Summer heat has arrived but the local native shrubs, the indigenous plants, are still bedecked in lacy, white spring garb. (I have enjoyed this spring-like weather so much; plants, too, are growing, and flowering, like never before.) Tiny white myrtaceous flowers of prickly teatree and `cauliflower' heads of Cassinia are having a renaissance; Daisy Bush (Olearia) flowering a little but Bursaria (below) covered in its trademark odd triangular branches of flowers, but blooming more heavily than ever before (thank you rain!).
All this in mid-summer.
Add to this a favourite tree along our creek: Victorian Christmas Bush (Prostanthera lasianthos) which is covered in blossom of little white flowers touched with tiny purple and orange dots. The latter is an interesting case, as we mark our 25th year here in the Dandenong Ranges. Prostanthera lasianthos flowers at Christmas time, hence the common moniker, but of late it's begun to flower earlier and earlier, starting in November instead of late December. (Climate Change surely.) How odd, this cool spring/summer, to have it behave normally! Well, not quite. Flowering at Yule-tide, sure, but still covered in blossom 2 weeks later, with no hot winds blowing away the delicate blooms.
Until now, we've had rain every 3 days or more often (or it feels like it). A concerned brother asks me about the fire danger in my beloved Dandenong Ranges. How lucky am I, to say that, like my plants, the danger/heat doesn't seem here yet (although we've checked our dam pump, moved the door mats (replaced with the summer non-flammable ones) and so on. We leave on `severe' and worse days, early).
It's mid-February and the Bursaria flowers are still a lovely clean white; and with surprisingly few days of hot winds, the tree ferns on the roadsides are emerald-green with no edges burning off. Extraordinary.
Of course it's a different story to our north where extreme heat has led to bush fires in NSW. We are still - so far - very lucky in the Dandenong's east of Melbourne: rain at times, and few days of real heat - and doesn't the garden know it. We still have some clematis flowering (amazing!), roses, and early rain lilies (Zephyranthes) as well as what you'd expect: salvias (blues, purples, pinks), dahlias (all single: dwarf white and yellow; self supporting red ('Bishop of Llandaff')), tall white summer hyacinth (Galtonia candicans) and buds of Urginea maritima or sea squill (now Drimia maritima), that fabulous tall spire of little starry white flowers.
Bursaria flowers may be past their bridal best but Cassinias (third pic) have renewed their spring adornments; Banksias too; it's all topsy turvy. I was striding along Melbourne's central business streets on Sunday with my sisters and noticed the oddly, wonderfully green, not-tattered leaves of the street trees; what it's like when there's so few hot winds. At home some of the roses are still throwing out glorious flowers, and the Urginea/ Drimia maritima are looking handsomely stately.
Spring and summer have been slowed and blurred.
Today the garnet penstemons have all come out at once, with a cheeriness and here-I-am, so much better than the good manners of the demure mauve one (`Sour Grapes', I think), which is dull, quiet, and oh-so-boring. I must pull it out, every last one of it.
Seeding now are the snowy Galtonias (left) which Mum told me, for years, were in my older sister C's wedding bouquet (on 19th January) and now I wonder - did Mum make up C's bouquet?
Another white bulb is a dwarf, single dahlia (top); flowering exuberantly for months here and there in the garden - especially in this summer of moderate temperature and the rain that's like in its home climate of Mexico.
The clematis are slowing down, of course, but still some blooms are out. And the cyclamen are just gearing up to go.
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)