Monday, July 11, 2011

Mess And Mayhem In The Garden ... My Downunder Dry Tropics Garden Journal ... Week 28, 2011

 Date:  July 11th, 2011

 Season:  mid-Winter / 'dry' season

Making plans is great, but you know what they say about the best-laid plans.  I had a long, long list of gardening jobs to be done when the mid-semester break began a fortnight ago.  I was sooo... looking forward to working my way through that list.  Then some vile virus caught up with me.  That meant I was down for the count for about a week and a half.  All I could do was sit out on the verandah, coughing and spluttering, sneezing and wheezing, while watching the wildlife playing about all around me.  Well that's what I did in between naps!

Now I won't complain too bitterly.  There were some fabulous sights for me to enjoy while I was swaying on the rocking chair.

The Spangled Drongo.

The Forest Kingfisher.

The Yellow-Bellied Sunbird.

The Pacific Baza or Crested Hawk.

But as the last week of my holidays reached the halfway mark, my craving to be out doing some decent work in the garden took over completely and I decided I just had to do something on the list.  So, gardening shears in hand, out I went determined to do battle with the tiered front garden bed. 


One particular side of this tiered garden bed, the side that's tucked up next to the shadehouse garden, has what I call my tiered rock garden.  This side was looking totally wild and woolly after our wet season.  The Salvia madrensis need a short-back-and-sides and that Giant Sword Fern needed yanking. 


With the Salvia and Giant Sword Fern tamed, a few of the other plants like that lovely variegated Ixora and the Turnera behind it, finally get to see some sunshine.

While I was out there working away on these side beds, I found something surprising.  There was a Kalanchoe blossfeldiana that had somehow survived the the torrent of water that rushed through this part of the property during our wet season earlier in the year.

It was one of the little bits that I had broken off from the parent plant and just stuck in the soil hoping it would take.  The parent gave up long ago, and many of the other little slips I shoved in the dirt had never even started, but this lone little thing had somehow taken.  It had almost become squashed in the midst of my weeding and whacking frenzy, but luckily I spotted it in time.  I have to give this survivor full credit for getting through or summer and autumn conditions, and then showing off its first blooms for our winter.

Then I moved onto the other section of tiers and I spotted this!  It was just on a year ago now that my husband bought home a poor little piece of this Dietes that he'd noticed growing in the garden bed at his workplace.  He'd thought I would probably love it and ripped out a piece.  I prompty shoved it in a spot on the middle tier and forgot about it, not expecting it to do anything really as the poor thing had been yanked out without any care whatsoever.  It had a tiny little straggley piece of root on it and that was all.  I hadn't really noticed it in amongst the ferns that had taken over, and just like the Kalanchoe, I was not expecting it to survive the river of water that swept over the tiers for weeks and weeks.  But ... there it was!

But that was not the end of the surprises.  I decided I'd better move the Bletilla striata from the top rock garden tier which is off to the right of the photo above.  The poor Bletilla really clashed with the other plants around it, especially my orange Iris domestica.  So it needed to be moved down to this middle tier where it was amongst friends like the lovely Angelonia, Scaevola and blue Salvia.

As I was preparing a little spot for the Bletilla, I noticed that a slip of Inky Fingers Coleus that had broken off the parent plant and had been shoved into the soil at the back of this tier, had also taken off and was looking very fine indeed.

By now I was eager to get some plants that had been languishing in pots in my shadehouse garden out into the soil and light of the tiered garden beds.  I planted up my Toad Lily right next to the Bletilla. 

My pink Justicia brandegeana was planted in the top rock garden tier, along with a little bit of bracken fern, a red Salvia and a little red Gerbera.  Grow little babies, grow!  These new plants down the front are surrounded by my Hemerocallis 'Wedding Band', that Iris domestica and an Iresine herbstii, which got a great trim and tidy up.

In the neighbouring top tier, a pink Brugmansia and Pentas were planted in front of the Aralia, the young Lagerstroemia indica and the Euphorbia pulcherrima.  I came back later and planted some Salvia splendens in there as well. 

I'm more and more pleased with how the two top tiers are looking these days.  I can't wait for that patch of Hemerocallis to bloom in the spring.

I was on a roll now, and it was time to tackle the disaster that was the Shadehouse Garden. 

The Alocasia macrorrhiza or Giant Elephant's Ear was living up to its name and was about ready to lift the shadecloth roof.

The Giant Sword Fern was in the midst of a take-over of the entire area.  The poor Impatiens walleriana in the hanging baskets were swamped and bobbing up for air.

So the mayhem began. 

First, I had to take out the potted plants that were sitting in these garden beds.  It was a real struggle getting some of them out of their spots.  They had become so root-bound that the roots had escaped through the holes in the bottom of the pots and had anchored themselves into the ground.  It took some pushing and pulling to yank the pots out.  Every single potted plant needed to be re-potted.

My Costus productus or Orange Spiral Ginger was potted up into a much larger pot with some Frittonia 'Red Vein'.

My Costus speciosus variegata or Variegated Crepe
Ginger was given a bigger pot to play around in ...

... as were my Calatheas, Alpinia vittata and Anthurium.

Eventually the wilderness was tamed.

Now I'm able to wander up and down without the need to take a hatchet with me to hack a pathway through the jungle.  I can now return to work with a lighter heart knowing I've ticked off some of the most important items on that list!


  1. What a lovely blog Bernie. You certainly did a great job tackling that jungle. I remember doing exactly the same. In the tropics things just take off an before you know it you are being entwined by plants yourself. It was a lot of work and I dare say this garden I have now is so much easier to maintain, well, except for the weeds which have been popping up since the first rains fell. But nothing like digging or armed with a pair of secateurs like in Cainrs. Worst of all were the gingerplants, tough thick stems which took up all my efforts. It doesn't look like you have that many amongst your lot. I think you took some wonderful shots of the birdies. They are terrific Bernie. They must all know you, for they just pose for you it seems.

  2. Aussie ... yes I know you would understand exactly what it's like. After the wet season the plants just go beserk. Thankfully my Gingers are all in pots so I don't have too much trouble keeping them under control here. As for those bird shots ... I take dozens to get one or two decent ones. Patience pays off in the end.

  3. You've achieved a lot despite the obvious difficulties of your climate. I congratulate you. I'm a lover of subtropical / exotic gardening here in the chilly UK and it's always inspiring to see what can be achieved in a true tropical garden - even one with such extremes of climate.

    The shade house shots are a particular favourite. Exactly the type of effect I'm trying to create in parts of my own garden - even if I can only do it in our summers. I'll enjoy browsing your other posts.

  4. Great job you did there. Lovely photos too.

  5. I read your blog marveling at the sight of such wonderful exotic birds. Then I shared in your excitement at finding lost gems. Then on to the shade house I read with eager anticipation what has she been up to now…more exciting finds …. No, I’m left with an image in my head …..Something you said to me the other day along the lines of “You call that a knife” Mrs Dundee!

  6. Oh Bernie ~ What a wonderful place you have there. I thought the jungle look looked great but it looked even more wonderful after you tidied it all up. I love that Inky Fingers coleus. I've never seen it before.

    Hope you are steadily feeling better.

    Enjoy all the beauty in flora and fauna. You have some wonderful birds there.


  7. Trainer John, the shadehouse garden is a special little microclimate all its own and is the one spot where I do have more success keeping plants going than most of the other corners of my garden. It's a joy to be able to walk out there from the house once more.

    Thanks Amanda. It was job long overdue.

    Oh Sue, you do crack me up! Thanks lovely Lavender Lady.

    Flower Lady, I'm afraid the jungle was just too much. I don't mind a jungle look out there, but I do rather like being able to wander up and down the pathway as well, lol! Inky Fingers Coleus is available over there I'm sure. You should look out for it. It's a hardy little Coleus.

  8. I'm so glad you are feeling better Bernie, having a vile virus is definitly no fun.

    Obviously all you needed was a little rest, because you seem to have tackled your jungle with outstanding results!

    Your surprise finds are beautiful and it amazes me how you just "stick them in the ground" and they grow! I have to import truckloads of topsoil if I want to get anything to grow in my yard, it has so much rock that its all I can do to dig a hole to plant anything in without hitting one.


  9. Glad you are feeling better Bernie. Looks like you must save some of that Summer rainfall for your Winter garden, It looks great, fantastic pictures. And, really,300 days of sunshine each year, I am so very jealous.

  10. Your garden looks fab. Love that Yellow Bellied Sunbird. I would spend time gazing at that one.

  11. You did a great job. I have areas like that in my garden where I often need to take the pruners, the loppers, and maybe the saw to get things neat and clean again. For several years I could not wait for things to fill in the gaps, and now I am cutting things back. Funny how that happens...

  12. Hi Bernie - Glad you recovered and were able to spend time in your garden! the dieted - I have a lot in my garden, they are native to South Africa - in my experience, thet survive almost anything :)

    I love your shade house garden and the way you've a ranged everything in there - the hanging baskets are stunning, the choice of plants... Beautiful!

    PS love the burry shots at the beginning!

  13. Wonderful garden! You certainly have more colorful birds than we do here. And some wonderfully interesting flowers to this northerner.

    Thanks for sharing!

  14. Your garden is so lush and beautiful. Quite the envy of many of us I am certain. I hope you're well on the mend now!

  15. Wanda, it sounds like our gardens are very similar. My place is mostly rock so the tiered garden bed is the only place now where I can actually dig and plant. Otherwise the plants have to be potted up.

    Alistair, after all the rain we received earlier this year the garden is doing well now during the dry months. So far I've had to do very little watering out in the shadehouse ... just the hanging baskets.

    Bridget, the Sunbirds are here every day and I do spend a bit of time just gazing at them. They're very busy little things and have the prettiest song.

    Sage Butterfly, most of the time the big clearing out jobs happen before and after our wet season. For the rest of the year, it's not too bad thankfully.

    The Gardening Blog, I think I will have to get more of the Dietes. As you say, they seem to be very hardy plants in our conditions and climate.

    Julie, I'm so glad you enjoy a peek at the marvellous birds we get to see here. We very lucky to have such beautiful garden visitors.

    Desiree, yes on the mend now thank you. Lol, just in time to get back to work! Typical! Thanks so much for dropping by.

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  17. Bernie,
    that inky fingers coleus is lovely, I will have to watch out for it, and I love how the coleus all takes on different coloring at this time of year. I have had the flu too - (don't know of anyone who hasn't had it) hope you are on the mend.

  18. Dear Bernie, I am sorry you were unwell, and glad to hear you have recovered. You achieved a lot, and your lush garden is looking fabulous. I love that unusual coleus. They are annuals here, and I grow them every year to give color to shady areas. P. x

  19. Wow, you must have been feeling a lot better to do all that work! It amazes me how much a garden can grow after some good rain. In my case, it's weeds as well as desirables that want to take over. I love the way the tamed jungle in your shade house looks!

  20. Bernie, for someone who has been so laid up, you still have managed to pull out the stops and post an absolutely gorgeous virtual tour of your garden.

    I have to say, if I could have spent my convalescence on a lovely veranda looking at those gorgeous birds, I would have healed much faster -- but I wouldn't have wanted to.

    Your blog is always such a bright spot in my day!

  21. Get well soon Bernie, i am sure you will because good feelings help us in getting well fast. Your bird photos are so well taken.

  22. I'm fond of the little bits that fall off and are stuck in the ground and take root.


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