Melbourne’s Six Seasons

Put away your trumpet, there’ll be no fanfare for the dawning of Spring. In Melbourne, the month of September is changeable, windy and unpredictable. Sunny days are often preceded by blistering cold. Gale force winds rip through the hills, bringing down branches from bare winter trees while the ‘darling buds’, the blossom on fruit trees, bravely hang on. There’s nothing especially attractive or romantic about Spring: the arrival of Primavera is invariably disappointing. Early Spring is like a moody teenager: all that white and pink confetti blossom helps to create a sense of hope and promise, yet the new season is accompanied by immaturity and mood swings. It’s a season on hormones. I’ve often returned to Melbourne in late September to be disheartened by the cold and windy weather.

This year I experienced my first Melbourne winter for 10 years and was surprised by the vibrant colour in the garden and the calm weather throughout late July and August. It isn’t surprising to learn that the Wurundjeri – Melbourne’s indigenous people who have lived around what is now Melbourne for thousands of years- have a calendar consisting of 6 seasons. The period from late July to the end of August is a distinct season in the indigenous calendar: it’s the time of nesting and first flowers. This year, this pre-spring season has been remarkably clement, sunny and still, with many joyous picnic kind of days.

One version of a graphic attempting to depict the Wurundjeri calendar. http://www.herringisland.org/seasons1.htm

 ” The division of the year into four seasons comes from Northern Europe, and does not fit Melbourne. We still think of winter as an unfavourable season for plants, when northern European trees drop their leaves and become dormant, but for our native plants, especially the small tuberous herbs, winter is a season of growth. At this time the bush is green, and the temperatures are rarely low enough to stop growth. The unfavourable season is high summer, when water is scarce, and much of the ground flora becomes brown and dies off. “¹

In the last two weeks of winter, I’ve observed new seasonal birds in the garden, attracted by the early pink/mauve flowering Echium. New Holland Honeyeaters, Eastern Spine Bills and Wattle birds have feasted on this large bush while on still days, hundreds of bees have had their turn. Once the honey eaters arrive, a seasonal indicator of sorts, I start sowing seeds, knowing that the sun’s angle will be perfect for germination inside my north facing window.

Native wattle trees have been in flower for weeks, with different species taking turns to paint the distant landscape with bright yellow patches of mini pom poms. The blue green leaves of the eucalypt drape and sway gracefully from tall healthy trees. They are in their prime in late winter. The native purple flowering creeper, hardenbergia violacia spent winter snaking its way along a fence while the mauve flowers on the tips of the silver leafed Teucrum Fruticans hedge have enjoyed this pre-spring season. Some non- native plants have also thrived in late winter, especially the euphorbia, a startling lime green show off, while the jonquils and daffodils, now spent, are a late winter pop up. One lone flag iris emerged under a pear tree. The citrus trees fruit in this little wedge of time between winter and spring- Navel, Washington and Blood orange fruits brightened the season. Now that Spring has arrived, they’ve finished their fruiting cycle, with energy directed to leaf and flower.

The late winter vegetable patch has supplied us with bitter salad leaves, chard, kale, turnips, green onions, leeks, broccoli, fennel and parsley. Spring will push these plants sky high: it’s now a race to eat as many of these liver cleansing greens as we can before they bolt to seed.

This year’s pandemic and subsequent isolation forced me to regard winter with new eyes: I can honestly say, it wasn’t so bad. And now, let’s see what this season throws at us. Life has become as unpredictable as Spring. 

¹ There are many diagrams and charts illustrating aboriginal seasons, each one varying from place to place. The diagram above best illustrates Melbourne’s seasons. Diagram and quotation from http://www.herringisland.org/seasons1.htm

 

17 thoughts on “Melbourne’s Six Seasons”

  1. Oh Fran – thank you for allowing us into your September world whatever season it presents. Love the photos showing so evocatively that nature marches on whatever has happened to the humans inhabiting it. Love the aboriginal way of dividing the year . . . largely agree. Well they say your area has six seasons seguing one into the other – naturally the rest of us from other parts of the country well knows Melbourne oft has four seasons in a day !! I hate wind, ever since childhood . . . hence I normally dislike the spring months when days with high summer temperatures are followed by days of damaging, noisy, beastly gales you Victorians send right up our way !! Normally these unwanted weeks can begin in July but have a habit of normalizing some time in October . . . well, state border closures must apply to weather also as, during this first official week of spring, I have as yet to be unable to sleep for fear of departing roof ! Thank you . . . may the spring have sprung softly for both of us . . . may matters human learn and comply . . . bestest . . .

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, I hate winds too Eha. Feel like a cut brown snake or a dog. Spring is our windy month along with some nasty north winds in summer. Do your winds come from Victoria? The last time I checked, they were coming down to us from up your way. We can hope that humans will do the right thing and follow nature in it’s wisdom.
      For those of us who live by the rules, with permanent restrictions, it’s hard work. And it’s so annoying to see people IN ALL STATES, IN ALL COUNTRIES doing stupid things. I managed to visit my 97 year old mother on Monday: this was my first visit in 5 1/2 months. Her home has opened to a visit a week for one person from each family. We met in a sealed off ‘hub’, having presented our current flu vacc certificate and donned our mask. To arrange this, it meant ringing a covid hotline for clarification, and taking various bits of certification, as we were travelling outside the 5 km zone. I had my first non -home cooked meal in months- some fish and chips. Everyone I know does the right thing, I have not seen a single person in my travels without a mask, and I need to stress that those who misbehave tend to get undue attention and make good news fodder in the Murdoch rags or TV morning shows. Best, F xx

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The winds . . . A ‘joke’ not expressed very well I am afraid 🙂 ! Am SO, so glad you got to see your Mother face-to-face . . . that was a long time coming. Am also pleased people around you know how to behave. Not here, I am afraid, even tho’ there have been active cases both in Picton and Tahmoor, each less than 10 kms away. I buy most things on line . . .most delivery guys wear a mask and hand the boxes in over the threshold. I have had both the Manager from the front office and neighbours see this and burst out laughing about the ‘silliness’ . . . it’s just a bit of flu . . . ! I have yet to see one mask in this gated community !! Some insurance guys last week wanted to update their info, each going house-to-house to spend most time in the kitchens and bathrooms. Again no masks et al. When I asked was this carrying possible infection from one to the other really necessary just at this time . . .my cottage was left out because of my medical background and their knowledge I was working on government surveys etc but I believe that many bragged they were not so neurotic !!!!! Yes, well . . . I am glad for you . . . but am quite at peace with my ‘hermit’ status . . . . which tends to get quite lively actually . . .

        Liked by 1 person

  2. What a pleasant discovery. If you go by flowers and trees then more divisions makes sense. On one extreme there are 24 traditional Korean seasons and on the other, there are 2 traditional Mayan seasons. Quattro stagioni is very much a cultural thing. Even in Italy, I’ve been told that the flowers of later-spring/early-summer are distinct from early spring or late summer. Four and six divisions must be widespread across cultures, since 12 months can be so neatly divided into either.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. It was not such a bad winter… one during which I was grateful to be safe at home and for its kindness to our veggie garden which returned the favour to us. It seems windy days are no longer confined to August but the August winds nevertheless arrived with full force. Sigh. Like spring blooms in the turning season we are grateful to be able to cautiously pop ourselves out cautiously navigate and appreciate what is apparently going to be our new normal. Autumn is my favourite month but spring is my favourite for flowers, and I do love a flower! Your garden is full is delights both visual and edible, and unsurprisingly our thoughts have been along similar lines. Most importantly, I’m pleased to read you have been able to visit with your mother… we managed a small family catch-up including with my Dad… it had been too long.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. It’s not that good but it’s sure better than August with it’s beautiful colours and perfumes. New growth everywhere signals hope for the future. Some days are actually warm! I remember our back fence blew down in September with the fierce winds of 110 kms/hr and one has to be careful of gum trees nearby falling down in these ‘March winds’.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Those honey eaters are beautiful Francesca, and I love the Hardenbergia and Euphorbia combination – spectacular! I was a bit late with much of my winter veg, but have been gorging myself on broccoli raab/rapini which I grew for the first time. Such an easy one to grow, and the more you pick the more it keeps sprouting!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Living in the northern hemisphere I think we just take the traditional 4 seasons as somehow natural, rather than as a consequence of human observation and needs. You make me wonder about the seasons observed by Native Americans in various parts of the New World, particularly in the area where I live. Our weather does change with each of the seasons, but could easily be delineated differently as our spring and autumn are short and transitional and summer and winter are longer. Your post is both fascinating and thought-provoking.

    be well… mae at maefood.blogspot.com

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I think the 6 season model fits our N CA weather as well. We are now in late summer and everything is brown unless it is irrigated. Most of our native vegetation goes dormant. And, we worry about fires.

    I loved the walk through your garden and the picture of the bird. Was that a honey eater?

    And, lucky you smart Australians, it’s not the case here in the US although most of my friends are very conscious of the risks and are careful (wearing masks and observing social distancing). We simply don’t have the leadership we need and it keeps getting worse.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Our weather patterns are very similar.
      I’m so worried for you Liz and other family and friends in America. Most Australians look to the unfolding events in USA with shock and incredulity. There’s the pandemic but then the issue of leadership is now turning ugly, with civil war high on the agenda. At least you live in CA, known for its more liberal and democratic values and sensible approach to the pandemic.
      Stay safe.

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Naughty possums. I’m lucky not to have any. I like New Zealand’s approach to the possum, incorporating the fur into beautiful, warm garments. And pricey. If you can kill a sheep, you can kill a possum. ( the ones in plague proportions).
      The garden is going very well thanks to amazing rainfall this year. Xx

      Liked by 1 person

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