Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Volunteering Rockmelon Presents (alternatively titled My Mum's Melons)

I get volunteer plants, most of them unwanted. From the masses of weeds to the violas that pop up everywhere and are occasionally allowed to live the balcont garden has its share of volunteers. My aunty gets a lot of volunteer plants, usually tomatoes and she lets them live because she thinks they are the hardiest of the bunch.

However Mum had the best volunteer plant of last season - a rockmelon! I have spoken about it before but haven't got around to putting up the pictures. I managed to eat some when I was last in Adelaide and let me tell you, this was one awesome rockmelon, sweet, juicy and perfectly textured.

At Christmas it was simply an uiendified vine. By the time I left I surmised it was either a pumpkin or a melon but was no closer to true identification. Then its melons grew and grew. It grew up and away, hanging fruits over the roses and climbing the trellises put in place for other plants.

All in all it was the best volunteer plant because my family eat a tonne of rockmelon in Summer and this one was for free. Unlike Mum, I don't have a composter in my tiny space (yes I know it is possible but no, I am not starting it any time soon) so there is limited chance of me getting a volunteer rockmelon. And it is very difficult to grow rockmelons in pots ... but has that ever stopped me before?

So stay tuned, there could well be adventures on rockmelonland in the balcony garden next spring!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

An Abutilon Obsession

Abutiltons, Chinese Lanterns, or as I sometimes get confused and say, Japanese Lanterns (I am well aware that China and Japan are very different places, gosh, I am the person who gets mad when someone says their food is Asian without specifying which exact country of origin, but for some reason when it comes to this plant my mind goes away and I often say the wrong name.) They really are rather beautiful aren't they.

I was reading Jamie's blog a little while back (actually a long while now) and he commented on his neighbour's lovely orange abutilon (Chinese Lantern) which overhangs into his garden at times. At my old house in Adelaide Mum used to grow a very large organge abutilon also which seemed to never stop flowering. And there is one at Uni which I keep wishing to take a cutting of but don't desire to be kicked out over such a reason (protesting to keep my office space and funding is another story.)

On a whim last year, when out shopping with my mother on one of her trips to Melbourne we impulse bought a white hibiscus and a red abutilon. I've gushed about this before, and with good reason. It just grows and grows and grows. The guide said to prune it when it stopped flowering but so far it has never stopped flowering and the shape is fine so I don't feel the need to prune it anyway. It is suffering from an inferstation of sorts, ants, and little brown mounds of ickiness (and it looks a lot less healthy than it does in the above picture.) It is scale, evil, evil scale. One old gardening book says take the plant out and burn it. Another says to give it a good rub with rubbing alcohol, another says pest oil but that last one didn't work. I say it is all very hard work and the poor plant has suffered enough. But then it all comes down to a matter of space.

My balcony isn't big by any standards and the greater part of the space is reserved for vegetables and fruit trees. A few flowers float around the place like snapdragons, violas and pansies but these are few. So what flowering bush to get after a red abutilon ...

A yellow abutilon! Instead of branching out and buying a rose or some replacement lavender or any other flower I went with my favourite. It has already outgrown its first pot and looks set to rival its red counterpart in a few months. The flowers are the most beautiful pastel yellow and I can't help but stare at them when I get up in the morning. The abutilon has moved spots on the balcony but I am confident he has his correct home now, next to Mr Fig Twig.

After the yellow abutilon there really wasn't any more room at the inn. Space is a premium and two lovely ever flowering bushes are enough. But then what is this?

A white abutilon! Ooooops ... Ok not actually an oooopppss because I didn't buy it and I have no plans to permanently house it. This was acquired at the same time as the yellow one but the purchaser had no time to take it home so I said I would look after it and keep it safe for a few days. A few months later it is still there, but I don't mind because it really is absolutely lovely. I'll need to pot it up for her soon or it'll run into touble but I am sure, once she takes it and settles it into a potmin her backyard it'll be happy. For now it is with my other abutilons and enabling my little abutilon obsession.

The question remains, what do I do with the decimated red one? Do I

a) bin it entirely and let the yellow one use its space
b) take cuttings from unaffected areas and hope to strike a replacement
c) buy a replacement
d) give up on veggies altogether and form an abutilon sanctuary?

Decisions decisions. Are there any plants that you collect whether by accident or by design or by obsession? My Dad used to collect orchids. OK collect is a bad term, as he had 100 but they were all the same variety!

Monday, May 23, 2011

Harvest Monday

Wow, it has been ages since I last posted! That's the trouble with being in the end stages of a thesis, you miss the days as they fly on by while you are knee deep in words and ideas. The good news is that it is coming together and I should submit on time. The better news is that the Autumnal Harvest is already underway.

Shortly before my self-imposed thesis work-a-thon I planted some Winter crops. In went broccoli, wombok, snow peas (both dwarf and mammoth on a pretty little though slightly dangerous trellis) beetroot, beans, carrots and garlic. I've already sampled a tonne of baby spinach and I can tell you it is divine. I harvest it almost daily. So green, soooooo good for you, and so easy to grow, I don't know why I didn't plant this sooner. I plan on adding more to the garden asap.

Thanks for all the lovely comments while I was AWOL, they are so heartening. I promise to try and write more about the balcony garden and less about theoterical considerations of Third Reich memoir for historians so this blog gets going again! No current pics alas (I've lost the connecting cord for the umpteenth time) but here a pic from a Winter's garden past to get us in the mood for cool weather balcony gardening.

For other harvest posts from around the world visit Daphne's Dandelions.