Monday, July 6, 2015

Winter around the Farm

The road up to the farm on a misty day
 Winter is beautiful season in Tasmania.  Each season has its own characteristics, its own activities and its own beauty.  Misty wintery days can be magical.  And the dark days make you really appreciate the blue-sky days when they come.  The Wedgetailed eagles that live in the tree tops on the slopes behind our farm seem to be more common companions in winter.  Maybe they need to work harder for their winter meals.

Wedgetailed Eagle
I am often asked if winter is a quiet time around the farm … I guess in a temperate climate the main growing times are the warmer months.  But with natives, there is always something flowering.  Always!
And it's not just the harvesting that we're busy with in winter.  There are plenty of other activities going on.

This year, we've been clearing and there are lots of piles of rubbish needing to be burned.  A clear winters day with a slight breeze is a brilliant time for a burn off. 

We are working our way through piles large and small, looking forward to having some new fences and more areas for planting soon.

New Protea Varieties
Planting is another common winter activity for us.  We have planted something new every year since we have been here at Swallows Nest Farm.  This year is our 7th planting season.  Proteas and plants from the protea family prefer to be planted out in winter, providing they can be given a little shelter from the harsher winds and frosts.  Having planted in both summer and winter, I am convinced that winter planting gives the plants a better start in life.  Our summer plantings required much more irrigation and have taken much longer to establish.  

Brunia Stokoeii
This year we have 2 new varieties of proteas, and 3 new varieties of Leucadendron going in.  We also have a new variety of Brunia and more Berzelia being planted.  

Brunia Stokoeii

The new variety of Brunia is Stokoeii.  I had planted some a few years ago but we lost them all (except  2) during the summer of 2012-13 when we had bush fires.  I was so excited about having this gorgeous pink flowering variety of Brunia and really disappointed to have lost them.  So we're giving them another go.  We bag each plant as we go, to protect from Rabbits, wind and harsh frost.  It seems to work well for us here, until the plants are bigger and can fend for themselves.

The newly cleared areas have really opened up our possibilities for planting.  It's a challenge figuring out straight rows with all the hills though!

Leucadendrons Jubilee Crown and Safari Goldstrike
And of course, there are the winter flowering plants that make winter a colourful and satisfying harvest season too.  The Safari Goldstrike that we planted in our first year at Swallows Nest are now mature and productive.  They have a rich golden green flower head in July and then bright intense yellow in August. 

Phylica Plumosa and Leucadendron Inca Gold
The Phylica Plumosa are almost ready to flower.  They seem to be straining towards the sun at this time of year.  Behind them, the lime green of the Inca Gold Leucadendron is rapidly changing into its colourful winter yellow.

Leucadendron Galpinii
Leucadenron Galpinii is commonly called Purple Haze.  It winter, you can see why.  It is delicate and softly purple with leaves that spiral around the stem.  Our Galpinii plants have taken a long time to establish but we are starting to see some harvestable stems this year which is exciting.

Banksia Brownii
A few years ago I planted a handful of Banksia Brownii which has beautiful feathery leaves that are a joy to use as cut foliage.  But this year, they are flowering too!  A delicate creamy yellow, they aren't the most attention-seeking flowers but they are beautiful in their own way.

Berzelia Lanuguinosa
The Berzelia or Button Bush is getting ready to flower, making lots of little clusters of flowers heads.  I sometimes cut it at this early stage to use in arrangements.

Protea Repens
Protea Repens start flowering in late Autumn here and carry on throughout the winter months. 

Protea Pink Ice
Winter is also a great time for Protea Pink Ice.  We have Pink Ice in good supply almost all year round.

Leucdendron Safari Sunset
Safari Sunset have a long harvest time from autumn, through winter and spring and into the early part of summer.   It's only at the end of summer that they are scarce.  When I think winter, I think Leucadendrons.  They really are the winter stars here.

Leucadendron Red Gem
 The Red Gem have gone through their glowing red phase and are starting to get a yellow tinge.  In a few weeks I'll be harvesting creamy yellow and apricot flowers by the trailer load!
So no, winter is not the quiet season on a protea and native flower farm.  Winter encompasses the full range of activities from clearing, to planting to harvesting.  There's always something to do and something to enjoy.  And then of course, there's spring to look forward to.

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