By Beatrice Hawkins
I know from the news that our area has had a terrible time with bushfires while I have been away on the other side of the continent in Western Australia but it is so hard to comprehend when it is so green and flourishing in this area. Crops are looking beautiful, fruit trees are in full bloom, roses flourishing, camellias and azaleas looking spectacular and the natives on the roadside and in gardens changing every day.
Banksias are not quite out yet in this area but the green candles are there ready to turn brilliant yellow as are the particular type of small grass tree that is common to this area. The spikes are brilliant green and will be covered in white blossoms in the next week or so but they do not grow as large as other varieties here or in the eastern states.
Assorted wattles are in full bloom and vary widely in form. In this particular shire area there are approximately 450 different types from tiny low growing shrubs with little yellow puff balls for flowers to tall trees with pendulous bracts of pale creamy gold and every shape, size and colour in between.
Bright orange red “running postman” is seen climbing over everything along the roadside contrasting and intertwining with the beautiful white 4 petalled, highly perfumed, native clematis.
The hardenbergia here, is very similar to the eastern states and I saw a huge specimen in a garden in a small town we drove through. It was climbing over an archway along with a cream native bell flower and forming an arch into an antique shop…beautiful! This was always the first plant to appear after the grader had done the edges of the road when I was young and as such has always been a favourite.
While there are many bright and brash flowers to be seen as you drive through the area, when I take time to walk through the bush at the back of my daughter’s house I am amazed at the number and variety of beautiful, tiny flowers that are there. Walk carefully or you might tread on tiny yellow and brown donkey orchids, petite fringed violets less than a centimetre across, brilliant purple flowers, little climbing sundew, tiny white orchids and a myriad of others. Within a few yards of the back door there are about 30 different flowers.
In the same area along the roadside are large swathes of freesias in full bloom that have gone feral and with the car window down the perfume is great. As a small child I lived in an area that was also blessed with such displays and I used to pick roadside bouquets for my mother on the way home from school… lovely memories brought to mind!
Another wonderful sight this week has been the tiny electric blue splendid fairy wrens (malurus splendens) that are nesting in my daughter’s garden. As the windows have a reflective coating, the birds aren’t aware of us watching them as they peck at the insects that are on the window ledges and screens. I had never seen the all blue variety before. They are really spectacular. I love the little superb (malurus cyaneas) ones that have always had a place in my various gardens but these little fellows are just something else! Brilliant electric blue all over and a joy to watch so close up.
I enjoy the different parrots over here almost as much as the variety of wild flowers and lately we have had the red capped parrot(purpuriecephalus spurius), western rosella (platycerus icterotis) and the magnificent red tailed black cockatoo(calyptorlynchus banksii nasa), that are confined to the old growth Jarrah forests, visiting in the trees around the house. Unfortunately because of land clearing for housing and in particular in this area, bauxite mining, these cockatoos are declining in numbers due to the destruction of their unique habitat.
The other bird that is huge numbers over here of course is the so called “28”parrot that is actually the Australian ring neck (barnardius zonarius semitorqautus) – beautiful in green and yellow with its black cap. I always wondered at the name but apparently its triple noted call sounds like it is saying 28… I’ll have to listen more closely!
It seems that the column this week is as much about birds as gardening but over the weekend I am going to be looking very closely, with some expert botanists and a botanical artist, at the native flowers in Kings Park in the Perth hills, so should have some interesting things to report next time.
Don’t forget the garden competition in the first week of October. Even though our water restrictions and seriously dry weather have meant a serious decline in our ability to have lovely gardens, we are all in the same boat. Perhaps it is time to enter the competition so we can see what does survive with our limited water resources and maybe rethink our plantings.