Sunday, August 28, 2011

Hungry Hordes ... My Dry Tropics Journal ... Week 35, 2011

 Date:  August 28th

Season:  end of Winter and 'dry' season

While the Winter sunshine bathes the garden in bright light and the skies overhead remain bright blue, I'm taking every opportunity to be out and about the place.  This is our last Winter month and while many southerners will be jumping for joy with the thought of Spring just around the corner, here in the north we're not all that thrilled.  Spring heralds the start of the heat once again and the sun's intensity ramps up a notch or two.  I've already started turning on the fans inside the house in the afternoons!

So, as we head into the really warm part of the year, I've taken the opportunity to do some planting in the new rock garden now to let the new plants get a little settled in.  This was the spot where opportunity knocked after the cyclone and I had the chance to create a new garden bed which is a rare occurrence on this property.  After all the prep work, including carting in some of the readily available rocks scattered around here, I had an area ready for some tough sun, heat and humidity hardy plants.

I'd taken some time to think through what would survive in this new garden bed.  There's no irrigation system in this section, so apart from the watering it would receive in the establishment phase, this bed would have little chance of sustaining anything other than extremely waterwise plants.  So, I bought a few things from a local nursery and I had a couple of plants I'd started from cuttings to throw into the mix.  They are all in their new home now.

At the back of this new area, next to the Pseuderanthemum, I've planted a marvellous Melaleuca linariifolia, sometimes referred to as 'Snow In Summer'.  It's a small tree that's native to my home state and when it eventually grows up, it will be covered in creamy white flowers all during our summer.  It's a baby now and hard to spot, but I'm hoping it will settle in well.

Starting at the left of the top photo, there's a Pennisetum advena 'Rubrum' or Purple Fountain Grass, with a Gardenia radicans in the front and a little behind that off to the right is the Caesalpinia pulcherrima.

Off to the right of the patch in the photo above ...

... the Pseuderanthemum has little Alternanthera 'Tricolour' planted around it.

There's a couple of Galphimia glauca shrubs, right next to the Fountain Grass, and a Turnera subulata in the front of those.  Down the front is a patch of Gazanias, with Gazania 'Sahara' right next door.  I've deliberately chosen lots of bright yellows for the middle of this new garden area.  I wanted something a bit more cheerful at the end of the driveway.

The 'Sahara' Gazania is middle top row of the collage.  It's a relatively new variety and has been bred in Australia as a plant that can withstand extended periods of dryness.   It's been billed as tough and reliable, so I'll be interested to see how it goes.

Galphimia glauca, seen on the far right of the second row above, is an extremely robust little shrub that tolerates full sun and high humidity very very well.  It has already proven how drought tolerant a plant it is as I've already got one little shrub in the front garden bed.

Turnera ulmifolia, seen on the far left of the bottom row, is known as a reliable drought tolerant plant and should do very well.  The Rudbeckia and Ixora 'Golden Ball' featured in the collage can be seen in the centre of the patch in the photo below.  I have no worries that they will both survive and flourish.

At the back of this section of yellows, off to the right there's this lovely Verbena ...

this gorgeous Thunbergia erecta 'Tru Blu' ...

and this Scutellaria ... which I picked up at the markets without a label unfortunately.  I'm not sure of its varietal name.

I'm looking forward to seeing how this new garden bed develops.  Sadly, there's already been a bit of a set-back ... thanks to a few hungry wallabies.

As it's our 'dry' season right now, the grasses in our yard and the surrounding bushland have withered and browned, and a lot of grass was also burnt off in the bushfire that swept across the adjoining hillside.

It's difficult for the little group of wallabies living around here to find a decent patch of grass to nibble on these days.

So, they've started searching for other little goodies to eat.  They do seem to like the leaves of the Gazanias ... not the flowers for some perculiar reason ... and they have nibbled all the Alternanthera plants down to a stub.  Having tried a product called 'De-Ter', which is supposed to deter creatures from nibbling on my plants and which failed miserably, I've decided I will have to erect some sort of barrier around this new garden bed to these poor plants have a chance of growing up!

I'll have to do the same thing with the bottom tier of the tiered garden beds outside my shadehouse.  It seems that Euphorbia 'Diamond Frost' is a treat no self-respecting hungry wallaby can resist ... oh and apparently while they were busy gnawing away at that it seems that they thought they might as well eat the white Pentas to the ground and actually dig out and ravenously consume the Creeping Charlie as well.

It's not a great sight at the moment.

The wallabies also managed to eat the Euphorbia 'Diamond Frost' growing in pots in the Courtyard Garden, and they found another delicious treat ... my Gomphrena globosa.  Again, apparently the flowers are not all that tasty, but the leaves and stems ... mmmmm!!!!  All this means I've had to do a bit of re-arranging of pots out in the courtyard, but I'm pleased with the way it's looking at the moment.

I'm managing to keep on top of the watering needs for all the pots out there, and wallaby damage aside, most of the plants are flourishing.  

The potted Azaleas always put on a great display towards the end of our Winter.  The Plectranthus 'Mona Lavender' is flowering beautifully and those Shock Wave Petunias are a fabulous addition to this corner.

The Salvia 'Dusky Hues' are carrying on with their show, as are the Crossandras. The Lavender is just now showing the first tiny little flowerhead and the two Plectranthus 'Mona Lavenders' are beginning to put on their next display of flowers.  The foliage plants in the background are adding lots of great colour.

Out in front of the pergola the potted annuals have started flowering and will be in full swing in a matter of weeks.

I can't wait for those double 'Bonanza' Petunias to fill out and for the Gazanias to bloom.

In front of the Cycad the New Guinea Impatiens and the Begonia semperflorens are putting on their best effort.

I planted up a whole heap of Oriental and Asiatic Liliums just three weekends ago ...

... along with some Cosmos seeds I had been sent from a couple of kind fellow bloggers.

They have all started pushing their heads above the soil. 

One of my gorgeous Begonias is in full bloom ...

... and the beautiful double Impatiens walleriana hybrid I bought last year has finally shown the variegated blooms it was covered in when I originally purchased it.  After that first flush of lovely red and white splashed flowers, the Impatiens reverted back to just plain red blooms and I had almost given up hope of seeing these variegated ones again.  But it seems, re-potting and moving into a slightly sunnier spot has changed its mind about which flowers to show off.  I'm pleased to see these particular blooms back once more.

Elsewhere around the place, the cyclone-damaged trees and shrubs continue their slow, slow recovery, but it's good to see the signs of canopy growth once more in the tall trees left behind.  These trees, though still standing after Cyclone Yasi, were stripped of almost all their leaves and looked decidedly naked for months.  The leaves have returned and so have some of the birds that forage amongst these trees.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Snapshots Of Mid-Winter ... July 2011 ... It's The Dry Season.

I'm taking the opportunity to catch up with my Snapshots series, highlighting what's flowering each mid season here in my corner of north-eastern Australia, whilst joining in Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day.  Even though it's mid-August now, things are almost exactly the same in my garden.

Conditions during July?

Yep, dry is the word.  This was (and still is) the view out onto the bushland surrounds during mid-winter.  The theme ... brown, brown with a smattering of grey-green.

The 'dry' season was well and truly underway by the beginning of July.  We did receive a little rain during June (our beginning of winter month), but that was mostly light showers.  The total was around 15 mm which is only half an inch!!  For July the total rainfall was 1 mm, which is the usual here during our winter, spring and early summer.  Compared to the same time last year, it seems our 'dry' season weather is back to normal.  The 2010 'dry' season was unseasonably wet ... one of the wettest on record ... but that has not been repeated in 2011.  This is what our winter is typically like.

Daytime temperatures mostly hovered around 25 deg C (77F) and the night-time temps dipped to around 12 deg C (53 F), although we did have a rather chilly 7 deg C (44 F) one night!!! That was a definite winter PJs and doona night!

Skies were mostly clear and blue ... 

... although there were a few hazy days during the last couple of weeks of July, as there had been a few controlled burn-offs in various locations on the outskirts of our city, including the ranges that circle our outlying suburb, seen in the photo to the left.

Starting with the trees around our property ... what was flowering?

Not much!  That's pretty much the short answer to that question.  My usual winter bloomers include the Bauhinia variegata 'Alba', the Spathodea campanulata and the Tabebuia impetiginosa, but thanks to Cyclone Yasi, none of these trees were putting on their usual winter display this year.

On the left is my Bauhinia in full bloom last winter, on the right is the stump this winter.

On the left is my Spathodea or African Tulip Tree top covered in flowers last winter.  On the right is the upended stump lying on its side sprouting new growth.  This is a one tough tree.  Despite the fact that most of the rootball is exposed, this thing is still trying to grow.  We've tried digging it out, but it's growing in a hard-to-access spot so all our efforts have been in vain.

The Tabebuia was left a little lop-sided, with one side rather damaged after the cyclone.  The other half was showing just a few flowers here and there though, which was delightful.

At the top is the Tab in bloom last winter.  Looking to the bottom of the collage, over on the left, you can see the lop-sided Tab this winter with just a smattering of the lovely pink blooms.

Now onto the shrubs ... what was blooming?

The many Duranta repens shrubs growing down the driveway were growing taller very slowly, and at least one of them was showing the gorgeous purple and white flowers once more.  I really have missed the view of all the flower sprays on the Durantas as I drive in after work.

Whilst the Pink Calliandra, Calliandra surinamensis, was recovering beautifully and really starting to fill out once again, it hadn't shown any of its usual winter blooms.

The red Calliandra, Calliandra haematocephala, escaped damage during Yasi and had carried on as usual, showing lots of beautiful powderpuff blooms this winter. 

It's also a great food source for the nectar loving Dusky Honeyeater.

Out in the courtyard, the Euphorbia leucocephala or Snowflake Bush did put on its winter show, although not quite as full and lush as usual.  Still, it's always wonderful to see those brilliant white bracts and teeny tiny white flowers.

The dwarf Azalea in the front garden bed, though, really outdid itself this winter.  I've never seen so many flowers on it before.  It rather took me by surprise considering the lashing it received during the cyclone.  It is one hardy little plant.

The Euphorbia pulcherrimas were in bloom.  My favourite is the pink, and it is just forging ahead very well.  It's now reached around a metre in height and was literally covered in bracts and flowers.  The red Poinsettia did flower, but it suddenly took a turn for the worse a couple of weeks later.  The prognosis is not good and I'm not sure what the problem might be.

The newly planted dwarf white Poinsettia, seen above in front of the white Cuphea, has settled into its spot well and did show its very first bracts and blooms this winter. 

Pentas were not in bloom as they had been totally infested with some horrible pest and had to be cut back drastically and treated.  I'm sure they'll be back in full bloom by the spring.

The only Ixoras showing blooms were the pink in the front garden bed and the orange in the courtyard garden.

The white, yellow and red Ixoras were all still on vacation.

There were a few flowers on the Hibiscus schizopetalus, or Japanese Lantern Hibiscus, out in the courtyard,

and the Malvaviscus arboreus, or Lipstick Hibiscus, was showing blooms after being cut back post-cyclone.

The tall Hibiscus rosa-sinensis in the hillside driveway had also been damaged during the cyclone and trimmed quite a bit, but was throwing out just a few little single crinkly-edged red blooms.

My oldest Hibiscus, growing in the front garden bed, had also been cut back severely, but was blooming again.  You just can't keep a good old girl down!

Out in the Shadehouse Garden ... what was flowering?

The answer to that question is ... not much! 

Apart from blooms on the non-stop flowering Dragon Wing Begonias, the only plants showing off flowers were the Impatiens walleriana, the white Impatiens hawkerii ... seen above ..

... and the white Ivy-leafed Pelargonium.

Elsewhere around the place ...

My original planting of red Kalanchoe has died off, but a slip I shoved in the ground took off and was in flower, as seen to the left of the photo above.  I also planted an orange Kalanchoe blossfeldiana at the same time as the original planting of the red, but it didn't flower this year and is looking rather sick ... it might be time to move it.

There are also some flowers appearing on my potted Pelargoniums ...

... and Bracteanta bracteata sitting out on the verandah stairs.

Now, out in the Courtyard Garden ... what was blooming?

I did a quick walk around the courtyard garden with my camera to see what was going on mid-winter.

Lots of pots spot.

Palm Alley.

Around the Cycad.

Towards the pergola.

Looking over the courtyard from the seating area.

I also did a wander around with the camera video to record the state of affairs out there.  I do apologise for the squeaky voice in places.  I was just getting over some horrid winter virus when I filmed this clip.  At one point, I had to stop talking because I knew I would start coughing and spluttering, which wouldn't be a fabulous addition to the clip. 

Anyway, here's a look around the courtyard in July ... mid-winter.  (NOTE:  before you play this clip, you will need to scroll down and turn off the Playlist at the bottom of the page).

I'm joining Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day at Carol's May Dreams Gardens blog.
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