31 December 2015

Thanks for visiting

Even after all these years, I still enjoy sharing my thoughts with you. I am always grateful to you for reading my ramblings and I still get excited when one of you leaves a comment. Let's continue in 2016 together!

28 December 2015

Summer means hydrangeas

I've been told that hydrangeas are making a comeback in gardens but, in my opinion, they've never gone away. With their beautifully-shaped, serrated-edged leaves and huge balls of flowers, what's not to like?

The flower heads are composed of small fertile flowers surrounded by larger sterile bracts. The bracts can last on the plant for months and their colours fade to antique shades that many gardeners find attractive. I'm not fond of this, so I cut some of the heads when they are at their most colourful and display them in vases in my home. Hydrangeas come in eye-catching shades of white, pink, purple and blue.

My hydrangeas are in large pots. This gives me the flexibility to move them into more shade on the excessively hot days we have in summer and to move them into the background when they're not looking their best in winter after I've pruned them.

On hot days, hydrangeas will droop if they don't have enough water. When the hot westerly winds blow in summer and the temperature hits 40 degrees, I fear for the health of my plants. Luckily, after a thorough watering, the hydrangeas always recover. 

This plant with deep blue flowers has grown from a cutting that was given to me by a friend over twenty years ago. Every time it flowers, I think of her. This is part of the joy of gardening; we can share pieces of our plants as we share pieces of our pasts. I love to be surrounded by memories like this; it's as if my garden is full of friends.

Hydrangea snapshot

Family: Hydrangeaceae
Ideal situation: morning sun or dappled shade
Dislikes: hot midday or afternoon sun
Suitable for: massed borders or pots
Habit: shrub
Needs: moist, well-drained soil with plenty of organic matter
Maintenance: cut flower heads for use in vases indoors. Only prune stems that have flowered that season otherwise the plant won't flower next year. 
Propagation: softwood cuttings in summer or hardwood cuttings in winter
Difficulty: easy
Fun fact: some hydrangeas can change colour depending on the acidity or alkalinity of the soil. Lime encourages pinkness and aluminium sulphate promotes blueness.

26 December 2015

Three things

I confess it would have been easier to write about three things I don't like this week, but that's not the point, is it? So here we go!

1. It rained!

Properly. For a full day and a couple of nights, it rained softly and steadily, while the ground absorbed the precious water. Buildings, trees, and shrubs were gently cleaned of city grime and the earth said thanks. That's the first rain we've had here for a month and we were grateful.

2. Practical beauty

I received these secateurs as a gift from a friend. Adorned with the William Morris Cray design, they are gorgeous. I'm looking forward to using them in my garden.

3. My renewed driver's licence arrived and my photo doesn't look hideous

I had my doubts that it would arrive at all since it took three weeks to be delivered to my mailbox. It finally arrived and I cautiously peered at the photo, worried that I would be unrecognisable, but was OK. Not brilliant, but OK. I can live with that! (No, I'm not sharing it here. That's too much to expect!).

Random fact: when having your photo taken for a driver's licence in NSW, you now have to have your eyebrows showing in the picture. True!

22 December 2015

Summer solstice

When we live in cities, we can easily lose track of the rhythms of the earth. Since we can buy most of the same fruit and vegetables all year round (even if they have been flown from the other side of the world), we are often out of touch with the seasons.

Today is the summer solstice here - the day when the sun's track across the sky reaches its highest point - and commonly called the longest day of the year.

My hydrangea is in full bloom and today we are grateful to have rain. From now on, the minutes of daily sunlight that blasts on these glorious plants slowly decreases and, for that, my garden and I say thanks.

21 December 2015

My quest for a finger lime

Have you tasted the fruit of a finger lime? It contains flavour bursts of lime, contained in small pearls that rupture and spurt juice into your mouth. Seriously delicious.

Since I first tasted the fruit earlier this year, I've been seeking to buy one of these Australian natives, Citrus australasica. Last week, success was mine!

I chose a green one, although the plants are also available with pink, red, purple or yellow fruit. You can see the full Citrus Gems range here. This particular range is grafted onto citrus rootstock, which makes them more vigorous in a home garden.

Naturally occurring in the coastal rainforest areas from south-eastern Queensland to north-eastern New South Wales, the plants can grow to up to six metres in the understorey. That's out of the question for my garden, so I'll be growing my plant in a large tub and lightly pruning it regularly to stay as a large shrub. Sydney is possibly the southern-most part of the country where finger limes can be grown, so I'll be nurturing my plant carefully.

I took this photo before I repotted it, to show you the shape of the glossy leaves. Can you also see the thorns? I'm sincerely hoping they will deter my neighbourhood possums from getting too close. 

Flowering is from late summer to autumn, with fruits appearing and ripening through winter. I'm hoping I don't have to wait for too many years for fruit!

09 December 2015

Three things

Hooray for Wednesday! Here are three things I like this week.

1. Southerly busters

Is that what you call them, too, or is that a Sydney thing? Those wonderfully cooling weather fronts that come from the south*, bringing gusts of cold air that make the temperature drop immediately. They announce their arrival by slamming doors closed and hurling leaves into the air. We've had a few of them over the past weeks and I love them. The cooler air always makes me feel human again.

* Obviously cooler air from the south is a southern hemisphere thing - you know that, right?

2. Being organised

Bring on 2016 - I'm ready!

3. Going back to work

I've enjoyed a wonderful three-week break from my day job and I'm returning today. I've loved the flexibility of doing whatever I wanted and the ability to catch up on all those tasks on my to-do list. But it's time to get the structure of work back (at least until I have another break at the end of this month!). 

What do you like this week?

05 December 2015

My book of the month: December

I started reading this novel thinking it was a romance with a cute angle; two nerds who first met each other at a national spelling bee when they were children. Underneath, though, it is that age-old plot of a man and a woman who finally come together after overcoming life's obstacles.

Stanley (a crossword puzzle constructor) and Vera (a mathematics professor) use their unique skills to stay in touch with each other even as their lives play out in different cities. It's only after Stanley understands his true feelings for Vera that he attempts to find her, through crossword puzzle clues.

This is a clever novel that shows that there is someone for everyone; even if finding that person can take a lifetime.

Read more about this novel on Goodreads.

I also write about books on my Facebook page. Come over and say hello!

01 December 2015

Labelling ourselves

The first time you meet someone new, you'll exchange chitchat about yourselves. It usually won't be anything deeply personal but might include facts like where you live, what type of work you do, and what activities you enjoy. Harmless, really.

You may describe yourself by using labels, such as 'mother', 'quilter', 'gardener' in an attempt to find common ground. These can be helpful to start conversations as we mentally sort people into groups. 

But once you start believing that these labels define you, disquiet looms. Labels can be beneficial but they can also be restrictive.

Over the past year, I've been cautiously trying a new, extra label on myself; that of 'writer'. I whispered it to myself at first, for fear that someone would overhear me and laugh. I considered the word every day and gradually my conviction became stronger - yes, I can use this label.

I've been writing, in one form or another, for most of my life. I've been a technical writer for 25 years - writing library software user instructions, and writing and editing quilt patterns. I've written book reviews, articles profiling crafts people, and articles about my own experiences. I've been writing here for nearly ten years. I've written a multitude of short stories and I'm working on a novel.

Yet I've never thought of myself as a writer. 

Labels can limit and confine us. They can make us feel that we can't develop our lives into new areas. They can prevent us seeing what we truly are.

So, this year, I am owning my new label and saying confidently: I am a writer. 

What label will you add to your own description?