LIKE our garden now,  my thoughts are somewhat windswept and pocketed with little outbursts of colour and inspiration. There is an unseasonal spring bluster blowing through the place, drying  and dishevelling some of the work I bounced into last week when warm days and damp nights promised perfect blooming conditions here in the sub tropics.

But out of the wind,  my gorgeous white phalaenopsis orchid burst into bloom on the sunny kitchen window ledge this week, reminding me of the reliability and faithfulness of nature. This beautiful plant, also known as the moth orchid, because the flowers resemble a moth in flight,  rewards me every spring with a glorious  spray of blooms on a bare stem that looked hardly alive just a few weeks ago. They are native to southeast Asia, are epiphytic shade plants  and in the wild grow below the canopies  of moist and humid lowland forests, protected against direct sunlight. The phalaenopsis has one single growing stem that produces two  thick fleshy elliptical leaves from the top while the older basal leaves  drop off at the same rate.  A healthy mature phalaenopsis can have up to 10 leaves and a stem a metre long. Mine has a stem almost that length with three blooms and a trail of unopened buds tantalisingly close to opening.

The flowers last and last – up to four months last year. Truly the gift that keeps on giving. I keep moving it around the house so I can see it wherever I sit. And it very considerately coordinates with the pink phalaenopsis I have tied to the tulip tree I look from the lounge out on to in the front garden, so that when it finishes flowering, the white one begins. A relay of  beauty and I don’t have a thing to do with it, except for a very occasional watering. I even forgot to feed them this year.

Glory of the phalaenopsis orchid in bloom

I do love it and tell it so, often. And I believe it loves me back.

It had me thinking there are those plants that no matter what love and time you put in with them, respond only lukewarmly, if at all,  while others give their best and better for even the smallest effort you make – and even when you don’t.

Whether it’s good garden karma or not, I hereby name and shame some.

Plumbago – loves me

For example, I know my potted bougainvilleas love me, but not sure what I did to the Ixora chinensis in the past, but it seems to sulk and drop its lip now, even with generous feed and watering. It cannot say, but I suspect it is jealous of the bolshie white ginger plant that has taken pride of place in its bed.

I feel the luuuve of my bromeliads and agapanthus,  irises, plumbago and cordylines, but my cape honeysuckle, ( Tecomaria capensis) hibiscus, and kangaroo paws  (anigozanthos) and a troublesome potted brunfelsiaare damn hard work. I said goodbye to the paws  at last. After three struggling attempts,  and still they withered and curled,  I was at screaming point, so I took a gun to them,  sobbing: ” It’s not you, it’s me”  ( just kidding).

Bougainvillea bambino loves me

Ixora chinensis loves me not

No doubt there is a horticultural explanation, but there are plants that thrive with certain people and not others. I remember a friend  who grew beautiful sweet peas every year.  I envied her daughters who trekked off to school with bunches of them for the teacher. We had several goes in a similar position and soil type with a distinctly inferior result and then the grasshoppers destroyed them.

Is it chemistry, after all?

Do you have a plant nemesis or one that shuns all your advances? Did you give up on it, or did you eventually win it over?


Another  delight in spring is all the bird calls as migratory birds return and the locals amp up their greetings.  We have morning lorikeet rabble-rousers, as well as miners, whipbirds, rifle birds, currawongs, bellbirds, kookaburras, monarchs and assorted honeyeaters chiming in through the day and the evening is pierced by the spooky curlew call.

But one social little pied butcher bird has been making calls of another kind. He has been stalking us for weeks around the garden and down in the paddocks, serenading us with his sweet flute-like song, perching within touching distance of where we are working and “talking” to us.

He flies down to our feet or on to a nearby branch the minute we step outside and I feel I could almost pick him up. Perhaps he’s the spirit of someone I’ve loved and lost. Whatever, he is a dear and welcome companion.

Our friendly “butch” mate

But sadly, the other common bird noise hereabout is the sickening  “thwack” daily of several hitting our windows as they fly full pelt into the glass, thinking they are heading towards another of their kind. Most are merely stunned and recover and fly away, but a few suffer a fatal injury. How many vulnerable others elsewhere are slaughtered  when they fall by a pouncing dog or cat, I wonder.

How to prevent? The slings and arrows of living in the wild, I suppose.

Following a visit to a generous gardening friend,  I have some cuttings and replantings to attend to ; philodelphus,  arrowroot, a candlenut tree and water chestnuts.

Ah yes, she is indeed testimony to green  fingers being an extension of a  verdant heart.

Happy times in your garden.


3 Responses so far »

  1. 1

    Brooke said,

    I hear you Julie! I have a climbing rose that, desite much neglect and very little in the way of food or pruning, has rewarded me with some beautiful blooms. On the other hand, my lemon tree – regularly fed, watered and spoken to very nicely – has rewarded me with nothing! Indeed, the more I do for it, the more miserable it looks. Treat ’em mean, keep ’em keen I guess!

  2. 2

    Ah Brooke, yes, much wisdom in the treat ’em mean, keep ’em keen philosophy. Your lemon is a typical citrus; prickly, difficult and demanding, like some people I know. But good doses of magnesium and a complete citrus food feed could turn it around. Thank goodness for those generous roses of yours. Now, my roses …………….

  3. 3

    psoriasis said,

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