Monthly Archives: November 2012

#8 Grow an Unusual Plant

Unusual plants are in the eye of the beholder.

There’s a succulent from the agave genus known as the Century plant, said to flower once in a hundred years  – before dying.  In truth, it sometimes blooms as prolifically as every ten or twenty years but on any scale, it would have to be considered unusual and it would be quite amazing to nurture and actually witness the flower.

However, I’m not sure I have that long to wait, so I’ll focus instead on something a little more accessible:

#8 Grow an Unusual Plant

Many years ago, I wrote articles for a Canadian magazine and at the editor’s request, sent an accompanying photograph of myself. It happened to be taken with a fully laden orange tree in my garden as the backdrop, a detail I barely noticed.

Alas, rather than rhapsodise about my literary skills, the magazine’s editor wrote about the fact that people in Australia could actually grow orange trees in their back yards!! (his italics and his exclamation marks).

Unusual plants are, as I said, in the eye of the beholder.

But I guess this means that a plant that others don’t, or can’t, commonly grow but will cause a twinge of envy or regret when people see someone else has done it, can be classed as unusual.

The climate in my neck of the woods is temperate with cold, frosty winters and hot dry summers. When I first moved here nearly thirty years ago, everyone said avocado trees wouldn’t survive the frosts, don’t bother with them. I believed this, and didn’t plant any.

Then after a few years I met someone who lived around the corner and had a flourishing avocado tree.  I’d been duped!

But based on the reputed length of time between planting the tree and eating the fruit (about six years) I thought “too long to wait” and still didn’t plant one.

Finally, about ten years ago, on the basis of “if not now, then never”, I took the plunge, ordered two avocado trees – a Fuerte and a Reed (so they could cross pollinate – they’re very choosy about their companions) –  and waited:

Reed avocados hanging from my tree

Now I have two fully-grown avocado trees – somewhat unusual in this district –  in my back yard!  Planted a little too close together, sure, and growing much, much taller than I’d reckoned on, but absolutely laden with fruit. My first pick was such a proud moment:

The perfect first-born

Now, however, I can be heard muttering: “Not avocados for lunch again,”, so there’s no pleasing some people.

Then my young persimmon tree fruited for the first time this year, and what an exotic little beauty it was with its marvellous leaves which give a spectacular autumn display and its golden globed fruit hanging like Christmas decorations.

With my fuyu persimmon before the leaves changed colour

And this variety doesn’t have to go squelchy before it can be eaten. It’s delicious.

There’s no doubt growing interesting plants can be very satisfying, though the downside is that I’m going to turn into one of those elderly people who’ll only leave home when they’re carried out in a box.

I mean, how many nursing homes will have avocado and persimmon trees?

#7 Enter competitions

What is it about the human psyche that convinces you whenever you enter a competition or buy a raffle ticket that you’re going to win? I mean, deep down, if you were honest with yourself, you’d realise the odds are totally against you.  But just the thought of scoring something for nothing creates such a frisson of excitement that I’ve decided it’s an essential part of any list of fun activities. So:

#7 Enter competitions

This isn’t a new venture for me. Some sixteen years ago, I won a trip to New York, flying business class and staying at a 5-star hotel on Fifth Avenue for a week with $1000 spending money.

I‘m not joking.

It was the most magnificent holiday of my life. However, it stopped me entering any more competitions for several years. As a prize, it was  – well – un-toppable.

But with that now a distant memory and with time on my hands, I’ve been revisiting the heady days of entering competitions.

People who regularly win prizes say there are certain tricks to increasing your chances. The big Jackpot lotteries are fine if you like dreaming large, but with the odds of winning them somewhere around 1 in 20 million, the emphasis is on ‘dreaming’ here. No, they recommend trying smaller, perhaps local competitions, especially if there’s a bit of effort involved. Apparently the 25-words-or-less type of competition cuts out a lot of potential entrants who don’t get around to thinking up a slogan, so this shortens your odds.

Reading the free local newspaper a few months ago, I found an article about renovations being done to a well-known hotel in the main street. As a piece of journalism, it wasn’t all that fascinating – until I hit the last line. They were offering a $100 dinner voucher for the person who emailed them with the best name for their planned roof-top restaurant!

My frisson came back. How many people would read this slightly dull article to the very end? And then think up a name for the restaurant? And then send it in? I figured I had about a 1 in 4 chance of winning this voucher.

It seems that no one else read the article to the end, no one else came up with a name, so together with 6 friends, I enjoyed a delightful $100 meal on my birthday in the rooftop restaurant when it opened. (And fortunately, not named after my suggestion)

Then I was visiting my local bakery a few weeks back when a sign said that if you put your name and address on the back of your docket and left it in the box on the counter, you had a chance of winning 3 bottles of wine.

When they didn’t actually print out and give me a docket for my purchase, I realised that would probably reduce the playing field quite a bit, so the next time I bought bread, I stood my ground, insisted on my docket, filled out the details and dropped it in the box.

Bingo! The next week I got a call to say I’d won 3 bottles of wine. Clearly I was their only demanding customer that week.

Of course, there’ll be endless times when you don’t win anything, but even then, there can be surprising advantages.

For almost a year, I’ve been entering a monthly competition where I have to take a photo of myself in my garden for a particular horticultural company. No luck in the winning stakes of course, but I’ve now realised that I have twelve months worth of terrific photos of my garden in all its seasonal glory.

A clever friend recently told me about snapfish,  a website that allows you to convert your photos into all sorts of products, ranging from photo albums, cards, wall art and the like for very reasonable rates. So now I plan to turn my twelve losing entries into a calendar of the garden.

It’s just a pity that I’m holding up the company’s gardening product with a silly grin on my face in every photo…