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Category: Slices of Life

A splash of gold

It’s winter in Australia, and though we don’t get the bitter winter of many countries, still it’s lovely when we start to see the first new intimations of spring.  I was out in the country with my dog this morning, on a damp and drizzly day. Our natural bushland is beautiful, with a thousand shades of gray and green. 

And then, among the soft grays and greens and sage colors, we spotted bright  splashes of gold, from wattle blossoms. Wattle is an Australian native plant of the acacia family. Some varieties are known as mimosa in North America, but generally in Australia, it’s just called wattle. (Read on to learn why.)

 Wattle blossom is so bright and cheerful and coming at a gloomy time of year, I suspect it’s why it became a national symbol — yellow and green are the Australian colors. The name “wattle” was because, as a hardy native with multiple branches, it was used by the early colonists as a building material for “wattle and daub” houses — the wattle branches provided the framework and the “daub” was local clay.

There are hundreds of different varieties, different shades of yellow, some pale and lemony, others a dark, burnished gold. But all with hundreds of tiny bobbles of brightness.

Some people don’t much like wattle because it makes them sneeze; my dad would never allow it in the house because of that. But I love it. 

The Glories of Autumn

It’s autumn downunder (we don’t say “fall” here, we say autumn) and in Melbourne, where I live it’s a lovely time of year — dry, with clear, sunny days, and cool nights. And for me, one of the things that makes it special is autumn color. This is some of the Virginia Creeper in my garden. I love the way it’s scarlet and bronze and pink and green and claret and . . . all at once.  Makes me smile every time I look at it.

The indigenous Australian trees and bushes don’t turn color the way many of the forests do in the USA and Europe; we rely on “exotics” for our autumn color — the plants brought from other hemispheres, that people missed and wanted in their gardens. A little touch of “home” that has been going on for generations now.

So here, the cities and towns are where you’ll find the most autumnal gardens and avenues — where people have bought and planted them. The indigenous plants are more of a grey-green — beautiful and graceful, but not very colorful.

So I like to mix them up.
Here’s what I just gathered from my garden — not many flowers, just some sprigs of eucalyptus and the last remaining bits of color from the Virgina Creeper and a few red alstroemeria that are still in flower. Not particularly lush, but I like to fill a vase if I can.

And the other day I dropped into a friend’s place, where her ornamental grapevine makes a lush canopy over her back deck.  From the outside the leaves looked bright and burnished (I posted both on my Facebook page), but looking up from the kitchen door it’s delicate and subtle and so pretty I had to take a photo. I love the combination of soft pinks and pale green.

And just in case you think the only decorative things in our gardens at this time of year  are autumn leaves, here’s a brugmansia in full glorious flower in another friend’s garden. Aren’t they beautiful — like dancers, swaying in the breeze. The common name is Angels’ Trumpets, and they come in a variety of colors. I think this is the prettiest. Unfortunately they’re also pretty poisonous (they’re a relative of datura) so if you’re thinking of getting one, check that out, especially if you have kids or animals likely to eat them.

Yes, my friends have beautiful gardens — and they do all the work themselves. (My garden is quite barren by comparison.)

I’m lucky to have so many friends who have lovely gardens. They inspire me every time — the friends as well as the gardens. 

I’m fondest  of the “in between” seasons — autumn and spring, with no extremes.

What are you most looking forward to?

 

Baby Possum Rescue

Someone knocked on my door tonight to tell me there was a baby possum on the footpath in front of my house. I went outside and found a tiny baby ringtail possum crawling along the ground. I don’t know whether he’d fallen out of a tree, or off his mother’s back, but there he was, alone and vulnerable. There was no sign of the mother.

But there are plenty of cats and dogs in my street, and if I’d left this poor little mite there, one would have got him. So I scooped him up.  He was tiny, furry and very cute and looked so bewildered, poor little soul. He was just big enough to sit in the palm of my hand, with a long curly tail hanging down.

I wrapped him in a microfibre cleaning cloth and tucked him against my chest. He scrabbled himself up out of the cloth, just enough for his face to poke out. He put his little face against my skin and went to sleep.  And of course, I was instantly in love.


I looked for signs of the mother until it got too dark to see, then I phoned a wildlife rescue vet clinic, and made arrangements to take him in. I took a couple of photos but I was more worried about frightening or distressing him than taking a good photo, and besides, each time I put him down, he tried to climb back onto my hand. So my photos are pretty blurry. But the one below is someone else’s photo of a very similar looking baby ringtail.

 
I was sad to hand him over, but he needs specialist care, and I know they’ll take good care of my little furry baby. I’m also feeling sad for the mother —if she’s alive — not knowing where her baby is.  Life for wild creatures is tough.