Friday, 23 September 2016

Garden of Birds

A Mecca for birds? - well, I like to think that my garden welcomes all the little ones: fairy wrens that take cobwebs for their nests (a win-win all round); yellow robins following me as I dig in the veg garden; and red browed finches and white-browed scrub-wrens that hop through my little circle of lawn seeking grass seed. Not to forget tree creepers and the honeyeaters that come to the salvias throughout much of the garden. They all bathe in the numerous birdbaths, skipping through the upended wire hanging-basket baskets (that keep out Mr Blackbird) with ease; the tree creepers seem to walk in backwards.
There's also the pretty bantam hens, just starting to lay well again.
But there's also an avian theme in the garden which is, of course, not there by chance. I really do love birds. (They say you don't miss what you've never had; but I have darn bad eye sight. How I wish I could see birds in flight, especially the little ones! They are just grey spots to me. But planting the right plants and adding birdbaths brings many birds near the windows, so I am not complaining.)

In the garden we are lucky enough to have a sandstone kookaburra (made by Folko Kooper, before he became famous), surrounded by a big evergreen shrubby Garrya with its pale jade tassel-flowers in winter and double white hellebores at her feet. (Oddly, my sandstone kookaburra has no name but `kooka'. I think she was my present from J when I turned 40; I love those milestones!)
In 2013 more birds flew into the garden - and roosted. For my half century J gave me a wonderful patinated repouss√© copper creature, flying, twirling, almost duck-like, we call Lucy (above). Lucy is a creation of the wonderful artist Daniel Jenkins - she has delicate ribbons in place of mane, wings, and tail; silvery, fantastical. Turning with the winds, she is somehow perfectly reflecting, almost replicating, rippling grey leaves of our nicest nearby gums, the silver grey gums. (Daniel made a sculpture – only superficially similar - that my parents enjoyed in their garden for over 20 years. As they called theirs `Leunix’ (a pet name combining a phoenix and revered cartoonist Michael Leunig), so did we until she was ours and then...she was shortened, of course. Ours is arguably more aquatic and is delightfully curly - but I think of her as a bird.) (Read more on post 13/4/13.) Lucy usually has salvias under her (hiding her spike) but this second picture of her (below) is from one or two years ago when I decided to paint the tree dahlia circle, after the cold weather had cramped their style, into `blue poles'.
Soon afterwards I gave J a crazy flying duck windvane (below)(which I have called Luigi; J hasn't agreed to this name); a  magnificent duck, out of control; most of all he is handsome and, important to J (I think), in the subdued colour to be expected of copper. Sculptor Jim Curry makes pieces of great charm and whimsy (read more on post 9/6/13), and our smirking duck is near our entrance, along with many pots, and probably way too many features (like my red-high-heels-and-Echeveria-plants). But Luigi was more than just a present to J; it was also a tribute to my darling sister Caroline who would, I think, have loved it.
Luckily keeping this garden colour palette to yellow and blue flowers, and structured with a row of paired vegetable balls, so to speak, has simplified this area...a little. I have planted Pittosporum tobira next to Luigi's metal post to disguise it, the perfect height, and we'll enjoy the perfume of the spring flowers...but I'm impatient with its understandably slow growth in the clay soil. So I'm going to add two clematis to train up the pole: C. macropetala `Pauline' (double blue flowers in spring) and golden-yellow C. tangutica (lovely single flowers from late summer to autumn) - the latter a plant I've been given by a friend.
Large birds may scare away the little ones; and sulphur-crested cockatoos - those nibblers of cedar houses (like our cottage) - are not welcome here; but it's hard not to feel affection for kookaburras - real ones - with their likeness to their diminutive relations, the kingfishers; their jovial, raucous call; and their head on one side as they listen hard for prey to find and wolf down (if they are a raptor, they're probably my favourite). Maybe too, if you grow up as a child in Australia - and, importantly, visit the bush (and leave the screens behind!) - you encounter that laugh along with gum tree leaf fragrance and either can bring you to tears if you've been gone away too long.
So a kookaburra landing on Lucy was a welcome sight. I'm still planning and planting ever more Correas (native fuchsia) for the cool months and Salvias for the warm months for honey eaters (above) by the house. And right now I'm off to find an old hat - J has thrown out his precious old hat-nest that the white-browed scrub-wrens nested in, by the back door last spring. This one I will try to make a little more robust in spring gales and husband tidy-ups.
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 (

No comments:

Post a Comment