Monday, February 22, 2010

An End-of-Summer Gardening Weekend in north-eastern Australia.

Our summer is almost over … thanks goodness! Now it’s time to get back into the garden. I know for most people around the globe, summer is a time to be out in the garden … not so everywhere!

Our summer began in December with horrid high temperatures and levels of humidity … so even though the days were fine, it was far too hot and too muggy to do any gardening except for watering in the early morning or evening.

Then our ‘wet’ season arrived. We had torrential downpours for a couple of weeks, followed by weeks of either heavy showers or light drizzle almost every day. In January we had over 540 mm of rain – most of that fell in the last seven days of that month – and so far in February we’ve had around 220 with the majority of that falling in the last week.

Over these last two months of summer, we’ve also had very few sunny days … mostly overcast skies. All in all, this weather is hard on the drought, heat, sun tolerant plants.

But then this weekend, the rain almost stopped and the sun came out! It was time to tidy up, cut down, trim back and survey the damage.

First of all … I checked what had survived out in the courtyard garden. I don’t have to worry about the plants growing in the garden bed under the pergola or those growing in the screening bed at the back of the courtyard … those are all well-established now and need little attention.

It’s the potted plants I was most worried about … but it seems they have come through well. All the potted annuals were well past their best day by the time the rains arrived … and had been replaced by the summertime potted plants!

My two Croton ‘Zanzibar’ and my Trachelospermum jasminoides variegatum came through brilliantly…

as did my two Plactranthus ‘Mona Lavender’, my white Jacobinia and Euphorbia hybrid ‘Diamond Frost’, my two Cordyline ‘Morning Sunshine’ and my Tabernaemontana ‘Sweet Love’. These potted lovelies stayed out all through the horrid ‘wet’ season and look how they triumphed!

Meanwhile, around the pond area, my two Calatheas, my Alocasia, my Spathiphyllum, my two New Guinea Impatiens, my Schefflera, my Alpinia caerulea, my Torenias and my Erigeron karvinskianus all came through with flying colours.

My Canna, Ixora, Wrightia ‘Arctic Snow’, Acalypha and Torenias is these pots also came through happy and reasonably healthy.

My poor old Cosmos and my Belladonnas, however, didn’t exactly come through unscathed … but I’m hoping they’ll recover.

Meanwhile the grasshoppers had a healthy luncheon munching their way through the leaves on my two Acalyphas in these pots. I’m still out there every day like a mad woman swatting the grasshoppers with my thongs … Ooops! I mean ‘flip-flops’! (Just can’t get used to calling them that!)

The grasshoppers also did their best munching their way through my two Cleomes … but they’re coming back.

My poor pelargoniums didn’t do too well … you can see the ill patients down in front of the palms. I didn’t save them in time from the torrential downpours in late January … and by the time I had them undercover, they were looking rather poorly! At least they’ve still got some leaves … they might recover if only the sun would come out for more than a few hours! I lost all my regal Pelargoniums and my Pelargonium peltatums as well.

My coleus cuttings survived … I didn’t have any room left in the greenhouse so they had to put up with the rain. They’re coming good now.

All my other potted plants are doing well as they remained undercover for the whole season.

Then after doing the rounds of the courtyard garden in the sunshine, it was time to tackle the jungle in the greenhouse garden.

Every ‘wet’ season the giant sword fern goes beserk in there … it literally takes over with it’s metre long fronds flopping over the top of every other plant. Then there is the Neomarica which sends out its arching canes all over the place.

So off I went … and no mercy was shown. It was time to cut back and see what was still surviving underneath!

The pile of sword fern and walking iris builds….

and there’s more and more piles!

Finally … there’s order once more!!!

I could now put in some potted plants for extra colour …

like a Bromeliad and Coleus …

a Calathea …

and a Costus.

All of my Rex Begonias out in the greenhouse garden came through the summer very well …

... so did my new orchids and my coleus cuttings.

Now while I was attacking the greenhouse garden, hubbie was attacking the driveway garden beds. He was removing all the dead fronds from more than twenty stands of Golden Cane Palms … as well as the overhanging branches from around fifteen Duranta Repens shrubs … and all the branches from the gums that had dropped during the windy, wet end of summer. This is the pile now waiting on our campfire site …

... a big bonfire night coming up, I think!

While hubbie was slaving away down the driveway … he had company.

There were a pair of Red-Tailed Black Cockatoos squawking away at him for most of the afternoon. I only got a shot of the female though.

Well …. that was yesterday’s effort! Today was much more fun … time to sow more seeds …

... and plant up new pots to start off the display of annuals/perennials for the Autumn-early Summer period this year.

There’s pots of Salvia splendens with Verbena, Petunias, Gomprehenas, Angelonia, Coleus and Hypoestes, Gazanias, Lobelia, Helichrysum, Portulaca, Celosia, some Pelargoniums and … my new one – vanilla marigolds. This, of course, is only the beginning … I will be adding more pots as the weeks go on.

Today I also visited a nursery … been missing the trips to the nursery … anyway I bought some more plants for my ‘white’ area in the new outdoor garden beds.

I got a creamy white Russelia (at the back),
a white Cuphea mexicana (centre left),
an Ozothamnus diosmifolius – commonly called the Rice Flower (centre right)
and a Baeckea ‘Mount Tozer’ (in the front).

I also bought some cute little hanging baskets for the lattice out in the courtyard … I’ll be adding those little pots of Pelargoniums when I know the sun will be out!

So … all in all … a great weekend. It’s simply glorious to be outside in the garden once more … now roll on Autumn and Winter!!


  1. Oh my, it's a hive of activity down there! It's so interesting to see gardening in a different part of the world, where the coming of fall and winter is time for celebration. Thanks!

  2. Loved your photographs and your stories! You have the coolest birds in your garden! And what a great variety of plants you are growing. We have a much longer rainy season here--June thru November. It's also known as hurricane season. I love rain in the garden!

  3. Thanks for visiting Cyndy ... I am definitely jumping for joy as Autumn and Winter get closer. For me that is the optimum growing time for my annuals and showy perennials ... lots of lovely colour for months! I'm already out there in the courtyard garden checking out the new seedlings!!

  4. Hi Floridagirl ... now that is a long 'wet' season. Do you have the torrential downpours as well ... I know you would if there's a hurricane coming, but in general is the rain showery or bucketing down!

    I did forget to mention that during out 'wet' we get cyclones which of course as the same thing as hurricanes ... we escaped this year. The two cyclones that were hanging around crossed land further north and were not too destructive, although the rain caused a lot of flooding.

  5. Wow, I am totally awed by your lush tropical paradise. You have created such a wonderful place. We were in drought conditions for the last couple of years and that took it's toll on plant life. Hopefully we are out of that now as we've had some much needed rain the past few months. Look forward to checking out your gardens regularly.


  6. I am sorry to say that I hit the reject button for comments left by you and two other lady bloggers so I lost your comment, but want to say thank you for stopping by and leaving one. Don't work too hard today. Easier said than done I know.


  7. Your garden looks gloriously lush, and I love the pots hanging on the lattice. I am glad that for the most part your plants did well through all the rain. Our hot, humid summers are tough on plants,too. We are approaching spring, which is my favorite time of the year. It's great to get out and work in the garden! You have certainly done a lot; I identify with the brush pile. Have a great week, and may your nice weather continue!

  8. Splendid! I think the rain is a bliss. I love all your plants and your garden. I also like your grouping of plants that's according to types of containers and making them quite organised. I also like the lattice with those hanging container arrangement. Good job! Btw, is that called Plume plant? - the one in white in the last pic. I have only seen pink ones here.

  9. G'day Deb ... thanks for the comment. Everything is looking green and lush now after the rain ... for most of the year this is not so! It's just so much fun getting out there again ... hope you have a fantastic springtime out in your garden!

  10. Hello Stephanie ... I totally agree with you - rain is glorious! It's such a thrill when we get rain after such a long dry. Glad you liked my courtyard garden ... it's my favourite garden space.
    Yes, that last plant is commonly called the Plume Plant - it's a white Jacobinia, also called Justicia. I love white in the garden, so when I saw this one it was a 'must-have'!

  11. Great post! I love reading blogs by other 'tropicals'. I kept nodding my head at your view of summer. It could've been written by me.
    I love that bromeliad which you got. What a great burst of colour!

  12. Your garden is beautiful, so green and colorful. I love your container plants. The ferns are so large and I love the colors of the Coleus. I like hearing about the weather and seasons in Australia.

  13. Our rain typically comes in quick-moving, heavy thunderstorms that hit in late afternoon through the night. Pretty reliable weather, unless there is a tropical system near the peninsula, which can result in continual rain for days. The rain seems to be heavier in June and July to me, but consider that statement to be purely anecdotal.

  14. Hi Bernie~~ Thank you for visiting my blog. I've enjoyed browsing your blog too. The photos of your lush plantings make my mouth water. I get the feeling you're a serious gardener. :) As annoying as the rain has been I bet you prefer it over those horrid wildfires. Take care.

  15. Bernie, you have been very busy cleaning up your summer garden and preparing a colourful show of annuals. It is happening here too, the heat and the rain still let the plants grow at a crazy rate. I have a constant fight against grasshoppers eating all my basil and roses! I like the hanging baskets, they will look lovely with the Pelargoniums, which I still call "Geraniums".
    Happy gardening, Bernie.

  16. Hi Bernie, I'm tired after just reading about all of that work!
    I too was going to ask what the white flower was - but have now learnt it is a Jacobinia from your earlier comment :) It's a stunner!
    Interestingly, I seem to have had grasshoppers muching on my poor plants quite a bit this year too. Not so common in my garden, so I'm wondering what has changed...

  17. What a great collection of container plants, i am impressed.

  18. Hi Sunita ... just catching up with your comment. Sounds like you have a similar experience of summer ... heat, humidity, torrential rain and storms! It's a challenge for any garden isn't it?

    The bromeliad certainly does add lots of great colour in amongst all the ferns in the greenhouse garden ... definitely a great addition!

  19. Noelle ... thanks for your comment. I've been developing my container garden for only a year or so now ... so it's a work in progress! I'm still working out what will survive our 'wet' and long 'dry' ... that's the challenge of gardening.

  20. Hi Grace ... the rain is most welcome but it's the torrential rain that proves difficult for my plants. Thanks for visiting.

  21. Thanks for visiting Titania ... I'd love to find out a way of deterring those pesky grasshoppers, but I haven't found anything that actually works yet.

  22. G'day GG, grasshoppers are quite common for us after the 'wet' ... they are clever creatures waiting until there's lots of green lush foliage!!

  23. Thanks for visiting Muhammad ... glad you like the container plants. The containers certainly add lots of colour and interest to the courtyard garden.

  24. Bernie, I am floored by the mere volume of your plants! You have a rainforest of a garden! Not to mention all the container plants ... to water ... when you are not having monsoons! You are a plant wizard! Amazingly beautiful post! Great bird shot too! Thank you for your kind words! ;>)

  25. It looks like most of your plants were tough enough to survive through the heat and rain. The greenery in your garden is so vivid! Love those ferns.

  26. Your weather seems so similar to mine here and your garden is green and lush. It certainly inspire me to add more foliage to mine.

  27. What a lovely visit to your lush exotic garden I am so pleased I found you from your post on my blog.

  28. Glad you enjoyed your visit Joanne ... the garden is certainly looking rather lush right now after our 'wet' season, but as the year progresses that will change. I rather like all the green at the moment ... but I think I've had enough of the rain now.

  29. Ooops, my comment disappeared. I had hoped to visit the East Coast of Australia this Spring, and travel south a bit, but it's not to be.
    I'll have to keep in touch with you, Bernie, to keep imagining Australia, until the trip becomes a reality! Cheers,

  30. thanks for your visit! your photography is stunning, and how different it would be to garden in your heat/wet/dry.....though it might be nice to have it a bit drier here I can imagine the difficulty.


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