Roses, Bugs and Blue Wrens

A packed house attended FOBIF’s AGM last Monday to hear Cassia Read’s talk ‘Gardening the Goldfields: you can have your roses and Blue Wrens too?’

Cassia giving her talk. Photo Asha Bannon

A major theme in the info-packed talk was to present the garden as part of the wider environment, as well as an island in it. Of course, gardens meet the aesthetic, practical and emotional needs of the resident-gardener—but they also can provide food, shelter, water and habitat for local native wildlife. Cassia encouraged listeners to see their gardens as links in the neighbourhood to other gardens and to local bushland, critical stopping points for mixed-flocks of bushland birds, that forage across the local urban landscape.

Insects, bugs, and creeping things get a bad press generally, but they were heroes in this vision, signs and sources of health in the garden. Above all, the talk was not prescriptive: Cassia urged gardeners to open mindedly observe what was happening in the garden, to be prepared to try things, to look around the neighbourhood to see how their gardens could complement others.

One of the photos in Cassia’s talk: Julie Hurley’s fledgling garden.

We’re hoping Cassia’s talk will be a preview of a Gardening the Goldfields book FOBIF is looking to publish in…the near future.

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Last FOBIF walk for 2023

On Sunday Frances Cincotta led a large group on a short walk in the Fryers Range State Forest. Despite being cold it turned out to be good walking weather and the rain held off. The spring wildflower display was terrific and walkers loved the fascinating plant commentary by Frances during the approximately two hour hours that it took to complete the 2.7 km loop. She sent us this summary.

A good selection of native peas were in flower:  Common Wedge-pea (blue-grey buds and yellow flowers), and four of the so-called “bacon and eggs” species that have red and yellow within each flower: Dwarf Bush-pea, Matted Bush-pea, Showy Parrot-pea and Grey Parrot-pea.

We sorted out the differences between Hibbertia and Goodenia which both have yellow 5-petaled flowers but in Hibbertia the 5 petals are equally spaced while in Goodenia they are arranged ‘2 up 3 down’ (hence a Goodenia flower has only one axis of symmetry while a Hibbertia flower has many).  We also came up with a mnemonic device for the sepals: H for Hibbertia and H for Hasn’t got sepals attached to backs of petals and G for Goodenia and G for Got sepals ‘Glued’ to backs of petals.

Flowering in the shrub layer were Daphne Heath, Heath Tea-tree and Fairy Wax-flower (all with white flowers), Downy Grevilleas (red flowers), and Rough Mint-bush (purple flowers), all in abundance.

Five types of everlasting daisy were in bloom: Hoary Sunray, and White, Grey, Sticky and Clustered Everlastings. Many of them adorned with “Cuckoo’s spit”. The bubbly foam is produced by the insect sheltering inside which is a  juvenile (or nymph) frog hopper also known as Spittlebugs. (See Liz Martin’s first photo below.)

We saw only a few Chocolate Lilies out in flower, one Bulbine Lily, one Yam Daisy/Myrnong, some Wax-lip Orchids and some Milkmaids out in flower. These wildflower were notably fewer in number and not as tall as seen in years with plenty of rain in the middle of the year. There was quite a variety of eucalypts on the loop walk, but the only species noted in flower was Red Box.

Our thanks to Frances for leading the walk and to Christine Henderson for letting us know about this wonderful corner of the Fryers Forest.

Once again Noel Young has compiled comprehensive field notes which include 17 bird species recognised by calls and 28 flowering plants. Photos below are by Liz Martin. 

Our next walk will be in March 2024. The 2024 walk program will be posted on this site in January. 

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FOBIF committee 2023-4

At the AGM the following members were elected unopposed to the FOBIF committee for the upcoming year:

President: Marie Jones; Vice President: Neville Cooper; Secretary: Bernard Slattery; Treasurer: Lynette Amaterstein; Committee members: Asha Bannon, Frances Cincotta, Christine Henderson, Jeremy Holland, Cassia Read, Bronwyn Silver, Jo Matthews

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Don’t look away

Local papers have recently carried items warning the public that snakes are about. Yes, they are, and the advice offered is good: be careful in areas snakes might frequent, control pets in such areas, be aware of correct procedures in case of a  bite, and so on.

Wheeler Street Castlemaine, September 20: more than five million reptiles are killed on our roads annually.

One piece of advice often missing is: watch out on the road. As we’ve pointed out numerous times, snakes are far more often victims than  aggressors. So, here’s our annual advice: keep an eye out for reptiles when you’re driving. [More than five million reptiles are killed by cars every year: see our Post]

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A Floriferous Walk in the Fryers Ranges State Forest

This Sunday 15th October will be the last FOBIF walk for the year. It’s often quite warm for our October walk so we have planned a short walk of 2.7 km (with some steep sections).

People wanting to join the walk can meet to car pool leaving promptly at 9.30am from the front of the Castlemaine Community House 30 Templeton Street Castlemaine. Or for those living close to Taradale meet on the side of the road opposite the service station in Taradale also at 9.30am.  It’s a 20 minute drive from each gathering point to the start of the walk, midway between Taradale and Fryerstown.

Chrysocephalum baxteri (White Everlasting Daisy) Fryers Range State Forest, October 2018 by Frances Cincotta

On the loop walk we will see many native peas in flower, so bring along your copy of “Native Peas of the Mount Alexander Region” (or they will be available to buy on the day for $15). Other hightlights will be two of the rarer everlasting daisies of this district (Hoary Sunray and White Everlasting), and masses of purple-flowering Rough Mint-bush ovetopped by the white flowers Heath Tea-tree. There are still some orchids flowering including Wax-lips and Leopard Orchids.

As it is a short walk we will only have one stop for morning tea. No need to bring lunch.

Leader Frances Cincotta phone 0491 108 766

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FOBIF AGM: Monday 9 October 2023

The FOBIF AGM is on Monday 9th October not the 16th as was previously posted.

Cassia Read will be the guest speaker: The urban garden in Box Ironbark Country: Can you have your roses and fairywrens too?

You can find all the details for the event here.  

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FOBIF AGM: October 9, 2023

Our guest speaker at this year’s FOBIF Annual General Meeting will be Dr Cassia Read. Cassia is an ecologist, educator and garden designer, working at the intersection of biodiversity conservation and human wellbeing. She is Principal Ecologist and Co-Founder of the Castlemaine Institute and a FOBIF Committee member. She will be speaking on creating garden wildlife habitats.

Cassia in her Castlemaine garden

The urban garden in Box-Ironbark country: Can you have your roses and fairywrens too?

Whatever your gardening style you can nudge your garden in a wildlife friendly direction. By adding habitat elements and designing for alignment between your needs and the needs of wildlife, you can create a stunning landscape that supports the remarkable creatures of Box Ironbark Country. Whether you prefer formal or wild gardens, cottage gardens or bush-blocks, by realising the potential of your garden oases you can be part of creating neighbourhood networks that will support people and biodiversity in a changing climate. This talk will provide you with know-how and inspiration about creating wildlife habitat, whether you’re starting from scratch or adding to an existing garden.

There will be a short formal AGM at 7.30 followed by Cassia’s talk. Supper will be provided and everyone is welcome. If you wish to nominate for the FOBIF committee details can be found here. The meeting will be held in the Ray Bradfield Room,  Victory Park, Castlemaine, with access from the IGA carpark or Mostyn Street. 

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Best in the world?

A strong group rocked up for FOBIF’s September walk in the Fryers Ranges yesterday. The weather was ideal, and the Ridge put on a typically spectacular display of wattles, peas, heath and numerous other species—thirty plus species in flower, by some counts. Highlights were displays of massed Hakea in flower, Broad-Leafed Peppermints in abundant flower, and the rare Sporadic Wattle at the end of its flowering season. The Fryers Ridge has a good month of high quality flowering to go, so now’s the time to get out.

Christine Henderson led the group through a short and relaxed ramble which allowed Plenty of time for checking the details. It did, admittedly, end in an almost epic climb, but that’s the price you pay for wandering in the Fryers Forest, and all participants survived in more or less good shape.

Christine (right) amongst Sporadic Wattle. Photo Jenny Rolland

Our thanks to Christine for showing us a great corner of one of the region’s (and the world’s?) premier wildflower hotspots.

Photos below by Liz Martin.

Next month’s walk is also a wildflower loop in the Fryers Ranges led by Frances Cincotta. Check the website for details.

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Next Sunday’s FOBIF walk (17 September)

We’ll explore the flower gardens in the region of the Fryers Ranges main ridge. A gentle walk of about six km mainly on formed tracks. Plenty of time to photograph and appreciate the array of flowering shrubs and herbs in their spring glory.

We will meet as usual at 9.30 am at the Community House in Templeton Street or in the Taradale main street, opposite the Metro fuel station at 9.45 am. We will then drive in convoy to the main ridge. Car pooling will be necessary as parking space will be limited. For more information ring Christine Henderson 0417529 392. 

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Death on the race

Are we being melodramatic? Maybe. Check this out:

That’s a patch of Hardenbergia, on the side of the maintenance track on the Coliban main channel, south of the Fryers-Taradale road. There’s quite a lot of Hardenbergia on that stretch: in fact, we chose to highlight it in our notes for walk 13 in our 20 Bushwalks guide. There’s also quite a bit of Trailing Shaggy Pea, and Grevillea, and Grey Everlasting, and Bush-Pea. Most of it now looks like this:

Someone with a key to the locked gate has gone along the race, spraying these quite harmless plants, for reasons unknown. We’ve enquired of Coliban Water what might be the rationale for the spraying. They’re looking into it.

This is what Trailing Shaggy-pea looks like when it’s alive:

It flowers from November. There are impressive carpets of it in the area of the Coliban channel…but not along the track, now. We’ll report on the reasons for the current bleak look of the maintenance track when and if we find out.

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