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Woodland: Tree Silhouettes

Tree branches and half moon, Alice Springs Desert Park

Tree branches and half moon, Alice Springs Desert Park

November’s garden challenge theme is woodland — individual trees or leaves or woodland/forest views, fungi, wildlife or wildflowers. For my first post this month, I’ve gone with the striking shapes of tree silhouettes, whether snow-covered in winter, defiantly clinging to life with a few leaves, or undeniably dead.

Tree branches and cliff face in the mist, Grand Canyon

Tree branches and cliff face in the mist, Grand Canyon

Olive tree, Sicily

Olive tree, Sicily

Tree branches, Sydney

Tree (or deadly tentacled creature lying in wait for the unwary??), Sydney


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My parents’ garden

The view from the patio, 2014

The view from the patio, 2014

Nostalgia: a wistful desire to return in thought or in fact to a former time in one’s life, to one’s home or homeland, or to one’s family and friends. So many things spark this emotion in us. For me, one of the things that stirs this ‘wistful desire’ is my parents’ garden — or, as we call it, ‘the back yard’.

More than a garden, more than a collection of plants, this is part of my history. My maternal grandparents bought this house in Stratford, Ontario in the 1970s; my parents bought it from them in the late 1990s. I have never lived there, but for almost 40 years the house and the garden have been part of my life, the scene of large gatherings with family and friends, or smaller gatherings of my parents and me. Seeing these photos reminds me of those times and those people, some of whom are now dead but who still live in memory.

Of course, food and wine play a part in any gathering, regardless of size!

Speaking of food, the garden is more than flowers.

But let’s not forget the flowers …

And what’s a garden without birds?

Travelling to Canada from England or Australia plays havoc with my body clock, so I often wake up much earlier than usual. As you can see below, the garden is very peaceful soon after sunrise.

Early morning, 2007

Early morning, 2007

All great gardens evolve, and this one is no different. The saga of the apple tree illustrates this well.

And, sadly, when autumn comes the garden must be emptied and readied for winter.

October’s Garden Challenge theme is Favourite Gardens. This is definitely one of my favourites. (Many thanks to my mother for a lot of these photos!)


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The roses of Billong Street

Imagine an entire street of rose gardens! You will find one on Billong Street, near Mosman Bay on the north side of Sydney Harbour. According to the plaque below, “This rose garden was established in 1993 by local resident Mark McGuire. The remarkable floral display from October to April attracts visitors from all over Sydney.”

The Roses of Billong Street

The Roses of Billong Street

There are about 400 bushes including 80 varieties of roses. Here is a very small selection!

If you’re in or around Sydney, don’t miss this display. Click here for a map link.

October’s Garden Challenge theme is Favourite Gardens.


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Flower Portrait: Water Lily

Water lilies in a billabong, Australia

Water lilies in a billabong, Australia

From the ridiculous to the sublime: last week I showed you Hairy Balls Milkweed, now I have water lilies. With their grace and delicacy, these are captivating flowers. Although many of the leaves float, the plants themselves are rooted in the ground, so they are generally found in shallow ponds or along the edges of slow-moving rivers.

Water lilies belong to the plant family of Nymphaea, the various species of which can be found around the world. Here are some I’ve spotted.

Water lily pond, Goa

Water lily pond on a misty morning, Goa

Water lily pond, Australia

Water lily pond, Australia

Water lilies, Yangshuo, China

Water lilies, Yangshuo, China

 One of Monet's Water Lily panels hanging in the Musée de l'Orangerie, Paris

One of Monet’s Water Lily panels hanging in the Musée de l’Orangerie, Paris

September’s Garden Challenge theme is Flower Portraits.


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Unusual Plants: Hairy Balls Milkweed

I leave it to you to guess where the names come from.

I leave it to you to guess where the name comes from.

The wonderfully named Hairy Balls Milkweed puzzled me for quite a while. I’ve seen it growing in a few front gardens in Sydney, but it was a few years before I found out what the plant is. About six feet tall, its gangly stalks festooned with curious prickly growths, it is certainly an attention-getter! It’s also known as Balloon plant, Goose plant, Giant swan milkweed, Family jewels, Oscar and Cotton-bush — but whatever the name, butterflies love it.

The plant has unexpectedly delicate flowers.

The plant has unexpectedly delicate flowers.

When the balls burst, the fluffy white seeds are revealed.

When the balls burst, the fluffy white seeds are revealed.

For September, Jude is looking for Unusual Plants.


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The Mothers’ Club Vegetable Garden

The Mothers' Club Vegetable Garden, Daliconi village Fiji

The Mothers’ Club Vegetable Garden, Daliconi village, Fiji

On my recent sailing holiday in Fiji, we visited the remote island of Vanua Baluva (see map below). We dropped anchor off the town of Daliconi, where we were warmly welcomed ashore and guided around the village. Our visit began with a welcome ceremony with the elders of the village’s five clans — interrupted by a woman, bolder than her friends, who begged us for seedlings and garden tools for the Mothers’ Club Vegetable Garden. Sadly, that’s not the sort of supplies generally carried these days on a tall ship full of tourists, and the most we could give was cash. But with nowhere to buy supplies, even cash was of little use to these dedicated women.

Daliconi is so small that Google Maps couldn’t find it! Here is the island, though.

The Mothers’ Club tends a vegetable garden for the school, and what is not used for children’s meals is sold to other villagers. Wandering around, I took one look and thought, “aha! Edible Garden theme!” and got snapping.

Two of the mothers at work in the garden.

Two of the mothers at work in the garden.

The village was ravaged by Cyclone Winston on 20 February this year, hit by winds of up to 300km/h. If the palm trees and the hillside (first photo) look stripped and bare to you, that’s why. The school was one of the buildings destroyed that day. One classroom has been rebuilt, but this UNICEF tent serves for other classes.

Note the UNICEF tent, at left.

Note the UNICEF tent, at left.

The vegetables were all neatly labelled, if not correctly spelled.

Chinese cabbages.

Chinese cabbages.

Long beans.

Long beans.


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May: Wild Flowers – Seaside

Succulent pink flower

Succulent pink flower

Last Sunday (22 May) seems to have been summer’s last gasp in Sydney — it was a day of blue skies and warm sun, a high of 25C, but a cool edge to the wind that warned of the coming winter (and, oh my, winter hit with a vengeance on Monday!). Determined to make the most of the day, I walked the two blocks from my apartment to Botany Bay and then headed north along the beach, camera at the ready and on the lookout for wild flowers.

As usual, I have no idea what this is but the plant is ubiquitous along the coast.

As usual, I have no idea what this is but the plant is ubiquitous along the coast.

As before, but a wider view. (The white posts hold up the shark net for a swimming enclosure.)

As before, but a wider view. (The white posts hold up the shark net for a swimming enclosure.)

Here are two shots of another flowering plant that seems happy to grow in sand dunes beside the sea.

It's small, it's mauve/purple, it grows in sand.

It’s small, it’s mauve/purple, it grows in sand.

It's small, it's mauve/purple, it grows in sand.

It’s small, it’s mauve/purple, it grows in sand.


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