Wednesday, 15 October 2014


We're roughly half-way through Spring in the Southern Hemisphere and my garden is a veritable smorgasbord for bees. It’s stunning. And with the future for bees so uncertain (see here and here), it’s nice to know that I’m doing my little bit to help their (and our) survival.

At the front of my house, lavender bushes are covered in purple blooms that kids walking by pick every day. Daisies bounce in the breeze. Wisteria cascades over the walkway above our front door in delicate lilac waves, its musky scent almost overpowering every time you walk past. When I open the windows in the front lounge room, the sweet jasmine perfume rushes in with the warm air. The jasmine outside the windows is smothered in fragile pink and white stars that only last a couple of days before browning and being replaced by new ones. Roses seem to grow another inch of glossy green leaves every day and their new buds are pushing through the foliage. And my boy’s pride and joy, his weeping cherry, has a dozen or so new white blossoms on the ends of its otherwise still-bare branches.

In my backyard, the rosemary hedges have sprouted groups of tiny pinky purple petals that look a little like orchids. These flowers always surprise me and make me smile, because I never equate rosemary with flowers, but more its tough, sticky leaves that go so well with roast potatoes and pumpkin. Herbs that went dormant over winter, like horseradish, echinacea, bergamot and burdock, have started poking up through the mulch. This also makes me happy – I hate the thought of losing any plant.

Calendula offers sunshine with its bobbing bright yellow and orange flowers. Lemon balm – a weed in my garden, but my favourite herb – promises long stems of tiny white flowers of which bees are particularly fond. Thymes and savouries are topped with layers of tiny pink and purple flowers.

My garden is plagued with violets. Some are tiny seedlings with leaves smaller than the nail on my pinky finger, and others are almost knee-high, their roots and shoots thick and strangling nearby plants. Parsley, borage and mullein have self-seeded in the most unfortunate places, like the crack between the path and shed. I’m not sure how their roots will take hold enough to support them. After-dinner mint has burst its rocky boundary and taken up residence in the grass. Pineapple sage, covered in bright red, cylindrical flowers, continues spreading through the ground next to the shed, no matter how often I uproot its feelers. And this year, cat nip has successfully taken on cat mint, no longer struggling in its shadow, but growing strong with thick foliage of tiny leaves and long stems of blue flowers falling over the path and ledge. Despite this gallant effort, our cat Indi has taken to lying in the middle of it, sleeping off her post-cat mint high, leaving the poor cat nip deflated in the middle and bushy around the edges.

I’m not quite sure where I’ll plant my summer vegetable crops, with the winter and spring crops still going strong and little space left in the garden. Silverbeet, kale and salad greens have filled two temporary veggie plots to bursting – a feast for the lucky snails. Snow peas and broad beans are in full bloom, with baby peas and beans already starting to weigh down their stems. Beetroot, radish, leeks and onions persist despite my lack of watering. The garlic will soon be ready for harvesting, its shoots starting to wither.

Some of the raspberry canes are already showing signs of another bumper crop, with white flowers peeping between the leaves. Raspberry and loganberry runners have again spread through the garden, and I’ll have to pull them out before they take over again. The neglected lemon and lime trees are budding nicely – and in need of a trim and fertilliser.

The lawn and its weeds are flourishing. It is thick and green and scattered with daisies and dandelions and ribwort. It now needs fortnightly haircuts – although this won’t last long once the warmer weather hits and it dries brown again.

And it’s not just bees that love my blossoming garden. Magpies, minah birds and blackbirds perch on the edge of my hanging baskets and pull out threads from their coconut fibre lining to use to make their nests. These birds also snack on the leftover cat food and bread I leave out for them (and the neighbours’ cat). Kookaburras are the only birds who stand up to the minahs, laughing raucously as the minahs try to chase them out of the neighbours’ trees every afternoon. Brightly coloured grass parrots, king parrots and rosellas have returned, flitting between native trees and our deck. Doves, corellas and cockatoos perch awkwardly on the edge of our bird feeder – meant for smaller birds – flicking seed into the garden and pot plants below, where it grows into unusual grasses and corn. We also have new visitors this year, a pair of ducks, who snack on snails and slugs, giving my herbs and veggies some respite from the onslaught of these slimey residents, and the cats new entertainment.

At night, we hear possums running laps across the roof, giving new meaning to the pitter patter of little feet. They nest in the wisteria, balancing on the arch over the door. Tawny frogmouth owls sit on the power lines or trees, quietly watching passersby below and calling out to each other when they think no one is listening. Actually, I hear all the birds at night when I’m up feeding Little Red. No matter what time it is. I don’t think they’re familiar with the concept of sleepy time (but then, neither is Little Red).

Last week, Bella brought in her first presents for us for the season. Geckos sans tails. When I’m in the garden, I see geckos scurry to hide in the violets or rocks. Despite the size of her belly, Bella is pretty strong and fast – faster than Indi and clearly the better hunter of the two. My boy and I do our best to rescue the geckos and release them outside somewhere she won’t find them again (hopefully at least until they regrow their tails). Bella is most unimpressed when we do this, and will search for hours for them under the couch or behind the blinds, ignoring their still-squirming tails beside her. I don’t mind it so much when she catches flies in the window inside though – and we’ve got plenty of them at the moment. But hearing the loud crunch as she eats them makes me gag. Every. Single. Time.

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