Possum pruning and chicken lawnmowers

I seem to spend a lot of time talking about animals behaving badly.  Or at least, animals doing sensible, survival enhancing things I don’t 100% approve of.  That means you, Treasure!  You can’t hide – I see you eyeballing that rocket!

But it’s not only the bowerbirds that do useful nibbling.  The chickens also make great lawnmowers.  Although, describing our patch of grass as a “lawn” is stretching the definition considerably.  I can’t say how delighted I was to read the advice recently from the RSPCA that “a weed lawn rather than a monoculture lawn is recommended for free range hens”. Anyway, thanks to the very dry winter, this year the backyard hasn’t turned into the Somme – we’ve got at least some grass and not just vast stretches of mud –  and the chooks are keeping the grass down just fine.

The same happy thoughts about animals as horticultural helpers come to mind when I inspect my NSW Christmas bush.  It has gorgeous pinkish red new growth which the possums seem to enjoy as much as I do, though their appreciation is expressed through the medium of chewing.   Every now and then they pop down and do some tip pruning for me.

Spider on Christmas bush shoot

Ceratopetalum gummiferum is mostly famous for its flush of red “flowers” in December (in fact these are sepals – the real flowers are smaller and white and arrive in late spring or early summer).  The consensus seems to be that if you lop off branches for festive decoration the tree will “flower” all the more enthusiastically the following year.  Vindicating the view that if you give an inch, people will take a mile, some even claim you can cut them way down low and they’ll come back.  Eventually.   I’m not planning anything as brutal as that, though I don’t really want mine to hit five metres and mess with my view.  Regular snipping is the go but since I’m secateur shy, how kind of the possums to do it for me.

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