21 June 2012

Let's Hear It for Birds.

Birds in the garden add to the overall enjoyment.  I love to lie in bed in the morning listening to the dawn chorus and thinking about getting up and starting the day.

Hah!  that's what I wish I did.  In reality I generally wake up long after they've welcomed the new day and have finished their breakfast and are thinking about morning tea.  But that doesn't mean I miss out on their song - no.  The little birds I enjoy most sing on and off all day.  At this time of year, early winter in the southern hemisphere, I have the visitors on holiday to the coast.  They fly in in search of a more reliable winter food source and I attempt to give them what they need in my garden.  That means I have plants which flower in winter.

For the honeyeaters I grow lots of different Salvias which reliably flower just for them.  Also the Kniphofia 'Winter Cheer' puts in an appearance.  I am happy to say that is is now self sowing in the garden.  I don't think it will turn weedy as the new plants appear very close to the old so it is not going walkabout in the bush.  But don't worry I'll keep an eye on that.  We don't want a repeat performance of the Agapanthus, Privet, Lantana and even Lilium candicum which are all major weeds on the Central Coast, do we?  It's sad to see what they are doing to the natural bush along the F3 freeway from Sydney to Home.

If you are wondering what to give someone who has  everything as a gift then I suggest a birdbath.  You will have to make sure it is positioned near a window where they can look out and enjoy the birds.  If they spend a lot of time sitting at a desk, as I do, then outside the window is ideal.  Here's mine.  I can see it easily which helps me to remember to keep the water clean and the bushes a bit away so they don't obscure my view.

This photo, as are all my photos of the birds at the birdbath, is taken through glass. You can see it is not particularly close, and that means I don't startle the little birds as they bathe.  Some of them are so paranoid they watch for a couple of minutes from inside the nearest bushes, zoom in for a bath, stay one microsecond in the water and flit back to the bushes to preen further.  The paranoid ones are the survivors.  Some little birds are very difficult to photograph because of this.  I have to be in position, leaning against the window frame, and snap away and the first sign of movement and hope I capture something in the frame.   I keep my Panasonic Lumix camera handy. 

So what have I spotted so far?

The cutest little Eastern Yellow Robin

The Superb Fairy Wren

A dear little Silver Eye.

A pair of Yellow Faced Honeyeaters.  I've seen up to four of these squabbling over the bath water.

A flock of Fire-browed Finches.

A Grey Fantail.  He visited every day for about a week and then was gone again.

A small flock of Yellow Thornbills.  These little birds stayed for a few weeks and had a regular bathing routine.  They would fly in, scout out the surroundings and take turns to bathe.  They always had a couple of lookouts strategically placed in the bushes, making sure all was well.

Watching, photographing and identifying all these little birds gives me a great deal of pleasure.  Perhaps you could try it too?

4 June 2012

Autumn leaves

It's time to tidy the garden to allow it to rest over winter.  Today I collected the autumn leaves from underneath two large old pear trees.  As we have had so much rain lately I've been unable to get out there and take care of the leaves and there was quite a thick layer.  If I just left them alone most of the grass underneath the trees would have died back.  Now that might have been great for the trees as grass is very competitive but not so good for the aesthetics of my garden.  So I compromise.  I allow the last couple of weeks of leaf fall to remain underneath the tree and I remove all the rest and place it on the garden,  Today it mostly went underneath my fruit trees where it will  be eaten by earthworms until it has all been transformed into healthy soil.  My patch of ground is clay based and indeed had only the tiniest layer of soil sitting atop the clay when I first began gardening here nearly 23 years ago.
Now I can dig a spade's depth in most places and in the vegetable garden much more. 

I've let the chooks into the garden too, to scratch around and add their manure to the process. These are new chickens, one bantam lavender leghorn hen and a trio of Japanese bantams which are so tiny they are almost bantam bantams.  I haven't yet seen them give a good scratch but my gosh they are pretty.

I really like Campines, an old breed of fowl which are hard to find these days.  I had a lovely trio for a few years but foxes managed to pick them off one by one.  I keep them safely penned at night but sometimes other people relax the shutting up at night rule and they disappear.  I'm determined to find some more and begin again. These are a 3/4 fowl, so not quite a bantam but not a big full size bird either.  They lay a very nice size white egg which tastes delicious.

Back to worms.  I lived in Toronto Canada for a couple of years and it always amazed me the amount of leaves that the deciduous trees produced.  After leaf fall the council would come along and collect the leaves and take them off somewhere.  To compost or not I never did try to find out.  I had a tiny little garden and I soon found that if you didn't remove the leaves they just accumulated and smothered the plants you wanted to grow.  There seemed to be no earthworm activity at all and no earthworms in the soil when I dug it over.  I was told earthworms were not native to the area and the forests and evolved to thrive with a deep layer of leaf litter.  I found this article today which explains what has happened in some of the forests where earthworms have found a way in.  Devastation is seems.  We humans keep being reminded that we can change many things for the better but also the reverse is true.

3 June 2012

Our dear the scammers and spammers have hijacked the Christmas Hills Garden Sculptures site.  It's been closed down until I can deal with whatever they have done.

2 June 2012

Autumn colours in Australia

Officially we are in winter, 1st June for us means winter chills, only this year its not really chilly - yet.  At least not here, north of Sydney, NSW.  For us it has been a very wet and mild start to the season.  I hosted an Autum Moon Party back at the start of May hoping for the garden to be all orange and yellow, but alas it was not to be.  Now three weeks later it is showing its true glory.

We are limited to what we can grow in this temperate climate that will reliably colour up; Chinese pistachios work well, Liquidambers also, Crepe Myrtles turn a lovely yellow, fruiting quinces too.  I have one beech which turns a gorgeous golden yellow and one Gingko which has been in the ground 23 years and isn't much higher than my knee.

Added to the yellow, orange and red is the purple of various tibouchinas,  purple and gold works well.