♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
A subtropical climate is not conducive to growing French lavender.
I have followed all the rules, not too wet, don’t dry out, soil nutrient, trim regularly, but haven’t had much success.
This year I let my lavender shrub do its own thing.
Although the flowers and leaves are not as big or lustrous as those in designer gardens, the mauve flowers and soft leaves do have a lovely fragrance.
The big bonus is busy bees like my lavender!
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
The world’s best loved insects – butterflies. As soon as I walked into the Bribie Island Butterfly House, a sense of calm enveloped me. Founder Ray Archer says “Butterflies are beautiful and very peaceful insects” and I can attest to that.
This tranquil not-for-profit organisation was founded by Ray and Delphine Archer who sold their business Olive Products Australia and moved to beautiful Bribie Island, off the south-east coast of Queensland, so Ray could devote time to his passion for breeding and raising butterflies.
I’d like to take you on a stroll through the butterflies domain. But first we will learn a few facts from the Nursery before entering their airy, sun-filled, flower-perfumed enclosure.
A LESSON OR TWO ON BUTTERFLIES . . .
- A female butterfly may lay between 100 to 200 eggs, and within a week or so a caterpillar will hatch.
- A caterpillar breathes through tiny holes in its sides and will eat its own weight in leaf material every day until the final skin is discarded and the chrysalis hardens.
- Inside the chrysalis, metamorphosis continues as the butterfly is formed and this can take weeks, months or sometimes years.
- When the final stages of the caterpillar are complete, the newly formed adult butterfly will emerge, needing a few hours to dry its wings before taking flight.
- Butterflies don’t have a mouth, they use their proboscis like a straw to drink nectar from flowers.
- Butterflies have two large compound eyes which offer a wide visual field and extreme colour vision.
- The two antennae on a butterfly’s head help with navigation and detecting plant aromas and a prospective mate.
AND THE ONE YOU WILL BE TESTED ON . . .
- Butterflies are insects in the macrolepidopteran clade Rhopalocera from the order Lepidoptera.
Ready to go inside? You have to go slow because butterflies don’t dive-bomb you like mosquitoes. Silent wings flutter by, difficult to photograph, I marvel at their fragility.
Photos left to right—Plant-filled entry; a vine chock-full of happy butterflies; misty air rises from a vaporizer; a Common Crow, why that name?; a Swamp Tiger against the blue sky; newly hatched Monarch; oops, there’s two Orchard Swallowtails mating, best move on . . .
NEXT I NOTICED QUIRKY THINGS TUCKED AROUND THE BUTTERFLY HOUSE . . .
Hanging pot planters and gumboots stuffed with plants.
A rather clandestine bubbler and a secret butterfly door.
Inspirational quote and landing pad stocked with nutritious butterfly food.
This lady (below) had to make sure she was butterfly-free before leaving. The butterflies landed on hair and hats. Interestingly, they stayed well clear of the heavy black plastic doors, perhaps because their focus is on light, bright colours.
Before departing I visited the plant section where butterfly-friendly plants (see chart) were available for purchase. There is no cafe and no merchandising, and nobody telling visitors The Rules. The only suggestion is to leave your worries in a bin at the door. Quite a refreshing visit in more ways than one!
The Bribie Island Butterfly House exists to provide a sense of purpose and lasting friendships among their volunteers, to offer visitors an enjoyable and educational visit in a peaceful environment and to help the disadvantaged via donations to charities.
Grow a patch of dandelions! Check out Lyn’s wonderful UK Butterflies And Garden blog. Pledge to stop using manufactured pesticides! Around my area, the green tree frog and butterfly populations have severely decreased due to the rise in toxic garden herbicides and pesticides. Think natural, not noxious!
And, of course, my avatar is a hand-drawn butterfly.
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
Coming out of a hot dry summer, March weather is beginning to soften the sky and offer the cooler, more gentle mornings of autumn. There is no definite change of season, just a calmness, almost a feeling of relief after the insistent tropical heat.
Apart from, whack, an insect, there’s something serene and relaxing about strolling through a garden, touching leaves, sniffing flowers, following a creek and hearing the splash of a small waterfall through the trees.
To quote Rudyard Kipling “The Glory of the Garden it shall never pass away!” so…
Here’s what I experienced one lovely morning…
Arriving early at the Brisbane Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens, I strolled through a cool, green gully and thought it was strange to be in a capital city yet hear no traffic sounds. I floated along, enjoying the stillness, until my personal calm was shattered when the garden crew came on duty and the leaf- blowing brigade roared into action. I had to wait until one fellow walked out of shot to photograph Xanthorrhoea australis, the Grass-trees (below; left). The atmosphere shuffled its feathers and tranquility returned.
Wooden bridges and flowing streams…
Leisurely, I followed the meandering paths across bridges and green lawns, enjoying the mild sunshine. Strolling down a slope, I came to a bracken-lined watercourse then walked up a gentle incline towards king ferns, piccabeen palms and towering hoop pines. I’ve never fully traversed the 56 hectare (138 acre) area which displays mainly eastern Australian plants.
You can spot Eastern Water Dragons (lizards) and geckos as they scurry out of sight or get a giggle watching the many varieties of water fowl, ducking and diving in the lake. Feeding wildlife is not allowed and I couldn’t entice them into an appealing photograph.
Sculptural features are ‘casually’ placed throughout the gardens and I think the most alluring is a silver fern seat (below; left) with interesting support.
Beside the pond and beneath the trees…
The Japanese Garden (below; entrance and pond) offers soothing symmetry and a waterlily’s single bloom. Nearby the concert bandstand has grass seating surrounded by trees with foliage of different patterns and colours. Around me, there’s a multitude of subtropical shrubs, cycads and flowers with names I never remember. You will notice that I do not attempted to be horticultural! A bit further along, in the arid zone, resides a sci-fi concoction of exotic cacti. The culinary, fragrant and medicinal herb gardens are pure indulgence. But if herbs aren’t your thing, the pungent eucalypt is my favourite and walking the Aboriginal Plant Trail with its edible food plants.
Biodiversity and water reflections…
The stillness of the morning created pleasing reflections on the lagoon which is fed by rainwater captured from the hills. You can choose between typical heathland or wetland regions made easily accessible for suburban folk. The Conservation Collection includes rare and endangered species in their natural habitats and I entered the steamy, geodesic hothouse (below; left) where equatorial plants are nurtured. My face beads in sweat, it’s not a place for humans to linger too long. Time for an ice-cream!
Look outside the Botanic Gardens…
Outside the entry are several buildings of interest: Sir Thomas Brisbane Planetarium (below; saved from extinction by a vocal community uprising) large carpark, small art studio, specialist library and auditorium providing a variety of events. I have booked a place in a workshop Monoprinting Australian Native Plants, so a blog post may be forthcoming. The new Visitor Information centre offers guided walks and Gardens Café has the ice-cream. The two white-coated fellows outside the café are entomologists, surviving statues from World Expo 88.
Pandas and children have a special treat…
The Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens Children’s Trail is a hide-and-seek ramble through the shady rainforest garden with special works of art dotted along the way and I couldn’t resist following it myself. Check out the wacky weathervane! And a log for native stingless Sugarbag bees. Mother and baby Panda bears enjoy the bamboo; they are a special fabrication of laser-cut aluminium by Australian sculptor Mark Andrews.
Parks and gardens change with horticultural trends. The smaller City Botanic Gardens are older and more formal, in keeping with the style of previous centuries, but I prefer the softness of Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens. As the world becomes more populated and natural plant life decreases, Brisbane city dwellers like me need our botanical gardens to nourish and refresh our screen-dependant interior lives.
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
Note: Please click or tap an image to enlarge.
You may also like to read about my visit higher up the road at Mt Coot-tha Lookout.
Sonnet 116: Let Me Not to the Marriage of True Minds
Let me not to the marriage of true minds
Admit impediments. Love is not love
Which alters when it alteration finds,
Or bends with the remover to remove.
O no! it is an ever-fixed mark
That looks on tempests and is never shaken;
It is the star to every wand’ring bark,
Whose worth’s unknown, although his height be taken.
Love’s not Time’s fool, though rosy lips and cheeks
Within his bending sickle’s compass come;
Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,
But bears it out even to the edge of doom.
If this be error and upon me prov’d,
I never writ, nor no man ever lov’d.
By William Shakespeare
Love to all ♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
Nasturtiums like to grow free-range in the sun with well-drained soil but I planted the seeds in an old hanging basket under the verandah and watched their lifespan over three months from warm September mornings in springtime to steamy January afternoons in summertime.
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
These vivid flowers would be perfect at Christmas time. But, no, this spectacular red Callistemon, an Australian native Bottlebrush, flowers in springtime and early summer. It has long fluffy tubular flowers that look beautiful in gardens and taste delicious to all kinds of native birds, insects and other wildlife. The flower 'brushes' are so soft, not spiky at all. There were two Rainbow Lorikeets hiding in the branches, eating the nectar and chatting away, but they wouldn’t keep still for a snapshot. I saw this long row of flowering plants in an industrial-type setting in Brisbane yet Callistemon grows in every location, tall shady trees to knee-high potted shrubs and used as groundcover. Information from this website Australian Plants Online Flowering Callistemon indicates that I’ve photographed 'Hannah Ray' which is 4 metres high and suitable for streetscapes. It brightened my September day! ♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
September and spring is emerging in the southern hemisphere. And my garden!
I have just found out what Crocosmia means! Small, brightly coloured funnel-shaped blooms, sword-shaped foliage, grown from bulbs similar to the Iris family. Grouped together they make ideal, butterfly-friendly floral displays. Such a variety of colours and shapes to gladden the heart of any artistic gardener.
On Gardenia Creating Gardens website, companion planting with Crocosmia is reminiscent of English cottage gardens (see below) although they are natives of South Africa. I haven’t planted Crocosmia, I should, they tolerate Brisbane’s subtropical climate, humidity, heat and current drought-like conditions.
Since Queensland won’t be getting tropical rainfall for a couple of months yet, I will satisfy myself with what I can photograph in my own meagre garden; and add excerpts from some famous poems about springtime.
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward
Dear Diary, it’s a calm, warm July day, almost like an early Spring, but there are no butterflies or buzzing insects. The crows call to each other across the back garden and noisy miners flit back and forth like feathered investigators on an important assignment. The children in the house behind my suburban block are jumping on a netted trampoline and soon there will be a cry and a parent will take them off. The towels have been on the Hills Hoist clothes line for two days. A dried-out agapanthus head is sticking straight up out of the perennial foliage, a reminder that I am not a conscientious gardener.
So saying, in a green square pot I have grown a very tall tomato plant with fat green tomatoes (above) emerging every day. The old mandarin tree has a yearly crop of pale orange-coloured mandarins, and my rosella plants are flowering (above) while the spring onions and ginger roots carry on regardless. There are non-native plants like a small pomegranate, poinsettia bright red and blooming (above) and our huge native gum tree towers over all of us; blossom for the parrots and fruit bats. Special mention goes to our agave family. These Mexican beauties (above) love our subtropical climate and we’ve given away more young plants than I can remember.
Of course, there’s the herbs, for better or worse, always trying so hard … The trailing hoya (above) was a joy with its pink waxy flowers but recently it decided it had had enough and shrivelled up. The ancient mulberry tree went the same way, dying in the drought a few years back, followed by the peach and avocado trees. The coffee bean tree (above) survives anything. We live on a sloping hill with poor soil which is interesting because many years ago cows grazed on the lush hillsides around us. My father once said “All your good top soil has been washed downhill”. Not so long ago the rich alluvial earth along the creek at the bottom of our street was plundered and no doubt sold for landscaping.
When I first lived here, the suburb was casual with a leafy roughness about it which made for a relaxed, friendly vibe. Indeed, every home was owner/builder and most residents chose not to erect fences nor were there any footpaths. Trees were planted to shade homes from the fierce western afternoon sun and if you were lucky you had a ceiling fan. Ah, the 70s, a time of emerging from the past and forging ahead with little regard for past cultural or community identity but, in so doing, it created a unique city. Strangely, if not surprisingly, it has taken about 40 years for the people of Brisbane, Queensland, to appreciate our subtropical city. The past is now nostalgically and fondly remembered as the concrete is poured for yet another highrise apartment block.
If real estate developers would let us, we would return to our friendly, informal way of life instead of building cement block homes and painting them grey like every other capital city in Australia. To take my mind off the screeching of chainsaws as they hack down another leopard tree (above) I will write a little bit about our front garden.
In the front garden, and I use the term loosely, there is structure and visions of edging and all, but I have let that slip. Two tall palm trees (above) on either side of the house echo early Queensland-style seen in rural areas. Tough-as-old-boots golden cane palms dot the area while I think our camellia is a Melbourne throwback. The stocky Illawarra flame tree with its pink orchids (above) was planted to complement the purple jacaranda nextdoor (viewed from balcony). I will not describe the weeds like camphor laurel, monstera or umbrella trees always springing up between the lemon scented tea-trees and more civilised shrubs. Does anyone still grow ‘mother-in-law tongue’ and ‘cast-iron’ plants? Cast iron is an unkillable broad leafed low-growing plant and I think it was beloved of early Victorians as either a hothouse or indoor plant in brass pots on wooden stands.
In the back garden, what there is left of our lawn is covered in bindii prickles thanks to lawn mowing contractors who disperse them willy-nilly via their lawn mower tyres. You can read my screed on Lawn Mower Men. There is a shallow bird bath under the eucalyptus tree for the enjoyment of noisy miner birds. On a tiled outdoor table, I have my inherited maiden hair fern (above) in a small pretty terracotta pot. The pot was thrown and fired by a neighbour and friend over thirty-five years ago. This little fern is hardier than most!
Apart from hedging bushes of murraya, or mock orange, there is no strong scent in the garden and no ornamental plantings with fragrance except a straggly French lavender potplant. Our forebears had a bit of foresight when it came to planting leafy, sheltering greenery in an otherwise hot landscape. It’s our trees which stand out, they, and others like them, represent our suburban streetscape. Long may they tower over us!
♥ Gretchen Bernet-Ward