Thursday, February 10, 2011

Colours and Textures in the Graden

To the front of my little cottage Joel and I have created a small garden bed to frame the house and the fence that we are putting in. My aim for this garden bed was to create a planting scheme that had a pretty cottage feel to it without needing additional water (other than rainfall). When I initially planted out the garden way back in September ( I called it the 'bitty garden' because I had so much going on with different colours and textures that it didn't quite gel and my Landscape Architect friends through that I had fallen off the contemporary landscape design perch.

BUT I was looking at the garden the other day and admired the amount of  'interactivity' going on. The plants have started to fill out and are playing off each others different textures and colours in both subtle and strikingly obvious ways.

I like the way the fat serrated prostrate Banksia leaves contrast with the fine foliage of the Brachysome daisy and then again with the large leaves behind of the Limonium (Sea Holly). When they fill out even more I think it will look better.

I love this little grouping. Its a perfect example of tonal and textural contrast! There is the Festuca glauca in the foreground (avoiding the rabbits so far) contrasting in colour with the feathery soft limey green Myoporum parvifolium and then a hit of fleshy silver white with the good old Cotyledon orbiculata. I also like the Iris in the background that repeats the blueish tinge of the festuca and its vertical upright habit.

What is it about dogs that just propels them into whatever you are doing? They always want to be part of the action! Although I do think he was going for a skink in this picture...

I love the colour of old recycled bricks and feel the earthy warmth they give contrasts very well with the soft blue grey of the Iris and the little Echeverias. I use these little 'Chicken and Hens' everywhere as edging as they are pretty, low growing and can handle the heat radiating off the bricks on a hot day. I also use good old mondo grass as an edge because its tough and acts as a great foil against fatter leaved, grey plants.
All in all, I think my little front garden is coming up well. And do you know what?! Those other LA friends that had no faith in me don't think I'm too bad now!

I should listen to my planty instincts more often :)

Monday, February 7, 2011

Wet weekend with minor flooding.

Its been rather wet in Victoria this weekend you could say... We had a 'super storm cell' pay us a visit on Friday and dump a whole lot of water over the state. The catchment that our little creek is fed from received over 80mm which prompted a minor flood warning of 6m for our suburb. The rain fell on Friday night, flooding many of the inner eastern suburbs as well as parts of the city that are on the Yarra River, but it wasn't until Saturday night that we got all the water flowing through from the mountains. Many of the dirt roads in the area were damaged by the rain due to poor drainage and grading which just couldn't cope with the volume of water that fell and in such a short period of time.

The ground was so sodden that we had small springs pouring out from fissures in the rocks of the road cutting that created small land slips along our street. Even the little cutting that we place our bins in on collection day caved in!
Little spring pouring out onto the road
The bin niche, no longer!

 We had a very dead eucalypt leaning over the driveway that finally gave in, but luckily mum and dad were on hand to clear the way. Thanks mum and dad! 
We also had offers of help from our neighbours and some close family friends came to lend a hand and some shortbread, which was really wonderful. We were lucky that the tree didn't take out the power and telephone line, although it did apparently hit the lines and give them a bit of a stretch.

Dad with the chainsaw out!
Most of the damage along the road came from surface run off and storm water flows but on the floodplain itself (where we live) we were really worried about the otherwise tame creek, turning into a raging torrent and flooding our house!
During the Queensland floods last month we saw footage of a raging water body lift up cars and throw them around like toys and with that in mind we looked down the driveway to see our own once little creek filled to the brim with angry brown water! Eeep!!

View from the driveway to the creek.
Usually we cant see the water from where we park our cars as the banks are well over 10m deep but with the amount of water draining into the creek it was getting pretty full and pretty quickly!
At around 11am the creek started to recede much to our relief well off breaking the bank, so I set off on my day feeling calm. About 3 hours later I got a call from Joel, who got a call from a friend up-stream saying all the footy ovals are flooded up to 1.2m deep and that the water is rising! I hit panic stations, raced home to see what was happening and nothing was, but knowing that the water was coming was a bit worrying.
A few hours later as it started rising again, there came a point where the water was rising at about 10cm every 10 minutes and was quickly coming up to the top of the bank (after receding by about 2m earlier in the day). Just at the edge of the bank on our property about 1.5m of bank had completely eroded away, taking with it all our new plantings of local indigenous trees and shrubs, although we didn't know how bad it was until the water receded Sunday afternoon.

Water level not far off breaking the bank on Saturday afternoon.
  When the water reached this point (photo above) the neighbour called the SES for advice (and sandbags) although there wasn't anything that they could do and with all of the rain and flooding in Melboure there were no full sandbags to be had! Dad managed to get his hands on some of the hessian bags that we filled with soil from the garden and we placed them by the front and back doors in preparation. We were very lucky that not long after we filled and placed the bags and had established the evacuation plan the water stopped coming and slowly began to recede! Phew! We were (I was) a bit shaken but everything was OK, and by 9:30pm we were pretty comfortable to go back inside an make some dinner! We were so lucky.

I can only imagine what the Queenslanders have been going through the last couple of months with the floods and the cyclone. It is so stressful not knowing whats going to happen and whether mother nature is going to deal you a joker or an ace...

In the morning the water receded to near normal levels and we got to see the damage to the creek bank.
Its a bit deceptive but the land slip is about 2m tall and has taken off a whole lot of bank. Its interesting that the grass is pointing in the opposite direction to the main flow... The water was so strong that it was hitting our bank and pushing water back on itself and creating what looked like an angry washing machine! Joel took a video of it and the noise is incredible!

I'm feeling very lucky and and so grateful that no one was hurt. Hopefully winter wont be as wet! Fingers crossed.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

The Beany Verdict.

I grew three kinds of climbing beans this year. Purple King, Blue Lake and Lazy House Wife, all vastly different from each other.

They have all been grown in the same bed, over tall bamboo stakes tied at the 2.2m mark into a tunnel form and about 30cm apart. Each vertical support had 2 beans planted at the base and when they emerged, if one was slow or weaker, I pulled it out. Otherwise I left them to compete with each other. Now I have a daily bean harvest of at least a handful of different beans, from a very small area - no more than 1.5m long x 60cm. Feeding has been infrequent, with a bit of peletised manure and a potassium / magnesium liquid feed every once in a while.

L-R: Blue Lake, Lazy Housewife and Purple King

In terms of the beans themselves, the three are quite different as you can see above and I have noticed a huge variety between the three (in terms of eating) and will only be growing one of them again next year.

Blue Lake: A round bean with fibrous string and large beans inside. Due to the prolific nature I don't always get to harvest at optimal size before the beans inside are too big and the fibre toughness. I have found that the stage between optimal readiness and a little over is really blurred, which is annoying... Taste is good but the texture is hard and grainy. Maybe good for stewing?

Lazy Housewife: HANDS DOWN THE BEST! The name says it all, I don't do anything and it rewards me with long, sweet flat beans that have da da DA DAAA - No string or fibre! Yay! They also steam well and are bright green and don't get too hard if you leave them. And also, late summer with a case of red spider mite the LH beans are doing really well and I thank them when  harvest the beans!

Purple King: Such a pretty plant and the beans stand out on the 'bush' and look great raw in a salad, but like the Blue Lake, they also become fibrous quickly and really beany - as in the big beans inside. The flavour is good but when you steam them they turn grey after only a minute and so even barely cooked beans look over done and unappealing. They are also nice flat beans which are good for sauteing with a tomato sauce as per Moj Vrt's post here The Greeks do a similar tomato bean dish, sans cheese which I regularly make with the purple beans to hide the unappealing grey colour...

So the verdict - Ill be growing the Lazy Housewife beans again next year and will forget the others. LH just totally lives up to its name, is prolific, hardy, buttery and the beans taste great! Gotta love that!

Has anyone got any beany suggestions?
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