Saturday, November 19, 2011

Bracing For The Coming Summer ... My Dry Tropics Garden Journal ... Week 47, 2011

The sun is setting on Spring here in the southern hemisphere and it's also setting on the 'dry' season in my north-eastern corner of Oz.   It pretty much feels like Summer already.  The mercury has climbed back over that 30 deg C mark, with daytime temperatures settled steadily around the 31 degrees C (87 F), which really feels more like 33 C (91 F).  Relative humidity during the day doesn't fluctuate much from the 60% - 70% level, and our night-time temps. are now around 23 C (73 F).

We've started to see dark grey clouds once more and we've had a few light showers, but they've been quite brief, barely touch the ground.

It has been wonderful to see the courtyard splashed by raindrops ...

... and to occasionally see the flowers dripping with little raindrops as well.  That heady intoxicating smell of rain after seven months of the 'dry' season, even for the briefest time, is just totally glorious!

Seeing all the Poincianas in bloom around the property is a clear indication Summer is just around the corner.

The native Sterculia quadrifida, or Peanut Tree, has leafed up again and is showing its bright red fruit.  This tree is a real asset in the courtyard during our hot Summers, providing much needed shade for many of the potted plants out there.

As I lament the end of our Spring, I've being reflecting on the much-needed joy it has provided after what proved to be a trying beginning to the gardening year.  The Hemerocallis, in the corner of the top tier in the tiered garden beds, have been putting on a great display.

There have been some beauties blooming for the very first time this Spring.  While they were planted back in early winter 2010, I think the rather damp unseasonable not-so-dry season during the 2010 Winter-Spring didn't really agree with the new plants.  They didn't bloom at all last Spring, so it's been an absolute joy to see their beautiful faces at long last.

Hemerocallis 'Velvet Eyes'.

Hemerocallis 'Jamaican Midnight'.

Hemerocallis 'Sabine Baur'.

Hemerocallis 'Picotee Bubbles'

Then there is 'Sweet Summer Heat', which will probably last into the early days of our Summer as that is now only ten day away.

Other joys to be found during the Spring were the gorgeous Asiatic and Oriental Lilies growing in pots out in my Shadehouse Garden.  I bought the mixed packs of bulbs back in early Winter and these new Lilliums put on a great show all through October into early November ... which are our mid-Spring and late Spring months.

Unfortunately I can't identify the cultivars in this mixed pack of Asiatic Lilies bulbs.  All I know is that the pack was labelled 'Matisse Collection'.

The pack of Oriental Lily bulbs were only labelled 'Oriental Lillium x speciosum', which is not much help either.

Preparing the garden and property for the coming Summer has proven to be a very different task this year.  Most of the pruning and cutting back that I do at the end of Spring has not been necessary this year, as so many of the trees and shrubs are still well and truly pruned after their drastic haircuts during Cyclone Yasi back in February.   The ensuing 'dry' season since then has meant that most of those damaged trees and shrubs have not exactly flourished and certainly don't need any more trimming back!!!

Of course, the shrubs in the front garden beds, which mostly escaped damage from Yasi, were just recently damaged by scaffolding plonked on top of them as repair work finally began on our wrecked verandah hood.

Thankfully, the scaffolding has now been removed and I've had a chance to get in and trim back all the broken branches.  Just to be clear, that brown patch is the 'lawn' after our long, long dry season!

Anyway, returning to those poor shrubs, most seem to be okay and should recover well.

The Acalyphas should have no trouble coming back.   I think they deserve the title "One of the toughest shrubs ever", especially here in the tropics.

On the other side, the two Hibiscus rosa-sinenses cultivars ... 'Snowflake' and 'Roseflake' will definitely recover well.  The Russelia will just power on now and the Mussaenda philippica 'Bangkok Rose' has decided not to be beaten into submission and is throwing out its gorgeous bracts and tiny flowers on some really short, stunted stems and branches.

Down at the very front of this bed is my oldest red-flowering Hibiscus rosa-sinensis.  It had once token pride of place in the front garden beds but, as you can see, is now looking rather ugly and stunted.  It wasn't the cyclone, or the scaffolding that caused this damage.  No, to top off everything else that has happened during this annus-horibilis for my garden, the wallabies decided for the first time ever that they should start munching on plants that they have never given a second glance before.  This Hibiscus was one of them.  The wallabies literally stripped the entire shrub of its leaves, and even went so far as pulling the huge tall branches down to their level, so they could munch away happily.

The Courtyard Garden has been quite lovely during our 'dry', which has now lasted for seven months.  I've been enjoying all the colour provided by the potted plants out there, despite the slightly annoying need to stash a whole lot of those plants up on the wooden table to keep them out of hungry wallaby arms ... and mouths.

The lovely colour out there has provided the perfect antidote to all the brown elsewhere on the property and in the bushland around us.  I've really loved all the vibrant reds, oranges and yellows ...

... as well as the more sedate pinks and purples.

I'm expecting most of these potted plants will make it through the coming Summer/Monsoon season as I seem to be getting a little better each year at working out just what these plants need to survive the conditions experienced from December to March.  

Whilst the potted plants sitting out on the courtyard have looked great, the garden bed at the back of the courtyard is looking terrible.  This is one spot where I have had to do some trimming back.  This patch has suffered a bit during the dry season this year as unfortunately the irrigation system snaking throughout here has been down for the count since Cyclone Yasi hit back in February.  I have put the sprinkler in there a couple of times over the months since then, but the shrubs need decent rain to look their best once more.

This past weekend we've been working on preparing the pergola area of the Courtyard Garden for the repair work that's about to commence.  The pergola was damaged during Cyclone Yasi when most of the posts holding up the pergola roof suddenly took on a bit of a lean.  The cyclonic winds actually blew the posts sideways, which didn't look all that great.

Here's the pergola area before the preparation commenced.

It was a lovely shady area with a little pond.

Jasminum officinale covered almost the entire top of the structure and hung down over the edges.  That looked fantastic when it was covered in little white flowers.

At the back of this raised garden, there were Palms ... a stand of Golden Cane, a Footstool Palm and a Bamboo Palm ... and lots of Giant Sword Fern.

Well here it is today after spending a day and a half removing most of the plants.  This is what's left of all the Palms and Ferns.  Of course, once the workmen start stomping about in there, there may not even be anything left at all.

It was truly heart-breaking to watch the Jasmine vine, the stunning Hibiscus schizopetalus that arched over one end of the pergola, and the Petrea volubilis that hung over the other end, all being chopped down.

Here's my darling other half, risking life and limb on top of the structure, whilst removing every last bit of the Jasmine.  That was not an easy job!  The entire pergola structure was rather shaky and wobbly!!!

In the middle of the photo above you can see what's left of the Jasmine vine.  I'm hoping and praying that it will come back, so I'll be watching out with eagle eyes to see signs of life on that old vine.

I know I should look at this as the chance to start again ... a clean slate ... but, right now I'm back to feeling a little low as the seemingly never-ending saga of the Cyclone Yasi aftermath just goes on and on!

For now, and probably for a little while to come, I'll be missing this sight ...  the sight that used to greet my eyes when I arrived home from work and started walking down to the house.

Let's hope this coming Summer and 'wet' season don't bring any more unwanted surprises for my garden.  Please Mother Nature no horrendous cyclone this Summer.  I'm well and truly over it!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

An End-Of-Spring Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day ... November 2011

November is our last month of Spring Downunder and the conditions here in the north-east have remained remarkably comfortable and mild for this time of year.  The daytime temperatures are definitely up around the 30 deg C mark, but the humidity levels have remained quite sensible which means we're not sweating profusely just getting out of the shower in the morning.

Of course, it's still the 'dry' season and there's been almost no rain for over six months now.  I say almost, because we have started to get some late afternoon or evening sprinkles every now and then.  These little dribbles don't penetrate the ground here in the foothills, but hopefully it's a sign that decent rain is on its way.  Only 23 days until summer begins and the 'wet' usually starts around mid- to late December.

In the surrounding bushland, the Eucalypts, which drop most of their leaves during the dry season, are sprouting their new spring growth.  We're starting to see some new bright green leaves on those stark white branches.

Here you can clearly see the Eucalyptus platyphylla on the left is still in dry season mode, while the Eucalypt on the right is well and truly in the springtime mood!

I've been rather pleased that most of the garden has made it through the 'dry' of 2011, given the problematic start to the year for so many of the plants here.  Whilst the recovering plants are still not exactly flourishing, at least they're still growing!!

The enormous stand of Tabebuia heterophyllas, at the bottom of the hillside driveway,  are now looking a whole lot better, with loads of leaves covering their damaged branches and ...

... lots of the delicate pink flowers bursting into bloom.

Nothing quite screams out "Summer is on its way!" more than the appearance of the Poinciana flowers.  I've been very pleased to see these gorgeous red flowers this year.  Last summer none of my Poincianas bloomed much at all, but that was probably as a direct result of the rather out-of-the-ordinary rain we received during our supposedly 'dry' season.  Poincianas like the dry and they seem to bloom so much better when the dry season is very, very dry.

But this year ...

this is the view down towards the front gates

and this is the view in the other direction, to the end of the driveway.

The brilliant splashes of bright red are a welcome distraction from the rather dry and parched landscape here in the foothills.  When you look across the dry bushland from our front verandah, you can see just how these blooms stand out.  Can you see those splashes of red in that neighbour's yard?

Some plants are flowering a little out of season but that's excusable, considering all that they have suffered this year.  It's still delightful to see the bracts and blooms appear on my poor stunted Mussaenda philippica 'Bangkok Rose' ...

... and I never tire of seeing the occasional brilliant white bloom of my recovering Bauhinia tree.

Winter / Spring, our dry season, is mostly about getting the watering regimen working for the various garden spaces around our place.  This is the primary gardening chore during those months, apart from some dead-heading of annuals and fertilizing.  Thankfully, there are many drought tolerant plants growing in the old established garden beds and I only need to turn on the irrigation a few times during that six month period.

Plants like the fabulous Crotons ...

... and the Golden Cane Palms, are happy with an occasional drink every month or so.

I've been watering the tiered garden beds a little more though, and there's been a brilliant display of blooms at the 'Daylily' corner of the top tier.

Half of these Hemerocallis were planted back in the winter of '09 and the other half were planted during the winter last year.  This is the first time I've had all the different varieties blooming.  I can't wait for the little clumps to fill out more in the coming years and put on their fabulous display.  Here's a few of the Hemerocallis that are in bloom right now.

Starting top left ....  'Picotee Bubbles', 'Maleny Tiger', 'Jamaican Me Crazy', 'Sabine Baur'.
Going down to the second row ... 'Archangel Eyes', 'Velvet Eyes', 'Jamaican Midnight', 'Sweet Summer Heat'.
Bottom left ... 'Blackberry Jack' and 'Francois Verheart'.
Bottom right ... 'Wedding Band'.

There have been some beautiful Oriental Lilies in bloom as well.  I just had to bring them inside the house where they filled a few rooms with their stunning fragrance.

Around the property the Gerberas are blooming, along with my Callistemon 'Pink Champagne', my variegated Bougainvillea, the Allamanda sunee and the Salvia madrensis.

Out in the Shadehouse Garden, the Asiatic Lilies are on show.  The Begonias are showing off their rather small blooms, and my Hoya bella is blooming for the very first time.

While in the Courtyard Garden, my Gardenia augusta is also blooming for the first time.  The Spathiphyllum and Duranta 'Geisha Girl' make a great pair, and the vibrant colours of the Salvia splendens and Crossandras make a wonderful contrast with the soft and delicate purple of the Cleome spinosa 'Senorita Rosalita'.

Summer is oh so close now, so I'm enjoying every moment out in the garden before the dreaded heat, humidity, torrential downpours and possibly several cyclones arrive.

For more fantastic GBBD posts, please go and visit Carol at May Dreams Gardens

I'm also joining Gesine at Seahorse Garden for her Blogger Bloom Day meme.

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