Sunday, 30 September 2007

Orchids and other pretty flowers

This post will primarily concern itself with the native orchids found on El Rancho, or in the near vicinity. However, in starting to photograph the orchids I found we were also seeing other nice flowers so have included them also. For an expert view on the vegetation around here see maintained by Ros Cornish and John Wilkes. For those who prefer hard copy I recommend "Wildflowers of the Bush Capital" by Ian Fraser and Margaret McJannett.

These first ones of mine are Glossoidea major, and was one of a patch of at least 50 found in the middle paddock on 29 September 2007.

This could be considered a bit of a cheat since it wasn't actually growing on the grounds of El Rancho. Instead it was located at Cuumbeun NR (on 23 September) about 16km away. However I was the one that spotted it! It has been (tentatively) identified as Prasophyllum odorata but with some misgivings and concern. The guru of Australian orchids has been consulted and the experts will only say it is a leek orchid until the word has been pronounced.
The final word on this specimen came on 2 October in an email from Ros: "Unfortunately there was no trace of the Prasophyllum. It looked as if the 'roos had been snoozing there as the area was messed up with tussocks shredded the way they do. "

Back to El Rancho and we now get to first "little green job". This was growing in some Kunzea scrub and spotted by our friend Jean when it was just a few small leaves. After achieving the photographed state she was able identify it, more or less instantly, as Hymenochillus cycnocephalus. The diagnostic feature is the dark triangle on the labellum!

This one is Diuris chryseopsis, the small snake orchid. Frances found it while we were searching, unsuccesfully, for a Twining fringe lily we had found earlier in the day.

Another Diuris, in this case D. sulphurea or the Donkey orchid: note the resemblance to asses ears! We found this one growing near one of our patches of Kunzea parvifolia. As they are the commonest orchid in many parts of Canberra it is surprising we have only had this one!

Here we have the third Diuris species. This is D. semilunulata and appears to be restricted to the Queanbeyan area where it is quite common.

These are the flowers that got the title of the post to include "other pretty flowers". Also found in the unsuccesful search they are Viola betonicifolia the mountain violet.

This lurid example is Kunzea parvifolia. I'm not sure if it is the common Kunzea all over our propertybut if it is, and it all flowers, the place will be spectacular indeed. This has not happened, but we do have several patches of it, which is quite unusual in this area.

Here we have Xerochrysum viscosa - I think that is the current name, which seems to have changed more frquently than the weather. Note the serendipitous ant!

Maintaining the theme of "yellow" this is the Yam Daisy aka Microseris lanceolata.

Helichrysum scorpiodes (I think). It seems that the genus does not actually exist in Australia but no-one has a better scientific name for this species (yet).

The two images below are of the male (left) and female (right) flowers of the early nancy (Wurmbea dioica). The difference in the reproductive organs is rather clear - I hope that doesn't block this blog from any family oriented apparati!

Monday, 24 September 2007

The greening of Carwoola

In several of my posts I have included images of parts of the landscape of Carwoola being bonsaied (or in other words, severely pruned). However we are also attempting to reduce our carbon footprint somewhat by planting a fair bit of stuff.

An initial aim of this was to have an olive grove, which is now up to 9 trees. This included 3 trees already in existence when we arrived although they had been well munched by the kangaroos. They were also on a rocky hill and not enjoying it (even though it resembled the envoironment along the coast of the Mediterranean) so were very small and sorry looking. We increased the number of trees by 6 on a visit to Adelaide where we acquired 6 trees at $5 each from 45 Wright St, Renown Park (sorry, they don't seem to have a website at the moment).

I then noticed a truck from Greening Australia driving around Carwoola and on following up with an acquaintance there found that they could, and would, give us lots of stuff. Here is a link to their site

The first part of the project was 200 tubes of trees and shrubs which we got in two lots of 100.

As usual with plants (except possibly bromeliads) the first thing to do was create a hole for them to live in. This was made easier by using a hand auger, although after digging 50 holes in a day (in soil fairly well supplied with shale and lumps of quartz) my shoulders were rather second-hand.

Then Francie swung into gear planting the trees and watering them in. Tree guards (cardboard boxes, held up with wee bamboo stakes) were then put in place and a couple of litres of water added for each tree. Finally I swung back into gear putting a layer of compost around each tree guard since the soil seemed a tad deficient in organic matter and cracked as soon as the water dried up.

Being caring and sharing type people we also gave the trees a second drink about 4 days after planting. This is mainly because the weather has not done what was required.

The other component of the process/project was a plan to direct seed another area that looks like the steppe of Kazakhstan, but without Borat (for which we are eternally grateful). This started off by spraying the area with glyophosphate to give the trees the least competition when they germinated. The first time I did this (pictured - note adherence to safety standards) it rained straight afterwards and I thought the spray was washed off so repeated the deal. Needless to say both efforts appeared to work so most of the paddock was sprayed.

The final step of this stage was for a small truck from Greening Australia to come and tow the seeder around the paddock, cutting a furrown and putting in some eucalpt, wattle and other seeds. All we need now is for it to rain - and a bit better than the paltry 1mm we got two days later

I will try to keep this page updated to show how the plants grow. Probably that will be at best a couple of photos every 6 months or so.
Our component of the project is to put in some labour (and a few chemicals). My estimate is that Frances and I have put in about 40 hours to digging the holesplanting watering and mulching the tubestock trees and shrubs. I just hope we get about 50% germination rate as a payoff.

Sunday, 16 September 2007

Floriade eat your heart out

Spring is sprung, the tulips is riz, I wonder where the tourists iz? The silly sods are probably all at Floriade while the cognoscenti are round at the Ey menage looking at Rob's massive (3,000+ corms) display and enjoying the hospitality of the family Ey.

The street frontage is rather specitacular of which this magnificent array is part. The 4th image below provides a wider context.

Being a fan of the large and lurid, in flowers at least, these yellow and red items were my favourites. They lurk by the deck at the back of the house.

Having attended Floriade in the past (mainly to see what political messages are spelt out in the grape hyacinths) I am well aware of the protocol for taking plant photos. As promised this gives a bigger vista of the front garden.

Let there be no sizism in this garden. Obviously this lad gave his right arm (as I define such things) to be in the garden.

Monday, 10 September 2007

Persons at work

This post will include a few images of various folk at work on tasks around our place. The tasks generally have a fairly vigourous physical aspect to them - none of that namby-pamby driving a desk stuff.

This shows Frances in the early days of her vegetable garden. It is in an area which was designed as a dog run and was a veritable mongrel to dig. I don't know why I only have one photograph of her working as she does a lot of stuff; some more will be added later (see below).

As well as the tyres, decsribed in my previous post, we inherited a large pile of prunings and other junk wood. On a cool moist day in June I sent them up. As you might gather from the distance I am from the fire it generated quite a bit of warmth. Needless to say three months later the pile is nearly back to the original size.

I didn't want to run out of firewood next year so invited Milton and his chainsaw around to assist with bonsai-ing a dead stringybark. We definitely defeated this tree, so took a big-game hunter shot.

A few weeks after the previous image was captured, firewood ceased to be in short supply following the intersection of a gale and a shallow rooted (well and truly rooted by this stage) yellow box. Here is Martin starting the tidy-up process.

Two days later and the job was almost done. Those with keen eyes may wish to check out the supervisor. He is likely to get a post dedicated to him and his adventures at a later date.

As promised, here is another piccie of Frances replenishing the tree supply. This was on day 1 of our attempt to regenerate vegetation in the bare paddock, covered in more detail in Greening Carwoola.

One of the issues we had to deal with has been pruning things (which is why the fire pile has regrown). We were able to work most of this out from books and TV programs (thank you Gardening Australia and Vassili's Garden) but the vines remained a black hole. Fortunately Carol and Rob turned up. Not only did they give lots of advice but wielded the secateurs to very great effect.

Saturday, 8 September 2007

Vale tyres

One of the typical issues facing the new owners of a property is the crap left behind by previous owners. Commonly this takes the form of animal shelters especially where goats have been involved.
In our case the main problem was a heap of car tyres that Simon and Fiona inherited from the person from whom they acquired the place.
One of my first actions on getting here was to put an ad in the Stoney Creek Gazette inviting people who needed tyres to come and take them away - on the principle that re-using was about as good as it could get. This got rid of two trailer loads:
>to make a no-dig potato facility (30 tyres); and
> for construction of some horse jumps (25 tyres).
It could be noted that the second group of people, while charming, were not very good at tying the tyres into their trailer. The first one bounced out going over our ford and I found two more lying beside Briars-Sharrow Road when I ran along there the next week.
I found that I could fit 21 tyres into our trailer and (towards the end of the process) could get another 6 into the back of the car. My guess is that we took 15 loads (12 x 21 and 3 x 27) to the Captains Flat tip and 3 loads (2 x 21 and 1 of 27) to the Bungendore tip. Adding the whole lot up we had somewhat over 450 tyres in the heap.

Sometimes going to the tip we were under observation by the locals (Captains flat) of the tip overseer (Bungendore). On other occasions we were simply being supervised. (He was entitled to be bossy since this where he came from.

But today we took the last of them to Captains Flat. Here is a photo of the final solution.