Monday, November 30, 2015

Old dogs and new tricks

I haven't mentioned Missy for quite some time.  She's almost 16 and is showing her age more and more lately. Her arthritis gives her trouble and stops her running about and playing with her toys as she once did. Now it's a slow stroll (except when food is involved then she bounces).  She doesn't hear the car arrive home or even my footsteps up the hallway, so gets a surprise when she sees me. Her eyes are clouded by cataracts and she sleeps for much of the day.
She's still in charge of the household.

What is it they say about teaching old dogs new tricks?
I'm guessing you can't teach them because they are very good at discovering new tricks for themselves.

Missy's "You just woke me up" look.
Missy has always had us well trained.
We know when she likes to be fed  --- 6 AM and 6 PM --- It can be earlier but never later. As an old lady she has started asking for extras.... the leftover milk from my breakfast cereal has become a necessary second breakfast rather than an occasional treat. Empty plastic containers (cream, dips, yoghurt, etc.) are begged for.
 Chicken, bacon, gravy and most meats are stared at to telepathically make them fall off the table. When that doesn't work, there's whimpering, more staring but now aimed at John or me rather than the meat, more whimpering... until the food is either taken away or she has a win. We have to be careful not to feed her too much because she isn't getting the exercise she once was. The vet did say the medication she is taking would increase her appetite - but really.... you would think we starve her. The problem is, of course, that sometimes we give in.

She has a number of favourite sleeping spots and goes from one to another throughout the day - usually near where we are. 

For a dog with poor eyesight and hearing, she surprises us with her ability to know when dogs are walking by. She looks sound asleep. She can't see them - even if she was looking in that direction, yet she knows and gets up to bark. Often she barks then a few moments later we see the dog. I'm guessing it's her sense of smell letting her know there's another dog nearby.
The other dog generally ignores her which must be frustrating to a little old dog who is diligently protecting her home.

Even in old age she's still the boss.

Sunday, November 8, 2015

Adding more plants

Just a quick update on the garden -

We chose Macarthur Ptychosperma macarthurii and Blue Cane Dypsis cabadae palms for along the back fence. Both are clumping and should fit nicely into our garden. Interspersed in this section are a variety of cordylines and crotons from Missy's garden, a native hibiscus Hibiscus tiliacious rubra and a pink calliandra.

We watered them in with a Seasol/Powerfeed mix and we've mulched with partly decomposed garden waste from our local rubbish tip. The mulch is free but usually you have to collect it yourself, of course. We were lucky. The backhoe driver was working and tipped a bucket load into our trailer.


Along the other end, not so much is planted yet - the palms and two crepe myrtle which I'm hoping will grow quickly and provide some shade. I want heliconias along this strip but so far can't find the ones I want. (I can wait)
To the left is a wooden deck behind our bedroom. I can already picture sitting out there with my morning coffee surrounded by a tropical mini-jungle.

This is the flower from the hibiscus along the side fence - the flowers are huge and so beautiful. I may bore you silly with photos of them.

We are getting quite a bit of rain at the moment so the plants are settling in well and we're starting to feel like progress is being made.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Garden design dreams vs reality

The problem with knowing exactly what you want is -
you can't always get what you want.

But to paraphrase Mick and his mates......... if I keep trying, I might just get what I need.

After many thinks and re-thinks and drawings and discussions about how the garden should be set out, we have (sort of) finalised the planning.  While the basic elements have remained the same I would never have guessed there could be so many permutations of a simple garden plan in such a small space.
Just a sample - I threw out most of our sketches

Putting the plans into action is fun but also challenging.

I've been frustrated to discovered during my plant hunting that certain plants I thought would be easy to find are just not available. I don't remember it being so hard to find plants when we started Missy's Garden, but maybe I wasn't as fussy either.
Some plants are only sold at the time of year when they are at their peak and some are obviously not the fashion this year. At quite a few nurseries I've visited, instead of being a point of difference to the large chain stores, they are copying them and only selling currently trendy mass-produced plants.
I did have one very good surprise at our local Masters however.  In the palm section, they'd priced their plants by pot size. All the smaller pots one price, all the larger twice the price. I came home with a few bargains including a bamboo palm, a blue cane and a hybrid lipstick palm.

The lipstick palm Cyrtostachys renda is a true tropical and drops dead when temperatures drop. I've been reading for a while that the hybrids they've developed seem to be standing up to South East Queensland's winters but any plants I'd found (until now) were very expensive.  Last winter our minimum never got below 10C so I took the chance.  I may keep it in a pot for a couple of years and bring it inside if temperatures look like falling. (If Mark and Gaz can move so many pots surely I can move one)

We have made some progress.

I've started a herb garden. All in pots for now.
the beginnings of our vegie patch. More to come.
One tomato plant, but already fruiting.

A potted lemon tree
Along the side fence it is actually starting to look like we have a garden. Some are planted. Some are still in pots waiting there until their permanent home is ready. It's amazing how fast they are growing at the moment.
There are still quite a few plants we brought from Missy's garden waiting
Not so much progress yet along the back fence. We are still preparing the soil. Once the "black gold" is added it will be ready for planting. We've created a mini-shade house down in the corner to protect shade-lovers until they're are ready to be planted.
John has built a screen for some added privacy and to shelter the barbeque area. The garden side will have pots and planter boxes covering it - a vertical garden. He's already put Cousin It in pride of place and bought a variety of seedlings.
He chose plants that tend to cascade over the edge of the pots, so it should look great.
We've also brought the garden inside with a few indoor plants.
So even though the plans keep changing
and I've been getting a wee bit frustrated with it all,
things are progressing.

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

My New Blue Bike

I have a confession to make.
I've been a Jimmy Buffett fan for years.
To me there's nothing more relaxing on a hot day than a cool drink, a sea breeze, and Buffett playing in the background.

I love the sentiment in so many of his songs - the laid back beach lifestyle.

One of my favourites - I have found me a home.

The days drift by
They don’t have names
And none of the streets here look the same
And there are so many quiet places
And smilin’ eyes match the smilin’ faces
And I have found me a home
Yes, I have found me a home
And you can have the rest of everything I own
‘Cause I have found me a home

My old red bike (new blue bike)
Gets me around
To the bars and the beaches of my town
And there aren’t many reasons I would leave
Yes, I have found me some peace

We each bought bikes. Mine's blue. John's is black. Missy can ride in the basket (if she wants to).

Neither of us had ridden a bike in over 20 years so I waited until no one was around for my first ride in case it went bad. By bad I mean embarrassing.
But you know what.... it's like riding a bike. I was a bit wobbly for the first little while then off I went.

Bribie Island is flat - no big hills to have to ride up or down so cycling is a great way to get around.

Monday, September 14, 2015

Prioritising our garden needs.

Way back when we first knew we were moving, long before the house was built, I began to think about how I would like the new garden to look and feel.
I wrote a couple of posts about my dreams for the "new garden"  - April 2014 and May 2014
My wish list included - an outdoor kitchen, a large space for entertaining and a more intimate quiet space, shade and shelter, privacy and security, lots of plants and water features - a pond and maybe a small pool or spa.

- Time flies. That was well over a year ago.

I think we are going to be able to accommodate most of the elements that were on my original wish list and the landscaping material, colours and theme I decided back then remains the same. Having a tropical theme was an easy decision. We are going ahead with the outdoor kitchen (more on that later). We won't have room for a pool or even a spa but there will be a fish pond and at least one water feature.

But first things first....
Before we moved in we didn't realise just how open and exposed the outdoor area would be. We have a lovely view out over the canal but that also means that passers-by have an equally clear view into the yard and the house.  That's our house in the centre (with the grey roof and solar panels). If you zoom in .... our outdoor area is too open.

Creating a privacy screen is a necessity, but somehow I need to do that without losing the view. Also - much of the yard is in sun for most of the day - lovely in winter but not so good in our hot summers. Shade will need to be created.

So before anything else, I need to choose plants that will provide our two most urgent needs - PRIVACY and SHADE.

These are my thoughts so far....

For shade creation - The garden will need small trees or palms that will be in scale with the small area and not create problems with root invasion or encroaching on the house or neighbour's property.
Palms - Smallish clumping palms such as Bamboo Palm (Chamaedorea seifrizii ) or Macarthur Palm, (Ptychosperma Macarthurii). As taller features -  Fox Tail Palms or even Alexanders.
Small Tree/s - Crepe Myrtle and/or Frangipani, possibly a Bauhinia. Something deciduous to allow winter sun with summer shade would be nice. Maybe also a Brugsmansia Insignis (white) or Candida (white) because they are beautiful and I've always wanted one.

For screening - We need hedging or screening plants that will grow 2-3 metres tall with minimal horizontal spread. Also, they need to be in harmony with the tropical feel of the garden. I'm thinking hibiscus (which can be pruned to whatever height we need) but I also like Tiger Grass (Thysanolaena Maxima).

Any ideas or advice would be welcomed.

We have a long narrow area along our side fence.
It's a challenge because whatever we plant as a screen will be seen from the street and the canal, so must be neat and attractive, but I don't just want a long straight boring hedge.

Once these plants are established, the feature plants (the fun ones) can be added.

I'm afraid, this will be the opposite of those TV programs where fully landscaped and planted gardens are created in a weekend. This will take months, perhaps years, to achieve.

Creating a garden is like building a house - We need walls, roof and a floor before we can add the furniture and accessories. Creating a garden in small area, I'm finding, has it's challenges. I need to constantly remember to keep all elements in proportion and in harmony with each other.

But, at last it's begun.

Sunday, September 6, 2015

The Noosa Plant Fair

Another weekend - another plant fair. This time at the Noosa Botanic Gardens near Lake MacDonald.  At this time of year there seems to be quite a few of these events.

This was one plant stall I was looking forward to seeing - a local heliconia and ginger nursery - Towen Mount Tropicals. It was a little disappointing because they had very few heliconias (too early in the season) and even though we were there not long after opening time, most of the plants had already sold. I did find one heliconia and a ginger that came home with us though.

Being Spring, there were lots of annuals for sale. While they are pretty I am never tempted to buy annuals.

The "Friends of the Noosa Botanic Gardens" had a plant stall with some very reasonably priced plants. John found another cycad for the front garden.

John with a couple of plants

It was a beautiful setting. One day we will have to return just to look at the gardens. The hinterland in from Noosa has quite a bit of remnant rainforest and is a beautiful area to explore.

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Planting the Front Garden

Finally we have plants in the front garden. With the construction of the terraces and stairs I think the neighbours were getting worried that our front yard would be all pavers and rocks.

Along the front - Spider Lilies (from Missy's garden). Next level - Xanadu Philodenron (also from Missy's garden) Cardboard Cycads, a clump of Bangalow palms  and Dracaena tricolour (purchased) and frangipanis and cordylines (from Missy's garden).
Along next to the driveway - Agapanthus Snowball (purchased).

We still have the top level to finish, but at least it's starting to look like a garden.

Saturday, August 29, 2015

Wallum Wildflower Walk

Wallum is an Australian ecosystem of coastal south-east Queensland characterised by flora-rich shrubland and heathland on deep, nutrient-poor, acidic, sandy soil. Seasonal changes in the water table due to rainfall create swamps. (so says Wikipedia)

Apparently, the wildflower walk is an annual event, part of a number of nature walks in the area to mark the start of spring (which officially starts in 2 days).

I was well prepared - sunscreen, water bottle, rain jacket & camera in my backpack. Joggers on my feet.

I should have worn gum boots.

It had rained the night before our walk.... and I don't mean a couple of showers - good hard rain, so I could just as easily call it a swamp walk. In fact the route arranged had to be changed because the water over the path was too deep.

It was still fun and I saw wildflowers I'd never seen before.

Many are very tiny and delicate, like this Sprengelia sprengelioides.

We were given a pamphlet with photos plus many plants were tagged.

I noticed the labels were dry so someone had been around in the morning before our walk and placed each label.

Patersonia sericea - the native iris. The plants only grow to 40cm high . You can see how tiny the are relative to my soggy joggers.

Looking up - Banksia

Looking down - Sphagnum moss

Wallum Wedge Pea

Swamp Pea

Common Sundew - a carnivorous plant. The largest was about 4cm diameter. They grow on the ground and live on small insects.

Wallum Boronia

Leptospermum polygalifolium 

Burchardia umbellata - Milkmaids

Sowerbaea juncea - Vanilla Lily

Epacris - Bell Heath

One of the organisers explained that some years ago, the parcel of land we were walking over was to be developed for a housing estate. A group of people fought in the courts to have it declared protected. They won and eventually it was made a National Park. 

I'm so glad they did.

These were a very small selection of the wildflowers that were within a few feet of our path - I haven't posted all the pictures I took, some flowers I didn't photograph and some I did try but they were out of focus. 

These are not bright showy plants. Most are tiny and delicate- but beautiful plus many are unique to this region. 

As you can see from the photo below, if the organisers hadn't marked some of the plants with tape, I may have walked right by.

   Dry track

Wet track

Monday, August 24, 2015

More Plant Hunting

Another weekend - another trip around the local nurseries.
This time we headed north.
The first nursery we visited was the furthest away - almost an hour. We intended slowly making our way back visiting nurseries on the way.

I fell I love with the first nursery. Rosemount nursery is near Bli Bli . The first thing we noticed (near the car park) was their pots - a huge variety at really good prices. From that moment I knew I'd be coming back.
Then we discovered the plants. They were all so healthy and well tended.

Their "tropical" area was huge. This is only a small part. I could picture quite a few living in our garden.

But we were on a fact-finding mission - no buying today.... so we kept going.

We visited three more nurseries in the Buderim area before we stopped for lunch.

This vertical garden gave me some ideas. It's simply pots of geraniums so would be reasonably easy to care for.

The other nurseries were OK but over lunch I kept thinking of the first one and we both agreed it was one of the best we'd seen, so you can guess what happened next.

We doubled back.
We filled the car.
We came home.

The haul - 3 Bangalow Palms, 3 cardboard cycads Zamia furfuracea, 2 pots of tiger grass Thysanolaena maxima, 2 dracaena tricolour and a Cousin It Casuarina glauca.

I guess we'll have to go back and check the rest out another time - and visit the Yandina Markets which I've been told has great plants for sale. Next time we'll take a bigger car and maybe the trailer.

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Where to buy plants?

When starting a new garden from scratch, it's all very well to have a design in mind with specific plants chosen - not that I have firm plans just yet (but if I did) sourcing the plants can be a hurdle. I haven't had to buy plants for quite a while. I propagated many of the plants for Missy's garden. Although we brought plants with us, we will still need to buy quite a few.
I got a shock when I looked in the garden section of the big green shed and a tray of mini mondo grass was selling for $28. Surely I can find better value.

Being new to the area, we spent a day last weekend on nursery reconnaissance - checking out the variety, price and plant health. We headed south and visited 6 nurseries in the Deception Bay to Morayfield area i.e. within 45 minutes drive.

I forgot all about taking photos, but I will be back to a few of them soon so I will hopefully remember next time.

This was a wonderful nursery (photo from their website) Their presentation of plants was outstanding. Lots of ideas for ways to multi-plant pots and display special plants.

A different nursery called Garden Gems (website photo again) just crammed with healthy plants.

One I won't return to.  There was little variety and the plants were very expensive. All the rest were great.

One was a huge surprise. It wasn't on my list but a lovely man at one of the other nurseries told me to go there. It's a Produce Store selling animal food, farm supplies, etc and has a nursery section. Great plants quite cheap. We bought a couple of things even though we aren't ready yet to plant and this was just a fact finding mission.

This again is a photo from their website.
If we hadn't been advised to go there we would never have found their garden shop.

Then, the next morning, we went to the local markets.

Along with all sorts of other stalls and entertainment, there were about five or six plant stalls as well. Most were plants being sold by private local gardeners.

Stocked up on fruit and veg for the week here.

There are markets most Sundays so I think a visit to the markets may become a regular occurrence when I'm ready to start filling the garden.
My next reconnaissance mission will be heading north to the Sunshine Coast. There are dozens of nurseries to check out and we are getting closer all the time to being able to start planting.