Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Monday, September 30, 2013

Peonies starting - new season flowers

The first of my Peonies have a started over the last few days.

The favourite is Tree Peony "Good Lady" - which was bred in Melbourne by Dr Bernard Chow.

Tree Peony "Good Lady"

Tree Peony "Good Lady"

Tree Peony "Good Lady"
The first of my Herbaceous Peonies is also starting.
From memory, this is Paula Fay - the first of my hybrid herbaceous peonies to flower this year.

Paula Fay - Hybrid Herbaceous Peony
A clump of Paula Fay flowers
I grow my herbaceous peonies in full sun.
The weather of last week has been really tough
especially the wind.
I dribble water onto the roots of these plants
whenever hot, dry wind is predicted.

For people wanting to grow herbaceous Peonies, here is a quick (American) video on planting out your bare-rooted Peony plant.

I fully agree with the advice to plant them (only ever) as bare-rooted plants which you ought buy in Autumn. (Americans call it "Fall"). Always buy from a recognised Peony grower.
  • I do not recommend buying potted plants from a local nursery in Spring, as you do not get to see what you are buying. You have to buy good roots, like Carrots or Parsnips to know you are getting a good strong plant.
  • I do not buy from large mail order plant companies, as they are not specialist Peony growers, and tend to buy their plants from another grower.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

I owe my presence in Robertson to this Rhododendron

Magnificent Rhododendron at "Ranelagh House" (as it was).
I owe my presence in Robertson to this tree.
I remember my family visited Ranelagh House in September/October 1959 just after they moved to Canberra,
This Rhodo was in flower then, and it stuck in my mind (as an 11 year old).
All those years later, I moved to Robertson, on the basis that any place that could grow such great Rhodos was a good place for me to grow my plants too.
This one plant has influenced my life so much.
The sign now says "Fountaindale Grand Manor".

Monday, September 23, 2013

Petalochilus mentiens - reappears

My Orchid colleague, and friend, Alan Stephenson has told me about having found Petalochilus mentiens, "Lesser Fingers" Orchid at the very top of the Shoalhaven ridge, beyond Sassafras. Yesterday, we went to this spot, in search of those Orchids and some others,

In fact we found Pet. mentiens lower down on the Shoalhaven ridge, on Wandean Road, in an area which had been burnt out badly in autumn, by the so-called Dean's Gap Fire (which was no-where near Dean's Gap - but that's another story).

I have also seen Pet. mentiens, but in Kangaloon, near Robertson. But I looked for them last week, without success. But it is always fun searching for something one seldom finds.

We were on a slashed easement under some Power Lines, crossing Wandean Road.
The first things we saw were:
  1. Masses of Patersonia sericea - the best display I have ever seen.
  2. Prasophyllum elatum (which has a reputation for flowering after a burn-off)
  3. Prasophyllum sp. nov AS (which also grows on Tourist Road, Kangaloon, but is not yet named)
  4. Petalochilus mentiens (in an area where they have never been reported before)
  5. and finally, what appears to be out-of-season flowers of Genoplesium baueri
  6. Talking about being out of season - Christmas Bells - in flower (some finished) presumably another reaction to the fire. This is totally out of season for this area. In the Shoalhaven they are often found from December to February.
  7. Something "in season" is the Sydney Rock Orchid from Tianjara Falls.

The fact that there had been a hot fire through this area seems to explain the remarkable flowering (of many species) which we saw yesterday. But that is speculation only.

Here are some photos of what we were seeing (just a few).

The most out-of-season flowers
"Christmas Bells"
Blandfordia nobilis

Here is a tiny "Caladenia"
the so-called "Lesser Fingers" Orchid.
Petalochilus mentiens

Possible Genoplesium baueri
These flowers were closed.
Had they already opened and been pollinated?
Some almost certainly, but
it is possible some are yet still to open.
One needs to see the flower
to know exactly what they are.

This is a real puzzle.
It has a long leaf (unlike Genoplesium baueri)
So, it is probably a Corunastylis species.
An as-yet un-named Leek Orchid
Prasophyllum sp. nov. AS
These plants may be the same species as
are found at Kangaloon.
They have been named as
Prasophyllum appendiculatum
but there is some puzzlement about that ID.

Patersonia sericea

Sydney Rock Orchids growing
below the lookout at Tianjara Falls
I love this place.

Tianjara Falls is associated with
one of my oldest and sweetest memories
of bird banding trips here in the early 1960s.
The area was burnt out totally by a huge fire
which burnt from Marulan to the
Princes Highway south from Nowra

Zoomed image of the waterfall
Tianjara Falls

Friday, September 20, 2013

NSW Waratah - locally selected form

This is a seedling Waratah I was given by Mr Paul Nixon, a famous selector of the Brimstone Collection series of selected varieties of NSW Waratahs. This plant was grown from wild collected seed, so it is a genuine Telopea speciosissima - not a hybrid. This is apparent from the flower shape, and the heavily serrated leaves.

These Waratahs are local to the Sandstone plateau just below Robertson, near Kangaloon, and the points further north. They are not native to the Robertson red basalt soil, however, they thrive in this soil. However, as they are local plants (to the area) and as they do so well here, Robertson is proud to feature Waratahs in public and private gardens in the village. 

 Not surprisingly, I can report that the wild Waratahs in the local "bush" are starting to flower - so keep an eye out, if you are down on the sandstone plateau around Carrington Falls and Kangaloon.

Please remember that these plants are wild, and are protected, so enjoy them but please do not cut them - leave them to seed and propagate themselves as Nature intends.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Petalochilus curtisepalus (Caladenia curtisepala)

Petalochilus curtisepalus (Caladenia curtisepala if you prefer).

Petalochilus curtisepalus
These plants were identified last year, by Dr. Mark Clements, as they had a few of us puzzled. The specimens he examined were twin-flowered ones, but coming from the same group of plants, from the same area (Fitzroy Falls and Manning Lookout road). This year, I have tried harder to get close-up shots.

Petalochilus curtisepalus

According to the botanical illustration, on PlantNET, these are correct for P. curtisepalus. The labellum has "teeth" on the edges of the midlobe, but lacks the teeth on the front of the side panels of the labellum (unlike P. carneus).

The labellum shape is distinct from P. carneus. P. carneus also is later to flower.
Petalochilus carneus

Petalochilus curtisepalus
"dorsal sepal weakly erect
to curving over column,
narrower and up to 3 mm shorter
than the broadening lateral sepals"

Petalochilus curtisepalus
"dorsal sepal weakly erect
to curving over column,
narrower and up to 3 mm shorter
than the broadening lateral sepals"
Petalochilus curtisepalus
Note the teeth on the edge of the labellum
do not go up on the sides of the labellum
(refer back to illustration of P. carneus above)

Petalochilus curtisepalus

Sunday, September 15, 2013

It has actually rained in Robertson (September 2013)

Well, by my records, the last time  we had decent rain in Robertson, was in the last week of June.
Since ten we have had 17 mm in July, and a mere 1.5 mm in August. At long last, we have had 21 mm over the last 3 days. It won't play "catch-up" but it is a start.

I had the pleasure of accompanying two British visitors and their Australian friends for an Orchid tour of the Southern Highlands on Saturday. They were Dr. Colin Scrutton, a retired Professor from Durham University and his wife Angela. They were accompanied by two Australians, John (another geologist) and Ross, an Orchid enthusiast. Colin had contacted me months ago, via the Internet, because he had Googled "Bird Orchids" and my Blog came up.

So we were on a promise - to find Illawarra Bird Orchids.
Illawarra Bird Orchid
Simpliglottis chlorantha
Fortunately, it was a successful mission. In fact, the season has been beneficial for many early flowering Orchids (late Winter, and early Spring seasons). I knew there were some in flower, but in fact we found literally hundreds of plants and at least a dozen in flower. Far more than I had ever seen before (even though the weather was not particularly favourable),

Illawarra Bird Orchid
Full plant (note the paired leaves and sandy soil).

As the visitors were staying on the Shoalhaven coast (could they have decided to stay further away?) I arranged to meet them at the base of Cambewarra Mountain. That way I could show them some of the other Orchids on that mountain.

Thelychiton epiphyticus
Tree version of the Sydney Rock Orchid
which has been re-classified as a separate species.

 My guests were very impressed with the next Orchids we looked at.
A magnificent tall spike of
Prasophyllum elatum

Close-up of Prasophyllum elatum
The Tall Leek Orchid
Note the pollinia dislodged from the flowers
but which were not stuck on an insect.
In the battle to achieve pollination
I would have to score this
Insects 2: Orchids 0 .

Next stop was Macquarie Pass.
I showed them the few remaining flowers where Alan and I had been the previous week, looking at remarkable colonies of Prasophyllum erecta, and Prasophyllum hildae. Even with very tired flowers, the size of these colonies was still impressive. I was able to show them some fresh flowers elsewhere on the Pass, so they could get decent photos of the hildae flowers.

And we moved on to Tourist Road, East Kangaloon to see the Pterostylis x ingens - a naturally occurring hybrid.

Pterostylis x ingens
In between those "highlights" we saw many other species as well - far too numerous to mention here.
At this stage, we decided to call it a day.

Monday, September 02, 2013

Dry August, but the Macquarie Pass Orchids are going gang-busters

Well, it is official, August saw Robertson (well, my house at least) got 1.5mm of rain, in two separate "rainfall events". Yep, folks, its hard to get much drier than that.
But we got a lot of rain (428mm) back in June, and so the tiny Greenhoods down on Macquarie Pass are blooming as I have never seen them bloom before.
But before we delve into the intricacies of thousands of Greenhoods, and Maroonhoods, here is a bird which brazenly walked across the roadway, in the gaps between heavy traffic rolling down the Pass. It is a native thrush, about the size of a European Blackbird, (slightly heavier, in fact).
It is a Bassian Thrush (which I once knew as a "Ground Thrush" - before the taxonomists brought Australian bird names into lock-step with the international naming conventions).

"If a Bassian Thrush is disturbed it often runs a short distance and then freezes, relying for defence on the camouflage of its mottled plumage against the leaf-litter of the forest floor."
That quote from Birds in Backyards site perfectly explains what is going on in the next shot. It scurried to the edge of the leaf litter,t hen "froze". It took me ages to even realise I had photographed the bird in the leaf litter. The yellow oval marks where it is. Look for the bird's eye.
Bassian Thrush camouflaged perfectly.
Check out the yellow oval ring, then look for the bird's eye.
The first Orchid colony
seen from across the Macquarie Pass roadway.
Pterostylis erecta colony

Pterostylis hildae and some Pterostylis erecta

A classic Pterostylis hildae
Mixed clump of Pterostylis hildae and erecta

Mixed clump of Pterostylis hildae and erecta

Nodding Greenhood - Pterostylis nutans

Mixed clump of Pterostylis hildae and erecta

A hybrid between Pt. hildae and Pt. erecta

A likely cross between Pt hildae and nutans

A likely cross between Pt hildae and Pt. erecta

Pterostylis hildae

Cross between Pt. nutans and Pt hildae

the final colony of Pt erecta and Pt hildae.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Another look at Shoalhaven Orchids - 31 August 2013

My friend Beth Boughton was invited to do a tour with Alan Stephenson and I, so she could see the Orchids she had heard about from me, and seen on my Blog.

Dockrillia pugioniformis
Dagger Orchid
Cambewarra Mtn

Dockrillia teretifolia
(These leaves are meant to be hanging down vertically)
please turn your head 90 degrees to the left.

Glossodia major
as seen at Myola Road, Myola.

Glossodia minor
A pure white form,
plus a regular coloured form

Not an Orchid.
A chance sighting and quick photo
of a Painted Button Quail
at Depot Road, Nowra

This was a surprise
when I looked closely at the photo
Petalochilus catenatus

Coonemia Creek.
I had assumed it was just a very pale form
of Petalochilus carneaBut it is too pure, too perfect.
Alan Stephenson has confirmed the ID as

Petalochilus hillmanii

A nice pair of
Prasophyllum brevilabre

Pterostylis baptistii
A fine specimen of this handsome

King Greenhood.
Coonemia Creek

Pterostylis erecta colony
Barrengarry Mountain

Pterostylis erecta
Macquarie Pass,

1 September 2013

Pterostylis hildae
Macquarie Pass
1 September 2013

Speculantha vernalis
Depot Road, Nowra
31 August 2013
This is a spring flowering variant
of a group of tiny Greenhoods which
otherwise flower in summer.
Critically endangered and EPBC listed.
Sun Orchid
Thelymitra of indeterminate species
Probably Thelymitra ixioides variant.

Sarcochilus falcatus
Cambewarra Mtn.