Trickery, mimicry and deceit of orchids in the wild

Most gardeners will be familiar with the exotic Cymbidium and Phalanopsis orchids or maybe the native Dendrobium. However, the orchids which fascinate me are the tiny terrestrial orchids which can be found growing in the wild in the eastern and southern states of Australia. When I look at them closely through the macro lens of my camera, I really start to see the amazing details in their 
flowers. Continue reading

Review: The Calyx reveals its Sweet Addiction at Sydney RBG

Newly opened at the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney, The Calyx is the purpose-built exhibition space that the Gardens has needed and wanted for some years. On the outside it’s an architectural and very beautiful structure occupying the site of the old glass square pyramid Tropical Centre and built on to the Ken Woolley-designed quarter-circle ‘Arc’ glasshouse which survived demolition. I like the way its stark and severe white ribs around the circular open courtyard area contrast with its green and leafy garden background, and also the wonderful shadow patterns they throw on the internal courtyard space. But what’s inside? Continue reading

Walking in Victoria’s High Country

Garden lovers are nature lovers and one of my favourite pastimes is packing my rucksack and saying goodbye to reality before taking off into the Australian bush on my own for a few days of walking. Midsummer is not a typically popular time for bushwalking in Australia. Summers regularly reach a windy 40 degrees celsius, and avoiding remote bushland on such days is as much about avoiding chafing thighs as it is an act of self preservation. Continue reading

Cockatoos, crimson rosellas and currawongs

How well do you know some of our iconic and most common Australian birds? I talk with ecologist Sue Stephens about the destructive, snowy-white sulphur-crested cockatoo; the vividly-coloured crimson rosella; and the black and white pied currawong, and why it’s often an unwelcome visitor in your garden. Continue reading

Leura Harvest Festival, Blue Mountains, NSW

Scarecrows, chooks, chocolate cake and jam – they’re all part of the fun and festivities of the Leura Harvest Festival held recently in the Blue Mountains. The festival ads said there would be outstanding produce, fine fare and innovative sustainability initiatives, and its tireless creator Barry Jarrott just happens to be a professional gardener. It all boded well for an interesting and feast-filled time. Continue reading

Why we need more gardeners

If you are reading this you are probably a gardener, or at least interested in gardening. Good on you, we need more people like you! Gardeners are pretty good people, sure, but that’s not why we need more of you. Gardeners are more likely to be environmentally aware and make sustainable lifestyle choices thus helping to care for our planet. Continue reading

How to kangaroo-proof your garden

When I bought my block on top of the Lake George escarpment near Bungendore, NSW, in 2007, a friend said “you’ll never grow a garden here!” He had a point – too cold, too hot, too windy, too dry … and then there’s that ‘Bywong clay’. And, as it turned out, there was also more than a handful of kangaroos.  Continue reading

Common names versus scientific names

What’s in a name, you might ask? A scientific name is a two-word name, which is unique to a particular organism, unlike common names where there may be several different common names for the same organism. Take the scientific name of a large American native cat, Felis concolor, for example. The cat has several common names across its range including puma, cougar, mountain lion, panther and catamount. Continue reading

The High Line changes, and is changed by, New York

I recently visited the High Line in New York for the first time. I have been referencing this urban regeneration project for years, have seen many photos, but had never experienced it myself. Living in New York in the late 1990s, my building was located only a block away from the old elevated freight railway line, but in those days it did not register for me at all. Continue reading

If the ‘wilderness’ is really suburbia, is it a betrayal?

For years I have worshipped Annie Dillard’s book Pilgrim at Tinker Creek, her Pulitzer-prize winning meditation on nature written back in the 1970’s. I keep a copy of it on my Kindle, and whenever the world feels too much with me, I like to retreat into a few of its pages. Her descriptions of giant water bugs and mating wood ducks, intertwined with questions of creation and invocations of the great philosophers and scientists, are beautiful and strange and calming. Continue reading

A balance between garden pests & beneficial insects

Early one morning I was shooting a video of cabbage aphids (Brevicoryne brassicae) and their primary wasp parasite (Diaeretiella rapae) on a broccoli plant – as you do – when along came a very different wasp. The cabbage aphid parasite (Diaeretiella rapae) is a tiny little thing about 3 mm in length, but these other wasps were three times that length. They were obviously attracted to the aphids and ‘appeared’ to be stinging them. But were they really? Continue reading