Archive for March, 2012


There’s hardly any gardening possible these days, with rain, showers, downpours being the order of  things for weeks now. When there is a break in the weather, the ground is so soggy and slippery and the mossies swarm, it’s not really a fun place to be. The one pleasure is watching everything grow almost before your eyes and being thankful for the planting that went in before this monsoonal patch started. So it’s an interior life I live more these days, back to books and planning and dreaming for the drier season.

And speaking of indoors, friend Liz wondered here last week if some messy evidence around the fruit bowl meant there could be rats visiting her kitchen bench at night. She feared a pile of garden rubbish might be their breeding ground.

I think I now know what’s to blame for your night time raid, Liz.

It’s a possum – or a few of them .

The penny dropped after one treated our fireplace as a drop-in centre this week, sliding down the chimney, rustling around the woodchips and nearly giving our cat heart failure. I hover between admiring its sweet cuteness and resenting its intrusive audacity.

Its the first such creature we have had here in the bush. Yes, truly.

Brisbane is awash with possums, dancing noisily across rooftops, sliding into crawl spaces in ceilings, clattering around the guttering, peeing on verandahs and chewing away at vegetables, herb gardens and pot plants. Life has been very merry in the city for this wildlife over the past few years, so their numbers increased due to a combination of more edible gardens, proliferation of greenery and  available food  – albeit some of it meant for domestic pets like cats and dogs.

But we here in the possum-free outer burbs have had no such problem. Our plants were left alone. We could grow as much in pots as we liked without losing them to these cute, but malicious marauders.

Now the first possum to breach the battlements at our house has arrived and I am nervous. Nervous because he ( and I am guessing the sex here) climbed successfully over the fire guard and danced his messy way around the lounge room, leaving ashy footprints all over the CDs,  lampshade and books, knocked over a stack of ornaments and tellingly, munched into two ripe bananas on the kitchen bench. And like Goldilocks, having sampled the food and the furniture, he seems to like it here and is reluctant to leave.

Will it be soon that he discovers the plants and pots on the decks are way easier to access for a feed without having to base jump into the fireplace.
Who are we gonna call? Possum busters???


I was born to snip. All my dolls got haircuts before they had a change of clothes and I took a pair of scissors to the head of any younger sibling who stood still long enough. Now my tool of choice is the secateurs and I am never happier than clipping and cutting around the plot. And these days, EVERYTHING needs a big trim. Branches, weighed down with rainwater, wild shoots, leggy annuals, unruly shrubs …. they’re all in my firing line.  But what I really need now is a mulcher to turn all this offcut into useful garden food.  Hmmmm, only 268 shopping days til Christmas.


 I wrote last week about the newly discovered carphalea shrub a dear lady from my neighbourhood, named Jeannie Little, told me about.  I took my trusty secateurs to Jeannie’s in the meanwhile and came home with several bunches of gorgeous carphalea blooms and a stack of  other cuttings of red, yellow and purple salvias and 
Coleus are always a startling contrast to garden greenery

pretty coleus she generously gave me. I have honeyedthe ends ( acts as a hormonal stumulant I have been told) of the carphalea cuttings and potted them. Carphaleas are not easy to strike, I have been warned, but I am hoping all this rain will fool them into thinking they are in the tropics where they thrive and that they will prosper and grow. ( Jeannie said she discovered them growing in the main street of Cairns, in the tropical north of Queensland )

I will keep you posted.

And lastly, I’d like to share this marvellous vision of a city greened over.

Dare we dream?

If you ever want for friendship, join a garden club. Go the website of The Garden Clubs of Australia,,  an umbrella organisation of affiliated clubs, with kindred spirits for gardeners waiting to meet you and share their knowledge and fun.

Could this be the way of our cities' future?


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What a pearler of a weekend;  crisp, clean sunshine, dazzling blue sky, breezes that carry the smell of murrayas and mint-scented geraniums, full moon rising at dusk and casting bright moonlight over all. It’s heaven pottering in the garden right now.  And I have learned two new things.

1. Making hay while the sun shines is the pits.After our paddocks were slashed, so much raking and gathering hay – and sneezing and scratching. But, discovered there is such a person as a baler, who will come and parcel up the grass and maybe even pay us by the bale? Yay.

Hay baler in action after the slash

2. The most interesting garden information comes from unlikely and unexpected sources.At a local art gallery exhibition I met a charming lady with the unlikely name of Jeannie Little ( a different but no less real “dahling”) . It turns out Jeannie and I are practically neighbours. She lives just a couple of kilometres from me, has been there 40 years, and is a passionate gardener. Her pride and joy are three stunning carphalea kirondron shrubs, presently in gorgeous flower. It’s known as the flaming beauty for its brilliant crimson bracts, within which is its small white flower – a bit like the way bougainvillea flower.

Carphalea flower close up

Jeannie’s carphaleas have been the subject of many admiring comments from passers-by. Having never heard of carphaleas, I googled on the spot and discovered why. They are indeed stunning and I am overcome with garden envy.  I want one. I want one.

And, learning they are an evergreen and flower for months, from early summer to late winter, my interest peaked. Carphaleas are a native of Madagascar,

Carphalea in bloom

grow to a max of three metres, love the heat and humidity and respond well to a brisk haircut. Best of all, they are easy to propogate from cuttings.So I am off to Jeannie’s place pronto, with my secateurs.



A trip to the market this morning and I fell again for the old ruse of buying coriander seedlings. I must have tried growing this herb a dozen times with no success over the years . But March madness and the assurance by the stallholder that’s it’s a good season to put it in, seduced me into buying more.  No big deal if they too fail. I am out of pocket 60c. Gotta love the market’s seed sellers. I’ll keep you posted about whether I am cutting this aromatic plant for salads and soups in a month or so – or if I’m back buying it off the fruiterer’s shelf.

I did resist however, buying any more vegetable seedlings. I have eggplants, heirloom tomatoes, mesclun, fancy lettuce, dill, bok choy and rocket under way in the patch right now. They were battered and flooded last weekend with a very heavy downfall, but seem to be none the worse for it.

And,  good news, the grasshoppers have finally left the sage and thyme alone and they are flourishing.

And to Liz, who is wondering if her garden rubbish pile could be breeding rats ( see comment) I suspect not if there are no food scraps therein. What say you?



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People claim Queensland has no real seasonal change, that is, like the southern states, where the leaves change colour, the light diffuses and temperatures slide subtly to the warmth or the cold ahead. Climate know-alls say our state just goes from hot, hot, hot to less hot in mid winter. Beautiful one day, perfect the next? Don’t want to sound smug, but for an outdoors lover, YES!

I disagree with the claim that there is no detectable seasonal shift, ‘though. The minute March hits, I can sense an autumnal change in the air here and something about the cooler, gentler conditions changes me too. I get a surge of energy and start getting into all the heavy duty garden jobs that the heat of summer has me too lethargic for – the big slash and burn, the pullout and replant, the rock shifting, weed ripping,  mega-hour tasks that see me go a whole day without stopping to eat, drink, pee or look around.

At the finish, a delicious physical exhaustion sets in, but my mind has been revitalised with uninterrupted churning. Sometimes it’s on the job at hand. Other times, it’s from a mental freewheeling that the mundane, repetitive action of weeding and clearing allows.In my head I have written books, rehearsed conversations, redesigned my house, my wardrobe,my job,  planned holidays, meals and new careers while my hands have been shifting manure, mulching, weeding and edging. Sometimes the song ” Turn, Turn Turn” runs through my head …”to everything ….. there is a season … a time to build up, a time to break down ..”

Autumn has a different sound, too. In our neighbourhood, it’s the reverberation of chainsaws, whipper snippers, chop chop chopping of shears, clippers snipping, crunching and breaking. After the wet summer and the verdant – actually, rampant – growth, we are all out slashing and hacking at the overload. Don’t want to curse the rain, mindful of only a few years ago when we were catching drips in buckets in the shower, but feel for those poor residents down south forced to evacuate their flooded homes. Enough please.

When I look at how quickly and vigorously the vegetation bursts forth from the heat and damp, it reminds me how rapidly and surely the earth reclaims its own. We have only a perilous hold on our civilised patch of dirt. Turn our backs for

Jean's ginger surprise

a moment and nature marches indiscriminately over our rockeries, manicured gardens, lawns, shorn paddocks and sculptured landscaping.

But I love the surprises the soaking brings. Jean posts a comment about a burnt and apparently ruined ginger plant she had counted out for all money, and which sprang back to life in glorious flower, revived in the damp ground she transplanted it. It even multiplied! (That’s it pictured at right) Don’t say mother nature is not generous .

And I love the longer flowering the summer deluges have brought about. My tibouchina and plumbago are brighter and bluer than I can remember. The bromeliads are all out in splendour, poking their pretty red heads out from under the jacaranda, frangipani, around the pool and across the front fenceline.

Is it a tribute to our PM Julia?

Fantastic how synchronised they all are, regardless of where in the garden they’re planted! Their social networking doesn’t ever need updating.


It hasn’t been all removal this week. I did put in a couple of pink eremophilas in the front bed I look at first thing each day. Good hardy, sun loving, winter-flowering reliables and all the better for a brisk pruning each year, they tend to dislike humidity, but the couple of varieties I bought from my local market supplier ( Pink Passion and Magic Blush) are assuredly more tolerant of our conditions. Let’s see.


And I could not resist sharing this lovely and different flower arrangement by my very artistic friend Colleen. She picked her pink oleanders and put them under the vase’s water.  How stunning is that!

Happy rearranging.

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