At the moment I'm still on a break from school, but I've already started doing a bit of preparation work at home. The beginning of our new school year is not far off now. It's mid-Summer here, and that really is downtime in my garden. Actually Summer is pretty much all downtime. I don't do much at all. It's the harsh end of the gardening year.
Conditions during December - January (early to mid-Summer):
Well our wet season has not arrived yet, that's the most prominent feature of the conditions experienced so far this Summer. Yes we have had rain, but we've seen nothing of the deluge we usually get when the wet season rain starts bucketing down. We've had more of the rather intermittent, soft, showery, sprinkley type of rain that barely touches the ground, but creates a feeling of anticipation that the real stuff is on its way.
During December we did get around 9 mm (0.4 of an inch) over 7 drizzly days. The average rainfall for December is around 132 mm (5 inches). So there's quite a bit of difference there. Actually 2013 was a rather dry year when compared to the average yearly rainfall. We saw 715 mm (28 inches) over the year. The average, since records began back in 1942, is 1147 mm (45 inches).
The drier weather has continued on into the beginning of 2014. So far this month we've had only 14 mm (0.6 of an inch). The average for January is 276 mm (10 inches). So to reach the average January rainfall total, we need a lot of rain in the next couple of weeks. That doesn't appear likely!
Maybe February will be the month when the heavens do open. The old-timers always say "the heavens don't open till the school holidays finish", and that happens in the last week of January.
Dark grey clouds do appear on the horizon, and as I've said, there have been showery days; but the place really needs an absolute drenching in order for the rain to actually penetrate the soil, make the ground moist and break the spell of the dry season.
That said, the rain we've had so far has certainly cheered up the surrounding bushland and it's looking quite lovely and green already. The native Eucalyptus and Corymbias respond very quickly to a little bit of rain, after a long dry season.
Of course, the temps have been hot. That's usual for summertime. We all tend to stay either in the shade, or indoors in the air-con, depending on whether you're human or not. Most summer days the temp. hovers around 32 - 33 deg C (89 - 91 F), although we did have a couple of hotter 35 - 36 deg C (95 - 97 F) days at the end of December. I was actually down in Brisbane at that time where it was even hotter.
There are some parts of Oz that have been experiencing heatwave condition, with temps up in the the 40s C. We don't usually get much of those sorts of temps, although we get the mid 30 s C consistently for pretty much the entire three months of Summer!
It's a hard time for the garden, and it's not at its best. While we wait for heavy, decent rain, the gardener spends time indoors in the comfort of the air-con neglecting her gardening duties, while the plants do their best to handle the heat and the harsh sunshine.
Some days the plants have a respite, when there's lovely cloud cover, and perhaps a refreshing sprinkle of a few measly raindrops, but thank goodness the garden bed plants are heat-tolerant, dry-tolerant and sun-tolerant. They do a mighty job of getting through.
The humidity levels have been rising too, which is totally expected. I do have to say though, that this summer so far has not been the hottest I can remember. It's been more on the pleasant side, although I haven't been tempted to spend much time outdoors doing gardening chores other than the watering of potted plants.
Starting with the trees on or around the property, what's blooming?
There are still a few pendulous golden racemes on my Cassia fistula, or Golden Shower Tree. They're a common sight at this time of year around my rural neighbourhood.
There are still a few blooms one of the Delonix regias at our front gates. This tree has the darker red flowers, and is always the first to bloom and therefore the first to finish its bloom cycle. Right now it's nearing the end of its summertime blooming.
The Delonix regia that grows right across on the other side of the entrance to our property is almost totally covered in blooms on the other hand. It has flowers that are more orangey-red in colour, not quite as dark.
They certainly stand out against the blue of the sky on a clear summer's day.
Compared to the this time last year, the Cassia has ended its blooming cycle a lot earlier. This also happened back in 2012.
The Corymbia dallachiana was blooming at this time last year, but this year they bloomed back at the end of December.
My Lagerstroemia speciosa, or Queen's Myrtles, are not blooming yet, although many in the neighbourhood have already finished their blooming cycle. There was a few buds on one of them back in mid-December, but nothing since. Mine were not blooming in January last year either, but in January 2012, both trees were covered in flowers.
The rhythms and patterns are interesting to watch.
Now onto the shrubs, what's blooming?
The Mussaendas are all blooming. This is usual for this time of the year. They bloom pretty much the entire summer season. They're bang on schedule again this year.
There are a number of Duranta repens shrubs planted on either side of the driveway that leads into our property. They were all decimated back in the great cyclone event of 2011, and it has taken a long time for them to come back. They're now almost as tall as they once were, and most have started regular blooming cycles. Some of these shrubs have the most delicately pale lavender flowers, which are sometimes hard to notice amongst all the green foliage.
A couple of the Croton shrubs have been throwing out flower sprays. This happens a few times every year. These teeny little flowers are quite hard to spot amongst the flamboyant colours of the leaves.
My beloved Hibiscus schizopetalus are blooming. These two shrubs are getting denser and denser every month now, and will be looking like their old pre-cylone selves by this time next year I think. It's simply fantastic to see the flowers once more.
There are only a few little blooms starting to open up on the Lagerstroemia indica, or Crepe Myrtle shrubs, planted out in the tiered garden beds. They're behind schedule, as they usually bloom mid-December into January. They may be late, but they're always welcome.
Out in the shadehouse, what's blooming?
Well to be frank the poor shadehouse has been rather neglected of late. While the Giant Sword Ferns and the Neomarica longifolia that grow in the ground are always just doing their thing without much help from me, the poor neglected potted/container plants are not doing all that well.
I'm speaking specifically of all the Impatiens walleriana and Dragonwing Begonias that grow in hanging baskets or containers in various spots of the shadehouse. They all need to be re-potted with fresh potting mix, and they all need a decent feed. I've been putting off this job for a while now, mainly because of the uncomfortable conditions of summer, but it's going to be the primary focus of my gardening work when our cooler Autumn rolls around in March.
The Aeschynanthus, or Lipstick Plant, growing in a hanging pot, is blooming quite nicely, without much care and attention.
My lovely Indian Rope Hoya is also still throwing out gorgeous flowerheads. I didn't know it had a perfume until a helpful gardening mate told me to take a whiff at night-time. I did ... and it does. There's a light chocolatey perfume to the blooms. It's hard to describe, but that's what the scent reminds me of.
Both of the pass-along Brassocattleya Orchids are blooming. They have such delicate flowers, and they last for days.
They're a delightful sight, and again, they're just doing their thing without any help from the resident gardener. You've just gotta love these little battlers.
My little collection of potted Gingers are not in bloom, as they were this time last year. They have however risen from their slumber and are starting to fill out the pots, so there should be blooms by this time next month.
Out in the courtyard garden, what's blooming?
Well it's a similar story out in the courtyard. I've been away for a while, and added to that, I do lose interest during the Summer, so the courtyard is looking quite dreary and lacking a lot of interest at the moment to my eyes anyway.
These self-seeded Torenias are blooming beautifully and showing off their gorgeous faces. They're certainly cheering up the rather drab courtyard garden at the moment.
Another cheery face in the courtyard is this pretty Begonia. I do so love Begonias. I really need to fill my courtyard with them I think. They're no-fuss, have gorgeous flowers and don't need a lot of watering.
The Angelonias and Salvias are simply carrying on, despite the absence of the dutiful care of their caretaker.
Thankfully there are some lovely foliage plants in the various corners of the courtyard, so it's not an entirely depressing place to spend time.
Those corners I don't mind, and I'm quite happy with them really.
I am however starting to re-think what I grow in the pots at the other end of the courtyard. I really need to have a change. I'm feeling a little disheartened by the display out there at the moment. I really would love lots more colour at this time of the year. I need to put my thinking cap on.
It will be a big job, and I won't start until the weather cools down, so I've got time to make plans and think it through carefully first. I do tend to be a little impulsive at times, and most of the time the courtyard garden looks the way it does because of impulsive decisions. More thought and impulse control is needed to turn this space into something I can love all year round.
I have actually started getting rid of some of the plants that have been sitting in the courtyard for a few years now and it's now starting to look a little bare to my eyes.
I started planting many of the old courtyard potted plants out into the ground in one of my new garden beds created up near our carshed. I've planted the Aralias, the Ixora, the Crossandras, some of the Coleus and Cordylines in this bed, along with a few other things I'd been growing in the shadehouse. I've added all the larger Gingers from the shadehouse, as well as a little purple Anthurium and a Diffenbachia.
It's starting to come together, but I've taken a break for now as Summer is not really the best time to be planting out new areas. The other two sections that are off to the right of the photo, around the car shed remain un-planted as yet. There's a lot of space to fill and I'm going to need to collect a whole lot more plants. It's going to be a busy Autumn!
Well to end this rather lengthy post, I'll just post a couple of photos of the first ever blooms on my Gloriosa Lily which is growing in the top tiered garden bed. It's a fabulous looking flower.
Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day meme, which happens on the 15th day of every month.