Cotyledon orbiculata var. oblonga macrantha
So familiar that it has gathered around it an entourage of common names (pig’s ears, paddle plant, navelwort) this sturdy and humble succulent is a survivor. It can cope with South Gippsland winters (although only happily if it is kept safe from frosts and its root run is not sodden) and it thrives in Melbourne where I have it growing under the eaves where it flourishes on it’s thick stem and its fleshy, vibrant leaves shine. I find that if it gets too much moisture in the winter, its leaves can become spotty and its flowers are less strident. Hence the eaves, or maybe under trees as long as it has access to a goodly amount of sunlight. This makes perfect sense, when you remember that it comes from southern Africa, where it is found in hot, free draining locations, like rocky hillsides and cliff faces and in the sand of coastal flats. Check out the links below if you want to find out more.
It might feel like winter, but it is only really autumn and the weather over the past few days in the Strzelecki Ranges, relentless rain and wild wind, have been the archetypal Autumn Break, the point at which the rains come to punctuate the progression of the seasons. It seems late this year. I was recently told that if we don’t get the break by Anzac Day we are in for a dry season. However, it might have been later than usual, but the Break’s heavy downfalls over the weekend could only herald moist conditions ahead.
The images below are classic autumn fare: Gingko biloba against a background of evergreens; a seedling Acer palmatum that steals the show despite its humble origins; Liriodendron tulipifera, whose Autumn foliage is even more spectacular than its marvellous flower; Fly Agaric growing under the Castanea sativa, Mespilus germanica fading away brilliantly in the veggie patch, Punica granatum fruit stranded on bare branches.
These photos were all taken at Clear Springs, Mirboo, where despite the gloomy skies, there was enough colour coming from the changing foliage and the flowers of camellias and chrysanthemums to remind us of the sun, hidden somewhere, up there behind the clouds.
Autumn days are best. The sunlight has become less intense. Colours are not washed out in the garden as they were over summer. Colour comes in the flowers and the foliage, some of it new and fresh, some of it old and changing colour and soon to be gone. There is a hint of melancholy as the days shorten and the air cools in the evening earlier. But there is so much still happening in the garden that there is plenty to distract the mind from wintry thoughts.
Pineapple Sage (Salvia elegans), so understated for the rest of the year comes into its own in autumn. I have it planted in a thicket of shrubs that is being strangled subtly by an ornamental grape (Vitis spp.)
And this little patch of Cosmos in the vegetable garden is from seeds I gathered last year. It has replaced the dahlias which have suffered with the drier conditions.