Sunday, March 27, 2011

Back To The Usual Jobs and The Start Of A New One ... My Downunder Dry Tropics Garden Journal - Week 12, 2011

Date:  March 26, 2011

Season:  first month of Autumn and the last month of the 'wet' season

(Gardening Zone:  'Dry Tropics' area located in the northern Tropical Zone/Australia ... comparable to the U.S. Zone 11)

The dreary Autumn conditions have continued.  It's been dark, gloomy and dismal here most days.

The sun only gets the occasional look in!

The upside though, is that when there's grey cloud-cover, it feels slightly cooler and, of course, there's a break from the intense sunshine.  The rain seems to be abating as well now, so we can spend all day outside without running for cover every couple of hours.  
So, given that the arduous task of cleaning up after the cyclone is now over, it was time to get back to our usual gardening tasks and enjoy the company of the butterflies and dragonflies.

As the ground has dried out somewhat my other half did the mowing and whipper-snipping ... and that's a full weekend's job at our place.  So the whole place is starting to look like itself once more.  I, on the other hand, was able to get out into the Shadehouse and Courtyard Garden areas.  These had been rather neglected of late, but with the break in the heat and the rain I've had a chance to do something worthwhile.  It was so enjoyable to be back doing the more typical gardening jobs.

Out in the Shadehouse, it was time for yet another tidy up.  Our 'wet' season provides perfect conditions for Nephrolepis biserrata, the Giant Sword Fern, to go beserk in there and it takes over quickly.  Can you see it climbing over the top of the other plants?  I had ripped out a trailer load of it early in the year and this weekend I think I pulled out a couple more wheelbarrow loads worth.  I do love this monster fern though, as it helps create the lush tropical environment close to our house.

So many of the plants out in the shadehouse have come through the 'wet' and the summer very well with only a few exceptions, which is fabulous when compared to so many other areas on the property.  There has been some damage from the hungry grasshopper hordes ... always a problem during our summers.  They seem to love the Cordylines and the Stromanthe in the shadehouse.

The major casualty though appears to be the potted Coleus that were scattered in amongst the plants.  Most have withered and died during the endless weeks of rain.  There was only one healthy specimen left ... as seen in the photo below.  Still, there are plenty of cuttings that can take their place.  Coleus are one of the easiest plants to strike, so I always have plenty in little seedling pots.

It was a pleasure to stand back at the end of the morning clean-up and take a look around the lush environment of the shadehouse.   I think I was singing!  Here's a little of what I saw ....

 Inky Fingers Coleus and Nephrolepsis

 Dracaena marginata

 Costus productus

Rex Begonias

 Costus or Sprial Gingers


It was also lovely to be able to stroll down the pathway once again ... it's far too dangerous out there during the relentless wet weather.  I slip and slide all over the place and have had quite a few falls, so it's almost become a no-go zone during our 'wet' season.  Anyway, finally I'm now able to see into all corners of the Shadehouse Garden.

Out in the Courtyard Garden it was time to fertilise.  The torrential rainfall really does leach the soil in the pots and it's great to have a break in the rain to be able to give the survivors some much needed sustenance.

There's still plenty of room for all the potted annuals, but I haven't had a chance to pot up the seedlings yet ... I found another job to do!

The cyclone damage and resulting clean-up have left quite a few ugly spots around the place ... and there's one particular spot that's really been irking me no end.  It's at the end of our driveway right next to our carshed.  There was a huge Bauhinia tree in this spot previously and now that it's been reduced to a stump the whole area was looking so bare.

So, not being blessed with a bottomless pit of spare cash, I have to make do with what's already available at my place.   I spent an entire morning putting in a rock edge to this space ... there are rocks aplenty around here!  

I didn't take any before shots, but take it from me it looked bad!

Here's the spot now with all the rocks in place ... you can see the Bauhinia stump (just in front of the gate panel). showing signs of re-growth.

Now I've got the start of another little garden bed ... an opportunity I wasn't expecting.

It needs plant, of course, and they will have to be quite hardy as this is one spot that's going to be a challenge for plants.  It's in full sun, doesn't have any watering system in place, and we're about to start our long 'dry' season, so I need waterwise choices.  At the moment there's a Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Roseflake', an Acalypha wilkesiana and a skinny little Graptophyllum in the bed.  The white Bauhinia is sitting outside the bed.

Some plants I already have:

two Galphimia glaucas or Gold Shower shrubs which have red stems and golden yellow flowers all year round,

a Turnera ulmifolia which also has yellow blooms that last all year

and two Cuphea hyssopifolias which are also non-stop bloomers with their lovely little purple flowers.

So there's the start of the planting.  I've put out the pots to see what they would look like ... and to choose positions for them.  In the end I just clustered them all together.  Of course, the bed needs more work before I can plant them but I'll leave them there to get acclimatised.

I would really love something else that would add that 'punch' of colour.  On the other side of the driveway there's a shrub that's been hiding away ever since we moved in here over ten years ago now.  It was growing under the canopy of some trees and always looked rather scraggley and not all that interesting.    Well ... ever since the canopy was damaged and then removed after Cyclone Yasi, this shrub has suddenly bloomed.

It's still scraggley ... definitely needs a trim ... but take a look at these gorgeous flowers and wonderful foliage.

I think it would look fantastic in amongst all the green and yellow in the new garden bed.  I'm pretty sure it's a variety of Graptophyllum ... and I would appreciate it greatly if someone recognises it and could give me its' varietal name.  I have taken cuttings from this one, but would really love to get mature plants to add to the bed sooner than it will take for the cuttings to flourish ...  Can anyone help?

I was also thinking of adding a couple of these beauties as well ....

... Turnera subulata.  I would dearly love to have more of these around my place.


  1. Oh Bernie ~ I always love seeing your shade and courtyard gardens, and they are as lovely as always. You have such a wonderful variety. Glad you're getting back to normal gardening activities instead of cyclone clean up. Your new garden bed is going to look just great I know.

    Love that unknown bloomer with purple foliage and blooms. Someone should be able to help you in identifying it.

    Happy Gardening ~ FlowerLady

  2. What a lovely blog Bernie. Your garden is picking up nicely, so many colours and things looking fresh and anew. I understand you are feeling happy about it. Amazing how quick it all turns back to normal again.

  3. Hi Bernie,
    I so enjoy visiting your blog! The cyclones caused such havoc in your gardens! But, funny how things work out and then having a new flower bed to work with.
    I really admired the rex begonia's you photographed. I really like begonias but have not been able to keep them year round as it's too cold. I'm getting some inspiration from other gardeners in my region who have learned some tips and tricks to wintering them over. Cheers, Jenni

  4. Hi Bernie,
    You have got the balance right in your shadehouse garden - It looks lush and tropical but not so overgrown that you cant see the individual plants. I also did some cutting back this weekend - this rain makes everything grow like crazy! Your garden is looking lovely as usual.

  5. Hi bernie, good to see your lovely survivors and that you are seeing the damage as opportunity - sometimes anyway. It's all looking great. cheers, cm

  6. Bernie, I really don't tire of looking at your garden photos. Wonderful shadehouse and courtyard. I was just staring at your pictures appreciating the individual plants and all of them together. Cute captures of your little visitors, too. But where are your ferns?

    The spot you mention at the end of your driveway looks familiar. That's where the tree split in the middle, right? If that is the same spot in your Yasi post then it does look much better now. Although I still feel bad for your tree. So you do have some before pictures if memory serves me right.

  7. Flowerlady ... it's terrific to get back to the gardening jobs that we enjoy for a change. The place is starting to get back on its' feet now, so it's easier to walk around and not get disheartened.

    Marguerite ... that's one of the upsides of living in the tropics. With all the rain, the plants have been recovering very nicely.

    Jenni, I've always had at least one Rex ever since I was in my early adult years. I've lost so many over the years and now I think I've worked out the best conditions for them in my part of the world. I'm happy with my little collection. Good luck with your over-wintering. I do so hope it works out well.

    Africanaussie, I should have taken before shots of the shadehouse! Then you would have seen an overgrown mess, where nothing much was visible except the ferns. I so appreciate your comment. It's hard getting the right balance out there, but I think it's close.

    Catmint, thanks for your support. It's very much appreciated. Things are looking up here ... we just need some dry sunny weather for a while now.

  8. Bom ... lol, I think you must be joking about the ferns. I think they appear in almost every shot taken out in the shadehouse garden. They now form am almost impenetrable wall at the back of the shadehouse. I am a big fan of the giant fern, just not when it takes over the whole area!

    I did look back at my photos taken after Yasi and none of them quite showed this area up close to the carshed. You are right though, a couple were taken in the same vicinity but taken from further away. This area was in the background ... and yes it was looking awful. I'm starting to feel better about it now. I can't wait to plant it up.

  9. I really enjoy seeing your Shadehouse and Courtyard gardens! Everything looks so lush. I am glad the cyclone clean-up is finished. And there is the unexpected blessing of that gorgeous shrub presenting you with beautiful blooms! And a new garden bed to stimulate your creative juices. Happy autumn gardening to you!

    P.S. I love the dragonfly photo!

  10. Happy Autumn Bernie! I do not comprehend how any day could be dreary in your paradise! Amazing array of foliage!

  11. aloha bernie, wow your shade house is amazing, all the beautiful textures and colors and your outside is starting to shape up...congrats. those swordferns are such a pain here in my garden...i pull one out and its replaced by a dozen new sprouts.

    the purple plant which i have, its called Pseuderanthemum atropurpureum 'Variegatum', but i'm not sure if this is the same one since i have not seen it flower

  12. It is so fast for your garden to recover, even your fence does! The shade garden looks so grown now, i consider it a biodiversity garden, i am sure you need some help, if only i am near i can help you, hehe. All your plants are here with ours too, however i also dont know the ID of the maroon plant, we feed it sometimes to our goats, if it gets overgrown. They love it. I will also wait if you already learned of its name. thanks.

  13. OMG! I think I just died and went to heaven! Your gardens are even more beautiful over in this blog!!! You live in paradise!
    But I can imagine all the hard work it takes to keep it that way. Take care

  14. Bernie - it is always such a treat to do a walk-about in your gardens! It's like your own personal Arboretum - just outstanding! I love how the 'window of opportunity opened' on your 'ugly space' - with your newly revived plants and new garden edged in stone. (Your certainly worked hard enough for it!)


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