Spring has sprung for some

Fellow gardener and bush walker N offered the following:

The spring is sprung, the grass is riz

I wonder where the boidie is.

They say the boidie’s on the wing

But that’s absoid. The wing is on the bird.’

N went on to say: ‘I recall last year at the RTBG that the almond tree flowered in the middle of the month to be shortly followed by the apricot. So imagine my surprise when this week the first tulip made an appearance at ours. The tulip came from the RTBG but I am not sure of the variety as there was no tag but we’ve 5 buds this time around so my decision to leave it to its own devices has paid dividends.’

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And then there was blossom blossoming as well at N’s place – and this photo was taken in mid-July!

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Significant change is on the way with new growth in our gardens.

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The capeweed expansion- part 2 of 2

As I walked from the Warrane Community Garden I now noticed massive spreads of Capeweed (Arctotheca calendula) on the footpath verges along Heemskirk St. When I looked at front lawns, clearly they were all infested with this weed – lovely and green, but taking over so that the lawn grass wasn’t getting a chance.

I continued through the streets and now, everywhere I looked, this invasive weed was in all gardens one way or another, and always in the grassy verges next to where I walked.

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Considering the volume of Capeweed plants in the neighbourhood, I considered that it must be growing in my lawn and/or garden and wondered why I hadn’t noticed it. As I walked along my street, all my neighbours had Capeweed plants. The further away from the Warrane Community Garden the fewer numbers of weeds, nevertheless they were everywhere. I made a mental note to encourage my direct neighbours to ensure they didn’t flower, and that if they did, then to cut/chop off the flower as quickly as possible.

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At home I studied every nook and cranny in my garden and looked closely at my patch of lawn. Nothing. Not one Capeweed plant. How extraordinary. How fortunate. May it continue so!

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The capeweed expansion- part 1 of 2

Capeweed’s botanical name is Arctotheca calendula; the plant is also known as Cape Daisy Weed, Cape Dandelion – native of South Africa.

Last month gardening friend K told me:

‘You will notice a lot of Capeweed at the garden if you make it there. I have been noticing it all over the neighbourhood and beyond this year in places I have never seen it before (That and another oxalis!). My hort. teacher told us he had been to a rural property that had Capeweeds over a metre or more in diameter! Not hard to imagine once you see some of  the larger ones at the Warrane Garden.’

I found this fascinating because Capeweeds were not on my radar. Being curious, I walked to Warrane’s Community Garden in Heemskirk street to see this proliferating weed and was stunned by the scale of the ‘invasion’.

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On my previous visit it had been the Mallow weed which featured, but while there was some Mallow growing, it was working hard to make its way through the soil-covering Capeweed.

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Herbiguide provides the following information ‘Capeweed is an autumn/winter germinating, stemless, rosette forming annual herb with broad, deeply lobed, succulent, leaves 30-250 mm long that have white furry hairs underneath and form a dense rosette. Yellow petalled daisy flowers about 40 mm diameter with a black to brown centre appear in spring on individual 200 mm stalks. The tiny woolly fruits are topped by minute scales. It is a common weed of pastures, crops and roadsides, but also quite common in disturbed bushland. Grows rapidly in warm temperatures often smothering companion plants in early winter. Flowers late-winter/spring. Dies off with onset of summer.’

Apparently Capeweeds like sandy soils but where much of these plants/weeds are growing in the Community Garden, the soil is rich with humus. The Kitchen Garden Foundation reports the presence of Capeweed can indicate the soil lacks calcium and magnesium. I wonder if a soil test has been undertaken.

Long term blog followers know I am interested in weeds as food. Is Capeweed edible? According to the ‘talkingplants’ blog. ‘While it can be eaten by stock, young plants may poison and a high intake will taint milk. Sadly you can’t eat it: Capeweed is generally considered a poor and potentially disagreeable food for humans.’ I will take that as a NO answer.

If you have Capeweed growing in your lawn or garden then the ‘green life soil’ site explains how to naturally get rid of Capeweed. But remember that this weed dies off in summer – just make sure it’s flowers don’t turn to seed first or you can be sure the spread of this weed will continue.

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Mt Montagu via Thark Ridge

Intrepid walker N headed off into Wellington Park recently for a walk that was 13.88kms in distance and took 5 hours and 39 mins. His evocative photographs show a range of weather and indicate how beautiful this landscape is up close as well as well as when panoramic views are visible, regardless of whether the sun is out or not. We are lucky to be given a view towards the Huon Valley south of Hobart.

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He told me:

‘This walk had been on our list for some time but the pinnacle road is often closed at this time of year and we didn’t fancy adding an extra 10kms from and to the Springs with a 13-14km return trip through to Mt Montagu.

The walk can be attempted from a variety of other avenues which we’d semi-explored and we were aware that the track was overgrown in patches and could also be confusing through some of the boulder fields – not to mention the below freezing conditions.

We set off from the Big Bend Car park around 7am and were a bit disappointed to see several other cars already parked there though we should not have worried as we only met one other couple 2kms from the end. The track was a little difficult to find in the dark but it is signed – just several metres back from the road along with warnings regards weather, etc.

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There was a heavy fog as we set off into the fresh conditions for Thark Ridge. Even as the light improved the visibility was very limited and there was little in the way of views until we started descending towards Mt Montagu. The walking wasn’t as tiring initially as some others we’d done though you are constantly picking your way through a fairly rocky trail with some substantial patches of ice that had to be skirted. There were a couple of Torvil and Dean moments, with none of the grace those two possessed, with my knee and backside both getting close up views of the local flora.

The descent becomes more technical and mazy through significant boulders which we found relatively easy to follow on the way in but harder to see the way on the ascent back with the sun in our eyes when we had to backtrack a couple of times.

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After this technical piece you come out on to a fire trail which was, as advertised, fairly overgrown which reminded us of our experience at Wellington Falls a few weeks back with the brush in places at chest height so it was difficult to see your feet. There was less ice here but still quite wet. After a while we came upon a sign indicating the track to Wellington Falls (1.5 kms). Upon checking the GPS we realised that we were only 100 meters shy of this junction on our Wellington Falls jaunt but the overgrown nature of the track deterred us at the time.

Finally we reached the start of the track to Mt Montagu which is well signed and advised just 600 metres to the summit – “Too easy” we thought to ourselves as we tucked into a couple of wedges of rum & raisin and a quick drink. It’s a steep ascent with a bit of scrambling – some large and exposed sheets of rock that were in places wet and/or icy. A bit more Disney on ice from me and lots of huffing and puffing and we hit the summit. By this stage it was a beautiful clear day and though we’d been stripping off on the way up we were quickly looking for something warm as the wind was biting. It had taken us 2 hrs 40 mins which was slightly less than the advertised time of 3 hours but we’re semi-fit and not yet on Zimmer frames so we expected nothing less.

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After some more refreshments we set off on the return journey. It’s one of those walks that feels a lot greater distance on the return and certainly the trip back through the overgrown Fire trail and up through the boulder labyrinth with a couple of backtracks left us knowing we were on a decent walk.

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Even once you’re back up on the mountain plateau there’s still a distance to the car and the wind on Thark Ridge was unkind to exposed flesh. The track doesn’t lend itself to fast walking as you’re always picking your way and/or boulder hopping for a large portion of the walk and we were pleased to see that “bloody” broadcast tower which at times seemed closer than the car park which we felt for sure had been moved down to the Springs.

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There were cries of joy at the sight of the car park which was a testament to the challenging nature of the walk. Probably not quite as taxing in mind and body as the Fern Tree, Potato Fields/Icehouse Track loop but certainly we were glad we didn’t have to then walk home.’

What a fabulous report of a fabulous walk in a fabulous part of Tasmania;  all from so close to Hobart! Great job N and thanks for sending me your story and the glorious photos! Your last report attracted lots of blog attention and I have no doubt this one will also.

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My Hardenbergia

When this blog recently showed some of the native plants in S’s garden, I remembered I was growing a Hardenbergia violaceae at the bottom of my garden. Years ago I planted it at a tea tree fence edge and hoped it would climb. Climb it did. Slowly. Over the fence and around the nearby camellia bushes, but not invasively nor did the Hardenbergia strangle the other plants. Rather it twines a little then lays itself gently and lightly. All plants continue to thrive without any attention from me – even regular and timely watering in summer is something which may be absent, and the plants go on.

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The flowers are stunning.

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I wonder what winter flowering native plants you are growing.

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Creating a bird attracting garden

Friends S and K have been hard at work near the South Hobart area reworking part of their expansive garden, in order to create a happy space for birds to visit. ‘The first image is looking towards the granny flat in the background. The other pic is taken from the granny flat down towards the street.’

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S told me ‘I don’t think I can remember all plants we have taken out but definitely a few Red hot pokers, a tree dahlia, quite a few grapevines which weren’t doing well on the eastern side of the house and a tree with beautiful blue trumpet like flowers which smelled terrible.

New plants that went in are Correa alba and reflexa; Callistemon viridiflorus; Kings Park Special; Acacia cognata; Leptospermum varieties Copper Glow, Pink Cascade, Julie Ann and Mesmer Eyes; Micrantheum; Lomandras and grasses; Sandflowers; Kangaroo Paws and the Hardenbergia to cover the outdoor shower ( yes, we have hot water!). And a few more…

Someone mentioned once to me you should always over plant as not all plants will survive. Well, apart from some plants growing slowly and maybe not exactly thriving, touch wood they have all survived so far. It’s been a challenge to get a few taller shrubs growing along the fence line due to the neighbour’s big established trees. The first plants went in around August 2018. The Acacia turned out to be a lot taller than we expected and was very slow growing initially. We are unsure if the drainage pipe from the outdoor shower that runs past might have helped it along.’

Since their hard work, the transformation is magnificent.

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The revamped garden is on the eastern side of our house and ‘we turned the old part with grass and lots of weeds into a native bird attracting garden.’ The photo above was taken in the early establishment days. Below you can see the profusion and healthy advancement of the plants as time has passed. S says ‘And this is the latest picture. Same angle as the first picture. It wasn’t worth taking a shot from the top perspective as all you can see is the Acacia!’

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I love the look of this wonderful achievement. But undoubtedly the birds have the greatest win. These trees and bushes provide wonderful safe habitats for them to flit within. In addition, the nuts and seeds are a source of food, as are the insects that live in and around these plants. Great job S and K!

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Leafless trees in Hobart

Early one morning, while I waited for a bus at Hobart’s GPO corner, I stood looking at the scenery: a natural landscape of denuded deciduous trees. This provided a rare opportunity (these days I seldom go into the city despite it being only 10 minutes from home) to stand and look at the shape of the architecture of buildings which would otherwise be less visible.

Two main vintages presented themselves; two substantial buildings from the 19th century and one from the twentieth.

Across the street from the GPO corner, Hobart’s Town Hall takes up most of one city block. Substantially constructed in massive sandstone blocks, this edifice has been in service since 1866. It was designed in the Victorian Italianate style typical of many buildings of that era.

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Diagonally opposite where I stood, the small park with general community access is known as Franklin Square. Through the bare trees in the distance at one end of the Square I could see the 1824 Treasury building.

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Down the hill and standing one block before the wharf and Derwent river, stands a white building designed in the art deco style. Older locals know it as the ‘Hydro’ building. These days this sturdy but dramatic building houses the offices of the Hobart City Council.

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In the coming weeks the buds will form and the trees will leaf up yet again to partly hide these buildings from view.

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Scribbles on gum bark

Friend K sent me a photo of scribbles on pieces of bark from a gum tree when she walked in Tasmania’s central highlands. She says, ‘I find it fascinating (I also noticed it last year when I visited the Glasshouse Mountains in QLD too).’ Then asks, ‘Do you know anything about these? The interesting thing is that the patterns are not mirrored on front and back even though there are often scribbles present on both sides of the bark. I can’t remember if I looked up how this happens but maybe there is an interesting article about how this occurs somewhere?

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Whenever I see this decorative work in the bush I always stop to look more closely. It seems magical as if the bush has hands and drawing implements and has learnt to draw.

You can find this ‘writing’ on our native Scribbly Gum (Eucalyptus haemastoma). The Australian Geographic explains ‘Far better than any artwork from the abstract expressionism movement, our native scribbly gum moths have been making a canvas out of eucalyptus trees for millions of years.’ It is the larvae of the Ogmograptis scribula moth that feeds on the hind bark, moves around and leaves a trail. When the bark peels away in later years, it reveals the zig-zag tracks made by the caterpillar as it fed.

This website reminds us that scribbled bark has fascinated Australians for a long while. ‘The author of the Snugglepot and Cuddlepie books, May Gibbs, made them a feature of the gumnut babies’ world, and the great Australian poet Judith Wright cemented their place in literary culture with her 1955 poem Scribbly Gum .’

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The good and the bad of growing broad beans

Regularly over the years I have sown broad beans and harvested a nice little crop sufficient to freeze some for later eating.  But I missed the past couple of years. Not to be deterred and with a goodly quantity of old seeds, I limed the ground and popped in the seeds (some I soaked in advance but most went straight into the ground). I wished and hoped and wished some more that these old bean seeds would still want to grow.  After nearly four months the result at the back of my house amounts to three plants up but looking sad and not thriving. The nearby self-sown oats, and the potatoes from kitchen scraps laid under the mulch, are doing better.

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Out the front of my house many more broad bean seeds germinated but they seem locked in a time warp and haven’t moved upwards for weeks.

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I almost hate online sites that tell me ‘broad beans grow like crazy over the winter months’!   Yes I know I know I know – mine were old seeds.  But …

Meanwhile I have talked with friends who grow their own. C is not happy with hers, despite them looking higher and stronger than mine, and puts the problem down to the loss of afternoon sun because of the shade provided by an increasingly higher natural fence nearby.

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F’s broad beans are the best of the bunch and seem to be on their way.

Broad beans

 

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Pickled green walnuts

Long term blog followers will have read my attempts with preserving freshly shelled walnuts (as dry nuts) here and here. In those posts I indicated I was aware that traditionally green walnuts are pickled,  but I hadn’t known this when I set my mind to pickling. Recently I had the pleasure of enjoying some home-pickled green walnuts.

The orbs of soft shelled walnuts stood glistening in a jar of clear coca-cola coloured water.

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One was drawn out from the liquid and cut in half.

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In the photo above you can see the flanged folds of the walnut fallen out from its outer coatings. Clearly everything looked soft so I set about tasting.

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What I learnt was that the very thin ‘shell’ could be chewed and swallowed, but it was not really soft enough to be pleasant. In future I expect I will scrape out all the ‘meat’ from within these outer coatings and only eat that filling.

I started with the ‘nut’ portion and it dissolved in my mouth and slipped away. Terrific. I went back for the soft gooey interior that had surrounded the nut. Mushy and softly pickled. A total delight.

Pickling green walnuts later this year will now definitely be something I want to do – so offload your spare green walnuts here please!

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