PINEAPPLE LILY, PINEAPPLE FLOWER (Eucomis comosa)

Pineapple Lilies (Eucomis comosa), native to South Africa may look exotic but they’re quite easy to grow (apparently).

The common name, Pineapple lily, refers to the interesting topknot of foliage that sits atop the flowers, reminiscent of a pineapple in appearance.

While there are 15 species in this genus, new strains and cultivars appear regularly ensuring their continued popularity.  They last quite a long time as cut flowers and while I haven’t seen them in local residential gardens in my area, there’s alway a lovely patch (of them) in the Perennial Border  in the Royal Botanic Gardens here in Melbourne (where the images in this post were made).

By the way, the Perennial Border is planted by the Garden Staff to be at its best in mid January (if you’re visiting Melbourne as a tourist in the Summer months).

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LEMON BALL, GOLDEN BALL, YELLOW TOWER CACTUS (Parodia leninghausii).

Following on from the previous post featuring Cacti, I finally decided to purchase a Cacti & Succulents Plant and Identification Guide book during the week, so I can finally put some more names on my Cacti and Succulent images.  I’m one of those old-fashioned people who find it easier and more enjoyable to look at a book, not the internet (for plants and flowers).

Having re-homed about 600 fiction and many non-fiction books over the last 4-5 years and moving to smaller apartments (twice), I really don’t want any more books, but I figured one more new book wouldn’t destroy the equilibrium of my down-sized furniture and decor 😀

I’ve already got 2 Australian Plant Encyclopaedias on my bookshelf, but they are more general, in both plant and tree species. I also have a wonderful Field Guide to Weeds in Australia I bought at a sale about 25 years ago and didn’t use at all for the first 20 years it lay on my bookshelf.

It can be tedious and very time-consuming trying to identify Cacti (and Succulents), which, on the surface, without flowers (in particular), can look very similar.  Especially as I don’t have the time or eyesight to spend copious amounts of time on the computer any more.

Earlier this year, I went to Melbourne’s largest bookstore to spend some time in their Gardening section.  I was surprised to find that of the 50-60 books on Gardening (in general), most were about planting/growing/landscaping or filled with rather ‘arty’ flower images that showed insufficient detail of the whole plant.  In hindsight, I wish that I’d spent more time photographing the Cacti and Arid section plants in the Royal Botanic Gardens in full detail when I lived so close to the area.

I wish I’d photographed (every plant) in every season too.

But of course, I started out in mid 2010 being an amateur photographer, not a Botanist or Gardener.  My primary hobby is still outdoor Photography even though chronic health symptoms keep me mostly indoors these days.

Back in 2012,13 and 2014 I had a 100mm f2.8 macro lens, so was more interested in experimenting in bokeh or DOF (Depth of Focus).  I still love a narrow depth of field or interesting bokeh on browsing other nature lover’s photography websites to this day.

I wanted to capture the small details of the flowers or spines/stems and for the most part, never realised that Common and Botanical names would become important to me.

Some plants in the Royal Botanic Garden’s main site – they have 3 – had name labels next to the them which I photographed at the time of shooting the flowers and plants.

But between computer crashes, reducing my photo library volume and changing from Windows to a Mac, somehow, some of those plant identification label images seem to have disappeared 🙂

I think I was a little over zealous in my image volume reduction task, but no point ‘crying over spilt milk’ now.

Anyway, my book has been despatched from Booktopia’s warehouse in New South Wales and should arrive in the coming week, so we’ll have a few more plant images between the Birds, Flowers and anything else Nature related that I’ve shared recently on my blog.

ROUNDED NOON FLOWERS, ROUND-LEAF PIGFACE (Disphyma crassifolium subsp. clevellatum)

I spotted 2 Rounded Noon Flowers near the local supermarket on Sunday which reminded me of the magnificent display at Newells Paddock Nature Reserve I’d photographed on the 2nd November 2017.

Since the image above looks pretty ‘ordinary’ to most of us, (I only had one camera hooked to the back of my shopping trolley and couldn’t bend down low), I thought the newer followers might like to see the series of images I took last year.

If you live in Melbourne, Newells Paddock Conservation Reserve, next to the Maribyrnong River, is well worth visiting any time of the year.  But when the Rounded Noon flowers are in bloom, a visit is almost mandatory.  I don’t know whether our driest start to Spring on record, this year, might affect the timing of the display.

There’s a car park near the entrance of the general picnic area, but you need to walk from the car park (on the left side of the map above), through the tree area (image on the right) and out into the open pond area near the river, to see the Rounded Noon Flowers.

Here’s a few photos of the Conservation area near the river to give you an overview.  Have a quick read of the history of the area – it will give you a sense of this amazing restoration project.

The images (above) were made on my first visit to the area and if it wasn’t for my current exacerbated back, hip and knee pain keeping me mostly housebound in the last 6-8 months, I’d be down at this Nature Reserve every other week.  There’s just so much bird-life to see.

The whole colour scheme of the landscape changes in Autumn (above). It’s one of those places which is so damn close to where I currently live……and yet so far away when you can’t do much walking.

Last year I walked home from the Reserve once and I think it’s approximately 3.7 kilometres to my back door (via the river walking/cycling path).

….anyway back to the subject of this post….Rounded Noon Flowers.

LARGE WILD IRIS, FAIRY IRIS (Dietes grandiflora)

LARGE WILD IRIS or FAIRY IRIS – ROYAL BOTANIC GARDENS, MELBOURNE (this image was made with a Canon 100mm macro lens at aperture f3.5 for anyone interested).

The Wild Iris or Fairy Iris (Dietes Grandiflora) is grown in Australia in public parks, gardens, alongside office blocks and even roadsides in residential areas, (just as it is in its native South Africa).

My brother even has one growing in the corner of his horse paddock up in country Victoria (below).

They seem to almost take over whole garden plots, but their ability to withstand both drought and frost makes them a worthy addition to any garden requiring low maintenance.

While they’re considered an ‘environmental weed’ in parts of Australia (Western Australia, Queensland and Lord Howe Island), in my urban area, they spread so quickly, I’m almost tempted to call them a weed down (south) in Melbourne also.

But they do grow in dappled shade as well as full sun, so who can blame anyone for planting them to create a lovely display in Summer, when they flower in profusion.

(note: I had a couple of great photos of their mass planting at the nearby tiny park on the main road, but can’t find them and for the umpteenth time, I wish I had time to file all my photos in the current El Capital software Photo library.  

My old Yosemite iPhoto library  has about 600 folders with every image filed via name – flower, bird, park, garden, nature reserve, beach and so on and it’s a dream to find anything to illustrate a post. That library is actually where the images in this post came from).

PELARGONIUM Survivor

It’s been raining on and off all day today.

Not heavy.

Just enough to keep the lounge sliding door and windows 97% closed.  With no apartment or balcony roof above mine, the rain comes straight in if they’re open,  which is a great disadvantage for someone like me who loves fresh air……..even in the depths of Winter.

I thought it was timely to share an image of my Pelargonium which has 2 blooms at the moment and is absolutely stunning.  I nearly lost it the first year (2016) as I mistakenly watered it.  As each leaf yellowed and covered in black spots, I’d pluck the leaf off……. (and stopped watering it of course).

It nearly died, but lots of TLC brought it around and while it was decimated by about 95%, it is now well on the way to recovery and being a true beauty.

I now water it every ‘Blue Moon‘ 😀

I went outdoors between showers earlier today and took a couple of shots on the Aperture Priority setting with the white balance setting on ‘cloudy’ (for the photographers among you) – normally I leave the White Balance on Auto.  I could see on the LCD screen on the camera rear for a change and noted that the images were over-exposed and the colour much too red, so I switched to Manual Mode and did a little more adjusting in-camera – something I haven’t done for years.  I admit I can be a little lazy when it comes to the technicalities of Photography.  I love the creative side of Photography, but have little interest in the technical workings of my cameras.

2 more shots on manual mode brought me closer to the real colour, if not perfect.

I then spent about an hour fiddling with all the basic sliders trying to get a truly 100% accurate colour.  While I admit I don’t have the eyesight for finely detailed photo editing, the dull light of the day (and my lounge room), gave me surprisingly better viewing on my 27″ screen.  I actually enjoyed the challenge of trying to edit the flower into its true colour.

While I might have got sharper focus if I’d put the DSLR on my tripod, I was more than happy with the end result, even if the camera was covered with fine rain spots.

The ‘Survivor’ series  of Pelargoniums resists poor weather, extreme heat and tolerates drought.  I should have read the label again after repotting it the first time.  These bushy plants have BIG flowers which are available in a wide range of intense and pastel colours.

Flowering throughout the warmer months they are ideal for patio pots, mixed planters and hanging baskets.

I remove the spent flowers as soon as I spot them, although I must admit to forgetting about fertilising regularly as the plant label recommends.  But then…..I’m an amateur photographer, not a gardener (as some of you might think).

GIANT HONEY FLOWER (Melianthus Major)

I’ve only ever seen 2 Giant Honey Flower (Melianthus Major) plants in Melbourne.

One was in a very sheltered garden bed in a National Trust Property, Como House, and the other was in the back garden of The Abbotsford Convent, (in the inner north-east suburb of Melbourne overlooking the Yarra River).  The images below are from that second garden and thankfully, there were flowers in bloom so I could identify the plant the second time around.

It’s actually the leaves which I find interesting.  You can’t miss their distinctive shape.

The Giant Honey Flower is an evergreen suckering shrub, endemic to South Africa and naturalised in India, Australia and New Zealand.  It grows to 7-10 feet tall by 3-10 feet wide, with pinnate blue-green leaves 12-20 inches long, which have a distinctive odour.

Dark red, nectar-laden flower spikes, 12-31 inches in length, appear in Spring, followed by green pods.

All parts of the plant are poisonous.

The plant generally requires a sheltered position and may need a protective winter mulch in temperate regions like Melbourne.

PHOTINIA ROBUSTA (Photinia x fraseri)

The white-flowering small bushes at the top of my steep road are in flower at the moment.

Although I’ve made the occasional photo at their varying stages of growth, it wasn’t until last week that I saw a plant label attached to one of them and was able to identify it.

I know little about common garden plants and have always had to rely on Mr Google images or my 2 Australian Plant Encyclopaedias to identify anything.  I even keep the plant labels of the potted plants I buy for my balcony garden as I forget the Botanical names almost as soon as I plant them.-

Photinia Robusta (Photinia x fraseri) is a spectacular fast growing dense evergreen shrub.

Dark glossy green leaves with brilliant red new growth and clusters of dainty white flowers in Spring make this an attractive hedge plant, and clipping throughout the year will flush on new growth to repeat the bright show of colour. It can be kept clipped to around 1.5 m tall and wide.

They are suitable for a full sun to part shade position, frost tolerant and requires little water once established.

There are about 4 plants in a row in front of a green-painted power junction box (which feeds this housing estate I suppose – I’m guessing).  The 2 images below were made late afternoon with the power box between the sun and the plants, throwing them into deep shade quite early in the afternoon.

I love the glossy red leaves that contrast so vividly with the green.  Even the tight flower buds are attractive in their own way.

BLANKET FLOWER (Gallardia)

One of the main aspects I like about Photography is the option of different lenses, camera settings and styles capturing subjects and background in a variety of ways.  Being extremely short-sighted, I find close-ups and the small details interesting.

After all, I’m an amateur photographer first (and a gardener second).

Actually, I never considered myself a gardener at all until I rented a ground-floor apartment with a balcony near the Royal Botanic Gardens on the south-east side of the city.  It didn’t get much sun, but it was fun playing around with a potted plant or two, growing a few hardy shade-loving herbs and had a lovely (shaded) strip of garden down the side path and a slightly larger space in front of the main entrance of the apartment building.

These images of Blanket flowers are from the Perennial Border in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne.  Most were made in the early years of my Photography hobby.  If you’re new to flower Photography, do take the time to play around with angles, background and lighting conditions (or time of day).  It really does help you learn to ‘see’ and appreciate Photography as a creative art.

THIS IS ONE IMAGE I NEVER REALLY LIKED, BUT WHEN YOU’RE A NOVICE, YOU DO TEND TO KEEP SOME OF THE ‘DELETERS’ as well as the ‘KEEPERS’ (just to compare and look back on).

Just remember the more photos you take, the more time it takes to review them on your computer, (says she who took 605 photos in one afternoon in March 2012).  First (and only) professional ‘shoot’ I’ve ever done and my computer crashed a couple of days later and I lost the whole folder.  Fortunately, I’d saved 140+ to a disc (for some reason which I can’t remember now).  I didn’t know much about ‘back-ups’ in those days 🙂

WALLFLOWER (Erysimum)

Wallflowers (Erysimum) are some of the prettiest garden flowers around and the images below, made in The Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne in October 2013, show some of their lovely colour.

The Gardening Australia website says…

Wallflowers have simple, narrow, green to blue-green leaves, and are mainly evergreen. Flower stems, tall in the larger species, appear mainly over spring and summer, and also in winter in mild climates. The heads carry dense clusters of small 4-petalled blooms that are often richly fragrant. The petals are usually yellow but may also be orange, red, or mauve, and the hybrids extend the colour range further.

WALLFLOWER (Erysimum)

Wallflowers are mostly hardy, but they do best in a climate that offers cool summers and mild winters. They should be planted in a sunny open position in moist well-drained soil. Though they can be quite drought tolerant, they will reward with abundant flowers if they are watered regularly – particularly if it is done in conjunction with regular feeding, trimming, and deadheading.

This flower bed was in the back garden of The Plant Craft Cottage 

The Cottage, built in 1850/51 to house one of the Gardeners, is only open at certain times, but visit the website above and check out the images in the Header as they show the wonderful array of crafts that Craft members make.  It’s well worth a visit if you’re either a local or a tourist.  In fact, not many locals know about it.  I often used to buy small gifts or hand-made Christmas Cards there at the Gift shop (manned by volunteers) and we always had wonderful little chats about the area, history and array of craft classes taught at the Cottage.  I thought about joining, but like all things in my life, didn’t want to get up early for classes.

If you like English cottage garden plants, do visit the  The Royal Botanic Gardens Website to find out more.

Now, of course, I live too far away.  In fact, just this week, I received a Public Transport email advising that my 3 bus routes to that side of the city have been partly discontinued.  If I didn’t catch a taxi direct (which is fairly expensive), I’d have to catch 2 buses (or a tram and bus) to the city, and then…………walk down to the main south-bound tram route leading out of the city.  There is no longer a tram going past my favourite RBG entrance either.  I’ll bet the tiny group of shops and cafes near that entrance are well and truly missing the trade.

It’s not that I can’t get there, so much as, these days, I prefer not to waste half my day on public transport and then a long walk to get anywhere.  So easy when I lived and worked next to The Royal Botanic Gardens for over 25 years, but my life has changed now in retirement and after 2 apartment moves.

I like to think of it as ‘not worse‘, as many chronic pain sufferers might, merely ‘different‘.

It’s all in the Mind you see.

A finger points at the moon, but the moon is not at the tip of the finger. Words point at the truth, but the truth is not in words.

——Huineng

 

 

ARUM LILY (Zantedeschia aethiopica)

At the top of my short steep road is the back entrance to a townhouse and a clump of Arum Lilies.  It’s expanded from its original 3 flowers last year to several this year and was the first photo stop on my short walk yesterday. (note: these plants are considered a pest in Western Australia).

I love the swirling edges of the flower rim and nearly always photograph them with a very shallow DOF (Depth Of Field) or large aperture.  My Sigma 17-50mm f2.8 lens set at about f4.5 gives me the effect I want, but the first image in this post is set at f11 to give a bit more detail.

Sadly, my back pain precludes me from both bending down low and kneeling and twisting these days, so I had to edit the images to increase the mid-tones and give the flowers some more definition.  This threw the colour saturation a bit out-of-whack, but I haven’t the interest or time to spend on photo editing.  I can no longer always do flower photography at angles that I would like, but I know long-time followers understand my limitations.

It certainly doesn’t stop me enjoying my Photography Hobby.

For those interested, I bought this lens about 3 years ago as I could never get quite close enough with my Canon 50mm f1.4 and the Sigma’s 17-50mm gives me that little bit of zoom that covers the gap in the 4 lenses I now own.  If you put the Sigma 17-50mm on a tripod, or can hand-hold your camera very steady, you can almost get a macro, or very close to an insect, which is good enough for me. The Canon lens is extremely sharp and excellent in low light, but the Sigma is not far behind it.

The ‘nifty fifty‘ as the 50mm f/1.4 lens is often called, is rarely taken out of its soft pouch now and I’d sell it, except that they bring so little money second-hand and mine is in perfect condition.  I refuse to sell good lenses for peanuts.

I think the header image on my B & W Blog was made with the ‘nifty fifty’ and I cropped and turned it slightly to give the abstract quality and composition I wanted.