Blooming

Apricot blossoms in the backyard; tree now covered in rows of green fruit.

A couple of weeks ago, I got snap-happy while wandering the garden and putting in a token weeding effort.

Let’s be honest, I’m not the green thumb in our partnership. Nor am I the one who obsesses about seed catalogues, bare-rooted fruit trees, and pond pumps.

As a dedicated armchair gardener, however, I have the ability (and gall) to appreciate the aesthetics of our garden and its increasing bounty. I’ve posted before about the aquaponics beds, fruits, and cactus gardens. The vegetable beds have already provided us with the loveliest sweet sugar-snaps and snowpeas. The sugarloaf cabbages are starting to fill out, and we’ve been harvesting choy sum consistently for a few weeks.

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>Succulence

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Autumn is a great time for succulent and cactus flowers. It’s not often enough that I get out into the greenhouse, or the front garden, to see what’s in bloom. Most of the plants are doing really well in Melbourne; amazing what being away from the humidity of Brisbane can do. The hoodia, for example, never really took off in Queensland, and they’re going mad down here. The mesembs are also doing wonderfully. These plants – often labelled ‘Living Rocks’ – are compact, beautifully patterned and often have spectacular flowers (as do so many of the succulents).

This usually plump little conophytum is showing signs of slight dehydration, with the old leaves being sloughed off.

Conophytum sp.

I was never a fan of lithops when I was in Queensland. They were often hard to grow and, after much nurturing and attention, they’d end up as wrinkled grey masses in the cactus house. The weather was just too hot for too long, and keeping the water up to them (without making them rot) was a tricky business. Here in Melb, they seem to be much less finicky. They’re almost all flowering regularly and putting on new pairs of leaves all the time.

Lithops sp.
The cactus, oddly enough, often require more care than the succulents. They seem more touchy about pests and watering, and the light situation isn’t ideal either. Back in Queensland, S. had the luxury of a huge Sherwood double-block garden with no trees; the cactus houses had sunlight ALL DAY and the plants loved it. Here? Two words: Monster house. Oh, alright, that’s not the only thing we can blame; there’s also that ginormous elm tree that’s visible on Google Earth images… Even with reduced light, some of the harder cactus to flower are doing their thing. Ferocactus have particularly vivid purple flowers. The one below, with its satiny petals, is actually past its prime; I think it’s still stunning.

Ferocactus flower

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Meanwhile, in the “things-I’d-never-have-done-if-I-wasn’t-partnered-with-S.” file:

We visited a trout hatchery in Ballarat today. To pick up 60 fingerlings. They’ve been added to S.’s emerging aquaponics set-up. The first bok choy seedlings have also germinated in the new scoria beds – see photo below! Much excitement to be had!


Some other places I would never have been to had I not been partnered with S.:
  • a bamboo and water-plant plantation,
  • a wood-turning show,
  • a gazillion permaculture/sustainable gardening fairs, and
  • a car wrecker’s yard, hunting for parts.

>Summer fruiting

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I’ve written about our garden before (last April, actually), and this is a bit of an update. Many of the fruit trees and berry bushes were only planted last year, and we’ve been pleasantly surprised with the productivity of a few of them already. Others, such as the nashi pear and apple trees, are yet to hit their stride. The raspberries last year were magnificent, but this year have been a bit disappointing (they were frazzled off by the heat just when the pendants of flowers were turning to fruit). The raspberry canes have been rhizoming (is that even a word?) all over the garden, and we’ve given away quite a few of them. They’re the thornless variety, and oh-so-delish.

The apricots and nectarines are beautiful for first year crops, and we have had fresh-picked stone-fruit for a couple of weeks now. First week or so were the apricots (see luscious pics below), then the nectarines (which we’re still finishing off now). Now that I think about it, I should’ve taken a pic of a cut open fruit, but I think ravening hordes consumed them almost as soon as they hit the kitchen bench.

Apricot tree in the front yard –
ripe pickin’.

Picture perfect fruit.
Just looking at them again
makes me drool.

Mmm. Juicy, sweet, ideal texture.
Can’t wait till next year’s crop.
We’ve also had a few bunches of grapes start up on our very young vines. Not at all sure of the taste/sweetness, but little E. can attest that eating them right now is a very bad idea…
Grapes set + not ready to go…
We’ve been having:
  • regular harvests of chives, kaffir lime leaves, Vietnamese mint, oregano, strawberries (mostly by E., directly into her mouth), and flat-leaf parsley;
  • occasional crops of capsicum; and
  • one gorgeous crop of broad beans.

Our first crop of broad beans,
shucked and silky green.
Things that haven’t worked out as well: tomatoes (they’re tasty but buggy – please advise…), pumpkins (they took over the yard with glorious vines and shaggy leaves but never really produced full fruits), and brussel sprouts (absolutely ridden with cabbage-moths – our bad. We should’ve doused the plant and surrounds with garlic spray or similar).

>Green things

>I’ve been inspired by Unique Schmuck‘s blogging about her garden. It’s satisfying browsing the back and front yards and knowing what’s coming on the vines/branches, what might be ripe soon, and thinking of things we can cook to complement our own produce.

Below are a couple of pics of a raspberry S. harvested for me today. Our daughter, E., tends to descend on the raspberry bushes like a locust so we normally don’t get to partake in them (unless we sneak the ones on the bush that are above her eye-height…). This season is the first time I’ve ever had fresh-picked raspberries from the garden. They’re fantastic. I don’t think we’ll ever have enough harvested in one hit to make anything raspberryish (see reference to locust-daughter above), but it gives us hope for next season’s crop…perhaps.



We’ve had a good crop of capsicums (below) so far this year, heatwave notwithstanding (anything that was on the bush at the time of the heatwave shrivelled and dropped with alacrity). Being a family that’s partial to regular Tex-Mex meals, these often ended up in (or on) burritos and enchiladas.

S. built two raised vegetable beds when we moved into our Melbourne house (along with a cactus/succulent shed, fancy front fence, and water-tank stand…). One of the beds is mostly herbs: chives, spring onions, garlic, oregano, flat-leaf parsley and Vietnamese mint (below, with a new basil in the foreground).

The other houses the bushy veges: (rather sad) tomatoes, capsicums, beans, pumpkins (see the beginnings of a Kent below), some stray strawberries and cucumbers.


The front yard has a dedicated fruit tree zone where S. has put in pear, apple, peach, and plum trees, grapevines, and raspberry bushes.

The set-up complements my idea of what a garden is for. I grew up in sub-tropical Queensland with what one might term ‘an ethnic garden’ (if one wanted to open a can of taxonomic worms): rows of styrofoam boxes with all manner of herbs/spices/veges in them, long beds of bushy vegetables and chillies, kaffir lime, fountains of lemongrass, low beds of cassava and turmeric, and a much-prized parrot mango tree that rewarded us with bumper crops of fragrant, succulently smooth-fleshed fruit every 2 years (the intervening year was not as bountiful). As much space as possible was devoted to growing things that are eaten and used in cooking. The front garden was the only concession to a ‘pretty’ space, and my father planted out some roses (my mother’s favourites) and other flowering things. We had a gigantic wisteria covering a pergola, and its trunk was thicker than my arm by the time we sold our family home.

In Melbourne, I can take just about no credit for the burgeoning garden. S. is the one with the green in his soul, who nurtures the entire enterprise. I’m a staunch vicarious gardener.