Sunday, October 9, 2011

Finding Delight In The Dry And Desolate ... My Dry Tropics Garden Journal ... Week 40, 2011

Date:  October 9, 2011

Season:  mid-Spring and 'dry' season

The dry season marches on in my corner of the world, and it's now being flanked by the rising temps brigade and the higher humidity company.  No rain has fallen here for nearly six months now, which is typical for this region. The mercury is creeping up over the 30 deg C (high 80s-90 F) mark every day and humidity is up around 60%.   It's beginning to feel a lot like Summer, even though it's only mid-Spring.

Of course, the surrounding bushland has dried up considerably and the grasses have turned a brilliant shade of dead!

Our property looks remarkably similar.

The bushfires still rage in the mountain ranges that ring our outlying rural suburb and we've had many, many hazy days.

My gardening spirits have been brought low lately, not just because the dry season has created such a parched landscape ... I'm used to that happening every year ... no, it's a few other annoyances piled on the top.

For the first time ever I'm seeing considerable damage being caused by ravenous wallabies.  They've been nibbling away on so many plants in the outdoor garden beds, and then had the hide to move onto the courtyard garden plants!!!   This has never happened before, so I suspect there might be a couple of slightly-brighter-than-the-average wallabies around, and they've figured out there's loads of delicious plants in pots scattered around the back of the house.

I've had to barricade off the seemingly most delicious plants ... like the Euphorbia 'Diamond Frost', the Crossandras and the New Guinea Impatiens ... and put most of the pots of flowering annuals and perennials ... like the Torenias, Nasturtiums and Plectranthus ... up on the outdoor dining table so they're out of reach.  It makes for a great looking tabletop, but a rather barren and drab courtyard!

Then there's the unsightly view of the construction site that was a car shed at the end of our sad looking cyclone damaged driveway garden beds.  There used to be a lovely Jacaranda tree and a massive great stand of Golden Cane Palm in this area.  Not any more!  This project just seems to go on and on and on.  I know it's a hard, complicated job and my darling hubbie is doing it all by himself, so it's not been easy ... but I am getting rather sick of this sight when I come home from work in the afternoons, particularly at this time of year when everything around is so drab and dreary.

To top it all off, there's the re-construction work that has now begun on our cyclone damaged house.  It's been eight months since Cyclone Yasi ripped through here and caused not only damage to the trees and plants, but also damaged the bull-nosed verandah awning, and we've been waiting patiently for something to be done.  Then, out of the blue, it's started!! 

I'm hoping that the roof will be repaired and the scaffolding removed before the next wet/cyclone season is due ... that's now only two months away!!  Do you think I'm being too optimistic?

(Just a quick aside ... these shots give you a great idea of just what 'dry' season means around here.  We don't water the lawn area ... trying to keep that green for around ten months of the year with sprinklers would cost an absolute fortune in excess water fees.  Not worth it)

Back to it ... Oh yes, did I happen to mention that there's garden beds under all that scaffolding.  It seems that the scaffolding team didn't notice there was a garden in front of the house.  They just trampled over the beds and plants in their frenzy to get the walkways up ready for the roofing guys to come and do the repair work.  Let's take a closer look, shall we?  I hope you're not squeamish!

Now if I'd known the scaffolders were coming, I might not have baked them a cake, but I most definitely would have trimmed all the shrubs in those two front garden beds.  The last thing I need right now is more damaged vegetation!!

Anyway all in all, this gardener is quite simply down for the count right now and I'm hoping that in writing this post, I will find some small delights around this dreary looking place of mine.  Bear with me, I think this is going to be a long post!

Let's see .... do I sit down and moan endlessly about just how dry and ugly the view is around here, or do I sit and appreciate the stunning sunrises that light up the bleak dry landscape on so many mornings?

Many of the cyclone damaged shrubs growing down both sides of our driveway are suffering quite a lot right now.  Unbelievably it seems that a few of the Duranta repens shrubs have actually died off.  Now, it takes a lot to kill a Duranta, but it seems the combination of cyclonic wind damage followed by months of dry season has been too stressful for some of them.  So do I get upset with those losses ... or do I jump for joy that there are some flowers appearing on the remaining stunted Durantas that are still trying to recover????

So many of the shrubs and Palms down the driveway are showing signs of distress from thirst, and I've had to resort to turning on the irrigation system once or twice, which has helped restore them to health but the downside will be a pretty high excess water bill at the end of the year.  Do I get cranky about the impending expense of our water usage in an effort to keep plants going, or do I find delight in the fact that my beloved damaged white Bauhinia is actually flowering?

The Agile Wallabies have been finding it hard to feast on their usual diet of grass, and have been raiding the garden beds every night in an effort to fill their bellies.  They pull down the branches, shred off all the leaves they can reach, nibble off almost every flower and even dig up entire plants.  Should I feel down because the shrubs look broken and ravaged, or should I find solace in the fact that there are still some flowers blooming up high on the bare stripped branches where the wallabies just can't reach???

Should I focus on the ugly mess of building materials lying scattered about the place, or look for the cute things like the sight of birds enjoying a quick shower under the sprinkler when I turn it on in the evenings?

Maybe I should just avert my eyes from the fern fronds being singed and burnt.  They're now being exposed to the full force of the sun, since the tree canopy was stripped away from this garden bed during the cyclone. 

I should perhaps be more appreciative of the sight of all the Brunfelsia blooms.  The 'Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow' shrub hasn't seen full sunlight in many, many years and it's just rejoicing in the new state of affairs since the removal of the tree canopy.

The Plumerias are also very appreciative of this change in conditions.  They are simply loving the new full sun position.  The deciduous Plumeria rubras have started sprouting their new spring foliage and one has even thrown out a flower cluster.  Obviously very happy indeed!  I'm fully expecting a fabulous show of flowers throughout the summer from these two deliriously happy Frangipani trees.

I know I really should stop fretting about the state of some of the older established shrubs in the driveway garden beds ... shrubs like this poor Croton below.  Some are just doing it tough through this dry season and there's really not much I can do to help them along, apart from giving them the occasional watering.  At least there's evidence of new growth!

On the other hand, I should be totally overjoyed by the progress of the new plantings in the driveway rock garden.  I have been religiously watering them just a little every other evening and they seem to have settled in well, especially the Verbena, the Scutellaria indica and the Turnera ulmifolia.

Maybe I need to cease trying to work out just what it is that's afflicting some of the older shrubs around the place.  I just can't work out why one of the Crotons is suddenly becoming paler and paler and looking decidedly ill ... or why one of my oldest Hibiscus rosa-sinensis (the only one that's not been ravaged by wallabies!) has suddenly developed variegated foliage!  Neither of these plants have given me any trouble previously and I'm at a bit of a loss.

I think it would be far better to focus on the more usual occurrences ... such as the beautiful shedding of bark on both my Eucalyptus platyphylla and Corymbia torelliana.

Every year the Corymbia torellaina or Cadaghi Gum Tree sheds it outer covering to reveal a gorgeous green trunk underneath.  It's simply beautiful!

The Eucalyptus platyphylla or Poplar Gum also sheds its bark every year to reveal a new trunk of the most gorgeous salmon pink colour.  This eventually turns to the familiar smooth white trunk in the coming weeks.  Both are sights that never fail to please me.

I must, I must, I must ... increase my tolerance level for wallaby-nibbled plants.  There's really nothing I can do about it, because it's just been impossible to predict what they will eat next!!!  They're chomping on plants that they've never touched ever before.  So I will take comfort in the fact that the leaves on the Iresine herbstii will grow back ...

... and in the meantime, I will rejoice in the fact that the wallabies haven't yet developed the taste for Hemerocallis blooms.  This is the first for the season and so far, there's not a trace of a nibble!  Hemerocallis 'Blackberry Jack' has not yet made it onto the menu of Bush Bernie's Wallaby Restaurant!!

OK, now I'm just being silly ... "goin' troppo!" as we call it here in the tropics.  I need something to soothe the weary gardening spirit.  Thankfully, there are still some lovely flowers here and there.

First of all, here's what's blooming in the pots out in the courtyard garden, whether they be sitting atop the table or braving it out on the pavers.
It's also terrific to see the first ever blooms on my Diffenbachias and the first 'break' on one of my Cycas revolutas.

Here's some of the lovely sights out in the shadehouse garden.

Finally, there are still a few blooms left in the tiered garden beds.


  1. Is there anything you can put out in your container garden to deter the Wallabies, like garlic oil or something? Six months of no rain? I'll stop complaining about our lack of rain. Love your home, I bet it would cost a fortune and then some to grow grass. Sorry about the damaged plants by the workers...sigh I beleive you should keep thinking on the things you do have and not the things you don't, :)

  2. Dear, dear Bernie ~ I would get depressed and discouraged too with the dryness of your gardens, your damaged wonderful flowering trees and plants and the visiting eaters at your garden restaurant.
    Not to mention the construction materials, I've had to live with some of that and it can get us down. But as you have done, seeing the beauty that is still surrounding us can lift our spirits and make us feel grateful for our many blessings.

    I love all of your beautiful blooms and hope you get some relief in all areas soon.

    Love and hugs ~ FlowerLady

  3. Za dużo nieszczęść naraz:cyklon, susza i kangury, Ja bym się chyba załamała. Ty jednak cieszysz się tym co zostało i dlatego Cie podziwiam. Pozdrawiam

  4. That shot of the fearless wallabies is priceless. They have the same "what, me??" look the deer give me when caught nibbling my gardens.

    You have so many woes in your garden, but your irrepressible optimism won't let you go there. Despite yourself you find the prettiest things still going on!

    Your dry season is like our winter up here. The lawn goes completely dormant, the flowers depart, the perennials and containers are cut to the ground or come inside, all things become brown and bleak, the deer and voles maraud, and we find other beautiful things to look at.

    Stay optimistic, there are nice things to see in your wonderful dry spring world, at least to this interested blog reader : )

  5. Hahaha Bernie, you really sound a bit upset, as shown by the long post. It looks like you poured maybe 2 or 3 posts into one because of so many things interconnected in your condition. If that happens to me i will be mad, overly mad, not because of the wallabies but because of men who acted like the cousins of wallabies. I pity those plants under the scaffolding. I am so sorry about that. But maybe you should just concentrate on your great plants and flowers still looking beautifully despite the dry conditions. You are so dry there because rain supposed to be yours are poured here. I also posted about weather conditions, it is just the opposite of yours! Be happy it will pass.

  6. Oh Bernie, I can relate to your depression at the sight of dying vegetation all around. Texas is in its worst drought in history and forests around are all dying. We've had wildfires too.
    But it's wonderful that in amongst all the devastation, you are able to find such bright spots, beautiful blooms and signs of hope and renewal. Hang in there, things will get better soon.

  7. Oh to have something other than rock squirrels eating my plants! Could the wallabies bounce over my walls? I don't think so. Those guys are cute though and it is interesting to see someone else's pests. Sorry for your losses and those pesky workmen. We have all suffered from that. I am sure your plants will make a comeback in time. Is the grass a type that goes dormant? Love your flowers. They must cheer you up no end.

  8. This seems to have been an exceptionally dry winter. We normally do get a few showers up here, but even we have hard dry brown grass. It crackles underfoot! You found some lovely flowers to share though! Love that peeling bark too! I hope you try cutting back the hippeastrums before binning them! hang in there - soon we will have rain!

  9. When I see the challenges and projects that you have, I am reminded not to complain so much. Here our worst garden pest might be the cottontail rabbits that run through the pasture and the yard; however, their numbers are dwindling because the great horned owls have returned. Makes me sad because the little rabbits never bothered the garden. Now Wallabies. What could carry them away? They look so cute, but I am sure that they are not at all cute as they grow fat in your yard. I quite enjoy reading about your garden and your way of life clear on the other side of the globe.

  10. So sorry about the damage in your garden. It's hard to get rid of the pest sometimes!
    Beautiful pictures and what a gorgeous Eucalyptus tree!

  11. Darla, I've tried garlic oil, chilli oil, a commercial deterrent and even barricading! Nothing seems to deter hungry wallabies. As for growing grass here, yes it would be an astronomical cost! Maybe when we win the Lotto!

    Flowerlady, I shall just keep on looking for the small delights. Everything else will hopefully be sorted out eventually.

    Giga, the only thing to do really is just to carry on. I don't give up easily. I may be a little down right now, but I know I'll rally again.

    Laurrie, thank you. It's great to have a place to air my woes. They don't seem quite so bad when you have lovely people like yourself offering support.

    Andrea, lol, yes I did warn readers that it might be a long post. I knew I'd probably go on for a bit. Eventually, all will pass, as you say, but it helps to let out the gripes!

    Jayne, I know you've had some very dry conditions too. I've heard there's been some rain falling in central Texas. I do so hope you get your fair share.

    Lancashire Rose, I'm thinking those wallabies might jump walls if they're hungry enough. It would be fantastic if I could send some over there, just as an experiment. You can keep them if you want, as I don't think I'd miss them. About the grass, it's not really what I would call 'grass'. It's a mish-mash of weeds and some sort of grassy stuff that grows out in the surrounding bush.

    Africanaussie, yes it does seem rather dry this year. I suppose we were spoilt last year as we did get a little rain through the dry. We obviously forgot what the dry is really like. Have cut back the Hippies! We'll see how they go.

    Ann, oh for some cute little rabbits. Then again, maybe not. I thought the wallabies were cute, up until this year!!!

    Malar, I suppose we all have our garden pests. Some bigger than others! I have to agree with you about the Eucalyptus tree. It is definitely a gorgeous specimen.

  12. Dear Bernie, I am sorry you are feeling so low right now, but can totally understand why. I try to move on, believing "there's always next year." But actually, I see a lot of beauty still going on in your amazing garden. P. x

  13. I love the way you have balanced each negative with a positive. Not easy to do, under the circumstances, I know! As gardeners, we all feel pain when things are damaged or destroyed, when the seasons are too hot and dry or too cold and wet. But none of us can fight nature, so it's best to look for the bright spots as you have done so beautifully here! I found this another hugely interesting post. Seeing your lovely home and the layout of your property, even if it is not at it's best in your eyes, has been a treat for us. Yes, that's easy for me to say since I am not faced with the daily exposure to these upsetting aspects of it all as you are. I really do empathize, since we all have our battles no matter where we live or what type of gardens we look after. Big hug xoxo


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