Monday, December 8, 2014

allium and roses

The gorgeous globes of the leeks have blammed into bloom. They're busy attracting insects and looking divine. I'm not sure why you'd want to pull them out before they flower. Unless it was to make something delicious, of course.

And here is a little something I threw together. Supermarket roses, sweetpeas and love in the mist seedpods.

And on the way out...

Saturday, November 15, 2014

curry flowers and camouflaged crawlies

As I mentioned in an earlier post, the curry plant, after a winter of languishing miserably, put on the most tremendous flurry of new spring growth. And the new growth was topped with, for the first time ever, a burst of buds. Today, the first two flowers opened and my floral curiosity was assuaged. What little cuties!

And even better, as I was attempting to snap a pic of the little lovelies, I was lucky enough to spot (and photograph, badly) a stealthy little larvae of the green lacewing. You can kind of see it perched on the edge of a petal in the picture below, it looks like a dark blob. Anyway, I can't tell you how happy I am to see one of these guys in the garden. Although tiny, they're easily identified by the zippy way they scurry across leaves and by their fiendish outerwear. Lacewing larvae eat by sucking the bodily fluids from the aphids and whitefly they catch amongst the leaves. They then attach the dried, empty exoskeletal leftovers to spines on their backs to create a gruesomely awesome camouflage costume. Sort of like a bizarre cross between a trophy wall and an invisibility cloak. Harry Potter eat your heart out.


Lacewings in general (order Neuroptera) are a pretty cool bunch.  Green lacewings belong to the family Chrysopidae. Their relatives in the Myrmeleontidae family, have a larval form known as antlions, which, for my money are pretty much the coolest pet a kid can have. Antions build conical nests in very dry fine soil or sand. The creature itself lies hidden under the sand at bottom of the cone which is cleverly engineered to have unstable sides that slip away at the slightest touch. Any small insect, usually an ant, that stumbles unwittingly into the trap is unable to gain purchase on the sloping sides and it slips down to the center and into the hungry jaws of the waiting antlion. Unlike its fashion-conscious cousins, the antlion has no use for the dried-out remnants of its finished prey so, once done eating it flicks the empty corpse fastidiously out of its nest. If you look closely at the outside of an antlion nest you can see the ground littered with black specks that used to be ants. 

In Queensland, where I grew up, you could find clusters of their cones in the soft dry soil under houses. Occasionally, I used collect them, gently scooping up the soil, cone and all and putting it in a container. Before long, my pet antlion would construct a new cone (really neat to watch) and lie quietly out of sight waiting for me to provide it with a steady supply unfortunate ants. It was a ghoulish but fascinating past time which I highly recommend to any curious backyard naturalist, large or small. 

But back to my current garden and the baby green lacewings, which I suspect arrived in order to feed on the horrible infestation of white fly and spider mites we have at the moment. I was actually thinking of ordering a batch of lacewing eggs (white blobs on stalks, picture below) from a company called Bugs for Bugs, who send out predatory insects via the mail to help produce growers and gardeners control the pests in their garden. I still might order some (nothing quite as exciting as receiving live insects in the post!) but I'm overjoyed to see the little critters showing up on their own. Their fascinating approach to fashion and murderously efficient eating habits make them a delight to have in the garden.  I'm also looking forward to seeing them develop into adults. 

Because it's not only the laval lacewings that are voracious predators. The adult green lacewings also gobble up backyard pests like aphids and whitefly. They're much prettier than their baby incarnation though. In fact, the aptly named, adult lacewings, with their delicate green bodies, gauzy wings and metallic poppy seed eyes, are one of my most favourite flying insects. And with a bit of luck I'll soon have lots of them fluttering around, feasting on pests and laying their eggs on the underside of my plants, so the whole cycle can start again. 

If you're curious to know more about the lovely lacewing, the Australian Museum website has a great info page, just click on through. 

Lacewing eggs. Photo from

What a little cutie! Photo from

Friday, November 14, 2014

Occasional verse #6

The poppies for Remembrance Day,
Harboured a little stowaway,
Tucked out of sight, until we slept,
Then from her hiding place she crept,
And set to work, amidst the flowers,
To weave her lovely silken bower.

Next morn, when I came down the stairs,
I spied her sitting sweetly there.
But there the lady couldn’t stay,
The flowers were for school that day.
I picked her up and begging pardon,
Returned her gently to the garden.

Friday, October 31, 2014

a few new leaves

Every winter, my curry leaf plant yellows and languishes like the poor subtropical darling it is. And every spring, just as I'm wondering if I should do something drastic to rescue it, it puts on an amazing spurt of coppery green new growth. This year I think it may even have flower buds!

My namesake, the bay tree (Laurel nobilis, I think) does the same thing. I'm usually considering purchasing dried bay leaves to prevent defoliating the poor love completely when all of a sudden, there's a flush of big new leaves, bright green, floppy and impossibly soft, which gradually toughen over summer into the deep green adult foliage, the ambiguous flavour of which is strangely essential to soups and stews.

Thursday, October 30, 2014


Op shop vase with love in the mist, calendula, parsley (the world's most underrated cut flower), coriander, sweet peas and perennial peas. Grabbed in a rush from the garden, on the way home from the vet. So much loveliness.

Friday, October 24, 2014

five minutes of flower photos

It's been a dry and dusty few days here. Not unpleasant, but not much rain. We were on our way out for an early morning shop and as we left the house my handsome husband pulled on the windscreen washers to remove the layer of grit that was obstructing his vision. Only, after a wipe or two, it ran dry, leaving the windscreen a smudgy mess. He pulled over, fortuitously, outside the garden and while he refilled the windscreen reservoir with a watering can, I ran around taking flower photos. I couldn't help myself. Best pit stop ever.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Le Printemps

Well, the blossoms are all blossoming, spectacularly so. Sadly my phone went flat before I managed to snap a pic of the weeping cherry, finally in flower, but I did get some pics of the magnificent pom pom poppies and the apple blossoms in full flight. Teensy baby fruit are appearing on the quince, as was a graft of an old French variety, thanks to the garden's grafting guru, Don. 

Oh, and we had a lovely baby broad bean and apple salad for dinner. Thank you, Spring.

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Pretty as a Picture

'I must have flowers, always, and always.'
Claude Monet

The profusion of colour down at the garden at the moment makes me think a Monet painting. Splodges of brightness and darkness and multi-hued greens that fill the eye to brimming. Every view shows a different palette, a slight change in angle reveals an entirely different combination of flowers and colours, every shift in the light is a completely new canvasMy hurried photos don't even begin to do it justice.

Interestingly, the brightest, boldest blocks of colour in the garden at the moment are provided by flowering opportunists - none of them were planted to deliberately create a flowery show - in fact most of them weren't planted at all. The glowing orange calendula are naturalised in the garden, they come up wherever they please and are easily pulled out when not welcome, or, as is often the case, left in as colourful place holders, simultaneously suppressing weeds and putting on a show (also, the petals are edible). The same goes for the misty blue banks of borage, which the bees adore. The pale lemon yellow of broccoli gone to flower are all over the garden at the moment. They could be viewed as a missed crop but I think they're brilliant - well worth leaving in. Besides, they taste lovely in salads. And the delicate, brighter yellow blooms are a wild broccoli ancestor, I call them brassica weed, growing on a neglected plot. Apparently they're also edible but I've only ever picked them for flower arrangements, they add a wonderful subtle splash of gold, they were even in the table decorations at my wedding.

At the risk of sounding wanky, I kind of understand why Monet felt the need to develop an entirely new approach to painting in order to capture the beauty of the natural world; dabbing at the canvas, layering light and shadow, painting the same scene over and over. It's a far cry from the gardens at Giverny but it would take many canvases and millions of brushstrokes to capture the glorious spring display of our Merri Corner floral opportunists. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

String of pearls

A new addition to the succulent collection, already among my faves. Round, bobbly leaves, sweet, intricate little flower with two more buds on the way... what's not to love?

And it's not as if it doesn't have some stiff competition, including another trailing beauty whose name I don't known and a a snappy little guy in a pimento tin. I haven't really captured their full loveliness here but every time I walk outside, my heart just melts. What can I say, I heart succulents.

Monday, October 6, 2014

and so it begins...

This time last year, my true love and I were packing for our honeymoon. We had originally hoped to be wed in the community garden but space restrictions and a growing guest list meant we moved the ceremony across the road to the velodrome (arguably an equally wonderful venue) and settled for post wedding champagne in the garden instead. 

As a result, I spent the months leading up to the wedding, beautifying our plot in particular and the garden in general. And I think now I will always associate the garden in September with the lead up to the wedding; planting, pruning, watching and guessing what would be out when.

Magically, the weeping cherry at the garden entrance burst into bloom just a day or so before our big day. Interestingly, this year it's not yet flowering. I can't however, recall what the sweet peas were doing last year on my wedding day. I had a sweetpea from the florist in my hair and they were in the bouquets and in the table arrangements but strangely, I can't remember if they had started flowering in the garden or not. This week, however, exactly one year on, I noticed the very first of them, waving sweetly in the breeze.

Sunday, March 30, 2014


How does our garden grow?

Like this, y'all! Photos going back approximately a year show how our plot, and my taste in hipstamatic filters changes over time.