Saturday, 28 December 2013

Early Summer Garden Update

Stopping in for a quick garden update in between all the bustle of Christmas and New Year. Some of these photos were taken a month ago when it was still pouring rain nearly every day (yes, this is still Australia, I checked!), and some more recently when the rain finally subsided and Summer began in earnest.

I re-potted two of my cacti:

If you must know, their names are Big Red and Spiky Spud (I'll leave it to the reader to decide which is which). My views on 'Mutant Cacti' are ambiguous: I feel slightly disturbed whenever I see them, yet I feel sorry for them and want to take them home with me. I got Spiky Spud from the A Prickly Affair stall in the city. It came with a leaflet explaining how to keep your cactus nice and small (obviously designed for apartment dwellers). I had to laugh because it seems, even my cacti are bonsai!

Oh, and check this out! My fruit trees are growing fruit! All I did was give 'em a bit of water and fertiliser, and they're growing fruit! Nature never ceases to amaze me.

They're at the stage now where I can confidently say that we have 2 apricot trees, a plum, an orange, a fig and possibly another variety of plum or a nectarine. Husband and I put bird netting on them last weekend: that's a whole story in itself!

Then there are some things that are doing well without any intervention whatsoever, like the fuchsia:

And even more impressively, the roses:

Every time I look at this rose, I can't help but smile. Lavender was one of my favourite colours before, and even more so now! Unfortunately it's finished flowering now, but there's a gorgeous dusky pink rose right next to it just starting up, so I'm very pleased. (P.S. Don't things look so much better when it's raining?)

And finally, my Shimpaku bonsai is recovering well from the shocking treatment it was given at the workshop. I'm very pleased and amazed at how well plants will bounce back from being hacked into pieces, having half their roots cut off and jammed into a tiny pot. Pretty cool. I'm looking forward to doing it to more plants soon. ;)

I'll wait until next winter and have a good look to see which branches I might want to style and which I want to cull. Having subscribed to a list of bonsai blogs as long as my arm lately, I realise now more than ever how a 90-minute workshop does not a bonsai make! I don't have any pretensions that my little Shimpaku will ever win any prizes, but at the moment I'm just fascinated with how everything just, well... grows!

Sunday, 22 December 2013

I've Got Worms!

It's true. A few weeks ago, a large box arrived in the mail. Knowing how much Husband and I have suddenly become interested in gardening since we bought a house, our dear friend bought us a worm farm as a combined Christmas/wedding present.

I apologise in advance for the photospam, but I wanted to show the whole process of setting up the farm.
Here's the open box. It's the deluxe kit with the food collection bin and soil moisture/pH indicator, which will come in handy for a lot of things in the garden.

Underneath this were the worms themselves, in a cotton bag. Next to them was a soft drink bottle filled with water and wrapped in newspaper (presumably it was frozen when the journey began). This kept the environment nice and damp for the worms.

Putting together the base of the box. I screwed the legs to the base with wingnuts. I should say at this point that my workspace was the carport. We don't have a proper workspace set-up yet, so I was using the display cart that the old owners of the house left behind in the garden, in combination with the car bonnet to store extra parts. We got a real professional set-up here.

The base with the collection tray in place and the tap inserted.

Putting the lid on, just to see how it all fits together.

Now for preparation of the worm bedding. I had to wait 2 hours for the coconut fibre to soak into the water. It was a really long 2 hours! I think I spent the time perusing bonsai blogs. ;)

Testing the fibre. Unfortunately it was way too watery, so I spent some time carefully scooping out water and dumping it on the azaleas.

Time to lay the bedding. The instructions said to lay down 2-3 layers of newspaper in the tray. Who has newspapers anymore??! Thankfully we had a Bunnings catalogue lying around, which is made of the same type of paper.

Here I am scooping coconut fibre into the tray with a handy scoop that the old owners left behind in the shed. Spreading it nice and flat and even. It must be even, it must be flat. Flaaaaaat....

Then I re-read the instructions which said that the bedding must be loosely piled onto the base so the worms can get around easily. So Husband stuck his hands in and fluffed it up a bit.

Now finally for the worms!

Opening the bag was a lot of fun! There they were, wriggling around, wondering what's going on.... I'll spare you the close-up. The bag was full of a lot of shredded paper and worm food to keep them going during their journey to their new home.

As per the instructions, we dumped out the bag, and Husband bravely stuck his hands in again to distribute it evenly. The worms wriggled down into the bedding immediately, just as the instructions said they would.

We put the worm blanket on top of the bedding and sprinkled it with a bit of water to keep the worms all snug and happy.

The last step was to put the Vermi-Hut in its new home, in our carport. The system is very compact and fits in nicely out of the way.

I've been checking it regularly and, while I can't tell if the worms are actually happy, at least they're still alive. And no, I'm not going to name them all! :P

Thank you very much Ms E for our wonderful present!

Sunday, 1 December 2013

A New Bonsai Friend

It seems I've got Bonsai fever proper now, and I've been itching to get more in the last few months. Finally yesterday I gave in and bought this. It's a Callistemon Salignus, a Willow Bottlebrush:

It was in the Tube Stock section at Bunnings. I'm such a noob, I don't know if those couple of curled leaves are a problem or normal, but there's lots of vigorous growth at the top, so hopefully I made a good choice.
All the materials needed for re-potting and wiring:

My workbench is a display stand (?) that we found in the garden when we moved in.
I decided to attach the wire to the bottom of the pot for extra stability, and added some standard slow release fertiliser.

The poor little thing is a bit pot-bound, so I'm glad I decided to re-pot straight away. It took me a while to tease out the roots, but I finally got a nice spread. I'm using standard 'Premium' potting mix.

Now the wiring begins.
Self-Confessed Noob Mistake #1: (I'm sure there will be several more in future.) I used the wrong type of wire. I just grabbed the first wire I saw at Bunnings which happens to be fencing wire. Aside from being a garish silver colour, it's very stiff and difficult to bend. My hands were sore by the time I was only half-way up! I'll get some proper bonsai wire to use next time, I promise!

Now, how to style the little one? The trunk is still very flexible. I looked at some Bottlebrush bonsai online and they all seemed to be brush or multiple trunk. However, I noticed a slight undulation which you can see in the photo above. (Above photo is of the back.) I decided to take advantage of this and ... voila!:

So it seems the little one may be a windswept or perhaps semi-cascade style in years to come. I think after its first wiring is a good time to name bonsai, so I named this little girl Minami which means 'South' in Japanese, a nod to the fact that the Bottlebrush is a Native Australian plant, from the Southern Hemisphere.

I put her in the same sheltered spot where I'm keeping the creepers Husband and I bought at the Bonsai exhibition a couple of earlier this month. At centre is Husband's Virginia Creeper and at right is my Japanese Creeper (aka Boston Ivy). We've decided to leave them as-is until next year, but there's a taste of what they have to look forward to.
I think one of my next priorities might be a nice stand to keep the plants on!