ZUCCHINI ‘BLACK JACK’ (Cucurbita spp.)

At the risk of boring some of you, I had to take some more photos of my Zucchini ‘babies’.

Trying to part the large leaves with one hand and hold the camera up close was quite a challenge yesterday.

MY LARGEST ZUCCHINI AT ABOUT 4″ long X 5.8″ thick.

I’ve changed the ‘picture style’ setting on my DSLR back to Standard, which is why the close-ups taken with my DSLR and Sigma 17-50mm f2.8 lens are rather pale (but more like their natural colour).

The images made with my Sony a6000 ‘mirrorless’ camera,, (while seated at my desk chair) at the end of this post, are made with the camera on Vivid picture style and are much brighter.

Of course the sun and light at the time of shooting also influences the overall image.


I now have SIX zucchini babies and this morning when I turned on my computer and sat down I noticed a couple of Harlequin bugs sitting on the flower/fruit (one close to the centre of the image below).  The zucchini on the right seems to have quite a curve in its growth pattern (below).  Perhaps it couldn’t get through the tangle of leaves and stems?  Since I’ve never grown zucchini before I can only guess.

Harlequin bugs are the pest that decimated my crops of nearly every single leaf last Summer. They even outshone the Cabbage Moth Caterpillars with their voracious appetites.  So far, they haven’t sucked the sap out of any Zucchini leaves, but as I type this post, I’m anxiously watching one Harlequin bug sitting on one of my smallest zucchinis.


Am I supposed to cut off some of these large leaves?  Or is the curved zucchini merely growing crookedly because the plants are growing in such a small pot and it’s ‘stunted’?  I’m also wondering if the zucchini will grow to a decent size at all?

If you’re a vegetable gardener, please let me know in the comments section.  Otherwise I’ll ask Mr Google later in the day when the household chores are done.

……..and here are the shots made a few days ago with the Sony a6000 on ‘vivid’ picture style (below).

As most of the longtime followers know I’m an amateur photographer first and a gardener second. but you have to admit there’s something really intriguing/fascinating when you look at  vegetable plant details up this close.  It’s almost like there’s a whole miniature world to visit and admire.

Actually Spring onions are one of the best vegetables to observe.  Mine usually grow about 2-3 inches every day.  I’ve just pulled the last one out to make room for another herb seedling friends gave me.

I went for a short walk (15 minutes for normal people, 2 hours for me) down to the nearest pond on Saturday, so when I’ve got time to review the afternoon’s photos and put together a post,  I have some bird images to share.

I have to admit that the pain in my right hip was so severe (despite an extra dose of painkillers), I vowed to never go for a nature walk again after I got home.  Sometimes I think nature walks will be permanently off the agenda now that my total hip replacement surgery has had to be cancelled and I’m limping around like a little old lady.  Other times, I think …..just one more tiny walk and I’ll happily retire from nature photography (and I push the pain limits), but I suspect I’m doing more damage to my hip by walking.  It’s a ‘wear and tear’ injury osteoarthritis, so the Orthopaedic surgeon said, not an ‘old age’ degenerative problem.

THE LOWER STEP (not far from my back gate) WHERE I CAN SEE OVER to FROGS HOLLOW NATURE RESERVE – about 100 feet away.
STANDING ON THE STEEP SAND PATH LOOKING BACK TOWARDS THE 2 STEPS AND THE PATH LEADING UP TO MY ‘BACK GATE’.  Did I tell you it’s very, very, very steep…..the path and my road.

I sat on the lower step down where the path leading to/past Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve starts, for a while after my short walk.  At that minute, 3 Superb Fairy-wrens came to the dried out remains of  an old withered wild Fennel(?) bush and kept me entertained for another 30-40 minutes.  Just goes to show, you don’t have to go far to catch a glimpse of the local bird life in my area.

These wrens were so preoccupied with eating the dried up seeds they didn’t notice me sitting on the step about 7-8 feet away.

It’s all a matter of opening your eyes and truly seeing the small details around you when you live in an urban area.

I think I will grow Zucchini as a permanent part of my balcony garden.  The flowers are so interesting the way they open and close .  Some are gnarled and knotted (the females with the fruit).  Others, (the males), are picture postcard perfect with their golden petals splayed out in a beautiful umbrella shape.




Well, I think I can safely say…….Summer is finally over in Melbourne, Australia.

No it’s not.

Yes, it is.

No it’s not…… and so on.

Every time I (and my Balcony Garden) heave a sigh of relief at the cool morning breeze wafting over the area, the sun starts heating up again.

This morning, it’s blissfully cool sitting at my desk in the morning shade (as the hot western sun hasn’t crept over my apartment building yet).  I’ve been more attentive to the thirsty plants and especially attentive to the daily task of looking for those pesky little Cabbage Moth Caterpillars and Harlequin bugs.

I HAVE noticed the Kale and baby Spinach grow much, much slower under the pest ‘cage’.

Obviously the netting diffuses the hot sun quite a lot.

I found one large plump caterpillar on a half-eaten leaf of one baby Tuscan Kale plant under the new ‘pest net’ a couple of days ago and sighed one of those frustrating sounds yet again.

How in the hell can those pesky Cabbage Moth Butterflies have got under the pest net and laid more eggs?

I’m beginning to wonder if ‘pest eggs’ are in the potting soil I bought from the local Plant Nursery Warehouse a couple of weeks ago.  I still haven’t potted up all the seedlings my friends brought me several weeks ago and a few yellowed and died.

I have the tiny Curry Plant (Helichrysum angustifolium) abovesitting on my desk (still in its seedling pot) with one (of two) Sweet Basil (Ocimum basilica) and my French Tarragon (Artemisia dracunculus) in the hope that keeping them indoors will escape the ravenous appetites of the pests.


On the bookcase near the opposite side of the sliding door is the other Sweet Basil, one small pot of Mint (Mentha spicata) and the Peace Lily (Spathiphyllum).


I bought the Peace Lily about 2 months ago to clear and detoxify the air in the lounge.  It grew so fast, I had to re-pot it in a larger pot 2 weeks after purchase.  Now it’s growing so fast – about 3-4 leaves EVERY day – I need a larger pot again!

It’s staggering how fast most plants grow either indoors in this light-filled modern apartment, OR in my west-facing balcony garden.

Just goes to show what a lot of light and some TLC will do 🙂

Sure, I’ve had quite a few failures (incl. 2 baby zucchini above), in the blistering heat of our recent ‘record-breaking’ Summer, or attack by Harlequin bugs and Caterpillars, but on the whole, my gardening efforts since I moved to this western suburb of Melbourne 2 1/2 years ago, have been mind-boggling.

Now it’s cooler and I’ve moved the Zucchini to in front of the window near my desk so I can watch it growing, I now have 4 new zucchini babies. In fact, one of those babies, is growing about 1 cm (1/2″) EVERY day at the moment!


I am not exaggerating.  At this rate I should have a zucchini to cut in about 7-10 days.

I looked Zucchini up in the new Organic Gardening book my brother gave me at Christmas and apparently the flowering stems with fruit are the females and the long thin stems (and no fruit) the male flowers!  I still can’t quite believe these vegetables have grown in such a shallow small trough.  Quite the opposite to what my new gardening book says.  I’ve never grown zucchini in my potted garden before.

I planted the Climbing Spinach (Basella alba ruba) seeds a few weeks ago and 6 out of the 10 seeds have sprouted.  The other 4 seeds must have been ‘duds’.  Can’t wait for it to start climbing the trellis I made out of 4 bamboo garden stakes tied together at the top.

So far, no half-eaten leaves.

Hopefully the caterpillars will leave this pot alone as I have no netting to put over it.

This photo of the climbing spinach was made 2 weeks ago.

The weather is gorgeous today and barely a breath of wind.

Blue sky and sunshine with a couple of overnight rain showers have been blessed by cooler breezes in the last week.

I’m still having to water every night at dusk, but that’s a ‘given’ when you have a garden made of potted plants.  The strong gusty wind in this area dries out every pot almost every day.

I’ve been so busy lately that I haven’t even had time to try making Dolmades (stuffed vine leaves) after my brother kindly bottled some leaves from his farm (for me).  They look a bit ‘fiddly’, but I’m determined to give it a try.

My Balcony Garden is in a state of constant change as something dies, or is eaten by the pests, OR I decide to try growing a different plant/vegetable.

Life is just one big experiment at the moment, but at least with the cooler weather I can find some Joy in my Day (instead of wilting in the heat).  My apartment has air-conditioning, but once the hot sun hits the floor-to-ceiling windows, my desk area still gets very hot in the mid-to-late afternoons in Summer.

SUPERB FAIRY-WREN (Malurus cyaneus) – juvenile

I was just replying to a commenter that I hadn’t seen a Superb Fairy-wren for weeks and hoped they hadn’t found a new home when all of a sudden, 2 juveniles – a male and a female – landed on the balcony fence.

I just caught a movement over the top of my computer screen (so now new followers know why I have my desk in front of the lounge windows).

Sorry to say, I caught the bookcase reflection in the glass door…….. (and I really must clean the lounge windows).

The female flew away before I had a chance to take the lens cap off my (newly) repaired 150-500mm lens and aim.

So I clumsily followed the young male as it wandered through the herbs and eventually managed to capture a couple of shots of its back before it, too, flew away.

Juvenile male SUPERB FAIRY-WREN flying around the Lemon Verbena (right) and Perennial Basil (left).

It’s many weeks since I’ve seen these cute, fast-moving little wrens.  It’s so rare for them to stand still and pose for a shot.

ZUCCHINI ‘Black Jack’ (Cucurbita spp.)

My 2 baby Zucchini died.

They never stood a chance in the last few days of Summer heat and while I moved them to the right hand side of my balcony, which goes into shade earlier in the afternoon, their sad yellow pallor spoke volumes in my attempt to nurture them to fruition.

This morning, it’s cool, overcast and looking promising for some cooler temperatures in the coming week, so I moved the trough over to where I can see the plants over my computer screen, for, on this morning’s inspection, 2 Harlequin bugs had landed on their large gently scalloped leaves and looked very much like they had found a new home.

Hopefully, closer scrutiny throughout the day time I am home will lead to some new fruit and NO Harlequin bugs (which decimated my leafy crops last Summer 2017/18).

For those new to my nature blog, this is how close I can move a plant if I want to look at it regularly without leaving my desk chair.

By the way, excuse the dirty windows in these images, but the overnight rain a few days ago brought with it an astonishing amount of dust and while I’ve dusted indoors, I haven’t had a chance to clean the lounge windows yet.

Keep your fingers crossed the current new flowers bear some fruit.

……and on a sadder note, I’ve only seen a couple of House Sparrows visiting my garden in the last week – hope this doesn’t mean the avian visitors have moved on to greener pastures. 

While the excavator on the building site across the road does make a lot of noise in the mornings, I was hoping the bird bath hanging from the balcony fence and a large ring of bird seed tied to the top of the fence would lure them back…..especially the Superb Fairy-wrens (shown below).

(it might be back to the archives for some bird images to share……..).

ZUCCHINI ‘BLACK JACK’ (Cucurbita spp.)

Just for the fun of it, I bought a small punnet of 4 zucchini seedlings about 3 weeks ago to see if they would grow in my hot, west-facing balcony garden.

I’ve never grown zucchini in any of my previous balcony gardens as the plants grow too big for such a small space.

The plant label said “A high yielding variety with dark-green skin and creamy-white flesh.  Plant in settings of two.”

  • POSITION: Full sun
  • PLANT: 75cm apart
  • MATURITY 6-8 weeks

My plastic pots and troughs were way too shallow and nowhere near large enough to plant one, let alone 4,  plant seedlings, but I stuck them in one trough and lo and behold…….they grew.

One did keel over and die on a particularly hot day towards the end of last week, so I just pulled it out and threw it in the bin.

They even had flowers within 10 days and today, when I went out to inspect the soil moisture, I noticed 2 tiny zucchini growing.

The plants did keel over yesterday and for one of the first times ever, I had to give the plants a drink mid-afternoon while the sun was still hot.

I try to never water plants during the day in the warmer months, as it can burn their fragile roots.  I prefer to water my potted plants at dusk in the summer, so the plants can drink up the moisture over the cooler night-time.

If my plastic pots are very small, I sometimes need to water first thing in the morning when I get up, (while the balcony is in full shade), as well as at dusk.  The sun moves over the apartment building and hits my balcony about 2.30pm DST (daylight savings time), so early morning watering on a hot day is not such an issue as it would be in an open sunny field.

I also bought a large pest deterrent cover.

They only had one size on the store shelf, and one packet left (in my nearby plant nursery store last Saturday).  Initially, I had it spread over all the young seedlings and I thought it was working, but my Pak Choy and Mint is STILL getting eaten.

Where in the %$@&! do these little pests come from?  Are they in the new potting soil I bought?  Are they invisible and jump on the plants before I finish potting, ‘watering in’ the newly planted seedlings and put the netting cover over? I took the cover off this morning and decided to just let the seedlings have a little more sun.

Oh well, at least the established herbs seem to be insect-free this summer.

After a lovely cool change about 10 days ago, when I hoped Summer might finally be over, Melbourne is in the middle of another heat wave at the moment – not expected to end until next Tuesday evening.

It’s OFFICIAL – Melbourne (and the rest of Australia) has had the hottest summer on record!.  Today, Friday the first day of Autumn, is hotter than ever.



Yesterday, Melbourne had the equivalent of the whole month of December’s rain………..all  in one day.  I woke in the early hours of Wednesday morning to the heavy patter of rain drops on a plastic bag I’d left on my apartment balcony and the sound didn’t seem to let up all day.

The rain was far too heavy to go out and rearrange the plastic bag (full of pots I’d emptied over recent weeks).

It was almost like mid-winter.

Today was not much better and there was flash flooding in Melbourne city and the inner suburbs.

Roads and lane ways were virtual little streams and I’m sure most shoppers and office workers would have done better to take shoes and socks off to walk across the flooded roads.

On the TV news tonight,  rivers of water swept down long flights of stairs to the underground rail stations and I’m sure Christmas shoppers would have had a rather soggy trip home.

I’ve had a very busy week with family and health issues and trying to do a lot of organising of things I don’t normally have to deal with, so I didn’t get around to scanning my flower archives for some images to share.  I thought we’d had enough on the subject of birds on my Nature Blog, but when I sat down mid-afternoon for a rest, I couldn’t help but be drawn to the most extraordinary sight.

It had been raining so heavily, the top of the balcony fence was literally covered in one long gigantic puddle.  

Next thing……up flew a juvenile female Superb Fairy-wren and with a hop, skip and jump proceeded to dance along the fence rail like a small child in rubber boots jumping in puddles for the first time and skipping in sheer delight.  Every 3rd or 4th step she would scoop up a drink with her beak, splash and kick up her feet  to make a larger splash.

To say she was dancing would definitely be the best description.

Then the tiny Fairy-wren would turn, look around and ‘skip’ back along the fence.

Back and forth she went over and over, and of course, as is always the case with me,  the cameras were put away as I was doing some Spring-cleaning and didn’t want to trip over camera gear on the floor.


The Canon DSLR and long telephoto lens case was the closest to where I was sitting, so I pulled the case to me and whipped out the long heavy lens (fortunately with the camera still set on Shutter Priority for bird photography) to try and capture some of the action (mostly unsuccessfully).

Still, I did manage to capture a few shots.

The Sony a6000 with its fast 11 fps (frames per second) on continuous shooting mode would have been far better.

Next minute a juvenile (?) male flew down behind her, looked left and right as though to check no one was looking, then briefly mounting the poor little female, had his way (ehrrr……unsuccessfully as far as I could see), jumped off and flew away.

It was so quick I nearly missed it.

The fluffy down-wrapped young female looked one way down the fence, then the other as though to say “that was fun, but it was so quick, I nearly missed it too 😀  ”

Then with another hop, skip, jump & splash, she flew off across the road.

Anyway, here’s the few shots I managed to get, with the fourth one being out of focus (except for the wet feathers), but I’m sure you can imagine the scene.

A few days ago, I was surprised to see the Fairy-wrens walking all over my net-covered blueberry bush, pecking here and there through the cotton threads, at what I assumed were young shoots, as I’m sure I ate all the ripe berries when I lifted the net and checked the bush each morning.

NOTE: Most of these images were made though dirty windows.  Where the birds are sharper in focus, no doubt that would have been when the sliding door was open and I was able to photograph the birds direct,  and where the images were less sharp, the photos would have been made through the glass window/door.


…..and I REALLY will get around to choosing some flower images, but you know what its like when Life gets Busy.

The Blog(s) suffer first.



I’ve just spent the last hour watching 3 Superb Fairy-wrens hopping through the shady branches of the Japanese Maple growing in front of my apartment balcony.

I have so many birds coming to my little bird bath (hanging from my balcony fence) which I can’t share online as the birds move so quickly, take a sip or two, then fly off to ‘greener pastures’ OR, my camera is out of reach OR, the lens cap still on.  (I live in a windy, dusty area and I suspect the dust, continually appearing on my furniture each day, is from nearby building sites – hence the reason for leaving the camera lens cap on much of the time).

So……………. you’ll have to start using your imagination (for this post).

It was a fun and entertaining morning.

Here’s the scene……….(and this is a couple of female House Sparrows photographed last year of course).  Even though the photo was made through 3 panes of glass, I managed to fiddle the contrast and exposure enough so you can see what I see (now the Maple has its full cloak of Summer foliage).

After a heavy (dust-filled) rain, it’s almost impossible to see the birds in this tree from my desk chair  indoors.

……and here’s the male Superb Fairy-Wren below (so those new to my nature blog know what a tiny Fairy-wren looks like).

This image was made on the 2nd December.  I’ve cropped it down a fair bit as the blur of the black window frame was caught in the photo.

In recent days, I’ve seen lots of juvenile House Sparrows land on the balcony, take a drink from the bird bath and fly into the Eucalyptus on the right hand side of the balcony (visible over my the top of my computer screen).

This young sapling’s height was lower than the balcony fence when I moved here 2 years ago.  Today, it is about 3+ foot higher than the fence. If it grows at this rate, I’ll have a shady balcony garden, instead of a hot balcony garden in 2-3 years.   There are 8 trees planted in front of this side of the building in this 5-year-old housing estate and my tree is the only one that has grown wider (and not taller as the other 7 trees).

Does Mother Nature know I need a shady tree for my Avian Photography subjects?


All the bright green leaves in the image (above) are this year’s growth and the tree has filled out with heavy thick foliage making it a haven for birds on the hot summer days, but quite hard to photograph through.  Yesterday was 37C degrees in Melbourne (about 100F) and very hot and muggy right up til midnight, so when I got home from my appointment on the other side of the city, I could hear rustling of several birds in its depths.

Right now (11.20am Saturday), the air is filled with an amazing array of bird calls and you’d be forgiven for thinking I live in the country.  Early evening I hear Frogs croaking (from Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve behind my building).  Soon, as the summer weather heats up, I expect to hear the nightly clicking and chirping of Cicadas calling to attract a mate

I refilled the bird-bath with cold water and a few tiny cubes of ice ‘for the little fellas’ to cool them down this morning.  They seem to appreciate this cooler water on a hot day.

The light is dull, a little dreary and the skies heavily overcast as we’re expecting rain, but it’s still hot and muggy like yesterday – actually quite good photography weather.

The bushfire season has already started in my state, with a fire threatening houses on the outskirts of a large country town during the week.  Fires were already ignited in another state the previous week.

……..and I ate another 6 ripe blueberries when I watered the garden last night.  I fear there will be no blueberries for Christmas Day as I keep eating them every time I see a few ripening.


The (first) consultation with the Orthopaedic Surgeon yesterday confirmed what I already knew – I needed a total right hip replacement.  I can only walk with considerable pain and even swivelling in my desk chair is starting to hurt (this past week).  Operating days vacant were in February and in March – methinks I’ll ring back on Monday and book the earliest.  In the meantime, I hope you’ll all continue to enjoy images from my archives.

I think we might have a flower week this week starting with some lovely Camellias from The Camellia Walk in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne.

Camellia japonica ‘Somersby’

When I photographed the various Camellia varieties over the years, I tried to photograph some of the name plaques at the base of the bushes, so I do have a few names for the gardeners and flower lovers among you.


If you’ve been following my nature blog and reading about my balcony garden exploits in the past, you’ll be pleased to hear…..

I saw a BLUE berry yesterday…….

Then I turned over leaves where I knew bundles of green berries had been hiding…….

Ate all the 6-7 berries straight off the bush……and then went to get the cotton bird netting to cover it.  Only comment I can say is that I hope the rest ripen through the netting.

…..and I hope, what I suspect is……the plant is pot-bound and that doesn’t affect the future ripening.  If the bush grows much larger, I’ll have to give it to my brother to plant in the ground up at his farm.

I suppose I should cut off a piece, but since it was a small roll of netting, I’ve just bundled the excess up with a rubber band and left it on the ground.

Whoopee! 😀

Blueberries for Christmas.

NEMESIA (Nemesia fruticans)

I bought a small pott of Nemesia in Winter to add a splash of colour to my balcony garden and its prolific flowering has been a cheerful sight for many months.

Normally I’m not a fan of brightly coloured flowers, preferring mainly blue (or white, or pastel), but I can’t deny these medium to upright plants are a winner.

 Even the Fairy-wrens and House Sparrows seem to like its young green shoots, (or I assume that’s what they’re pecking at).

We’ve had such strong winds, heavy rain (and even a dust storm last week) recently and I went outdoors between rain showers last Friday, to re-photograph the flower blooms to share online.  For the umpteenth time, I had to cut off broken branches and dead-head some spent flower blooms too.

The gusty wind is not kind in my area.

I had to wait for several wind gusts to die down to capture them in focus though.

(Have you ever noticed, that wind gusts, like waves down at the beach, drop or change approximately every 7th? gust or wave.  Seriously.  If you like photographing flowers and live in a windy area, watch carefully and you’ll be able to work it out).

Like many of my herbs and other plants, it seems to love my west-facing balcony with hot sunny afternoons, but did well in overcast Winter days also!

This morning I was reading Nemesia is a genus of annuals, perennials and sub-shrubs which is native to sandy coasts or disturbed ground in South Africa and there are quite a lot of hybrids around.

I haven’t bent down to smell them, but the plant nursery label says they’re lightly perfumed.  They come in a range of colours from white, pink and magenta to dark blue and purple.  They’re ideal for garden beds and borders, pots and containers, can take full sun or partial shade, but do need well-drained soil.

I’ve a mind to buy some more in different colours now that I’ve down-sized my garden to much smaller pots.  I’ll wait and see if the Harlequin Beetles are attracted to them this Summer before doing so though.

(The pests demolished almost every leaf on every plant last year – even, the pungent or bitter-leafed herbs).

Note: I upgraded to larger pots in the last 2 years, but found the need for about 6 heavy watering cans to water my garden every evening, (even in Winter), tedious, so now have down-sized pots (as well at reducing the plant pot number) this past Spring.

I tend to be a little over-ambitious when it comes to gardening, but next year, I need to sit down and think more seriously about just how much time and energy I want to put into my green oasis.  Living in a rented property means scrubbing the seepage stains and bird poop off regularly to maintain the balcony tiles and fence to what a rental contract and most Landlords require (in the ‘neat and tidy’ clause)  😀


I’m way behind with Blog Reading and replying to some comments, so apologies to everyone concerned.

Sometimes, when life gets busy, you just have to accept your failings and move on……

Here’s a few quick shots of that male Superb Fairy-wren from Tuesday.  I think I had the sliding door open for the first 2 shots and the other 3 were through the dirty windows so they look a bit faded.  I don’t see these wrens  often now.  Maybe they’re nesting and got little ones to feed, or maybe, they’re fed up with finding no food in my much-reduced balcony garden?

So here’s a series of images so you can follow them around my garden like I do.  They’re such fun to watch.  It’s always a challenge to capture these fast-moving little wrens within the frame, but it’s always fun trying.

Anyway, Tuesday’s sighting was a rare one in recent weeks.  I think they visit me, take a stroll around the remaining potted plants and then drop down to the grey concrete tiles where they used to find scattered seed, then up to the fence railing, drop down to the apartment below mine, find nothing there and……………fly back to the hedge on the other side of the road.

That seems to be the routine.

I’m thinking that my Sony a6000 might need cleaning and servicing.  Yesterday’s shots at the pond in the Wetlands look a little odd.  Or maybe it was just the gusty winds that tried to blow me over and I wasn’t holding the camera still enough.  I’ve lost the rubber eyepiece for the 3rd time, and without it, my glasses are getting scratched too.

After visiting the local Pharmacy yesterday, despite ominous cloud cover, I walked over to the bus stop to check when the next bus would arrive heading down to the Maribyrnong/Edgewater/Bunyap park/wetlands (I wish they’d make up their minds out of the 3 names they’ve got on the signs around the pond).

One sign would be more than adequate.  I used to walk along the river path from home to visit this wetlands and pond, but of course, walking this far is out of the question at the moment.

A few rain drops fell but I decided to……….wait for the next post to tell you about it 😀


“If you learn to enjoy waiting, you don’t have to wait to enjoy”

Kabuki Tanahashi

Waiting for my Blueberry fruit to ripen has been one of the longest waits in recent years.

It has so many berries on such a small bush.

In the meantime, I’m still buying punnets of blueberries at the nearby supermarket which are cheap enough,  just not the same as growing your own 🙂 , especially as this is my first attempt at growing this plant on my west-facing apartment balcony.

I keep imagining going outdoors to pick some berries for my breakfast and can’t seem to get the image out of my head.

The photo below, made when I first bought the tiny plant, (when it was only a few inches high), was dated the 19th December, 2017, so I figure I have at least 3 more weeks to wait…..maybe less?   That tiny plant yielded about 20 berries in total, which surprised me at the time,  as Mr Google says most blueberries take 2 years to bear fruit.

1st sign of blueberries 19th December, 2017

BLUEBERRY ‘NELLIE KELLY’ (Vaccinium x corymbusm x ashei x darrowi)


rain falling softly

droplets on leaves

thirst quenched


I woke up to the steady patter of rain yesterday morning.  We need rain badly, especially as September was the driest start to Spring on record.  But the soft rain dwindled out mid-to-late morning.


I’ve had an eagle eye on my Blueberry bush on my balcony.

…..waiting for the formation of fruit, so I can put the newly purchased cotton netting over it to deter birds snacking.

It’s about 15″ high and the same amount wide, although a little lop-sided as I probably forgot to keep turning it every 2nd day so it grew evenly (towards the west-facing light).

(I vaguely remember pruning a few wayward branches off too, which probably didn’t help).

“The Nellie Kelly Blueberry (Sunshine Blue) is a delightful, evergreen bush that grows to 1 metre, producing pink flowers during the winter and delectable fruit in late spring and summer. The bush is frost tolerant and needs to be planted in areas where overnight temperatures drop below 5C degrees during winter as this helps to promote the flowers”.

…and flowers I’ve had in the hundreds this year.

PHOTO MADE A FEW DAYS AGO TO SHOW AT WHAT STAGE I THINK THE FRUITING IS AT.  I presume those 2 bell-shaped things are the start to fruit?

But, does this mean I’ll get hundred of luscious blueberries?  Who knows.  I don’t have enough gardening experience to be certain.

My (experienced) gardener brother said my dozen or so miserable berry crop last year were probably due to the birds raiding the newly formed fruit (before I was out of bed? 🙂 ).

Some websites I read last year said Blueberries don’t fruit until the 2nd year, but I guess that depends on the variety.  When I first bought this small plant, I got about 20 berries before it had even started to grow.

I remember being quite excited at the time as I’d never grown a Blueberry bush before.

“Nellie Kelly Blueberries are suitable for either garden beds or large pots where they will get part sun. They will last 10 to 15 years and produce up to 4 kilograms of fruit a season”

This sounds promising 🙂


I made a point of getting out of bed early this morning with the intention of going out for some nature photography, but the sky appeared heavily overcast.

The light is low, so unless it fine’s up a little later in the morning, looks like the outing may not be worth while the taxi fare to get to one of my old photography haunts.  I’m not normally a morning person as I try to stay in bed asleep for however long my body tells me it needs rest (to recover from a disturbed night’s sleep which happens 365 days of the year).

To be honest,’overcast is good for bird photography.  It stops Australia’s brilliant sun glare bouncing off the bird’s wings and/or flares from the sun creeping through gaps in the tree foliage.


Bird photography using the DLSR and heavy long 150-500mm lens hand-held is not easy for me, but the long months of being pretty much housebound have given me ample opportunity to photograph the birds on my balcony with my left elbow anchored like a tripod on the armrests of my desk chair (or even have my elbows resting on my desk).

I’m gradually learning that the continuous shooting setting does not score me any more shots in focus (than the single shot setting) when it comes to photographing the fast- moving little Superb Fairy-wrens. Other slower-moving birds, or birds that stand still, are much easier for me to capture in focus.  Even the smaller juvenile House Sparrows are easier than the Fairy-wrens.

The only way to capture a bird in reasonable focus it to aim where I think they’re going pop up their little heads after each mouthful of food and then…….snap…..press the shutter button at the exact moment they’re upright (before they lower their head down to the food crop again).

I have about a 1/10th of a second in most cases.

I don’t have time to change the camera settings once the birds have flown on to the balcony and/or potted plants.  Setting the ISO on Auto to allow for both sunny perches and deep shade doesn’t work either.  It takes too long for the camera to assess the light conditions and set the ISO automatically.

The best chance of capturing a shot is to put the ISO on 800, (which is about the highest my cameras will go without getting too much noise in the image), and the shutter speed between 250-320 (for you amateur, or new bird photographers out there).  I haven’t tried setting the DSLR on full auto for bird photography.

I’ve just shared what camera settings seem to work best for the tiny fast-moving wrens in my particular light conditions.  They may not work for you.  Or, you may be a better bird photographer than me.  I also seem to get better shots in the mornings before the sun moves over my apartment building.  The sun, if its going to be a sunny day, doesn’t hit the balcony until about 2.30pm.

I’ve notice that the English curly parsley is about 3″ lower than the Flatleaf Italian Parsley, so for some reason, that seems to be the Wren’s favoured ‘salad’ meal and there’s one particular juvenile male that’s become a regular grazer.  You can see him in the parsley’s green feathery fronds below.

Both Parsley varieties used to be the same height, although I did catch a Harlequin bug crawling up and over the parsley yesterday, so that got despatched by flicking it off onto the ground below my balcony.  I can’t quite bring myself to kill pests, but can flick them quite some distance away quite happily.  I wondered if it was eating the English Parsley also.

So I took 17 shots at around 9.30am this morning and this is 16 of them (below) to show you how hard it is to get one focal point of the DSLR on to the bird’s-eye through the glass window or sliding door.  It’s a bit too chilly to open the door wide this morning, which I normally do first thing on a warm day.  I had quite a few emails to read this morning so was reading, eating my breakfast and keeping one eye out for any tiny movement when the birds visited.

It’s surprising how quickly your eyes become attuned to the slightest movement, even on a relatively windy day when the plants, bushes and trees are waving their foliage around quite wildly and you’d think I’d miss the ‘action’.

So it’s a matter of keeping one eye on the parsley, the other eye on the Nemesia flowers and your ‘third’ eye, or intuition, focused on the viewfinder of the camera.  🙂

Anyway, breakfast’s finished and I sense a slight change in the overcast sky, but the speed with which the clouds are moving across the horizon might indicate its a little windier than forecast.

NOTE: Last night I was cleaning my camera lens and filters (ready for today’s intended outing) when I sensed a rattling as I ran the cleaning cloth around the rim.  I couldn’t understand where the noise came from.  I put the UV filter back on the lens (which I always keep on to protect my expensive long lens) and got my little rubber dust blower out to finish off the task.  I’d missed a tiny bit of fluff on the actual lens so took the filter off again and low & behold, a slim shallow ‘ring’ fell off the camera.  Not sure, but I suspect its part of the $1000+ lens.  Its broken.  But the filter seemed to screw back on OK and the lens cap fitted securely.

So I am left with a slim (now obsolete) ring of some kind.

At the moment, I can’t afford to take it in the Repair Department for assessment, buy a new expensive long telephoto lens or a new 86mm Promaster UV filter, so keep your fingers crossed I can ‘limp’ along without the broken ring.


What is really hard, and really amazing,
is giving up on being perfect
and beginning the work of becoming yourself.

~ Anna Quindlen 

We live in an imperfect world.

That is a universal truth, but I have to say my single green Lettuce Multileaf (Lactic sativa) is the closest thing to perfection I have ever seen.

It feels like fine velvet as I let its leaves slide through my fingers.  I keep checking all its leaves – there has to be about 30 – expecting the Cabbage Moth Caterpillars or the Harlequin Bugs to appear, but my little blue plastic butterfly ‘scarecrow’ is working its magic once again (up the end near the purple lettuce). I’ve seen 2-3 white-winged butterflies across the road, but none near my garden……so far.

I don’t think I’ve grown this particular lettuce before, preferring the continual cropping of other varieties which I can cut off the outer leaves as I need them.

There is not one single flaw in this perfect green gem and I can’t bear to harvest it.

I just want to look at it every morning. (alright, I am going ‘crackers’ in old age).  For those of you with large vegetable gardens and multiple crops, this might well be your morning and evening practice anyway – walking around, watching and waiting, inspecting and expecting!

It’s purple cousin on the other side of my Perennial Basil Mint (mentha x roundifolia) is a very close second in perfection, although it does not have as many leaves.

I’ve been snipping off the tips of my Perennial Basil to use in cooking so the poor wee plant doesn’t have much chance to grow very high, but certainly replaces my cuttings with 3-4 leaves if I leave it for a few days.

I’ll have to buy another Perennial Basil that’s for sure.

Even the Mizuma ‘Red’ (Brassica rapa var nipponsinica) – bottom right in image above – is finally starting to take off despite the Superb Fairy-wrens and House Sparrows nibbling its tiny shoots.

I’ve never grown this spicy little plant before either.

The Birds are taking it in turns to feast on the 2 Parsley plants in the trough hanging from my balcony fence and the plants are starting to go to seed, so some new Parsley plants are on the Shopping List.

Actually, I need quite a few more seedlings if I’m going to grow enough for a whole bowl of salad every evening this coming Summer, (as I did in the image below made from my previous apartment’s balcony garden).  That garden was facing south and got no direct sun, but a massive about of light.


My current balcony is west-facing and extremely hot in summer.

I use so much Parsley throughout the year, that I need a plentiful supply for my dinner plate (let alone my summer salads), but I’ll leave the dwindling Parsley leaves for the Birds to enjoy.  The image above shows the English Curley Parsley (Petroselinum crispum) half of the trough, next to a new Superb Fairy-wren visitor.

Looks pretty good from this angle last week, but I can assure you, it’s really going to seed in recent days.

The Italian Parsley (Petroselinum crispum neapolitanum)in the left half of the trough (not in image) is also going to seed.

The Oregano Hot & Spicey (Origanum sp.) seems to have larger leaves than ordinary Oregano, but that might just be a Spring surprise as I’ve never grown that variety of Oregano before either.

The Japanese Maple in front of my apartment balcony is now fully clothed in Spring foliage and the birds are starting to snack on the tiny shoots at the end of each branch, but with my garden supplying much of their needs, the Maple has been keeping a lot more young foliage this year.


I’d share more of the birds on the tree except that shooting through 2 thick panes of dirty glass does ‘not a photograph make.’

I have washed the windows twice recently, but I notice overnight rain last night has returned my lounge windows to their usual smeary self and it’s too cold this morning to open the sliding door its full width.

I’m now starting to recognise the individual wrens – half are the adult males in full blue breeding plumage, then there’s the occasional adult female, as well as various juveniles with varying pale blue patches, or spots, on their backs.

I’ve never been able to recognise any House Sparrows (apart from male and female of course).

Being off the computer and not at my desk through most of the last week or so, means I have got more done of my ‘to do’ list in one week, (than in the last year)!


My headaches have improved a bit too.  When I say off the computer, I am still turning on the computer to check emails etc each morning, but then turn it off soon after and self-discipline is growing in leaps and bounds.

I never realised how much time I wasted sitting at my desk watching the birds – well, I did, but the last week has proven exactly how much LOL 😀

You’re probably getting a bit sick of the same bird photos but when you have 6-7 Fairy-wrens visiting at the one time –  morning (9.30am and roughly 10.30am) and afternoon (about 3.30-4.30pm or a bit later), I’m sure you’ll agree they are worth the time.  What I find interesting is how they visit in groups and then, the House Sparrows join the party.

It’s extraordinary how one minute the balcony garden is devoid of avian life and next minute I can have as many as 10 birds dropping by now that Spring is here.  Some of my images are terrible and completely blurred.   Others which are pretty good and I have shared.

This mosaic below gives you an inkling of how much fun it is to follow the wrens as they visit each and every plant on my balcony – half the time, I have not the slightest idea what they’re eating, but presume it is the youngest shoots.  Even the multi-coloured flowering Nemesia (Nemesia fruticans) gets a visit.  The birds seem to remember all the pots I put seed in a couple of weeks ago and still visit in hope of a second feed (?), but they also walk around the balcony tiles and the back of the potted plants hoping for some spilt seed.

The images below were made in about 15-20 minutes.   The one on the bird bath is obviously a juvenile.

When I’ve finished today’s paperwork and filing, I will finally be caught up with the ‘to do’ list.  Not that I’m a procrastinator per se, merely that I take my life in enforced retirement one day at a time.  Living Mindfully amidst a bountiful tiny garden in a Room With a View has to be one of the most rewarding and enjoyable pastimes if you have Chronic Illness and Pain.

Being housebound more and more as the months go by is not to say I don’t get frustrated and feeling a little down or depressed at times (when I’d rather be out on a nature walk taking photos), but all in all, being able to appreciate the small things in life is a blessing that I’ve gradually acquired.

I will eventually get back to sharing more images from my archives, but in the meantime, time to turn off the computer 😀

“If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.” 

Lao Tzu 


I’ve been trying to stay off the computer in the interests of Health & Happiness.  I discovered how much better my chronic 20 month-old headache is for starters.

Sorry folks, but even blog reading and commenting is severely rationed.

I’ve also been trying to do some Odds & Sods e.g. sorting out old linen and kitchen wares for the charity shop.  Culling a few more books.

The remaining task of downsizing my heavy potted plants and pot-bound ones between bright sunny afternoons and rainy cold afternoons is still in progress.

Due to lack of growth, I pulled all the Spinach plants out of the big heavy veggie trough and ate them (below in the white plastic bowl).

Still can’t work out why it didn’t grow.  I think I’ll go back to Perpetual ‘cut & pick’ and Baby Leaf varieties.  They were brilliant (image on the right).

But since the Baby Leaf was in a heavy tall pot, (and don’t ask me why I didn’t put it in a small pot), I’ve eaten all that, instead of just cutting off outer leaves.  So I’ve only got Kale, mint and parsley to eat at the moment.  Even the Parsley is going to seed and might have to be replaced.

I still haven’t got back to the row of Cherry Blossoms in the nearby small park to photograph, so you get the best shot out of a couple of weeks ago.  The image below was actually from a small row of trees in front of a new apartment block.

The Gum nuts off the Red-flowering Eucalyptus near the top of my steep little road are in abundance and I can’t wait for the flowers to appear in a 3-4 months.

There are certainly lots of new shoots on the other side of the bush, but the holes and dilapidated state of their leaves continue to indicate some sort of pest or disease.

…….and for once, I wish the Developers and Construction workers would come back to the site on the other side of my road, because I’m fed up with the blown-down fences and eyesore of the half-finished excavation.  I think 26th June was the last sighting.

Well, that’s my lot for the week 🙂

Time to turn the computer off early…….. and get on with it.

PS After a week of lovely weather, its back to cold and rain with intermittent sun breaks  😀


….and yes, I could look through my enormous photo library and find a nice selection of images to share and write about, but my photo libraries are a mess (still) and I’d end up on the computer for the afternoon and get nothing done away from my desk.


….and it’s probably a timely reminder, (again), for all Aussies to start wearing the highest SPF sun-block (mine is 50+), a good hat and long-sleeved shirt and try to avoid the central part of the day.

Winter or Overcast days do not protect you from the UV rays, neither does a suntan you big strong beefy men.

Two weeks ago I had one suspicious spot removed from my upper left arm which turned out to be a Basel cell carcinoma (the slow-growing skin cancer, but still the potential to spread externally and internally)  – stitches out tomorrow.   I’ve got another one to be removed from my right upper arm tomorrow.

Then a full body and scalp check at a Skin Cancer Clinic in about 4 weeks time.

Gee, they sure remove large pieces of flesh with these biopsies.  But what’s a few stitches and scars if it stops the spread.

Neither site has seen sun for about 30+ years, but my lower forearms DID get seriously sunburnt in the first 2-3 summers of my Photography hobby (despite sunblock) – 2011, 2012 & 2013.

Pleeeeeease heed my warnings.



I was admiring the lovely streaks of rust-coloured bark in the Eucalypt(?) trees at the top of my road yesterday when I suddenly spied some movement.

I realised the enemy, HARLEQUIN BUGS (Dindymus versicolor), were in the start of mating season and if I wanted to have any semblance of a Spring Garden I’d really have to take more serious  action this year and stop admiring their colourful backs.


Not only did they eat just about every leaf in my balcony garden, they even ate every single Sage leaf – all 100 to 120 or more.  The pungent leaves of Sage are meant to deter pests, not attract them.  Sage was the only one of my herbs to not recover this past winter and I’ve thrown it out.  I’ve also thrown the enormous Rosemary bush out.  It was potbound and had been cut in half twice with the gusty winds, so I’ve decided to replace it with a more prostrate variety.  Rosemary flowers were also on the Harlequin Bugs dinner menu to my surprise.

These bugs must be very hardy indeed.

Kate at Achievable Gardens had some good advice.

I’ve already posted this shot of my Pink Argyranthemum last week, but it was more the interest in photographing a small insect with my 17-50mm lens, than acknowledgement of the savage pest onslaught to come in the near future.

Today and tomorrow are going to be superb Spring days so I’ll be taking the opportunity to plan something new.  A couple of weeks ago I found the heavier potted plants TOO heavy for my fragile back and hip pain, so a redesign is necessary (and if I’m honest, keeps me amused).

I’m just getting over another virus (the 2nd this year) at the moment, so I don’t feel up to going too far afield.  I don’t normally catch flu type viruses and this year has been highly unusual.  But then I rarely mix with the Homo Sapiens in the area, preferring Flora and Fauna for company, so it was probably last Tuesday’s lengthy foray in the nearby Shopping centre, with its 500+ stores, that caused me to come in contact with Human bugs.

 Or maybe I’m just getting old. 😯

I often wish I lived in the country with just four-legged friends for Company………. maybe in my next life 🙂



Yesterday was very windy (just as the other 360+ days of the year are around my outer western suburban apartment 🙂 ).

But my Shot of the Day shows there’s never time for a ‘make-up and hair session‘ before the day’s bird photography session.   So with feathers flying this way and that, here was the shot.  Can’t remember if it was through the glass window I’d washed the day before, OR simply, right angle, right time of day with no reflections or marks on the glass.

Probably the latter.


I’d spent most of the afternoon in my balcony garden the day before and soon discovered all the larger pots are now too heavy for me to move around.  I suspected many were pot-bound and in one rather ground-breaking, (and somewhat sad), moment, made the decision to dismantle and ditch all large potted plants (including the 3 now-empty) pots  meant for this summer’s tomato crop.

Not sure that the next size pots I have are deep enough for a tomato plant (as shown in last summer’s tomato crop below).  You all know how excited I was in anticipation of another bumper tomato crop.

When I cut off all the tall Rosemary branches into small pieces and tipped out the plant/soil, I was shocked to discover just how pot-bound it was.

I couldn’t see any shred of soil left, only a basket weave of tightly woven roots in the shape of an elongated square.  I should have photographed it as, you gardeners out there would never have believed your eyes.

I didn’t.

I’ve never seen such a pot-bound plant……even on my favourite TV gardening show Gardening Australia where presenters have shown how to re-pot a plant that is pot bound.

If you’ve followed my balcony gardening efforts through recent years, you will appreciate what a hard decision this was.  But the recent heart scare and short stay in hospital re-inforced my thought process.  I have to be more sensible in lifting weight with (inherited) Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy.

Anyway, back to the garden…….

When that gorgeous Nemesia (above) is finished that large pot will be emptied.  Well, its supposed to be an annual, but with my micro-climate, it may bloom for some time yet.

I’ll keep the white Alyssum and Kale pots until the flowers/vegetable are finished and then empty those, although I hope to get some decent potting soil out of the lower half of those pots, being more recently planted and much more shallow-rooted.

I’ve already eaten all the baby leafed Spinach which I’d kept going for many many months, only plucking off the outer leaves each time I harvested a handful of leafy greens for lunch.

And, I’ve got a brilliant idea for those 6 large square pots.  They will be washed, dried and turned upside down to place the smaller pots on.  That will make 6 small pots easier to water and much easier to check for pests without having to bend over.

There’s always something good to come out of something less than desirable in my life.

There are always options.

You just have to be creative and imagine other possibilities when faced with less favourable decisions which have to be made.

Yesterday I had the thrill of the year when both a male Superb Fairy-wren in full breeding plumage and a female flew down to the garden at the same time.  I was so excited I couldn’t hold the heavy camera & 150-500mm lens still enough.  But apart from that bad camera shake, the clean windows didn’t offer any clear shot anyway.  But I’m still going to share the shots so you can get some idea of the adult blue feathered male and the plainer female together.

Since I’ve scattered birdseed in between many of the herb and spinach plants yesterday, hopefully I’ll get another photo opportunity when the sliding door is open on a warmer day.

Funnily enough, I’d been planning on going out and still had my jacket on.

I decided not to go out, but finish the article I was typing earlier and an hour and a half later, when the sun was lower in the sky, I got lucky and a tiny male Fairy-wren chick landed on the Sorrel pot which was further up the balcony space, closer to my desk.

If you look carefully in the second image below, or zoom in, you can see a faint pale blue tinge to the feathers.  This tiny wren was definitely a baby boy.

How strange that many of the birds visited this particular pot during the day, as I had no bird seed scattered around it and Sorrel (Rumex sanguineus) leaves, like the Mizuma ‘Red’ (Brassica rapa var nipposinica) up near the lettuces, are a bit peppery, or have a sharp tangy acidic flavour.

Anyway, I’ve put some bird seed around the Sorrel plant and moved it to a position where I hope there is no glass reflection this morning.  The House Sparrows have found it, now for the Fairy-wrens.

I’ve had several Superb Fairy-wrens and House Sparrows visiting already this morning, and at one stage, 5-6 birds at once.  For a change, I just sat at my desk watching all the birds visit every herb, flower and vegetable pot in turn and didn’t attempt any more photos.  Anyway, I think a trip to the archives is necessary as we’ve had enough balcony bird shots in recent weeks.

Today, the winds are even more gusty and storms forecast, but doesn’t it always rain when you’ve washed the outside of the windows 😀

Maybe that’s a tip I should share with other apartment dwellers trying to have a small Balcony Garden.

Wash your windows and balcony door – once a week at least.

PS I forgot to mention…….the Harlequin Bugs are back in town.