GLADIOLUS (Gladiolus cardinalis)

You don’t seem to see Gladiolus in many residential gardens in Australia these days, but they were a great favourite of my Mother in our quarter acre first home block.  My Mother had a massive garden, both ornamental in the steep slope in front of our house, as well as the vegetable gardens and fruit trees in the rear yard.

There are around 260 species with thousands of cultivars and most originated in South Africa.

They should have a sunny situation protected from wind with a well-drained soil, but will tolerate periods of dryness once they’re established.

The funnel-shaped floors open from the bottom of the stem upwards and come in shades of white, red, pink, yellow, orange and some bicolour.

These images of the gorgeous GLADIOLUS (Gladiolus cardinals), a hybrid, come to you from our Royal Botanic Gardens here in Melbourne, but I daresay are easy enough to find in any local plant nursery or online supplier if you want them in your ‘Aussie’ garden.

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INSECTS ON FLOWERS

When I lived (and worked) next to the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne, it was a sure bet that on buying a camera after I had to take early retirement, my main photography subject was going to be flowers.

(Bird photography came some time later).

I think I’d walked in, around, or through the gardens on the way to work something like 8,000-10,000 times and that is no exaggeration.

The Royal Botanic Gardens was my home-away-from-home OR, as I called it, My Backyard and I learned more about flowers in the first 5 years of photography than I had ever learned in my whole adult life.

I rarely notice small insects on flowers, being very short-sighted (and back to wearing thick glasses after some 40 years  of wearing contact lenses doesn’t help).  My ‘walkabout’ glasses  are ‘distance‘ glasses.  But I notice on cruising through my archives that I do actually have quite a number of flower images with insects on them.

Here’s a variety of both – large and small.  I guess you can easily tell which insects were the main focus of the image and which insects were just lucky additions to the main flower subject.  There are a couple of images which were made elsewhere, but that’s not important.

I won’t take the time to look up the insect names as that would take all day and I’d never get the post done 🙂 but most of the flower names should be correct.  Please don’t hesitate to let me know in the comments section if I’ve got one wrong.

Enjoy…..

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).

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 🙂

SHOT OF THE DAY

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.

SUPERB FAIR-WREN (female)

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.

 

 

ROUND-LEAF or FAIRY FANFLOWER? (Scaevola)

Not sure whether this unusual flower is a ROUND-LEAF FANFLOWER  or a FAIRY FANFLOWER, but I do know it’s genus is Scaevola.  I just hate it when my encyclopaedias and the internet have conflicting information as I’m just an amateur when it comes to gardening and don’t have the time, or inclination, to spend hours trying to work out what is right, what is wrong OR even……..whether its just a flower/plant with various Common Names.

If I had a real in-ground garden, instead of 12-15 potted plants on a tiled balcony, this is one plant I’d grow.  Gosh, I could even grow it now (in a container), but at the moment, I grow mainly Herbs and a few leafy green vegetables (plus a couple of long-flowering plants).  After last summer’s highly successful tomato crop on my west-facing balcony, next Spring I might even try some other sun-loving vegetables that can be successfully grown in containers, but I do prefer the quicker yielding leafy crops.

I love blue or purple/blue flowers and this became a favourite after I made the first photos some years ago.

Scaevolas are fan-shaped Australian flowers in shades of purple-blue, lilac or blue and I love the profusion of blooms that cascade over the waist-high rockery area near The Plant Cottage in the north-west corner of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne  

They’re great ground-covers and really do look pretty.