Season: mid-Autumn, and beginning of the 'dry' season.
For me, the gardening year actually begins now ... in our mid-Autumn month. As many regular readers know we really only have two seasons here in my corner of the world, even though I do refer to the usual four all the time. We have a 'wet' season, which is comparatively short, and a 'dry' season which goes on for most of the year.
The 'wet' (which occurs over our Summer and early Autumn) is a harsh time of year and can be quite hard on the garden. It's NOT my favourite time of year. While I most certainly appreciate the fact that the rains finally come, the heat, the fierce sunlight, the humidity levels, the torrential downpours and the possibility of extreme weather events such as cyclones and flooding, makes that season quite difficult to enjoy. Not all my plants relish those conditions, nor do I.
But with the arrival of slightly cooler days and nights, and drier, sunnier, more tempered weather in mid-Autumn, both the gardener and the garden start to come alive.
Actually, the 'wet' season that has just passed was a fairly mild one in the grand scheme of our wet/dry cycles. Such a different story to this time last year! March's rainfall total this year was around 532 mm or 21 ins ... very different to last year. Other than the rather strange tornado that affected a small part of our city, and a relatively weak cyclone that stayed mostly out at sea, there were no significant weather events during the end of 2011/beginning of 2012 'wet' season ... which was a real blessing and significantly different to last year.
Since April began just over a week ago, we've had absolutely no rainfall at all, which again is rather different to the last year's story. It does seem as if our 'dry' has begun now, as there's no predicted rainfall in the near future.
Right now, of course, the place is still looking a little bothered and bewildered as this year's mild 'wet' season has only just come to an end. The Courtyard Garden potted plants need re-potting and feeding. The heavy driving rains of our 'wet' season leeches out any goodness in the soil of all those pots.
So, as I'm now on term break, I've begun the task of either replacing or topping up the potting mix of most potted plants, re-potting into larger pots for a few plants, and just giving all a very good feed. It's a big job as there are quite a few potted plants out there! As a result, the courtyard will not be looking all that great for a few weeks yet.
I've already been into the Shadehouse Garden during the past week and given it a good clean-out. This is a regular mid-wet season and end-of-wet season job for me. As usual, with all the rain, the Nephrolepis biserrata or Giant Sword Fern had taken over and needed to be reined in. Ripping out clumps of this fern gives the other poor plants a chance to breathe once more and be noticed.
You can see I also had to be rather ruthless in cutting back the Giant Elephant Ear plant. In just the last year this thing has suddenly become a real monster. It was perfectly well-behaved before that, but now it just reaches straight for the shadehouse cloth and tries its best to break through.
It's great to see my rather neglected and unloved Orchid blooming away fearlessly again. I've never really grown Orchids, but this poor thing was a pass-along and has kept on growing despite my lack of effort in looking after it, as evidenced by the fact that it's just sitting in a wire basket without any potting medium whatsoever and seems to thrive just hanging up in the air!!! You know one day I might just attempt to pot it up ... but I feel sure if I do that, it will just fade away into oblivion and never bloom again. I wonder??
Anyway, with the clean-out I get to see the fantastic Calatheas, Gingers, Anthiurium and Syngoniums once more. They thrive in the climate controlled environment of my shadehouse and I love the great contrasts they provide with their fabulous foliage.
My Stromanthe isn't doing so well though. It seems to be suffering from something. I'm not sure if it's just a case of getting too much sunlight ... the singed leaf edges seem to indicate it's definitely stressed. I've moved it around a few times now, into different corners of the shadehouse, but it's never really picked up. I'm thinking I may have to move it out of the shadehouse altogther and into a far more shaded spot out in my courtyard. This would be a real shame though, as I so love the bright foliage mixed in amongst all the green of the shadehouse garden.
The Calatheas don't seem to mind where they sit in the shadehouse. They've always done well out there. I would love to add just a couple more in the near future ... when funds become available!
I also love to add some more Gingers, in particular this beautiful Globba winitii or Mauve Dancing Ladies. I just love the fabulous pendant inflourescences. I saw this Ginger mass planted at my favourite garden down in Brisbane when I last visited my son and grandchildren.
Look how fabulous it looked in this mass planting at the Roma Street Parklands! I think I'd prefer a different coloured Anthurium matched with them though. The red doesn't really fit in my mind. Anyway, that's one of the ideas I've got brewing for the on-going development of my Shadehouse Garden.
Elsewhere in my shadehouse ...
I've been very surprised with the way these bits of Rex Begonia, that were just thrown into a corner of the shadehouse, have simply taken off. Don't you just love little surprises like this?
One thing I'm not happy with though is the sighting of the horrid Stinking Passionfruit vine wending its way along the rafters of the shadehouse. Can you see the insidious thing creeping along that beam under the shadecloth? I've got to get right into that corner in the coming week, and rip it out, otherwise it will simply take over. It's an environmental pest in my part of the world.
Out and about the other corners of the property ...
The driveway garden is doing just fine, although it's time for another serious weeding effort. This will probably be the last one needed until the next 'wet' arrives. Our 'dry' season keeps the weeds under control for most of the year.
I've started adding this Acalypha reptans or Chenille Plant to some of the bald spots on the left-hand side of the driveway. It's a great groundcover and should flourish despite the approaching dry conditions. It's a fantastic heat hardy, waterwise choice for a dry tropics garden.
I've also added this Ipomea batatas or Sweet Potato Vine under the pergola out in the Courtyard Garden. It's taken off very well, and will be another great groundcover that will get through the dry, hot conditions that are upon us.
It's absolutely brilliant to see my Jasminum officinale, growing under the pergola, coming back so well, and I'm very confident it will get through the coming dry season quite easily now.
I've spotted just a few flowers blooming away out-of-season, so it looks as if the whole vine is now much healthier and happier after its ordeal last year.
It's also terrific to see both the Hibiscus schizopetalus shrubs coming back at either end of the driveway side of the courtyard pergola. You can see their pendulous branches of the one on the right hand side of the entrance already reaching up skywards.
The one at the other end of the pergola is not quite as tall yet, but is a lot bushier. I expect that by next 'wet' season both these shrubs will have reached out over the top of the pergola and have branches drooping through the pergola roof.
The newly planted section under our re-constructed pergola is coming along fairly well too. So far the Salvias, the Dietes, the Wrightia, the Spathoglottis and the Bromeliads have all settled in well, but I will have to keep the water up to this section during the coming months to make sure those plants keep flourishing.
I do have a few other plants in mind for this section, but I'm eager to see just how the newly established ones do first.
The wooden platform around the pond hasn't been fixed yet, so that's a job for the near future. Once that's all done and the plants have taken off, the whole area should be a lot more pleasing to the eye. I will also have to start thinking about plants for my pond area.
The front garden beds continue doing their thing. They don't really need much attention throughout the year at all, apart from some weeding needed after the 'wet' season and some trimming back before the 'wet' arrives.
The tiered garden beds at the other end of the front verandah definitely needed some work. They're not looking fabulous right now, as I had to get in and do some very serious trimming back. I'm happy enough with the progress in the top section of the tiers.
But the middle and part of the lower sections still need some work.
This is about the only good-looking spot in the tiered beds at the moment. This corner of the lower section is coming along quite nicely. It will be great when the little white Pentas and Cupheas that are planted in amongst those Gerberas start filling out.
So that's what my garden visitors see as our 'dry' gardening year begins. I'm looking forward to the coming months of Autumn, Winter and Spring.
I'm joining Town Mouse's meme First Views for the very first time from my corner of Oz, albeit it a little late!