I've been away, on holiday, for 2½ weeks - in winter.
But I don't count August as winter; no, it's when the bulbs all start to shoot up and open the early spring flowers - here in the foothills of the Dandenong Ranges.
And it feels sudden: leaving behind a slumbering winter garden and returning to find, almost unexpectedly, daffodils in full swing, masses of Narcissus `Tete a Tete' (last pic), all golden on short stems, cyclamen, Iris reticulata and even a little pink gladiolus. Algerian iris (Iris unguicularis, below)continues the show. Correas and crocus (above), too. (Winter-flowering snowdrops (Galanthus) have finished blooming and, hopefully, are setting seed.) One of my favourite perennials, Helleborus, or winter roses, are everywhere, in shades of green, yellow, pink, white, burgundy and claret (the peach-coloured ones don't thrill me). Even lilies are shooting - and the bantam hens have started to lay again.
And, in August, I'm surprised to see red Tropaeolum blooming beautifully - on a clematis tripod. Some plants thrive on neglect, but I wouldn't have expected this climber to be one of them. (Years ago a kind gardening acquaintance gave me a few seeds of the rare, and delicious, blue Tropaeolum. Two germinated but I lost them when repotting - some plants dislike any root disturbance - and my friend told me this - too late. I should have just repotted, carefully, into a larger pot. But that's gardening - always learning.)
Other bulbs and sleepy perennials are just starting to wake up; the garden is full of promise.
It's my favourite time of year.
Jill Weatherhead is horticulturist, writer, garden designer and principal at Jill Weatherhead Garden Design who lives in the Dandenong Ranges east of Melbourne, and works throughout Victoria. (www.jillweatherheadgardendesign.com.au)