Sunday, August 4, 2013

So It's Been A While ... My Dry Tropics Garden Journal ... Week 32, 2013

Date:  August 4, 2013

Season:  end of Winter, dry season

So it's been a month since my last Garden Journal post ... where does the time go???  Well, I thought it was time to catch up again.

August is our last Winter month.  Of course we have quite mild winters here in the tropics, with very reasonable temperatures and loads of bright blue sunny sky days.   It's my favourite time of the year.

This year's winter has been particularly mild so far. The average daytime temp for our first winter month of June was 26.6 deg C (79.8 F), and for July it was 26.3 deg C (79.3 F).  Night-time temps averaged 15.1 deg C (59.1 F) in June, and 16.1 deg C (60.9 F) in July.  Definitely warmer than the same time last year.  I've worn a jumper only twice, and we've turned on the electric blanket about four times since our winter began.

The downside of winter here, is that it coincides with our dry season.  We're now into our fourth or so month of the dry.  Over the winter so far (June-July), we've had 4.8 mm of rain, which is around 0.1 of an inch.  It barely touched the ground! 

Consequently the landscape around here looks dry and parched, with grasses and weeds turning a delightful shade of brown in both our yard and in the bush paddock.   We're all used to it, it's part of the cycle here.  We don't bother with watering the yard, as we consider this a waste of a valuable resource, and it's very expensive to do so.  We know the grass (and weeds) in the yard will turn a lovely shade of green again when the rains return much later in the year. 

Anyway, there is a bit of colour amongst the trees and plants.  Down the driveway, when you raise your eyes from the strip of dead grass and look to the trees, you will see stark white flowers on the Bauhinia variegatas and pretty pink blooms on the Tabebuia impetiginosa.   They're a welcome sight in the dry season.

The Calliandras, at the entrance to the driveway, have been blooming for some time now.  They're winter bloomers and the pop-pom blooms attract lots of honeyeaters like the Dusky Honeyeater and the Yellow-bellied Sunbirds.

Winter is the time for the Bougainvilleas to begin another blooming cycle.  I only have two Bougs.  One ekes out its existence under a Delonix regia behind the carshed, while the other struggles on near the pergola.  Both have lovely crimson pink flowers.  It's also time for the Begonias to show off, especially the Cane Begonia and Begonia 'Tiger Paw'.  The Dragonwing and Bedding Begonias bloom pretty much all year round.

Winter is of course the time for the Euphorbia pulcherrima to show its pretty pink bracts and little orange and yellow flowers.  It grows in the top tier of the tiered garden beds and always catches my eye when I drive in from work in the afternoons.  Out in the shadehouse, the Streptocarpus caulescens and Impatiens wallerians brighten up the space at this time of year.

Out in the courtyard, the Petunias are on show.  This is the best time for Petunias at my place.  It's still hot enough for them, and there's lots of direct sunlight for them to soak up.  This year I'm only growing my special favourites ... the double 'Bonanza Series' and the 'Bumblebee'.

The courtyard garden is my solace during the dry season.  It's where I tend all the potted plants that fill the space with colour, when elsewhere, things are rather dreary.

All these potted plants sit out underneath the spreading bare branches of our native Sterculia quadrifida.  It's winter deciduous and is covered in seed pods, which change colour from green,

 to bright orange-red.

Quite a few birds drop by to feast upon the seeds that are exposed when the fruit pods open.
The gardening jobs during the dry season here are relatively few and far between.  Watering of course, is an essential job, but primarily only in the courtyard and shadehouse gardens.  I'm watering the potted plants about twice a week.  With the slight drop in temperatures and humidity levels during winter, the water needs of the potted plants drop off a little, compared to their summertime needs.

I did order a few more Hemerocallis plants again this year.  I find it hard to resist the sale prices!

They're potted up now and waiting to be planted out in their new spot, along with the Asiatic and Oriental Lilies that are just starting to spring up from their slumber in those large pots, and a few other little things I've been collecting or propagating. 

Did you catch the fact that there's about to be a new spot for gardening.  I'm so excited.  Actually I'm getting a couple of new spots.  One of the projects that's happening at the moment, is the creation of a couple of new garden beds.  Woohoo!  I've been planning and scheming about this for quite some time.

When you drive in the long driveway, arrive at the car shed and park your car, there's a sloping stretch of concrete driveway that you have to walk down to get to the entrance to our house.  The area beside this stretch of concrete driveway has always been rather boring and dull. 

Here's a shot I took way back in 2009, when I first starting planning about the changes I would love to make to this entrance area to our house.  In the wet season it didn't look too bad, and it provided a convenient parking place for visitors. 

During the long, long dry season though, it was a remarkably unattractive view to all those who came to visit.  It became the bane of my gardening life, and I've so longed for lush garden beds on either side.

Well, it's been a long time coming!  Of course, cost was the most prohibitive factor.  We simply couldn't afford to start the project for years, and quite a few more important jobs kept springing up along the way.  One of which was the building of a proper car shed area at the end of the long driveway onto our property.

Towards the end of last year my darling husband finally finished most of the car shed project.  It had been a very long laborious job.  He had done all the work himself, mainly because of the tight budget, and also because he knows when he does it himself, it's done properly.  He's a bit of a perfectionist.

Anyway, just a couple of weeks ago he decided it was time to start the 'garden bed' project.  Again, he's doing all the work himself so it's done properly.  I really wanted the garden beds to be edged with huge rocks, but hubby convinced me that the garden beds absolutely had to be built with retaining walls because of the slope on this part of the property.  In the wet season here, the water rushes through this area like a raging river.

Hubby got a great deal on some blocks for the retaining wall.  They were seconds and were quite heavily discounted.  Just perfect for what we wanted!

So, there will be a quite narrow garden bed beside the first section of the car shed.  I think this will be the spot for the Lilies ... Hemerocallis, Asiatics, Orientals ... and some Rain Lilies ... Habranthes and Zephyranthes.  I also wanted to add a couple of dwarf Gardenias for perfume.

The bed will continue along beside the back section of the carshed, where it becomes a little wider.  (The carshed structure has now been delivered and that will be the next project for my darling ... putting up the structure on that concrete slab shown in the photo).  I'm still deciding what to plant in this section.

Towards the back of that concrete slab, the land slopes quite considerably and the garden bed in this section will be very deep and wide.  I intend planting a few Hibiscus shrubs and Pentas back there.

Standing at the corner and looking back to the driveway, you can see just how much of a slope there is in this area. Quite a challenge when it comes to building a garden bed, but my DH has taken on this challenge willingly ... well if I ignore the grumbles and moans and constant reminders that he is only doing it because he wants to make me happy .... yes willingly and happily!!!

On the other side there will be another new garden bed as well.  I'm not totally convinced that there needs to be a block wall on this side, but I suppose it would have a more consistent look about it if the blocks are used on this side as well.  I would prefer rocks for a more natural look.  Well, we'll see just how far the blocks that we've purchased will go.  If we use most of them on the retaining wall around the carshed, then maybe I'll get my rocks.

I've been amassing a little collection of plants ready for the new bed on this side, but I've still got a few more purchases to make yet.  I'm going for a tropical look with lots of Cordylines, Ferns, Diffenbachias, Plumerias, small Palms, Hymenocallis and Costus.

So, there we are now.  I'm up-to-date with the goings-on around my place.  I can't wait until I can start planting up all these new garden spaces and watching them take off during the wet season next year.


  1. Exciting times for you - 2 new garden beds. Look forward to seeing them in the future and what you plant in them.

    1. It is very exciting Tropical Breeze. I've had very limited planting spots ever since we moved here. It's a particularly challenging property in that regard, so I'm really looking forward to the finished product. It will make such a difference to the entrance to our house.

    2. A nice deep bed, with good soil, all your Christmases come together.

    3. Absolutely, Diana. On this property there have been very few places for me to plant, so that was the reason why I added so many potted plants to the courtyard and the shadehouse. I'm almost giddy with excitement planning what I will be adding to the new garden beds. Ah, the small pleasures of life!

  2. I always enjoy seeing your blooms any time of the year. It was a treat seeing the start of your dream project, now it's becoming a reality.

    Dreams do come true. Happy gardening ~ FlowerLady

    1. Thanks Lorraine, it's been a long time coming. I'm getting more and more excited as the wall goes up.

  3. Loved looking at your garden ,I have never seen the pink Euphorbia pulcherrima before I love it.
    The retaining wall looks good.will be good when all done .So very dry here also,I hope rain comes soon.

    1. Pitta, that dwarf pink was a find a few years back and I've never seen one in the nursery since. Such a shame because it's really lovely.

      No rain expected here for quite some time yet. Your dry doesn't usually last long, so perhaps there will be dark clouds on the horizon soon.

  4. I'm so very excited for you......I can't wait till it's all finished.
    Your dear hubby is doing a great job (as usual) bless him.

    1. Yes you're so right, Virginia, my DH is doing a great job. He is a bit of a perfectionist, so I know it's going to look great when he's done. Then it's all over to me. I can't wait.

  5. Looking forward to the new bed...such a great winter with the blooms and milder would surely be cold here.

    1. I think I'd be a frozen little Bernie over there, Donna. I do so love our mild winters here. It's such a glorious time of the year.


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