about this blog



This blog tracks the ongoing changes of my garden, and the wildlife I try to attract to it. It's a nature blog. It contains my thoughts and musings about anything and everything to do with nature - gardening, book reviews, philosophy, travel, science, history, art, design, politics.
Catmint is my signature plant because it has all the qualities I value in a plant: resilience, beauty and the capacity to spread prolifically . Unfortunately it's not indigenous. If I was starting again I'd probably choose an indigenous plant.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

end-of winter, beginning-of-spring garden - what's growing?



It was a cold, wet winter and the garden's flourishing. Here are a few of the plants growing, individually and in groups to form pictures ...

Trunk of Snow Gum with self seeded Borage around contrasting Lomandra grasses

Magnolia stellata
Euphorbia Silver Swan
Ipheion uniflorum
Periwinkle flowers growing on the fence, weed but lovely
Viola odorata - English Violet
Ginger Lily - gone to seed
Eucalyptus gregsoniana - Snow Gum
Indigofera australis, Australian Indigo
Gastrolobium celsianum - Swan River Pea - growing through Westringia fruticosa 'Blue Gem'
Self seeded Borage, loved by bees
Acacia floribunda - Gossamer Wattle
Acacia spp.
Euphorbia characis
Westringia fruticosa 'Blue Gem' - Native Rosemary
Eucalyptus leucoxylon
Borage with ladybird beetle
 distinctive serrated leaves of Banksia marginata - Silver Banksia
Euphorbias in front of Santolinas, Rosemary in backkground
Side path with Rainbow Ferns and white and red Camellias in background
Echiums in front of Snow Gum with flowering Euphorbia characis behind 
Tangle of ferns and different species of  lilies
I want to link this post with the Lessons Learned meme at Plant Postings. To participate you need to share what you have learned in the garden during the season that has just ended. I don't think you just learn something and then you know it.  I think learning is ongoing and cyclical. I knew that in time things would grow, but I kind of forgot that I knew this. At the start of winter I was quite depressed about the garden because so many of the new plantings were still too small and insignificant to give a pleasing picture. But after 3 months with lots of rain, it's looking good again, and I've relearned, or learned more deeply, that plants grow in their own time, and they will grow. You just have to be patient.

I'm also linking this post with the End of month view at The Patient Gardener's Weblog, in Helen Johnstone's blog. This post gives a snapshot of my garden at the end of August. For details of Helen's garden in the same timeframe, and many other gardens all over the world, it's definitely worth checking out this blog.

Thursday, 13 August 2015

dead bodies in the garden


Forensic pathologists conduct autopsies to determine the cause of death. I'm no forensic pathologist. I'm also not a zoologist. So before I can speculate about the cause of death, I need to work out what animal these were, when they were warm blooded living mammals. This post may seem horrible and grisly, but in the bid to attract wildlife to the garden, there are bound to be dead, as well as alive, bodies ... it's the cycle of life.


The skeleton in the photos above is of a ring tailed possum. The reason I can confidently identify it as such is because I remember seeing it soon after it died. How and why it died is a mystery. I have since learned that if you find a dead possum or other marsupial, you should immediately check its pouch to make sure there is not a baby there.

After that, there are a number of options regarding disposal of the carcass, like putting it in a rubbish bin or burying it. I just leave them where they are and let birds and beetles and flies and other insects get nourishment and strip the carcass down to the bones. This is what happened and the possum skeleton remains in the same position that it died in, with the backbone and tail bones no longer connected but hardly disturbed and still in position.



When I first noticed the tail hanging out of the possum box, I was thrilled to have such a cute photo opportunity. I wondered whether the possum had a hot tail and was cooling it while it slept.

When the tail remained in the same position after a few days, I started to be concerned. To make sure my suspicions were correct I went out with a torch at night to check on it. It was still there. The possum must be dead, I assumed, although I haven't climbed up to check. How and why it died is unknown.

possum entrails
headless possum

The possum on the footpath had been viciously attacked. Something had ripped its head off and its entrails had been ripped out as well. The fact that it hadn't been eaten implied the killer killed for the sake of killing, not for food. I assume that would have been a fox or maybe a cat.

When I found another dead carcass in the garden, I first thought it was a possum. Only when I looked more closely at the tail did I realize it wasn't a brushtail or ringtail possum tail. Nor was it a rat's tail. What could it  be? Maybe a dog or a cat, or maybe a rare black fox? Black foxes are part of Australia's introduced fauna and there have been occasional reported sightings since the 1920s. They are a darker variant of the silver fox. Whatever it was, I wonder how it came to die in the garden.

mystery tail

Friday, 31 July 2015

where are the microbats?



There are Australian Magpies that make themselves at home in the garden.

BUT WHERE ARE THE MICROBATS?


I'm not sure what animal has made a home in this nesting box.  I suspect it's a possum.

BUT WHERE ARE THE MICROBATS?


 There's a Pied Currawong that often pops in...

BUT WHERE ARE THE MICROBATS?


I put up this special nesting box for microbats. They may be inside but I haven't noticed any coming in or out, and I haven't noticed any in the garden.

This is what they would look like if they were inside their specially provided accommodation.

Australasian Bat Society - with permission
Bats are the only mammals that can fly.  

In Australia bats consist of large fruit-eating Flying Foxes and tiny insect-eating microbats. In Melbourne there are 17 different species of bats. All bats in Australia are native - none are introduced.
White Striped Freetail bat - photo by Robert Bender
Microbats are enormously beneficial for ecosystems. To get the energy they need to fly, they eat huge numbers of insects - up to three quarters of their body weight every night - including pests like mosquitos. And if there aren't many insects about, their metabolism slows down and they go into a state like hibernation.

Apparently microbats  are quite common in Melbourne and its suburbs, but hard to see because they are small, nocturnal, use ultrasonic calls that we can't hear and are concealed in roosts during the day.

I hope they are in my garden. If they are, I wish they'd give me a sign.

Friday, 24 July 2015

my mother loved my garden



When my mother was 100 I created a post for her using 100 garden and nature photos. That was nearly three years ago. She didn't make it to her 103rd birthday. 

My mother loved my garden but she didn't always love it. She didn't understand it. It didn't fit with her idea of a garden. It was messy. There were leaves on the garden beds. There was no symmetry. And maybe worst of all, there were insects, that she associated with dirt and danger.

One day I took her around the garden and explained my ideas and aims. I told her I was aiming to create garden pictures. Ideally, wherever you looked, from every side, I said, it was a pleasing picture. I explained the importance of mulching the soil, and how important insects and all wildlife were because a garden is also a habitat.

And she got it. She grew to love the garden, and appreciated it and how it was always changing. And I loved sharing it with her. Now all that is left are memories, precious memories.

In the acquarium in the Emergency Department
A flowering gum in the street near the hospital where I parked the car
The view at sunset from her hospital room
Orchid given to my mother in hospital
Saying goodbye, a few days before she died

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

the dog and the red back spider



This morning I shook out Potter's rug, as I often do. It is kept on an outdoor seat where the dog likes to sit and wait for us when we're out. I got a fright to see a highly poisonous female red back spider on the rug. If Potter sat on this spider, it would definitely bite her. If she was bitten, without anti venom she would almost certainly die.




The Red back spider, Lactrodectus hasseli, belongs to the Theridiidae family, found all over the world. Native to Australia, it is very common and found all over the continent. It is a close relative of the Black Widow spider.

There is no gender equality among Red backs. Females are larger than males, the red stripe is more dominant and they live longer, about two or three years compared to six or seven months.

Female Red backs build a cleverly designed nest, keeping the eggs and spiderlings safe at the top and using the bottom of the nest to trap prey. Males don't build nests.

Male Red backs rarely survive the mating process. To keep the female occupied during mating, they turn a somersault and offer their abdomen. The female sprays it with digestive juices and proceeds to eat its fleeting mate.

The female can store sperm for a couple of years, using it to lay several batches of eggs. She then produces sacs for the eggs. Each sac contains about 250 eggs, and she can lay eggs every couple of weeks.

I re-located this spider and reminded myself to wear gloves when gardening.



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