Saturday, 24 November 2007

More marauders

After my last post, cousin Sal sent me this snap of a well-camouflaged lorikeet snacking on her peach tree. Memo to self: don't even attempt to grow peaches!

Wednesday, 21 November 2007

Birthday Card

I had a birthday this month and as usual my darling husband gave me a one-of-a-kind birthday card. This year it depicts the unique travails of gardening in Australia. The experience depicted hasn't actually happened to me yet, but I fear it will, especially as I've just received an email from my cousin Sal who reports that a flock of lorikeets descended upon her apricot tree this week, leaving no harvest for her.

Monday, 19 November 2007

Gardens at Bilpin

A week ago I went to two open gardens in Bilpin, an area of the Blue Mountains noted for its apple orchards. Both gardens were large, one around the homestead on a Black Angus cattle stud. Unfortunately, I forgot to dig out the camera for that one, but had a good time chatting with the owner who very kindly gave me a scrap of a stunning Dianthus that I was admiring. This is where the annual Plant Collectors' Fair is held in April, so I'll be back then, if not before, to spend some money.
The other garden on about 5 acres is a labour of love by one man, who began with a modest border alongside the road, and gradually extended to sunny rockeries around the house, then pathways winding through woodland and down quite a steep slope to a clearing where he has constructed an elaborate knot garden enclosing hundreds of Colchicum (not in bloom at this time of year.) The steepness of the terrain and how he had dealt with it reminded me of Margaret and Charlie's garden in Indian Arm, particularly as there were many Rhododendrons and Kalmia, interspersed in this case with native tree ferns and eucalyptus. I remembered to take some photos this time. The first two give an idea of the hillside and the wonderful effects of sunlight filtering down through tall Brown Barrel eucalypts. In the second picture, a young Cornus controversa hogs the spotlight.

A view of the knot garden seen through tree trunks on the hillside.

The grass on one side of the clearing where the knot garden lies is overhung by the wide-spreading branches of Brown Barrel eucalypts. The other side is contained by a long low hedge of Fothergilla monticola

The rock garden was impressive when viewed from below against a blue sky, although the camera does not capture the steepness of the slope.

Wednesday, 7 November 2007

The Melbourne Cup

Australia's famous horse race took place on Tuesday. This is a great national event when everybody, and I mean everybody, stops work to watch or listen to the race. In the state of Victoria, it's a holiday. Elsewhere, every workplace has a sweep, a sort of raffle where you draw a horse, or horses, at random and chip in a bit of money. The resulting pot is divided among first, second, third, and last placegetters. Those who don't have a workplace, like us, have a choice of places to go and party, from clubs to hotels to community halls. We went to one of the last, the Mt Wilson village hall, to a lunch organised by my sister-in-law Judy and other locals. In the sweep, Michael drew the eventual winner, an outside chance by the appropriate name of "Efficient", so having invested the grand sum $6 on three tickets, we came home with $12. How good is that? as the Aussies like to say. The 2-mile long race was an exciting one this year as "Efficient", a striking dark-grey horse in a field of predominantly chestnuts, came streaking down the outside on the home straight to just beat out a chestnut called "Purple Moon".
In the course of watching the event on a large screen, I came across some unfamiliar words that I had to look up. Trifecta, Quinella and Exacta all describe certain betting tactics. If you bet the Trifecta, you select the first three horses in the exact order you expect them to finish; in the Exacta you nominate the first and second placegetters in the right order, while in the Quinella you pick the first two but don't have to specify any order. I somehow thought Quinella would have something to do with the number 5, but it derives from a Spanish word "quiniela" which is a game of chance. A different type of gambling, Keno, gets its name from the same source.
Peripheral to the horse-racing is the parade of fashion, especially among the women attendees, although men are also getting into it now with neon-coloured suits...and hair. It's one of few modern occasions keeping milliners in business, as it's de rigueur for women to wear a hat, the more eye-catching the better. (This holds true for many of the local events too, though thankfully not at our Mt Wilson get-together.) Male racegoers traditionally wear a yellow rosebud in their lapel.
The only person I was aware of who didn't stop work for the race, which occurs at 3 pm, was the young bloke installing our new rainwater tank, though he did say his mates had phoned him with the results. Since the tank went in we have had unprecedented rainfall so it is filling up nicely. More details about it to come in a future post.

Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Spring along the Highway

The route from Sydney to our home in Katoomba goes by the imposing name of The Great Western Highway. It is one of only two routes that lead from the metropolis across the Great Dividing Range to the western plains, and the state government is working (slowly) to upgrade the entire road to a four-lane highway. This is not as bad as it sounds, mainly because the landscaping of the new sections has been done quite sensitively with local native plants. Right now masses of bright scarlet bottlebrush ( Callistemon citrinus) are in bloom, both on the median strip and along the edges.