Sunday, January 31, 2010

Alocasias - an aroid that adds that architectural element to the tropical garden.

Now of course these aroids need to be placed carefully in a garden such as mine.  While they certainly love the humidity and heat, they would not survive out in the full sun in an outdoor garden bed during our summers - the searing rays of the full sun and the dry conditions would be less than ideal for these ornamental plants. 

The conditions in my greenhouse, however, are ideal for my Alocasia macrorrhiza - the Elephant Ear. This is such a great looking variety with its huge, glossy, green leaves with raised veins.

At the moment it's still quite young, but it is growing so well in the part shade and moist soil in the greenhouse garden bed.  I just love watching the large new leaves unfurling ...
My other alocasia ...

... is the striking hybrid Alocasia amazonica, commonly called the African Mask.  It has glossy, very dark green, leaves with silvery veins and undulating margins, making it look rather like a bat wing.

You will notice the spectacular foliage of this plant immediately in this grouping of potted plants out beside the pond in my courtyard garden.   In this location it receives only morning light and is in shade for the rest of the day.  It loves this rather bright humid spot nestled in amongst other plants right beside the pond.

This one is in bloom at the moment and showing it's inflorescence ...

I have another Alocasia x amazonica growing in an outdoor garden bed ... but certainly not in a position where it would get full sun.  It's in a bright spot where it only receives direct morning sun and remains in shade for the rest of the day and is growing a moist sheltered spot at the side of the garden bed.  

Overall, I find the amazonica needs bright light to survive ... I have tried growing it in the greenhouse, but it was not happy and very quickly showed signs of distress.  Outdoors, however, they have thrived given the right conditions.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Bracteantha bracteata - Paper Daisy

My experiences with this plant are rather limited ... last year was the first time I've ever grown these intriguing little natives, formerly known as Helichrysum bracteatum.  I just adore their papery, crackly texture.

They're a low growing, spreading perennial with daisy-like blooms that have a yellow centre surrounded by coloured papery bracts.  The specific name "bracteata" in fact refers to the numerous, dry, papery bracts, which are often incorrectly referred to as petals.  It is the yellow centre that is in fact a cluster of small flowers.

These were so successful in providing a cheery bright groundcover in a sunny position ... the main display lasted from late winter right through to mid-summer and there's still the occasional flower right now through the rainy end of summer.

I've now bought some other colours to add to my new garden beds.  I now know that they like a moist, well drained soil and they do well with a monthly feed of a low phosphorus fertilizer.

These Paper Daisies or Everlasting Daisies are great as cut or dried flowers.  For use as dried flowers, they should be cut just as the bud begins to open ... then hung by the stem, head down, in a shady and dry area for a few weeks.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Green and gold ... it's Australia Day!

A collage of some of the green and gold plants in my garden .... just to celebrate Australia Day!  Aussie, Aussie, Aussie ... oi, oi, oi!! 

Of course you can spot the acacias and crotons ... but there's also Nephrolepis falcate forma, Galphimia Glauca, Schefflera arboricala, Allamanda cathartica,  Bracteantha bracteata, Ming Aralia (Polyscias fruticosa), Caladium, Canna, Dracaena godseffiana, Ixora 'Sunshine Yellow', Osteospermum 'Tradewinds, Licuala ramsayi, Pyllanthus multiflora and Neomarica longifolia.

Now for something a little different .... here's a link to a great modern-day 'bush ballad' that gives a great perspective on how we feel about being Australian.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

A north Queensland native: Corymbia torelliana - the Cadaghi Gum.

This north Queensland tree – Corymbia torelliana – is a favourite of mine. We usually call it the Cadaghi Gum but sometimes it’s referred to as the Cadaga.

It’s a eucalyptus … a member of the Myrtaceae family. It is native to the Atherton Tablelands area, which is mostly a rainforest area located around 300 kilometres north of my city.  The cadaghi is one of the few eucalypts that is at home in the tropical rainforest.  You will not see many eucalypts in a rainforest!!

I am lucky enough to have two old cadaghis growing on my property and they're both more than 30 feet high now.  You can see part of their trunks to the right of the photo below.

One of the features of this tree is that it has broad leaves and quite a dense canopy which creates a lot of shade. My cadaghis are growing in a section of garden beside the hill driveway and right next to my courtyard garden.  The shade created by these tall trees helps to keep my courtyard garden cool for most of the hot summer months.

It is a welcome relief to get home on a hot, muggy summer’s day after work … hop out of the car at the top of the hill driveway … walk down the driveway under the canopy of these trees and instantly feel cooler!!

The feature I do love more though is it’s fabulous trunk. It has grey scaly bark at the base all year round...

but as you move up the trunk you will find dull grey-brown bark.
Then once every year it will shed this bark ... reveal a fabulous smooth green trunk.

When it flowers, it gets masses of scented cream balls all in clusters at the end of the branches.

Here you can see masses of flower buds and flowers.

My Cadaghis flower from the end of spring to the beginning of summer and attracts loads and loads of bees.

When the flowers fall, the small fruit or gumnut is left.

Now, just one last look at the fabulous colours under the peeling bark ... so beautiful!

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Combretum constrictum - the Powderpuff Combretum.

This is a very showy and bushy vining shrub, originally from Thailand.  It is a multi-stemmed plant with long arching canes.

The attraction of this plant however, is in its spectacular round red powderpuff flowers.  These buds start appearing towards the end of spring ....

... slowly start to open

and by mid-summer there's an abundance of blooms.  The photo below shows the brilliant long red stamens that pop out of each star-shaped flower.  It's a flower with a fascinating form.

It is sometimes called the Thailand Powderpuff Combretum and is very attractive to both butterflies ....

and birds, especially the sunbirds we see around here.

This shrub is a marvellous addition to any tropical garden.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Codiaeum variegatum - Croton.

When it comes to bright foliage that provides an explosion of colour in a tropics garden, crotons take the cake!

They can create a bold statement in any garden, but this is a plant that especially loves humid, warm conditions and can also tolerate dry conditions.

Crotons are evergreen shrubs with glossy leathery variegated leaves that are easy to grow and practically problem free.  They will grow to around 3 metres in height and spread to around 1 metre.  There are many variations in leaf shape and size with colours ranging from vibrant yellows, oranges, reds and purples ... usually all on the same plant.

While they prefer to grow in full sun,  I have several growing in a position that is shaded in the afternoons and this seems to bring out the colours even more.  
They get tiny star-shaped, rather insignificant yellow flowers.   These are produced intermittently throughout the year.


 The Croton may loose its leaves when stressed, but the strong trunk holds a lot of nutrients and it will re-shoot when conditions are better.  The one below suffered terribly after a couple of years of drought, but with decent rainfall followed by a good feed, it returned to its former glory!

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Cassia fistula - Golden Shower Tree

 This is one of my all-time favourite summer flowering trees.  It adds such a splash of vivid yellow to the garden during the hottest time of the year with its magnificent display of large pendulous racemes of scented flowers in summer.  It is a graceful and spectacular looking tree that I've found to be very drought and heat hardy.

It's a semi-deciduous tree up to 8m tall and of similar width.  My Cassia fistula is so tall that it can now be seen behind all the planting in the raised back bed of the courtyard garden.  In this photo you can see the yellow flowers in the background high above the hibiscus blooms.

The Cassia fistula has large deep green leaves up to 450mm long and stunning sprays of golden wisteria like blooms.

The sweetly perfumed flowers are pea-shaped and arranged in large pendulous sprays.

Flowers develop into brown seed pods which often exceed 30 cm long. The seeds are arranged horizontally in the pod, which when broken open give off a strong smell. Some old pods can be found hanging on the tree at most times of the year.

Cassia fistula has been classed as a weed in many states here in Australia ... as it has become naturalised in some areas, spreading into the bushland.  It can be seen in the bushland close to the houses in my rural suburb.  Seems a shame to call such a striking tree ... a weed!

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Callistemon citrinus - Crimson Bottlebrush

One of the few native trees I have growing on my property is the Crimson Bottlebrush and one of its good points is that it will flower twice in one year if it is kept well-watered.  During the heat of the late summer and during the cool of early winter it will show off it's wonderful crimson flower spikes.

It's around 4 metres high and is very hardy under the dry, hot, sunny and sometimes wet conditions here.  The leaves give off a citrus scent when rubbed ... hence the common name.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Brunfelsia latifolia (syn. bonodora) - Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow shrub.

This is a lovely evergreen shrub which grows slowly to around 2-4 metres tall and 2 metres wide and likes a warm, sunny position . The foliage is dense and medium green in colour.

The attraction of this shrub is most definitely the wonderful perfumed masses of beautiful flowers that cover it during spring.  The flowers are very sweetly perfumed and when they first open they are a violet colour, fading to lavender blue and then white.

It is a striking shrub with the three colours present on the bush at the same time.
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