My Tree Orchid with Pink Flowers

Trees are dropping leaves to survive and the ground is like iron.  Just the other morning I watered my Dendrobium orchid and the long buds were tightly closed.  Drought conditions have sent the ants in all directions in search of sustenance but even they were absent.

In the afternoon I returned from lunch with friends and à la voile!  There was my tree orchid in full bloom!

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Springtime is not properly acknowledged in my garden until this orchid flowers.  It is always my September spectacular.

Australian orchids tend to be small, for instance the Cooktown Orchid which is the floral emblem of Queensland, but this species is large and robust.  The dull afternoon light does not do justice to its display.

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A semi deciduous pink-flowering orchid, it is ‘probably’ native to Australia, a Dendrobium Nobile, and in this case has been grown as an epiphyte – tree hugger.  It has been in the family for over forty years and needs basically no care at all.  The blooms have a very faint fragrance.

Why I say ‘probably’ native to Australia is because I always thought it came from the Pacific region.  In fact, originally its forebears came from northern India/southern China where it would have been quite used to extremes in temperature.

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Then I discovered hybrids have been produced.  These can be subdivided into two types, the ‘English’ and ‘Japanese’ type, and later I read this historical document courtesy of The Shambles, a country garden at Montville in south-east Queensland:

Dendrobium nobile  Reliable soft cane epiphytic orchid.  We have many unnamed flower colour varieties from mauve, pink and white range.  A trouble-free orchid flowering in spring.  Introduced to Britain c.1836 by Loddiges’ Nursery.  Requested from Loddiges’ Nursery on 1st February 1849 for Camden Park NSW Australia and obtained from them, brought out from England by Captain P. P. King in that year.  India www.qos.org.au 1A.1885, 13.1900/1,15.Camden Orchid walk, West Garden, near back stairs, Blue trellis garden, Rain forest walk.

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After reading the Wagga Orchid Society PDF (link below) and using a bit of guesstimation, years later my orchid could have been transported from the Riverina region of New South Wales, Australia, on consignment to a Brisbane plant nursery.

I now look at my tree orchid in awe and wonderment – such a lineage.

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The following shot was taken a few days later in much better sunlight.  There was a bee hovering around but it refused to be photographed.

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Gretchen Bernet-Ward

P.S. If you are interested in lovely flowers and picturesque settings in rural countryside, I can recommend a visit to the website and blogspot of The Shambles country garden, Montville, Queensland.

https://montvillegarden.com/
https://montvillegarden.blogspot.com/
https://www.facebook.com/montvillegarden
and further reading
http://waggaorchidsociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/09/Dendrobium-nobile-orchid-growing.pdf

The Shambles Monsieur Tillier Rose
The Shambles and ‘Monsieur Tillier Rose’

Novelist Marguerite Yourcenar said…

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Marguerite Yourcenar, or Marguerite Antoinette Jeanne Marie Ghislaine Cleenewerck de Crayencour, was a French novelist and essayist born in Brussels, Belgium, who became a US citizen in 1947. Winner of the Prix Femina and Erasmus Prize, in 1980 she was the first woman elected to the Académie Française. Her most notable work is historical novel “‎Mémoires d’Hadrien” (Memoirs of Hadrian) and I have read “Denier du Rêve” (retitled A Coin in Nine Hands) set in 1933 over one day in Rome where a ten-lira coin passes through the hands of nine unusual people https://www.britannica.com/biography/Marguerite-Yourcenar The flower buds are Dianella caerulea (commonly known as the blue flax-lily) which turn into small green then purple berries and it grows in a terracotta pot near my kitchen door. GBW.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Bees Like My Lavender!

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

Botanical Gardens Fresh Air and Sunshine

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.

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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.

Nasturtium Flowers Lifespan

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

Floral Christmas Decorations Already?

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.

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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.

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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

My Mandarin Tree Growing Project

You are invited to follow my pictorial efforts in home-growing mandarin trees with no experience and limited resources.  Nothing by the book, just me planting seeds and hoping Mother Nature does the rest.  I’m not even sure if you have to dry the seeds first!

Gretchen Bernet-Ward


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#1. You may remember this photo from my bread baking post. These home-grown mandarins started me thinking about growing my own fruit tree. The following photos are the beginning of my journey.

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#2. Originally five experimental mandarin seeds were sown and two germinated which was enough encouragement to start my home-growing project. These prototypes have past the two-leaf stage and should be replanted.

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#3. It was annoying having to wait until this egg carton was empty but the eggs were delicious.

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#4. I cut the lid off the base and snipped off the support cones in the middle of the box thinking it might help with watering. Not all egg cartons are made the same.

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#5. The lid fitted nicely into the base and created a drainage system underneath. I left the flap to write on later.

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#6. Seeds from two or three mandarins. The 45-year-old tree grows in our backyard and never gets watered or fertilized. I noticed that not all of the fruit had seeds so I took the plumpest ones.

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#7. It may look like an advertisement but I used a small portion of this 6-litre bag of seed raising mix.

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#8. Twelve seeds planted (poked into the soil) successfully with several left over until I have another egg carton. Just in case I forget, I wrote data on the side flap. I hope to post regular updates!

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#9. Instructions on the seed raising bag suggest watering with an atomiser for a fine spray. This one works well without flooding although I’m not sure how the cardboard carton will hold up.

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#10. I found a suitable bench outside where I can keep an eye on my project; and added a drip-tray. A clear cover is suggested to increase humidity and encourage germination but I live in a subtropical climate so will not cover the container. Fingers crossed…see you in three months time!

Springtime Ode

September and spring is emerging in the southern hemisphere. And my garden!

Luminous Fluoro Flowers
My ode to springtime using DooDooLite

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.

Flower Crocosmia
https://www.gardenia.net/guide/Great-Companion-Plants-for-Your-Crocosmia

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.

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“Spring” by Gerard Manley Hopkins
Nothing is so beautiful as Spring –
When weeds, in wheels, shoot long and lovely and lush;
Thrush’s eggs look little low heavens, and thrush
Through the echoing timber does so rinse and wring
The ear, it strikes like lightnings to hear him sing;
The glassy pear tree leaves and blooms, they brush
The descending blue; that blue is all in a rush
With richness; the racing lambs too have fair their fling.
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“A Light Exists in Spring” by Emily Dickinson
A Colour stands abroad
On Solitary Fields
That Science cannot overtake
But Human Nature feels.
It waits upon the Lawn,
It shows the furthest Tree
Upon the furthest Slope you know
It almost speaks to you.
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“September in Australia” by Henry Kendall 
Grey Winter hath gone, like a wearisome guest,
And, behold, for repayment,
September comes in with the wind of the West
And the Spring in her raiment!
The ways of the frost have been filled of the flowers,
While the forest discovers
Wild wings, with the halo of hyaline hours,
And the music of lovers.
Azalea and Dragon
“Lines Written in Early Spring” by William Wordsworth
Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
And ’tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.
Gnomes
“Australian Spring” by Hugh McCrae
And jolly Spring, with love and laughter gay
Full fountaining, lets loose her tide of bees
Upon the waking ember-flame of bloom
New kindled in the honey-scented trees.
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“Spring” by Christina Georgina Rossetti
There is no time like Spring,
When life’s alive in everything,
Before new nestlings sing,
Before cleft swallows speed their journey back
Along the trackless track –
God guides their wing,
He spreads their table that they nothing lack –
Before the daisy grows a common flower
Before the sun has power
To scorch the world up in his noontide hour.

Gretchen Bernet-Ward

Garden Notes on a Warm Winter Day

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.

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Tomatoes
Rosella Flower 01
Rosella
Pointsettia 002
Poinsettia
Agave 03
Agave

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

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Hoya

 

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Coffee Flower
Bird Nest 02
Nest

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

Palm Blossom 001
Date Palm
Alkina Flame Tree (6)
Flame Tree
Orchid on Flame Tree
Orchid
Jacaranda in Afternoon
Jacaranda

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Maiden Hair Fern
Fern

 

 

 

 

 

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