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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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May: Wild Flowers – Grand Canyon

Nameless purple flower

Nameless purple flower

May’s theme for Jude’s Garden Challenge is wild flowers. I spotted all these flowers while walking along the South Rim of the Grand Canyon.

Nameless red flower

Nameless red flower, lost against the immensity of the canyon

Another nameless red flower

Another nameless red flower. This is a wider view of the feature photo.

I actually do know the name of these white flowers: cliff rose.


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B&W Garden 2: Darwin Botanic Gardens (1)

Dead leaves

Dead leaves hanging from a branch.

I have two posts featuring the Darwin Botanic Gardens in black and white, for inclusion in Jude’s Garden Challenge. While visiting the gardens in September last year, I was struck by the stark beauty of the shapes of the many dead and dried plants, and the play of light and shadow. Next week’s post will highlight some of the gardens’ flowers.

Dried palm fronds like a wing

This sweep of dried fronds remind me of an angel’s wing.

Dried palm fronds

Dried palm fronds.

A scroll of dried bark

A scroll of dried bark.

(By the way, the pig sculpture peering from the foliage in the badge below is also from the Darwin Botanic Gardens.)


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The first tomato of summer 2015/16

My first harvest!

My first harvest!

One tomato does not a summer make* — but it’s a start! Okay, so my foray into blueberry self-sufficiency was not a success, but I’m on a roll with the tomatoes. I picked the first one today (on a fork, above; on the plant, below). It’s a variety called Honey Drop, a mini yellow Roma type. And if you’re wondering … yes, it was very tasty, albeit not very filling.

Here it is 'in situ'.

Here it is ‘in situ’.

And more are coming!

Tomatoes peeking coyly from behind the leaves.

Tomatoes peeking coyly from behind the leaves.

Still green, but coming along nicely.

Still green, but coming along nicely.

*Apologies for paraphrasing Aristotle!

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Gardens: Summit Gardens, Vanuatu

Entry to the gardens

Who could resist this enticing entry to the gardens, with its peek at what’s inside?

A stroll among the flowers

The Summit Gardens in Vanuatu perch on a high 200 metres above sea level. With lush growth and brilliantly coloured flowers, it’s a great place for a leisurely wander. You’ll find urns, mosaic, statues and other items tucked amongst the greenery.

“The 11 named gardens, spread over 10 hectares, are all distinctly different, unfolding as a series of surprises as you follow the meandering pathways. The designs have been inspired by the great tropical gardens of Asia, Australia and America. What started off as a hobby to its owners back in 2000 became a driving ambition to create something beautiful that would showcase the beauty of Vanuatu and its people. The owners were assisted by a tropical landscape architect called Adam Ehlmann who was resident in Port Vila at the time. Adam departed Vanuatu in 2002 and the owners carried on themselves with the assistance of teams of very talented Ni-Vanuatu gardeners. The gardens were opened to the public on 1 November 2011.” (source)

Vibrant exotic flowers jump out of the myriad shades of green.

Clever pathways draw the walker into the gardens and pique curiosity about what’s around the corner or though the hedges or beyond the arch.


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In one case, this is what’s around the corner:

Summit Garden "missionary position", Vanuatu

I did a double take. “Do they know what that refers to?” I wondered. It turned out to be a wonderfully witty interpretation on a “position” that no missionary (or anyone else) would want to be in!

Being so high, the garden offers some fantastic views.


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The progression of paths leads you (of course!) to the cafe and shop. You can have a light meal while looking out at the gardens, and treat yourself to an array of skin lotions and potions made with many natural ingredients sourced on the islands of Vanuatu. Products are available online, too.


If you have enjoyed this stroll, check out where other bloggers have been walking with Jo’s Monday Walk.