Saturday, February 13, 2016

Sunflowers and Corellas

A year or so ago a local real estate company handed out little packets of sunflower seeds as part of a promotion - and no, I have no idea why someone selling houses would want to give out flower seeds to encourage you to sell your house. Still, since I had the seeds and have a soft spot for sunflowers which must be one of the most cheery of flowers, I planted them in the sandy wasteland behind the vegetable garden that is the result of installing a new fence.

I didn't expect much. The area is mostly yellow sand and I haven't yet done much as far as building up its fertility is concerned although I did dig in a little bit of compost. This is nowhere near what I would usually do before planting something because when you have sandy soil like we do, mulching and lots of organic manure is mandatory if you want to grow pretty much anything. I did water occasionally but that was pretty much it.

Much to my surprise they started to come up and eventually, from around thirty seeds, I had about a dozen healthy looking seedlings. So I made sure they had a drink every day and gave them a couple of sprays with liquid fertiliser during the three months they were growing - you're supposed to do it every fortnight but I wasn't feeling that enthusiastic - and most of them grew.

They're now around 2 metres high and have been in glorious flower. Their bright saucer shaped flowers are reputed to follow the sun but these don't seem to have got that memo. They have been fixed on the east for some reason but that's fine because we can still enjoy them. I've been watching them carefully because I wanted to collect some seeds and have been wondering whether I should put some sort of cover over them to make sure I didn't lose any as they ripened and also because of these.

                                          Photo by Dorathy Duperouzel

They are pink and grey galahs which live in the trees around here. They are small, friendly, chatty cockatoos (very popular as pets although I prefer to see them flying free) and, like all their kind, they are inordinately fond of sunflower seeds.

Turns out, though, that I was worrying about the wrong cockatoos because this morning when I went out to the garden I was greeted by screeches and fluttering of white wings. A pair of corellas had found the sunflowers and were feasting - and very unwilling to leave. I'm not sure which species of corella because I couldn't get a very clear look but I suspect they were little corellas. These are not native to Western Australia but they and other corellas endemic to the eastern part of Australia have been moving into the Perth metropolitan area in increasingly large numbers. They are presumed to be the descendants of aviary escapes and, because they are flocking birds and opportunistic feeders, are responsible for a lot of damage. They may also form a significant threat to local species as they can interbreed and also compete for nesting spaces.

Well, they won't get the rest of my sunflower seeds. The dead heads are now resting upside down in a container. I'll collect the seeds and plant again next year - although if I'm to have any hope of harvesting seeds then - sunflowers seeds are yummy human food, too - I'll have to find a way of caging them away from marauders, won't I.

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