Discovering a hidden haven in the Latrobe Valley, Victoria, Australia

Posts tagged ‘weeds’

A Walk in the Bush – Early Autumn

I thought I might share with you the seasonal changes in a piece of Southern Australian bushland not far from where I live. So pop your walking shoes on, it’s not far to go!

Australian plants, as you probably know, are almost all evergreen and the landscape does not have the dramatic seasonal changes seen elsewhere in the world.

Fern fronds unfurling.

But changes do happen. Sometimes they are ‘shout it out loud’ changes, like acacias all in flower for miles around and sometimes they are little whispered changes like the emergence of a tiny delicate ground orchid.

Banksias are out at this time of year

It’s early autumn here and a few things are flowering or in bud right now.

These buds are on a eucalypt that had fallen in the recent storms, but is still hanging on enough to survive.

Tree fern in a partly shaded gully.

This bushland is far from pristine. It is on the edge of my semi rural / industrial town and has to put up with a lot of bad treatment from people who think it is a great place to dump rubbish and garden waste. However it is cared for by a very dedicated band of volunteers who keep the damage to a minimum and give the indigenous plants room to move.

My bane the blackberry makes itself very much at home in the more open parts of Southern Australian forest.

Here's a familiar thistle flower that also shouldn't be here!

Anyone know what this is? I think its an exotic garden escapee, but not sure.

As I wandered about with my family taking photos my true ignorance of Australian plants really began to sink in. I could tell you a tree is a eucalypt, but which of the hundreds of different eucalypts…or maybe it’s a corymbia…well, your guess is as good as mine and quite possibly better!

Same goes for acacia. I’m pretty much stumped even for names of acacias after ‘golden’ or ‘silver’ wattle and there are hundreds of them! Same for banksias and grevillias.

This is 'I Thought It Was An Acacia, But Now I Think It's a Grevillia' ... but it is pretty in it's own spiky way isn't it?

Oh dear. Looks like this seasonal update is going to turn into yet another research project. But all the better really – I’ll start to gain a better appreciation of what is born to do well in my area (other than blackberry that is)!


Today I have been out trying to get rid of Blackberry from my garden. Again.

Most of the day was spent mentally going ‘Aaaaaarrrrrggghhhh!’ And more than once I verbally went “AARRRRGGGGGHHHHH!” I did that particularly loudly when I got one long strappy cane wrapped around one ankle and it lashed viciously against the other ankle when I started hopping around trying to pull it off.

A small portion of today's efforts.

Don’t get me wrong.  I don’t mind fresh blackberries or a nice blackberry jam on scones with cream (although raspberries win hands down over any other berry in my books).  I just don’t want blackberries in my Garden. Ever.

In many countries I understand blackberries and welcome if slightly invasive. In temperate Australia blackberry has settled in so well that it’s gone beyond popping over for a cup of sugar and a chat to moving in and taking over.

European blackberry (Rubus fruticosus aggregate) is one of the most important environmental weeds of southern Australia and is listed as one of the twenty Australian Weeds of National Significance (WONS).

The amount of times I’ve thought I’ve finally seen the last of blackberry twining up inside my roses or creeping out from under the May bush does not bear counting. It just takes that horrible snap of the root I almost had out, or the sight of a root wrapped firmly around the roots of one of my roses for me to know I’m beat.

Sneaking out from under a double flowering may bush.

I’m not keen on poison and try to limit using it to absolute desperate times. I have gone past that point with blackberry and have resorted to painting on some herbicide – to little avail. It looks sickly for a bit, then redoubles its efforts (yes I am starting to take this personally).

I know the saying that ‘When life hands you lemons make lemonade’, but I really don’t like blackberry jam all that much. And on a more serious note, it is not a weed I should be encouraging or allowing to escape from my garden.

Does anyone out there have any tips for getting rid of my unwanted guest without having to pull out an entire garden bed plants and all?

How Cynodon Dactylon Brought Me Back To Life.

For me the last couple of months have represented a complete re-discovery of life via the garden. Gradually, as the secrets of plants and minibeasts unfold I feel a curiosity and zest for life that has been missing for some time now.

The saying goes that ‘A little knowledge is a dangerous thing’, but for me right now it is both a terrifying and wonderful thing. I know I’m ignorant, but I don’t really care, because I’m embarking on an exciting journey of ‘finding out’ and I couldn’t be happier.

But what has Cynodon Dactylon got to do with it?

Cynodon Dactylon wondering where to head next.

I know it as Couch Grass, but according to Weeds Australia it is also known as Bermuda grass, Florida Grass and Twitch Grass. It is listed as native to both Australia and Africa and I know it isn’t just a problem here. I noticed in my local hardware store that it is sold as a hardy lawn for Australian conditions and particularly good if you have dogs. Every garden in my neighbourhood seems to have a Couch Grass lawn, but not every garden has a dog.

Couch Grass is a known garden escapee and a problem in many natural reserves in my area. It spreads by sending out great long runners and according to Kenneth Thompson in his book ‘Weeds: How to Deal with Plants that Behave Badly’, researchers once measured a runner at a whopping 145 meters. That is a plant truly on a mission to take over.

Even Couch grass has it's good points, and the Grass Darts love it, so maybe it can have a monitored spot to provided habitat. At least until I find an alternative.

But for me Cynodon Dactylon, it is the plant that laid down the challenge and asked the question ‘Do you really care enough to take me on?’ It is now the plant I am spending the most time with (followed by that dratted Ivy!)  and I am not just pulling out, I am finding out about it and I feel alive!

looking up at the sky from being flat on the ground. That is where I usually end up after a day spent pulling up couch grass!

You never know, if I manage to contain Cynodon Dactylon one day, I may even feel that I have earned the right to call myself a formerly lazy gardener.

A Simple Plan…

Scentimental Rose in bud (close up!)

I admit it;  I’ve been looking at other gardening blogs and have been caught up in dreams of a beautiful garden with ‘just so’ garden beds and spectacular plantings.  The green eyes have come out! Is it blog envy? I don’t know, but I do know that I take photos of my flowers close up so no one can see the horror that surrounds them!

Today I realised I need a plan. A very simple plan. My garden is never going to be a show piece, but it could be my haven.

The reality is that if I look at my garden as a whole I quickly become demoralised. Think of a garden thug that could grow in the area my garden is in and I’ve got it in spades. Ivy, I’ve got it. Blackberry, the very bane of my existence. Running bamboo, check. Couch grass growing in plentiful supply, yup (but the good news is the Common Brown butterfly is said to love it!)

So, I am now thinking about it in manageable chunks. The Butterfly Garden is my first ‘chunk’ and on the hit list, apart from an awful lot of weeding, is the Ivy.

The before shot. Is the fence holding the ivy up or is the ivy holding the fence up?

Part way through, starting to see the extent of the damage.

Just in case anyone else was as silly as me to doubt the damage done by ivy

90% complete, fence still holding on, just.

After a long days hacking at the ivy and wrangling the couch grass I did allow myself the pleasure of the putting in the first planting toward the butterfly garden. My butterfly book tells me that apart from a whole range of nettles (please no, no more weeds!) the Australian Admiral butterfly is fond of ‘Baby Tears (Soleirolia soleirolii) as a food plant, so in it went in a shady spot today.

'Baby tears' in a shady, but possibly too dry position under a Buddliea

Last of all is a photo of a pest I’d like to identify. I’m sure it’s demonstrating my ignorance,  but I have no idea what it is. There are hundereds of these in my garden and we call them ‘flick moths’. Nothing comes up in a search for that nick name and my searches for moths have not revealed anything yet.