Tuesday, June 25, 2013

winter mornings

Winter mornings can be spectacular here in Tasmania.  Frost, fog, mist, mizzle, ice, even snow on occasions.  And blue skies!  I love sunny winter mornings.  They are usually accompanied by frosts and as the frost melts, mist wafts up from the ground, glowing in the sunlight.  This week we've had some low lying fog which are really quite spectacular to see from above.  

Picking on these mornings can be a real joy.  New growth can sometimes be frosted with ice, and sparkling like treasure.  I took a break from pruning yesterday to take a few photos of these floral gems.

Thankfully proteas are, on the whole, quite frost hardy and will tolerate the cold as long as there is good airflow and the temperature does not dip too low into the minus'.

I'll leave you with a video I took yesterday morning while I was picking.  The birds you can hear are Tasmanian Wattle Birds.

The product list has finally been published, too.  If you're interested, you'll find it at the top of the page, first tab along.  

Friday, June 21, 2013

Winter Rain

Well winter has certainly arrived here at Swallows Nest!  Winter is our rainy season here and we've just had almost 2 weeks of wet weather.  The sun would pop out for brief moments as the wind pushed clouds across the sky, but on the whole, its been grey and misty.  Lovely weather for growing proteas. And despite what you might think, its not so bad to pick them in either, as long as you are suited up in your warmest wet-weather gear.  It is actually something I enjoy, in a strange kind of way - getting out in the weather and working.  As long as there is a warm fire and a good cup of tea waiting when I'm finished!

The Neriifolias are starting to bloom.

I love the way mist wafts through the valley - so peaceful.

My picking companions have been rather entertaining lately.  The spaniel (too excited to catch a photo that wasn't just a blur of brown and white) has been rushing about madly and ending up drenched.  She comes back to the house looking like a homeless dog!  The cat seems to manage, miraculously I think, to maintain a complete state of composure and doesn't even seem to get wet!  Her winter coat must have waterproofing!  

I've been focusing on pruning in the last few weeks, as some of our leucadendrons have grown too tall for their own good.  Generally, pruning is something that is done at harvest time, but we're playing catch up this year.  There have been areas of planting that have been neglected due to our family situation over the last few years.  Some of our Safari Sunset are over 3 metres tall this year and are being pruned back to a more manageable size.  This type of Leucadendron has a root system called a lignotuber, and this means that it can be pruned quite happily, without causing damage to the plant.  In fact, they seem to thrive on pruning.  I'm looking forward to next years crop already - I know the plants are going to be happily pushing out lovely long stems.  

After such a long rainy spell, its beautifully sunny today so I'm off to take advantage of the blue skies - I'll leave you with a "before" shot of the beginnings of our new flower shed.  


Saturday, June 8, 2013

Blue Skies

I've been really enjoying the mild winter days we've had so far - beautiful clear blue skies that make you glad you're alive!  It's also been great for photographing flowers.

My plan for this blog has always had 2 main goals.  Firstly,  to showcase the beauty and versatility of proteas and australian natives which are sometimes undervalued as cut flowers, and also, to provide an online guide to what's available and when at Swallows Nest.  Creating a catalogue of what we grow has been quite difficult!  Its been a project I've started a few times and then put off.  Because I'm a visual person, it really had to be an illustrated catalogue.  These blue skies we're having are providing a great backdrop for catalogue illustration photos, and its given me the little push I've needed to get the job done, or at least nearer to completion! 

When it's all finished, it will be published as a permanent link at the top of the blog.

I know winter won't all be like this!! Enjoying it while I can!

The crop of lovely long Safari Goldstrike singing in the sunshine!

Some of the Grampians Thryptomene is flowering early this year - handy for getting a good portrait shot!  It's not usually like this until July.

One of my little companions taking photos with my iphone and having a great old chat!


Difficult to really capture the shimmering beauty and structure of the Silver Tree - this is more of a close up shot really, but look at that blue sky!

Leucadendron Red Gem - one of my favourites - just such a quiet achiever.  Large tulipy blooms with a great range of colour throughout the year,  great stem length and not at all fussy.  A very satisfying flower to grow!

Look out for the product catalogue over the next couple of weeks - fingers crossed these blue sky days will get me over the line!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

May Madness

It's been a mad month!  Early May is always a busy time on a flower farm - Mother's Day is one of the great flower-giving occasions of the year.  It happens in late autumn here in the southern hemisphere, just when proteas and leucadendrons are really blooming well.  This year I was organised - it was still busy, but things were under control!

There were lots of local orders this year and we had a ball putting everything together.  We did lots of seasonal bouquets of various sizes, and some boxed arrangements - something I'm just trying my hand at.  I've not had any florist training but what I lack in technique, I hope I make up for in enthusiasm for the flowers themselves.  

The Pink Ice Protea are really clear and lovely at this time of year.  They were the stars of the show, and set off really well with a variety of leucadendrons and foliage.  I've used some lovely grevillea foliage, some banksia, and some thryptomene which seems to be popping out early this year.  The white flowers are a lemon scented tea tree flower which are just gorgeous at the end of autumn.  And they smell good too!

The leucadendrons seem to be colouring up early this year.  Maui Sunset are lovely and pink, and the Inca Gold, whilst not at their stunning yellow best, are definitely looking golden, showing off their red tips.  It was great to have a variety to play with when putting it all together.  

The morning after mother's day we had a nasty surprise when we found our baby dangerously ill. She was rushed to hospital (an hour and a half by road ambulance).   She is ok now, but it was a shock and its taken us a while to recover from it all.  Combined with a deadline for an exhibition of linoprints that I've been working on and May was definitely what I'd call MAD!  

But what I love about growing flowers is the calming measured quality that they give to your life.  They keep growing and blooming, and the cycles keep ticking over.  When you plant something, it seems like it will take ages to give you any flowers, but life gets busy and time goes on, and before you know it those tiny plants are producing  flowers and needing a prune!  They add such beauty to life.  I think they give more than they take.  

And now, we're into winter.  We've got major infrastructure projects planned for around the farm over the next few months, including a new flower shed.  I'm looking forward to the winter season and all that it will bring!