31 May 2012

Tidying up – on a large scale

Candle banksia flower goes
from yellow to brown with age
I'm using Ms Gillard's carbon-tax top-up for age pensioners to hire someone to help me with the heavier work of reversing too many months of neglect in the garden. (Sorry, my US readers. It's too hard to explain at length what that phrase means. Let's just say we Social Security types are being reimbursed for some of charges that are likely to be heaped onto various good and services, under the pretext that our incoming Carbon Tax warrants these extra costs.) We haven't even received the Prime Minister's donation into our bank account yet and already I've spent it!

Anyway, for the past three weeks I've had 'my guy' in to do 4 or 5 hours of heavier garden tasks. One week he totally weeded and trimmed the hilly bank on the bottom side of the swimming pool terrace, then sprayed the remaining stalks of this very invasive climbing vine with a strong weedkiller. This is what a badly weed-covered section of garden looks like beforehand. The head of a 6ft tall pony tail palm had totally disappeared under these sticky vines, which had climbed up into surrounding palms too. Anyone know the name of this nasty weed? Anyway, for the moment we are rid of it, but I'll have to keep at it as new weed shoots sprout in the spring. We aren't likely to have caught every piece of this vine and its little beans, so some seeds will have been dispersed anew to start another year's crop.

Anyway, the following week Nev spread a thick layer of sugar cane mulch over that entire poolside hill, and also on the hill above the house and carport (picture below), where a few weeks ago neighbour Robbi had kindly trimmed back a half dozen lanky trees – mainly lilly pilly –  which had been overhanging the house's gutters. These are already showing sprouts of the lovely reddish-tinged new foliage that is such an appealing feature of this family of evergreen natives. But unfortunately for the possums, this year they won't be able to race through the boughs and leap onto the roof on this side.

It's just great to see that my agapanthus, which started out as just a few scattered bulbs, have now spread to line the outside edge of the pool fence thickly. These plants are soft enough not to be considered a violation of pool safety, as they can't provide a foothold for curious children trying to climb the fence. And the palms which Allen and I planted about 10 years ago are big enough to provide summer shade on this side of the pool – but they're positioned within the regulation distance from the top of the pool fence.

This week among other things Nev has cut right back all of the messy growth on another sloping terrace - this one between the house's back verandah and the poolside pump-house. That area's more stubborn weed stems have also been spot-sprayed. But there's more work to be done here. I haven't decided whether to keep the spiky mother-in-law's tongue (in the red oval) – I may move them to a large pot, as they look great clustered together that way. The mother-of-millions, however, is a weed (in the yellow oval) and definitely has to go. Next this area will be resprayed and mulched heavily prior to planting a collection of low-growing native shrubs (grevilleas mainly, to attract more birds).

I'm not usually a big sprayer, at least not in garden beds. I usually do the driveway, paths and fenceline a few times a year. But this year too many beds got away from me during Allen's illness, when I went months without having time or energy for any substantial gardening. Added to that we've just had the wettest spring, summer and autumn in a long, long time. And winter isn't proving as dry as usual either. In this climate weeds can grow six feet while your back is turned, and for me at least, there's no alternative to spraying for some persistent problem weeds.

While Nev has been tackling the big jobs, I've been doing my bit on smaller areas like this little triangular patch near the pool gate, where a pair of orange hibiscus gives a dazzling display all summer long. The third shrub here behind the hibiscus is not very evident in this photo, but it's a Brazilian cherry (Eugenia uniflora). I had planted one on the terrace above in the hope of doubling my supply of this wonderful jam-making fruit. Unfortunately, the new bush has borne very little fruit, unlike the original bush down in the paddock, which bears heavily for a long period every year (see the last two photos in this post from November 2010.) But it has spread a number of seedlings in the vicinity, including one in this triangular patch, behind the hibiscus. I've cut that right back and will probably take it out completely, as I strongly suspect this is a very invasive shrub in our environment. However, the reddish-brown tinge on its leaves are also very appealing, as you can see in that 2010 post.

Yesterday evening I finished up by repotting half a dozen bromeliads, and sinking these into the mulch on the little garden bed that borders the path to the studio. I hadn't yet done that when this photo was taken the day before, so I'll show those in a later post. What this photo celebrates, though, is the fact that all of the 'dirty palms' along this path are now tall enough so that the dead fronds are above eye-level! I would never have planted this variety of palm (Alexander palms). They were here when we bought the house in 1996 and by the time I realised I would like to be rid of them, their removal would have cost thousands. So I live with them and have tried to create a little rainforest beneath them. For those who aren't familiar with tropical greenery, the bottom fronds of all palms die off as new fronds form at the top of the growing plant. In so-called dirty palms, however, the dead fronds remain attached for a very long time until eventually they will come crashing down. Clean palms, however, such as those we planted around the pool, drop their dead fronds immediately. Hence they never have the messy look of dirty palms. But though I deplore the long dead fronds that dangle around the trunks of the Alexander palms for months, at least these palms are now tall enough so that the dead fronds are out of sight as you walk down the path. And I must admit, a wonderful collection of wildlife comes to feed on the palm flowers and fruit throughout the year. So I've come to accept this little ecosystem as one of the untidier by-products of a green living space.


Anonymous said...

You have been so busy the two of you! Lovely you have the helper now. Bbromeliads and hibiscus...both beautiful plants. I love the puppy in the middle of it all. Such a detailed and organized blog. Glad to see you writing again. gin

Selma said...

You have an amazing garden. Such space. As an inner city Sydneysider I don't know what I'd do with all that space. I'm not used to it. It must be a lot of work, though. Glad you've got a helping hand!

Chartreuse said...

Thanks for visiting, Selma. Yes, this place certainly can be overwhelming. But whenever I think of 'downsizing' (sensible as that would be in our current circumstances), I go outside on a star-filled or full-moon night and can't bear the thought of giving up that pleasure - plus the silence - soon. However, I know the time is coming and I'm trying to prepare myself for that.

Anonymous said...

As we ponder your situation from the other side of the decision, we miss the very things you talk about. If you can keep the help coming, and have friends nearby, I would stay in the house as long as you can manage. If it becomes a burden...off you go! Hug. I hope you are enjoying your season...late Fall? Good to see your name this morning, gin

Chartreuse said...

Thank you so much for your comments, Gin. I know you know what I'm talking about. Right now Allen has a bad chest infection and I'm fighting to keep him out of hospital, where he inevitably goes downhill. Fingers crossed we can fight this one successfully at home with antibiotics etc., as his lungs are greatly damaged by past experiences.

Anonymous said...

I totally agree this last visit for Bill for the same almost did him in. It has been over a year recovery. He started coughing in the night and I began to worry last night. I am not feel terribly well just now either and was wishing we just had someone to help clean and dust thoroughly once a week. The dust seems to be big problem, You will both be in my prayers C. gin

About me

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I started this blog in 2009 when I became a full-time caregiver. My husband had been diagnosed a few years earlier with primary progressive aphasia. Over the next four years until his death in 2013, we went on a journey of discovery about this rare condition. My blog is about what I learned, how we both coped and how the journey deepened our love and appreciation of each other. Allen’s journey is over, but mine goes on.