Thursday, September 27, 2012

Helena Heritage Olives, Oolines and Orchids

Late September/October is -- for me -- one of the most exciting times of the year with Nature launching into the creation of new life.  Our world is transformed by birdsong, butterflies, frogs and flowering plants.

Although our garden holds a wealth of flowering shrubs and trees, there's always room for more, and somehow we find it hard to resist planting!  I've included a photo of a young ooline with its tiny rounded leaves, and also an Helena Heritage olive.

Located off the coast of Brisbane, St Helena Island is a Heritage National Park .  Formerly (1867 to 1932) it was a high security prison.  The first olive tree planted on the island was brought to Australia from Europe by a visiting magistrate, in the late 1800s.

My tree is a third generation heritage tree with a history of producing exceptional fruit and award-winning olive oil -- not that I'm particularly interested in what it produces, I simply want a beautifully shaped and gnarled olive tree.

Ooline trees (Cadellia pentastylis) are native to Mitchell and grow on dry rocky hills. They are related to the Antarctic beech: both are relics of ancient Gondwanan vegetation.

Pots of petunias, drums of vegetable greens, and our native bush orchid (Cymbidium canaliculatum) with its newly sprouted flower spikes -- all these give me pleasure.  Even the noxious weed Mexican poppy has its own beauty.

Today I split open a dry orchid pod from last year's flowering and released the dry powdery seed into the warm northerly wind.  Perhaps some will lodge in the loose bark of a nearby tree and grow into an orchid?

Friday, September 21, 2012

Botanical art, thunder storms and sculptures

Glenda (our librarian here in Mitchell) has ordered me in a wonderful selection of books on the subject of botanical art.  Previously I'd hoped to do a course on botanical art; however, grant applications failed to deliver the funds, therefore I've decided to do my own course through books.

Some of the books --  particularly 'Botanical Illustration Course with the Eden Project' by Rosie Martin and Meriel Thurstan  -- give step-by-step instruction along with magnificent examples for inspiration.

With my sun room organised as an art and writing space I'm now ready to get serious -- in a relaxed way though!  There is so much to learn, explore and appreciate.  Learning the Latin names of plants is another challenge.

What else, this week?  Our weekly marimba lesson; a thunderstorm that caused our two German shepherds to squeeze beneath our bed, panting anxiously; an outing to the weir to give the dogs a swim in the river; excellent morning coffee at Lemon Pie Cafe; and all the normal everyday domestic and garden things that need doing along the way -- that has been our week.

Today's temperature was 34°C beneath the verandah.  But it's a dry heat and nowhere near as taxing as the same temperature at the coast, where humidity is usually high.  High humidity drains me of energy.

When we bought our present home, Richard (the previous owner and our friend) left us some sculptures that he created.  They are now positioned around our outside sitting areas and give a good feel to these spaces.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Maryvale Open Garden Day + botanical feast

Maryvale is a large outback Queensland cattle property located south of Morven, in dry arid country.  The original homestead -- built in 1883 -- has been added to over the years and likewise its garden has evolved over time.  Ninety year old date palms guard the homestead like sentinels, while more recent plantings of cottonwood poplars, magnificent weeping Chinese elms, claret ashes, and a massive white-trunked lemon scented gum stamp the green lawns that surround the homestead.

Chemical free pest control is carried out by a  family of echidnas that bustle and burrow in the garden and beneath the house, gobbling up termites (white ants).  

Climbing roses, agapanthus, water lilies, camellias, gardenias and japonica, as well as a vegetable garden and citrus orchard are included in the extensive garden.  The stone walls, sculptures, arbours, and large paved courtyard all help to create this tranquil and pleasing oasis.

Jenny and Robert Crichton -- the owners of Maryvale and our charming hosts -- shared their home and garden with a large crowd, many of whom had travelled vast distances the visit the garden.  Our travelling time from Mitchell was around 1 1/2 hours each way, in a south westerly direction.

On our way home, we stopped several times to look at the native vegetation.  We collected samples of 13 different flowering plants which  I've sketched and recorded this past week.  The acacias and sennas provided stunning splashes of yellow, while tiny bluebells nestled in amongst flowering grasses.

The wealth of plants that grow in this seemingly uninteresting arid country, never cease to amaze me.  It's a botanical feast, a feast I'm keen to learn more about and record using water colour pencils.

This past week has seen the Settlement of our flooded affected house;  the sale of the caravan that we lived in for two months; and the installation of nine more solar panels, making a 5 kW system for our 'new' home; and several pleasant social outings.  All in all a good week, if you take my stomach problem out and away.

Friday, September 7, 2012

3 night's out: 20 orchid spikes: the river runs

An outing to the river with our two shepherds is always fun, especially since it involves only five minutes in the car to reach the weir and pools below.

Water is still falling over the weir wall.  From here, the river loops around Mitchell, flowing beneath the rail and road bridges, over the old crossing and then past our place.  Evidence of the disastrous February flood still hangs from high up in the river red gums that line the Maranoa River.  On the other hand, the flood has swept clean the riverbed, leaving behind banks of clean golden sand and clear pools ideal for swimming.

Our bush orchid (Cymbidium canaliculatum) has at least 20 new flower spikes and promises a spectacular display.  The February flood completely covered its foliage; however, the plant survived for which we are very grateful. When we moved the plant (cutting off the dead tree at ground level) we saw the tiny roots of the orchid that had grown down the hollow of the tree, to the ground.

Socially this week has been busy, with three nights out in a row.  Firstly, Book Club with 10 enthusiastic members and spirited discussion over dinner.  Secondly, an important talk by Susan McLean about Cyber Safety -- held at Mitchell State School.  This was an informative, entertaining and enlightening session for anyone interested in the welfare of young people, as regards cyber safety --  including cyber bullying and many other negatives linked to Internet technology.  Last but not least, was marimba practice which is always fun as well as mentally challenging.