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Delight and Things

a little peek at what delights me

Category Archives: in the garden

This time last year I was visiting a friend in Sydney. One morning I received a photo via text message from my guy at home with the accompanying text “look! a flower!” (or something along those lines – I’ll admit, I don’t remember the exact words). It was a strange red flower that was poking out of the earth, with no leaves.

I was intrigued. I asked him if he knew what it was, and he replied that he did not, it had just started growing at the edge of the yard.

“And there are no leaves?”

“It doesn’t seem so.”

Hmm. And then when I got home two weeks later the flowers had wilted and died off. But the crazy part was, there were green leaves coming up now, thick and waxy ones which reminded me of a tulip or an amaryllis. The leaves remained for autumn, winter, and most of spring, until it started getting really hot. Then it died back.

This year when we saw the shock of red coming up through the straw mulch (I created a garden bed around the area it bloomed last year) my curiosity could no longer handle it. Cue Google.

Ahhhh the power of Google. It seems I’ve got a Blood Lily (Haemanthus) growing happily in my yard, obviously put in by the previous owners, and managing to survive without any proper care while no one occupied the house. Apparently it’s originally a South African bulb.

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This year’s blood lily. You can see that although there’s a few weeds around the base of it, it’s simply a stem shooting up out of the ground.

Anyway, I just thought I’d share my delight in the fact that despite us even knowing it was there, it came up to grace us with it’s presence in my garden. And it kicks all norms to the curb by flowering before producing leaves. Nature’s cool.

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I didn’t want to believe it. But there’s no denying this:

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Curious, I checked out the info on the summer photo, thinking I took it ages ago. Not so. It was only 20 days ago.

20 days. That’s the difference 20 days makes. Imagine it in another 20.

All of my friends and family back in Canada are currently getting excited at green shoots poking through melting snow. That fact coupled with my ivy photo gives me the irrational urge to throw all of my plans out the window, jump on a plane, and fly over to the Northern hemisphere to join them in their enthusiasm for all things spring.

Don’t get me wrong – I love autumn. It’s especially nice here, when we’re getting the odd spot of rain to help things green up a bit, and the temperatures have cooled down from the 40s so I can get out and enjoy running again. The dark mornings mean my boyfriend sleeps in till 7 (believe me, that’s a sleep in in our neck of the woods) but it’s still light long enough in the afternoon to get out and enjoy the evening. It’s the time when the boys are getting tractors and land ready for seeding, and ewes are getting fat in preparation for lambing. But it’s also the harbinger of winter, which means dark mornings and dark evenings, cold toes and noses, and frosts doing their best to damage my winter veggies. Which makes me anxious.

I know I should just embrace winter. Find some things I love about it. And I will try – but for a little while longer I’ll grasp on to the last remnants of summer and attempt to just enjoy the nice things that autumn has to offer. Starting with a pretty photo of the ivy displaying it’s new outfit.

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When we read the weather forecast was calling for sunny and hot this past week, we packed the car and checked over Jamie’s dad’s boat and the three of us got in the ute and drove over to Smoky Bay for some fishing. It was so nice to have some time to chill out at on the boat, catch some beautiful fish, hang around playing cards, drink an ice cold beer after the heat and stink of cleaning the fish, and sleep under the stars.

But I’m not kidding when I said it was sunny and hot. With the boat we were lucky because we could get out far enough in the water that you’d catch a cool breeze rather than a hot one. But you couldn’t find an ounce of relief during the day on land – it was 45 where we were. And that’s on the coast. At home it was 50. Degrees. Celsius.

I’m Canadian. 50 degrees Celsius is something we imagine. That’s hotter than the thermostat goes. I didn’t think it possible to actually reach 50 degrees naturally, outdoors. The only way I can describe it is that it felt like the giant from Jack and Beanstalk was blow drying his hair with a giant-sized blow dryer up in the sky and accidentally dropped it. (At least our hair is frizz free…)

So needless to say, with me being away, my veggie patch is no more. I had set up a water dripper system not long ago but when Jamie’s mom dropped by the day after we left it wasn’t doing anything. It may be our gravity fed water pressure, or perhaps the heat simply melted the holes shut… I don’t know.

I came home to pre-roasted beetroots and carrots – at least dinner was ready without needing to turn the oven on. My flourishing zucchini plant was practically a pile of ashes, my beans and peas dry, crispy stalks. And all this through the shade cloth. The only thing that survived was the tomatoes which are situated in a shadier spot and were watered by Jamie’s mom who was nice enough to drop by morning and night to tend to them. (She’d called me at the beach and asked me if she should go over and water – I told her it was too huge a job and to simply save the tomatoes). I rescued one kale plant that miraculously had a single tiny green leaf on it – we’ll see how it fares inside over the next few days.

So. Lesson learned. Don’t go on vacation when it’s 50 degrees.

Ah well. I’ll plant my favourites again inside and try to sort out a better solution for outside. Hopefully it doesn’t reach 50 again any time soon.

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As I struggle along with trying to make my backyard look loved, I’m developing a fixation with succulents. It first started when I was wandering around behind one of the sheds the other day in a search for something I’ve forgotten (pretty rocks? good soil I could steal for use elsewhere? antique farming equipment that seems to make its home in random piles on the property?) and I found a lovely ‘secret garden’ around an old tank stand. I totally did feel like that little girl from the secret garden – it felt like a beautiful living surprise and I was just in awe that it was surviving, no, thriving without any attention at all!

Then, the giant green spiky plants that line our driveway and have always reminded me of something Dr. Seuss would have imagined burst into flower. Tall, red clusters of lipstick red blooms. They’re locally known as “red hot pokers”. I was simply delighted that the dry dusty driveway suddenly looked taken care of and welcoming.

They were succulents. Big, rubbery lime green leaves. Patterns and textures in abundance. Beautifully delicate bell shaped flowers in coral colours. Purples and greens and near-blues. Variegation. Polka dots. Bright red fading to yellow fading to green. They looked alien yet beautiful. And hassle free? Sign me up! They are perfect for drought-prone climates like the one I’m living in because of their ability to store water in their leaves.

Shortly after, I was lucky enough to receive a bunch of succulent cuttings from a friend, and she assured me that I could practically just throw them places and they would grow without me even thinking about them. They’ve been in about a month now, and sure enough, they are rooting into the dryest, most water-repellent soil I could possibly imagine. Score! They’re even forming tiny new leaves.

All of this got me thinking about the possibilities of gardening with succulents. I can’t wait for my succulents to grow enough to take more cuttings from them and plant them in new spots! I’m already planning the colour/pattern/shape combinations that could happen in the most sunbaked areas of the garden. I’ll share a few snaps of some of the things my yard already has growing in it.

what's in my garden

red hot pokers

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As you know, I come from a ski resort. But I am not a winter fan. And unfortunately, it’s officially winter here now – although I can’t complain too much because I’ve yet to have snow coming in over the tops of my boots or to scrape the ice off the windsheild before starting the ute up in the morning. Bonus! Although it can get a bit fresh here and I do like to light the fire the second we get home from work and I did have to purchase a column heater for our bedroom, it’s not too bad in the grand scheme of winter.

A funny thing that I’m discovering here is that things in the garden are growing! What? In winter!? Because we’ve been getting a little bit of rain, things are sprouting and the bulbs are coming up (although randomly, in the middle of the lawn… odd planting practices by the previous inhabitants of the house I suppose) and the rose bushes are growing tiny new branches. I have to admit I really want to give the garden some tender loving care so it can at least take the eye away from the industrial decoration which is the tanks and the pipes and the clothesline, buuuuuut I’m at a bit of a loss as to what I’m supposed to be doing because at home, nothing grows in winter. Nothing. Thank goodness for the internet and for wise friends!

I’ve planted a small veggie patch in which I’ve put some winter veggies: cauliflower, beetroot, broccoli, silverbeet, and carrots, but the seeds are slow to sprout and I’m unsure whether it’s the soil, the temperature, or my lack of experience in sowing. Probably a combination of all three. After getting frustrated, I started some seedlings inside and they seem to be doing alright, so hopefully in a few weeks they’ll establish a big enough root system that I can transplant them.

Luckily, I’ve found this handy sowing guide for Australia that will hopefully give me a bit of help in keeping my garden going. For those Canadian friends who are reading this, I offer you no support. You have it easy, with a clearly defined growing season, ample precipitation, and a non-frying sun. But I do wish you the best for your summer veggies which should be growing nicely in the sun at home right this very minute.

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