 of damages.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

In the evening, just after dinner, Paul Ludovici arrived, unannounced, and expressed his intention of pressing our sodden hay. I told him that it was too wet, and that he should have been there yesterday. He claimed that a bit of wetness wouldn't make any difference—no matter that Yvonne had impressed on him the importance of keeping the hay dry, and that she placed utmost importance on him being available at the right time. Instead, he said “I won't be coming back”. Under the circumstances, that sounded the best thing. I said “Look, mate, you left us in the lurch yesterday. Piss off”. And he did. Somehow I have the feeling we haven't seen the last of this. I wish I had been more on the ball—several cleverer things occurred to me after his left, for example “I breed horses, not mushrooms”.

Friday, 30 November 2007

While watering the garden discovered that the header tank from the bore was leaking from the top where the supply pipe goes in: it was drilled across an edge:


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Spent some time putting in some corrugated cardboard from a packing carton to fix that, which worked surprisingly well.

Saturday, 1 December 2007

Summer's here! In fact, it seems that it's been here for a while, and the temperatures are still what you'd expect in midsummer. The Ballarat Courier confirmed the concerns with the main headline “Hot days, little rain”.

That was the least of our concerns today, though: we still don't have anybody to bale our hay, and more rain is forecast for tomorrow. Yvonne spent most of the day telephoning around and getting rejection after rejection. Finally, round evening, Damian showed up and told us that he could do it—on Tuesday. It seems that some minor part of his tractor has failed, and he won't get a replacement until then. Oh well, it's been rained on once, and that heavily. Hopefully the rains tomorrow, if they eventuate, won't be as bad.

Watering the garden is still a bit of a kludge, and I somehow managed to get myself thoroughly wet a couple of times. Yvonne took Pam Hay to the station today, and also did some shopping, bringing a hose fitting with taps, but we really need proper pipes.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

The phone rang early this morning, and we didn't get it before it rang out. Whoever called also didn't bother to leave a message. Later I got a call on my office phone, but it stopped after 2 rings.

None of this would be unusual, except today was the day that Damien was supposed to be coming to bale the hay. He didn't. Yvonne spent all day trying to find somebody, to no avail. It looks as if the hay will be left to rot.

Didn't do much work, apart from a bit of pruning in the garden. I wish I understood this better.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

Still nobody to bale the hay! Damien, who promised to come yesterday, is completely unreachable, and we can't find anybody else. It looks as if we're going to have to let it rot.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Still nobody to bale our hay! And rain promised for this evening; we've given up hope of getting it baled, and are planning to put a lot of Chris' horses on the paddocks to eat it up before it rots.

A couple of days ago I talked about breeding mushrooms; today I found we actually are doing so:


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What is it? On the face of it, it's an Agaricus Campestris, which we also had in Wantadilla, and this is a particularly good specimen. But is it maybe Agaricus Xanthodermus, which is poisonous? They look pretty much the same except for the yellow coloration they get when damaged; and look at that yellow spot. Chopped the stem off and it didn't really go yellow:


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But it should have gone pink, and this is some nondescript colour in between. I wonder if this is a hybrid.

Friday, 7 December 2007

We've finally given up on having our hay baled, and Yvonne and Chris brought 6 horses over to eat up what's left, with another 6 scheduled to come tomorrow. Over to pick up some watering containers until we can move a spectacularly heavy cast-iron bath.

Sunday, 9 December 2007

In the evening, ate an omelet with the Agaricus Campestris that I picked a few days ago. I've had this suspicion that they're not as harmless as is claimed—in particular, they give me loose bowels. That's not exactly dangerous—sauerkraut does the same—but certainly something to consider. They don't taste so spectacular that it's worth the trouble.

Thursday, 13 December 2007

..., then off to buy some tyre valves: I have had an idea to use the new tyre pump to pressurize the garden sprayer, which uses a manual piston pump to generate the pressure. All I needed was a tyre valve.

Finally back home and put the valve in the sprayer:


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Sunday, 16 December 2007

We still need more attention to the garden. In particular, we're planning wooden framed elevated garden beds. Over to Chris' place and borrowed a circular saw, then cut some old fence posts (about 2m long) into two lengthways; two sets of them will give us a square bed of 4 m². Lots of sawdust.

Tuesday, 18 December 2007

Despite the availability of sufficient water, some of our plants are not looking very happy, notably a couple of the hebes. Decided that it was time to plant them into the ground, prepared or not, and started a hedge to the north of the house. Getting them out of the plastic pots was difficult: the roots had penetrated all the drain holes, and it was almost impossible to disentangle them. These are small ones; the bigger ones were much worse:


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After breaking some off, gave it up as a bad job and left some of the bases in the ground.

Of course, that might not be the only problem. The unhappiest looking ones also had white spots on the surface of the root ball:


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That looks pretty much like some fungal infection; hopefully the new environment will solve that problem by itself.

Spent some time working on the frames for the garden beds; they're a surprising amount of work, and by evening I had only done half of them. Well, it's not as if we could just put the soil straight in them anyway. Looks like being plenty of fun for days to come.

Wednesday, 19 December 2007

The garden soil arrived today, so we had plenty to do spreading it around the garden. Didn't get much else done.

Thursday, 20 December 2007

After ripping out the purple daisies from the flower bed at the south of the house, we were left with not very much of anything. Gradually some plants came through; one was obviously capeweed, another shoots of the purple daisies, and a third one looked like weeds, but there was also a fourth one which I decided to let grow before making a decision. A good thing too: it proved to be heartsease (wild pansies, or as the French call them, savage thoughts (pensées sauvages)):


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Saturday, 22 December 2007

It rained all day—more like a European November day than an Australian midsummer's day. Yana left for Bendigo to visit my mother, and I found another agaricus campestris, which Yana didn't want to take with her. That may have been as well; when I looked at it later in the day, it had changed colour:


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That's a decided yellow tinge, something that agaricus campestris should never have. But it smelt OK, and it doesn't show the typical bruising of agaricus xanthodermus; it heightens my suspicion that it's another related species; certainly the Wikipedia page shows enough of them. So I think we'll give up eating any agaricus out of the garden.

Tuesday, 25 December 2007

A bit of work in the garden, got half of my hops in the ground. Not too early, either: they're not looking happy.

Friday, 28 December 2007

There's still plenty of work to do in the garden, but the weather is getting hot again; today it hit 35°, and the forecast is for continuing hot weather until the New Year. As a result, spent most of the day indoors.

Sunday, 30 December 2007

The bottlebrush that I pruned so radically 3 weeks ago seems to have decided to survive. About a week ago the first suggestion of shoots came out, and already that suggestion has become a real shoot, and many more are coming:


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The photo shows a section of stem about 10 cm long.

Monday, 31 December 2007

The old year certainly went out with a bang, not a whimper: at 8:30 this morning the temperature was already 26°, and it climbed through the morning at 4° per hour, trailing off in the afternoon to finally hit 40° in late afternoon.

One effect of the hot weather was to attract birds to the bird bath:


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Got a number of photos, though as this one shows (taken with a 210 mm telephoto, corresponding to 420 mm on a 35 mm camera), I need a much longer focal length. Spent some time looking at what's on offer—there's a 650-1300 zoom on the market, but I need to convince myself I can afford it.

Sunday, 6 January 2008

The bottlebrush that I pruned so radically last month is coming back surprisingly strongly. The first photos was taken on 23 December, and the second one today; in the meantime I've pruned away the stuff in the background, but it's clear how much things have grown in that time.


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Coincidentally watched an article on ABC's Gardening Australia programme which confirmed that this was the correct way to prune bottlebrushes.

Monday, 7 January 2008

And suddenly there's nothing pressing to do! Spent most of the day in the garden, mainly pruning trees. I'm gradually getting to understand bottlebrushes better. The problem is that when the flowers die, they don't fall off:


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The spheres with holes in them are the remains of individual stamens. If you don't do anything, new growth occurs on the other side. This one shows a stem grown through the remains of two years' flowers:


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I've found that there are shoots immediately behind the flowers, so I've been cutting them off very short. Spent some time pruning all this stuff away, with noticeable results:


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Friday, 1 February 2008

While in town also found some of our mystery flowers for sale. Here the photo taken two years ago, then the ones I found today:


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They're Mandevillas, and the one I saw today is called “Crimson Fantasy”

While there, also bought some seeds for Chinese cabbage. No mention of the fantasy name wombok on the package, just like in the same company there's no mention of Chinese cabbage on the “wombok”s in the food department. Isn't that a good way to avoid confusion?

Friday, 15 February 2008

Another day where I didn't seem to get much done. Found some wide-throw sprinklers in the shed:


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Put them in the garden in the hope that it would save me some work, but it looks as if the devices are designed for higher pressure than the pump can push down the hose, and from time to time they just stopped rotating, making more work, not less.

Tuesday, 19 February 2008

The north-east part of the garden, near the laundry, is ridiculously overgrown.


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There are several rose bushes, daisies, viburnum, something that promises to be a hibiscus, and a nectarine tree (the big one on the left). It's full of fruit:


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We eat nectarines for breakfast, so it sounds like an ideal match. It isn't: the tree needs incredible amounts of water to stop it from dumping its fruit and leaves. I water it for 20 minutes most days. Even then, the easiest way to tell when the fruit are ripe is when the birds start eating them. The result is a lot of rotten fruit:


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What can I do? Cover the whole tree in netting? That's too much work. Get rid of the birds? But we like them, at least the ones that eat the fruit. On the whole I think we should continue to buy the fruit and chop down the tree to give (some of) the other plants room to grow.

Saturday, 23 February 2008

Another day with little to show for itself. Spent some time considering the garden, which we're planning to change radically over the next couple of months. Some of the flowers we have are growing like fury, noticeably this aster which has been self-seeding all summer, and now even some of the new plants are flowering:


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Also saw a strange bird in the afternoon:


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According to our bird book, it's a Western Ringneck, and it doesn't occur east of the Flinders Ranges. Did some digging around on the web and discovered other reports of them in Victoria ( Sunbury). The general feeling was that it had escaped from an aviary.

Sunday, 24 February 2008

More birds around here. We've had swarms of yellow-crested cockatoos in the past, but now they're long-billed corellas:


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Wednesday, 27 February 2008

We have more mushrooms:


 
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Unlike the agaricus varieties that we've had in the past, they grow in dry conditions and stay in much better condition until they dry out. Spent some time investigating them; the best guess seems to be that they're something like Macrolepiota procera, also known as “parasol mushroom”, or Macrolepiota rhacoides, both eminently edible. But the danger exists that they might be chlorophyllum molybdites, which are poisonous. As the name might suggest, that mushroom goes greenish in old age and has a greenish spore print. Grabbed an old mushroom for a spore print. The gills certainly weren't greenish, but it was obviously too old for a spore print;


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What few spores came out were a beige colour.

The first web site also offers a CD-ROM:

First Nature Multimedia Guide to Fungi There is a lot more about this species and hundreds of other beautiful and fascinating mushrooms and toadstools on our CD-ROM for PCs with Internet Explorer.

Why do people do that? They're asking £20 for it, more than I'm prepared to pay, but why do they deliberately reduce their clientele to users of Microsoft “Internet Explorer” (which, incidentally, figures at number 10 at Dreckstool)?

The real problem with all these sites (and apparently the “Internet Explorer” specific CD) is that the photos are so lacking in detail. The photo of macrolepiota procera on one web site was tiny, and the largest resolution was 518x389. Others are no better. The CD screen shots suggest that the images there might be even smaller.

As if that weren't enough, the descriptions don't agree from one place to another. On the page quoted above, the juvenile macrolepiota rhacoides have pointed hats which later flatten out, while the macrolepiota procera don't, but become much flatter in maturity. Another site has photos of macrolepiota procera that look different again. On the other hand, my old German book set shows (a much better image of) macrolepiota procera which looks more like the macrolepiota rhacoides on the web site. Ours look more like the web version of macrolepiota rhacoides, but they don't have the domed juvenile form. My guess is ours are a slightly different variety from either of these. Are they edible? Who knows?

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Also more research into the mushrooms. The descriptions are really quite a mess, and they keep contradicting each other. Probably the most interesting thing is that gene analysis has resulted in a reclassification of many mushrooms, and now macrolepiota rhacodes has been renamed chlorophyllum rhacodes on account of its similarity with the poisonous chlorophyllum molybdites. After some investigation, including a quite interesting paper from UCB, decided that my mushrooms could be chlorophyllum brunneum , or just possibly chlorophyllum nothorhacodes, a variety only reported from Australia in that paper with the obvious misspelling chlorophyllum nothorachodes. I'm still not sure, and Peter Jeremy pointed me at the Australian National Botanical Garden site; maybe they can help.

Sunday, 2 March 2008

Spent most of the day in the garden, planting bulbs. I'm wondering if it wasn't too early; the info on the packages suggested planting from February to June, and some (the hyacinths) are supposed to bloom as early as June (though presumably not if only planted in June). But the weather's still pretty warm, and today it went over 30°. Still, most of these bulbs can be left in the ground year round, so it's probably not very critical when you plant them.

Thursday, 6 March 2008

Also to Big W to complain about some of the bulbs I had bought last week, which were completely dried out—7 out of 30 bulbs. I suppose it's typical of companies like Woolworths that they replaced exactly 7 bulbs, by opening a pack of 16, rather than just give me the bag. No apology, no recognition of the fact that their failure had caused me problems, and I'm sure they'll just throw away the rest (of course, maybe the personnel will get them, which would at least make some sense).

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

More work in the garden today; the weather has been unseasonally hot for too long, and it's showing no sign of letting up. While looking around, found yet another surprise:


 
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No idea what it is, but it was growing where I hadn't even expected flowers and where I hadn't watered. Clearly a survivor.

Peter Jeremy later sent me mail saying that this is a gazania

While weeding another bed, managed to break off part of a similar flower. I had been planning to try cuttings of all this kind of flower once the weather got cooler, but it was there now, so decided to plant a few anyway and see how they turned out:


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From left to right, the front row should become the following plants:


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Thursday, 13 March 2008

Why is it still so hot and dry? Last month was cooler, and we had over 100 mm of rain. So far this month it's been 1.5 mm.

Friday, 14 March 2008

The weather has been stinking hot for over a week, and it's showing no signs of letting up. Today it wasn't just hot—in the high 30s—but there was a very strong, unabating wind from north and west which made it all the more unpleasant and dried out the plants, not to mention the bushfire danger. And that in the middle of March! Hopefully it'll cool down soon.

Saturday, 15 March 2008

The hot weather continues. The combination of that and the high winds yesterday has completely dried out the bird bath. Here “before” and ”after” images showing one day's evaporation:


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Friday, 21 March 2008

Yvonne spent the day fencing off the south paddock, which also involved Chris' help pulling down the branch of a wattle that had been damaged last year:


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That was certainly not too early: we had found lots of kangaroo droppings in the garden earlier in the day, made up for by the disappearance of our last Grevillea Thelmannia brought from Wantadilla; they had had a go at them some months ago, and eaten most of them, but today they ate the last one. It's fun having kangaroos around, but I hope they now stay the other side of the fence.

Peter had a number of other comments: the yellow flower that I mentioned a while back is a gazania, ...

Monday, 24 March 2008

Finally it's raining!

Thursday, 3 April 2008

The weather is getting cooler, ...

Sunday, 6 April 2008

David Yeardley came over today with his Ditch Witch, a trench digger, to dig the trenches for the garden irrigation system. That went well, despite a number of strange things we found in the ground, including pipes, mounting brackets, bolts and a horse shoe. It's amazing that this land has only been settled for about 150 years, and already there's so much human débris in the ground.


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Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Finally finished my planning for the irrigation system, not helped much by the discovery that the spec sheets I had for the microsprays didn't match the description in the planning guide (the one I couldn't find in the Philmac technical library, but which showed up under the obvious heading of Single Piece and 2-Piece Jets and Sprays, a page that first displays the list properly, then shrinks it to the upper half of the page, puts in a scroll bar which uses incredible CPU resources, so much that scrolling takes several seconds. It doesn't link to any spec sheet for the single piece jets I was planning to use.

Then decided to print out a list of distributors for Philmac products. I had already noticed that Midland Irrigation wasn't on the list for Ballarat, so looked again. This time I put in my post code, though it's clear that there are no distributors out in the sticks. Who cropped up? All the people I know on La Trobe St, Ballarat, including Midland Irrigation. But if I entered “Ballarat”, they didn't show up. This appears to be a problem in the search engine which relates to specific post codes, and Ballarat has a different one. What a crock!

When I got to Midland Irrigation I discovered that this didn't really matter: they had different, correct spec sheets (some of which even included mm rainfall/hour columns) and the components to match them. I'm more and more amazed that a new web site can so completely miss the point.

Finally got most things I was looking for, with the exception of low density poly(propylene) pipe and pipe saddles (not in stock), some solenoids (too expensive at Midland). Off to the Ballarat Pump Shop, where they didn't really have too much, and on to Celsius (or is that Indoor and Outdoor Trends? Or just Outdoor Trends? They use all three names, but it's the last that shows up on the invoice). There they were in the process of changing the sales software, and it took a little longer. They had the 19mm LD poly pipe in stock, at about $137 for 200 metres. By contrast, the price at Midland Irrigation would have been about $65, and even the rural grade 25mm poly pipe at Ballarat Pumps cost only $109. I can only imagine some database problem. They finally sold it to me for $70. Also picked up the remaining components.

Then off to Middendorp Electrical, where I spent nearly $500 on very few items, nearly all on 60 metres of power cable and 52 metres of conduit.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Spent most of the day today in the trenches in the garden. First we had to lay power cables, which proved to be very difficult for one person and very easy for two. Somehow it seemed to take up most of the day.

In the process, found one of the biggest ants I've ever seen. It measured 3 cm end to end:


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Put it in the fridge to slow it down, but it was still fast enough to be difficult to photograph. Put it in the freezer for what I thought was only a couple of minutes, but unfortunately it was too much, and it literally curled up and died. I was rather unhappy about that.

Friday, 11 April 2008

Tonight was also the convention of the giant moths:


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The first one was at the Yeardleys, the other outside our kitchen. They're about 5 cm long—those are bricks underneath the second one.

Saturday, 12 April 2008

More work in the garden today. Finally got all the pipes connected up, so now I can at least get water at various points round the garden. Next step is to connect up the solenoids and decide how to lay out the sprinklers.

There are two issues here:

  1. Controlling the solenoids. Three years ago I started a project for a sprinkler controller based on an old laptop and a relay board. That had ultimately died because I had burnt out the solenoids (put DC instead of AC through them), but the equipment itself was still functional—and nowhere to be found. Before I go crazy trying to find it, I think I'll buy a controller on eBay.
  2. How many emitters should I put on each (pipe) circuit? That's actually quite a complicated consideration. Ideally the pump should run all the time, which means that the number of emitters should be matched to the flow rate of the pump at the desired pressure (which seems to be in the 150 kPa range). And how do I find that out? And what if I change a pump? I suppose the best way is to decide on a flow rate and just keep adding emitters until the pressure is maintained. And if I change a pump, I may have to add or remove emitters. What a pain!

Saturday, 19 April 2008

More work in the garden today, setting up the second section of the sprinkler system. As I had expected, that took longer than others might have expected: getting the positioning of the sprinkler emitters is quite tricky, not helped by lack of adequate documentation. The documentation on the Philmac web site doesn't seem to relate to what they sell, and the only information on the wide sprinklers was that they had a sprinkler radius of 3.5 m at 150 kPa.

What I found was different: the pump was cycling between cut-in pressure of 220 kPa and cut-out pressure of 350 kPa, and the radius was closer to 2.5 m than 3.5 m. Do I have that much head loss in the system? Maybe; a pressure gauge would be interesting. That would also mean a maximum run for the 19 mm low pressure poly that I'm using.

Learnt a positive thing too: it's trivial to move sprinklers around, so did a fair amount of that. Now, of course, I need more sprinklers. That'll have to wait until Monday.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Then I on to buy more fittings for the sprinkler system. Somehow the smallest details take up the most time: one run of the pipe will go along the base boards around the outside of the house, and I need to screw clamps to them. Simple enough, and I had no difficulty finding the clamps ($0.25 each in metal, $0.35 each in plastic), but what screws do I use? The salesperson at the hardware shop recommended screws 40 mm long, which would go right through the board. That seems a little excessive to hold a 2 metre length of plastic pipe that will weigh about 300 g per metre when full of water. And then there was the question of corrosion protection: zinc plated, galvanized (yes, there appears to be a difference, probably the way the zinc is applied) or “golden”? In the end, disregarded the advice of the salesperson and bought some zinc-plated screws 12 mm long.

On to Midland Irrigation to discuss the throw length of the rotor sprinklers (supposed to be 7 m, is 5 m). It seems that the rotors require a pressure of 300 kPa, while the jets require 150 kPa. Why do they make different fittings with such drastically different pressure requirements? They work at the estimated 200 kPa that I have in the system, but my distances are all wrong.

Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Spent much of the day adding sprinklers to the system, and now I have everything set up that I had planned for the first stage. There will be more when we know what we want to do with the space to the south of the house, which currently looks like this:


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After that, spent the rest of the day planting things that will hopefully look OK come spring.

Wednesday, 23 April 2008

More work in the garden, which kept us busy most of the day. At least we now have some things planted, nearly all of them cuttings from existing plants in the garden (the only exception was the bulbs that I had exchanged last month.

It's my guess that this is the day we planted the Gazanias and Dianthus to the west of the garden path.

Despite multiple attacks with glyphosate, weeds still continue to come up, so put in a layer of old packing cartons with only holes for the plants:


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They'll get covered over later, of course.

Some of the plants show remarkable ability to grow from cuttings. Last Friday we had to prune a number of bushes in the north bed, including a succulent that blooms bright red in spring (and maybe longer if it gets enough water):


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We had put the cuttings in a bucket of water; today, 5 days later, many of them had developed root shoots up to a centimetre long:


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While digging in the garden, I find a number of weird and wonderful life forms. This one is obviously a spider, about 1 cm long:

 
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And autumn doesn't mean just yellow leaves (though the birches are developing them):


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Thursday, 24 April 2008

A bit more work in the garden, finding interesting things in the process:


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I have no idea where the pipe running to the top of the photo comes from; it's the same kind as the stuff I have been laying, but it was there already, and I wasn't aware of either end. This will document it.

The grub is one of many I've found in the ground; they're about 3 cm long. I wonder if they're beneficial.

Friday, 25 April 2008

On the way home dropped in at Avalon Nursery in Haddon to look for a couple of Callistemons (or is that Callistema?). Left after spending far too much money with two Grevilleas, a Kaffir Lime tree and a strange-looking plant calling itself Sapphire Dragon, which proved to be a Paulownia kawakami (or is that Paulownia kawakamii? Googlefight seems to think so), which on the photo looks something like an enormous jacaranda.

Saturday, 26 April 2008

Planted the trees we bought yesterday; the garden is filling up. In the process discovered a couple of identical-looking spiders, about 4 cm across, who promptly attacked each other:


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By the time I got my camera one of them had burrowed away.

I'm still trying to come to terms with the necessity of having to dig up the entire 300 m² of garden to suppress the weeds. In the meantime, decided to clean up the ground cover under our mystery yellow flowering tree. The immediate ground cover the “succulent daisy” that we've planted in many places. One of the disadvantages is that old growth dies and new growth comes up over it, getting weaker as time goes on. There were also a couple of bearded irises in the area, so I decided to remove everything and start again:


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The couple of irises were literally the tip of the iceberg:


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I wonder where I'll find space for all of them.

Also came across some bulbs that must have been there for ever, but couldn't work their way through the undergrowth. Planted them in one of the planting boxes:


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I wonder what they are.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Last month it was really warm, but things have changed. The following graph shows the ambient temperature in the brewing shed over the last 2 months. The extremes are probably 5° either side of this value, so the maximum on 16 March was round 40°, while the minimum today was round 0°:

Ambient temperature graph

Did some work in the garden anyway, mainly digging. I'm wondering how many of the things we had intended to transplant would actually survive at this time of year; we might be better off preparing the soil and transplanting in early spring, when there are no more frosts.

Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Still more work in the garden, and transplanted a lot more flowers, some of which turned out to have long root systems much longer than we had expected:


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I don't know if it'll survive, but Yvonne didn't like it anyway, so it had to go. The Yeardleys got it, so hopefully it'll come good.

Our Sapphire Dragon is deciduous, and today it lost a leaf, which I put to good use:


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Thursday, 1 May 2008

The lens is interesting because it can focus as close as 0.96 m; this makes it interesting for taking macro photos. Here my mystery tree with the yellow flowers; the individual flowers are about 5 mm across:


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Friday, 2 May 2008

Mystery flower: weed or wonder?

One thing of interest was the mystery flower I mentioned yesterday. Callum Gibson identified it as a Lantana, and indeed it looks likely. The following links show photos all quite like ours: ausgarden.com.au, labouichere.com, Wikimedia commons, sunvalleylandscape.com and integritylandscaping.com. This one, from Wikimedia, is closest to ours:

The trouble is that Lantana is a weed of (Australian) national significance. The Queensland Department of Primary Industries has a fact sheet. On this page they also state:

Description

I've tidied up the punctuation somewhat, but there are a couple of differences here: the stems of my plant have no prickles, and the plant has no fruit. But prickles in themselves don't seem to be a very good indication of the genus, and elsewhere I read of “sterile” Lantanas. That might sound like we're out of the woods, but then I found an ASGAP article which states:

The Newsletter of the Environmental Weeds Management Group (EWMG) (Oct. 2001) notes evidence of even so-called 'sterile' garden varieties of lantana producing pollen which may cross-pollinate wild lantana and produce new varieties in the wild.

Did a bit of thinking about that. We don't seem to have any wild Lantana in the area, and even if there were, wouldn't the chance of cross-pollination tend to produce more sterile varieties? Thought about that for a while, without coming to much of a conclusion. Then read Allan Seale's “Australian Gardening”, a book which dates back to 1985, and which states:

Lantana. Long-flowering and drought and heat-resisting shrubs for all but the coldest regions—easily managed and should not be confused with the noxious wild L. Camara.

So what to do? While I was thinking of this, Callum came back with another suggestion: now it's a Buddleia (or is that Buddleja?), and indeed that looks likely. Here's a photo from Banwy Valley Nursery, which describes it as a Buddleia ‘Sungold’, followed by one of the photos I took yesterday:

Buddleja
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We're not done yet; it seems that Buddleja also has potential to be invasive. More reading to do.

Saturday, 3 May 2008

More investigation of the Buddleia issues today. Yes, there's a Buddleia Davidii that is considered a noxious weed, but that appears to be quite different from the one I have, for which I still haven't found a name. Mine is not on sale in Australia; I wonder if that is an indication that all Buddleias are considered dangerous. I don't see any reason to believe that mine is. The June 2007 newsletter of the Monarch Butterfly NZ Trust states:

There's a lot of confusion about Buddleia. Ask for it at your local garden centre, and they'll probably tell you “no, it's a weed”. But it is only the B. davidii that is listed as a plant pest — and even there, only the mauve flowering version that causes the damage as it multiplies in bright profusion.

B. davidii has been declared a danger to our primary industry, as it breeds prolifically, creating problems in pine forests. But there are still several Buddleias that are permissible and don't create problems (they don't seed, they are sterile). They are great nectar plants.

In fact, the MBNZT has been entrusted to trial a new cultivar, B. Silver Anniversary, to be released later this year; we have been asked to measure how successful it is providing nectar for our butterflies — and bees too. “Silver Anniversary” has clusters of white flowers with mustard coloured eyes and a sweet honey scent.

Of course, the Monarch Butterfly NZ Trust has vested interests, but they can't be that far off the mark.

Didn't do much else during the day. I've established that the irrigation system in the garden does need two separate sections for the eastern part, as I had originally planned. Annoyingly, the pressure drop in the system means that I can't use up the supply capacity of the pump and still have adequate pressure, so it cycles anyway. I can't see a good solution for that one. Maybe I should turn both solenoids on at the same time.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

More work in the garden, in particular the slow and boring digging up of all the garden soil. I can't make up my mind whether to spray the weeds and let them die first, or just dig them up. One way or another, it looks as if we're going to be busy with the project for months.

Monday, 5 May 2008

More work in the garden. I suppose I should only mention that when I do something I want to recall.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Chris Yeardley left for the Gold Coast this morning, and we had been intending to go to Melbourne for some time, so took her to the airport, then on to Palm Place Nursery, not far from the airport, to buy a Bottle Tree:


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The one we bought wasn't the one in the middle, nor even one of the little ones in front of it, but an even smaller one on the other side of the display. In about 10 years it might be interesting. Also bought a Cycad for Yvonne and a Bird of Paradise flower for myself.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008

Did some inevitable work in the garden, including planting two of yesterday's plants (the Bottle Tree and the Bird of Paradise flower). We're still trying to work out where to put the Cycad. Somehow, despite its size, our garden is filling up.

Things that go jump in the night

In the garden we found some tell-tale tracks:


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The kangaroos are back, and they've been chewing on our plants. For some reason they like Heartsease (the remains of which are shown above). They also like acacias, and they've had several attempts at a couple that are still barely surviving. Decided to put some old plastic drink bottles to good purpose:


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Thursday, 8 May 2008

Finally chopped down the fruit tree to the north-east of the house, the one that was too cramped. It's a pity; the fruit must have tasted wonderful, and it's sad to have to chop down something of that size, but it really didn't fit. Now we have to decide what to do with the area.

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Today was the day I was supposed to finish my draft for “Beautiful Architecture”, but somehow I didn't even get started. Instead spent most of the day in the garden.

We've made some progress in identifying the plants in the garden. CJ's friend Sue yesterday identified the orange flowers as marigolds, and also the blue daisy-like flowers as everlasting daisies. On examination of the evidence, I think she's mistaken on the latter, though the stuff is tough as old boots. Last month I dragged out some of them while reorganizing a garden bed, and left them lying in front of the bed:


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That was nearly 3 weeks ago. Now there's a flower on the thing, though it has been out of the ground all that time:


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Wednesday, 21 May 2008

Winter's nearly here, but we still have flowers:


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The second tree (flower detail, then larger view) is covered in buds, and it has been for almost as long as we have been here. I wonder if the flowers will get more interesting when they all come into bloom.

Thursday, 22 May 2008

Further discussion on IRC about the mystery plants we have. Came to the reasonably good conclusion that our mystery daisies are Osteospermum, particularly since I can find both the colours of the cultivars we have.

Friday, 23 May 2008

Up this morning to find some of the sprinklers dribbling, which they must have been doing for 10 hours—I had set the system to sprinkle at 22:00 to keep the soil moist in case of frost. Further investigation showed that the solenoid in question, the last I had installed, had failed. Damn! I hope the others last longer.

Sunday, 25 May 2008

While Chris was there, she did discover an acacia tree with broken branches, which required a lot of work:


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The acacia is the tree at the left in the picture. In the process we found another plant, probably a eucalypt, which had been completely hidden by the acacia. Many of the plants in this garden were planted far too close to each other. We should trim the acacia back, but it's full of buds, and I'd like to leave it to bloom first.

That, of course, reminded me that I've been meaning to write a mystery plant page with photos of what we have here. That took a lot of work without being finished.

We have still more ! This time it's not difficult to identify them—they're Amanita muscaria:


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I wonder how they made it to Australia at all.

Friday, 30 May 2008

CJ back again today to help with the paddocks, and finally got things finished, including cleaning up a considerable amount of cut and fallen branches. Our hidden acacia tree is now visible:


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More tidying up the garden pages and also the garden itself. We have yet more mushrooms:


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Also added to the list of mystery plants:


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What is it? CJ's friend Sue thinks it's poisonous, but she doesn't know what it is. On the face of it it looks pretty enough, and though there's some growing in the paddocks, the horses don't go near it.

One thing that is becoming clear is that it can be worthwhile to procrastinate. I've taken a bit of a pause from digging up the entire garden, and now I discover that it doesn't have much effect on the amount of weeds. Left a dug up and planted area, right one nearby that I had just sprayed a couple of times with glyphosate:


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Saturday, 31 May 2008

It's been a year since we first saw our house, a good time to compare what's happened in the garden. I took a number of photos from the same angles as a year ago, but this one shows the most difference:


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Presumably the difference in the daisies is due to the irrigation we installed.

What those photos don't show is the amount of work we were doing exactly in that area: it was far too densely planted—for example, I found a rose planted 30 cm from one of the daisy bushes. Trimmed back the hibiscus and removed two sorry-looking roses; had to cut through the roots, so they'll probably die, but replanted them anyway to give them a chance. Yvonne tackled the lilac (the bare tree in the middle of the photo), which really needs a lot of trimming back, but I'm not sure how best to do it. That took us most of the day.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Spent the afternoon tidying up the shed while Yvonne planted some stuff in the garden. Hopefully it wasn't too early; I'm concerned that we haven't prepared the soil well enough yet.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

More work in the garden, transplanting more stuff. On investigation, the “black lilies” appear to be a kind of Dracunculus vulgaris. They grow from a large tuber. Replanted a few to see how they'd deal with it; it's not clear how much sun they like.

Friday, 6 June 2008

While looking for a cookbook, ended up buying “The foodies' guide to Melbourne” and a book on pruning shrubs and trees; together they came to considerably more than I had planned to spend on the cook book, but both fill a real need. The former, hopefully, will lead us to better food supplies.

At Midland Irrigation finally found a sprinkler solenoid valve without difficulty, and not significantly more expensive than Celsius would have asked.

More garden work. It's looking more like winter now, though the cannas are still blooming, and the first daffodils are coming.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Leonne, surname unknown, has taken a look at my mystery plants page and has a number of comments. She writes:

The grub is commomly called a Bardi grub. They are the larval stage of a moth. Good for fishing bait but not much else. It eats the feeder roots of plant and often leaves dead patches in lawns. There is a spray you can get from most gardening places to get rid of them.

The plants you have as asters are very hardy drought tolerant plants. The two yellow ones are different types of Gazinias and come in all shades from red to white. You often see them on the sides of roads and suburban nature strips. The middle variety self seeds and can take over a neglected patch of ground.

It seems that Leonne didn't follow the link here. Also, I believe I'm correct in guessing that all the flowers belong to the genus Asteraceae.

Mystery 1 is a common english country garden plant whose name escapes me at the moment. A nursery man should be instantly able to name it for you.

Mystery 2 is a type of Arum Lily. Does it smell really bad like rotting meat? Lilies of that colour often do.

Again, it seems that Leonne didn't follow the link here.

Mystery 3 is Sparixia (not sure on spelling) very old fashioned hardy bulb that self seeds. very similar to Ixias (again not sure on spelling) My Grandmother had acres of them when I was a child and they never got watered and were mown off when they finished flowering.

Mystery 5 looks like a Pandora creeping vine.

I subtitled this one “creeper”, which is incorrect. This might have misled Leonne. In fact, they're rather like the Sparaxis.

Mystery 7 is a native oxalis non invasive like the yellow one. Best kept neglected. Phosphorus intolerant.

The Salvia looks like Pineapple sage. Do the leaves smell like pineapple when crushed? If so great in summer salads and cooking.

Once again, it seems that Leonne didn't follow the link here. I state there that the leaves smell like mint.

weed 1 looks like Pig weed. Australian native supposedly edible Indigenous food with medical properties.

In the afternoon, spent some time taking some extreme close-up photos:


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Sunday, 8 June 2008

I'm quite happy with the book I bought a couple of days ago, RHS Pruning & Training, by Christopher Brickell and David Joyce. It's the first book I've seen that makes the distinction between pruning (normal maintenance of a bush) and renovation (making good previous neglect). It's the latter that I want, and the book addresses it almost directly:

In a newly acquired garden, neglected roses, particularly bush roses, often look as if they are hardly worth keeping. ...

Today decided to apply the techniques—of which there are two: cut down 50% to 70%, and cut down to the ground—to a couple of rose bushes in the north bed. These photos are more obvious when enlarged (click on one of the photos):


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We'll see how they fare. The second one is in the shade most of the time, so it's never going to be really happy.

Winter is here, sort of: we have autumn plants that only now are coming into bloom, such as the Strelitzia reginae, and also spring plants, such as a rather sleepy daffodil:


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It was supposed to rain today, but the weather bureau changed their minds again, so Yvonne decided it was the day to finally burn off the pile of wood we have accumulated over the last 9 months:


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Somehow didn't get much else done.

Monday, 9 June 2008

The fire's still going! Most of the wood burnt out in the first hour yesterday midday, but some of the larger trunks were still going this morning. It continued all day, and in the evening there were still some remainders.

We've been trying to second-guess the Bureau of Meteorology for some time now, and today we decided that despite the forecast of rain, we could probably go riding. Set off, and within about 500 metres it started to rain, so back again after one of our shortest rides ever. And, of course, the few drops that came down were all for the next several hours.

More work on the sprinklers, and finally installed the longest stretch yet, 73 metres at the north of the house. Now I just have the south side to think about.

Tuesday, 10 June 2008

The fire's finally out! And, to my surprise, there was almost nothing left—just a couple of charred pieces about 50 g in weight. That'll change, of course; we have more radical pruning to do.

Saturday, 14 June 2008

Up early this morning to head to Melbourne. Just out of the shower, heard the tell-tale beeping of the UPSs. On further investigation, found that a circuit breaker had tripped on the circuit that supplies all the computers—and it kept tripping. Spent a lot of time turning off individual components, without finding anything, and then turned them all back on again, even (accidentally) a 2 kW heater, and it carried on working.

Was just scratching my head about that when Yvonne came in and told me that the dam water pump had stopped working, and that she had left it off. This is the pump that I have been using to pump water from the tank into the horse trough, and which I had been meaning to use for my new brewery. Confirmed that yes, indeed, it was that pump. Damn, especially since we were due to leave for Melbourne, and Chris still needed to give the horses enough to drink. Connected up another hose to the sprinkler system, which is (currently) supplied only by the submersed pump in the bore.

In Melbourne, went to the Royal Melbourne Botanical Gardens. It's been over 11 years since I was last in the Botanical Gardens, and in those days I wasn't overly interested in gardening. This time I was left a little disappointed: the place is clearly in need of more funding. In particular, the signs are insufficient. It's difficult to find your way around, and many plants are not identified.

That was particularly interesting and irritating for us. We found at least four plants that we had been trying to identify. Here the comparisons of the ones that we identified:


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We knew that this one is a salvia, but only now do we know that it's a Salvia microphylla It looks quite like another variety, Salvia elegans (“ pineapple sage”), but that bush has longer and more pronounced flowers with black stems:


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There seems to be a fair amount of difference of opinion on Salvia microphylla. Some call it watermelon sage, others blackberry sage, and nothing I've found on the web mentions the mint-like smell of the leaves, which the sample in the Botanical Gardnes also had. But then, Salvia elegans is supposed to smell like pineapple, and I didn't smell that on the sample I saw yesterday. There's also a variety of opinion on the size of the plant, though all agree that it flowers almost continuously. There also seem to be different cultivars, one of which has red and white flowers. None of the links on the web look quite like ours.


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This plant has not flowered since we moved in; last year there were no buds at all. We had thought it was a kind of magnolia, but clearly it's some kind of Camellia. We'll know more when it flowers.


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This is Aloysia triphylla, or “Lemon Verbena”. Yvonne was sure from the start that this was some kind of Verbena, but I hadn't been too sure: all the Verbena photos I had seen looked very different. That's probably because this plant belongs to the relatively small genus Aloysia. The leaves do smell of lemon.


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This one is everywhere in the gardens (though, like at home, not in bloom right now), but I couldn't find a name for it.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Spent some time putting together a toy greenhouse that I bought at ALDI yesterday.

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Did a bit of work in the garden and finished the toy greenhouse, which is covered in a clear PVC foil. I suspect it won't last long.

Thursday, 19 June 2008

Winter is making itself felt, at least in mood. Still no frost, but there was a surprising amount of mist (called “fog” in Australia) which lifted only slowly, and the whole atmosphere was as dreary as Germany in November. Perversely, spent a bit of time in the garden, but not too much.

Saturday, 21 June 2008

We have yet more mushrooms:


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Monday, 23 June 2008

More work in the garden. Our Olearias have been flowering almost non-stop since they got water:


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There was also a second one of a different kind, which bloomed yellow, but which looked old and not very happy, so we pulled it out. That didn't stop it, of course, and recently a number of shoots have been coming out of the bed, so today we transplanted them:


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There's another photo of where we planted them, but it really needs to be enlarged significantly to show the stakes. The two stakes at the left and the one at the right are the yellow ones; the other one is a white one which we transplanted a week or two ago.

Also put some plants in our toy greenhouse:


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Toy or not, it was noticeably warmer inside, even though the sun hadn't been shining. We'll have to keep an eye on things when the weather gets warmer.

The kangaroos are back:


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This was only one of five, apparently sent by the others (who remained about 50 m away) to case the joint. He wandered off when I came closer. I wonder if this presages more damage in the garden.

Friday, 27 June 2008

The kangaroos are more and more evident. These ones are more timid than usual and bounced off when I came closer:


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They'd be OK if they stayed on that side of the fence; hopefully they will.

Saturday, 28 June 2008

A little work in the garden, connecting the bore pump directly to the horse trough with a 1 inch pipe. To my surprise, the flow was so strong that it stalled the pump; we'll have to avoid opening the valve fully until we have proper fittings at the end.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

We're now into the second month of winter, which hasn't stopped things from flowering. There's an unhappy Acacia baileyana in the shade of the conifers in the driveway. Despite its unfortunate situation, it's chosen now to bloom, though few other acacias are in bloom:


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The storm also removed some of the packing cartons that we had laid on the ground to prevent weed growth, to the right of the photo:


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It seems that it was successful. There was no growth under the cardboard, though it had been there since 23 April 2008, and we had sprayed and dug up the garden to the right since then. The best choice appears to be to put down cardboard or newspaper and then cover with lots of mulch.

Back into the office, pondering where we could get some mulch, when Yvonne came in and said that there were some people trimming and mulching trees down Rokewood Junction Road. Down there to talk to Mick, who promised me a couple of truckloads (about 20 m²) for $80 in the next couple of days. Just what we need.

Also did some pruning, notably salvias. After all the trouble I had to identify the Salvia microphylla that we have in several places in the garden, it's amusing to find that RHS Pruning & Training, by Christopher Brickell and David Joyce, describes exactly two salvias: Salvia officinalis (normal sage) and Salvia microphylla. Of the latter, they make statements that don't at all match my experience; in particular, that they don't live long, and that they're a bush with a single trunk, and they flower on the previous season's growth. What I see with mine, at any rate, is that there are dozens of individual stems:


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“Pruning & Training” recommend pruning, if at all, in spring. But then, it also states that they only start flowering in late summer. In fact, they seem to flower almost all the time, at least here in Australia, and the earliest photos that I have taken of the garden, on 30 September 2007, show the bush already blooming. Nine months later, they're still blooming. So the best time to prune seems to be before they start flowering again, like now. Even then, they're still doing their best, as this stem shows:


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It comes from way inside the clump of bushes, where it was protected from wind and cold. The things above and to the right of the flower are new buds which presumably would have bloomed if I hadn't cut them off.

Decided that now would be about the only time to do it, so set to, removing a climbing rose in the process. These bushes offer wonderful protection to clumps of grass, and though I ripped out a lot, it's clear that it will come back, and I can't find any way to address the issue except by continual weeding. The alternatives would require removing the salvias.

Thursday, 3 July 2008

Mick around with another 10m³ of mulch today. Now we have no excuse to delay spreading it in the garden, so got started.


Friday, 4 July 2008

More work spreading mulch today. One thing that I hadn't expected was that the mulch would start to decompose; it got quite warm, and if we're not careful we'll end up with compost instead of mulch:


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Spread some more mulch around. Gradually things are looking tidier.

Saturday, 5 July 2008

In view of the biological activity in our pile of mulch, set to today spreading mulch in the garden, not overly helped by the wind. Got about 20% done before giving up for the while. It's amazing how much difference even a little mulch makes, as a comparison of the area in the middle right of last week's and today's exterior photos shows:


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Back home, and Yvonne wanted to continue mulching, while I tried out the new backpack spray unit that I bought last week. The instructions were typical: a single piece of paper, normally enough for this kind of unit. But the means of attachment of the back straps was completely non-intuitive, and the instructions barely mentioned them (“place container on back securely using belt system”). It probably wouldn't have helped anyway: the low-resolution drawing that accompanied it appears to show a different kind of hook. The photographer who took the photo on the box must have been confused too, because he left them off altogether. Clipped them together as best I could, put the thing on my back—not the easiest thing at the best of times—and made it about 10 metres before both straps came apart, dumping the thing on the ground:


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Fortunately no damage was done, but I still couldn't work out how to attach the things, so I ended up tying the ends together, which worked.

On the other hand, the unit works well, and it came with a whole lot of undocumented accessories, including a number of O rings (always good), three alternative spray heads (one of them double) and some other accessories of dubious purpose:


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I wonder what the parts at the bottom of the first photo are for.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Some more mulch spreading in the garden. We're putting newspaper underneath in the hope that it'll have the same weed-suppressing action as the cardboard I put down earlier. It's surprising how much paper it uses.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

We had 11 mm of rain yesterday, enough to cause minor flooding round the horse trough. Yvonne and I spent some time digging drainage trenches. We need to think of something better.

Thursday, 17 July 2008

The weather's cold and wet, but still did a little work in the garden, and made a token attempt to tidy up the shed, which is becoming the critical point in getting other things done.

Sunday, 20 July 2008

More mulch spreading in the garden. I think we have the worst over and done with, where we spread mulch between existing plants. The rest is mainly unplanted surface, and should be much easier to mulch.

Monday, 21 July 2008

More work in the garden. When we moved in, there was a strange device in the middle of one of the garden beds:


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Cliff later told me that it was an old petrol pump, and that there was a petrol tank below. He hadn't removed it because of the potential danger of explosion, and had instead tried to train roses around it. That had obviously failed, and we've since removed the rose, so there are only Salvia microphylla around it, currently pruned and waiting for spring. Today I finally went at the remaining open pipes with an angle grinder, but despite the fact that the tank hasn't been used in over 10 years, I was concerned about just removing the last pipe that way. Tried taking off the top part by grinding off the heads of the bolts, but that just gave me access to the inside of the pump:


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The pump still seemed to be sealing, and there was a vague smell of petrol about it, so there's a real danger that there's a considerable amount of petrol below. With visions of a tank of several thousand litres exploding and blowing myself and the house high into the air, set to with a hacksaw instead. Didn't get far before the brand new blade broke. There must be an easier way.

Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Still more mulching—we've got through more than 50% of the mulch now.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Another day with overnight frost—hopefully my chile pasillo will survive. I grew it from the seeds in a dried chile a couple of years ago, and so far it hasn't flowered, though it's looking relatively happy. But all chiles are frost-tender, so I've been covering it with a sack at night:


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Saturday, 26 July 2008

Laurel Gordon from Tasmania is one of the participants in the clinic, and she's staying with us. She brought some hellebores with her, which we planted in the garden. Gradually we're running out of space.

Monday, 28 July 2008

In the evening through the garden with Laurel, who is an experienced gardener, and managed to identify most of the remaining mystery plants. She has a few ideas on the rest, and has promised to send me info when she gets back home.

A frost was forecast for tonight, and it came, so I covered up my chile plant again—only Laurel tells me it's not a chile at all: it's an Agonis flexuosa, native to Western Australia. No wonder it hasn't borne any chiles. But it's frost tender too, at least when small, so I covered it over anyway. Later we'll have to move it—it can get to be 10 m tall.

Tuesday, 29 July 2008

Finally a frost worthy of the name today:


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Our Agonis flexuosa seems to have survived alright, and there's no evidence yet of anything that hasn't, though the leaves of some of the Cannas look less than happy.

Thursday, 31 July 2008

A little work in the garden, and transplanted a big wallflower bush that had surprisingly few roots. Hopefully it'll survive.

Saturday, 2 August 2008

High time for garden work, and did some transplanting. We have a number of what we had thought were Olearias until Laurel Gordon put me right and confirmed that it's a Marguerite daisy. There were a number of these bushes in far too cramped conditions in the north bed, so on transplanted two of them to a border to the south-east paddock:


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They're a bit lop-sided; hopefully they'll pick up when they have space to grow.

Our work had spectators. While taking the photos above, discovered some of them:


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Also transplanted some Gazanias and some Dianthus which we had planted in inadequately prepared soil which is now so overrun with weeds that we can't really do anything. Instead, we'll let them grow elsewhere and plant something else where they were once we have done our weeding. It's amazing how much root they have developed in a little over three months of autumn. Planted the Gazanias at the north:


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I'll be interested to see how they change in the course of time.

In the Spring we got a single piece of Carpobrotus glaucescens, which we pulled apart and planted in the succulent bed. The bed proved too small, and it just about smothered everything else in it. Now we've pulled it out and planted some of it along the east border of the big bed:


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The remainder (on the left in this photo, which also shows the overgrown beds after removing the plants) will have to go to Chris.


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