Fig Trees for Free

Figs are easy to grow and easy to propagate.  They do not need rich soil or heavy watering.  However most of my fig trees are in pots and they do need pruning.  Whenever I have a bundle of twigs I wrap them in paper and put them in a plastic bag.  Within a couple of weeks they start to root and when potted, turn into new fig trees.

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An easier way would be to stab the twigs directly into a pot of soil and they will root there.  However, I do not always have a hundred pots filled with soil ready to receive them.  This way, I can also give them away and put them in the mail easily.

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Twice a year I donate cutting grown fig trees to the Huge Plant Sale to raise money for the National Breast Cancer Foundation.  The next sale is in April.

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Remembering Stonehenge, London and thereabouts with my Sony Cyber-shot

In response to Derrick Knight‘s post I dug up some photos I sent to friends by email while I was in London for a month in August/September 2013.  All my photos are locked up in an old computer and these are all that I can find of those days.

I was staying in an apartment on Dukes Road WC1.

It was a hot summer and children were jumping into the pond at the Victoria and Albert:

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Fossils of sea animals and birds’ eggs at the Natural History Museum next door to V&A

I took day trips with London Walks to Stonehenge, the Cotswold and Salisbury:

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Near Salisbury Cathedral

 

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The Cotswold

Here I was in Bath:

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Cambridge:

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Back in London:

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All I can remember about this building is that the metal pipes are filled with water – Derrick?

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This is my favourite find in London – a love letter?

All these photos were taken with the Sony Cyber-shot, a little point-and-shoot job.  It has been replaced by the iPhone.

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White Flowers in my Garden

I am attracted to white flowers.  I don’t get full sun anywhere on my garden and white stands out so well in the shade of my jacaranda tree.  Click any image to see a slideshow of the full gallery of photographs.

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Gifts of the Rain

This morning I found the garden hung heavy with overnight rain.  The branches barred the way everywhere I went.

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The passage was closed by the rain laden branches:

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The passage is about 1.5metres (5 feet) wide

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The back passage is also engulfed

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This orchid sent out an astonishingly large frond.

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I hadn’t noticed a new spike on the orchid until the string of light attracted my attention

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…and the first bloom on the Camellia ‘Perfection’

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Why I am Still Blogging

WordPress sent their congratulations on my third anniversary as a blogger.  I was surprised that three years have lapsed since my first post.  Why am I still here?

This morning I noticed someone from Slovenia read a post I wrote about my orchids last October.  There is the reason I blog: if I had hidden everything I wrote in the last few years in a manuscript, no one else would have read it, let alone being visited by 10,350 individuals from every continent of the globe (except the Arctic and Antarctic) nearly 30,000 times. To my Slovenia reader, you are my 10,351st reader – thank you from Sydney, Australia.

This morning I received an email from a friend who spoke of the many rejections of her manuscript that she had received from publishers.  I am so glad I am my own publisher.

Bloggers know we don’t publish for vanity’s sake.  Bloggers are writers and writers need to be read.  Those of us who don’t write for money are satisfied with the knowledge that people from all corners of the world are sharing moments of our lives, our experiences and all that we hold dear and important.

I am in my miniature urban orchard and garden everyday.  I am grateful to be able to share that joy and the beauty of flowers and fruit.  I am a poet and I am happy to share my poetry and the Chinese poems that I translate from my mother tongue to my adopted English, and vice versa.   I like to show and tell through words and photographs of things that goes on, things that I see and things that I made be it with words, with nature or with clay.

Some of my readers were friends and some have become friends; others may visit once, never to return. Whether they leave a ‘like’ or a comment I value their presence.

There had been times when I felt like giving up.  Declining health and a disability in my writing hand has slowed and sometimes halted my progress.  There had been weeks when I had to take breaks from writing but persevering with the blog over time means that readers will visit even you are not writing.  I find this most gratifying.

My friend the journalist told me never to write for free – but I am well paid.

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Multiplication by Division

Some time ago I bought this plant from the Huge Plant Sale:

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Oxalis is considered a weed in Sydney, but this is one that we love to cultivate: Oxalia  triangularis, also known as the Love Plant, or Purple Shamrock.   Before long the plant had outgrown its pot so I pulled it out and divided the bulbs into this:

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plus two babies:

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and this one bulb that escaped into the viola bed:

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So division is the easiest way to multiply plants!  The extras will go to the charity sale in April to raise funds for The National Breast Cancer Foundation.

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Mounted Dendrobium nobile Orchids

On one of the hottest day of 2016, I mounted some keikis for my friend Didi.  I think she was nonplussed about this strange arrangement and left them in a corner of her garden, under the hydrangeas.

I used a piece of old floorboard as the base; drilled a couple of holes in it and fashioned a hanger with galvanised wire.  I tied a few keikis together, put some sphagnum moss on the roots and wrapped a piece of hessian around them.  Then I strapped the bundle onto the board.  I must admit it looked as if it was being hung to dry.

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November 1, 2016 – a bunch of keikis freshly cut from their ‘mum’ were tied together and strapped to a piece of old floorboard

The keikis were from her own garden.  Didi had complained that the huge clump of Dendrobium nobile produced no flowers.  I pointed out the oversize pot they were in and suggested they’d also been overwatered over winter.  The number of keikis (babies) they produced proved my point; they came at the expense of flowers.  Orchid babies are produced with roots attached so we removed them and I repotted them in a dozen pots, plus the mount.

When I visited them ten months later, I discovered that all the keikis have flower buds on them; the best performing being those on the board.  Diane immediately hung it on her wall.

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September 11, 2017 – ten months later, there were more than a dozen flower buds on them

As the roots are now clinging onto the board, the ties were removed.  You can still see the remains of the hessian in the picture. Click photo to see enlarged details.

Since then we mounted all the other potted keikis on boards and they have lived happily ever after:

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October 4, 2017

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This looks like three photos but it is actually one picture of the orchids against the wall that has a recess in it

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February in my Garden

February was hot (40ºC) and dry, cold (15ºC) and windy and in the end, wet.  We don’t know what to make of it; neither does the garden so yes, I have azaleas flowering as if it is spring while the gingers insist that it is still summer.

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Azalea – they flower whenever they feel like it

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Crepe Myrtle – always ready for Chinese New Year Down Under

Sun impatiens

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Azalea

 

Jasminum sambac

Hibiscus

Abutilon

Euphorbia

Begonia

Et cetera et cetera et cetera…

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Har Mee 蝦麵 Prawn Noodle

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Only on Tuesdays, Fridays or Saturdays, Har Mee is the Daily Special at a Malay Chinese eatery on Hunter Street, Sydney.  If I am in town on one of those days, I would share a table with strangers and savour this large bowl of soup noodle until the very last drop of bisque is scraped from the bottom of the bowl.

Don’t tell anyone about this:  it’s hard enough to get a seat.

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From a Corner of the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney.

The collection at our RBG is modest despite its grand title.  Sometimes one wonders: is that all we have?  Well, no.  Some plants are not on display due to their rarity (here) or their special needs.  Spaces for display are often inadequate in size and in the condition they can provide.

Our government funds 50% of the cost of running the RBG.  It is generous considering the low priority Australians place on horticulture:  it is not taught at any of our universities though one can obtain training at a trade school.

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Fortunately the RBG attracts tourists: if we don’t care, other people do.  After all, it is right on top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House –hence the funding, I suppose.  When I paid $25 to see some tropical plants that are kept away from the public, I found myself amongst people who don’t live here. The event was hosted by the Friends who raise funds to pay for the other half of RBG’s expenses.

The glasshouse was so small that most of the time I couldn’t see our guide nor the plants that he was describing so I must be content to take photographs.  I did hear one question that embarrassed our guide:  where would he place the RBG in comparison to Kew (!) and other botanic gardens around the world?  The answer is nowhere but our guide valiantly defended it by saying: even Kew is struggling with funding and on a decline.  He didn’t mention RBG’s advantageous location.

He did tell stories about how an entire collection of orchids was lost due to an air conditioner breaking down and petty theft and brazen robbery of plants.  I am surprised they didn’t check our bags on the way out.

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Outside the glasshouse a kookaburra was wondering what the fuss was all about.

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At the end of the day I decided to become a member of the Foundation and Friends of the Botanic Gardens. It is a privilege to have such a space in the middle of the city but someone has to pay for it.

 

 

 

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Firespikes (Ondontonema) are Back in Vogue

I wonder if people realise that nothing is in vogue until the fashion guru, or police says so.  It’s no different in the garden.

This month’s Gardening Australia magazine featured a two page spread on the Firespike (Odontonema), an old fashion hedging plant that was imported into Australia in the 1920s.  I had such a hedge that I recently chopped down – just before that issue was published, because I read the magazine second hand.  No, it was because I had to.

Since the 20s, when it was known as Red Justicia, the hedge had grown into a tangled thicket that might have guarded the Sleeping Beauty; it was impenetrable, gnarly and frankly, ugly.  My neighbour loved it because he only sees the new growth and flowers above the fence but the tangled wood had to go.  However, before it went, I took cuttings.

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What my neighbour sees; I didn’t take a photo of the ugly bit.

Being the Red Devil that I used to call it, the cuttings are already flowering and new shoots have come up from the ground so I will have to be vigilant from now on.

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No doubt the write-up will engender interest in the plant and we will see it in the nurseries.  I can see why it is popular because it grows quickly, flowers profusely in late summer/autumn and it is drought tolerant.  It just grows and grows and grows… however, it does not mind being cut back severely.  Impossible to kill.

I am a volunteer propagator for the Huge Plant Sale that raises funds for cancer research and services so mine will be on sale in April, the first of our bi-annual sale.HUGE PLANT SALE copy

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Graphium sarpedon Butterfly

Commonly known as Blue Triangle in Sydney, this butterfly visits my garden regularly but it flits about so quickly that I was never able to capture it in a photo, until this morning.

We had some rain overnight and the birds and bees went mad with joy,  When J my fourteen-year-old volunteer helper came to prune the fig tree this morning he pointed out some larvae to me and I said, leave them alone; they may be butterflies.

As if to say thank you , a Blue Triangle appears and I was able to snap some pictures with my iPhone that is always in my pocket for moments like these:

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I think it was attracted to the new leaves of the Cinnamon Tree

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When it dived under the tree I thought that it was searching for the source of the scent that was coming from the Osmanthus fragrans but Wiki tells me that its larvae actually feed on the leaves of the Cinnamon.  How fortunate am I to have the Blue Triangle’s favourite food.

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Then it was gone, creating moments for other gardeners.  Moments that enliven us – but for the butterfly’s lifetime, it has nothing but moments.

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The Long Flowering Season of Fuchsias

Here in Sydney we have up to 40ºC days and nights are in the twenties at times.  My new potted fuchsias are wanting water everyday and we have not had much rain.

So I would not say that they are low maintenance here but that is the price we pay for that display.  I have been enjoying the flowers on my fuchsias for months.  I saw on Derrick Knight’s blog that they were still flowering in the UK as the weather cools so we should have months more of blooms to enjoy here.

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I bought this last October and it’s been flowering like this since

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The heat has turned the white caps pink

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Fuchsias get leggy as they grow so it’s good practice to pinch off excess growth to promote bushiness and encourage flowering,  I like to tuck the bits into pots to make new plants.  In fact I tip prune my fuchsias as soon as I get them home so that the cuttings have plenty of time to establish before the weather cools.

See below mother fuchsia and her three babies.  Mum’s ready for another haircut and the babies, already flowering are ready to be potted up.

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Three months old cutting

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Take a Cutting – Hibiscus

A relative of the Abutilon, the hibiscus is just as easy to strike.  My collection of hibiscuses have all been cloned to reside in the gardens of friends.  One was given to me by a friend who later received a gift of its clone when she moved home.

A cutting grown plant is a clone, with exact DNA and therefore attributes of its donor.  So select your cuttings from the best and healthiest of plants.

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It takes time, care and patience to nurse a cutting to a viable plant.  Success is not guaranteed.   Buy one if you are looking for an instant effect.  If you are in Sydney, buy from the Huge Plant Sale and help support cancer research and services.

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Erasing a Hundred Posts

As part of my New Year resolution, I am going to edit my translations of Chinese poems.  Most of them, actually all of them were done on the spur-of-the-moment, immediately after reading a poem that I wanted to translate.

I translate, I post, I forget, Such is my MO.  They were moments of self indulgence: I did it because I wanted to and I felt I can.  I hoped that people would want to read them then I was flabbergasted when they did: maybe I should have taken more care.

I had no idea that I had translated so many.  It is tiring to delete those posts one by one so I stopped at a hundred.  They will reappear as I work on them but I can’t promise that they will be better and some will be left alone.

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Take a Cutting – Abutilon (Chinese Lantern)

A cutting is a stem of one plant that you transplant elsewhere to make a new plant. Many plants, including trees in my garden are cutting grown.  One side of my garden would be bare if not for cuttings.

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This abutilon is vigorous so I am constantly pruning it back.  I stab some pieces in pots and hey presto –   new plants.

Cuttings do take time to root and need care.  I keep them damp until they root then pot them up as they grow. They can be planted in the ground once the roots are strong.

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This cutting grown specimen was planted three months ago

 

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Abutilons come in a variety of colours.  I find the hybrids with the larger flowers more difficult to strike than the old fashion tall stemmed varieties.

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If you have no access to a cutting, buy one and know that the one plant can turn into hundreds in time.  It will also bloom generously for months.  That is good value.

I am a volunteer propagator for the Huge Plant Sale that raises money for cancer research.  Abutilons will be available in our next sale in April so come and buy one from us:

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Platters Parade

I can’t wait to get back to Pottery when the studio reopens in February.  Though my crippled hand and arm do not allow me to do much, it’s occupational therapy that I enjoy.

In the second half of last year I made some pieces to give to friends and to keep.  I don’t always remember to photograph them but here are some photos of clay that has become part of my life:

 

 

 

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When a Fig is Ripe

I have not written about my figs for a while because I do not want to bore my readers.  Sometimes it feels like my blog should be named Life is But Figs.

I have neglected my trees this year by not spraying with my homemade white oil or bagging the fruit, but the dry winter and severe summer heat that Sydney has suffered brought on vigorous growth and a bumper crop of fruit.  Some were attacked by fruit flies but a surprising number reached ripeness unscathed.

It is impossible to photograph my trees with the iPhone; I need a proper camera with panoramic lenses.  Anyway, I am a gardener, not a photographer.

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This Black Genoa is three times as wide as shown here

A fig is ripe for picking when it hangs heavy on the branch; it droops from its own weight.  The Black Genoa starts to colour, first in stripes then turns a dark purple.  Sometimes a drop of nectar oozes from the opening at its end and sometimes you can see ants and other insects being attracted to it.  Sometimes it split, either from having too much rain or being over ripe. It  is a good idea to pick them then or, before the birds and possums and insects get to it.

Everyday I agonise over whether I should pick a fruit before the optimum moment; often I lose the fruit to the wildlife.  If you want to grow figs, you learn to be philosophical.

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Pick it now or hope that it will still be there tomorrow?

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You win some, you lose some; my iPhone is on maximum zoom here.

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Home grown figs on homemade platter

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