Sunday, July 31, 2011

Change Is In The Wind ... My Downunder Dry Tropics Garden Journal ... Week 31, 2011.

Date:  July 31st, 2011

Season:  mid-Winter and 'dry' season

Our last winter month begins tomorrow and our winter weather so far has been deliciously mild.  Lots of lovely sunny, fairly clear, blue-sky days.  Of course, our 'dry' season is well underway and there's been no rain.

So this was the view as I worked in my thongs and t-shirt in the front yard this weekend.  ('Thongs' being footwear, people!!!)

It's been a busy time in the garden here during the month of July.  I've done such a lot of trimming back and clearing out in various spots around the place.   As I mentioned in my last journal post Mess And Mayhem In My Garden, I've managed to finish the cleaning up jobs so badly needed in both the Outdoor Tiered Garden Beds and the Shadehouse Garden, so they are both looking fairly decent once more.

Here's a couple of views of the now-tidy-and-no-longer-overgrown outdoor tiered garden beds  ...

... and a view of a nice-and-orderly-looking corner of the shadehouse garden.

Now that's one little apparent change.  There are a few others around the place.

Cyclone damaged trees and shrubs in the large established outdoor garden beds slowly continue their recovery growth.

There's a little more growth on my beloved white Bauhinia ...

... and the Duranta repens shrubs have all grown a tiny wee bit taller.

There's a few flowers on the non-cyclone damaged half of my Tabebuia impetiginosa ...

... and there are blooms on the white Bauhinia leaning over the driveway fence from my neighbour's yard.

Can you see those white Bauhinia flowers to the right of the photo above?   Here they are.

It's a delight to get to see a few of the usual winter blooms down the driveway even if it's not the usual display or in the usual places.

One of the other delights that I found down the driveway after the cyclone clean-up was a scraggley ugly looking Hibiscus that had been struggling to grow under a huge Duranta repens.  With the drastic cut-back of the Duranta, the Hibiscus has once again become rather a looker!

I'm loving the new blooms that have started appearing on this re-vitalised Hibiscus shrub.  They look like doubles to me.  None of my other Hibiscus have double blooms, so this shrub will be receiving some special attention from now on.

Now to the garden beds down the hill driveway.  There are a couple of deciduous Plumerias growing in that area and for the first time in at least fifteen years, these trees are receiving full sun once again.  They had been permanently shaded by the canopy of my other neighbour's very tall 30 foot trees, but nearly every single one of those trees has now been chopped down as a result of the damage inflicted by Cyclone Yasi.

Here's the hill driveway garden bed early last year ...

... and here it is this year.

You can see there's a huge difference in the conditions.  So, as a result of this loss of canopy,  I'm expecting the Plumerias to put on a fabulous flowering display later this year.  I'm hoping they will be absolutely covered in blooms for the first time since we moved into this property.

Of course, with this loss of canopy the underlying ferns in my ferny grove are now also exposed to almost full sun.  While this isn't such a big deal during our winter, I'm a little concerned how they will fare during the summer at the end of the year.  I'm hoping that the two Cadaghi Gums that are growing in that bed will be fully recovered from their cyclone ordeal and have full canopy cover by that time.

Righto ... onto another little area of change.

The front garden beds had become very overgrown and needed a good clean-up.  There was a more pressing reason for the clean-up though.  We've finally got the go-ahead for the repair work to commence on all the cyclone damage around our place, including the damage to the front verandah hood.  We've been living with the hood draped down over the garden beds ever since Cyclone Yasi hit in February.  So, to enable the workmen to access this spot, those Acalyphas needed cutting back.

Much better ... now it should be a whole lot easier for workmen to get in to fix the damage.

Aah ... now this photo shows clearly what happens to our place during the 'dry' season.  Notice the brown grass cover all over the front yard.  We're not in drought ... that's just what our place typically looks like during the seven to nine month 'dry' season we have here every year.

I know there are a few gardeners out there who complain bitterly when it doesn't rain for a month or two, and they start talking about a 'drought'.  For many Australian gardeners, those conditions would not come anywhere near what we would call a 'drought'.  Months without rain for many of us is just the 'dry'.  Years without decent rain is 'drought'.  No I know, it's horses for courses.  Months without rain is definitely drought for some, but I would use the term very differently for a vastly different situation.

Our property doesn't have good soil (well there's actually barely any soil in the yard at all) and we're on a slope, so there's considerable problems with drainage (any light rainfall here would not penetrate the ground in any significant way), so we're behind the eight ball from the start when it comes to having a lovely lush yard, ... but ... I do have a little problem feeling sympathetic for gardeners who say they're experiencing drought conditions but still have lovely green grass everywhere.  That would be pretty close to heaven for this gardener!!!    OK, off the high horse now.

So, the Acalyphas have been tamed.

But in between those two shrubs there's another shrub growing.  I have no idea what it is.  I'm hoping that someone out there can help.


Here's a shot of the unknown shrub taken last year.  I've never seen any blooms on this unknown shrub.

It has grown almost as tall as the roofline many times before it has been trimmed back.

The leaves are quite dark and glossy on the top.


On the other side of the front garden, I got in and did a lot of weeding and trimming.  The Russelia was getting out of control and the shrubs needed a little snip here and there.

  (Notice the patch of green resulting from watering run-off.  That patch is my one and only patch of green in the yard at the moment.)

Everything is doing quite well in that bed.  Starting at the bottom left of the collage and going counter-clockwise:
the old old Hibiscus rosa-sinensis out the front is recovering from cyclone damage rather slowly,
the Allamanada cathartica 'Sunee' just needed a trim back (it's not flowering right now),
the Mussaenda philippica 'Bangkok Rose' is recovering slowly but is showing new growth,
the dwarf Azalea is carrying on with it's usual winter display (it hasn't missed a beat this year),
and finally the Hibiscus rosa-sinensi 'Snowflake' and the 'Roseflake' beside it, but not in the shot, are both doing very well ... tough as old boots those pair.

Now ... (boy, this has been one long post, sorry!!!) ... out in the Courtyard Garden I've finished all the potting up and things are going along quite nicely.  Here's a quick look around.

All the annuals are starting to do their thing and I'm looking forward to a better show of flowers as we get closer to Spring.  I did re-arrange some of the pots because of the changing light conditions in winter out there, and everything seems quite happy in their new position.

There is one little thing that's a bit different out there this year.  Some of these little creatures have turned up in the courtyard garden.  I've never noticed them here before.

They are fungus eating ladybirds - Illeis galbula (bright yellow with black markings) busy at work on
some of my plants ... the Torenias, the Verbena and the Dahlias.  Apparently they live on plants infested with a fungus like powdery mildew and I shouldn't squish these little ones as they're doing my plants a real favour.  So, I'm quite happy to leave them be.  We'll see how well they do their work and how well these plants fair in the coming weeks.

Finally ... there will be quite a big change coming up very soon for my Courtyard Garden.  As I mentioned earlier in this post, the repair work will be commencing soon on all those things damaged by the aforementioned cyclone.  One of the major works will be the replacement of our pergola out in the courtyard.

As you can see the wooden perogla is quite a large structure ... and you might notice that there's a considerable lean to the posts.  The pergola was left leaning quite dramatically from the force of the cyclonic winds.

The structure is no longer considered safe. The shot shown above was taken the day after Cyclone Yasi blew through here and you can clearly see the lean.

Presently, the entire pergola is covered in Jasminum officinale.  There's also quite huge plantings of Hibiscus schizopetalus at two ends, a planting of another climber Petrea volubilis and an Allamanda cathartica.  All of these will have to be chopped down ... yes I finally said it out loud!  The thought of this has been weighing on my mind for some time now, but unfortunately it's a necessary evil in order to fix the damage. 

I'm not looking forward to the disruption and mess that will be needed during the destruction and then construction work.  I know it's necessary, but it's going to alter the look of my favourite garden space for quite some time to come.  The newly constructed pergola will look rather bare and ugly to my eyes until that Jasmine gets growing once more ... and I know that will take a long time.  So, for now, I'm out there every spare second just enjoying the space as it is before the workmen arrive.

So, there you have it ... little changes and some big changes are afoot at my place.  Never a dull moment!


  1. Hi Bernie,
    I so enjoyed my Sunday morning stroll around your garden today.
    Yay! for the hibiscus!!
    Glad also that you finally got the go ahead for the house restoration, that canopy looks a goner to me!

  2. G’Day Bernie,
    You have been busy. The garden is making good recovery I am amazed at the new growth on so many of your shrubs and trees. I promise never again will I whinge about lack of rain or “drought “I cannot compare our conditions to yours. You have drought we have mild lapses!!!
    I feel your pain for chopping down your Jasmine and the other plants around the pergola. Nevertheless, in the end it will be worth it. If it fell down it would ruin the plants completely at least you can control what’s happening. The courtyard looks wonderful lots of pots I am missing my pots this year.

    Keep up the good work and remember to sit back at the end of the day with a nice glass of wine and admire all your hard work you deserve it.

  3. Thanks for visiting, Maggie. Yes the canopy is definitely a goner. I'm looking forward to seeing that previously hidden Hibiscus covered in blooms.

    Sue, thank you wonderful lady. It's terrific to have such a cheerful supportive voice. Hubbie and I both had a glass (well, two actually!) this evening. He'd been working hard on the extension to the carport while I'd been out in the yard. There's always something to do around here.

  4. I really enjoyed this post as it was a chance to see your garden which looks wonderful. I especially like the ones with all the pots

    Living in the UK I recognise few of the plants you mention but I do completely sympathise with your comments about drought. We get talk of hose pipe bans and drought ridiculously quickly and what really annoys me is the obsession with lawns with people cutting their grass too short and then endlessly watering them.

    Are you sure the Jasmine will take a long time to get going? My experience is that often when you cut something back it revitalies the plant and you get rapid growth

  5. You've certainly got a lot going on at the moment. I'm sure you'll have the new pergola looking like part of the garden in no time.
    I love that huge cycad.

  6. I like these long posts that show what a whole garden really looks like, damage and all! Your courtyard is so shady and restful and beautiful (who needs a big green lush turf lawn when you have that courtyard space with so many container plants and the pergola!) I sympathize with you about tearing the pergola structure and vines down, necessary or not.

    I had seen the cyclone damage you posted before, but now, with the garden recovering, I can see the changes it created. Your gardens and courtyard and drive will all look great, just different, as time goes on. Great post, I felt like I was actually in your winter garden places.

  7. Patientgardener, I appreciate your kind comments. There are corners of my place that look lovely to me all year round, but the yard area is not one of them. But that's just how it is here as we most definitely do not have an obsession with keeping a green lawn. It would cost us an absolute fortune to pay the water bill.

    Missy, thank kind lady. I'm so hoping the repair work on the pergola is over quickly, so I can get to work goading all the chopped plants back to their former glory.

    Laurrie ... I don't do too many long view posts as most of the time the yard area looks dreadful. I do, however, love my courtyard and shadehouse gardens. They as my garden havens here in this dry corner of the world.

  8. Despite the drought everything is looking exotically fabulous!

  9. Oh my gosh. How do you take care of all of your garden. Even in winter or dry spell it is lush and beautiful.

  10. Good morning Bernie. It was lovely to hear from you! I thought I'd try commenting again and see if it will work this morning.
    You've been such a busy girl and your garden is showing its appreciation by looking beautiful :) What a lot of work you've done since that horrible cyclone made such a devastating mess.
    I'm so glad to see the encouraging changes that have taken place during the past several months.
    I can imagine your dread of the upcoming destruction of the wonderful Jasmine and other plants that must take place in order to reconstruct the pergola. I guess you'll just have to dwell on the future resulting beauty that will surely take its place :)
    Enjoy the fruits of your labour dear Bernie.

  11. What a lovely garden you have. I enjoyed scrolling through it...
    Happy August to you!

  12. Today is another Sunday. I have enjoyed an early morning stroll at your garden too. Wishing you all the best so that your renovations will go smoothly. Good to take away traces of the cyclone damage and start fresh again.

  13. I can't believe the garden has recovered so quickly. There was so much damage. I guess hard work and your climate has contributed to your success. Well done!

  14. Your garden is really beautiful, Bernie. The courtyard with all the pots is amazing. And who needs a green lawn with all the gorgeous varieties of foliage you can grow up there?


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