Phyllis Fancy & Bambi Burgers.
Bambi Burgers and Phyllis Fancy are the attention grabbing headers I’ve got for you this month. Let us begin.
Back in the late 1950’s, my father would sometimes take my mother and me to the greyhound races at Eaglehawk as a Saturday night treat. The truth was that dad liked a flutter as they used to say; in other words, he liked to have an occasional bet. It’s what Australian men did in those days and being a migrant, he thought it helped him to ‘fit in’ at work. Dad studied the form guide while mum placed her small bets on dogs she liked the names of.
I’m telling you this because the name of an important plant in my garden instantly triggers memories of my mother’s happy preoccupation with names and I’m certain that if there had been a dog (even if it only had three legs) called Phyllis Fancy, she would have put her shilling each way on it. I should also mention that more often than not, at the end of the evening, mother’s winnings tally in wins and places was ahead of dad’s although his actual winnings (or losses) might be greater because of his bigger layout of cash.
But my Phyllis Fancy is a respectable member of the Salvia family that numbers some nine hundred varieties and includes the Common Sage salvia officinialis. So why is Phyllis so important to me? It provides an all-day spectacle of Eastern Spinebill and other honeyeater feeding activity.
Long gone are the large and extensive gardens of my earlier life where different garden spaces nestled among trees and shrubs in a mostly tangled semi-Edna Walling reminiscence.
The tiny plot in front of our unit offers a much more restricted canvas. No longer do I buy plants on a whim knowing there will always be room for a new family member. (Yes, I must sneak back one day and look at that last addition to the edge of the north copse – the beautiful but uncommon Spindleberry Euonymus europaeus. Fast growing, it is an attractive shrub in autumn when the leaves turn bright red and contrast with the strange pink 4-lobed fruits, which split partially open to reveal bright orange seeds. Ideally, it is best seen in an English hedgerow in a heavy morning frost or snow cover.)
These days, my priority for garden plants is that they supply food and habitat for native birds. Plantings have included: (Australian plants) – shrubs – grevillea, eremophila, anigozanthos (Kangaroo Paw), correa, myoporum, callistemon, Australian native hibiscus (so many to choose from), brachysema celsianum (Swan River Pea), Eriostemon – philotheca myoporoides, (ground cover) – viola bederacea (native violet) and dampiera diversifolia (for rockeries). Non-native plants that benefit birds and butterflies include: salvias, abutilon (standard and dwarf), buddleia davidii (the butterfly attracter).
Two local plants that we grow are the Black-Anther Flax-lily – dianella admixta with its elegant blue flowers followed later by shiny berries, and, hakea decurrens or Bushy Needlewood. This last shrub is currently in flower on Mount Tarrangower. It is the preferred nesting place for Fairy Wrens and other birds because of the safety provided by the needle-like leaves.
Finally, simply for our sensory benefit, two perfumed plants, chimonanthus praecox – called variously Allspice or Wintersweet (flowers in winter) and jasminum polyanthum or Jasmine.
Mention must be made of the beautiful Eastern Spinebill. Put that into Google and then click on Images at the top of the page. You will see what we see up close at our kitchen window for the most of each day thanks to Phyllis Fancy.
Yes, we know you might shudder at the name but I couldn’t help myself when I heard that the shooting laws have been changed to make it easier for licensed hunters to shoot deer in Victoria. I have not checked the details but it seems that the expansion of deer numbers throughout the State has become a problem already and will be a bigger problem in the future.
I spoke recently to a local hunter who had just brought home and cooked his first local venison. When I asked for cooking tips he said that everything one needs to know about cooking venison is available from the Internet.
After thinking about it for all of thirty seconds, I realized that here was yet another great opportunity to bring visitors to the region for a gourmet experience. We might not have found answers to what to do with the Wheel Cactus that threatens our local Grey Box forest and no one yet seems keen to serve up Carp & Chips even though we have an unlimited source of carp overrunning the reservoir and the river. But locally grown wines and freshly butchered deer (from our local butcher perhaps?), together, just might make it. It certainly sounds more environmentally friendly than local factory grown chooks.
Bambi was made famous by the Walt Disney movie. The original story, ‘Bambi A life in the Woods’ is a novel written by Felix Salten and published in Austria in 1923. The original species of deer was a Roe Deer, the native deer of Europe. The film used drawings of the American White Tailed deer. Our local British import is the Fallow Deer. Thought you would like to know.
Country Notebook articles are written by Richard Lee for his monthly newspaper column of the same name.