30 January 2016

Clearing the e-clutter

I love that the internet easily enables me to find information about anything. If I have a sudden urge to learn about an unfamiliar term or to confirm a fact, my search engine is immediately revved up. 

My information comes to me from so many sources: blog feeds, Facebook pages, Twitter feeds, Instagram, email newsletters and Pinterest. I enjoy all of these because I've set them all to push information to me; I don't need to seek it. 

I regularly cull these sources and this week, it's time to start doing it again. If I don't keep the information to a manageable flow, I feel overwhelmed. Frankly, some of it's just not worth my time! These are my criteria:
  • Am I still interested in the subject or has my interest waned? 
  • Does the source engage me or irritate me?
  • Am I still interested in that person or should I move on?
  • Does the source communicate in a manner I enjoy?
  • Is the information useful to me?
  • Does the source say the same thing over and over?
  • Would I like to meet the person in real life?
  • Are there floods of photos of cats or angels? (I have 'unliked' plenty of FB pages for this reason!)
So, here I go again, clearing a swathe through the e-clutter. How often do you do this?

25 January 2016

Crepe myrtle

Against all advice, last winter I cut back the limbs on my crepe myrtle tree. Glorious as it was, it was growing too large for my small garden and branches were reaching over the fence into my neighbour's yard. 

I was reluctant to do such heavy pruning because I thought I might ruin the natural shape of the tree but it was simply too big. I went ahead with my pruning saw, realising the tree may miss a season of flowering. I was so sad about how it looked that I couldn't bear to take a photo of the poor nude limbs.

New branches emerged and spread out. Leaves appeared and unfurled. The tree looked healthy and happy. I was thrilled that its shape wasn't deformed and it looked as beautiful as it had before.

Then it flowered! Clusters of perfectly formed frilly-edged blooms became visible and I was excited. 

Who wouldn't want a crepe myrtle in their garden? Each season brings a new delight. The leaves colour beautifully before they fall in autumn, and the bare boughs stand outlined against the sky in winter. Spring is exciting when the new leaves appear, and summer - well summer is the flowering season. Oh, and the bark peels off in gorgeous strips. I only wish I could plant more. 

18 January 2016

The Australian PlantBank

When I was a child, I wanted to be a botanist (not that I knew that word then; I just wanted to understand plants). Plants and their pieces fascinated me and I often pulled apart flowers to see what was inside. I could never understand how all these parts could somehow make new plants. 

When I discovered how seeds grow, I was astonished. Warmth and moisture - that's all it took for most of them to germinate, to create new life. It amazed me then and, I confess, it still does. Simply magic.

On Saturday, I took part in an art workshop held at The Australian PlantBank (I'll write about the workshop later on my other blog). 

Do you know about PlantBank? From their website:

"The Australian PlantBank is a science and research facility of the Royal Botanic Gardens and Domain Trust and is located at the Australian Botanic Garden, Mount Annan. It houses the Trust's seedbank and research laboratories that specialise in horticultural research and conservation of Australian native plant species, particularly those from New South Wales."

In other words, this is where real, live botanists work! 

I was fascinated to see all these plants being reproduced by tissue culture. 

There are public tours at PlantBank and also an app you can download that will give you a guide to the collection. This facility is a national treasure, where even the seats are pod-shaped!

16 January 2016

Three things

This week, it's the simple things that have been most enjoyable. That's often the way, isn't it? Making note of the experiences that make you happy; well, that's life-affirming!

1. Walking with a friend

In the fresh air, along paths in a public garden, this walk cleared my head of the day's earlier activities and opened it to new thoughts. Conversing and engaging, observing and learning - all in an environment of calm companionship. Yes.

2. Taking photos

Today I took 150 photos. I am over-stimulated by all the shapes and textures, so need time to process what I have recorded. But isn't our ability to snap digital images extraordinary? I am grateful every day for what technology offers us. Brilliant.

3. Rain

Did we have rain! Serious, steady, glorious rain for several consecutive days. My garden absorbed it all and, once the sun came out again, I thought I could actually see many of the plants growing. No matter how often I water the garden, it is never a substitute for proper rain. Lovely.

13 January 2016

On the flip side

Yesterday, I posted an opinion on my Facebook page that somehow reached nearly 3,500 people and attracted a huge number of comments. I was amazed by its reach and disappointed by many of the comments.

I don't expect everyone to agree with my opinions. That would be a ridiculous assumption but I was amazed at the number of people who felt the need to share their disagreement, along with a dose of bile.

I'm no Pollyanna. I can be judgemental and cynical but I'm trying my best to look for the positive aspects of life and to be kind. These commenters weren't and I felt saddened. I won't have rudeness and negativity on my Facebook page so I simply deleted those comments and blocked the posters. 

So let's all be respectful. If you don't agree with someone's post, feel comfortable to say so but do it in a civil way. We aren't all the same, we haven't all had the same experiences, so it's not surprising we won't all agree. Just do it with respect.

11 January 2016

Bees love borage

Blue flowers are always welcome in my garden. Most of them are for my pleasure since it's my favourite colour, but I always plant borage for the bees. They love the flowers!

It's best to grow borage directly from seed exactly where you want it in your garden, though, if you want to start your seeds early, you can sow single seeds in small pots. I find small peat pots are good because they eventually rot into the soil when planted in the garden. This method of transplanting doesn't disturb the plant's roots.

There is a white-flowering borage (Borago officinalis 'Alba') but I prefer the deep blue flowers. Aren't they gorgeous?

Borage snapshot

Family: Boraginaceae
Species: Borago officinalis
Ideal situation: sunny position
Suitable for: attracting bees
Habit: hardy sprawling annual, which grows to approximately 80 cm
Needs: well-drained soil
Maintenance: borage self-seeds easily so remove seed heads if you do not want new plants. Deadheading flowers prolongs the flowering season. 
Propagation: best grown from seed in spring or summer
Difficulty: easy
Fun fact: flowers can be crystallised for cake decoration. You can find instructions to do that here.

02 January 2016

My book of the month: January

What an astonishing story. I was engrossed and wanted to know so much more about the narrator's life even before the secret in the plot was revealed. 

Rosemary's sister has vanished from her life and her brother has walked away from home. What could possibly have happened to cause this fracture in the Cooke family? I'm certainly not going to tell you but, if you want to read a story about sibling love and rivalry, and how a family falls apart, this is the novel for you.

Read more about We are all completely beside ourselves by Karen Joy Fowler on Goodreads.