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Missing that special thumb thing? Try planting in the rain.

Some days don't turn out exactly the way they were planned. Not only that, sometimes things don't turn out as well as you might have hoped. Rarely though, does an event turn out to be an unmitigated disaster with absolutely no redeeming qualities. You can always find some slivers of silver to line those dark clouds, even while they are scudding low across a leaden sky while you are digging holes in tough dirt, the rain seeming down from the small of your back into your butt crack.

Last Sunday was one such day when even an 80 per cent no-show, a comical encounter between a thumb and a car door and broken pump could not diminish our enthusiasm.

On 21 August 2011, at Barnett Road Bardon, with the help of volunteers from Johnson Controls, a global company in airconditioning and building controls, SOWN members on Ithaca Creek planted 60 species of small bird habitat in the most diverse non-tree planting in SOWN's history.

In a move to wards meeting some of the more pressing specialist needs of urban natural spaces, the plants were chosen from a 500 species master list of grasses, sedges, rushes, reeds, groundcovers, scramblers, and shrubs. There was not a tree in sight, a welcome change from restrictive, tree-only plantings that result in a lack of structural complexity and diversity. See for yourself - the plants for the day are listed below.

The creek was dry except for a waterhole about 25 metres downstream. We set up the pump and it kicked first pull then stopped. Another 150 pulls on the starter yielded only a broken cord. No worries, pack up the pump and get the buckets. A brainwave led to a hose across the road from a SOWN member's tap. Plenty of water.

Slamming the rear door of the 4WD on the recalcitrant pump, our brave team leader forgot to first remove thumb. The sight of one of our finest creek warriors in contortions trying to reach over to the door handle across his trapped arm was worthy of a sideshow alley demonstration by the 'Double-Jointed Man'.

No harm done. The thumb blackened up nicely, but after a few minutes in the creek it was back to work. The pain would kick in later when the haematoma under the thumbnail reached a pressure of a million pascals, but that's another story.

Soon the petrol-powered auger was going full blast, and 400 holes were dug in the blink of an eye, followed closely by plants put in and watered the hardy souls who turned up to plant in the rain.

Bedraggled but triumphant, the volunteers finished the job by about 11:30am, well under schedule - without the help of the other 25 jelly babies who were scared off by a few blobs of yellow on the BOM radar. Not only were the plants in, but all were watered and the tubes washed as they were collected. Take that, you stay at homes. New levels of excellence and no sniffling. Still with plenty of gettup and go, the vols turned to other tasks and a recently felled monster Chinese Elm was chopped up, dragged to the roadside and stacked. By now all along the street residents had come out onto their balconies and front lawns, cheering and applauding. Modestly, we tilted our heads in acknowledgement, choked up a little as we made a human pyramid while juggling the auger, a pole saw, three mulch forks and 27 mini-mattocks in a small demonstration of bushcare gymnastics. The word spread and soon the street was filled with jubilant Bardonites, carrying our bush care crew on their shoulders into City Hall where we were awarded the keys of the city and complementary massages by the Council cabinet. All in all, a good day. Can't stand the rain? Pshaw.

For proof of these mighty deeds, why not drive by and see for yourself the wonderful sight on Ithaca Creek opposite 24 Barnett Road, since watered by welcome Sprinter rains. We of Ithaca Intact lay down the challenge. Do better if you can!

The plants

  • Acacia fimbriata
  • Acacia maidenii
  • Adiantum hispidulum
  • Alchornea ilicifolia
  • Alpinia caerulea
  • Aristida sp.
  • Breynia oblongifolia
  • Bursaria spinosa
  • Canthium coprosmoides
  • Chrysocephalum apiculatum
  • Carex appressa
  • Capillipedium spicigerum
  • Callicarpa pedunculata
  • Cissus antarctica
  • Citriobatus pauciflorus
  • Citrus australasicus
  • Cordyline petiolaris
  • Cymbopogon refractus
  • Cordyline rubra
  • Dianella caerulea
  • Daviesia ulicifolia
  • Dodonea triangularis
  • Dodonea triquetra
  • Doodia aspera
  • Drypetes deplanchii
  • Eupomatia laurina
  • Echinopogon nutans
  • Eustrephus latifolius
  • Gahnia sieberiana
  • Goodenia rotundifolia
  • Geitonoplesium cymosum
  • Hardenbergia violacea
  • Hibbertia scandens
  • Hibiscus heterophyllus
  • Imperatur cylindrica
  • Indigofera australis
  • Jacksonia scoparia
  • Juncus usitatus
  • Kennedia rubicunda
  • Lomandra hystrix
  • Lomandra longifolia
  • Macrozamia lucida
  • Maytenus silvestris
  • Microlaena stiploides
  • Micromellum minutum
  • Ozothamnus diosmifolius
  • Pandorea jasminoides
  • Pandorea pandorana
  • Pararchidendron pruinosum
  • Pavetta australiensis
  • Pipturis argenteus
  • Pittosporum rhombifolium
  • Pittosporum viscidum
  • Plectranthus parviflorus
  • Poa labillardieri
  • Pseuderanthenum variable
  • Psychotria daphnoides
  • Psychotria loniceroides
  • Rubus probus
  • Sambucus australasicus
  • Sauropus albiflorus
  • Smilax australis
  • Solanum aviculare
  • Tasmannia insipida
  • Trema tomentosa
  • Trochocarpa laurina
  • Viola betonicifolia
  • Wikstroemia indica
  • Wilkea macrophylla