Thursday, December 24, 2009

Firewheel: No need to trim this tree

A scarlet Poincianna starts our summer cycle and the Illawarra Flame tree follows suit – then our native Firewheel lights up the landscape in mid/late December. Three in a row. The Firewheel (Stenocarpus sinuatus) is Queensland's robust rainforest tree. Magical. It manages to bloom right on cue for Christmas and flames in New Year. At least, that's the cycle here, Down Under. A member of the Protea family it's our way of sending Season's Greetings from Cooroy Gardens. Happy holidays, and may all your Christmases grow green.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Wood ducks waiting for rain

Wood ducks waiting for rain, originally uploaded by maxful.
The next four days are predicted wet. Storms. Hail. Flash flooding. I'll accept anything after the longest five month dry period on record. Thank the lord, our property has town water. So many friends paying to cart water. Can't wait for the sound of rain on the iron roof.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

vale Barney Greer

We lost a good friend and very talented man today. Miss you Barney.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Those showy Vandas are at it again

A forest of Vanda orchids once flourished in Noosa's hinterland as part of a commercial cut flower business. Gone but not forgotten. Queensland's Sunshine Coast is perfect for growing Vandas. They fly free as a flutter of colourful butterflies with sunlit days, and cool evening breezes.

Taking cuttings from the old dismantled nursery we transported cascades of the unnamed stock on to recycled bridge timbers located back of our orchid igloo in Cooroy Gardens. They stand tall against a commanding backdrop of rainforest trees lining the creek that circles three sides of the property.

With minimum fuss and very little hand watering our 'orphans' have flowered brilliantly in a rather dry summer season. Perhaps lacking the lustre of the pampered named varieties inside the orchid igloo, these guys actually promote more blossom as they struggle their roots into the cracks of the upright old bridge timbers.

Air flow is important to these old Asian imports. But how will they cope with the rising temperatures of climate change? For that matter, how will we?

Click in to see the full gallery of our Vandas growing wild.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

In ancient China the orchid represented loyalty’. Probably still does. And this nobile (type) Dendrobium orchid has been ‘loyally’ flowering every spring for three or four years now. Perched high in the fork of a Melaleuca paperbark tree it has survived drought, flood, summer, winter, and a host of other setbacks to continue on every spring with a burst of virginal white blossom. Such a sweet orchid. It is the 'alba' form of the more flamboyant magenta Dendrobium nobile which famously flowers right across India, Assam, the Himalayas, Burma, through Thailand, and on to Vietnam. No self respecting Australian garden is complete without its piece of exotic Dendrobium nobile. So too most temperate-to-tropical gardens of the world. Sure. I've seen them flower bigger and better than this little guy – but you have to admire those who live on struggle street and still manage to come up smiling.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Big Bird at Noosa.

It's spring. It's all sunshine and good times. We're expecting a bumper season. Come on over to play.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Queensland is certainly the place to watch orchids grow. The small pot of Sydney Rock Orchids we brought north from the Darlinghurst garden has really hit its stride this season. Northerners known these as King Orchids, but it's all in the family, Dendrobium speciosum, Australian native. Scientific detectives recently reclassified the species as Thelychiton speciosus but let's choose to give this a miss. The same bureaucrats will no doubt relabel everything again before too many moons have passed.

A wonderful perfume to these 'Kingys' (can't believe I used that term). Too bad the pollen in the air is causing 'spring sneeze'. I weep every time I pass the boisterous array as they dwarf the eight ton reticulating rock in the orchid igloo. Ah well, it will all be over in a matter of weeks. They only bloom for about a month around August.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Well Zazzle me!

Decided to put my toe in the water and try some of my orchid art on T shirts. Googled and set up one of my favourite orchids (Laelia tenebrosa) the national flower of Brazil. Available in a range of colours but white seemed right to me. Suits Latino. But if you are pale and freckled it might be a good idea to have second thoughts.

Lo and behold – a sale straight up. Most encouraging. The shape of things to come? Orchid art looks like a go. But first to sell the property, downsize, and then get really stuck into marketing orchids. Way to go!

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Brisbane Ekka revisited

Big beef and broad brims still the order of the day, To watch the fat cattle parade for prizes you are inclined to think all's right in the world. Great, healthy, hulking beasts trundle past one upon the other as you wonder if there ever was drought. Why does Queensland seem to come out tops when it comes to show/grow food, agriculture, and happy kids. Must be the climate. There is nothing like the Brisbane Exhibition (Ekka) to get the pulses racing. Shonk and sensational side-by-side. Flash-n-trash and everyone in fun. Mind you, this is the last Ekka as we know it. Revamp for next year. I worry that bureaucrats and the electronic age will meet mid stream and bugger the works. The flowers were screwed up. And Dagwood Dogs had thin runny tomato sauce. Chips were ok though. Hmmmmm.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

have a nice day

This could be one of the best days in my life. One of those balmy winter days Queenslanders love to brag about (but don't get to experience all THAT often). Sun shining, sister Gem is holidaying further along the coast, Seyen is chasing orchids in Singapore and tulips in Amsterdam. I'm batching. Garden slightly neglected. Too much for one person.

Feed the wildlife, run the dog, put on a load of washing, water the orchid igloo, pick some oranges and lemonades. And acres of stuff loading up into the internet. New illustrations. We're helping our Tai Chi instructor Ian Cameron set up his colourful blog pages and a new photographc format. Pooch is lazing in the sun so all's well in doggiedom to boot.

Nought but bad news on television. Uninspiring articles in the dailies. Skip that. Maybe I am hyperventilating. A touch of ADHD no doubt. Illustrating orchids. Uploading till all hours. Night turns into day. And now to collect that washing drying on the Hills hoist.

Just wanted to wish you well and hope your day shines bright.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

200 platters of Duck a l'Orange

It's like wild duck farming since a few hundred Whistling Ducks invaded Lake Leaky. They've pushed out the Australian Wood Ducks and are giving our lovely Pacific Black Ducks a run for their money. The plump Black Ducks are a family that nest on our section of Cooroy Creek.

Hell. As prettily plumed they may be, it is time for those boney Whistler marauders to clear the property. I have a plan.

The previous blog offering free citrus fruit from the mini orchard met with resounding success. Only a couple of late-fruiting orange trees to go. Well, with chefs galore down Noosa Beach way we may yet come up with a plan to serve massive amounts of Duck in Orange Sauce to round out Noosa's Longweekend (a 10-day festival of arts culture, food and fashion). Fun and games for the once-were rich and famous. Times are tough. But not as tough as these pesky Whistlers. They perch roof and tree top. Have even been known to caca on the old ute.

Then again a turkey dinner might be the go. There is already a story about gay turkeys if you would care to check the blog archive tucked away in the right hand column.

it seems OK to farm fish. I wonder about wild ducks and brush turkeys. You may already have thoughts on the matter. Don't be afraid to speak out. Twitter me at if that's your thing.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

four weddings and a jar of marmalade

Anticipating the whiff of orange blossom and scented orchids as the come-on for weddings and special events, we planted a small citrus orchard beside the orchid igloo.

Our beautiful gardens are intended to pay their own way. And they do in one sense. Peace and calm. Song birds. But what to do with a ton of ripening fruit when the season is full on. Orange navels, ruby grapefruit, Indian lime, Lisbon lemon, and new fangled lemonade. Add in mandarin and blood orange with Buddha's Hand, a pomelo, and native finger limes for good measure. WHAT? to do with the overload of fruit. Most everyone in the district has their own trees.

"Jam. Jam. Make jam," Do I hear you say, "Jam!". We could bottle and label it and give it to wedding guests as a take home memento. Branding at its best. Now there's an idea. Even design special labels. Fruity Affair Marmalade. Just where did we file grandma's old recipes. Oh well, on to the net.

There were 803,000 hits when I Googled 'marmalade jam'. All remarkably the same. "Take two grapefruit; four cups granulated sugar ..." Two to four? Wh-a-a-a-t! 250 grapefruit to 500 cups of sugar! Five hundred cups! Talk about a sugar rush. And we're warned that fizzy drinks are fattening.

'A fruity affair' was fast becoming a fattening affair. Naughty ol' grandma. Also, I'm not that into long engagements and crowded wedding receptions. More a straight party person, that's me. End of jam making. Currently giving away buckets of oranges and recyclable bagsful of pink grapefruit. Come on over while the season lasts.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Bottoms UP! Blooming Stanhopea

Now here’s an orchid that could make a maiden blush! The zany subtropical Stanhopea dangles great clusters of blossom from its nether regions, down below the pseudo bulbs and large leafy foliage.

What first seems like a goofy quirk of nature turns out to be one of the magnificent miracles of the plant world. Overwhelming, viewed from Down Under.

It must be marvellous to happen upon these dizzying apparitions in the jungles of South America – where jungle still remains. Reports of pillage and slash-and-burn operations set off alarm bells. That many wild orchids now exist only through the good graces of botanic gardens and dedicated growers is hardly tribute to man’s passage through the kingdom of plants. Therefore it is important to keep a positive picture of these alluring plants swaying in tropical jungle atmosphere when you set about growing them.

Stanhopeas must never be housed in solid-sided pots (how would the flowers break through the terracotta?) and are best grown in wire baskets and viewed hanging high in your garden or fernhouse. Joy of joys, stanhopeas bloom late in the season after most else has given up the ghost. Late spring into early summer, the sturdy stanhopea keeps popping away. And I do mean ‘pop’.

Here are some varieties that grow easily in temperate outdoor conditions. Happy hunting! Stanhopea nigroviolacea, this fellow seems all-male to me. Big, robust, easy growing. Stanhopea inodora, my favourite, this ice green beauty is a hardy grower, but with a delicate countenance. Stanhopea reichenbachiana, porcelain white and spicy sweet perfumed, Stanhopea wardii, a sunny yellow deckled with tiny purplish flecks. Stanhopea graveolens, cool growing (bush houses, glass houses, shaded patios, garden balconies protected from the wind), this golden beauty hails from Mexico and Honduras. ‘Bottoms up!’ and follow the storylines with Friend Connect (top right) or click in to visit my Stanhopea stories for more orchid growing tips.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

visit MaX's home base
all about orchids, entertaining ways, tips for avoiding tourist traps. The highways and byways of Asia, the Pacific, and Down Under. Burma. Outback Aus. China diaries. Pathways to the orchids.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

drawing orchids with a mouse

and here's the finished result

If you can make a
simple line drawing you can start illustrating orchids on the desktop. It takes a certain amount of concentration to coordinate what your eye sees on the screen to what your hand (and mind) do with the mouse but, promise, it does all come together. "Practice makes perfect." Who said that! Notice I added a couple of budding flowers to make a better composition. You may choose to use the recently invented drawing block but, artist from way back, I converted to desktop when only the mouse was alive and well.
Use the pencil tool rather than the brush from the Adobe Illustrator tool selection, and the colour/swatch charts to add the yellows. I tend to mix my own colours in CMYK (Cyan, Magenta, Yellow, and K [denotes] Black). This makes magazine production managers and fine-art printers happy and keeps colour true-to-the-orchid. It is a simple matter to switch to RGB (Red, Green, Blue – the colour system for internet) when the artwork is completed.

Next come the leaves and stems (orchid growers refer to them as pseudobulbs). Pencil in first. Find a few greens and grey/browns you like from the palette and complete the leaf section. Paste it behind the orchid. One step at a time gets you there. And, remember the old adage, 'learn by doing' - it's my bible.

and here's the finished result

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Greenwashing the globe. Roll wagons!

Giant red trolleys have mysteriously invaded our district and are being bred in a local supermarket. These 'Big Reds' are a part of a tricky greenwashing con.

How do I know this? Well greenwashing describes the action of charlatans and cheats who 'whitewash' or 'green sheen' their products as environmentally safe and sound. Green sheen companies, traditionally the largest polluters, fib with packs and promotions that signal environmentally friendly images. Grocery store and food chain porkies are way up there with the best of them.

"Where did you get the wagons? And why red?"

"They're biodegradable dear. Biodegradable. You obviously don't shop in big cities. They're everywhere."

Well trained in greenwashing, the aging checkout chick is already a stalwart defender of what has become the district eyesore. About the size of a motor cycle with sidecar, the wagons are bigger than the shoppers who trundle them up and down food aisles.

Giant reds, higgledy piggledy along main street. Push comes to shove down supermarket alleyways. Watch it! Here's one double parked near the wheaties. Road rage as two overtake in food aisles built for slower and gentler times.

Eco-friendly? Biodegradable, indeed! I try one more time.

"But why vicious red?"

"Because we already sell green eco-friendly carry bags. "

It seems pointless to argue that the green bags are also plastic.

Cull kangaroos? I don't think so. Let's start with everything labelled biodegradable and eco-friendly. Shoot the lot. Really come clean. Except some wiseacre will doubtless invent another name for that as well. And the world turns again.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Meet two orchid ladies

Far and away in a land Down Under two pretty ladies live in a garden of orchids. One wakes the orchids in the morning, the other puts them to sleep at night.

This permits yours truly to spend happy hours writing at the computer and illustrating exotica on the desktop. The ladies save my bacon because if it was left entirely to me, the poor orchids would not fair that well. I am inclined to leave people and plants to their own devices when the writing bug really hits. Once in the orchid house the reverse applies. It's easy to lose an hour, a week - a lifetime! in the company of seductive
orchis - among the oldest flowering plants on earth.

It's difficult to describe why someone would leave the big smoke after 40 years and go careering back into the tropics just to see his orchids growing in more natural surroundings. The Mac does have a lot to do with it. You are never out of the cycle when the old Apple is ticking away. And nature supplies a never-ending array of subjects for the art files and photo galleries.

Winter does takes its toll. But spring starts the pulses racing and by mid summer (Christmas/New Year in our neck of the woods) the Vandas are up and running as you can see in the shot above. Old bridge timbers stand upright on the edge of a creek gully fronting what remains of a rain forest we are encouraging back to life. I know, I know. Vandas are not indigenous to the area. But don't tell the orchids and no one will be a penny the wiser.
Meantime, please enjoy what's on site.

ps. The orchid umbrella in the pic came from the AOS (American Orchid Society) gift catalogue. We encourage you to join. Their magazine ORCHIDS is a gold mine of storyline and splendid photography. MaX

Gay turkeys

A pair of young male bush turkeys has moved into our garden. They're causing havoc and hiding somewhere down in the gully by Cooroy Creek. The bane of my life because these guys are a protected species and nought can be done to stop their trot.

They breed like rabbits and when one takes up residence, others follow. You can't even catch them in a cat trap and cart them off 10k to an adjoining property – like I said, they're protected. Turkeys always find their way home to the nest. First a dominant male sets up house. Then one, two, three hens follow. A few young males can also stick around to help build the huge nest. thus a commune moves in. Scavenging and rummaging left, right, and centre.

I photographed this current pair but the shot was not up to scratch so decided to draw them on the Mac using the mouse. Here's the result. My sister points out the fact that they are both males. Gay turkeys! What next.

footnote: An average clutch of eggs numbers up to 24 large white eggs, laid September/March. As many as 50 eggs laid by several females may be found in a single mound. Newly hatched chicks dig themselves out of the mound and then look after themselves. Brush-turkey eggs are a favourite food of goannas, snakes, dingoes and dogs and once were staple Aboriginal bush tucker. Goannas often exhibit wounds on their tails –having been pecked by Brush-turkeys who ferociously chase them away from their nests.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Orchids and Anger Management

Whenever I am about to blow a fuse the orchid igloo is the place to head. Watching things grow tends to ease the pace of everyday living.

Orchids are easy things to love and it saddens me to hear them thought of only as status symbols. Worse. The habit of growing plants to merely win show prizes simply amazes. There must be better ways for the public to go see orchids other than packed into badly lit community halls.

Flash! Click! Flash! Lights pop as folk take gad-awful shots of spectacular blossoms. The shots then turn up on the net giving NO idea of the nature of the flower. Hate camera flash. And never use it. Natural light, hand held cameras for me.

Capturing orchids in the right light means early up. Soft light. No bleached out white highlights. No doomsday black shadows. Just lovely soft middle spectrum colour. You're out there before sparrow thingo, of course. And best put the camera away before 9 am in Australia's harsh light. Orchids love warmth and light, but avoid sunburn like the plague. Like people really. Test-and-wait, test-and-wait until the morning light hits perfectly. The gorgeous flower is yours forever.

Massed displays at the Singapore airport are legend, of course. And a morning spent among the orchids in Singapore's Botanic Gardens can sweep away jet lag and travel tension. Time well spent. But back home, it's the old orchid igloo that saves my day.

Mine are pretty much an eclectic lot. Mainly vanda and dendrobium. Epiphytes (air growing) plants that cling to rocks and trees. Massed display is not my thing, rather preferring to have something flowering at different times of the seasons. You may care to see a few samples. Click here and let me know what you think of soft light, no flash photography.

And remember. Orchids and orchid growers are really nice people. But best not approach too close on show days. Exhibitors too stretched out, they're in real need of anger management.

Is heaven helping gurus?

Maybe advice-at-a-price folk get it too easy. Fancy paying a thousand dollars to hear some guy tell us what is staring us in the face. Deep down we already know how to balance the books. Stay in. Eat cheap. Learn "NO!" and in heaven's name stop smokin', drinkin', and payin' for info from get-rich-quick gurus

Penny saved : penny earned (old Western adage) is my get-up-and-go. For information and entertainment let's stick with the cost-less and paperless pastimes of the internet. It gets my goat to see pennies from heaven falling into hands of old hat talk-festers whose meet-and-greet style harks back to the 50s. Conference venues and paid seminars are full of past presidents trying to make a fast buck.

The exception to the rule is TED.

I found TED (stands for Technology, Entertainment, Design) through a love of Burma and Amy Tan's fascinating book Saving Fish from Drowning. Googled the author's name and came upon her entertaining and informative speech produced for, well, TED. And there were droves of others. Speakers, that is. Fabulous subjects. Fresh approaches. Free for the taking.

Now. In case you think I'm astroturfing (PRing a flood of artificial blog buzz that's all wind and no skin) forget it. This is real stars-in-my-eye stuff. City born and happy living green scene, there's little time, patience, and wacky hotel charges for attending big city talkfests. Lately it's Stay in. Eat cheap. Hunt through TED. The creative subject matter is what pulls me in. Maybe there's something to catch your attention also. Google TED and let me know.

And may the ancient and assumed Chinese curse to "live in interesting times" better translate as a current blogger's muse –

find out what works for you