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.