Dream house, dream life, yeah right. Dream on…

Posts tagged ‘garden’

Operation Fence (Part 2)

My new ‘Roman’ fence (it wasn’t built in a day) stayed propped up with various bits of stakes etc, and was often laying on the garden for weeks as the weather and work conspired against me. As a friend noted, it wasn’t going to keep anything out.

I finally got all the posts in. A couple of pieces had to have some length taken off the legs to bring them down near the rest of the fence. Some posts went through the legs of the bedhead, some tied to the sides.  Mostly wooden stakes as the plastic ones I bought were too thick to go through the bedposts. Then the adding of the netting.

Got nice black plastic net for around $20 for 10m at Bunnings which was better than chicken wire as it won’t stay pushed up if they try to go under (a few sections I’ve added a length of wire at the base to keep it down), but being black it fades from view. I’d have had to paint chicken wire. The netting will need a few more cable ties added once it has relaxed into place a bit more but it became a race against the sunset to get it on.

 

There are three gates which simply lift and rotate around the stake through their post.  This means I can push the mower through the back, or open the front to add pine bark etc.

 

So far so good. The petunias are flowering (apparently petunia buds are yummy…) and the chrysanthemum is covered in buds.

Next job, to extend the garden to the fence, and add a couple of clematis.

 

See part 1 here

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Operation Fence (part 1)

I’ve been gardening here at 28 Gumtrees since I was 10.  Over the years I’ve  grown and shown daffodils and chrysanthemums,  grown just about everything, built gardens, destroyed gardens, planted, removed, and planted more trees. However when I bought the place 6 years ago my focus turned to the inside, and the garden was left to fend for itself.  Around the same time, the wallabies started to come in, although it wasn’t until the drought hit 4 years ago that I really noticed them eating anything but the lawn.  Very few plants are safe from a hungry wallaby, and once they discover a plant they will return to it over and over.  I have, or rather had, a lovely little self-sown hebe that was about half a metre high that suddenly was not allowed to have a leaf. However, the parent plant, just 2 metres away was barely nibbled. While I stripped floors and rebuilt kitchens and painted everything in sight the garden struggled. Between the weather and the hopping lawnmowers I only had to mow about 8 times a year, mostly to get the weeds around the lemon tree (compared to the 50 times a year average before the wallabies).  The twitch (which they don’t eat) took over the garden beds, and things either survived or died, pretty much unnoticed.

Abandoned

Before Christmas last year I decided this had to be the Summer of the garden, and the weather (and the loan of a trailer!) co-operated nicely.  Project Resurrect began with 7 loads of green waste, and a number of loads of pine bark. My plan was to plant what I had, and only grow things that could survive the wallabies since without installing a few hundred metres of fence, I had little way to keep them out.  I started poisoning the grass, then gave up and just dug holes in the weeds in an effort to “Plant Everything” before it got too hot.  I got about  3/4 of the pots in, and dumped pine bark on the weeds to make new garden beds.

I removed 6 trees (5 of them dead, 1 almost so),  got some bargain plants through exchanges and markets and was determined that I was not going to start “collecting’ plants like I had in the past.  I once had about 30 different dianthus (wallabies’ favourite food it seems) and I haven’t seen an ixia or muscari flower in 5 years.  While I was willing to put a few fences around some trees until they got big enough to be out of wallaby reach, I was determined not to end up growing a bunch of wire cages. If it wouldn’t survive without minimal attention from me it wasn’t going in. However, when I planted out the two chrysanthemums that have been struggling along in tiny pots for a couple of years right beside the path that Rufus uses to come and go at night, I was not prepared to go to water them the next day to find they did not have a leaf left between them!  This combined with the demise of the long awaited liriope flowers before they even broke bud made me snap. I started planning how to fence off a part of the garden without spending money.

I thought of using scrap timber I had on hand to build rectangular frames for chicken wire, then attaching them to posts I’d have to buy, but I wasn’t loving the idea of all those straight lines around my flowers.  I thought of chicken wire or plastic mesh around star pickets (until I priced them at nearly $15 each!), but wallabies have a habit of just leaning on wire until it sags, so I’d need a lot of posts, and it would look a bit like a poorly made chicken run. I almost got some (give away) lengths of iron balustraude, but they would have had to be carted up a hill, AND cut before I could fit them on the trailer to bring home –  which was a bit beyond my skills and strength.

Then, someone posted a headboard bench seat –  you know the type –  wooden bedhead, with the footboard cut in half and attached as arms each side and a few planks to make a seat.  

And I remembered an idea I had to make a gazebo for the back garden, but rather than build a railing, I wanted to use the timber and metal bedheads that I often saw at the Tip shop and garage sales. I wanted bedheads like mine, timber posts and black ironwork.

So  I set off for the Hobart Tip shop-  bedheads please…  They had one.  One. A narrow piece of metal, missing the side posts… Not worth bringing the trailer over for.  So instead I went home and hitched the trailer to get some bark – and thought I might as well look in Mornington Tip shop,  maybe get one there to start the collection.  $50 later –  and the trailer was fully loaded with 11 bedheads plus another bit.  Dropped them at home,  carted them down the back, hitched the trailer up again, went and got some pine bark,  brought that home,  disconnected the trailer and went back to Bunnings to get stakes and cable ties and wire and most importantly…  spray paint!

Operation Fence had begun.

Step one: Get some consistency. With only 2 bedheads that actually matched in design, and one that was bright blue, another gray, and the rest strange combinations of  sun faded and scraped black the first step was to spray them with flat black paint

Then, test out the placement. I discovered I had an extra piece which when inserted meant I could extend beyond the current garden. If I’m going to all this effort I want every centimetre I can get.

Test run

See part 2 here

Garden mystery

I have a viburnum (Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum) in the middle of my back yard. The first few years it was there, it grew, then we had a drought and for the next few years it actually got smaller each year until I thought I had lost it. Then suddenly it started growing. And Flowering. When it flowers it looks like it has snowed on just one plant. It is gorgeous, stunning and everyone  would comment on it.  This was it in October 2012. Viburnum plicatum var. tomentosum

But just two years later it is a very different plant.  I haven’t pruned it, but the lovely spreading shape has changed dramatically. backgarden 28 gumtrees

It starts out covered with flowers, but every day there seem to be fewer on display. Rufus

I just  don’t understand what has happened. Rufus

It’s a complete mystery.

 

Rufus

You’ve met Rufus McWallaby before.

aRufus McWallaby

(Rufus from Macropus rufogriseus (Red necked wallaby), and well, he has a fluffy sporran)

Since just before Christmas he has spent quite a few days (and probably a lot of nights) on my back lawn.  He’s a very welcome visitor as I haven’t had to mow a blade of grass in seven months, even if he’s a bit jumpy (sorry, it’s hard to resist that pun), meaning I have to avoid the garden at various times or risk sending him skittering out onto the road.

Plus it’s kind of flattering that he thinks my place is a safe place to stay.

Since we finally got some rain this month I haven’t seen him in daylight –  I figured he was finding enough food up the hill. In fact I was even starting to think I might have to mow some edges soonish.  Then this weekend a neighbour came in about 11am to tell me she had just herded “your wallaby” across the road from her front yard.  She said she usually sees him cross the road and go into my yard about 6 in the morning. When she saw him in her shrubs late in the morning and went outside she noticed he seemed hurt. (Please note he is not the only wallaby around here – driving in last week after dark I caught 2 smaller wallabies munching on my front lawn, and 4 or more have been seen in the school grounds at night). But she knew it was my wallaby because it had a black face (all Bennett’s wallabies do!) She also  thought it was a pregnant female.  I think Rufus might be insulted by that)

I finally found him hiding between some trees. He was very definitely hurt, couldn’t put one hind leg to the ground, and was favouring one forepaw as well on the same side. He was very nervy, not even letting me get my usual 15m away. Obviously every move hurt.

So I called Bonorong Park who sent two volunteers to capture him.

I kinda assumed someone would arrive with a tranquilizer gun, and then he’d be put down. Wallabies are incredibly easy to stress out and he’s no baby, he wouldn’t take kindly to being handled or enclosed. But apparently even vets can’t fire a tranquiliser gun within 200m of a dwelling (which means even if he was out in the reserve up the hill they’d have had to catch him first!) – stupid laws.  So  three of us armed with a  couple of hessian bags tried to corner him and grab his tail. Now, I know this strategy works with small wallabies, I’ve done it often with the joey I raised. But he was tame, and half grown, and he still managed to knock a grown man out cold once. Even though Rufus couldn’t put one foot to the ground, he could still move the other one! I kept visualising the broken leg I’d get if I was standing behind him trying to lift his tail. It didn’t matter anyway, he was too agile, and my garden has too many trees and no corners. All we were doing was stressing him out and putting him through more pain. The volunteers suggested I ring them again once he was weaker and had slowed down.

Rufus went back to hiding under a bush (I felt like the world’s worst person for ruining his sense of sanctuary here, he’d never ever hidden under the bushes before) I cried at the thought of having to watch him slowly succumb to the pain and whatever other injuries he had received (We assume he had a run in with a vehicle).

I checked (from the windows) a few times to make sure he hadn’t left the yard (No gates even if I wanted to close him in). Then mid afternoon he had vanished. I went out to try and see him, and rounded the corner to find him struggling to his feet a few metres away, up against the house (directly under the study window). I backed away and he settled down again – right in front of the A/C outlet. He didn’t bother moving when it started blasting freezing air at him an hour later (But I felt guilty about my heat.).

I went into the city and got some wallaby pellets. I figure he’ll be less likely to leave the yard if food is abundant.  Of course everywhere I scattered them he’d move to another part of the yard.  He was clearly telling me he didn’t trust me any more. Sunday night I saw him in torch light, he’d found at least some of the pellets.

Monday morning he was still in the garden (in fact he was sitting  right where my lillies should be coming up). Then he moved up near the house again. Then he got startled and crawled under the agapanthus for hours. Finally saw him actually eat in the late afternoon. I was starting to think his back might be injured,  He never straightened up into classic wallaby pose.

Early this morning I found him under the clothesline, standing up straight in the torchlight. He was under the window this morning, so I dropped some pellets near him which he moved to.

rufus1

Then he moved to a dozen other spots around the yard, eating constantly and sitting up in all his classic positions. He stripped leaves off the rosemary and the plumbago, ripped the grass out from between pots, even tugged at a geranium stump.

His hind foot is very definitely broken.

rufus2

He keeps it off the ground and it dangles limply at the toes. Bonorong say they have seen them heal (to a point) without treatment, if they get somewhere and don’t move.  So long as he stays in the yard he should be safe, but if he tries to go up the hill again, he’ll have no chance against the traffic (or even a dog).

rufus4

If he’s sensible I won’t get to weed this garden (yes, that’s a garden, the lawn is 3mm tall and evenly chewed) until after Spring! But most of me doesn’t mind that I won’t get any seedlings in. Not when there’s something even cuter to look at.

rufus3

The Unexpected Guest

Ever notice how plans change when unexpected guests turn up for the day?

Yesterday, I decided to make a start  weeding the garden of horror in the back while it was in the shade (disgustingly early in the morning this time of year). I even soaked it the night before.
Up early, into garden gear, look out the window to check the sun hadn’t reached it yet and a surprise guest who wasn’t there 20 minutes before had arrived.

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“My garden (this is the only green grass for miles), back off!”

So, obediently *I* weeded the up the side garden instead. Wouldn’t want to upset a visitor.

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 (Short floral interlude here from above the pond because believe me you don’t want to see the side garden. I should have just hired a hay baler)

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 “Yes, I’m still here, so stop sneaking up to check through the bushes.”

A couple of hours later I look out the window and the sun drenched garden appears wallaby free so I pick up the load of washing and head out the door…

5

“Yes, of course I’m standing on the other side of the garden! You scared me half to death coming around the corner like that. I was having a nice relaxing nap under the wisteria and then you come barreling down the path and nearly step on me. I could have had a heart attack!….. What do you mean I should go further down the garden? You’re going to hang flapping sheets on the line and you’re saying I’ll freak out? You’re the freaky one, you’re the one standing there talking to a wild animal.”

(Just to prove I’m not making this up)

So, about 30 minutes later I look out the window and guess who has moved back to his favourite tree for a sleep?

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(Wildly flapping washing be damned, there’s green grass here!)

At one point I went down to untangle a sheet and we both got a scare
because he’d moved to the edge of the garden nearest the line and neither of us saw the other until I rounded the tree a metre from him.
Less than an hour later and he was snoozing under ‘his’ dogwood again.

Hours pass, clouds gather and I check his position. No sign of him.

8

I even walk down the long way so I can see if he’s up near the wisteria – nope. So I’m standing at the line, thinking I’ll put the hose on again after I get the sheets in so I can pull the weeds tomorrow when one of the said weeds moves rather strangely, almost like it’s being pulled from below.

10

I thought I told you before, these are my weeds and you need to accept this and back off, crazy human.”

 You’d be more convincing if you didn’t look like you’re inhaling poppy seed, you addict…

Dusk begins to fall, and he wanders across the yard for dessert. (Ever had a guest who comes in and then raids your pantry and eats all the best stuff?)

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He finally departed around 9ish, leaving me plenty of manure for the garden. (Seriously, I live in the suburbs, 7 km from the city centre next to a highway.

Why am I feeding the overseas misconception that we have roos jumping down our main streets? Because apparently when we have the hottest, driest Summer on record, it becomes true.

Look before you mow

Nothing gets the adrenalin pumping like having the patch of long grass you are about to  mow part to  show black scaly  skin.  It always takes the brain a few more moments to  supress the flight  instinct and register that there are patches of  lighter scales and eventually, legs.

Note to self – check ahead of mower!

blue tongue lizard

Okay, she wasn’t happy about being moved off the lawn but is that a reason to be rude?

“Tuesday” Tour

Isn’t it amazing how you get used to the sound of technology? The house is so quiet, (well it would be if there weren’t elephants clomping all over the roof and gnomes with hammers mining beneath my floor boards.) The power is off while they upgrade my mains to support my power habit. Apparently it is unreasonable of me to want to be warm, have hot water AND run a computer at the same time as I cook dinner. It was unheard of in 1950 of course – when we moved in there was one power point in each room and none at all in the bathroom. I remember being very surprised to see Dad shaving in the bedroom – he had a newfangled electric razor, something this house was obviously never expected to see. Suddenly I’m cut off from the world (for several hours they predict.) Of course I’m sitting here on the couch with the laptop on my lap typing posts, but still there is a slight sense of being unable to do anything. I need to phone the parents of an old school friend – but I need the electronic white pages to look up the number (heaven forbid I actually try reading through the paper copy sitting on the floor behind me.) I could I suppose look it up on my mobile, but I’m not paying mobile rates to call them, and… all the phones in the house are dead.

I had a huge list of things to do while waiting for paint to dry (I put the third coat on the floors today, so half of the house is a no go zone.) But I can’t mow – it keeps spitting with rain. I can’t sort the shedlet because they are pulling the circuit box apart and that is right outside the shedlet. I can’t pack up the study or empty my wardrobe because they are drilling and hammering into those walls and it’s not pleasant. So I’m sitting here, staring at the view that will soon be my everyday view – the Mountain, my garden. After so many years of living at the front and side of the house it will be strange to be at the back. This view, which I love is almost a full 180⁰ mountain panorama. (Except at the moment a few of my  trees are a bit overgrown –  lopping them was supposed to  be someone else’s problem when I thought I’d be selling the house so they haven’t been  touched for  the last  couple of years. Guess whose problem they are now!)

I’ve been meaning to start a Tuesday Tour on this blog, and I guess the reason I haven’t yet is I couldn’t decide where to start. Since the house is currently a disaster area (electricians are the messiest tradies) I think I’ll start with the backyard. I can’t imagine living without a view of ‘the mountain’. If you want to know what the weather will do look at the mountain. If it’s wet it’s raining, if it’s covered in snow it is cold, if it’s swaying it’s an earthq… ok, no, really, most of our weather comes up over the Mt, so we seriously can predict a great deal from what clouds are hanging around it. But really, just watching the play of light and cloud across it is mesmerising. I haven’t been in the habit of coming out to look at it in the mornings, and I must say I’m looking forward to having a bedroom window that will show me the weather before I get dressed.

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So, welcome to my back garden. On the right the fence extends down beside the unit, then through the next house and finishes at the highway – a walkway access, not big enough for a vehicle unfortunately. I have great plans for this garden now I own it. Because if the sideways design of the house the back door is actually closer to the front fence, and the front door is closer to the clothesline, but neither of them lead you into the back garden. So it really has never been used. It’s very nice to sit inside and look at, but bbqs etc in it are impractical and tend to gather in the front. So I want to break it up into some ‘rooms’. I figure I can make some little paved and even roofed nooks to sit in with a laptop or a book (going to have a heap of students living here). I also want to be able to drive into the back to deliver soil, mulch and remove green prunings etc. At present every bit has to be hand wheelbarrowed from the front…and it’s a long garden. However to do that it looks like I need to sacrifice the mock orange on the right. I’ll have plenty of plants to regrow, but it will take a while to get to the size it is now. I’ll have to reconsider it once it is not in bloom, at the moment I’m inclined to say ‘who really needs vehicular access?” (I DO!!!) The other thing that needs to move or change is the Hills Hoist. Lots of ideas spinning (haha) around in here at the moment. One big problem is much of the yard is shaded, either by trees or the units next door. The best drying spots put it in the middle of the best views – the main reason I want to move it. Secondly it is currently in the best place to put a vegetable garden. Of course I can’t move it too close to trees or gardens, it can’t be too shaded, it needs to be fairly accessible to the doors (which are on the wrong sides of the house…) So far the only really useful thought I’ve had is that a) it doesn’t have to be a rotary clothes line, a retractable would work just as well and b) I could put it in the middle of the ‘drive’ area that I’m creating – I’m not going to be driving down more than once or twice a year and the poles could be removable. So, back to the trees. There’s a few bottlebrush, a variegated xmas bush and a golden conifer (all of which may go…) on the left hand fence as you  come past the house. Then there’s Nanna’s wisteria photo added of  it in flower  last year). The original is still growing at the house where my father was born, the story is that it was given to my grandmother as a wedding present, brought out by a sea captain from China especially for her. (I’d love to get it DNA tested in comparison to the one in the Botanical gardens (1857 planted I think) and the one in Kew gardens from which most in cultivation in the pioneer times were supposed to have come.) Then the past veggie beds, now full of flowers and, temporarily, some vegetables. I tossed a heap of old seeds in last Winter and it’s amazing what has come up. Sweet peas, cosmos, larkspur, beetroot, carrots.

Then  the red dogwood, maple and  horizontal  viburnum in what is known as the peninsula bed. Conifer corner behind them, a NZ lacebark beside the tallllll  almond, then  a  variegated  liriodendron (tulip tree), a cantua (pink bell flowers), a dark leafed viburnum, the lemon tree and  a bunch of  buddleias and things on the right hand side including the  mass of white of the mock orange and a white flowering cherry.

Now, where can I fit a summer house?

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