Wednesday, 21 November 2012

Snowdrops, Stylidium and Sand dunes

I went snow-dropping, albeit electronically (sighing over beautiful images of Galanthus) on Saturday. Us Galanthophiles must reclaim the word, debased by knicker-nickers, for lovers of this sweet white bulb of winter (below).
My garden club, the AGS (Alpine Garden Society, Victorian Chapter) flew in British botanist John Grimshaw for a lecture about Galanthus (Snowdrops, and bloody good) but his particular passion is for trees. Half a dozen of us explored the Cranbourne Botanic Garden (above) on Friday where John was interested in anything vegetative that Australia could throw at him, which was, of course, the provenance of all the plant material there. After pointing out a Melia: `our only deciduous tree’...response: `oh yes, they are widespread’ (I’d gnash my teeth if I thought the fillings wouldn’t pour out like sands through the hour-glass); I stayed quiet. I was seriously out of my depth horticulturally, but having a nice time. Cranbourne’s design, following the journey of water, and with its deep red lunettes, is sublime; it touches deep in the bronzed aussie’s breast. Many plants were at their peak too.

Then I spied some Stylidium (Trigger Plants) and as they were going over I first checked that they could still `trigger’: the touch-sensitive column gives quite a thwack while depositing pollen onto (usually) a visiting insect. After asking our visitor if he was interested, I showed him how...just as Mum (another British botanist) showed me long ago. Like most people new to this unusual vegetative and fun phenomenon, he enthusiastically examined the plant. High 5!
(See below: the flowers on the left are untrigged (or have reset) while the flower on the right has its trigger (column) over the flower after an insect has landed upon it.)
Seriously, this cool wet spring seems to be having last year’s effect on Stylidium gramnifolium: they are still enthusiastically flowering late in spring, bright-pink flowers still fresh on tall stalks, and, most excitingly, several shades of pink within the drift above our drive way. I’ve seen white Grassy Trigger Plants west of Melbourne and deep pink ones in the alps but I’m fondest of our own; always a happy (if rare) sentiment.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Spring Wildflowers

A furring of orange along the roadside stopped me, near home, yesterday. Hundreds of deep amber pea-flowers were stippled with red on shrubs just knee-height: Pultenaea gunnii or, to my mind rather misnamed, Golden Bush-Pea.

My handy wildflower book (the incomparable Jean Galbraith’s; published 1977 and bloody useful) calls the flower colour `rusty-gold’ which is neat and accurate. Once stopped I was fossicking, eyes alert behind my multifocals, foraging and finding: Butterfly Flag (Diplarrena moreaea, particularly floriferous this year), its butterflies floating waist-high above the leaves, pure white with delicate markings of yellow and violet; a few bright yellow Hop Goodenia, tall white daisy bush (Olearia) and oh! White Star Bush (Asterolasia asteriscophora subsp albiflora, below), rare and precious, its white 5-pointed stars with gold anthers scattered over the low shrub, not yet its potential of 2m high.

Blanketing other shrubs were swathes of Wonga Wonga Vine (Pandorea pandorana), its many small cream blooms throated crimson, creating bridal panache. I prefer the more subtle local Clematis, C. aristata (below), its 4-pointed stars closer to pure white, and seemingly cascading from shrubs and trees rather than overwhelming them, visually or physically, but it’s not common here. (Hopefully in the nearby town of Clematis there are more.)  

 Prettiest of all: tiny pink-lilac Twining Fringe Lilies (Thysanotus patersonii,last picture), suddenly dozens opening where a day before they’d not been out, gems on the forest floor.
Appearing in the drier patches were some colourful Sun-Orchids (Thelymitra) about to close as the sun descended, pale satin-sheened salmon to shell-pink (T. rubra, below; rubra? What bloke named this Salmon Sun-Orchid for the Latin word for red?) or lilac-blue, stippled violet (Dotted Sun-Orchid, T. ixioides, top); occasional flowers deep violet within, almost closed, tantalizing. If the spring sunshine is not strong enough to tempt the flowers to open, they self-pollinate, oblivious (obviously) to the orchid lovers wandering, heads down, hope in their hearts, cameras clutched in their hands. To the inventors of the digital camera and particularly the digital macro setting: thank you so much.

And thank you to a delightful man, Robin, possibly 2 decades older than myself, who said hello and then showed me a patch of chocolate-coloured Bird Orchids (Chiloglottis gunnii), ground-hugging, beaks agape (the orchids, not my new companion). It’s not often that a stranger of the other gender will say hello and be friendly and discuss what is, admittedly, pretty obviously a common interest with enthusiasm. It couldn’t happen too often in the city and is just one more reason that I love living in this neck of the woods.