Sunday, September 11, 2011

Spring Is Here! ... My Dry Tropics Garden Journal ... Week 37, 2011.

Date:  September 11th, 2011

Season:  Early Spring and 'Dry' Season

The weather has turned a little overcast lately and there have been some ominous looking dark clouds hanging around, but no rain.  We're now just over four months into our 'dry' season and, with the beginning of Spring, it's the beginning of the end of the glorious cool comfortable climate we experience here during our Autumn-Winter.

Summertime is not something I look forward to in my part of the world  ... only 80 days to go, but who's counting ... so Springtime is not something I get all that excited about.  For northern hemisphere people this may be a little hard to comprehend, but for those who live in the sultry tropics you will know exactly why this is so!

It's still pleasant enough during the daytime though, to wander around the garden areas I call the Shadehouse Garden ...

...  and the Courtyard Garden.

I realise I show this view of the Courtyard Garden a lot.  It's what you see if you stand with your back to the main part of the house.

I thought I should probably show the courtyard from another angle, and you will see why this particular garden area is such a favourite of mine.  To me, the Courtyard Garden feels like it's part of the house.  It's like an outdoor room.  Here's the view looking towards the house for a change.

This area is where I spend a lot of my time.  It's my wonderful colourful haven.  When I'm not at work, I probably wander out there anything up to twenty times a day.  A bit of watering, deadheading, trimming.  There's always time for a bit of a chat with the residents whether they be plant ...

... or animal. 

The remainder of our property however, is not so much a haven as one huge expanse of dry parched ground where I choose not to spend a whole lot of time.

I don't share vista views of the property much, especially not during our dry season.  It's about now I can hear the voice of that robot in 'Lost In Space' saying "Danger, Will Robinson.  Danger!"  I feel the need to change that sentence slightly and say "Danger, dear reader. Danger!"  But, this is a garden journal, not a showcase of lovely garden photos!  You will understand completely why I'm not all that keen to share many vista views when you see the following photos.

Months without rain for the grass and plants on this rocky granite hillside means they die off, die back or look pretty horrid for most of the year.  But, of course, given the damage many trees and bushes suffered earlier in the year during a destructive cyclone, the place is looking far worse than usual because so many of the established plants are just not in top form.

So here's the view down the driveway garden from the gates this time last year ... during dry season.

This is the view this year.

Spot the differences!!

The Calliandras on either side of the gates are almost missing from the view as they had to be cut back a lot.  The huge stands of Duranta repens shrubs appear to be missing.  They're not actually missing.  They're just tiny, standing at less than a metre in height still.  There's one of the recovering Durantas in the photo below ... you can see the bright green new growth.  That shrub was over 3 metres high this time last year.

It's also obvious that the massive Golden Cane Palm clumps are not quite their usual lush and full selves.  So many of the fronds were broken or snapped off during Yasi, and a lot of the long erect golden stems had to be thinned out.  Cyclone recovery is still on-going for so many of the trees and shrubs in the driveway garden beds, but of course, this has been drastically slowed down by the lack of rainfall.

In spite all this though, there have been some delightful finds.  There's finally a spray of flowers on at least one of the severely trimmed Duranta repens shrubs.  It's terrific to see the pretty purple blooms once again, even if it's just one spray at the moment.

My poor beloved stunted white Bauhinia has also thrown up a bloom.  What a darling sight from this old trooper!  A valiant effort considering the tree is less than one-third the size it was last year.

OK ... enough of finding the good, here's another little tale of woe.  At the moment, I'm having trouble keeping the Agile Wallabies out of the garden beds around the house, especially the two front beds.  Now I know the wallabies are having trouble finding food during this dry season, but they have now resorted to nibbling on my plants ... plants like my oldest Hibiscus rosa-sinensis, which is usually covered in huge red flowers right now. 

This poor shrub not only had to put up with the indignities dished out by Cyclone Yasi, when it was stripped of most of its leaves and had its branches ripped off, it's now become a favourite with hungry wallabies. These creatures have never touched this shrub before in the more than ten years we've lived here and it's strange seeing the shrub looking so bare and forlorn.  The wallabies have now resorted to pulling down the branches and breaking them off to get to the leaves that are left.   By the way ... did you happen to notice the dead grass?   We're so used to the sight, but I know visitors are often taken aback.

One of the biggest jobs around my place at the moment, apart from attempting to keep ravenous wallabies at bay, is to keep an eye out for those plants in distress because of the dry conditions.  After almost five months without rain, there have been some signs that the older established plants down the driveway are starting to get a little thirsty.  Plants such as the Crotons have started dropping leaves.

The Giant Sword Fern clumps down the hill driveway have started sizzling in the bright sunshine, thanks to the removal of the tree canopy by Cyclone Yasi, and have started dying off because of lack of moisture.  I've had to actually put the sprinkler on for a couple of hours in the early mornings this past week to try and keep them going.

The old deciduous Plumerias in this area are not showing signs of distress though. They are starting to show the first signs of new foliage, so (as I said before) it's not all doom and gloom out there.  I have high hopes for a brilliant display of blooms this summer now that they have had so much time in full sun since the tree canopy was removed.

There have also been some firsts in the garden. 

The first red bracts have appeared on my Stromanthe sanguinea 'Triostar' out in the Shadehouse Garden...

... and the first bottlebrush bloom has appeared on my Callistemon 'Pink Champagne' which is growing in the tiered garden bed.

These are the things that gladden the heart despite the fact that all around is looking so drab and dreary There have also been some fabulous sunsets which have indeed lifted the spirits.  It's a fantastic way to end the day.


  1. Hello Bernie, you have the loveliest courtyard! Love that pot of nasturtium as well. Looks like the dry season will keep you busy watering those thirsty plants. Stromanthe sanguinea is a difficult plant for me. It's so nice to see yours regrowing. And I am sure, pretty soon the whole garden is going to be really lush and green. Enjoy Sunday!

  2. I would live in that restful courtyard all the time. I can see why it's your favorite "room".

    Thanks for the extended tour. I absolutely love seeing others' real gardens, not just the bloom closeups. I know how you feel about the distressed look of things right now, but you see recovery and you know how it can look. To my eyes (we're drowning up here in too much rain, floods, general sogginess and rampant weediness) your dry land looks so clean and spare and lovely in its own way.

  3. No wonder there is some dread of summer for you Bernie seeing established plants showing the stresses and strains of weather extremes. Survival of the fittest are not always the faves. The journal is so helpful in recording all these changes - a garden blog is not the same as garden coffee table magazine! Impressive skies, startling landscapes and the lovely courtyard. Great post. p.s. are the nasturtiums 'Alaska' - I grew these this year and love the marbled foliage as much as the flowers. Cooling effects too!

  4. Stephanie, thank you for dropping by again. The courtyard is looking quite lovely this time of year. I do have to water out there every second day, but I enjoy the time spent doing that chore. The Stromanthe has done well for me and I'm pleased to see it bloom.

    Laurrie, I do find myself out in the courtyard a lot! It's one garden space that I never tire of. Most of the property is not all that picturesque, so I retreat to the courtyard or the shadehouse whenever possible. I know about drenched landscape too. That's our 'wet' season, which is now around three months away, but we're hoping it's not as bad as the one we experienced early this year.

    Laura, yes I do dread summer here. It's a hard time when gardening really becomes hard work. Yes those Nasturtiums are the 'Alaska' mix and my favourites. I grow them every year if possible, and they're doing well this time around.

  5. Looove your courtyard garden, so lush!

  6. Wow !!! Your house and the courtyard are so beautiful. And the wallabies is so cute. Nice post.

  7. Hi Bernie, The courtyard is looking superb. What a fantastic splash of colour from the nasturtiums, definitely one for my list for next spring. As for those annoying critters, have you tried rubbing scented soap on the lower branches? We have used it to keep deer off plants in the past and it has worked, it might be worth a try. It rained heavily last night
    Most of my flowers were beaten to the ground so lots to do this week.
    Have a good week

  8. The extremes in weather conditions are certainly difficult to deal with. How often do you water when summer comes around? Poor wallabies. Poor Hibiscus.

  9. You have a beautiful yard . Love that photo with the roo. Great shots.

  10. Your courtyard is so nice, I can understand that you spend much time out there. I can't imagine what it would be to have a dry seasons for 4-5 months, but we have winter in almost as many months and we freeze and we mostly are inside. I long for the spring many times during the wintertime. But I understand it's not fun to see your plants die in dry season. Well think how different it is in our world and it's really interesting to read in your blog to see what is on your side of the globe. So thanks for your visit with me and I will gladly come back here and say hello.

  11. WOW! You have such a lovely and spacious courtyard. Hope the dry season won't do too much damage to the plants.


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