Sunday, September 22, 2013

A Spring Week on the Farm

Spring has arrived, and along with it the unpredictable spring weather.  But all is forgiven because spring is the season that brings the incredible transformation in the landscape from the quietness of winter to an explosion of life and colour.  We've already experienced the highs and lows of spring with days of summer-like heat and spring snow, wind-swept days and still, misty days.  And throughout it all the spring flowering plants produce their vibrant colours and make us happy.

The Road to Swallows Nest - a misty spring day
Spring snow on the driveway at Swallows Nest Farm
Spring afternoon sunlight among the Leucadendrons
This week on the farm I've been picking a variety of spring flowering plants.  Leucadendron Gandogeri are a cheery yellow leuco that are flowering now.  We planted our first Gandogeri 3 years ago and are just starting to get good quantities of really lovely blooms.  Leucadendrons are such a diverse group of plants.  These Gandogeri have almost a daisy-like appearance when flowering.

Leucadendron Gandogeri
I've also been picking Waratah this week.  They were already beginning to bloom when the snow hit last week and some of them have a little discolouration damage, which is a pity.  They have definitely exceeded my expectations though and I'm pretty happy with them considering what they've been through!

Waratah waiting to go in the cold room
The other thing I've picked this week has been the Berzelia or Button Bush.  This is a gorgeous South African plant that's not a protea but has similar growing requirements.  I just love it - such a special plant!  We grow Berzelia Lanuginosa a Swallows Nest.  It has little clusters of balls of flowers on the end of sturdy stems.  The little balls begin green and as they get closer to flowering become creamy white until the tiny flowers burst out and make the little balls appear like fluffy white pompoms.  They are a great flower for weddings, and I have a couple coming up so they'll be put to good use.

Berzelia Lanuginosa
The Richea Dracophylla has been so busy producing flowers this year, and it takes the spring snow in its stride.  It's native habitat is the slopes of Mt Wellington and similar mountain slopes in Tasmania.  It is well adapted to coping with the extremes of the Tasmanian spring weather.  There are so many buds on some of the plants and I've been picking them early, trying to find the optimal time to pick that gives them the longest flowering time off the bush.

Richea Dracophylla
Today marks the spring or vernal equinox, when the day and the night are equal in length.  From now on, there will be more day than night, until just before Christmas and the summer solstice. Its a busy time on the farm with all the spring and early summer flowering plants, and the busyness of calendar events too.  Its lovely to have the longer days and the lengthy twilight.  They make me feel relaxed, as if I have all the time in the world.

Well, that's my spring week on the farm.  I'll leave you with a photo of tonights equinox sunset!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Spring Snow!

Spring weather is predictably unpredictable here is Tasmania, and after beginning with summer-like weather in the first week of September, we've had snow this week.  Its the first real dump of snow in around 8 years at Swallows Nest Farm.  Thankfully I think the plants will cope okay, although many of the branches were bowed down under the weight of the snow.  

Most of the Safari Goldstrikes have been harvested - if they hadn't been I imagine they would be bent over like the plants beside them.

Pink Ice ... literally.

Maui Sunset and Tall Red bending over with the weight of the snow.

The Tall Red is nearly finished flowering.

Safari Sunset acted as little cups, catching snow and ice.

The Waratahs were a little early this year.  I'm not sure how they'll cope with the snow!

The kids had a lot of fun making snowmen and having snowball fights this morning - it was a memorable day on the farm!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

The Swallow's are Back!

Spring has arrived!  And, like clockwork, the swallows have returned. Two days before the beginning of the official calendar springtime, I woke to hear swallows chirping outside my bedroom window.  They had returned to last years nest under the eaves.  And flower-wise, spring has begun early here at Swallows Nest.  Some of our spring bloomers are already in full swing.  

The Maui Sunsets have begun to really glow in the last week.  I just love these Leucadendrons! 

Even the waratahs have begun to bloom.  They are around a fortnight earlier than they were last year with the Telopea Speciosissima being the first to flower.  I love using these flowers and I'm looking forward to the creative possibilities of using them for a spring wedding or two!

In this bunch you can see some of the newly blooming spring flowers I've picked this week -  *Leucadendron Gandoggeri which are beautifully papery and will continue to lighten until they are a clear bright cream.  *Telopea Speciosissima which are lighter if you pick them early, with a rosy pink colour and a beautiful rounded shape.  *Berzelia or Button Bush which are still green but will change as they flower to a soft fluffy white.  *Leucadendron Argenteum or Silver Tree is a beautiful foliage leucadendron which is bright and soft and reminds me of shimmering shot silk fabric.  *Thryptomene is still going strong and coming to the end of its flowering time.  Almost completely laden with tiny white flowers, it now looks like a bush covered in snow.  *Phyllica is a wonderfully soft feathery plant that "flowers" in late winter and looks like a starburst.

The swallows will be here for the next six months - "fair" weather friends for the spring and summer.  They are just one of the indicators of the progression of the seasons here on Swallows Nest Farm.  
Welcome to Spring!!