Sunday, July 18, 2010

Cowan Creek Bushwalk

Last Saturday our family went on a bushwalk from Berowra to Mount Kuring-Gai Stations via Cowan Creek. Cowan Creek is a tributary of the Hawkesbury River. It was a perfect winter's day with pale blue skies.

The path down from Berowra to Waratah Gully is rather uneven and we were puzzled by the amount of fallen timber. The trees weren't big, but it seemed like a lot of them had been knocked over. Something to do with burning off? The undergrowth was at most hip height, and at the start mainly a kind of grevillea (I think; a lot of our healthland plants are hard to tell apart) and a sweet-scented plant with small five-petalled white flowers (Woollsia pungens, the Snow Wreath). The only flower I saw that I knew was Epacris longiflora, the Native Fuchsia.

As we came closer to the gully floor we could hear water running over rocks. Such a lovely sound! We crossed the creek where once there had been a bridge, and continued alongside the creek into a patch of rainforest. Some of the trees here had the distinctive bark of coachwoods (Ceropetalum apetalum, which have smooth bark blotched white, grey and chestnut. Again, all the trees seemed very young, with diameters under 10cm. I suspect that this gully might have been entirely burnt out by the 1994 bushfires; most of Kuring-Gai Chase National Park was damaged.

We had out lunch on Waratah Bay, not far from the abandoned barge. The sun was welcome after the cool of the rainforest.

Afterwards, our walk continued southwards, up Cowan Creek (which looks more like a river to me, being a couple of hundred metres wide). This was the view north, towards the Hawkesbury. The vegetation is the dry sclerophyll forest typical of the Sydney region.

This was the view upstream:

It was lovely to walk along the creek. Most of the track was about 10m above the waterline. We stopped at every inlet to fortify ourselves with chocolate, and eventually we reached the uphill track to Kuring-gai Station. It was a stiff climb for the children (and, truth be told, for the unfit parents), but there were good views from a resting point halfway up. We ate more chocolate, and I annoyed the family by exclaiming over various flowers.

It was on the latter part of the bushwalk that I noticed NSW Christmas Bush growing everywhere. Unfortunately we also saw an unknown weed plant everywhere. No idea what it was, and my photos didn't come out, but it was doing very well indeed, growing on long canes to 2m with pointed leaves, and very hairy. On the other hand, there was a cream wattle (probably Acacia ulicifolia) flowering in great swathes near Mount Kuring-gai, scenting the air.

This pairing of weathered sandstone and gum trees is typical of coastal Sydney:

The walk was about 9km and a bit strenuous, but our five-year-old and nine-year-old did manage without whingeing until we were almost finished. The hill at the end is not difficult, merely long, and paths are generally in good repair. It is a popular walk and is impossible to get lost on, there being only one track for most of the route. The water views and variety of vegetation make it very enjoyable. A good family day-walk, with easy access by public transport. I'd suggest going in another month. It was really too early for most of our spring wildflowers, but the Boronia was out. The mauve-pink really stands out against our grey-green bush!

Note: While I've marked the photo as B. mollis, I now think it might well have been B. ledifolia -- the leaves were long rather than round.

Monday, July 12, 2010

My Day Off

I took a day off for myself these school holidays, and what would a gardening-and-book nut do on her day off? She would visit a place that has been on the to-visit list for quite a while: Florilegium. A whole shop, just for gardening books... what might I grab?

Florilegium isn't far from the cafes of Glebe Point Road, where I had lunch (and afternoon tea afterwards). It's in a tiny corner shop which was once the Demeter Bakery, but now has warm white walls, polished concrete flooring, and a stairway to heaven more books downstairs, including some antiquarian treasures. I loved the feel of the shop and of course the titles!

Perhaps naively, I had thought that the obsessives restricted themselves to cultivation of roses, bromeliads and orchids. You expect to see books on those genera. But a whole book on the genus Sorbus? Yes, you'll find one. But then, surely every genus deserves some obsessive person to write about it...

I whiled away at least an hour exploring this cornucopia of gardening books! But in the end, I settled on four titles:
  • Edna Walling's The Happiest Days of my Life ($18), a memoir of her time building a holiday shack near the Great Ocean Road.
  • Helen Proudfoot's Gardens in Bloom: Jocelyn Brown and her Sydney Gardens of the '30s and '40s ($30). Brown and Walling were active in the same period and as I have a 1940s house, I am interested in how to bring something of that time into my own garden.
  • Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury, Designing With Plants ($35). I was introduced to Piet Oudolf by the blogosphere and find his work fascinating. Again, it will be interesting to see how I can translate his ideas to Sydney, where the seasons are far less distinct than in the Netherlands, and where the native plant material is vastly different. I asked Gil, the proprietor, whether anyone was working in a similar style here and he was able to point out one or two designers to me in Contemporary Australian Garden Design by John Patrick & Jenny Wade... but I didn't buy that book!
  • After the glowing review at May Dreams Gardens, I couldn't pass up Rick Darke's expanded edition of William Robinson's classic The Wild Garden ($39.95). Looks like I have a bit of reading to do.
I felt the prices were very reasonable, and of course was very impressed by Gil's immediate grasp of what I meant and what I wanted to see. He travels to all sorts of gardening shows, and if you aren't able to come to Sydney, you can order by e-mail. But I know I'll be visiting the bookshop again.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

A Walk in the Back Yard

There are seedlings being kept warm on the concrete near the back door. It's time to bring out my little electric greenhouse to keep some of them warm, I think.

The fuzzy stuff above is fennel. Maybe I should plant them out today. Below are some brassicas: kale and pak choy.

During the day I move the seedlings to a sunnier spot under the carport, next to my pot of Dichondra and Aloe.

At the edge of the vegetable patch, a sweet potato has twined through the lemon grass. It has frost damage this week.

On the other hand this pink silverbeet is quite happy with conditions.

The sorrel is also fine. You can see where I have been picking the outer leaves for the chooks.

The young cabbages are looking good amongst the fumitory. I have to be careful when weeding fumitory, as it tends to bring other plants with it.

The pak choy is all self-sown. I've seen lettuces in here too.

The broad beans are almost ready to flower.

And here are my 'Purple Podded Dutch' peas coming up!

On the other hand, the quince tree has a bad case of scale and sooty mould. Once the leaves drop, I'll use a detergent mixture to remove the scale. My neighbours are having the same problems on some of their fruit trees, so I'll pass the recipe on once I've tried it.

I had no idea blueberry buds were pink; my last plant never grew. This one is in a pot for safe-keeping.

But what is this? Signs of habitation?

Even of cookery!

The kids like the teepee, but they've been riding bikes today instead.