Saturday, September 27, 2014

Foraging Fun - Forest Candles

I have developed a love of foraging!  Often, I'll be driving along the road and a plant will catch my eye but I'm usually on my way somewhere with a car full of kids,  and can't stop.   So reecently I went for a drive with the intention of wandering and discovering,  and was rewarded by finding this gorgeous flower.  It really caught my eye, being so bright among the other native shrubs growing beside the road.  

Forest Candles - Stackhousia Monogyna
 Closer inspection revealed a plant that grows from a central mass with many stems, all tipped with clusters of flowers.  I cut a generous bunch to bring home!

My trusty "Flowers and Plants of Tasmania" tells me this beauty is Stackhousia Monogyna or Forest Candles, a perenial herb.  It grows in heaths and open forests from sea level to alpine regions.  These were found in heath beside a country road near the coast here on the Tasman Peninsula.  They grow up to 60cm and have a pretty perfume as night falls.

Further research reveals that Forest Candles, whilst widespread across all states of Australia except the Northern Territory, is not well known and rarely cultivated.  It flowers in spring and summer when, as its name suggests, it stands out brightly amongst the other vegetation.  

I am really quite blown away by the beauty of these "Forest Candles".  And it has certainly encouraged my foraging tendencies.  Prepare for future foraging finds!!

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Life on the Farm

Banksia Coccinea bud
Spring is a productive time on a flower farm.  There are signs of life everywhere.  I thought I'd share some of the things that have been going on here at Swallows Nest over the last week or so.  I'm pretty excited about this little bud - its the first of my Banksia Coccinea's to flower.  They were planted around 3 years ago and I've been eagerly awaiting the first flower.  I check the buds almost every day.  Cant wait!

Banksia Ericifolia
Some Banksia Ericifolia that I planted as a windbreak are all flowering too.  I am surprised by the intensity of colour in these blooms.  Such handsome flowers!

Bansia Ericifolia
I love the purple centre contrasting with the yellow and orange.  

We've been reclaiming territory here.  Blackberry weeds have been slowly invading some large Richea Dracophylla.  I've been panicking about loosing them so this week we attacked the blackberry and set them free.  After only a day we had them back under control, pruned and mulched, and wow!  I can tell they're happy!  

The after shot!  

Richea Dracophylla are a plant endemic to Tasmania.  Their flowers are just coming on now and are really special.  I cant wait to see how well they perform next year, now that we've given them some love.

Richea Dracophylla
Lots of flower spikes almost ready to pick.

Richea Dracophylla
Such a special flower!  

Pruning always uncovers little treasures.  We found 4 abandoned nests in one day - adding to my already large collection.  This little one is lined with fur!

Leucospermum Scarlet Ribbons
One of the jobs I really enjoy at this time of the year is checking the buds on the Pincushions or Leucospermums.  These are a summer crop for us in Tasmania, generally starting in November and with different varieties the flowering continues through to February.  This little bud is going to be a Scarlet Ribbons Pincushion.  The buds need to be checked because sometimes the plant makes 2 or more flower heads at the end of the stem. 

Pincushion Buds
We pick the extra buds off, making sure that one single bloom has enough room to open properly.  The little buds can be "popped" off with your fingers.  I just find it a relaxing thing to do, and it gets you out among your plants, keeping tabs on how they're going.  

Of course the big event of the last couple of weeks is the beginning of the waratah season.  We are looking forward to having these beautiful flowers for sale over the next few of months as we have different varieties with different flowering times.  

Waratah and Richea flowers in a "Get Well" bouquet
Waratahs and Richea flowers will feature in arrangements to say "Get Well", "Farewell" and  "Thank You".  They'll also feature in wedding bouquets and in flowers for a funeral over the next week or so.  It's all part of life as it rolls on into spring and summer for 2014. 

Spring Native Bouquet - Swallows Nest Farm

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

what's in the basket?

I've been picking this gorgeous leucadendron this week.  Its a called Leucadendron Gandogeri.  We planted these beauties 3 years ago.  They were tiny tube stock, possibly the smallest plants we've put out in the field at around 5 cm tall with only a handful of leaves on each plant.  But they are vigorous growers and this year the harvest is large enough to start selling.  

The Gandogeri start out this greenish yellow, but continue to lighten and brighten until they are creamy white.  The centres become increasingly yellow until the pollen presenters open giving them a bright yellow, fluffy appearance.  They are such a happy flower.   

Saturday, September 6, 2014


Well spring is definitely here at Swallows Nest Farm.  In fact, it arrived a few days before the end of August with some very warm, beautiful blue-sky days and lots of spring colour in the flowers.  And of course the swallows are back for the summer.  They seem to be having such fun dipping and diving and reclaiming their nests left abandoned over the winter.

We've been in full swing preparing for the warmer months with lots of pruning and reclaiming areas that were let go over the last few years.  (We've been busy with our baby girl who has major health issues and this has meant the farm has been a little neglected in areas.)  Whilst doing some heavy duty pruning during the week I came across this gorgeous little nest.  It's tiny with the eggs being around the size of the end of my thumb.  So cute!! And definitely a sign of spring.

And there has been no shortage of gorgeous weather over the last few weeks.  Wow!  It makes your heart skip a beat sometimes.

Of course, the bulbs are blooming madly.  While we were out driving the other day, we came across this incredible field of daffodils.  Spring!! With a capital S!!

Yellow is such a "springy" colour.  And set against those clear blue skies, it just sings.  The Leucadendron Safari Goldstrikes are glowing and gorgeous.

I've been madly picking them.  They're so much bigger and more productive than last year.

And the stem length has been fantastic!  1.4 metres tall, some of them are.  And they've been generously snipped leaving plenty on the plant.  I think they're almost too tall to use ... maybe!

Our local school hosts a flower show just as spring starts and we love to donate flowers.  It's just another indicator that the seasons are turning - lots of fresh new spring colours!

And that amazing, glowing yellow!

The flower show is always a feast for the eyes.  These little beauties were done by the kids at the school.  

The huge variety of daffodils are truly mind blowing!!

The variety of natives available in spring is fantastic too, and makes it a delight to create bouquets and bunches.  I'm going to soak up the blue-sky days and the riot of colour while I can, because I know that spring can also bring cruel winds, and freezing weather.  It snowed here in September last year!  There's so much to be done around the farm in spring and in the business of harvesting, time will fly and before I know it, summer will arrive.  But I'm intent on savouring the sweet moments of spring this year!