WHAT FLOWER IS THAT? – #5

In the past, I knew what this plant/flower was called as I spent quite a long time photographing a Red Wattlebird on one of its flower spires, but the name seems to have disappeared from my brain and Flower photo library.

The flowers are like a very tall version of an Echium flower.  Another plant with tall spires of white flowers is the Baneberry or Bugbane (Actaea).

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WHAT FLOWER IS THAT? – #4

The Genus Echinacea has 9 coneflowers according to Mr. Google.

This looks like the Green-headed Coneflower (Rudbeckia laciniata) below, but I notice there is a similar one called Yellow Coneflower (?).  Yellow Coneflower has several names, so now I’m getting confused.

Is it only the centre of the flower which is a different colour?

I am rather weary this morning from a very late night cruising through Google Images, so I’m hoping the gardeners among you can clarify (until my brain wakes up again).

 

WHAT FLOWER IS THAT – #1

My 2 photo libraries need some serious attention, but it seems to take forever as I keep getting distracted by other tasks or boring household chores.

…..and I really do have to stop spending hours staring out the window watching the bird life or trying to work out what new bird call I’m hearing.  

I have about a dozen flower images with no names, so I decided to ask my loyal followers, if they know the names OR, if they look like one they might know which gives me a starting point on Google images.

Some days I flip through my 2 plant encyclopaedias trying to store the images in my mind for future reference, but I have a short-term memory problem and the images don’t seem to stick.  Sometimes even my Weeds in Australia book has some answers, as many non-indigenous species have been brought out by the early white settlers in the 1800s, OR more recently, even illegal fishing trawlers.  These plants have spread and taken over some country or mountain areas and become invasive weeds.

Over the last 10 years or so, the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne has turned what was mainly a collection of British cottage flowers into more Australian native species OR African and South American drought-friendly plants.  There is still the Rose Garden, Cyclamen Walk, The Herb Garden, the Arid Garden or Cacti/Succulent plant beds, but in general,  now, very few English Cottage plants which need daily watering throughout Melbourne’s hot summer months.

Here’s the first one.  It was a low growing bush I seem to remember.  You may have it growing in your back yard.

I suspect it’s some very common plant that my wonderful gardener Mother could have identified  immediately if she were alive today, but she’s been gone 6 years now and my very knowledgeable younger brother is in to  Heirloom Fruit trees and Vegetables, not flowers.  In fact, I think he said he had over 50 fruit tree varieties at one stage on his 10 acre hobby farm.

Any clues?  I keep thinking Myrtle from a sign in that flower bed, but I know what Crepe Myrtle tree flowers look like, so that’s not the answer.  This was a small bush about 15″ high I think.  It may be a young plant and in reality grows much taller.

PHOTO EDITING – Before & After – 330 Collins Street, Melbourne

For those interested in Photography, one might ask do I edit my photos?

I certainly did for the architectural images in the previous post, as many sections of the lower part of the foyer were too dark and Tripods are forbidden on the ground floor, so I wasn’t able to use slower shutter speeds either.

I have a 2012 Apple Mac Pro 13″ attached to a Dell 27″ high-resolution screen (as I am extremely short-sighted and can barely read a 13″ screen).  Don’t ask me how I do Photography.  I have a chronic pain/fatigue/cognitive function condition called Fibromyalgia and a severe spinal condition, so I can’t bend, twist, turn or pan a moving bird very well.

I GUESS a lot, looking through the view finder (and after 8 years of Photography I have learned to compensate somewhat).

I use the Photo library and editing software that comes with the OS X El Capitan version 10.11.6.  (I don’t want to update to the latest Apple software).

I don’t have the time, interest or eyesight to do photo editing, so I just ensure that I work on the computer mostly in the mornings when I have natural light streaming in my floor-to-ceiling lounge windows (and try to get the image fairly good….. in-camera).  I can’t see on the LCD screen so I have to wait to download the day’s photos on the large 27″ screen to see what I’ve captured.

  1.  I open the day’s shooting and quickly delete the worst images and then go through the remainder to see if any are suitable and/or good enough to upload for a post – un-edited, or edited.
  2. I open the Mac’s El Capitan’s photo library and click on the Edit button.
  3. I usually click on the Auto Edit button for Exposure and then click on theAuto Edit button for Sharpness.  This is usually enough to give my photo subject a bit of  definition and give them slightly better exposure.  These Auto Edit buttons vary quite a lot and sometimes, the software doesn’t do exactly the right thing with dusk or shaded subjects so a bit of reducing the shadows with the slider scale might be needed.
  4. That’s pretty much it 😀
  5. It takes ehrrrr……… about 3-5 seconds.
  6. I occasionally spot erase some messy bits, or twigs, on the river or lake water surface.
  7. Some images do need the shadows reduced (like in the previous post on 330 Collins Street architectural details) or the Auto Edit  button for Colour pressed.  Since my cameras are set on a custom picture style (for the CANON DSLRs) and at this time of year, my SONY a6000 ‘mirrorless’ is set on the Vivid picture Style – I can always tone the colour saturation down in post processing if it looks unrealistic.  But the light can be quite dull in Autumn and Winter, unless it’s a sunny day.  So the Sony’s Vivid Picture Style livens the image up.  The Sony a6000 has many picture styles including one called Autumn Leaves.  I’ve used that one and it certainly makes the Autumn Leaf colour ‘pop’
  8. I’ve got my Mac Pro laptop open and sitting next to my Dell screen and despite calibration of the Dell, the colour tones are very slightly different, so I look at the 13″ screen and imagine that some readers might only have a small screen too, so I try to ensure that what they can see is fairly representative of the real subject and the real colour.  I compare it to that of the 27″ Dell screen.  So my final shot for my blog might look half-way between what shows on the Mac Pro screen and the Dell screen.  I figure one of them has be right.
  9. If I convert an image to Black & White for my other blog, I usually just press the Auto Edit Black & White button – takes 2 seconds, but then often have to increase the contrast and mid-tones very slightly.  Depends on whether I want a striking B & W image to upload, or a softer image to upload.  I’m not that good at seeing in black and white outdoors, but with practice, I think I’m improving.

So here’s 5 before & after shots from yesterday’s beautiful restored Dome in the Foyer of 330 Collins Street, Melbourne.

 

The first flower shot was slightly crooked and the Auto edit Exposure & Sharpness buttons gave it a slightly better definition.  The colour looks slightly less dull in the (2nd) edited image.

 

The first image show the reality of the dark seating area and lower columns.

I just lightened all the shadows in the second image so you see a bit more of the ground floor details and leather Chesterfield seating.  Perhaps a bit too much (now I compare the 2 images today)? A good photo editor with the right software would have reduced the shadows in the bottom half of the image (and not the top half so much).

 

The shadows on the left side of the image below, were too dark and I thought the original image looked a bit dull.  The paint-work on the restoration of the architectural details looks just as rich and fresh as though it was painted today, (not 1990 when they finished restoring it).  How do they keep it so pristine?  Is it the gold paintwork that creates an illusion of bright colours?  Do they dust & clean the whole restoration area regularly?   Can you imagine what an enormous job it would be?  I haven’t read all the history on this  linked site

The edited image shows a bit more of the left hand side and the paint colour looks slightly richer (which it actually was in reality).

 

The seating area and lower columns were very dark in reality (below).  You certainly couldn’t read a newspaper while you sat on the leather Chesterfields waiting for someone, or to conduct a casual meeting involving paperwork.  Well, I couldn’t read in that dim light myself.

I mainly lightened the shadows so you can see more (below), but the seating & columns REALLY were in deep shadow…….. and the original image is almost correct.

 

…..and my very first image taken that day (of the dome), was very slightly crooked (to my eye).

So I straightened the image very slightly and pressed the Auto edit exposure button on my Mac Pro and I think the image looks very slightly better exposed.  My Camera must have got the shot almost correct in-camera.

 Many of my images taken with my Canon DSLRs are crooked, especially sand/sea horizons so I presume I must tip the camera very slightly when I press the shutter button (as I have to correct the crooked horizon in post processing nearly every time).

I don’t have this problem with the lightweight Sony a6000 ‘mirrorless’.

So if you have a Mac and are new to photography, the in-house editing software has a few short-cuts, (OR you can increase/decrease the slider settings individually if you have the time and better eyesight than me).

OR, YOU CAN GET YOUR PHOTOS CORRECT IN-CAMERA USING THE HISTOGRAM AND REVIEWING THEM ON YOUR LCD SCREEN ON LOCATION.

…….and practice, practice and more practice.  I practice nearly every day, even it’s only the birds than land on my balcony fence and my balcony potted garden.  Some days are better than others, but a series of poor shots never stops me practicing.

THE TOURISTY THING – 330 COLLINS STREET, MELBOURNE

NOTE: for those not interested in history and architecture, feel free to give this long post a miss.  I really don’t want these images on my B & W PhotoBlog but couldn’t resist sharing them online, so my Nature Blog has to be the website that showcases this extraordinary restored Vestibule and Domed Space.

It was only by sheer chance I decided to enter 330 Collins Street, Melbourne after medical radiography tests on the eastern side of the city last Friday (image above).    I didn’t have much time before my bus/tram journey home and found my Sony a6000 ‘mirrorless’ camera, with the 55-210mm telephoto lens (since my 18-200mm lens died), totally useless in capturing the beautiful restored foyer.

I’ve often photographed the stunning wall and street lamps on the facade (and through a covered laneway a bit further down the street connecting Collins Street to Flinders Lane shown in the image below) over city visits, but  I’ve never actually walked down this lane so don’t know what is either side of each column.

Yesterday, after another medical appointment, I took the time to go back to 330 Collins Street to go inside to see more of what I had only glimpsed as the automatic brass-framed sliding doors opened and closed.

This time I also took my Canon DLSR with the Sigma 17-50mm f2.8 lens, as it is the widest lens I own at the present time.  I felt this lens might be  better than my sharper Canon 50mm f1.4 ‘nifty fifty’ for those interested in Photography. (Note: By the way, the exif data keeps showing a Canon lens info, not the Sigma lens info, but I’m not sure how to fix this.  Can anyone tell me?).

I’m mainly used to photographing birds, flowers and nature details for the most and can lay no claim to being an expert on photographing cityscapes or architectural photography.

But I was quite pleased with most of the images I made yesterday.

Even the formal floral arrangement opposite the Concierge’s desk had a lovely pot.

330 Collins Street is the most prestigious address in Melbourne and after you’ve seen the slide show below, I’m sure you’ll agree that the ground floor alone is worth a look.  The past and present history of this building can be read about in more detail HERE

But, here is a small part of the restoration story below ……….

  • After extensive research, which included a lengthy investigation of the decoration and the interior colour schemes, it was decided to reproduce exactly the opulence of the original, and work began in 1988. In 1990, after a fast-track building programme, 330 Collins Street was completed. The project was amongst the most sophisticated developments undertaken in Melbourne. A tower of twenty-nine floors, externally clad in richly ornamented exfoliated granite, rises above the restored Banking Chamber and Vestibule. Topped with a copper dome that sits twenty-nine floors above the original, it has become a distinctive feature of Melbourne’s skyline.

The Commercial Bank of Australia was established in 1866 and the head office was located at this site – 330 Collins Street – to give you a time line.  Keep in mind that the city of Melbourne only dates back to about 1835.  I live in the western suburb of Maribyrnong which is located either side of the Maribyrnong River.  This river winds its way another 42 kms to Port Phillip Bay and was first explored in 1803.

  • Aboriginal people have a deep and continuous connection to the place now called Victoria. Aboriginal people have lived in the Maribyrnong River valley for at least 40,000 years and probably far longer.
  • The original inhabitants of the Maribyrnong area were the Woiwurrung and Boonwurrung tribes of the Kulin people.
  • Many sacred sites have been identified and further information about them can be found in Council’s Aboriginal Heritage Study 2001(DOC, 785KB).
  • European settlement in Maribyrnong in the 1830s had a massive impact on Aboriginal people – decimating communities, displacing families and disrupting lives. And yet in spite of this, Aboriginal culture remains a dynamic force in contemporary society, contributing to the diverse and thriving inner west.

Back to yesterday and Collins Street……….

The interior of 330 Collins Street is quite dark under the dome and the architectural details are up-lit or side-lit to perfection, but I found it hard to photograph details without a tripod (and the necessary slower shutter speed).  But tripods are banned and I just had to make the best of what I could capture hand-held.

Some of the images below are really good and some are a little soft in focus meaning they’re not-so-good.  For those interested, I had to lighten some of the darker details in post processing and even reduce some of the colour saturation as it looked too bright.  I don’t profess to be a good photo editor and I’m an amateur photographer but, I must have taken about 120 photos and got quite ‘carried away’ by the sheer enormity of the task.

Let’s face it though.  The restored ornate details ARE bright, especially the gold paint.

Enjoy….

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Then right outside the main entrance,  as I walk down a few steps to street level………………..

So hope you enjoyed this glimpse of Melbourne’s history.

It was great fun trying to figure out the best way to capture all the details and experiment with perspective.

PS  The Domed Chamber is still recognised by the British Society of Architects as the finest structure of its type in the world.

WINTER – COLD & NEARLY DARK

It was nearly dark when I got off the tram which had transported me through the 2nd half of my journey home from the city centre.

The suburbs in the river valley on the other side of the Maribyrnong River had street lights lit, despite the light high up in the sky.

When I come home via public transport, I always stop at the top of my steep little road (which winds down the hill to Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve) to survey the lower lying area.   There was a sunset tonight, but I had missed it, what with being seated on the wrong side of the bus (during the first half of my homebound journey).  The scene was far more atmospheric than my rather ordinary image below.

Winter can do that.  You really have to feel the bitter wind rustling through your hair and feel the chill seeping through your bones to know it’s Winter in Melbourne.

As I drew level with my apartment balcony, I could see just a few leaves left on the Japanese Maple (?) between my home and the footpath.  I presume it is a Japanese Maple but I know nothing about trees.  The Camera ISO setting was still on a very high 3200 after some shots in a dark foyer of a historic building in the city, so managed to capture the brilliant leaf colour.

A further 4-5 feet further down the footpath right outside my apartment building’s front door, another tree still held many leaves with their late Autumn colour which rather surprised me being in roughly the same ‘wind tunnel‘ area of the road.

The colour was softer and more faded.

It’s such a lovely time of year being so close to the shortest day.  Many of the trees lining the streets in Melbourne’s CBD (central business district) still hold a few Autumn Leaves, but   I was intent on photographing a beautiful old foyer indoors and hadn’t bothered much with outdoor shots.

I’d seen this stunning old interior very briefly last Friday but didn’t have the right lens or the time to photograph it.  Today I had the widest lens I own but it still wasn’t  wide enough, so I have a myriad of shots to review in the light of day tomorrow.  I only had a short amount of time today also, but was surprised how many shots I’d made trying to capture the foyer architectural details.

Not sure the subject of my images belongs on any of my 3 Photo Blogs, but the restoration work in this Foyer was so stunning, I just have to share it with someone.

Perhaps my Nature Blog can have a deviation from the ‘norm’.

Here’s a peek……

Certainly not suitable for my Black & White Blog  🙂

BORAGE (Borago officinalis) – The Herb Garden, Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

My favourite image of Borage flower buds with their fine hairy appearance

It is….. NOT…… a nice day outdoors (with the Weather Bureau forecasting 100% rain and possible hail), but just after I braved the rain to go out and cut some parsley and baby spinach leaves to include in my  Sunday lunch, the rain stopped and the sun came out.

Grrrrr!  (now, why couldn’t the rain have stopped 10 minutes earlier 😀 ).

Never mind – the weekend rainfall saves me watering the potted herbs and veggies growing on my apartment balcony.  Despite lots of rain recently, the fierce wind rushing down my steep road still dries out most of my potted plants.  So while it is Winter in Melbourne, I still need to carry out that regular watering chore every few days (unless it rains every day of course).

A fellow blogger posted an image of a plant which looked a lot like Borage (despite the lack of flowers which would have made the identification quite easy), which reminded me of the Borage images I’d taken in the RBG’s Herb Garden.

While I don’t grow this herb at the current time, I have in the past and always looked forward to the beautiful pure blue flowers, which looked lovely sprinkled in salads.

The young leaves can be added to cold drinks for their cucumber flavour and cooling effect.  They can also be chopped finely in salads, yogurt, soft cheese, pickles and sandwiches.

But to be honest, I just like the flowers when they’re in bud form with their fine hairy appearance (as in the first image in this post).

AUSTRALIAN KING PARROT (Alisterus scapularis)

From the archives….

The Australian King Parrot is a large distinctive, broad-tailed parrot found in gardens, farmland, forest and woodlands of most sorts, especially if damp.

The male has a plain scarlet head and body with dark green wings, a dark blue rump and distinctive long bluish-black tail.  The female is predominantly green with a scarlet belly and undertail coverts.

My younger brother feeds them regularly on his small farm located past the Dandenong Ranges (overlooking the outer eastern suburbs of Melbourne), so it was pretty easy to get some photos.

Here’s a couple more shots from Melbourne Zoo.

A BALCONY GARDEN UPDATE

I AM NOT GOING TO BUY ANY MORE PLANTS.

I AM NOT GOING TO BUY ANY MORE PLANTS.

The above sentence is like a mantra which I say over and over again to myself, but ‘plant’ me, in the local Hardware/Plant Nursery warehouse (Bunnings) and its like I’m a small child in a lolly shop dashing back and forth trying to decide which lollies to buy with my ‘pocket money’.

I can easily spend an hour walking around the seedling shelves and only my constant sciatic pain prevents me from walking around all afternoon.

My Garden started to take over my lounge in my previous apartment located in the north-east suburbs, but was much easier to water.

Watering my balcony potted garden may be a tedious chore most of the year, but I can’t stop buying more plants, (especially during Summer when the caterpillars eat half of them and I need replacement plants to fill the gaps fairly regularly).

I think I have an addiction……but, at least its healthier than smoking or alcohol 😀

Maybe my new mantra should be……I’M NOT GOING TO THE PLANT NURSERY WAREHOUSE (at all).

Wooden floors in my previous apartment meant if was so easy to grow indoors too. No pale carpet to cart water over as in my current apartment.

Part of the reason I buy leafy greens to grow in my small garden is that buying the usual big bunch at the market is way too much for a single person like myself and sometimes the last half of a bunch gets thrown out as it deteriorates, (or yellows).  I don’t have room for a compost bin on my balcony and hate wasting fresh food.  Much easier and more economical to grow it and only cut the outer leaves as I need them each night.

THIS IMAGE WAS MADE OF THE SPINACH I GREW IN MY PREVIOUS APARTMENT.

Same with Parsley, Mint, Summer lettuces or Rocket.  Note: the aim in Summer is to have enough ‘green stuff’ growing on my balcony to pick for my salad bowl each night (as in the first crop at my previous apartment on the right).

The only time it is worth buying large bunches is when I make Spinach Soup in Winter (note to self: I must take a photo of my Spinach Soup for future blogging).

Yesterday’s plant seedling purchases.

Yesterday I caught a taxi to the local large Shopping Centre for a number of urgent errands and then decided to walk back the couple of hundred metres to the plant nursery to buy some more Spinach seedlings.

Seriously.

I was ONLY going to buy Spinach (but ended up with 2 bags of shopping and a large carry bag of seedlings & small bag of Blood & Bone fertiliser, so had to call a taxi to get home 🙂 ).

My 4 baby spinach plants are still growing well and will continue to flourish throughout the winter.  But cutting off a few of their tiny outer leaves, together with a Tuscan Kale leaf finely chopped and a handful of Parsley, is really only enough to add to a Herb Omelette.

Not enough to cook as a vegetable serving for dinner.

So………what did I buy in addition to Spinach.

I ended up buying another Kale – Kale Tuscano Nero (Brassica oleracea sp.) – slightly different variety to my previous Kale variety.  Then a Pak Choi – Purple (Brassica rapa) which I’d never bought or eaten before, a punnet of ordinary Spinach (Spinach oleracea) seedlings for my large vegetable trough, another punnet of 8 sweet-scented Alyssum ‘Sugar Crystals’ (Lubularia maritima) seedlings AND………a pot of colour I couldn’t resist for gloomy winter days……..NEMESIA (Nemesia fruiticans).

‘Punnets’ are a common and economical way to buy 6-8 tiny seedlings in Australian Plant Nurseries.

…..and for those not familiar with the term, here’s what Wikipedia had to say.

  • A punnet is a small box for the gathering and sale of fruit and vegetables, typically small berries. The word is largely confined to Commonwealth countries and is of uncertain origin, but is thought to be a diminutive of “pun”, a British dialect word for pound, from the days in which such containers were used as a unit of measurement.
  • Punnets were originally a round woodchip basket but typically are now rectangular and made of plastic; increasingly moulded pulp and corrugated cardboard are being used as they are perceived to be more sustainable materials. Decorative punnets are often made of felt and seen in flower and craft arrangements.

I had a spare large pot of soil remaining from where I’d pulled out the remnants of some Broccolini that the Cabbage Moth Caterpillars had demolished.

I’ve never heard of Nemesia, but hopefully it will continue to flower in my balcony’s micro climate and make for some variety in the winter colour, despite the plant label saying Spring to Summer flowering.

After all, if my other Spring flowering plants bloom in all Seasons on my west-facing balcony, it’s not in the realm of impossibility that Nemesia might 🙂

I usually like cool flower colours like Blue, Blue, Blue (did I say blue?), and occasionally mauve, purple, or white, but I did buy yellow Marigolds as a pest deterrent (which didn’t work in recent months, I might add).  I’m not a big fan of hot colours in my limited space.

I love white Alyssum too.

There are other colours in the plant nursery besides white.  The variety I bought yesterday has a larger sized flower than the variety I planted last Spring/Summer.  The flowers of my old Alyssum plants got eaten, but now the weather has a distinct winter chill, all my old Alyssum plants are flowering again and starting to cascade over the edges of their pots.  The Harlequin Bugs have definitely ‘gone north’ for their winter holiday as there is not a half-eaten flower or bare leaf in sight!

But, I still wanted some more (Alyssum).

The larger flowering variety of Alyssum I bought yesterday.

The old plants now look glorious in my two pots, but I think you can never have too much sweet-scented Alyssum when you have a balcony garden.

This is just one pot of Alyssum that is now about 20 times its original size.

My Rosemary is continuing to flower and my pink daisy has lots of tiny buds again (after being heavily pruned to remove the brown sun-burnt leaves a month or two ago).

All in all, a very satisfactory shopping trip indeed.

NOW……I AM NOT GOING TO BUY ANY MORE PLANTS….THERE’S, LITERALLY, NO MORE VACANT SPACE IN ANY OF THE LARGE POTS.

Maybe they should have adult evening classes for Plant-Buying Addicts (just as they have AA – Alcoholics Anonymous) 😀

Not that buying plants is a problem when you’ve got acreage in your back yard, but buying too many seedlings when you’ve only got a small west-facing balcony is sheer ‘gluttony’.

Now….IF…..I had….more room……I’d plant some Butternut Pumpkins (called Squash in the U.S. I think) and have long creeping vines trailing in and around the other pots.

I DO like my Sweet Butternut Pumpkin soup in Winter!

COMFREY (Symphytum official) – The Herb Garden, Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

I used to have a large Herb Garden which I planted at my Parent’s Home about 30 – 35 years ago.  There were culinary as well as medicinal herbs and some……planted merely for their flowers or attractive leaves.  I think I had close to 45+ different herbs at one time, with 5-6 varieties of Thyme.  The variegated leaves were quite pretty flowing over the brick retaining wall of my Mother’s vegetable bed.    My Mother used to keep it watered in the Summer months when I was away working.

When my Parents moved into a retirement village (and I changed jobs and lived closer to the city), my Mother potted up quite a few herbs to take with them.  Apart from Parsley and Chives which my Mother knew well, this was the start of their using herbs more in cooking and in summer salads.

My own potted herb garden on my apartment balcony really only got going a few years ago.

Long-time followers will know I lived a couple of streets away from the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne for many years and would spend many afternoons walking around the 38 hectare site, but my favourite place in Summer was The Herb Garden.  This became a sort of sanctuary after I had to quit working due to chronic illness and pain in early 2010.

It wasn’t until I walked its paths through every season that I came to know what Comfrey flowers looked like as I’d never seen them before.

Comfrey can become very invasive so best to give it an enclosed space.  It’s leaves are great in the compost heap too.

By the way, if you’re visiting Melbourne in Spring (Sept/Oct/Nov) and love gardens, ensure you visit the Herb Garden in the RBG, as that is the time when it’s at its best, although Summer is a good time too.

In winter the Herbs mostly die back and are pruned heavily and the deep shade can be quite chilly.

TWEEDLEDUM & TWEEDLEDEE

From the archives – mid August 2016

Out of all the birds I’ve photographed over the last 8 years, the Spotted Turtle-dove (Streptopelia chinensis) has become my favourite (except for the Nankeen Night Heron).

I guess this is partly because they became quite tame and allowed me to get very close to them (when I was living on the north-east side of Melbourne.  Once they discovered my bird seed bowl), I suspect they relayed the message to all their friends as my previous apartment was overlooking a dark steep laneway and warehouse and possibly not visible to most of the avian population in the area.

I’ve only seen on dove on my balcony fence in my current location and then, was too slow bringing the camera up to my eye in order to photograph it.

Even when they weren’t standing on my balcony fence, they were ‘roosting’ on the warehouse roof opposite.  The 2 Spotted Turtle-doves in the image below were not fat, merely had their feathers plumped up as they huddled together in the early morning chill of mid-Winter.

I used to call them Tweedledum and Tweedledee from that well-known classic children’s book my C.S. Lewis.

I often awoke to the sound of doves cooing in the morning.  I suspect they were calling me to come and fill the seed bowl.

The tamest of all is the one below, easily identified by the tiny tuft of feathers above its right eye.

Sometimes they would move suddenly from the fence to the seed bowl and I wouldn’t have time to zoom out with the telephoto lens in order to capture their whole body within the frame.  I have plenty of images with their legs chopped off.

Many of the other dozen or so doves that came to visit regularly were slightly less tame and would raise their wings ready to take flight if I got too close.

I haven’t noticed any special feather pattern in the House Sparrows that visit my current apartment balcony regularly and the only way I can get really close is by using the 150-500mm lens and keeping very still so as not to scare them away (as I sit at my desk).

SATIN BOWER BIRD (Ptilonorhynchus violateus) – Melbourne Zoo

From the Archives – December 2012

Satin Bowerbird – female (Ptilonorhynchus violaceus)

I’ve just come across one of my favourite bird photos in my Bird Library Archives.  I love the rich, glossy blue of the Satin Bower Bird’s eye.

Satin Bowerbird – female

The female and immature birds are a dull olive-green above with browner wings and tail.  It has a faint double white wingbar and its underparts are whitish with conspicuously scalloped brown feather fringes.  I was lucky enough to have the bird over my head to photograph these under-feathers below.

I’d love to see this bird in the wild, but in the meantime, images from Melbourne Zoo’s Great Aviary will have to suffice.

I’ve never been able to capture a good shot of the spectacularly rich glossy blue-black of the male, but here’s a (relatively poor) shot of the colour.  Sometimes it almost looks black and then, in good light, it looks more a rich navy blue (or purple).

Satin Bowerbird – male

NEW DEVELOPMENT CONSTRUCTION

Off-blog topic, but the new apartment block construction opposite mine has already got me totally hooked and fascinated.

3 days ago, I had several fairy wrens chattering away in the Japanese Maple sapling in front of my balcony.  My telephoto lens was in its soft case on the other side of my lounge room, so couldn’t go to it without disturbing the birds (therefore no images to share).

They are such a joy to observe.  I love bird-watching just as much as bird photography.

Yesterday morning I was woken very early by the sounds of an excavator.

Despite having a couple of long-term computer projects to do at the moment, I kept getting distracted by the progress outside my lounge windows.

I feel like a 5 year-old little boy watching firemen and a fire engine dousing a large building fire 😀

(At least it will keep me entertained over the coming winter 🙂 ).

The image below shows the construction site.  Pretty boring subject for most of us who are more interested in Nature walks and bird observations, but having the scene right in front of where I sit at my desk, means something new to watch on this cold rainy day.

How are they going to do it?……….this development construction I mean……..without blocking the cars going up and down my short steep road to the other townhouses and apartment blocks in this relatively new housing estate.

They can’t put a crane or large trucks in my road.  Even the road at the top of the hill is merely a narrow urban road you see in any suburb.  It’s not a wide road with several lanes that can be partially blocked with construction vehicles.

20th APRIL WHEN A HUGE CRANE REMOVED THE MOBILE SALES OFFICE (which was used to sell apartments off the plan I suppose)

The earth mover, having cleared the site of all large surface rocks and tree stumps yesterday, is now digging a very deep trench right next to the new paling fence at the top of the hill.  Seems to be clay in the fresh surface left by the digger and I presume some seams of large rocks.

I assume it won’t collapse.

It had better NOT collapse 🙂

Eeeeek!

There’s a man in the trench with some sort of measuring pole.  I hope he can jump out quickly if need be.

It’s raining steadily this morning.  Not heavy, just enough to soak the construction workers 🙂 otherwise I’d go outdoors and up the hill to see how deep the trench is.

 

It’s now starting to rain much heavier.  Can’t be pleasant for the construction workers, but I guess they’re used to working outdoors in Winter.

Better get back to my Bird Photo Library or else I’ll never get it done.

No………the driver has dropped his trench-digging attachment and is ‘clipping on’ another scooper (or whatever they’re called)…….a larger scooper…..gosh, he’s digging away the hill!

😀  😀  😀  😀  (Doesn’t take much to keep me amused does it!)

FUCHSIA (Fuchsia boliviana) – Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

…….and a different bush, on a different day, in different lighting conditions.

FUCHSIA (Fuchsia boliviana)

******************************

I’ve been working on my Bird Photo Library and my Mother’s Family History Project, so not much happening when it comes to my Nature Blog at the moment.

IF, I ever get my Bird Library in a better, more accessible order, I’ll be posting some more bird images.  Not that the old library is that bad.   It’s just that some folders seem to have 20-50 shots of the same thing as I was using the continuous shooting mode.  Seems to be mainly the Silver Gull & Cormorant folders that are a mess, although the various Duck folders also have several images of the same shot.

This is what happens when you import an old ‘backup’ that contains all the bad shots (as well as the good shots).  The last few days have provided many gentle chuckles as I come across completely blurred images where the subject is not even visible 😀

AUSTRALIAN CORAL PEA (Hardenbergia violate) – Everywhere

From the archives…..

AUSTRALIAN CORAL PEA

This gorgeous purple Coral Pea is one of 3 Coral Peas grown in Australia and you could be forgiven for thinking I had over-saturated the colour in my images, but they are truly a brilliant colour (depending on the light and time of day of course).  You’ll notice a slight colour difference in my images due to the light on the day of shooting in this post.  I might have even changed the white balance in the camera settings ?

I have a row of about 7-8 plants below the hedging trees on the other side of my road and quite visible from my balcony in flowering season.  I notice they’re also used in the landscaping in front of, and around, all the new apartment blocks and housing estates in my immediate home location.

I have unashamedly copied the description from a website (below) as it was much better than in one of my Gardening Encyclopaedias.

Growing coral pea vines (Hardenbergia violacea) are native to Australia and are also known as false sarsaparilla or purple coral pea. A member of the Fabaceae family, Hardenbergia coral pea information includes three species in Australia with a growth area covering from Queensland to Tasmania. A member of the pea flower subfamily in the legume family, Hardenbergia coral pea was named after Franziska Countess von Hardenberg, a 19th century botanist. Hardenbergia coral pea appears as a woody, climbing evergreen with dark green leather-like leaves blooming in a mass of dark purple blooms. Coral pea tends to be leggy at the base and profuse towards the top, as it clambers over walls or fences. In Southeast Australia, it grows as a ground cover over the rocky, shrub filled environment. The moderately growing Hardenbergia coral pea vine is a perennial attaining lengths of up to 50 feet and is used in the home landscape as a climbing accent grown on trellis, houses or walls. Nectar from the blooming vine attracts bees and is a valuable food source during the late winter to early spring when food is still scarce.

Read more at Gardening Know How: Coral Pea Plant Care: How To Grow Hardenbergia Coral Pea 

LOBELIA ‘BLUE’ (Lobelia erinus) – my Balcony Potted Garden

I make no secret of the fact that I love blue flowers and even left an old 2016 post highlighting them when I cleared out my nature blog post archives (to make way for new).

I thought the heavy load of Parsley in the pot hanging from my balcony fence had ‘suffocated’ the blue Lobelia planted on the corner edges, but last night, as the sun started to sink in the west, cheerful blue Lobelia (Lobelia reins) stood out so brilliantly, I had to make another photo of it to share.

It’s even poking its head out in the corner of one of the white Alyssum pots.

CAPEWEED (Arctotheca calendula) – Dights Falls, Abbotsford

CAPEWEED (Arctotheca calendula)

I currently live in a beautiful green belt in the westerns suburbs of Melbourne.   Frogs Hollow Nature Reserve is located about 100 feet behind my building (which you can’t walk through due to thick undergrowth and no paths), but sometimes I wish there were a few more weeds around the place, instead of formal landscaping and cycling/walking paths upriver and downriver (either side of the Nature Reserve).

Of course you could say that eradicating all the non-indigenous trees and weeds is a good thing for the environment, but I kind of miss the wide variety of grasses and weed flowers that grew in such profusion near Dights Falls (north-east inner Melbourne) where I used to live.

Capeweed, with its high nitrate levels, might cause deaths in both sheep and cattle, but its orange-red pollen is produced in abundance and bee colonies build up rapidly during the flowering season.

MARIGOLD ‘Simba’ (Tagetes patula) – MY BALCONY GARDEN

“Blessed are they who see beautiful things in humble places where other people see nothing”

Camille Pissarro

One of the advantages of leading a simple life is an appreciation of the small things that other people miss.

Late yesterday afternoon, after another brief rain shower, I stepped one foot over my lounge sliding door rail to see if there was going to be a sunset.  I literally had one foot indoors and one foot outdoors.  This is the only way to see directly west over the 6 foot high partition separating my balcony from the apartment next door.

Only a bright glaring ball of light reflected off the rain clouds.  Since I didn’t take any photos, here’s a shot made on 10th May which reflects my view.

This bright ball of light drops very quickly to form the view below (photographed on the 22nd May) at about 4.45pm.

It’s been several days since I’ve seen some sky colour worth photographing at dusk.

I watch the sun setting nearly every night, no matter what the season.  The shortest day of the year is only about 3 weeks away now, so the sky fades into darkness quite early.

Then I looked down to where I’d rearranged all my smaller potted plants a couple of days ago.  I’d raised the pots up on an old painted TV trolley to catch the fewer rays of sun at this cold and windy time of year.   Even on a winter day my balcony garden still gets a few hours of sunlight, despite the sun being lower in the sky……..but only in certain sections of the space.

One of the Marigold plants, Marigold ‘Simba’ (Tagetes spatula), was hiding between my 2 Sweet Basil (Ocimum basilica) plants and I thought how pretty the flowers looked.  The golden yellow glowed intermittently as the bright sun moved in and out behind the rain clouds and while I couldn’t capture the flower heads glowing with light in a photo, I thought to share this simple plant/herb.

It’s cheerful and uplifting colour is a beacon amidst the rest of the white and mauve flowers  in my green space.

The Basil plants are still hanging on from the summer and despite a few burnt edged leaves (from the frost??) and slightly wilted appearance, they still give me leaves for culinary use.

Earlier in the afternoon, I noticed that one of the two remaining Capsicums was almost ready for harvest.

I’ve been closely monitoring its change of colour, surprised to see it ripening at this late stage of Autumn.

While this Capsicum ‘Redskin’ (Capsicum annum hybrid) had a poor crop (compared to what I had read about online and on the back of the plant nursery label), and the 2nd crop minimal, I noticed yesterday that there was 1 new white flower (as seen in the top right hand corner of the image below (to the right and  below the remaining green Capsicum).  Those with small laptop computers may have to zoom in to see it.

Does this mean I’m getting another fruit with winter only a couple of days away?

Note: the blurred line towards the centre of the image above is the where the lounge window forms a right angle (enabling me to see what’s happening in the southern area of my balcony without actually going outside.  Handy way to keep an eye on the potted veggies and herbs, especially when its raining. 

Despite urban apartment living, sometimes I feel as though I’m sitting in the midst of a garden while seated at my desk.

THIS TIME LAST YEAR – PART II

From the archives – 24th February, 2017

Further to the previous post, I knew I’d made a photo of the LONG-BILLED CORELLA (Cacatua tenuirostris) or LITTLE CORELLA (Cacatua pastinator) at Queens Park, Moonee Ponds.

Finally found it in the 1st excursion to the Park in February 2017.  I’d identified it as Little Corella, but maybe its the Long-billed Corella (as I re-read my Australian Bird Guide Book this morning).

Perhaps someone else can tell me which it is, as they look very similar to me.

I think this is the only recent photo I’ve got of a Corella, so it was pretty important for me to find it in my jumble of 4000 images taken since I updated my Mac Pro to the El Capitan software a few years ago.

It was made with my 150-500mm telephoto lens hand-held and was sharp enough to crop down a little to bring it closer to you.

LITTLE CORELLA (Cacatua pastinator)

Here’s a few more images I kept from the dozens I took that day in February.

In the image below, you might think you’re in an enormous tropical or temperate rainforest, but what you see is all there is (with the broad asphalt path running about 40 feet in the middle.

QUEENS PARK, MOONEE PONDS
Juvenile female AUSTRALIAN WOOD DUCK (Chenonetta jubata)

……..and a couple of rose images from those that were in flower at the time.  Unlike the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne, there were no identification plaques at the base of the bushes, so I can’t tell you what variety this Rose is – only that it was lovely.

I always intended going back to these public gardens for a 3rd excursion in Spring, but got side-tracked by the Nature Reserves in my area and more planting in my balcony garden.

THIS TIME LAST YEAR – QUEENS PARK, MOONEE PONDS

From the Archives – 27th May, 2017

LITTLE PIED CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax melanoleucos – Very large, but the smallest Australian Cormorant. A miniature, but duller version of the PIED CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax varius).

I was just cruising through my photo library to see what I was doing around this time last year.  I had taken the tram north-east to Queens Park, Moonee Ponds to explore what plants and birds there were to photograph.  Very few flowers being Autumn, but obviously plenty of birds – both on land and in the lake.

Not a large park compared to the Royal Botanic Gardens to the south-east of Melbourne, but I still found something photo worthy.

…..and to end the day, from my apartment balcony, a sunset over the top of the hill.

 

A BALCONY POTTED GARDEN UPDATE…..

IMAGE FROM LAST SUMMER. YOU CAN SEE IN THE IMAGE BELOW HOW MUCH THE ENGLISH AND ITALIAN FLAT-LEAF PARSLEY HAS TAKEN OVER THE POT (DESPITE CUTTING LOTS EACH NIGHT FOR DINNER).

Winter is just around the corner and you’d think my apartment balcony garden would be heading into hibernation mode, but you’re wrong.

It’s still looking a bit like summer, but greener and fresher.

(NOTE: This post is mainly for the new followers who aren’t aware of my small balcony garden).

THIS IS ABOUT ONE THIRD OF MY POTTED BALCONY GARDEN – photographed 2 days ago on the 25th May.

The Harlequin Bugs and voracious appetites of the Cabbage Moth Caterpillars and other pests certainly made their mark, but I kept cutting back and removing the dead, or dying, foliage regularly.  I couldn’t bear to spray the pests and contaminate my culinary herbs and while I bought several Marigolds to see if their pest repellent properties would help, the PESTS carried on regardless.

This image was shot in late 2016 and with a butterfly on the flower looked more appealing than my more recent shot.

I suppose you could say, they were laughing their little heads off at my feeble attempts to keep them at bay.  I might buy a couple more pots and potting soil to plant some garlic.  I was reading recently that works as a repellent.  I usually ended up with 3-4 Harlequin bugs walking up my lounge room wall next to my desk and across the carpet most days.

Isn’t it about time they flew north for their ‘annual holiday’?

The Harlequin Bugs had a veritable picnic on my few Rosemary flowers, but didn’t touch the woody spiked leaves.

The hot sun, (turned into a little microclimate by the four walls surrounding the balcony space), browned and wilted my pink Argyranthemum (Argyranthemum frutescens), so I pruned that back hard to 1″ stubble too.

THIS IMAGE WAS MADE ON FEBRUARY 12th WHEN THE DAISY HAD GROWN A COUPLE OF INCHES FROM IT’S HALF INCH STUBBLE

Today, it is about 8″ high, bushy and bearing lots of tiny flower buds.  It is looking stunning and positively beaming with good health, so I suspect I might get a new array of pink daisies in the near future. It’s supposed to flower in Spring and Summer, but the micro climate of my balcony meant it flowered almost since I planted it in Spring 2016.  I kept dead-heading the spent flowers and it kept on flowering, except for the hottest days of Summer in my west-facing space.

AN EARLY IMAGE OF THAT LOVELY PINK DAISY.
IMAGE MADE 2 DAYS AGO

The blue Bacopa (Sutera cordata), looking more a pale mauve at the moment, IS STILL FLOWERING!  I kid you not!  So, except for the 4-5 days when I didn’t water it, (incorrectly thinking the rain would suffice), and all the flowers dropped off, only to reappear a day or two after a thorough watering, that Bacopa plant has flowered since I planted it in late Spring 2016.

THAT IS A WHOPPING 574 DAYS – 4 days = 570 DAYS IN FLOWER!  Its flower heads look like drowned little blue galoshes when it rains, but spring back to normal shape after the rain stops.

My Spinach Baby Leaf (Spinacia oleracea), protected by its blue plastic Butterfly ‘scarecrow’ was an ingredient in my occasional lunchtime omelette for many weeks, but I left it alone for about 2 weeks so it can grow some more leaves.  I ate the rest.  The 4 baby spinach plants were never touched by any pests at all, but one of the plastic blue wings has fallen off I noticed yesterday (as seen below).  I will try and glue it back on.  Already there are enough leaves to eat (as seen in the image below).  My goodness, how fast it grows.  Only 2 weeks and its ready to start re-harvesting.

IMAGE MADE 2 DAYS AGO

But, the best part is that the last 2 green Capsicums are still growing and one fruit is starting to turn red, despite the chilly Autumn mornings.  I can see about 3 tiny buds as well.  Does this mean Winter harvesting Capsicums?  Surely not.  This was the 2nd crop after 2 main branches were snapped off (by night critters, such as possums I suppose).

PETER THE POSSUM WHO VISITED MY SIDE FENCE WHEN I LIVED NEXT TO THE BOTANIC GARDENS 3 YEARS AGO.

So while the plant is looking a little sad and half the size, it is still surviving.  I read up on this never-planted-before vegetable and it seems that I can leave the plant in the pot and it will keep cropping.  I didn’t know that and since it took so long to grow, (12 weeks from seedling), I was going to throw it out soon and replace it with a faster growing vegetable.

My tiny white sweet Alyssum (Lobularia maritima ‘Sugar crystals)  seedlings have taken over their pots and crowded out the blue Lobelia (Lobelia erinus).

Yesterday, I rearranged all the pots so I could access the empty ones to plant some new leafy food crops, but as I sit at my desk to write this post on a cool overcast Sunday afternoon, I can see the arrangement is not covering the gaps in my privacy ‘hedge‘ (being so close to the road and footpath), so some re-arrangement is necessary I think.

I finished eating my Tuscan Kale plant and had to pull out my Bok Choy as the cooked vegetable was inedible – quite bitter – must have been the wrong potting soil mix?

I’ve actually had more failures this past summer than ever before.

The Japanese Maple (growing in front of the left hand side of my balcony fence), has changed colour to Russet now and will soon drop its leaves.  The image below was made a couple of weeks ago.  Soon,  on sunny winter days, I’ll be able to spot the House Sparrow population once again.

I’ve seen no other birds in my area lately and suspect most of the tiny wrens, finches and larger birds have left the area to seek better shelter in Frog’s Hollow Nature Reserve (located 100 feet from the rear of my building).  I feel as though I’ve missed the whole of Autumn this year (being stuck indoors).

When you’re often housebound (like me these days) with chronic pain and other debilitating health symptoms, a balcony garden full of flowers, herbs and leafy veggie greens is both uplifting and a feast for the soul……….. (and birds 🙂 ).

IMAGE MADE ON MARCH 13TH, 2018
IMAGE MADE FEBRUARY 12TH, 2018

I could do with a bit more mint and other fragrant herbs though.  And, I want a pot of Lady’s Mantle and a Lemon Verbena.  I love the way rain drops sit on the Lady’s Mantle leaves and the smell of Lemon Verbena is gorgeous (let alone the tea made from its leaves).

LADY’S MANTLE SEEDLING FROM ABOUT 5-6 YEARS AGO WHEN I LIVED NEAR THE ROYAL BOTANIC GARDENS IN MELBOURNE.  THE PURPLE FLOWER IS LOBELIA OF COURSE

Perhaps a short ride to the nearby Hardware and Plant Nursery warehouse is worth a visit tomorrow.   I haven’t been for a while.   The last 3 times I went to the Plant Nursery they didn’t have any Lemon Verbena, but the Nurseryman said they were ‘getting it in soon OR next week.’  I don’t know whether they get it in and some one buys it before I get there, OR they just didn’t get Lemon Verbena seedlings from the wholesalers due to lack of demand.

IMAGE SHOT ABOUT 5 YEARS AGO WHEN I LIVED NEAR THE BOTANIC GARDENS.

KOALA (SOUTHERN) – Phascolarctos cinerus victor – Melbourne Zoo

From the Archives – 26th January, 2013

Since there’s been so many new followers to my nature blog recently, I thought it might be timely to re-post my favourite series of Koala images.

Though often called the koala “bear,” this cuddly animal is not a bear at all; it is a marsupial, or pouched mammal. After giving birth, a female koala carries her baby in her pouch for about six months.

koala (Phascolarctos cinereus)

Having visited Melbourne Zoo about a hundred times over 2012,2013, 2014 & 2015 purely to practice photography, especially bird photography in The Great Aviary, I’ve always had opportunities to photograph Koalas as they sleep in the trees at eye level as you walk up a sloping boardwalk to the Aviary entrance.

I was lucky enough to capture a series of images of a Koala, not only wide awake, but climbing down one tree trunk to the ground and bounding over to a different tree to climb up to a bundle of fresh Eucalyptus leaves.  This would have to be a once in a lifetime experience.   Since their diet of Eucalyptus trees is not very nutritious,  they tend to be sleepy and slow-moving during the daytime.

I’ve actually only seen a Koala in the wild once –  up at a family country property which was mainly natural bushland.

The image below was made in September 2015 which was about the last time I went to the Zoo as my membership had lapsed (and I’d photographed everything a zillion times 😀 )

By the way, Melbourne Zoo, located in the inner northern suburb of Parkville, is open 365 days of the year.  Something to do with the fact that there has to be zoo keepers feeding them every day so why not open every day (I suppose).  Melbourne has 2 other zoos – Werribee Open Range zoo to the west of Melbourne and Healesville Sanctuary in the country to the east.

Yearly Membership covers all 3 zoos and you only have to go about 3 times (or, each of the 3 zoos if you’re a tourist) to make paying for an annual membership well worth the money, especially for families with children.

GOLDEN CHALICE VINE, HAWAIIAN LILY OR CUP OF GOLD VINE (Solandra Maxima) – Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

From the Archives 2010 & 2014

Golden Chalice Vine (Solandra maxima)

Golden Chalice Vine flowers have to be one of the most unusual flowers I’ve ever photographed – mainly because of their size when in full bloom.

This vigorous vine is endemic to Mexico and Central America and has large yellow flowers with purple veins and glossy leaves.

They look more of a lemon shade of yellow when they bud and first open and gradually change to a mustard yellow before they die.  The texture of the petals reminds me of leather.

The bush in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne is about 15 feet high and I always used to walk past it waiting to spot the first flower of the season.  The flowers are fragrant at night which attract pollinating bats.

The photos in this post were made in October, December and the buds in February so your guess is as good as mine as when it is the best time to see them – probably late Spring to early Summer in Melbourne.

NOTE: This is one of the few plants/flowers which I’ve got images of from bud to full flower.  Normally I’d photograph flowers when they’re in full bloom only.

IRIS – Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

From the archives – January 2011

Personally, I think Irises are one of the hardest flowers to photograph.  It took me many test shots in the Iris bed in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne before I achieved anything remotely satisfying to my eye.

With the old Iris bed being in an open area exposed to Melbourne’s almost constant windy weather, many of my images are not as sharp as I would like, but back in early 2011, I didn’t know anything about ISO, Aperture and Shutter speed.

This wonderful flower bed, with many different varieties and hybrids,  was dug up and re-lanscaped several years ago, so I am lucky to still have a few images from the old back-up disc I resurrected.

Some are good shots and some not-so-good, but the colours are amazing.

As I roam through my archives looking for flower images to share, time and time again, on re-checking which lens I was using, it turns out to be the 55-250mm (although I have got some nice images made with the Canon 100mm f2.8 macro of course), so I assume it must have been a good lens.  It was surprisingly sharp for a telephoto.

……..and a few more images – made with different lenses at various times over the years.

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IN THE PINK – Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

From the archives.

It’s been a while since I’ve taken any flower photos (except the flowers in my potted balcony garden), but there’s always plenty in my archives to fill the gap.

Most of the images below were made in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne and I believe many of the Common and Botanical names are on the images (which helps if you’re a garden lover).  If you see an incorrect name, I would appreciate you letting me know in the comments section.

They were made with a variety of lenses from a 100mm f2.8 macro, to 50mm f1.4 to a borrowed 55-250mm (which takes a really sharp shot I notice) ……to my old favourite 18-200mm lens.

WE LOVE OUR GARDENS IN MELBOURNE

From the archives…….

Melbourne is known as the Garden capital (city) of Australia and while I don’t usually go out of my way to photograph people and families enjoying the Royal Botanic Gardens, people inevitably appear in my images at various times.  Especially Sundays and Public Holidays when the sun is out, the day is warm and picnic baskets (or rugs) beckon their owners outdoors.

This is a cropped portion of a larger image, but by sheer luck I was able to capture the outline of the girl’s face with the sun reflecting off the white pages of her book. The shot wouldn’t have been half as interesting without it.

I don’t think I’ve shared many of these images before, but they do reflect our love of Public Gardens as a time to read or bask in Solitude, or share with others on social occasions.

 

JACARANDA (Jacaranda mimosifolia) – Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

From the archives – 21st December, 2013

I remember the very moment I finished my ice-cream while sitting in the shade of this Jacaranda tree.  It is located near the gift shop and restaurant  on the eastern side of the Ornamental Lake in the Royal Botanic Gardens.

It was a very hot summer day in 2013.

I popped the last of the crisp ice-cream cone into my mouth, crumpled the paper serviette, wiped my sticky fingers, threw the waste in the rubbish bin and looked up to admire the beautiful mauve colour of the Jacaranda flowers over my head. I got my camera out of its bag and captured the blossom in two shots.

On another visit I passed a different Jacaranda tree on the green lawn next to the RBG’s perennial border.

Jacaranda (Jacaranda mimosifiolia)

Funny how a  photo captures a moment in time which sparks a memory many years later.

By the way, this is the Perennial Border – planted to flower at the height of Summer in  mid January, although the image below was made in December 2010 (pre DSLR days).  You can see another Jacaranda tree to the left of the old house.  This building serves as a function centre.  I’ve made many photos of this colourful border over the years, but the image below, with the lady walking briskly past, remains a favourite.

 

FOREST LILY, SAND ONION, RED HOT POKER (Veltheimia bracteata), – Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

From the archives – 9th July, 2011

Note:  I seem to have 2 folders with very similar looking plants, but different names, so if I have identified this flower incorrectly and it should be one of the Kniphofia species, feel free to let me know in the comments section.  I have ‘Red Hot Poker’ typed in both folders of my old iPhoto library as one of the common names.  Admittedly, I am no horticulturist or even a gardener (when it comes to common garden flowers).  I am a little more knowledgeable about English Herbs (or was in the early 1990s).

WHAT HAPPENED TO AUTUMN?………………

Forecast for the rest of Thursday

Summary
Max 13
Showers.
Possible rainfall: 3 to 8 mm
Chance of any rain: 90%

Melbourne area

Cloudy. Very high (90%) chance of showers. The chance of a thunderstorm. Possible hail. Winds west to northwesterly 20 to 30 km/h tending west to southwesterly during the day.

Sun protection not recommended, UV Index predicted to reach 2 [Low]

 

 

POPPY (Papaver) – Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

From the archives – 9th & 22nd November 2010

Another kind of Poppy.   I’m pretty sure these images were made in The Herb Garden, RBG – my favourite location in the whole of the Royal Botanic Gardens and frequented during Melbourne’s long, hot summers with its cool shady seating and fragrant patches of my favourite herbs.

I haven’t been back since I moved from the area about 3 years ago and now, with the constant road construction and tram diversions on the western perimeter due to the new underground rail link, unlikely to re-visit any time in the near future.

Once again, these images were made with a little Canon point & shoot camera, not the Canon DLSR which I acquitted a month later.

Made 9th November, 2010

and later on the 22nd November, 2010…….

CALIFORNIAN TREE POPPY (Romneya coulteri) – Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

From the Archives – 12th December, 2012

One of the first flowers I ever photographed in the Royal Botanic Gardens was a Californian Tree Poppy on the 6th January, 2011.  Not an especially good photo so I’m posting a later image from 2012 (below).

The petals are feather light and very fragile, so not a good flower to photograph on a windy day, or even when there is a faint breeze for that matter.

There are many other types of poppy growing in the RBG so maybe it’s timely to post a few (if I can find them).  I have a combination of about 14,000 well archived images with folder titles from my old software and about 4000 images from the newer El Capitan software that are mainly still in their date made folders.  

MARBLE DAISY-BUSH (Olearia astrolabe) – Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

From the archives – 13th June, 2011

In the wild, Olearia astroloba is restricted to a small area (around 40 hectares) in the East Gippsland area of Victoria, near the Tambo Valley, called Marble Gully.

This is the origin of the common name ‘Marble Daisy Bush’.   The species is listed as rare, and in the wild consists of a single population of fewer than 1000 individuals.

CALIFORNIA POPPY (Eschscholzia) – Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

From the archives – 9th November 2010.

I was digging through my archives a short while ago and came across these lovely images made using my first camera purchased in 2010 when I took up Photography as a hobby.  It was a Canon Powershot A3000 IS point & shoot and I was reminded that you don’t have to have expensive camera gear to take a decent photo.

NATURE versus ARCHITECTURE versus MODERN TECHNOLOGY

When doing photography from my apartment balcony, I’ve always made great effort to avoid my building and surrounding apartment blocks and townhouses within the frame.

But that doesn’t mean I can always avoid them (or perhaps that I should avoid them ?).

I made some random images last Saturday night of the beautiful colour in the clouds at sunset, but haven’t had much of a chance to both download, or review them, until today due to my computer laptop problems.

While I review the sunset images for my Sunrise/Sunrise (and Clouds that come in Between) blog, here’s few random shots of the cloud colour……with buildings and……. street lights (which I can’t avoid in my road)  🙂

Today, I’ve got my cabling temporarily plugged directly into my laptop and a different solution to my Service Provider’s dongle which was broader than the previous (internet package) one from last year and has overlapped the USB and memory card slots either side of its connection since I acquired it early last September.

Today I have to keep pulling cables out when I want to download images or do any printing, but it is a small price to pay for the joy in having a computer that works super fast. Hopefully, yesterday’s Computer Technician home visit has finally resolved my intermittent computer problems.  Needless to say, I have my fingers crossed (if only in my mind), but I do have a 160 day ‘warranty’ on the work done, so that’s a blessing in itself.

I almost shed a tear last night in the joy of having this precious source of communication back to normal.  In fact, I probably will shed a tear when I manage to get to the shops to replace my faulty hardware AND everything on my desk is back to normal.  Only the chronically ill or housebound folk will completely understand what a fully operational computer is in the absence of a smart phone, iPad or other source of internet access.

We ICIs (Invisible Chronic Illness sufferers) need our computers.

Just about every aspect of my life seems to be run via a computer. Banking, bill paying, the day’s weather report, online supermarket shopping for home delivery (when my knee, hip or back hurts too much to even walk from the taxi rank through the shopping centre to the real supermarket) are just a few of the uses for me.  With family and friends either living too far away or simply doing lots of overseas and interstate travel and leading busy lives, email is my main source of communication and news.    I rarely use a phone at all.

I might not like this mandatory need for modern technology and I certainly have no interest in social media, but one has to be realistic in the face of health restrictions and physical limitations at this time in my Life and Health Journey.

This applies to many areas of my life.   Without a car, I can’t just walk to the shops to pick up some minor purchase or forgotten item on the shopping list.  Most people in Australia have cars due to the distance they travel each week/month/year and now that I’m retired I surely miss my old car which I sold in 2003.

At the current time I’m using taxis to get everywhere so try to do several errands in the one trip to justify use and save on cost.

I’m still hopeful of getting back to walking in Nature, but at least Living in Nature with a beautiful green space and bird life to observe straight in front of my desk is a blessing.

The sky is a rich blue and the weather superb today and I’ve seen and heard so many birds this morning.. One bird call I’ve never heard before and my curiosity is aroused.

What can it be, I ask myself.  I may be able to identify many common birds after 8 years of photography, but I’m not familiar with many bird calls.

I love the cool weather and clear skies that mark Autumn in Australia.

No birds have stayed on my balcony ledge long enough to photograph this morning, but still fun to watch.  So far, today’s avian visitors have been quite small so I presume they’re juveniles.

Here’s a few images from the past (of the birds that visit me).

Bird-watching in urban areas can be just as enjoyable as in the country or distant mountains..

LOOKS LIKE I GOT IT WRONG….

Well, looks like I got it wrong, folks.

The newly revealed left side of the apartment building at the top of the hill is not due West at all.

I thought the removal of the large mobile showroom and sales office, selling off the plan apartments (due to be built opposite mine) would be a revelation of stunning colour at sunset.

NOTE: Melbourne has gorgeous sunsets in Autumn.

Due West (and the dying sun) are definitely on the right hand side of the building (not the left).  The last 2-3 nights, the sun has reflected off the rain clouds with such brilliance, it’s  almost impossible to look in that direction.  It has reflected on the left hand side of my lounge window and into the apartment interior in such a way I’ve had to pull the block-out blinds down early.  It was probably a situation where experts warn about looking directly at the sun – it certainly blew my vision for about 5 minutes after I looked away and gave me quite a scare.

To give you an example, here’s a few images made to try & capture it.   I’ve inserted these images on this Nature Blog as they’re not really colourful enough to go on my Sunset, Sunrise Blog.  The sun was even brighter than my images, but I tried to capture the scene with the intelligent auto setting of my lightweight Sony a6000.  Normally this setting takes 3-4 images when there are extremes in contrast and automatically brackets them together giving surprising, and usually perfect, exposure straight out of the camera.

AUTUMN LIGHT

I love the late afternoon Autumn Light in Melbourne.  I was in the inner northern Suburb of Carlton on Tuesday and I had an hour to kill, so sat out in the sun near the local library, A large number of University students sat outdoors at long benches with Apple computers propped up side by side just like an outdoor classroom.

The sun was glorious, but cooled down suddenly when it dipped behind the tall buildings surrounding Melbourne University.

The Black & White version can be seen on my other blog here

AN OBSERVATION……… AND A WEE BIT OF TRIVIA……..AND A SUNSET (OR TWO)

Not nature related, but an interesting observation from my home location in the western suburbs of Melbourne.

Last week I shared some images of the removal of the mobile office/showroom at the top of the cliff in front of my balcony.

The new horizon outline at dusk is much changed and I’m eagerly awaiting the first really spectacular Autumn sunset to share online.

I’ve joined 2 (rather mundane) images below, which I happened to notice fitted together by chance.  The left-hand skyline image was always there, but the right-hand image, with the silhouette of the grass in the middle and the left of the building, were completely hidden.

That is……….the whole of the scene, top to bottom, left to right, in the photo below was invisible.

I think where you can see the silhouette of some grass in the middle of the lower part of the frame is due west and as soon as we get a decent sunset, I’ll share it.

In the meantime, I been enjoying the somewhat ordinary sight of planes descending on their approach to Melbourne’s 2 airports – Tullamarine (international and interstate) and Essendon (the old airport now used for small 2 engine or local country planes).

Today, the sky is completely overcast and no planes in sight.

So while we wait, here’s a selection of sunsets from Country Victoria from the archives.

……..and some more images from the archives – made as I walked home down an inner suburban laneway after an afternoon in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne.

The first part of the laneway runs east-to-west.

 

The second part of the laneway runs north-to-south.

Yes, Autumn in Melbourne, Australia, is a great time of the year.

YUCCA

I’m thoroughly enjoying my break from daily/weekly blogging at the moment, but I have to admit the cameras are ‘gathering dust’ (not really gathering dust as I usually keep them in my camera bag or soft pouches when not in use).

There’s a narrow strip of landscaped area at the top of my steep narrow road where I walk through to catch public transport.

Among the lovely succulents and grasses there are a couple of Yucca plants and I made some photos back on the 28th March and forgot to share them.  One plant was in the shade…..

……and the other…..just caught the late afternoon sun.

Yucca is probably best known as a house plant here, but it does make a spectacular architectural plant for the garden.

Yuccas include around 40 evergreen shrubs and trees, all of which come from hot, dry deserts and plains.  Their sword-like leaves are produced in shades of mid-to dark green or blue-green.  A few have cream or yellow edges.

Towering spikes of bell-shaped, usually white flowers rise above the leaves Summer and Autumn, making a dramatic focal point in a garden or pot.

SWEET BASIL (Ocimum basilicum)

While I’ve had Sweet Basil growing on and off many times in the last 35 years, I’ve always used all the leaves in cooking before it flowers.

My 2 current plants were decimated by caterpillars this past summer and I was all set to throw them in the rubbish bin, but decided to cut all the damaged leaves off (about 97% of the plants) and amazingly, they have recovered and I now have 2 flower heads.

This is the first time in my life, I’ve actually seen Basil flowers outside one of my Herb books.

SWEET BASIL (note: the white smears behind the flower are bird poop on the corrugated wall – I should have moved around a bit to avoid capturing the white smear behind the white flower)

I think I’ve mentioned in a prior post that my balcony garden seems to have a sort of micro-climate (despite the frequent strong, or gale-force, winds that race down my steep short road).

I’ve grown many plants that haven’t survived in other balcony gardens in previous apartments.

BUT……………this past summer has been the worst ever for pests.  It seems as though the bugs and caterpillars like the micro-climate too 😀  This is the first time I’ve ever had dozens of Harlequin Bugs on my herbs and flowers.

Normally it’s the Caterpillars that leave their mark.

For a good example, count how many ‘pillars I picked off plants (in my first balcony garden when I lived near the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne).

This was just one morning’s 20 minute search.

PELARGONIUM ‘Survivor’

I’ve been trying to make a good photo of this Pelargonium flower for months.

The flowers are gorgeous.

A sort of hot pink – almost reddish in some light.  The plant nursery identification tag just says PELARGONIUM Survivor.

Finally captured it 2 nights ago when the Autumn dusk was starting to descend over my apartment balcony and the sun had dipped behind the hill.  If you’re a flower photographer you’ll know how hard it can be to capture the details of some brightly coloured flowers in full sun.  Whether under, or over-exposed, my editing skills have never been able to ‘fix it’.  

Best to leave the dark background and slightly under-expose the shot.

The ‘Survivor’ series resists poor weather, extreme heat and tolerates drought.  These bushy plants have big flowers and mine is just recovering from over-watering or heavy rainfall.  To be honest, I suspect now Autumn is here, I won’t have to water it at all.

THE BEGINNING OF THE END ?

I awoke to the sound of chains rattling and metal clanging this morning.

When I rolled up the lounge block-out blinds I was greeted by thick fog and an enormous crane at the top of my hill.

Was this the beginning of the end (of my view) and the new apartment building construction was about to commence?  (I’ve asked this question many times in recent weeks since they put up temporary chain-wire fencing across the road).

Will the construction noise scare away all the birds visiting my balcony? (I’ve mentioned these thoughts before).

Only time will tell.

I’d cleaned and put my cameras away last night as I had been very busy (including some re-arranging of my balcony garden pots yesterday.  Not easy, as a couple of the pots were very heavy, so I had to drag them 😀 ).

NOTE: to wanna-be Gardeners with only a small balcony or courtyard.  Most of my larger pots have an upturned smaller pot in them to displace some soil and reduce the weight once the pots are filled and planted.  This still gives some of the deeper rooting plants some room to travel down the depth of the large pot.  It’s actually only when the pots have been recently watered that they start to get a little heavier.  If the soil is fairly dry, these large pots are not as heavy as they look (to move and turn).

By chance I spotted a little female Fairy-Wren when it alighted on my balcony earlier.  I managed a quick shot from my Sony a6000 ‘mirrorless’ which was set on Aperture Priority instead of Shutter Priority. This camera was the quickest to get out of its bag and remove the lens cap, but I didn’t have time to see what setting it was on.

Never mind the ‘soft’ focus, here it is………gosh, I love seeing these tiny wrens even if they do move quickly and fly away after a minute or so.  They’re a nice change to the regular House Sparrow visitors.

…..and here’s a slideshow of the morning’s action for anybody who’s interested.

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NOTE: I’ve been mostly housebound in recent weeks with a flu-type virus and severe sciatic/knee/leg pain which has made walking difficult.

I saw my temporary doctor on Monday to get the CT Scan results to be greeted with the words “Vicki, you really don’t want any more spinal surgery”.  (my long-term doctor retired mid-December and this temporary doctor actually finished up last Monday too), so now I have to find another Doctor who can refer me back to my Neurosurgeon (2008 & 2015 lumbar spine surgeries) for a second opinion.

CAPSICUM (CAPSICUM ANNUUM HYBRID)

If you’ve been following my nature blog for a while, you will know that I planted a red Capsicum (Capsicum annuum hybrid) for the first time in my west-facing balcony garden.

My younger brother had warned me they were a slow grower, but I persevered and waited and waited…………………and waited.

My idea was to have sufficient green salad and herb leaves (as shown on the right), or green leafy vegetables, to pick during the summer so I didn’t have to shop so often.  All other vegetables keep well enough in the fridge when properly stored so it doesn’t matter if I miss a weekly shopping expedition.    I did well with the Asian greens during Winter in my previous balcony garden (below) too.

Asian greens which lasted months on my previous apartment balcony as I only picked the outer leaves for dinner each night.

In fact I did extremely well with my garden, located to the north-east of Melbourne, which had no direct sun but plenty of light (below).

My second Capsicum crop here in the western suburbs started with 11 thumb-sized fruit only a few weeks ago and being the end of Summer, I wondered if they would grow at all.  I didn’t know they would produce more than one crop in the Summer, having never grown this vegetable before.  Two fell on the ground attached to a large branch, which I presumed the possums had jumped on and broken during the night.  That left only 6 fruit, from thumb-size to about 3″.

(Don’t know what happened to the missing 3).

I was surprised to see one turning partially purple earlier in the week and very quickly jumping to the red stage yesterday.

I lifted the leaves up with my left hand intending to make a one-handed shot with my right and was dismayed to see my Capsicum had ‘company‘ yesterday.

Hope they don’t eat it.  They can have the leaves.  I’m happy to share them.

(I’ve even had Harlequin Bugs in my lounge room and the little blighters have proved hard to catch and despatch outdoors, but somehow, I still can’t bear to kill them as they’re so attractive).

Only baby spinach, 1 Tuscan Kale and 2 kinds of parsley (English curly and Italian flat-leaf) are left now (besides the regular Rosemary, lemon Thyme, sweet Basil, Marigold herbs and other flowers).

The Sugar snap Peas only yielded one pea pod, LOL, with the Harlequin Bugs sucking the sap out of all the leaves of the 10 seedlings climbing up the bamboo frames.  Those plants got pulled out a week ago.

One pea pod doth not a meal make.

I have several empty pots now.

The Sage was completely decimated by bugs and I pruned it down to 1″ stubble.  Bitter sage leaves are supposed to be bug-resistant and was even recommended for growing as a deterrent.  It’s now got about 50-60 new baby leaves on it.  But Sage always dies back in Winter, so that will probably only last a couple of months.

I pulled the Bok Choy and baby Broccoli out as they were half-eaten (by the ‘pillars), and the meals I did have from them, were fairly bitter.

One Kale leaf and several baby spinach leaves are perfect for the occasional vegetable omelette in the meantime.

Next Spring I might invest in a covered raised garden kit for my low-growing veggies or invest in more blue butterfly scarecrows.

Or, maybe just have flowers 😀  (says she who just despatched another Harlequin bug crawling across her Canon Printer).  I think the bugs get in via one of the large Rosemary branches which is lying next to my open lounge louvred windows, although I do have the sliding door fully open on sunny days.


I’ve even found the odd Cabbage Moth caterpillar crawling across the carpet 😮

Between you and me, I’m getting tired of hand watering every night.  Especially as the time I usually water around 6.30-7.00pm (about 4-6 trips with the large watering jug from the kitchen sink tap) is the golden hour and might be better spent down the local river doing some photography.

After my initial enthusiasm with long hours of afternoon sun from the west, I’m gradually finding the temperatures too hot and the pests overwhelming.

I normally water my garden at the end of the day so it has the cooler night time to soak in to the soil.  In our hot Australian summer, watering in the morning or midday has the potential to burn the roots of plants.

It’s only 13 degrees C (about 56F) at the moment and pelting down with rain, so looks like no hand watering needed tonight 🙂

Tomorrow it’s going to rain and cool temps also.

Was it only 3-4 days ago it was 29C (about 85F) 😕

CAPTURING THE ACTION (or, photos that make me smile)

From the archives…….a random selection.

A Silver Gull stepping straight out of the photo frame?  I was making some images of it standing on the sea wall when it suddenly turned and came straight towards me.   I made a Birthday card for my nature-loving niece out of this shot many years ago.  I think it was Picasa 3 editing software I used to make the picture frame.  Is that software still around?  I didn’t look for it when I changed from an old Windows desktop to a new Apple Mac Pro in 2012.

I had the camera on continuous shooting for the following images and I keep these images for a laugh.  I mean to say….bird photography can be highly entertaining and there’s nothing like a good belly laugh to brighten up your day.

These Silver Gulls below were lining up for the take-off and when the last Gull’s turn came up, it froze and looked down as though to say….”I can’t do it”

I had the seagull (below) all in focus when it suddenly raised it’s wings and gave a little jump in the air and landed again.  If I hadn’t had the camera setting on continuous shooting, I would have missed it.

Another shot I had lined up in focus and then all of a sudden, the Silver Gull started splashing as though it wanted to deliberately spoil my shot.  When I put the camera down, the bird stopped splashing.  I had to laugh.  Of course, it was mere co-incidence it started splashing and then stopped.  It’s the timing that amuses me.

I was so intent on photographing a Mute Swan in the Japanese Garden at Melbourne Zoo,

MUTE SWAN (Cygnus olor)

that I didn’t realise there was another shot (of a Gull) straight in front of me until the last minute.

But my favourite shot of the’ one that got away’ is the image below.

Then there are the bird shots I captured when I got too close to the bird and it turned and headed straight for me.

Emu in the open walk-through Kangaroo/Wallaby area.
Emus are large birds and getting face to face with one is no fun.  I’ve read they can turn nasty and attack anything that they feel threatened by.

I was on my knees, bending very low. photographing a brood of Australian Wood ducklings in the Treasury Gardens on the eastern rim of Melbourne’s CBD, when all of a sudden the male (Father?) turned and came straight for me (despite me being about 10 times its size).

Parents will do anything to protect their offspring.

…..another close-up when I was photographing a Nankeen Night Heron in the paved outdoor cafe area of Melbourne Zoo.  The Heron suddenly turned and came straight towards where I was kneeling.

Perhaps its just as well I can’t kneel and bend low any more 😀

I would certainly not get away in time to avoid a bird confrontation these days 🙂

…..and more recently, not too far from home.

LITTLE PIED CORMORANT (Phalacrocorax varius) takes a toilet break – MARIBYRNONG RIVER

Yes, Bird Photography can be a lot of fun……………as well as challenging.