Sunday, 28 December 2008


At last I'm beginning to see an improvement in the front garden here, as perennials I've planted begin to flower.

Eighteen months ago, I was just starting to clear it of weeds and overgrown shrubs. A camellia, a fuchsia and a hydrangea have been cut back, the latter two quite severely, and all three now make an orderly screen between us and the street. Lavender, propagated from cuttings of a very vigorous and healthy one in our neighbourhood, has grown amazingly rapidly into substantial bushes

I've found quite a few of the old favourites that I grew in my Canadian garden, and tucked in herbs and cottage pinks wherever there was enough space. Along the railings, we have a random collection in pots, some loaned by daughter Sarah Jane who has gone to the UAE to teach for a year.

It's by no means finished (are gardens ever finished?), but it's come a long way.

Friday, 19 December 2008

Visitor from Brisbane

When cousin Jeff came for the day, we took him out along our nearest walking trail with its fine views across the Jamison Valley.

On the way home, we met a blue-tongue lizard enjoying the sunshine. It was in a hurry to get away from us, so my hasty photo didn't quite get it all in. Blue-tongues are a great asset in the garden as their favourite food is snails and slugs.

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Visitor from Canada

Elizabeth and I not only went to school together in Sydney, but she also married a Canadian, and now lives in Victoria, B.C.
She came for a visit in November and we spent a few good days together. I know no-one else who is able to compare Canada and Australia with the same affection for both countries that I feel.

We took her to Katoomba Falls...

and the wind-eroded cave near Blackheath.

November bushwalk

Considering the variable weather we had in November - everything from snow to 30ÂșC heat - the day for our hike to Lockley Pylon high above Govett Gorge was pleasantly sunny if a bit windy on the heights. We set off on the track towards Mount Hay...

... and stopped for morning tea in the shelter of a rocky outcropping.

We were travelling mainly across heathland with views over the surrounding valleys and plateaux.

As we walked, we could hear the first cicadas singing among the surrounding shrubs, and came across one on the path which stayed still long enough for me to photograph it. Cicadas come in various sizes and colours, and have equally colourful local names like Greengrocer, Yellow Monday, Cherry Nose. This one is a Black Princess.

It was a perfect time for catching the spring wildflowers in bloom, especially flannelflowers ( Actinotis helianthi) which had sprung up in the most inhospitable places:

... even among the branches of a banksia blackened by bushfire two years ago. While it may have killed the banksia, the fire is the direct cause of the proliferation of flowers this year.

The flowers of Dampiera stricta are truly this intense blue:

On the way back, we came upon a well-camouflaged cow orchid (Cryptostylis subulata)in a clump of greenery. Although it is supposedly common in this area, it is not common enough to make it into either of my encyclopaedias of Australian plants.

Waratahs have already finished flowering, but their new young foliage glowing in the sunlight is very attractive.

Thursday, 4 December 2008

Bottlebrush Season

When we arrived home after 5 weeks overseas, the bottlebrushes (Callistemon citrinus)were in full bloom. We have a small one planted in the garden, but it is not nearly as spectacular as these ones planted along the Great Western Highway that links the Blue Mountains with Sydney.

While I was admiring them an elderly gentleman with a distinct resemblance to Santa Claus appeared, and told me he had been instrumental in getting the Roads Authority to plant them when they upgraded this particular stretch. He had augmented their efforts with some of his own along the edge of his property, and allowed me to take a photo of him with the beautiful results.

The yellow flowers are Coreopsis grandiflora, which grows wild along the railway lines and roadsides in much of New South Wales. In our area there is a rumour that seeds were deliberately scattered by a train traveller, who no doubt saw herself as an antipodean Miss Rumphius. (If you don't know who Miss Rumphius is, your childhood education is sadly lacking. Googling her name will help you out.)