Flowers of the Frozen North

Something new in the garden today: hazelnut flowers.  Our filberts have been in for about three years, and have produced a few catkins, but I’ve never seen these before.  They are very very tiny, though, so maybe they were there last year and I never noticed.

The miniscule red blooms are all on one tree – Ennis, “preferred variety for all markets”, Daleys boldly asserts.  Lucky Ennis.   “Hall’s Giant” sounds so much more magically productive but it’s mainly a pollinator, dangling those catkins.

Will we get some nuts this year?  It seems unlikely.  The raspberries, our little Stella cherry, three neglected high-chill apples, the Hayward kiwis, and the hazelnuts, all planted with foolish optimism. Okay, Sydney is subtropical and all these plants require a hundred plus chilling hours … that’s a hundred or maybe a hundred and fifty hours below 7 degrees C while in Sydney’s chilliest month, July, the average minimum is 8.1 degrees…. but we are at 200 metres elevation!  maybe we’re in a frost pocket! What about those chilly south-westerlies?

Our mighty leader, Anthony Abbott MP, confidently claims that “climate change is crap” so perhaps we are, as my hirsute medallion-wearing neighbour asserts, heading towards a Snowball Earth scenario: the Pacific Highway to Hornsby will be lined with snowpoles  and we will be skating, not taking the ferry, across Berowra Creek.  All my eccentric plant selections will be vindicated.

While I’m waiting for a glacier to form in the Sydney Basin, or at the very least for a small crop of hazelnuts, at the bottom of the garden the winter veggies are flowering.

The daikon is too tough to eat now, but the flowers are lovely and I’m planning to save the seeds.  The winter’s chinese greens are also in bloom.  The leaves are getting smaller, stringier and slightly bitter though I’ve still been picking them.  I’ve got a feeling these may be the mutant offspring of my favourite – red bok choi, an F1 hybrid.

The process of creating the F1s is like something from “Game of Thrones” – ten generations of in-breeding to produce a pure-blooded weaking, that is then matched with an inbred of a different tribe, to produce children with renewed vigour, sharing little with their spindly parents. These muscular cross-breeds are frustratingly incapable of passing on their all-conquering qualities to the next generation (an appropriately Machiavellian outcome that keeps gardeners in the thrall of the Plant Wizards of Monsanto). It’s kind of cool to save the seeds of the F1 hybrids not just to give the multinationals a crinkly mouth but also to see what sport comes up in the next generation.  And the next.  Who knows, perhaps eventually some robust throwback will thrive in the endless Winter?

Bok choi flowers

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