Italian Flatbread with Thyme, Parmesan and Garlic

It takes me two and a half hours to get this recipe on the table. The smell around the house during cooking is magical.  The bread lasts for up to a week in an airtight container if it doesn’t get eaten! This recipe is also available on YouTube.

Ingredients:

  • 2 x 7g packets of dried yeast (25g of compressed yeast)
  • 300ml of lukewarm water
  • 2 teaspoons of salt
  • 450g strong white unbleached flour
  • 5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (4 tablespoons to mix into the dough and 1 tablespoon for drizzling over the dough before it goes into the oven.
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons of Fresh Thyme
  • 3 teaspoons Shredded parmesan
  • 1/2 teaspoon Garlic granules
  • Extra flour for dusting during kneading
  • Extra olive oil for greasing the bowl as the bread rises

Equipment:

  • A jug for rehydrating the yeast (I use a Pyrex measuring jug
  • Large Metal Mixing Bowl
  • Wooden spoon
  • Tablespoon measure
  • Teaspoon measure
  • Scales to weigh the flour
  • Board for kneading the dough or a food processor with a dough hook
  • Wet clean tea towel
  • Pizza stone or heavy metal baking tray

Method:

1. Fill a jug with 300ml of lukewarm water (less is more, don’t go over this amount). Add the yeast and stir slightly.  Wait for a slight froth to form. This means that the yeast is rehydrating.

I know that my yeast is viable and rehydrated when I can see a slight froth on the top of the yeasty water. This is the ideal time to add it to the flour.

2. While waiting for the yeast, mix together the salt and the flour in the large mixing bowl and then make a well in the centre.

3. Pour the yeast/water mixture into the well with 4 tablespoons of the olive oil.

4. Mix together until it forms a dough.

5. Place dough on a floured surface and knead until it is smooth and elastic.  This takes me about 5 minutes. (You can use a food processor with a dough hook for this step  if you prefer.)

The dough in a slightly oiled bowl ready to go through its first rise.

6. Clean and dry the large metal bowl. Use the extra olive oil to lightly oil the surface.  Place the kneaded dough in the bowl and cover with a wet tea towel.

The dough rising to more than double its original size.

7. Leave the dough in a warm place until it has more than doubled in size.

TOP TIP: A car parked in the sun is a great place to leave dough to rise, warm and protected from unwanted attention from insects, animals or birds.

Jane Grows Garden Rooms

8. Mix the Thyme leaves,  shredded parmesan and garlic granules together in a small bowl. (If you want stronger flavours you can add more. You can also substitute for different herbs, cheeses, etc)

9. Knock the dough down and knead again. As you knead, stop to sprinkle  the Thyme mixture over the dough before kneading it in. This should be done as a process, that is, sprinkle,  then knead, then sprinkle,  then knead until you run out of Thyme mixture.

10. Place the pizza stone or heavy metal baking sheet in the oven and preheat to 200 degrees Celsius or 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

11. Shape the dough into a rough circle about 30cm in diameter. 

12. When the oven is ready dimple the surface of the dough with your fingers and dribble a tablespoon of olive oil over it. 

13. Transfer the dough to the pizza stone or baking sheet. I just puck mine up and quickly put it on the stone.

14. Bake for 35 minutes or until it is golden brown and sounds hollow when you knock on it.

15. Allow to cool slightly on a rack before trying it.

I find it easiest to cut it into wedges.

16. It lasts up to a week in an airtight container in my house. We either eat it at room temperature or warm it for ten minutes in the oven first.

Wishing you quick and easy baking deliciousness,

Jane Grows Garden Rooms

Plant Profile  – Native Elderberry

The white flowers are tiny, but enchanting in their delicacy.

Also known as:

  • Sambucus australasica
  • Native Elderberry
  • Yellow Elderberry
  • Native Elder
Berries start green and are a bright orange yellow when ripe.

Growing conditions:

  • Part shade/Shade
  • Grows in most soils
  • Prefers a moist location
Unripe Elderberries

Propagation:

  • Fresh seed in autumn subtropics/tropics
  • Will need a cold frame in cooler climates
This tree has lovely wavy leaves and an attractive branching habit. In most cases it won’t exceed four metres tall.

Despite its preference for moist soil, this plant has been one of my drought survivors. It recovers quickly from wilt making it easy to judge when it has reached its point of tolerance. That tolerance was much higher than I expected or feared.

Ripe berries have a tendency to drop at the slightest touch so I place a jar over them before I try to pick them. Make sure you remove all stalks from the harvest as many plants in this genus have stalks with low levels of toxicity.

Its natural distribution goes some way to explain its hardiness. It’s found along the East Coast regions of Australia from the Tropics in North Queensland all the way South to the Cool Temperate climate of Tasmania. It will tolerate many different conditions and is even tolerant of air pollution. It’s surprising then that it is not tolerant of salt spray.

Ripe native elderberries. Ready to harvest for seed, eating or using in kitchen delights.

The berries are edible and can be eaten straight from the tree. Ours are pleasantly tart, some trees produce sweet or bitter fruit. Culinary uses align with its European cousin. The berries can be used to make wines, cordials, jams, dessert crumbles, pies and even syrups said to lessen length and intensity of cold and flu symptoms. The results will be slightly different from the plump purple berries used in other parts of the world. Likewise the flowers can be used to make elderflower recipes. I plan to experiment with mine as soon as the harvest period is over which will likely be in July. Until then I will harvest and freeze the berries.

The orange berries contrast pleasingly with the lush green foliage.

I bought my Native Elderberry from Lamington Native Nursery which is a lovely little nursery in Cainbable near Canungra.  Every plant I have purchased from there has survived and thrived. I try to support local businesses as much as possible, but this nursery is so good it’s easy to support it. I only wish that I could make the drive to them more often!

The lovely lady who runs the nursery advised that they tend to self seed and cautioned me to consider where I planted it. It is now situated on the shady end of one of my contour banks and is thriving. Thriving despite the fact that I once accidentally pulled it out when my son distracted me as I was weeding. With some seaweed emulsion and regular watering it is as good as new. Thank goodness! Such a lovely tree!

Wishing you fruitful harvests,

Jane grows garden rooms

PS This plant is on my Ten Australian Bush Food Plants for Your Garden list. Click here to read the full article.

Plant Profile – Aloe Vera

A thriving patch of Aloe Vera in one of my rockeries.  There are so many pups despite the fact that I have separated them out recently.

Also known as

  • Aloe barbadensis miller
  • Aloe
  • Barbados Aloe

Growing conditions:

  • Full Sun/Part shade/Bright shade
  • Succulent
  • Well-drained soil/sandy loam
  • Suitable for pots/indoor pots/garden beds/rockeries
I separated the central plant in this pot as a pup earlier this year and it’s already got its own pups.

Propagation:

  • Propagation is easiest by separating pups from a “mother” plant.
  • Demonstration available on my YouTube channel Click here to watch

When I think of Aloe Vera,  I think of sunburn.  I don’t know how many times I had the goo from inside the sticky stalk smeared all over a painful burn in my teens and twenties.  This amazing plant has many medicinal uses, but the relief it offers for any kind of burn is astounding. People around the world use it in many different ways and its medicinal qualities have been questioned by some. Everyone agrees, however, that it’s great for skin!

Split open the fleshy stalks to extract the sticky, clear gel from inside.
This sticky gel extracted from inside an Aloe Vera stalk can be used to soothe sunburn and minor burns. It has many other medicinal uses too!

I’ve never been blessed with amazing hair and as I get older it’s getting coarser and dryer. I recently read a blog post about using Aloe Vera as a pretreatment. I extracted some gel, rubbed it into my hair and scalp, paying special attention to the dry, dull ends. I tied it up in a bun and left it for 45 minutes before washing it. As soon as I took out the bun, before I even washed it, the ends were softer and shinier. After washing with my good quality shampoo and conditioner bars my hair is even softer than it usually is after washing. As an added bonus, my hands are oh so soft!

An Aloe Vera hair treatment has brought back shine, lustre and moisture to my difficult hair.

It’s also a wonderful air purifier and can be grown in a bright spot indoors.

The jury is out on whether it should be ingested but there are commercial “juices” available and some people swear by regular internal doses of this fascinating plant.

Wishing you soft hands and hair,

Jane Grows Garden Rooms

Backyard Biodiversity Tip Two – Habitat

… a sustainable, slow-built, high-rise apartment building for wildlife …

Hello and welcome to my garden. This beauty isn’t a dead tree, it’s a sustainable, slow-built, high-rise apartment building for wildlife. In this tree we have observed countless birds, including endangered species, mammals including possums and gliders, reptiles like tree snakes and bearded dragons and various insects and arachnids. Many people have suggested that we cut it down, but why would we destroy such a superb habitat that actively contributes to our backyard biodiversity? That said, this is Tip Two for Backyard Biodiversity!

This handsome fellow is a Bearded Dragon. He needs leaf litter and rocks to provide food, shelter and protection from predators. 

If you want a greater range of biodiversity in your backyard, big or small, you need to provide habitat for the creatures you are hoping to have living in your garden rooms. The National Geographic tells us that organisms need four things for a successful habitat: water, food, shelter and space. The habitats you can provide depend on the space that you have. Let’s start with the small ones and work our way bigger.

Frog Hotels

In Australia we have so many species of tree frog that all you need to create a new habitat is a Frog Hotel, patience and a little luck.

Frog Hotels were originally created to keep frogs out of outback toilets. They can be as small or as big as you would like. As far as the habitat checklist goes… Water – contained within, Food – as long as you have some insects around they’ve got dinner, did you know that most frogs love eating cockroaches!?, Shelter – that’s what the pipes and plants are for, Space – frogs don’t need much space, some species will even breed in a frog hotel.

Like many garden wonders you’ll need some patience and some luck, it can take months or even years to attract permanent residents to your Frog Hotel and yet some people have success in days. Comment below if you’d like me to create a vlog or blog post on Frog Hotels.

These three Green Tree Frogs who regularly visit this kitchen window have never visited the frog hotel nearby to my knowledge,  but they enjoy hunting insects attracted by the lights inside.
The only observed occupant of my Frog Hotel to date. Only a metre away is my kitchen window which regularly hosts three Green Tree Frogs.  I don’t know why they’re not interested in the hotel, but that’s frogs for you! They’ll do what they want, when they want…

Native Bee Hotels for Megachile species

In Australia we have more than 1700 native bee species and most of them are solitary or semi-social rather than the social European bees that we hear so much about. There are a number of ways to create habitat for these little wonders.

Arguably the easiest species to build or buy a hotel for are those in the Megachile genus and the Hyledoides genus. This includes, Resin Bees, Masked Bees and Leafcutter Bees. Historically these species nested in holes created by wood borers, like the one pictured below in one of my Lilly Pilly trees. It’s easy to simulate these holes by using holes drilled in wood or bamboo cut in lengths. It’s best to place them facing South if you can and protection from wind and rain will also encourage residents. Spacing lots of small hotels around the garden will help them evade predators. A Grey Butcher Bird in my garden sits watching one of my hotels and snaps the residents out of the air when they leave the nest. Clever little birds they are! I plan to post a video of a Leafcutter Bee in my garden carrying cut leaves to its nest in my rockery on YouTube soon!

This borer hole in one of my Lilly Pilly Trees is the kind of hole originally used by some solitary species of native bees for nesting.  With increasing deforestation and planting of gardens with many exotic species,  these holes are not as readily available in the right size or depth as they once were.
A Pair of masked bees prepare a nest in a bamboo stick in a Bee Hotel.  Above, leaves protude from completed leafcutter bee nests.

Native Bee Hotels for Reed bees

Reed bees from the Exoneura genus like to nest in pithy stems like tree ferns or lantana. Lantana may be an invasive species but in some areas where it has out-competed the natives, Reed Bees use the dead canes for nests. If you’re clearing lantana, keep an eye out for these tiny bees. When I remove lantana I now keep some of the canes and dry them to create nests which I place near my dam.

A Reed Bee Hotel made from lantana canes and a coffee cup.

Native bee hotels for Blue-banded Bees

The delightful Blue-banded Bees are a solitary species that use buzz pollination which is necessary for the pollination of some plants, like the Blue Tongue Plant the one pictured below is buzzing around, or creates higher yields for other plants, like tomatoes.

You can create nesting habitat for them by building rock walls with spaces between the rocks or by creating your own mud brick nests. Plant blue and purple flowers nearby to encourage them to explore your garden. Comment below if you’d like me to create a vlog or blog post on Blue-banded Bee Hotels.

Blue-banded Bees like blue and purple flowers. My Blue Tongue plant gets frequent visits from these big, beautiful,  noisy native bees.

Native Bee Hives

Native Stingless Bee Hives are a great way to ensure your garden is full of pollinators. I haven’t purchased one yet but it’s on my wish list!

Tiny stingless bees are an attractive prospect for an Australian garden, they are cute and stingless! They love the Calendula flowers in my garden.
Stingless Bee (Tetragonula species) flying towards a Zinnia flower with pollen pants.

Possum Boxes, Nesting Boxes

If you have a larger property you might like to consider installing nesting boxes for the species that need tree hollows. With land clearing for development and recreation, big old trees with enough hollows to service the local wildlife populations are becoming fewer and fewer. This means that some species can’t breed because they simply don’t have a safe place to nest. Placing nesting boxes on your property can help marsupial species like gliders and countless bird species like the lovely King Parrots. A Possum Box might even keep Possums out of your roof! There’s lots of information on line about how to build or buy them.

King Parrots need deep tree hollows for nesting. Placing the right shape and size nesting box on your property gives them a place to breed and as a bonus, these curious and friendly birds will probably visit. We have a number of wild King Parrots that seem to take turns visiting us. Some of them even land on our arms, shoulders or heads!

The importance of garden debris and flowering weeds

Now I like to think that I am a wild gardener, but some people would say I am a messy gardener. That’s because I don’t clear all my garden debris. Many lizard species, frog species and invertebrates need leaf litter, sticks or old wood for their habitats. If you have an ordered garden, try leaving one area for garden debris to give these species a room in your garden.

Lizards and frogs will help keep pests at bay and there are lots of helpful insects in leaf litter that will improve your soil and eat the nuisance insects.

I also make a point of letting some of the more innocuous weed species flower in my garden. They attract pollinators to help my plants fruit and seed and they also attract beneficial species like praying mantises and lacewings who eat aphids and scale. Many vegetables are also good for this purpose, so I let some of my lettuce, carrots and other vegetables flower. By doing this I find I don’t need to try to keep something flowering year round for the pollinators. Weeds and vegetables fill any gaps in time when my shrubs and trees are not flowering.

Pak Choi has very pretty little flowers that attract pollinators. It’s easy to germinate and grow all year around in the subtropics AND leaves can be harvested over and over for stirfries and salads before allowing it to go to seed to ensure a biodiverse insect population and ongoing growth.
These Leek flowers were grown from the “kitchen scrap end” after I made a Chicken and Leek soup. Many different vegetables will sprout and flower from scraps, adding to garden biodiversity with no cost.

Ponds, Frog Bogs

Ponds and Frog Bogs are great for bigger gardens. In my first Backyard Biodiversity Tip I discussed the importance of water for not only amphibians, but wildlife in general as well as garden helpers like the mosquito destroying dragonflies.

Bird baths are delightful to watch, especially on a hot day and provide an important part of habitat for our flying garden helpers.

A Green Tree Frog (Litoria caerulea) enjoys our pond made from a ceramic plant pot 60cm tall to stop Cane Toads (Rhinella marina) from accessing it.

Plant choices, Protection from Predators

Another really important consideration is your choice of plants. The more diverse your plants are, the more diverse your animal and insect visitors will be. The most important aspect of this is the levels in your garden. If you can create a garden that has many levels, you will get lots of visitors.

Lets look at those levels from bottom to top.

Start with soil. There are currently campaigns to reclassify soil as a living organism under United Nations conditions. Cultivate your soil to encourage fungal networks, worms and even beetle larvae. Most are beneficial and if you have biodiversity the birds will help keep their populations from exploding. Groundcovers and grasses are very important for insects. Herbs and flowers are great for pollinators. Shrubs and hedges are wonderful for small birds and reptiles. Small trees offer the next level of habitat for birds, reptiles and insects. Finally the canopy level offers habitat for birds, mammals and protection on hot days amongst other benefits. Climbing through all these levels are vines which frequently host butterflies and other beneficial insects.

A family of Eastern Dwarf Frogs (Litoria fallax) lives in our Native Mulberry Tree (Pipturus argenteus) which always supplies a smorgasbord of insects. It is at shrub level at the moment and we plan to keep trimming it to create an edible, wildlife attracting hedge.

Many of the levels provide protection from predators. If you have room for small spiky shrubs you may attract wrens and finches. The canopy offers refuge for many species of bird as well as climbing mammals. Groundcovers and grasses protect lizards from birds.

Of course, if you have pets you may need to offer more protection from predators by keeping them out of certain parts of the garden. Before our beautiful dog passed away, she was allowed the run of one section of the garden, but the other section was closed to her unless she was supervised.

Our beautiful Elle, a perfectly harmless family dog, was only allowed in the “big yard” under supervision to ensure native animals were protected from her natural prey instinct. The rest of the time she was confined to a smaller “house yard”.

There are some great easy options that will fill your garden rooms with visitors for minimal effort. Comment below if you’d like me to create a vlog or blog post on anything that I’ve talked about. With greater backyard biodiversity you can enjoy a garden that gives a lot more than it takes.

The first step is to look into the wildlife in your area and work out how you can use the space you have to provide habitat that will help them live comfortably. By providing what you can, you are helping your local community maintain and build better biodiversity. It starts with a trickle…

Wishing you biodiverse visitors to your garden rooms,

Janegrowsgardenrooms

Garden to Kitchen – Choc-Mint Ice-cream

Choc-mint ice-cream! Placemat is from My Hygge Home. Check out their range!

This recipe is a companion piece to my plant profile for Mint species coming soon! A vlog version is also available Garden to Kitchen – Choc-Mint Ice-cream on the Jane Grows Garden Rooms YouTube channel.

Ingredients:

1 cup cream

1/3 cup chopped fresh mint (I like a chocolate mint variety the best for this recipe)

150g dark chocolate (remember: the better your chocolate variety, the better the flavour)

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 tablespoon castor sugar

1. Gently heat cream and mint in a small pan. Remove from heat JUST BEFORE the mixture boils.
2. Add chocolate to the cream mixture and place back on a gentle heat. Stir constantly until chocolate is completely melted into a smooth mixture. REMOVE from heat and allow to cool slightly while you complete the next step.
3. Whisk eggs and sugar to a creamy consistency.
4. Slowly add warm chocolate mixture through a strainer to remove the mint. (Discard the mint after this step.)
5. Whisk until well-combined.
6. Allow the mixture to cool (using an ice bath will make this step quicker).
7. Freeze in an ice-cream machine according to manufacturer’s instructions,OR place in a metal container in the freezer. Remove when ice-cream is just firm around the edges and whisk in a mixing bowl for one minute before replacing in the freezer overnight.
  1. Gently heat cream and mint in a small pan. Remove from heat JUST BEFORE the mixture boils.
  2. Add chocolate to the cream mixture and place back on a gentle heat. Stir constantly until chocolate is completely melted into a smooth mixture. REMOVE from heat and allow to cool slightly while you complete the next step.
  3. Whisk eggs and sugar to a creamy consistency.
  4. Slowly add warm chocolate mixture through a strainer to remove the mint. (Discard the mint after this step.)
  5. Whisk until well-combined.
  6. Allow the mixture to cool (using an ice bath will make this step quicker).
  7. Freeze in an ice-cream machine according to manufacturer’s instructions,
    1. OR place in a metal container in the freezer. Remove when ice-cream is just firm around the edges and whisk in a mixing bowl for one minute before replacing in the freezer overnight.

This recipe should keep in an airtight container in the freezer for three weeks, but it never lasts that long in my house!

Wishing you taste sensations from Garden to Kitchen,

Janegrowsgardenrooms

Plant Profile – Lebanese Cucumber

My first cucumber harvest!

Also known as:

  • Cucumis sativus
Cotyledons, small seed leaves that nourish the first leafy growth, are large and fleshy on a cucumber plant.

Growing conditions:

  • Sun/Part shade
  • Fertile, well drained soil
  • Sow 40cm apart
A healthy “true leaf” using the moist conditions and impressive cotyledons to grow.

Propagation:

  • Seeds
  • Tropics/subtropics plant year round
  • Temperate and cold climates plant after the last frost
These two seedlings are growing in my Permaculture Garden on a contour bank which is very fertile and has good drainage.

My daughter is a fussy eater. It’s probably karma. I know my own mother had many frustrating evenings trying to make me eat my dinner. My daughter does, however, love salad vegetables which is a great relief when balancing her diet. I can put half a cucumber in her lunchbox and know that it will be devoured happily. She will also eat salad as a tv snack. I can’t cook any vegetables that she will eat. She even eats her broccoli raw, but I can’t really complain about that! She LOVES to browse through the vegetable garden and eat whatever is ripe for harvest (except tomatoes!) so it makes perfect sense for me to add this annual to my crops.

Soon I will have to make the difficult decision about which of these seedlings to remove, to give the other the best chance of survival.

This year I planted cucumber for the first time and to my delight the compact bush variety that I chose has germinated easily and the growth is encouraging. It takes 8-10 weeks for the flowers to appear. I will be hoping to see them towards the end of May.

Two months after planting seeds, the bush is healthy and flowering as it climbs the bamboo stake I put in to support it.

Watch this space for more details in the coming months!

Wishing you vigourous growth in your kitchen garden,

Jane Grows Garden Rooms

Plant Profile: Slender Mint – Mentha diemenica

Slender by name,  slender by nature. This plant is a delicate,  diminutive beauty, but don’t let that fool you! If it likes the growing conditions it will endeavour to spread far and wide with its suckering habit.

Also known as:

  • Mentha diemenica
  • Wild Mint
  • Very similar to Mentha satureoides and sometimes confused with it.

Growing conditions:

  • Full sun/Shade/part shade
  • Groundcover
  • Prefers slightly damp soil
  • Suitable for pots, rockeries and as a filler between paving stones or driving strips
My unruly patch of spreading Slender Mint after being disrupted by me weeding out stray grass.

Propagation:

  • Cuttings
  • Removing a rooted section of the plant as it spreads
  • Keep moist until established.

Named after Tasmania when it was Van Diemens Land, this herb is found on that cool temperate island, as well as in Victoria and New South Wales.  Some sites list Queensland as well, but this could be as a result of the confusion with its cousin, Mentha satureoides. With these origins it’s no surprise that it is frost tolerant. In hot or dry periods it can go into a dormant phase and regenerate like many other amazing Australian Native Plants.

Slender Mint or Mentha diemenica

I started with a tiny tubestock of this tough little groundcover and in good family tradition I planted it under a garden tap. My mother always plants mint under garden taps, an ingenious idea that means they get incidental moisture.  My tiny plant is now a spreading mat that has escaped the Garden bed and invaded the lawn. This gives me the delightful surprise of lovely minty fragrance every time I step on it to fill my watering cans. This is despite an awful drought which meant that the tank which is connected to the Garden tap was completely drained. Still it survived and thrived as soon as the rain came back when many of my hardy trees had perished and gone.

It’s a perfect candidate for rockeries and between paving stones. It tolerates low levels of foot traffic and fills the air with minty freshness at every footfall.

The flowers are tiny and subtle. Most varieties are mauve or violet. My plant has almost white, pale mauve flowers with purple spots and purple tipped anthers. They are lovely but almost impossible to photograph,  at least with my equipment.

The flowers are lovely but difficult to capture with only a phone camera.

All in all this hardy survivor is a welcome addition to my garden. I have recently dug up some of the suckers and replanted them on the steps in one of my rockeries.  I’m interested to see if they’ll do as well in that position which gets the midday sun in summer. Of all the native mints I have grown, this one seems the toughest and most persistent.  *fingers crossed *

Wishing you a minty fresh trip to the Garden tap,

Janegrowsgardenrooms

PS This plant is on my Ten Australian Bush Food Plants for Your Garden list. Click here to read the full article.

Garden Friends and Foes – what’s that?

I’ve always had “what the…?” moments in my garden and struggled to get information to explain what is it that I am seeing. Here I plan to document some of my findings progressively. Check back if you’re interested in knowing what those random nests and larvae are in your garden.

LACEWING EGGS – These little threads with white tips are lacewing eggs. The larvae that hatch from these will hungrily devour scale and aphids! In my garden I frequently find the eggs on my pegs so I simply remove the peg from the washing line and attach it to a plant with pests. This peg is on a Burdekin Plum Tree that has a scale infestation. Last year one peg on a Tuckeroo cleared up an entire scale population in one week. If they hatch and there’s no prey in sight they will devour each other so it’s best to get the eggs as close to the pests as possible. If the eggs are brown it means that they’ve already hatched. Verdict: Garden Friends!
Close up of the tiny threads and eggs.
Lacewing eggs on the pegs again!
An adult Lacewing.

This is Cottony Cushion Scale. Some kind folk on a Facebook – what bug is that? page helped me to identify it. Unfortunately it’s not good news. These guys are sap suckers that weaken and sometimes kill trees. Pretty impressive for something only a few millimetres long. This one was on my Lemon Myrtle so I will be keeping an eye out for possible infestation. Hopefully one of the predator bugs that I encourage will have already taken care of the problem. My bird visitors often sit in that tree so they may have picked it off… fingers crossed. Otherwise I will be removing infected growth and manually exterminating the bugs. I can’t risk chemical control that may impact on the biodiversity that I am trying to encourage. Verdict: Garden Foe!
This caterpillar (Theretra celata) goes through at least two stages of development (instars) before going into the soil to metamorphose into a Hawk Moth. It is pictured here on a Native Mulberry Tree (Pipturus argenteus). Another instar of the same species is pictured below.
Another instar of the Hawk Moth (Theretra celata) caterpillar pictured above on the same Native Mulberry Tree (Pipturus argenteus).
This is a Black-banded Hoverfly (Episyrphus viridaureus) harvesting pollen from a Cut-leaf Daisy (Brachyscome multifida). These flies mimic wasps and bees, but have no sting. They are often seen hovering in one spot before darting sideways or forwards. Their larvae are effective aphid predators sometimes used commercially to protect crops from infestation. The adults feed on nectar and pollen favourite open daisy-like flowers. They are effective pollinators. They are particularly susceptible to pesticides so don’t spray your aphids if you see these or any of their Hoverfly cousins in the garden. Verdict: garden friends!

International Day of Forests  – Thoughts amongst trees

My little patch of regenerating forest.

What is a forest? A haven for thought, a home for peace, quiet, noisy, alive, awake, silent sentinels breathing life into the atmosphere and earth.

What is a forest? A responsibility,  hours of work, pleasure in regeneration,  search for understanding,  networks above and below and around, solitude in a crowd.

“Green tangle of the brushes, Where lithe lianas coil…” Dorethea Mackellar (My Country)

What is a forest? Imagination,  creativity,  abundance,  sights, smells, textures, sounds.

What is a forest? Refuge,  safety, balance,  peace, alert, serendipity,  sensual.

“All the birds and insects keep, Where the coolest shadows sleep ..” Charles Harpur (A Mid-summer Noon in the Australian Forest)

What is a forest? Inspiration,  moments,  delight, fear, alive.

What is a forest? Home

“The drumming of an army, The steady soaking rain.” Dorethea Mackellar (My Country)

It’s International Day of Forests today. I can’t help but feel both invigorated and sad. These pockets of sublime nature deserve to be celebrated.

They offer so much. Sadly, these offers are not heard by many.

There is hope… There is research… There is a trickle of change… hopefully by this time next year, there will be more hope, more research,  a trickle progressing towards flood.

“These are the haunts we love, Glad with enchanted hours, Bright as the heavens above, Fresh as the wild bush flowers.” James Lister Cuthbertson (The Bush)

Until then I will keep caring for my own patch of regenerating forest.  I will weed out invasive exotic plants, discourage feral pests, nurture the native understorey and encourage biodiversity. 

I will continue to work as a citizen scientist,  contributing to the body of research,  ensuring it continues.

I will enjoy the forests I spend time in and I will spread the word…

From “Solitude” by Henry Parkes

Wishing you trickles and floods of positive change,

janegrowsgardenrooms

Interested in a tour of my own bush regeneration project? Watch it here