Tuesday, 27 May 2008

Aussie speech patterns

There's a new pattern in Aussie speech that's used particularly by people being interviewed on radio and television. Politicians use it a lot too. It's prefacing any statement with the word "Look", as in "Look, Deborah, our research shows that....blah, blah, blah." Now that I've noticed, I'm hearing it everywhere: it's an epidemic. On this morning's radio program a doctor being interviewed about anorexia increasing among young children began his every sentence with it. I started listening to see if he could come up with at least one answer where he did not begin with the L word, and nope, there wasn't one.
I think it's being used to stand in for "I'm a reasonable person", a sort of softener to preface an opinion: "here's what I think, but I don't want to appear too assertive, too direct."

In the time I've been away, the word "mate", which used to be a male prerogative, now seems to be applied also to women. I've been called "mate" by assorted tradesmen...and women. It is, after all, a term that's not gender-specific, but it still seems a little odd to me.

Monday, 26 May 2008

The New Fence

Before we could do any serious gardening in the backyard, we really needed a fence to keep the local dogs and the wild weeds like ivy and jasmine out. We've had a good hack at the vines, and in fact you can see their dying leaves on the trunk of the large eucalyptus behind the fence. I attacked them at their base with my trusty loppers a couple of months ago.

Graham, who built the fence for us, has done a lovely job, grading the palings on a slope that matches the lie of the land. The large chunks of wood lying in the grass are the remains of an earlier fence that we uncovered under the mass of greenery. Though scarred and cracked by weather, they are iron-hard, and we'll use them in the beds along the sides of the building to hold the soil in place, a job now filled by an assortment of roof tiles, old tin and other remnants of building material - not a pretty look!
I've already supplemented the young bottlebrush, the only shrub I'd already planted, with some kangaroo paws, and some large bulbs rescued from the front garden which I think (hope!) are something spectacular. I've also planted a Mussaenda frondosa that my sister gave to me after I admired this one on a street near her home.

My poor plant has beeen waiting some months for a home and badly needed release from the pot it came in.
Eventually, I hope to make this back area a mix of native and imported plants in hot colours, whereas the front garden will be softer and more cottage-like in greys, blues and pinks.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Walk to Lunch Rock

Friday saw us making a rendezvous with our bushwalking group to hike to Lunch Rock. This was not a challenging walk compared with some of the others, although the terrain was less varied: mostly heathland and scrub until we approached our destination.

All the rock formations in the area were dramatic.

Early morning rain had filled hollows in the rock surface, reminding me of coastal tidepools.

Michael, as usual, had brought along his sketchbook. Just below him, my sister-in-law, Judy, is trying to shelter from the stiff breeze sweeping across the plateau.

Below the plateau, the Wollangambe River had cut a deep gorge through the sandstone cliffs.

On our way back, we passed through a gully where this eucalypt was leaning against the cliff face.

And the first of the winter wattles, Acacia terminalis, the sunshine wattle, was just coming into bloom.

Roof Garden

I've been privileged to see some impressive roof gardens, but this one, which we came across quite by chance a couple of days ago, is unquestionably one of the best. The plants were a mix of edible and ornamental varieties. Note the impressive red-hot poker plant on the right near the peak of the roof.
The walls appear to be mud brick, and the house has a rainwater tank and solar panels, altogether a model of sustainability.
We would like to have gone closer but it also had a protective dog.

Sunday, 11 May 2008

Mount Wilson and its attractions

Mount Wilson is a little enclave, tucked away at the end of a narrow, winding road in the Blue Mountains. The "village" consists of a community hall, a bushfire brigade depot, and an attractive old church. There are no shops. A couple of caf├ęs open at the whim of their owners, usually on weekends. But not always.
Those who live at Mt Wilson are a mix of wealthy retirees, artists and writers, weekend cottagers and, above all, gardeners. The mountain is one of the basalt-capped outcrops of this area with rich, fertile soil, and has been attracting people fleeing the humidity of the coast for close to 150 years. Many of the early settlers took advantage of the cool climate to plant English oaks and beeches along with Japanese and American maples among the magnificent tree ferns that grow in profusion there.
As these have matured, the resulting splendid parks and avenues have become a destination for Australians wanting a taste of the autumn colour so absent in the native landscape.
Mothers' Day weekend saw numerous private estates open as a fundraiser for the Multiple Sclerosis Society, and I went along to enjoy the vistas and perhaps find some ideas that I could translate to the scale of my modest yard. Saturday's weather was bright and sunny, but by Sunday, clouds had moved in and it was, for the most part, overcast. It cleared somewhat in the afternoon so that I was able to get at least of few shots of sunlight falling through the autumn leaves.

Nooroo was the first property I visited. I've wanted to see it for a long time, but have never been at Mt. Wilson when it was open. It is most famous for its collection of wisteria, so a better time to see it is in spring, but I found its autumn dress very attractive. I particularly appreciated the drifts of white nerines emerging through a carpet of fallen leaves in through the old part of the garden.

The second garden was Bebeah, a 12-acre blend of parkland, formal beds and water features.

Like many of the Mt. Wilson gardens, Bebeah had its share of delightful statuary.

The patina on this sphinx exactly matched the eucalypt behind it.

Yengo sculpture garden was my last stop.

Maples had thrown a dropsheet over the deserted tennis court.

The sculptures are spread throughout the large estate and you come upon them unexpectedly as you round a corner or cross a lawn. The majority are modern but representational bronzes of humans, particularly children, engaged in various activities. I preferred this youth, back turned to passers-by, and found those of birds such as the peacock the most appealing.

However, there was one human figure that I really liked. I almost missed her as she's tucked away in a remote corner where few people go, I suspect. Unlike the others, she's made of wood. Perhaps I identify more with her expression than with the serene, contemplative bronzes.