Saturday, 21 July 2012

Guerrilla Gardening: "Do the right thing - plant trees"

Guerrilla gardening is absolutely one of my favorite things to do. It is everything that makes me passionate about gardening, bush regeneration and the environment. The reward and satisfaction of seeing plants, you have planted into a non-productive, weedy space is so gratifying and pleasing. I love it. I hope that others can feel and do the same. 

My current guerrilla gardening project...
Before I began planting here, this site contained ONE tree...this callistemon  (bottlebrush) you can see in the middle ground.
It is a little difficult to tell from the pictures but over the last 6 months to one year, my project has developed really well and I am happy with the results. Before I started on this project, I had been thinking about guerrilla gardening for a while, however, I needed to stop thinking about it and just do it. This park is in the same suburb as my home and my first attempt failed dismally. This park is in a couple of sections. It is more a thoroughfare between a top street and a bottom street with some greenspace and some 'old' spaces that were perhaps supposed to hold plants but either died or never got planted. I planted some plants in the top space but upon my return a month or so later, the plants had disappeared. I suspected that residents had pulled them out, not knowing what they were and fearing that their water views would be ruined (don't be shocked, this often happens and it is incredibly frustrating). So I decided to work on the lower space, with much success...plants are doing well!

The mighty Cupaniopsis anacardioides OR the common name, Tuckeroo. What a great name for a tree and a very sturdy tree that is. This tree will grow in so many ridiculous conditions, so it is the perfect guerrilla tree planting specimen. BTW this is an Australian native. All my guerrilla plants are Indigenous natives to the area. So I suppose you could also call it guerrilla bush regen.
For more information: 

Before I began planting here, this site contained one tree, therefore, it is reasonably susceptible to being overgrown by weeds. Council sprayers spray the weeds every few months and I must be sure that the plants I plant are supposed to be there and are not weeds. 
The arrows point to dianellas. These are also a good guerilla gardening plant as they are easily propagated  from runners and they spread reasonably quickly, suppressing weeds, looking good and the berries are edible. 

I like to use wooden stakes around the plants, to ensure the council sprayers don't 'accidentally' poison my plants. 

I am extremely happy with these mighty plants. The beautiful banksia...I was lucky enough to snatch these up from a left over bush regen job. I have planted three and they are doing exceedingly well (touch wood). Over the past 6 months, they have shot up from about 60cm to almost 2metres high. Once these are established, they will look great, offer shade and be beautiful to look at. In the background, you may see some acacias. I cannot remember what variety they are, I know that they will grow to about 3 or 4m high. I planted these from tubs about 6months to one year ago and these have shot up so quickly. They are also another great guerrilla gardening plant, very easily obtained from tubestock or propagated by oneself. 

This is a small section alongside the path that leads down the lower level. Overrun by non-productive and boring weeds, I have planted some dianella tubes, blady grass and other native grasses I have propagated. My dad, who works as a bush regenerator  detests blady grass, and in some cases, I agree with him.However, it is a good guerrilla gardening plant, as it is incredibly tough, spreads quickly and suppresses weeds. I would much prefer to see a tuft of blady than an area overrun by bidens or lantana. I am lucky that there are spare rocks lingering around the site which I can use in my 'gardening' (see above). 

Some tips:
- if you are interested in doing some guerrilla gardening, choose a site. Start small, start big.
- choose your plants: Indigenous natives? Veggies? Flowers? Make a seed bomb (I plan on doing this as the weather warms up). 
- In some cases, I propogated plants, I bought them or had leftovers from work that I could use. 
- Sometimes I do put some money into this, it is my hobby and it is something I enjoy doing so I don't mind spending some dollars on tubestock natives, which are very cheap anyway - about $2-$3 per tube. 

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Homemade presents for a sweet friend.

A homemade card, a brooch, a hairpin, some earrings and a bangle.
I met one of my greatest friends when I was 12. I had started year 7 and I did not like it, I had trouble making friends and when asked what I did on the weekend, I never admitted that I had been gardening because that just wasn't very 'cool'. Until Sweeda came along, someone who I could be completely open with. As Anne Shirley, from Anne of Green Gables would say, we were 'kindred spirits'. 

However, when we were 15, Sweetpea moved away to England, we have not seen each other since, except for on skype and we have maintained our long distance friendship for almost 10 years now. No matter how far away she is, I still consider her as being my kindred spirit. So, after not sending a birthday gift for a few years now, this year, I needed to get my act together to create something special. 

I made:
- a card using an old book I found from a library throw out. It contains some great pics and these can so easily be turned into cards. Super easy to do, just find a picture you like, cut it out and stick it onto some cardboard. Wallahh...homemade card!
- hair pin, using a bobby pin, some felt and an old button.
- a brooch, using some felt and embroidering skills-something which i don't really have or have never learnt, just something i have kind of just made up as i have gone along.
- some earrings - easy to make, using some beads, earring hooks etc
- a bangle, using an old bangle and some recycled wrapping paper. 
- a garland, using pictures from an old picture book I found. Look for pictures you like and cut out circles in all different shapes and sizes. I laminated the circles so that they can last longer. Use a hole puncher to make holes to thread through string...this is one of my fave things...a super easy little gift to give. 

I like to have a theme to my garland. These pictures were from  a book about birds. I have previously made myself one with a farm theme. 

I like to include cut-outs of text as well as pictures. 

Close up of garland. This one is to be hung vertically. 

I love you sweetpea. Hope you had a wonderful birthday. I hope we can meet up soon. You always have a special place in my heart. 

Monday, 9 July 2012

Baking with lemons

It is winter. During winter, I often feel like eating. I like fat and sugar. Recently I have been feeling a little deflated about the garden. Possums have been having a lovely old time munching on my broccoli, lettuce, silverbeet, kale, parsley...and the list goes on. So, what to do when you are feeling a little de-motivated. Turn your energies to other pursuits, such as crafts and cooking.

Today, my lovely friend Emily came over. We met in primary school, in Mrs Chalmers' 4C, Em was new to the school and we instantly struck up a friendship. While my parents worked in the cafe, Em and I would walk to her house to play with our barbies, play travel agents or have pretend cooking shows. She is one of my oldest and dearest friends. At the ripe old age of 22, we can say that our friendship has lasted for over ten years.

Today, we did a spot of gardening, some walking and chatting and some cooking. We had loads of lemons (found from a lemon tree somewhere nearby), so we decided to bake a lemon slice. However, this isn't just any lemon slice, oh know. This is my mum's lemon slice and that means, it is pretty good. Now, everyone usually thinks their mum is the best cook in the world. I think my mum's cooking is pretty awesome but her cake baking skills are second to none. My parents used to own a cafe when I was younger and my mum baked all the cakes so she had a fair bit of time to practice...baking 4-5 cakes every couple of days. My mum's lemon slice was pretty popular, so Emily and I decided to give it a red hot go. Oh and it tasted pretty de-lish!

My mum's delicious lemon slice


for the base
250g butter, softened
1 cup icing sugar
2 cups plain flour

for the top
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
juice from 4 lemons
2 tbsp plain flour

1. Line a baking tray (I used one that is about 31cmx21cm) with baking paper
2. Combine butter, icing sugar and flour in a blender until it full combines into a ball.
3. Press this mix into the tray until it covers the surface of the tray. Cook in oven on about 160 degrees until the top begins to slightly brown.

4. Using the blender, combine sugar, eggs, strained lemon juice and 2 tbsp plain flour. Blend until combined and pour over the base.

It is very important to taste the mixture, you know, just to check it's not poison or  anything! 

Note: do this step whilst waiting for the base to brown up. If you do this and are still waiting for the base to brown up, give the mix another blend before you pour over the base, as the sugar will have settled to the bottom. 
5. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes and check on the slice. It should feel firm to touch. 

The slice is ready! It is firm to touch and now leave it to cool so it is easy to cut up. 
A very civilised afternoon tea.