Sunday, June 20, 2010

African Tulip Tree - Spathodea Campanulata

This is the closest I come to seeing anything that resembles a tulip in my part of the world. 

I can hear you asking ... What has this tree got to do with tulips??  Well, it's the spectacular African Tulip tree that comes from tropical central and western Africa.  Growing up to 25 metres, it's a terrific choice as an evergreen shade tree for any tropical garden.  It is suited to warm coastal areas and is drought hardy.  Mine is surviving in very poor soil out in the full sun and in a corner of the garden that receives very little water.   It provides lots of great colour during our 'dry' season here.

This tree has a single trunk, a broad domed crown and displays leaves that are slightly hairy and shiny on the top.

The highlight though for most admirers of this tree, including me, are the beautiful, large, showy, bell-shaped flowers.

These flowers begin as a ball-shaped cluster around the middle of Autumn.  You can see the fabulous flower buds in this photo below.

Each brown banana-shaped flower bud is filled with water, forming a natural water pistol when squeezed.

The outer buds bloom first before the inner ones.   Blooming begins at the end of Autumn and continues on through our Winter.

When the flowers begin to open you can see the colours range from yellow at the base to scarlet red near the mouth on the inside, and bright orange merging to an orange-scarlet on the lobes.  Each perfumed flower lasts about 3 days.

Both the buds and the flowers are filled with nectar making it very popular with the local birdlife.

Monday, June 14, 2010

An Early Winter Gardening Weekend Downunder - it's the Queen's Birthday long weekend!

Yes ... I know it's seems strange but downunder we do have a day off work to celebrate the birth of the Monarch!!!

We Aussies love our long weekends ... what can I say!  There is, in fact, a bit of history behind the observation of the Monarch's birthday ... way back to 1788 when our first Governor declared a holiday to mark the birth of King George 111.  It's an Aussie tradition that's lasted and lasted ... so thanks Liz for the lovely extra long weekend!

Anyhoo ... back to gardening.  What else is there to do on a long weekend?  Hubbie went off on a two-day ride with the Old Fart's Club ... sorry, the Restored Motorcycle Club (the origin of the name 'Old Fart's Club' is a whole other story!!)  So I had the whole wonderful weekend to myself ... and lots of glorious winter weather out here in the bush.

So, where to start?  First, the Pentas bed had a severe trim ... then, the new outdoor garden beds had a dressing of compost and fertiliser with a few plants being removed or moved (there will be some who know all about the 'l'enfant terrible' from a post on my other blog  My Wilful Younger Child post.). 

I don't spend much time or effort on any of the other large outdoor garden beds here ... this whole property is on a difficult site located on the side of a rocky granite hill.   There is, in fact, no fertile soil anywhere around the property except for built-up beds in the courtyard and the greenhouse.  Everywhere else there is only a very, very thin layer of decomposed granite soil atop granite bedrock ... the soil that was bought in many years ago to build up the large outdoor garden beds is now completely compacted.  My gardening efforts only go into the two garden spaces where I can add plants and change things around ... my Courtyard Garden and my Greenhouse / Shadehouse Garden.

So it was onto the courtyard garden ... the pots are now all set ready for a great winter-spring-early summer display.  Some have already started blooming ... and while they've had a late start, due to the continual rainy weather during Autumn, it's lovely to see the flowers beginning to appear at last.

Here's a few of the plants that have started blooming:

While I was out in the courtyard garden positioning the pots for the right light conditions, I spotted a few garden visitors.

It was also time to start the 'great bulb experiment'.  I bought some bulbs on special a while back ... and whilst I've never ever grown these plants before, I've always wanted to try!  This was the collection I got way back at the beginning of March ... sold as the 'hot climate pack' (we'll see about that!!):

They've been sitting in the fridge ever since ... waiting for the temps. to drop and the humidity levels to plummet.  Well, finally we now have days when the maximum temp. is well below 30 deg C (86 F) ... usually around 26 deg (78 F) C at the moment ... and our night time temps drop way down to around 15 deg C (59F).

So it was time to pot up.  Some had already started sprouting in the fridge.  I'm excited to see exactly what does grow and bloom.

(You can see from the photo that I needed instructions on exactly what to do!  Having had no experience with planting bulbs like these before ... I had to check out depths etc.)

I then got stuck into the Greenhouse Garden and did some trimming.  The hanging pots of Impatiens which I added in January last year were getting very, very leggy as can be seen in the next photo.  Look carefully at the two pots hanging off the beam at the top of the photo ... there's a pot of Impatiens to the left and a pot of Evolvulus to the right.  Definitely time for a trim!

The poor Impatiens look very unattractive with their little sticks poking out of the hanging pots now, but they'll come back pretty quickly.

Just like the pots of Dragon Wing Begonias I trimmed up just two weeks ago on the other side of the Greenhouse Garden ... doesn't take long for them to start coming back.

I also put in a few potted plants to add colours other than green to the greenhouse garden beds.  These beds are completely root bound from the Giant Sword Fern now, so it's impossible to actually plant anything in the ground.  Still ... adding pots seems to be working well.

I added some pots of Dragon Wing Begonia and Inky Fingers Coleus ...

as well as pots of Cordyline 'Red Wings', Calathea and variegated Alpinia vittata.

There are also pots of other Coleus plants in there as well ... but they've all had a haircut and are rather hard to spot right now.

Finally, today I planted a few more things those new outdoor garden beds ... you remember, 'l'enfant terrible' beds!  Still needs lots more work ... so I'll be busy throughout this Winter.  Right now it's Monday arvo ... and time to plant myself on the rocking chair out on the verandah and enjoy a well-earned caffeine break!!!

Monday, June 7, 2010

The Courtyard Garden - late Autumn, 2010. Another video diary to keep track of the progress.

Adding potted plants to my Courtyard Garden was a project I began at the beginning of last year.  I had grown very tired of the whole area ... it was drab and boring!  It was surrounded with garden beds full of green plants.  I craved other colours... and flowers!

This is a photo showing an early attempt at adding some colour ...
Whilst there are a few flowering shrubs ... mostly hibiscus shrubs with red blooms ... and a couple of flowering trees ... the blooms tend to be very, very high up!!!!!   My garden beds are certainly not flower-filled!  So, I decided to start a potted garden in my favourite garden space ... the garden that is the closest to our house and the space we spend a lot of time in.

Last year I added quite a few potted annuals and gradually started adding other great plants such as cordylines and coleus.  I was very pleased with the whole area by the end of winter and the beginning of spring.   Then came the summer ... and our 'wet' season.  Things did not go well.  I certainly learned a lot of valuable lessons ...
Pelargoniums don't like being wet.
Torenias don't like endless overcast days.
Nor do Aralias.
The hordes of grasshoppers that come with the rains love to eat Cordylines.
Calibrachoa hates both heat and humidity.  They're not all that keen about lots of heavy rain either.
There's some sort of pest that hovers in my garden and loves to wipe out any Verbena that comes close!!!

Well ... lessons learned ... and time to start anew.  So ... after a rather long period of rain and endless cloudy overcast days, I've finished potting up lots of new plants ready for another go! Now I can't wait for the blooms to appear!  The following videos are my record of the potted plants out in the courtyard at the end of Autumn.

Part 1:

Part 2:

Part 3:
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