passive solar house

As summer rolls around again, my house heats up and I wish I lived somewhere else. Fortuitously, I have plans to do just that!

too hot for cats

The Back Paddock behind my house will be no more. I’m building a small (3×1) passive solar, energy efficient house. If you’re new here, the Back Paddock is the empty lot adjoining my house.

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prickly garden plants

In bushland areas prickly plants provide shelter and protection for insects and small birds. I found this bird nest on Hakea ruscifolia. The birds had already left but the nest was protected by the prickly leaves even though it was close to the ground.

bird nest in Hakea ruscifolia

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digging a new garden bed

Every winter I plant everlasting daisies (Rhodanthe chlorocephala subsp. rosea) for their pretty pink and white flowers in spring. My dad helps me dig out a patch of the weeds in the vacant block behind my house and we plant seedlings. This year I thought I’d deal with the patch of weeds once and for all and I added lawn edging around the strip we dug over. I will have to hand weed as seeds I don’t want pop up, but the really difficult grass runners should be kept at bay.

the grass and weeds before digging

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Albany Woolly Bush

So many people search for my post about the Woolly Bush hedge in my garden that I’ve compiled all the information you need to grow your own Woolly Bush hedge.

Albany Woolly Bush in its natural habitat at Albany

The Albany Woolly Bush (Adenanthos sericeus) is endemic to the south of WA around Albany and Esperance. It grows well in gardens and due to its tall, thick growth habit it’s particularly useful as a screening plant, whether you want to prune it into a hedge or grow a row of them. There are a few species of Woolly Bush but Albany Woolly Bush is the prettiest, it’s widely available in nurseries and requires little maintenance (if you have the space, pruning is not essential).

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everlasting fields

everlasting daisies last springEverlasting daisies (Rhodanthe chlorocephala subsp. rosea) provide beautiful spring colour in the garden and I plant them every year in June. I’ve had more success starting the seeds in seedling trays and then transplanting the young plants because snails love to devour them. Every year I let the flowers go to seed and they fall into the leaf litter, ready to pop up the following winter. This year there are so many plants growing before June has even started. I’m looking forward to fields of pink and white come spring.

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Growing a Woolly Bush Hedge

Update: please see this comprehensive post about growing Albany Woolly Bush.

woolly bush hedge then and now

I’ve been asked for an update on the woolly bush hedge I planted behind my house. The back of my house faces west, very bad in terms of passive solar design, because when the back verandah was enclosed, some clever person put in a wall of windows. Every summer afternoon my back room bakes, lightly toasting the rest of the house. It’s a nice place to pass a sunny winter afternoon, but for half the year my house is unpleasantly hot. A hedge of locally endemic plants was my solution.

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A Shady Hedge

Update: please see this comprehensive post about growing Albany Woolly Bush.

My house wasn’t sustainably designed. It faces east west, which you want to avoid when designing with passive solar principles in mind. The back of my house was once a verandah, but whoever enclosed it didn’t bring their brain to work that day. Glass walls facing west aren’t a good idea. Every summer afternoon my back room bakes, lightly toasting the rest of the house. It’s a nice place to pass the time on a sunny winter afternoon, but during summer the blinds are permanently closed and still my house cooks.

newly planted row of woolly bushes

The solution was a hedge of woolly bushes, not against the windows, but against the back fence a couple of metres from the house. Although I should have done this five years ago, a hedge is now growing to shade my wall of windows. It’s not quite hedge-like at the moment, more a row of foot high plants, but in a few years it’ll be up to 4m high and in need of regular pruning into the hedgely shape I desire.

fully grown woolly bush hedge in my neighbourhood

There is a problem with woolly bushes – their shallow root systems. My friends at Nuts about Natives have a planting of Albany woolly bushes which are all about 4m high and last winter one was uprooted in a high wind. It didn’t cause any damage because it landed among its neighbours. In the last weekend of June this winter the very high winds caused a lot of damage in Perth. The gusts of up to 72km/h uprooted two of a neighbour’s pencil pines which knocked down part of his fence. I hope this doesn’t happen with any of the woolly bushes as my new hedge grows. During the winds of that weekend my tuart was severely buffeted but the flexibility of its young trunk meant it survived without damage. As it grows taller it’s more likely to lose branches and cause damage, but I hope this won’t happen. The tuarts and other gum trees (particularly illyarrie) in the park where I walk Sheeba the dog lost a few branches that weekend.

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A pond in the garden

pond with native plants

After much digging and shovelling and ripping out lawn, I have less lawn, more garden for native plants and a pond which one day might attract frogs.

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Christmas in the Garden

Update 19/11/16: more recent photos of Nuytsia floribunda

Last Christmas I blogged about the WA Christmas tree (Nuytsia floribunda), which grows its own beautiful orange decorations. People are searching and finding this post as Christmas approaches, so I thought I’d add a few more photos of my favourite Christmas tree.

nuytsia and red flowering gum

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My Native Garden

Sheeba inspecting the new plants

After planning my new native garden, it’s actually happened. I got the plants from my friends at Nuts about Natives and the new arrivals are now planted and growing for the birds and insects to enjoy. Most of them are native to Perth around the area I live.

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