Mid-Winter in the Blue Mountains

So far the consensus is that winter has been relatively mild in the Blue Mountains. There have been days starting out with fierce frosts, and there have been periods of bleak rain and uncharitable winds, but these have been interspersed with days of sunshine to take the sting out of the cold nights.

But we are only just past the halfway mark and there could be some cold snaps in store between now and the end of winter. In the upper mountains in particular, seasons tend to pay scant attention to the rigid start and finish dates, and snowfalls have been known to occur in late spring and beyond.

Early morning walks are characterised by frosts on lawns, roofs and car windshields. I keep an eye out for the subtle changes throughout the coldest months, endlessly fascinated at the gradual emergence of buds on bared branches offering the promise of an abundance of blooms when the warmer weather arrives.

There are spots of colour to cheer me on. Bright puffs of wattle blooms, winter bulbs in flower and carpets of spent camellia petals draw the eye. Creamy daphne flowers and early blooming rhododendrons mingle with late-blooming roses and ever reliable geraniums and lavender to provide points of interest. There are still sprays of salvia and delicate fuchsia blooms in the garden, as bright green spikes of freesias and jonquils feel their way into the world.

The cold is a necessary part of the seasonal life cycle and it always surprises and delights me that there is so much activity happening at a time when the natural world appears to be dormant.

What is winter like in your part of the world?

{Photo: red wattle bird spotted against backdrop of winter branches}

 

Summer Garden Blues

The talk for weeks in Australia has been about the heat. As we are in late summer that isn’t necessarily a surprise, but swathes of days of above average temperatures have captured the conversation of just about everyone. The heat is being felt even in the usually cooler upper Blue Mountains, with expected highs nearing forty degrees. Sustained hot weather and wind gusts lead to fire bans and warnings of catastrophic fire conditions.

There are signs of heat fatigue in the garden, but a few days of rain mid-week have helped and at present it is awash with purple and blue blooms. There are agapanthus, wisteria and petunias of a particularly deep, lush shade of purple. Hebe blossoms bristle in the breeze, a mix of magenta, bright pink and white flowers. A late blush of hibiscus blooms along the fence are a mixture of soft mauve and crimson. Tucked among dark green foliage, there is the tiny flash of purple and pink lobelia flowers.

Vincas offer up clean white petals, anchored by a deep pink centre. There are white and purple shades of alyssum, one of the favourite plants of my childhood. The odd pansy is still in flower, the self-sown plants lasting the longest. Bright pink and red fuchsia flowers abound with delicate bell-shaped blooms. The vivid green and purple of coleus leaves provide a contrast to the soft pink begonia plants set against brown foliage. The bright red petals of salvia, bookmarked along green spikes, draw the eye.

After the rain bright white daisy flowers appeared overnight. The gracious dark blue petals of an old hydrangea shrub nestle against the fence. Soft pink salmon petals of geranium plants, one of the hardiest plants I’ve had in several gardens in varying climates, endure through most conditions. And, a hidden gem, blue-studded blossoms on a plumbago variant. A constant delight.

What is blossoming in your garden?

[Photo of Chinese plumbago]

A Little Gratitude

In recent years there seems to have been a shift towards the power of gratitude in daily life, of being thankful for what you have rather than the endless pursuit of what you don’t have in your life at this time. It is a deceptively simple idea.

I have read of people using gratitude journals on a daily basis, or at least regularly, to track moments of gratitude in their life. Part of me acknowledged that this could be beneficial in various ways, but still I did nothing about it apart from being a little more mindful about the many good things in my life.

Then about a year ago a friend mentioned that various studies confirmed that one of the best things that you could do for your long-term mental health was to keep a gratitude journal. I made a mental note at the time then moved on to the next thought. It was only during November last year that it floated back up through my mind and I started to keep track of what I was grateful for. Short and sweet, three little things each day. And I’ve kept up the practice.

Off the top of my head, the main sources of gratitude in my life are my family and friends, my dog and my garden. Writing and creativity feature quite a bit too. Sometimes I am surprised at what comes to mind when I pause to think of what has brought me joy during the day. Here is a sample.

  • Watching pelicans paddle past, the almost impossibility of their gravitational pull.
  • The purple blossoms of jacaranda trees.
  • The clever reuse of old buildings as space for creative use (old dairy in Bellingen).
  • For the world having so many books of wonder.
  • For having a heart and feeling, even sad things.
  • Sunset.
  • Arriving home. Instantly better.
  • Watering the garden and finding new flowers.
  • Heavy fog on the way to work – altered perception.
  • Laughing with friends till we cry.
  • Feeling flat but writing anyway.
  • Walking with the start of a story in mind.
  • Smiling at strangers and collecting smiles in return.
  • Hearing kookaburras. Anywhere, anytime.

Do you take stock of little moments of gratitude in your life?

[Photo: a repurposed candle holder in my Mum’s garden]