By Andrea Whitely
Right now, in Perth, Western Australia we are experiencing an abundance of native flora exploding in stunning colour all around us.
We have Acacias in full bloom bursting forth like tiny suns of yellow blossom and Anigozanthos ‘Kangaroo Paws’ and teeny tiny orchids popping up through the bush. The carpets of Rhodanthe ‘Paper Daisies’ which were hot pink in September all over the state are fading to fields of white, now. Banksias are beginning to bloom, providing valuable sweet nectar for the tiny marsupials like Honey Possums (Tarsipes rostratus) and small birds who rely upon them as their key food source.
People are bike riding around the city with black cable ties sticking out of their helmets (compulsory here in Oz) in an effort to prevent being swooped my nesting Kulbardie birds (Magpies) and snakes and other reptiles emerging from their winter hibernation.
This is the season of Kambarang here in Western Australia, it is so called, in local Indigenous Nyoongar language, as the season of birth -it is our second spring, a transformational time of the year with warmer drier days, balmy evenings, still oceans and with that an abundance of flowers and follows Djilba-the season of conception, our “first spring” which is in August-September.
Over recent years, I find myself connecting with the land on which we live, more and more, gardening by the the seasonal descriptions offered by our first nations people and to be honest am gardening much more effectively because of that, whether growing native species or exotics.
I am very much looking forward to seeing the Nyutsia, also known as the West Australian native Christmas tree in bloom in about a month or so, it’s a stunning gold flower display which bursts out of the grey bushland dotted through the landscape on the outskirts of our city and a little further north of Perth. The native Santalum acuminatum ‘Desert Quandong’ are fruiting right now (great for jam) and look like tiny red Christmas baubles hanging from the small tree. This fascinating tree is a hemiparasitic plant which needs the Acacia to survive and thrive.
It’s an exciting time of the year, the weather is warming, days are getting longer, our swimming pool is looking more inviting again and in my own garden which is punctuated by native Eucalyptus trees such as a large old Corymbia calophylla ‘Marri’ and her garden friend the Eucalyptus marginata ‘Jarrah’.
My roses (pruned in August), a collection of David Austins and Floribundas are about to bloom, I am super excited about the climbing ‘Pierre De Ronsard’ which I have pruned differently this year, following the online advice from the USA company Heirloom Roses and owner Ben Hanna. I can’t wait to see how well I watched and listened to his help, things are looking very promising so far.
Flowering perennials like my collection of colourful salvias, Verbena Bonariensis, Double cream Brugmansia, Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus Day Lilies, Gaura and many, maybe too many, Pelargoniums and true Geraniums are in bud too. My wisteria is flowering and she smells divine. Our Magnolias ‘Kay Parris’ have lost a lot of leaves this year to make room for new ones and are full of flower buds. I am planting some annual petunias in pots for Spring/Summer colour.
These past few weeks, I have adopted a more considered fertiliser regime, preparing the garden better for what I think might be a longer, hotter, drier summer. I can feel it in my waters. Our soil here is ancient grains of depleted-of-any-nutrients, gutless sand and that said, I am being generous, so I have added more organic matter with mature compost and what felt like was a small mountain of straw mulch and also applied a newish liquid seaweed fertiliser which is like a tonic for the soil, jam packed full of humates comprised largely of humic acid and fulvic acid. The soil in my garden has had more lovin’ than every before. Healthy Soil, healthy plants, right?!
In the vegetable patch, I have Blueberries (Sunshine Blue) in flower, Broccoli still coming on and lots and lost of Rainbow Chard and Silver Beet. I have planted my Basil, Heirloom tomatoes, Chillies, Snow Peas and plenty of herbs for cooking.
So, Happy Fall to you all, down here, it’s all about flowers and fragrance right now and I am just a little bit excited!
Briefly, the “C-word” COVID-19, here in Perth and Western Australia, we have used our title as the worlds most isolated city to our advantage and we have had no community transmission of the virus for 6 months and so life here for us is very weirdly and almost surrealistically pre-Covid-19. We don’t wear masks, we do sanitise our hands at every store and business but we definitely hug and we kiss when we greet our friends, as a “hugger” that’s an important thing for me. Some businesses are still having their staff work from home but restaurants and shops are open for trading, the only thing is we can’t leave our state. This has meant a boom for all of our country towns who have never seen more visitors, people are getting out and about (we call it wander out yonder) and we’re enjoying the incredible state that we live in rather than jumping on an airplane and heading off to Bali, which is something most West Australians tend to do because Bali and also Singapore are such close trips for us. Anyone travelling here must remain in either home or hotel quarantine for two weeks before they are allowed out into the community. So, our state is doing pretty well financially, largely due to the continued work of our mineral rich land and Iron Ore and Gold mines. Some businesses are still suffering badly like Travel Agents and Airlines for sure but on the whole we are well governed by stable politicians and life is good. The landscape and nursery industries are booming but we have a future problem looming that demand has outstripped supply for plant material so we will have to see how that pans out.
We have had to give up many freedoms in order to achieve a life like this and life is very hard for families who are separated but maybe our life here offers hope for the rest of the world that life living with Covid-19 can be OK.