Sunday, April 29, 2012

April Shower Bonus ... My Dry Tropics Garden Journal ... Week 19, 2012.

Date:  April 29, 2012


Season: mid-Autumn and 'dry' season



Lots of dark dreary clouds rolled in on Friday and we had a brilliant downpour of rain which fell a little short of an inch of rain ... around 17 mm ... but was most welcome.  While we are certainly at the beginning our 'dry' season here in the northern tropics, an April shower is not totally uncommon.  It does happen, but it's not all that commonplace.  In fact, the rain that fell on Friday was the only rain that's fallen all this month.


I was over the moon when the heavens opened, because I hadn't yet gotten around to the mulching of the newer garden beds.  So it was very serendipitous that the ground got a lovely soaking just before I visited the nursery to get some bags of sugar cane mulch.  I didn't have to use up precious water to do the job.

Mulching is so very important for these newly developing garden beds, especially as our dry rolls on.  When I do start the regular watering by hand schedule out there, I need the watering to be useful for the newly established plants and not wasted through rapid evaporation.  Even if the daytime temps are dropping slightly, it's still very warm outside during the day and the ground gets baked quickly.


So I rushed out to the nursery yesterday to buy a couple of big bags of my favourite mulching medium ... sugar cane mulch.   On the opposite side of the driveway the mulch is provided by the overhanging trees, but on the side where this rock garden bed is located, I need to add mulch if I want it on the bed.  I've been using sugar cane mulch for a couple of years now, and I can't speak highly enough of it.  It is wonderful for moisture retention and for water penetration as the coarse mulch does not compact like others.  I also find that here in the tropics, this particular mulch seems to promote earthworms, which is fantastic for the rather nutrient poor soil that's the norm for this property.

I'm sure I almost hear the plants smacking their lips when it's time to add this 'Sweet Garden' product!!!  Of course, we're lucky that we live close to sugar cane farm country, so this is locally produced in our region, and not very expensive.

While I was at the nursery I'm afraid I didn't stop at just buying a couple of bags of mulch.  I couldn't resist picking up just a couple more little plants to add to one of the rock garden sections of the driveway garden that I've been working so hard on lately.  It was only a few little babies, and so necessary to fill in some empty spots!!!!  Sounds good doesn't it?


So, I've added a couple of dwarf Ixoras ... Ixora 'Yellow Sunshine'.  Ixoras are just so well suited to the climate and conditions here, and they flower almost all year round when well-established.  I'm looking forward to the splashes of colour the these Ixoras will provide in this difficult spot along the driveway garden beds.


I also added two beautiful little baby Ophiopogon planiscapus 'Phantom Black'  ... otherwise known as Mondo Grass.  This particular variety has upright green foliage which turns jet black as it ages.  The two I bought already had tiny spikes of white flowers, which apparently are supposed to be highly scented, but I didn't pick that up at all.  Maybe as they mature, the flowers' perfume will develop.


Finally, I added just one pink-flowering Serissa foetida.  I've been looking for the white one for ages, but I'm quite happy to add the pink form to this section of the garden.  Serissa foetida is another dwarf evergreen shrub.  This variety will bear masses of very tiny pink flowers, and will develop lovely variegated foliage as it matures.



After the planting, I then went about tucking the sugar cane mulch in around the plants on this rock garden section.   This section has now had compost added, fertiliser added and given a healthy covering of mulch.  I now want everything to hurry up and grow!  At the end of the year, nearer to the 'wet' season, I'll add a ground-cover or two which should then spread quickly with the arrival of the rains.


I also mulched the other little rock garden section and watered them both down as well, just to settle the mulch.

While I was out in the driveway section of the property this weekend, I decided to tackle a weeding / clearing out job I'd been putting off for ages.  My darling husband has been working on extending the garage at the end of the driveway for a while now.  It's slow-going, as he's doing everything himself, but only doing what we can afford each step of the way.  He's now up to the 'adding-fill' part of the job, so the end is getting a little closer. 


You may remember I took a shot of this spot after a particularly bad storm we had during our 'wet' season just back at the end of March.  It looked like we had installed a strange looking swimming pool, as it was completely filled with water.

Anyway, since then we had to wait until the area dried out so the next stage could begin.  Here's the first load of fill that arrived last weekend.  Now that pile is only half the size it was when the whole load first arrived.  By the time I'd taken this shot, darling husband had already spread almost half of it.  It's amazing just how much fill is needed for a job like this.


When he had spread the load, he realised it wasn't enough.  So ... we will need to get another load soon.  Well ... during this on-going project that section of garden bed you can see over near the fence in the photo above was completely neglected by myself mainly because of the mess that was scattered around.  After the long 'wet' season, this whole section was almost over-run with the horrid Passiflora foetida, or what we call Stinking Passionfruit.  It's a real thug of a vine, and very difficult to remove once it gets its little twirly bits curled around plants branches.


I did my best and the section does look a whole lot better now.  I ended up pulling out quite a few baby Delonix regia or Poinciana trees as well.  They had literally sprung up everywhere.  They can also become a big nuisance and take over very quickly.  They're very very hardy in this climate.

One of the hardiest trees of all time though, has to be the Spathodea campanulata or African Tulip Tree.  Out of shot in the photo above, to the right, there's a section where a mature Spathodea has been growing every since we moved in here.   It was completely knocked over during Cyclone Yasi at the beginning of last year.  It crashed through the fence over into our neighbour's yard, falling flat on the ground and exposing the root system.


Well, after I had finished clearing out this section beside the new garage area, it became very noticeable just how tough this old tree is.  Despite the root ball still being exposed, it's sprouted and has grown considerably in the year since being flattened.


Just look at the size of it now.  That's one hardy specimen.  There were lots of little babies as well that had sprouted from the suckers spreading out along the ground.  I ripped those out, as I really don't want any more of this huge tree growing in the garden.  While I'm happy enough to keep the old girl, I don't want any of her offspring.


Moving further along to the end of this garden bed, I weeded the patch underneath the enormous Eucalyptus platyphylla or Poplar Gum, for the first time.  Whenever I took photos from this angle, like this one that I took back at the beginning of last month, I would always avoid including the spot right under the Gum tree.  It was too ugly to share!  Anyway, this weekend I decided to plant some things in this patch, as it had been an eyesore ever since we moved in over ten years ago now.


I actually planted a non-red-flowering Hibiscus!!!  Yes, you heard right.  Those who have read my blog for a while know that I have many of the red-flowering Hibiscus rosa-sinensis shrubs in my garden, and I was very content with those ... until I walked past this particular variety during my nursery visit over the weekend.  It was on special ... and looked a little sad and unloved.  Apparently it has hot pink flowers which sounds good to me.  It's only a dwarf Hibiscus, so it should settle in nicely underneath the Eucalyptus.  It already has a few buds on it, so I'm looking forward to seeing those hot pink blooms soon.


In the same patch under the Eucalyptus, I planted some more of the Pennisetum advena 'Rubrum' or Purple Fountain Grass along with some unknown Cactus plants that were given to me a long time ago.  You can see them planted on the left in the shot above.  I have no idea what they are, but it seemed like the perfect spot to finally plant them up.  Let's hope these all take off well in this previously ugly corner of the garden.


While wandering back from the driveway at the end of the day, I nearly jumped for joy when I noticed the first ever bloom on one of my Desert Roses appearing.  It seems odd that it's the littlest of the two Adeniums that is about to flower first, but I'm not complaining.  Maybe the April shower gave it the boost it needed.  I'll be out there every morning now waiting to see the bloom.


23 comments:

  1. Fabulous post as always. Here in Michigan, in the northern part of America, "April showers bring May flowers". This time of year can be warm and also snowy. I woke up to frost this morning. The most popular mulching material for flower garden beds is shredded cedar. Vegetable beds get a covering of straw.

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    1. Mary, the weather here starts to get a little cooler mostly during the evenings now as we get closer to our Winter. Of course, we've never experienced frost or snow here, so that's very unfamiliar. It's always interesting to see what other gardeners use on their gardens in different corners of the world. There's no cedar here. Straw is used by some gardeners though.

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  2. As usual, another wonderful walk-about your property. I always enjoy seeing your fantastic selection of plants, blooming and non-blooming, and to see progress made with various beds.

    Building projects done yourself do take time, I know because we've done several of them here. Congrats to your DH for doing this. You will be proud and satisfied that you did it yourselves when it's all done. We look back at projects and can't believe we did all the work, well, except for pouring concrete pads. A lot goes into building something and the rewards are great. I know you'll both like this extension.

    Glad you had some rain for your lovely bit of paradise.

    FlowerLady

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    1. Flowerlady, there's a lot of work in progress around here. My darling husband has worked very hard on the new garage extension for a while now, and it's been a real learning curve for him trying to erect this structure on the sloping ground at the end of our driveway. Full marks to him for getting to this point! He certainly does feel very proud of the job he's done so far.

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  3. Hi Bernie, I completely support the purchase of new plants to fill in your new rock garden! My philosophy is that empty spaces should be filled :) I do remember the pictures of your 'pond' during the heavy rain. So glad to see that the water cleared and work on the garage could resume. Kudos to your husband for DIY-ing on the garage! Cheers, Jenni

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    1. Thanks Jenni. I know the rock garden looks a whole lot better with those extra couple of plants. I'm not one for too many empty spaces! Hubbie is a bit of a treasure! He's been doing a great job, although at times it seems to move at snail's pace.

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  4. Hello Bernie
    You are lucky to have a hubby who can build things - well done to him for his burgeoning garage, and to you for choosing him!

    I'm a fan of cane mulch too, but I only use it in the veg patch. I wish I could find somewhere to get it really cheap - it's ridiculous that we have to pay so much when we've got canefields all over the area.

    I think the cactus is either a 'Queen of the Night' or a Dragon Fruit - I presume they are closely related. It needs to be able to climb - you can see the little roots growing out of the stem. I don't know much about the flowering version but for Dragonfruit you can train them up a tree and they don't do any harm to it - they aren't parasitic, just need a frame to support them. Once it has climbed up (only needs to go up about 1.5m) it needs to be encouraged to grow downwards again as they only get flowers, and therefore fruit, on downward facing stems. The commercial growers use a 1.5-2m upright with a cross-piece on top - should be easy-peasy for your handy hubby - I've planted them under the mangoes. Let me know if you'd like to have a look.

    Watch out for the ACT this time around - I've written about gardener safety.

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    1. Hi Helen, how wonderful to see your comment. Thanks for dropping by and helping out with an I.D. on that plant. Obviously I'm going to need some sort of structure as a support. I'll have to give that some thought. Thanks also for the offer of coming round for a visit. I'll have to take you up on that.

      I'm lucky that I only need to get a couple of bags of cane mulch every year, which means it is not such a great expense for me. Still, it should really be cheaper given how close we are to the cane fields!

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  5. That's a lot of work! Well doen to you and your DIY Hubby!
    Dessert rose flowers are really pretty. Worth waiting for! ;)

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    1. Thanks Malar. There's still quite a bit to be done around here, but we just do what we can when we can. I'm so looking forward to seeing my first Desert Rose bloom. Hasn't opened up yet, but I'll be back out there in the morning to check, lol!

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  6. I enjoyed the tour of your garden, especially liked seeing the rock garden. I have to exert extreme self control whenever I make a trip to the nursery. Too often I come away with extra purchases...'bargains', plants I cannot resist, or little orphans that need my help! Nevertheless, I rarely regret my impulse buys.

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    1. Deb, I find I really have to rein myself in when I visit nurseries, so I try not to go too often. The 'bargain' shelves always seem to have things that beg for my mercy and I find myself usually taking something home for a better life.

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  7. With all the planning and effort invested in this project by both you and your husband, I'm sure the garden will turn out splendid. You have a wide array of plants.

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    1. Yes Elsie, the planning and the work gone into the new garage area by my husband has indeed been a massive effort. I've been amazed at his ingenuity sometimes considering he's never tackled anything like it before! I am looking forward to the day when it's finished though I have to admit. I'd like the area to look decent once more, and not look like a construction site. Psst, don't tell I said so though!

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  8. I also like sugarcane mulch too. somehow I imagine it would be best in your neck of the woods, where sugarcane grows. I love the way you've tucked the newbies in so they look like they've always been there. Lots of 'work' - how satisfying.

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    1. Catmint, the smell that emits from the bag of sugar cane mulch when it's first opened is really sweet and obviously pretty darn freshly packed ... an advantage of being so close to the fields I guess. It's great stuff and I'll continue to use it. I'm pleased with the development of the two rock gardens so far as they are quite difficult spots.

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  9. Bernie, you really have a lot going on in the garden. I loved the tour and like you. will not be passing up some plant calling to me when visiting a specialty nursery today. I have to go for a truckload of plants for a client today, but will surely find something that will not fit in my garden. Always seems to happen, then I dig something out for the new arrival. I just love the trees in your garden. The bark is so interesting and you really do have one tough tree after being felled.

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  10. You're putting me to shame Bernie, with the amount of work you are putting in on your garden. I really like how your rock garden is coming along.

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  11. There is so much going on in your garden. I like the garage extension...that will look very nice and add some room for you. We had a dry spell for a few weeks, and I was so grateful for the rain. Now, everything is bursting with growth again.

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  12. I like those grasses you have included into the garden. Ophiopogon planiscapus black type is scented... how cool! I hope they sell little ones here as well. Happy mulching :-D

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  13. You have so much happening in your garden, Bernie, and that eucalypt is magnificent.

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  14. Oh that bed project is quite big, i bet a lot of truckloads went there! I am excited to see the outcome. I fully relate with you on the extent of rooting systems of those Poinciana, we call fire tree here, and those african tulips. At least i dont have them near us, bt we have the golden shower or Ficus fistula (i think), which grows so vigorously in our area too. Frequent pruning doesn't affect its aggressiveness to grow, unlike growths in other areas also here in the country. And its good you already have the much needed rain. We've been at the very hot temps here last week at 36.7C but it suddenly rained last Wed which lessened the heat. Weathermen said it is just thunderstorm, and we get normal rains still in June. May i know also the status of the jadevine? thanks Bernie....Andrea in this Lifetime too, haha, i have a new blog.

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  15. I have never tried sugarcane mulch. I should see if it is available locally. Thanks for the heads up about it.
    Your garden is looking good. Can't wait for pictures once everything fills in.

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