We’ve gotten used to fairly mild winters in Melbourne over the last few years. So Antarctic winds, hail and even snow on the nearby ranges have come as a bit of a surprise. It’s perfect weather for snuggling in bed but sadly, for me, I had to get up early on a Saturday, to drive my son to cross country running. It was lovely though, to see in the soft morning light, the garden gilded with rain drops. The promise of spring to come, in the little nodding Jonquils….
As I write this there are currently 11 uncontrolled blazes in Victoria. For those of you who live in bush fire areas, I hope you are safe. As I live in the middle of Melbourne, our house was in no danger, the heat though, was incredible. I thought I’d show you a few snaps of the garden after the recent heat wave. I really think I’m just not meant to grow tomatoes. Last year, I had a grand harvest of one tomato, the rest being eaten by various creatures. This year, I carefully netted them up and had a promising crop growing, only to have them cooked on the bush.
It’s been too hot to use my usual acrylic paints, so I played around with nice cool watercolours. My feather paintings went into the recycling bin as I just couldn’t get them to go the way I saw them in my mind. The bird though, I was quite happy with, so it survived. Thankfully, it is much cooler today so we can all get a good nights sleep…
When I was a child I was given a special book, The Magic Pudding. I remember it had a hard cover, black and white drawings, as well as some special coloured illustrations. The Magic Pudding both enthralled and frightened me. Written by Norman Lindsay in 1917, it told a tale of Bunyip Bluegum, Bill Barnacle and Sam Sawnoff, the penguin bold, and a very grouchy Puddin’. It was a most unusual pudding that could be steak and kidney, or apple dumpling or other delicious delights as long as you whistled three times and turned it around. Best of all it loved nothing better, than to be eaten. “Eat away, chew away, munch and bolt and guzzle, Never leave the table till you’re full up to the muzzle,” would say the pudding. It never ran out either, a marvellous idea really. Unfortunately though, pudding thieves were always after it, I think this must have been what I found frightening, apart from the cantankerous pudding itself. At the Royal Melbourne Botanical Gardens, there is a garden that was especially created for children. Who should be there but the heroes from The Magic Pudding. Thankfully, the Pudding Thieves are nowhere to be seen.
August 1st, the first day of the last month of winter in Australia, the promise of spring is in the air. Clear blue cold skies hang above the Michelia doltsopa, growing outside the back door. It’s beautiful scent hangs teasingly in the air, exploding into a mass of flowers, it calls me outside to enjoy the chilly winter sunshine.
After a beautiful warm autumn, winter is settling in and the garden has an unloved look. Soggy dead leaves carpet the ground and the herb garden looks tired, weeds springing up from all the rain we have had lately. Two lovely things are happening though, ripe lemons are just starting to appear after a long absence and the Tamarillos are ready to eat. I planted a Tamarillo shrub as my grandfather had one in his garden and they are not always to be found in fruit shops. I love their tart taste which is a bit like a cross between a passion fruit and a tomato. There are recipes that involve turning Tamarillos into chutney or even cheesecake, but I like them cut in half, scooped out and eaten.
Originally, the plant was covered in unripe fruit and I thought I would be Lady Bountiful, sharing an excess of fruit. One day however, I looked closely at the plant and saw lots and lots of empty stems, which the unripe fruit had been plucked from. I suspect rats and possums had been carrying them away. Luckily, whilst there wasn’t a huge crop, there are plenty for me as my husband and boys don’t like them. This is one occasion when I don’t mind them not liking something!
It’s winter in Melbourne and all of a sudden, I’m seeing mushrooms popping up in my garden. Hopefully none of them are the Deathcap mushroom which is fatal to eat.
When I was a little girl I lived in a semi rural area and I remember walking through pine forests and seeing the most magical looking mushroom. Bright red with white spots and as big as a bread plate, I looked carefully for fairies, but sadly they must have heard me coming. I can also remember tiny old Italian ladies in head scarves, sneaking into our garden and picking orange mushrooms which they obviously knew were edible.
Recently I had to spend two hours in a doctor’s waiting room. I read the magazine I had brought with me and then looked in my bag for something to draw on. All I could find were pieces of old books that I had kept from when my students last year had made secret book safes. I began sketching and what should pop up, but a mushroom!