Evolution of spring

This blog post chronicles changes in my fruit trees, including the emergence of blossom and the growth of new leaves from the end of August until mid-October, a period of almost seven weeks.

In the last week of August, the pink blossom of my neighbour’s prunus tree was in its last stages. Vaguely I could discern bumps of potential blossom on my red plum tree immediately below my balcony, but other trees still appeared dormant.

Then in the first week of September, the first glorious white blossoms opened on my red plum tree.

A day later even more blossoms were showing. Change was rapid.

Six days later I could see, slightly below and to the right of the red plum tree,  a slight greening of bumps on the greengage tree indicating blossoms would appear soon.

Three days later the greengage tree was alight with flowers.

Two days later the density of flowers on both red plum and greengage tree was thicker.

At mid-September, the sight was glorious.

On the 20th September the greening buds on the silver birch were clear, and I looked forward to the time when the tree was fully leafed and my view of the neighbour’s angular house would be softened.

On the 22nd September the greening of the silver birch continued and the blossoms on the red plum tree were beginning to drop leaving the fruit to begin to expand.

In the early morning of the 26th September, with snow on kunanyi (Mt Wellington), the blossoms continued to sparkle, and more leaves were appearing on the red plum tree to give some protection for the fruit.

By the 28th September many leaves had established themselves on the silver birch and the red plum tree.

The changes in my view on the 2nd October were as follows:

Close by, I noted my cherry tree was in flower.

On the 6th October, the cherry blossom is clearly visible on the lower right of the next photo, while the greengage tree is losing its blossom and gaining new leaves.  The silver birch is flush with green leaves.

By the 11th my view was a sea of green, and this richness continued to be the situation on the 15th as I write.

When I examined the fruit trees I was delighted to see the plump new growth of the fruits. The markers of the evolution of spring in my garden are easy reminders that our world never stays the same. What a joy that is!

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Accidental successes are what I dream of, hope for, and almost come to expect.  I was given a few brassica seedlings but was unaware two were cauliflowers. Needless to say I was delighted when tiny white heads emerged and then grew.  Grew with minimal attention from me except occasional watering. How fortunate.

I should have picked them earlier, before their heads began to separate, nevertheless each gave me tasty meals, so that I am inspired to deliberately plant these vegetables next year.

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RTBG on Thursday 23rd September 2021

Our volunteering efforts in the Food Garden at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens (RTBG) last Thursday created clear beds ready for planting in the coming weeks.  Dutifully we weeded, then dug garden beds. 

Then we began the never ending task of lifting the flick weed, occasional onion weed and the clever vetch with its blades in the air so ‘now you see it and now you don’t’, in the fruit orchard.

The beauty of the plump blossom buds on the apples and quinces were the highlight of the day.

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RTBG Thursday 16th September 2021

A glorious blue sky golden sunshine day in springtime Tasmania!  We basked in the warmth and weeding became a joy, as our team of volunteer worked away companionably in the Food Garden of the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens (RTBG).

The garlic patches needed a great deal of attention and, over the hours, we methodically cleared those pesty plants that wanted to use up the goodness of the soil and deplete the resources needed by the garlic.

We all felt a great deal of satisfaction when one bed was cleared.

After our lunch break with wandering magpies showing an interest in our food, we tackled the weeds in the second large bed.

Later I wandered around the remainder of the Food Garden to check on progress. I was particularly attracted to a bed with three different vegetables:the large leafed Kale topped turnip, the frilly mustard and the dark leaved lettuce. It was a great reminder to mix up plants in a bed.

Then I walked to the orchard where some fruit trees have yet to blossom, some have finished blossoming and are now leafing up, while others are glorious in their blossom. A swag of trees seemed dormant. The apple arbor is leafless but, on close inspection, fleshy buds are about to burst open any moment.

The European Corella Pear trees, espaliered near the convict brick wall, were full of flowers being serviced by buzzing bees.

In one bed, cabbages were beset by destructive insects, whereas elsewhere healthy untouched specimens were growing grandly.

The Boysenberry was in flower and early fruits were forming on other parts of the canes.

The abundance. The fresh growth. The health. All combined with clean fresh air and happy visitors, made RTBG’s Food Garden a delight and a must visit location – if you can.

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Thursday 26th August 2021 at RTBG

Yesterday I spent a modest amount of time at the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens (RTBG) weeding before being defeated by the inclemency of the day; the drizzle and the penetrating cold dampness of the air.

Janet and Meg did the hard yards chopping down aged tamarillo trees, weeding and then covering many square metres with what looked like ‘good enough to eat’ rich brown compost.

Meanwhile Adam covered a lot of territory burning off tiny new spring weeds.

If I could have l stayed the distance, Adam had planned to show me how to prune the olive trees. Some were already nipped and the following photos show the simplicity of his process, and how minimal has been the attention given to those already pruned.

I made time to wander around the Food Garden and loved seeing the thickening buds on bushes and new blossom on some plum and pear trees, and was resignedly aghast at how many silver beets, mustard and brassica plants has been nibbled by marauding wallabies.

How many times have I photographed the Food Garden with stunning blue skies and the vegetation sparkling under a bright sun?  The following photos shows the Garden yesterday in a different and brooding gloomy light.

Despite the colour of the day, many plants showed exciting growth. The Kangaroo Apple bush (Solanum aviculare) looked spectacular with its glossy green leaves and brilliant yellow fruits.

Some mustards, kale topped turnips and silver beets were flourishing.

The silvery leaves  and the fleshy flowers of the artichokes continue to attract attention.

Two types of garlic presented their different leaf shoots. The first of the following photos shows the Dunganski variety and the second shows the Lokalen

The loveliest aspect of yesterday’s garden were the multitude of flowering hellebores beneath the large spreading deciduous trees.

Other plants in flower included the following.

Clearly, regardless of season or weather, there is much to enjoy in the RTBG Food Garden – and elsewhere across the acres of gardens that make up the expanse of the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens. Yesterday many visitors, kitted in beanies and gloves and warming jackets, wandered and marvelled.

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Six ways trees improve our lives

In addition to writing blog posts, I read those of others – selectively. For years now I have followed the blog of Mark Miles. One of his recent posts attracted my attention especially, and I am delighted to give you the link so you can read it for yourself. Read here.  His colourful photos are a bonus.

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I love looking at, cooking and eating mushrooms. Always have. One year, a long time ago when I lived in humid Queensland, I purchased a box of ungerminated button mushrooms, stored them under the house and waited and watched. Before long the crop began, and they multiplied daily at a rate that led to a great deal of waste. These were days before I thought of drying or preserving the mushrooms by other means. 

Fast forward and now in Tasmania, I ordered a box ready to grow Oyster mushrooms. They delivered grandly.

Seeing these photos inspires me to buy another block of inseminated mushroom spores. The mushroom seller at the Bathurst Street Farm Gate Market on Sunday mornings, sells such blocks and it may be time for me to relieve her of one block!

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Sculpture for the garden

Some people like to scatter gnomes and other figurines around their garden. I would rather add in life-size native animal or bird look-a-likes. To that end I have collected a metal wallaby, a few chooks, magpies and a robin (which inspired an excited neighbour to phone and tell me I had a real one resting on my fence top).

Thanks to friend Helen I learnt about a metal sculptor, who welds garden structures and other objects, in a nearby suburb. I agreed to visit one day. She had previously purchased a wonderful birdbath but, nevertheless, I must confess my advance prejudice was that metal sculpture for gardens is often banal and kitschy and that those on offer would not be to my taste at all. The reverse was the case. While there were some pieces that were not to my liking, I wanted to take home so much of what I saw. Creativity. Talent. Superb Workmanship. Clever crafting.  Beautiful shapes. Some functional. Some decorative. Quirky on occasion. Tiny. Huge – on a scale where forklifts and trucks would be required to take the object away. All were on display outside the sculptor’s home at Sandford, a tiny settlement past Lauderdale on the way to Clifton Beach and Opossum Bay. 

Artist, Peter Hodoniczky has to be congratulated.  He simply loves working with metal and he loves welding. Thankfully he has the artist’s eye so the scale and forms are a pleasure to behold. Everything is a one off depending on the metal he has, and how it can be worked.

Below are a few photographs which don’t give the scale and don’t do the forms justice. Seeing the three dimensional images on a photo, away from the sense you get when seeing them in the landscape, may make them difficult to appreciate. 

I restrained myself and came away with a rusty metal bird that now hangs from beneath my balcony and seems in flight, and a substantial birdbath with an antique bowl from which the real birds can drink.

Over summer the birds and bees in my garden will be happy to have clean fresh water to drink.

For people living around Hobart I recommend you phone in advance to let Peter know when you are coming, then drive out and have a look. Just the looking is a terrific experience even if you don’t want to buy. I found there was no pressure to make a purchase. In fact, Peter simply continued in his workshop creating another new piece. He was as delighted as I when I bought a piece, in such a way that I could see he had no expectations. Please note he did not have a credit card option when I visited; I could pay by cash or make an internet bank transfer of funds.

Peter’s Facebook site and a website offer more photos and information.

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Rain and frost

Rain and frost are aspects of weather known to most. For the past two decades, while I’ve lived in Bellerive, I have seen an average of two minor frosts each year. Only occasional rain has fallen in all seasons, but never for more than three days in a row. Typically my soil has stayed dry below one centimetre all year. So 2021 has been surprising. 

Despite living on a moderate slope, the ground throughout my garden is deeply wet. Good, you think? My self-sown potatoes don’t agree.  They are showing signs of having a tough time and it’s not only the wetness that is bothering them.

When my kitchen vegetable scrap bucket is full, typically I take it out and deposit the contents beneath leaf litter, straw, mulch or I dig it under the soil and leave to disintegrate and give nutrients to the soil. The process works well and over the years the nature of the soil has been much improved across all parts of the garden. When preparing a meal,  If I have potatoes with some green skin I cut off those sections and, it is these, which get recycled back under the mulch and then sprout and give me new unexpected crops in odd places. Despite the risks of introducing disease by this method of growing potatoes, mine have always survived, been robust, healthy and most tasty. Routinely potatoes are not planted all year around where frosts are expected. From my past experience here, the frosts here have been so moderate and so quickly dispersed I have never given them a thought in relation to potatoes. But this year I learnt something new when my garden was frozen white on too many mornings and super cold for too much of the day.

Last month when I ventured around the garden, I was stunned to see so many yellow leaved potatoes. Ahhhh ‘what is this’ I wondered. Then I thought a little, and realised the frost had affected the newer leaves.

I am delighted to say, the leaves were not blackened nor did they die. The great news is that potatoes are resilient. A couple of weeks on, all their leaves are again green, and the plants are flourishing.  What effect it will have on the size and nature of the actual potato is yet to be seen.

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RTBG Thursday 5th August 2021

Dormancy over winter affects many plants and we must always wait for the weather to warm to lift them out of hibernation. During the past week or so in Hobart we have been treated to a few 15 and 16 degree days with sunshine so that the soil has started to warm – marginally – but it is happening. The result is that spring weeds are beginning to ‘green’ the soils and need some pulling or raking before they establish deep roots. For the moment, I leave mine resting on the soil in order for them to rot and let any nutrients to return to the soil. At the Royal Tasmanian Botanical Gardens (RTBG) in the Food Garden, the weeds are plucked, roots and all, and thrown into the hot compost bins. Yesterday, it was such business as normal.

Thanks to Pam for her photos we can see that the ground in the orchard, near the yet to bloom pear trees and others, is being carefully denuded of those unwanted plants – what are, for this garden, weeds. In the foreground garden bed shown below, the vegetation is high enough in summer for wallabies to hide and sleep in for the day. But as winter closes, the patch is almost bare.

Over the bed containing rosemary bushes and olive trees a new nourishing layer of mulch was added.  See the rich chocolaty colour of that health giving compost in the following photo.

When I see blossom, typically I say to myself ‘Spring has sprung’ regardless of the date on the calendar. Yet I realise some of my readers are now progressing towards Autumn, or for the North American readers, to Fall.  While the colour of leaves may be turning in the northern hemisphere, lush greenness is on its way here in the southernmost part of Australia. And blossom. Glorious blossom.

When I see the last leaves on a neighbour’s late leaf dropping Liquid Amber and the fresh pink blossom on a plum tree next door at the same time, I whoop with pleasure. Despite being many months off, I feel summer is on its way: well at least winter is almost over. Elsewhere around Hobart, fresh flowers are appearing on a number of fruit and nut trees.  And spring bulbs are rioting with the yellows and whites and peach colours.

In the Food Garden at RTBG, the almond tree is blossoming.  Making a wonderful spectacle of itself.

Now, fingers and toes must be crossed. Please – send no winds to blow the flowers away before they are pollinated and the fruits start to form.

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