You say Spring, we say…Kambarang

By Andrea Whitely

Acacia in bloom by Andrea Whitely

Right now, in Perth, Western Australia we are experiencing an abundance of native flora exploding in stunning colour all around us.

We have Acacias in full bloom bursting forth like tiny suns of yellow blossom and Anigozanthos ‘Kangaroo Paws’ and teeny tiny orchids popping up through the bush. The carpets of Rhodanthe ‘Paper Daisies’ which were hot pink in September all over the state are fading to fields of white, now. Banksias are beginning to bloom, providing valuable sweet nectar for the tiny marsupials like Honey Possums (Tarsipes rostratus) and small birds who rely upon them as their key food source.

People are bike riding around the city with black cable ties sticking out of their helmets (compulsory here in Oz) in an effort to prevent being swooped my nesting Kulbardie birds (Magpies) and snakes and other reptiles emerging from their winter hibernation.

This is the season of Kambarang here in Western Australia, it is so called, in local Indigenous Nyoongar language, as the season of birth -it is our second spring, a transformational time of the year with warmer drier days, balmy evenings, still oceans and with that an abundance of flowers and follows Djilba-the season of conception, our “first spring” which is in August-September.

Over recent years, I find myself connecting with the land on which we live, more and more, gardening by the the seasonal descriptions offered by our first nations people and to be honest am gardening much more effectively because of that, whether growing native species or exotics.

Nyutsia floribunda West Australian Christmas Tree Image courtesy of Kings Park and Botanic Gardens

I am very much looking forward to seeing the Nyutsia, also known as the West Australian native Christmas tree in bloom in about a month or so, it’s a stunning gold flower display which bursts out of the grey bushland dotted through the landscape on the outskirts of our city and a little further north of Perth. The native Santalum acuminatum ‘Desert Quandong’ are fruiting right now (great for jam) and look like tiny red Christmas baubles hanging from the small tree. This fascinating tree is a hemiparasitic plant which needs the Acacia to survive and thrive.

It’s an exciting time of the year, the weather is warming, days are getting longer, our swimming pool is looking more inviting again and in my own garden which is punctuated by native Eucalyptus trees such as a large old Corymbia calophylla ‘Marri’ and her garden friend the Eucalyptus marginata ‘Jarrah’.

My roses (pruned in August), a collection of David Austins and Floribundas are about to bloom, I am super excited about the climbing ‘Pierre De Ronsard’ which I have pruned differently this year, following the online advice from the USA company Heirloom Roses and owner Ben Hanna. I can’t wait to see how well I watched and listened to his help, things are looking very promising so far.

Flowering perennials like my collection of colourful salvias, Verbena Bonariensis, Double cream Brugmansia, Hemerocallis lilioasphodelus Day Lilies, Gaura and many, maybe too many, Pelargoniums and true Geraniums are in bud too. My wisteria is flowering and she smells divine. Our Magnolias ‘Kay Parris’ have lost a lot of leaves this year to make room for new ones and are full of flower buds. I am planting some annual petunias in pots for Spring/Summer colour.

These past few weeks, I have adopted a more considered fertiliser regime, preparing the garden better for what I think might be a longer, hotter, drier summer. I can feel it in my waters. Our soil here is ancient grains of depleted-of-any-nutrients, gutless sand and that said, I am being generous, so I have added more organic matter with mature compost and what felt like was a small mountain of straw mulch and also applied a newish liquid seaweed fertiliser which is like a tonic for the soil, jam packed full of humates comprised largely of humic acid and fulvic acid. The soil in my garden has had more lovin’ than every before. Healthy Soil, healthy plants, right?!

In the vegetable patch, I have Blueberries (Sunshine Blue) in flower, Broccoli still coming on and lots and lost of Rainbow Chard and Silver Beet. I have planted my Basil, Heirloom tomatoes, Chillies, Snow Peas and plenty of herbs for cooking.

So, Happy Fall to you all, down here, it’s all about flowers and fragrance right now and I am just a little bit excited!

Briefly, the “C-word” COVID-19, here in Perth and Western Australia, we have used our title as the worlds most isolated city to our advantage and we have had no community transmission of the virus for 6 months and so life here for us is very weirdly and almost surrealistically pre-Covid-19. We don’t wear masks, we do sanitise our hands at every store and business but we definitely hug and we kiss when we greet our friends, as a “hugger” that’s an important thing for me. Some businesses are still having their staff work from home but restaurants and shops are open for trading, the only thing is we can’t leave our state. This has meant a boom for all of our country towns who have never seen more visitors, people are getting out and about (we call it wander out yonder) and we’re enjoying the incredible state that we live in rather than jumping on an airplane and heading off to Bali, which is something most West Australians tend to do because Bali and also Singapore are such close trips for us. Anyone travelling here must remain in either home or hotel quarantine for two weeks before they are allowed out into the community. So, our state is doing pretty well financially, largely due to the continued work of our mineral rich land and Iron Ore and Gold mines. Some businesses are still suffering badly like Travel Agents and Airlines for sure but on the whole we are well governed by stable politicians and life is good. The landscape and nursery industries are booming but we have a future problem looming that demand has outstripped supply for plant material so we will have to see how that pans out.

We have had to give up many freedoms in order to achieve a life like this and life is very hard for families who are separated but maybe our life here offers hope for the rest of the world that life living with Covid-19 can be OK.

“What in the world have you done?”

“What in the world have you done?”

“You’ve left social media? How will people find you?”

“Aren’t you going to miss important updates from your friends and family?”

These are just a few of the questions Dee Nash and I got when we decided to walk away from Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. We did a social media detox, and we did it in the middle of summer, in the middle of a pandemic, at a time when people were more physically isolated than ever before.

Like most journeys, leaving was not as easy as it looked. It required some preparation to ensure success. Right away, we faced doubters who didn’t think we could abstain from social media for even a day or two and were ready to tell us so. But there were others who watched us—we like to think with a bit of longing as we walked away— and asked for updates because they, too, had considered doing the same thing.  

Now, well over 60 days from the date we originally left, we are ready to tell the story of our journey away from social media and where we go from here. Did it affect our outreach as garden communicators? Did our podcast stats go down when we no longer promoted new episodes across social media? How many people took the time to read our blog posts which were no longer also tweeted out, Instagram storied, or Facebook Lived? What do we do instead to promote our work as garden communicators? Did we go back?

And, perhaps the most important question is, should you try it too? To help you answer all those questions, sign up for GardenComm’s upcoming webinar, An Easy Approach to Sensible Social Media Presence: How to Keep Social Media Platforms from Taking Over Your Life and Business scheduled for November 5, 2020 at 7 pm EST.  Dee and I will tell the tale of our journey and how we are keeping social media from taking over our lives and still staying in business as garden communicators.

Carol Michel is an author, blogger, gardener, and podcaster. You can visit her website at or email her at
Dee Nash is an author, blogger, gardener, podcaster, and garden coach. You can visit her website at or email her at

Ever Made a U-Turn for a Garden?

By Cris Blackstone

Bet so! How about made a u-turn when you saw the actual gardener? I had admired a particular small garden, lining the sidewalk from the driveway to the front door, of a house I drive by doing errands. It’s on a main street, where the road bends, so the fact the garden had so strongly caught my attention last autumn is more remarkable.  Year ‘round, two plywood 3’ tall penguins flank the steps to the front door, adding intrigue and whimsy. 

On a rare foray out of our home during the Stay-at-Home orders, I saw a person, sitting down, actively gardening. I made a U-turn, grabbed my mask and yelled out the window, “I just want to let you know how much I admired your garden all last autumn – the colors were so enthralling!” Her smile was as wide as the sidewalk from the driveway to the front door was long. “Hey, Hi, let me grab my mask,” she replied, grabbing her mask from a worn in basket.  We ended up talking about her color palette, (reds, oranges, yellows) and the textures the yarrow brought in which softened it all a bit. I left with several packets of zinnia seeds she saved, in carefully folded seed envelopes and labeled with her own names for the colors, since the seeds were originally gifted to her where she and her husband lived in Pennsylvania two or three houses ago.

Besides those seeds, I was reminded about how much I love alyssum – need to add it as a groundcover in an annoying area of my garden – and an Echinacea seedling she dug up for me as we spoke. Camera in hand, I also left with grasshopper photos on yarrow flowers.  Moreover, I got a real treat – meeting the actual gardener I had long wondered about, and made an authentic connection over gardening.  Something was glaringly missing from the conversation, though.  This gardener never once ever said a word of apology about the garden. She didn’t need to remind me that it was a “work in progress,” or share apologetically “this area sure needs a lot of work.” I could clearly see what was going on, where there was a trumpet vine that didn’t get pruned last fall, or a half-finished woven twig fence around a veggie garden. She didn’t ever steer me away from the places that had last year’s hanging baskets in a pile, not planted with dreamy, draping flowering vines this year. Those phrases and apologies were not necessary.  The authenticity I saw and felt from this gardener was so refreshing! Here’s wishing you a chance meeting with a gardener, and a revived appreciation of gardening with authenticity.