This blog tracks the ongoing changes of my garden, and the wildlife I try to attract to it. It's a nature blog. It contains my thoughts and musings about anything and everything to do with nature - gardening, book reviews, philosophy, travel, science, history, art, design, politics. Catmint is my signature plant because it has all the qualities I value in a plant: resilience, beauty and the capacity to spread prolifically . Unfortunately it's not indigenous. If I was starting again I'd probably choose an indigenous plant.
Yesterday I dug up the compost that was ready and chucked it on the garden. The rest, for example semi decomposed sticks and phone books, I threw onto the other side of the compost heap.
Some things I discover are not biodegradable, such as buttons, an odd sock and clothes labels. I throw these into the rubbish bin.
Now one side is empty with plenty of room for the end of spring prunings.
It has been raining a lot lately, which means that the newly spread compost won't dry out before the worms and other friends get a chance to burrow down to a depth where it is cooler.
Looking at compost is an amazing and enthralling experience. From time to time I see worms. It's like finding gold. I look closely and see other bugs: slaters, shiny black beetles, millipedes, centipedes and others.
I find a dazed and dirty cicada and I watch it cleaning itself with its front legs.
Then I blink and suddenly I perceive another dimension. Teeny tiny white bugs, little black specks, a mini universe teeming with activity.
I imagine another dimension, with bugs so small you'd need a microscope to see them. Then I imagine the nano-sized inhabitants of the compost heap, that even a powerful microscope wouldn't reveal.
Hothouse, by Brian Aldiss, is an extraordinary book. It is science fiction, set on earth in a far distant future – somewhen.
The earth has stopped turning on its axis. Human and animal life has been eclipsed by insects and plants, many of which have become large and dangerous.
‘It’s the only science-fiction novel I can think of that celebrates the process of composting. Things grow and die and rot and new things grow. Death is frequent and capricious and usually unmourned. Death and rebirth are constant.’ (Neil Gaiman introducing the Penguin edition)
Whether human or animal or insect or vegetable or any combination of the four, dying is referred to as going to the green. It’s no tragedy, it’s the Way.
This post is about my friend Judy’s garden, also in suburban Melbourne. In her own words…
“My garden is 15 years old. The central aim of the garden originally was to plant purely edible or usable plants. I don’t see the point of going to the effort of making an ornamental garden.
It was meant to be low maintenance. We weed out grasses and other weeds, we prune off things like gall wasp, we treat fungus when it occurs and we mulch. Originally I planted every herb and veg that I could find. Now I have mainly stopped planting new plants, except for things like tomatoes and basil. Whatever comes up is whatever self seeds, and wherever they seed is where they stay.
Many plants have died, often because of possums and bush rats. I have become disillusioned about the possums. I would be happy to share with them if they would leave me half. Probably what survives is what they don’t like so much. The bush pepper is an Australian native edible plant. Someone or something is eating them as soon as they get ripe. They are watching the figs now. I bet I won’t get any.
We have a rosemary bush taken from cuttings from our old house, which came from cuttings taken from a nearby park. The grapes also came from cuttings from our old house and our fig tree came from a sucker. The mulberry tree self seeded into a pot and we planted it on the nature strip.
My garden has enabled me to give cuttings to so many people. Friends say I gave them lettuce and they’re still eating it years later. Jerusalem artichokes, fennel, parsley and mint basil are all plants I give away. The mulberry tree provides mulberries and leaves for lots of people, local and further away, who have heard about it. They pick the mulberries to make jam.
We have lots of strawberries on the nature strip in the street as well as in the garden. A man who used to walk past every day after cardiac surgery asked if he could help himself to the strawberries. One day someone stopped him. He said: it’s OK I’ve got a permit.
Many of the gardens in this area have been reduced in size and variety of plants. We don’t have a huge variety of birds because this area has been so denuded of trees. Now it’s all grasses and sand.
There used to be a garden with many fruit trees and vegetables behind me. Now the outdoors is paved and there is a chlorinated swimming pool. Across the road there used to be a flowering gum that attracted lorikeets in the day and fruit bats at night. The creatures living in these gardens have been forced to adjust or have gone elsewhere.
Our pond has been home to nesting ducks for the last 15 years. They come around June and leave around November when they have hatched 10 or 11 ducklings. I’ve noticed how clever they are at dodging local cats. I’ve also seen foxes at night in the street."
To garden when it's very hot, I suggest you (dear reader) do it early in the morning or early in the evening. It’s usually cool-ish at those times, and you don’t have to bother with sunscreen or hat which is very liberating.
Dig over the compost, which is usually damp if watered with saved kitchen and shower water. Take quantities of half rotted damp compost and spread it on the soil between plants. This will stop the soil being exposed to the hot sun, and encourage worms and helpful micro organisms to party in the shade below the mulch.
Sometimes plants are drooping and miserable. There’s no need to water them. Just trim them back. They usually respond by sitting up straight again. Sometimes they don’t. Then it’s the old story of life, death and compost in the garden.
Lots of plants adore the heat – they’re the ones you want. For example, tiny teeny parsley plants got established and mulched before the heatwave. Now every hot day they’re getting bigger and stronger. I have had great success with Australian native shrubs like alyogyne huegelii (Australian native hibiscus), thryptomenes, correas and many others. Actually just about all the plants you see in my garden are tough survivors – the others are only seen as temporary empty spaces – blurred shadows that have become partly decomposed mulch.
So water the compost and water the bird baths. But never water plants, unless newly planted or transplanted. If you do water them, you’ll find they’ll grow OK but they will forever be dependent on a human to cater to their water needs.
Who knows how the Honest Scrap Award started? The truth is buried somewhere in the vast records of blotanical…
This is all I know for sure: Someone gave Rosey the Award. Rosey gave the Award to Wendy. And Wendy gave the Award to me.
The idea as I see it is this. We’re all part of this huge and growing online community, making new cyber friends all the time. It’s quite a compliment to receive the Award, because it means one of your new friends wants to get to know you more.
After initially feeling a bit overwhelmed by this, I am enjoying thinking about ME and what I want to share. So here goes …
1. I am known as catmint but my real name is Sue. 2. I am part of a family of four generations. The oldest is my 97 year young mother and the youngest is my grandchild Joey who is one year old. 3. An ideal 24 hours for me would be 8 hours gardening, 8 hours blogging and 8 hours dreaming about gardening and blogging. 4. My favourite foods include fairy bread (white sliced bread with butter and hundreds and thousands), carrots, iceberg lettuce and jelly babies. 5. I love reading. Among my favourite authors are Peter Carey and Margaret Attwood. My favourite genre is science fiction. 6. My favourite holiday is going to remote wild places. Notable trips have been to the Indian Himalayas, Borneo, the Simpson Desert in Central Australia and Siberia. 7. Some of my friends have retired. I am not retired and enjoy my work as a social worker and being busy. 8. I used to be scared of moths. Now I love and am fascinated by all bugs, even moths and spiders. One exception to this is vine weevils, which ate a lot of my garden one summer. 9. I resist following rules wherever possible. That is why I will stop at 9.
Now we come to the Award Ceremony. Please forgive me if you have already received this award and please ignore it if you wish.
I hereby award the Truth Scrap Award to
1. Hermes has a range of blogs, all of them exquisitively beautiful and interesting, featuring gardens, childrens book illustrations, Victorian art and acquariums. 2. VW is generous. As well as sharing her garden joys and frustrations, she shares her learning curve in garden photography and the technical aspects of blogging. 3. Wicked Gardener as the name indicates has a wicked sense of humour, and her blog is fun to read. 4. Gabby is a landscape designer and I have just discovered her blog which is attractive and informative. 5. Joanne has similar aesthetics as me, loving cottage gardens. I respect and admire the way she authentically relates her garden blog to her health problems and her recovery. 6. Jenny blogs about her Sydney garden. As a fellow Aussie, much of the material is familiar to me, such as rainbow lorikeets. The photos are wonderful, I strongly recommend this blog. 7. Titania is another Aussie blogger. She is a multiple blogger, and a warm, dynamic and interesting person. 8. Pomona Belvedere is a typical blotanical plantaholic with a particular penchant for tulips. Her blog is colourful and a very enjoyable read. Pomona is a sociable and sharing person, who often has guest post-ers. 9. Alice Anastasia is a garden traveller and photographer. You learn so much about gardens all over the world from reading her blog, and she is extremely creative and artistic.
This smoke bush has been moved at least six times. It has survived, even thrived and seems to be enjoying its well deserved rest. I think it will stay in this position, it looks right, but you cannot be sure of the future ...
In an earlier post I wrote how I took out lots of opium poppies. But I left them in the front garden, never want to be completely without them ...
This climbing rose and I have been together for a long time - at least 25 years. Some years it is covered with aphids. A couple of years ago I hacked it back a lot. As you can see, it didn't mind in the least. It is an old fashioned rose, and I cannot remember its name.
This is called a chocolate lily. It is a bulb, disappears before the heat of summer and returns the following spring. It is an Australian native, so called because it has a chocolatey perfume. It reminds me of the delicate orchids I have seen while bushwalking. Its botanical name is Arthropodium strictus. I planted it about ten years ago.