Tuesday, March 20, 2012

So ... We Had A Little Severe Storm Today!

It has been raining here for non-stop here for over a week now ... and I mean non-stop!  I added a post just this Sunday gone all about the rain we had received since Thursday last week ... Thursday to Sunday over 236 mm fell, which is over 9 inches of rain.

Then on Monday another 75mm, around 3 inches fell from the heavens.  But that wasn't the end of it.  Yesterday, we experienced 150mm or 6 inches between 9.00 am and 10.30 pm, when we retired for the evening, and it was still bucketing down.

Sometime around 4.00 am this morning the wind suddenly whipped up at our place.  I could hear the cane furniture out on the verandah being moved around, and I know I heard things falling out in the courtyard.  The rain was pelting down so hard that I vaguely remember thinking ... hmmm, hope my plants are standing up to this!   But this being the tropics and the 'wet' season, storms are not at all uncommon, and I just rolled back over and resumed snoring!

When I finally did awake just after 6.00 am, it was still raining heavily and I could hear the roar of the rushing water in the seasonal creek down at the bottom of the hill that our house sits on.  This was the scene in the front yard as I walked to the front verandah.

Mmmm!  I thought!  We have had some really decent rain overnight!  I decided to grab the umbrella and take a walk.  The rain had lightened a little, so out I went to check out the conditions.

There was a wall of water rushing down the cement driveway.  Here's a little clip ...

There was just so much water running every which way all around our property.

There was a river tumbling into my shadehouse garden.

We suddenly had a swimming pool where the half-finished car shed sat!

The waterfalls had double in size,

and the lakes of water had suddenly grown much larger.

This was the waterpark feature at the front gate ...

and here's a look around as I strolled from the front gate, down the driveway to the front yard.

When I returned inside and turned on the television to catch the early morning news, I realised that my city had just experienced a severe freakish storm ... not a cyclone, but a tornado!  Apparently the winds reached speeds of around 130 to 150 kms an hour and it had cut a sway through a couple of the suburbs closer in towards the city.

Here's the radar image as the storm hit.

Houses were unroofed.  Trees were ripped out of the ground.  Objects were picked up and dumped streets away.  Powerlines were strewn across streets.  The structural damage caused by this freak storm was actually worse than the structural damage caused by Cyclone Yasi last year.  Despite the difference in size, this little storm packed a real punch.  Of course, Yasi affected a much, much larger area, but the damage here in Townsville was mostly to powerlines, light poles, sheds and trees.   There was indeed a lot of destruction of the vegetation, but very few houses or businesses badly damaged.

Back then we knew Yasi was on the way, and we were prepared.  This time, however, there was no warning at all.  Unfortunately the area of the city that was hit by this mini tornado was one of the less fortunate neighbourhoods, where people don't have fancy homes and really don't have all that much in the way of possessions or assets.  It's going to take quite some time for many of these people to actually get back into their homes and get back to their usual daily lives.

I'm adding a link to a collection of photos taken earlier today
 ABC News - Storm cell hits Townsville
and an online news page that tells the story ...
 Disaster zone declared over 500m corridor of destruction in Townsville

It was hard to take it all in.  These suburbs are about a 30 to 35 minute drive away from where I live.  In my outlying rural suburb, there was just a whole lot of water covering the roads and covering people's yards and properties.  Despite the fact that the rain was still bucketing down, I decided to go into work.  There was water everywhere, but I made it through.

Yet another exciting day in the tropics of north Queensland.  I wonder what tomorrow will bring.  Anyone dying to visit???

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The Old Man Is Snoring and Snoring ... My Dry Tropics Garden Journal ... Week 13, 2012

Date:  March 18, 2012

Season:  beginning of Autumn and towards the end of 'wet' season

Well, a few days after my last post, the skies turned a dismal shade of grey, the heavens opened and the rain has not stopped since then.

We had around 240 mm, or 9 inches in just a few days last week, and it keeps on pouring.

The endless drumming on the tin roof as the raindrops belts down is starting to drive us a little nuts.  It's difficult to hear the television or radio, even with the volume yanked up to high!

We haven't seen the harsh summery sunshine, or any sunshine really, for what seems like ages and ages.  Even when we sit out out on the verandah, it's dark and gloomy.  We have lights on inside the house for most of the day, as we both have old old eyes these days, and can't see a damn thing without glasses and bright light!!!

The washing never seems to dry  (I've never had a dryer!).  There's mould appearing on the walls again, and there's that faint musky damp smell creeping through every corner of the house.  This is the real 'wet'.

There are little waterfalls ...

and little lakes appearing around the place.

There are even little rivers making their way down the hillside ...

and the driveway.  You risk life and limb trying to get up and down that slippery slimy surface.  Can you see the green slime covering the cement?  I think we could sell tickets for the extreme experience of trying to get into our house during a 'wet' season.  It would be a fabulous ride.

Unfortunately the relentless rain causes a fair bit of destruction to the gravel driveway every 'wet' season.  The little rivers that make their way downhill carry a lot of the gravel down the cement driveway and dumps it underneath the enormous Ficus benjamina tree outside my husbands' workshop underneath the house.  We lose so much gravel every 'wet', that the driveway ends up looking like a rally track.

Of course all this means that the 'wet' is not the best time to be out gardening.  It's a time when monsoonal rains can sweep in and pummel any foolhardy gardener who attempts to get outside.  Flooding waters can suddenly fill up every dip and ditch and spread out from there making your yard feel like a mucky mire that threatens to swallow you whole.  It's hot and humid, and there's a bountiful supply of biting insect life.

There's also a bountiful supply of wonderful weeds that pop up and seem to multiply like rabbits overnight. These are the most common pesky plants we see here during a wet season.  They're running rife in my garden right now.

Clitoria ternatea or Bush Butterfly Pea

Stachytarpheta jamaicensis or Snake Weed

Tridax procumbans or Tridax Daisy

Passiflora foetida or Stinking Passionfruit

Lantana camara 

and Catharanthus roseus or commonly called the Madagascar Periwinkle or Vinca.

Keeping a handle on these weeds is a year-round job, but takes priority during a wet season.

Of course, there are some positives about a wet season.  When we get the fantastic tropical summer thunderstorms, the lightening crackles and splits the sky, but it also makes the rain rich with nitrogen.  That's a real bonus for plants and we get to see plants literally doubling in size overnight.

It also means the outlook is lush, green and verdant for a change.  The bushland looks its best at this time of year.

Another of the positives is that in the evenings we get to listen to nature's twilight symphony ... the frog chorus.  Although that can be drowned out if the rain is quite heavy.

One of the other bonuses about a 'wet' season though, is that it's the perfect time for propagating your beloved plants by taking cuttings.   As the surrounding air literally drips with moisture, and humidity levels reach up to 99%, it's almost impossible for any cutting to dehydrate, shrivel up and die off in an untimely fashion.   I'm not a gardener who propagates a lot of plants by taking cuttings, but I have started to try this out far more often these days.  I find that I get almost 100% success in strike rate during a 'wet'.  Of course, I've learnt a few tricks, thanks to great advice from more seasoned and successful gardeners.

Take cuttings early in the morning when the plant is full of moisture.  Be sure to take cuttings off actively growing branches, preferably the growing tips of the plants or from branches that are 'green', meaning fresh and new.

I take all my Coleus and Portulaca cuttings at this time of year, and have always had great success with them.

I've also had a lot of success with ramming pieces of Cordyline and Dracaena straight into the moist soil out in the garden beds during the 'wet'.

I've been amazed at the way they take off when the rain has penetrated deep into the ground after weeks of decent liquid sunshine.

I've now started trying to strike Salvia

and Costus during the wet season, and so far so good!

Some of the waterwise or drought tolerant plants take much more of a liking to being transplanted during the wet season too.  They settle into their new spots much faster and start to thrive before the 'dry' rolls around again.

Now I don't transplant all that often either, but this year I've moved some of the new suckers of my huge Ixora coccinea to a spot at the back of the newly constructed pergola.  They doing brilliantly, so I think they will be very happy in their new home.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

On A Beginning-of-Autumn Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day ... March 2012

Here in Oz it's the beginning of our Autumn but in the tropical areas, like mine, there are no fabulous foliage displays and colourful changing of the season.  Things are pretty much exactly as they were all through Summer.  We still have the summery weather, summery conditions and summery blooms.

There are just a couple of blooms that have appeared in the last week or so though.  I now have blooms on two of my Orchids out in the shadehouse garden.

 This is an unknown ...

... and I think this is a Dendrobium.  I'm not much of an Orchid expert!

In a different corner of the shadehouse, 

there are a few stunning white flowers on my Hedychium coronarium or white Ginger.  The perfume from these blooms is wonderfully sweet and heady.

Out in the front yard I'm seeing the first ever blooms on the Koelreuteria formosana or Golden Rain Tree,

and the Duranta repens growing out in the tiered garden beds is dripping with bright orange berries once more after a very long hiatus.

Apart from those few differences though, things are pretty much as they have been.

So here are the blooms that have been on display for the last couple of months and are still out in the garden today.

Lots of oranges and yellows.

Quite a few pinks and purples.

Some reds and whites.

I'm joining Carol for her Garden Blogger's Bloom Day meme

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Finally Breathing A Sigh Of Relief ... My Dry Tropics Garden Journal ... Week 11, 2012

Date:  March 11, 2012

Season:  beginning of Autumn and 'wet' season

I've finally reached the stage now where I can wander around the place and actually enjoy what I see, rather than cringe at every turn!

I no longer feel like hiding inside the house and trying to avoid looking out.  This weekend has been the first time that I've felt absolutely over-the-moon to be out in the garden in a very long time.  Those who follow this blog will know exactly why that has been the case.  Finally there was a fantastic change of circumstance, with all the re-construction, repairing and cleaning up done.   All the rubbish has been removed and all the garden areas are now looking so much better.  Both my darling husband and I commented how lovely the place feels once more.  It seems like even the wildlife are little more relaxed and at-home when visiting our place these days!

The rain has continued.  So far this month we've had at least seven days of heavy rolling showers and have reached 63 mm or 2 ins in that time.  Of course, even though Autumn has officially begun, the temps have continued to be high, up around 32 - 34 deg C  (89 - 93 F).  It's not too bad on overcast days, but once those clouds part and the sun starts streaming down, things get rather sweaty and uncomfortable.

Thankfully, the weekends tend to be marked primarily by lovely overcast days, so that means I've been able to get out and do some much needed weeding.  Wet season means lots and lots and lots of growth, and particular plants tend to become overgrown very quickly.

I've now got a handle on the weeds down the driveway at long last.  I still have to patrol and catch the remaining escapees, but on the whole it's looking pretty tidy down the long entrance driveway.  I can't wait for all the new plantings to take off.   While they've certainly had a great start with all the end-of-summer rainfall we've received, with, thankfully, no torrential monsoonal downpours, I will need to coax them along during the coming dry season.

I spent a few hours this weekend battling with the overgrown patches in the tiered garden beds outside the shadehouse garden.  The Giant Sword Fern and the Salvia madrensis were choking most of the other plants in this corner of the garden.

I pulled out most of the fern, gave the Salvia madrensis a nasty haircut and then trimmed back all the unruly straggley plants growing underneath.  In their quest to reach sunlight, they had grown into all sorts of strange forms.  The end result of all the trimming back and tidying up doesn't look all that great, but  ...

... now the Dietes, the Pentas, the other Salvias, the Ixora, the Cuphea, the Euphorbia, the Scaevola and the Scutellaria that are planted in there, have some room to breathe.  It looks like I've lost the Kalancoe blossfeldianas and the dwarf white Euphorbia pulcherrima though.  Obviously, it was one wet season too many for these plants. 

Form a distance though, while the garden bed itself is now much tidier, it can be seen that the poor block wall needs some attention.  It's certainly did a mighty job holding out through all the horrid weather last year, so I can't complain too much.

For now though, there are no extra really-pressing jobs in the garden any more.  I can get back to the usual gardening jobs, like planting up annuals in pots to put out around the courtyard.  Early Autumn is always the time I start this particular job, and I've already begun planting out some little Cosmos 'Purity Dwarf' and 'Tall Mix', Zinnia 'Summer Brilliance', Nasturtium 'Alaska Mix' and Torenia 'Clown Magic'.

They're sitting in pots down in 'potting alley', where I'm trying my best to protect them from the heavy showers of rain that roll in every couple of days.

I've also planted up some Rain Lily seeds sent by a wonderful garden blogger 'Frangipani Gardens'.  There's Zephyranthes primulina and Habranthus robustus well on the way, and the Zephyranthes verucunda and Zephyranthes andersonii seeds have just begun sprouting.  Thanks so much, Pitta. 

Aside from a little more planting and some regular weeding, I get to wander around enjoying the foliage in my early Autumn garden...


Epipremnum aureum syn.Scindapsus aureus or Pothos,

Schefflera arboricola or dwarf variegated Umbrella tree,


the Sprial Gingers,

and ferns.

There's also a few flowers to enjoy in my early Autumn garden ...

an unknown Orchid,

the fabulous Cosmos,

Costus productus or Orange Sprial Ginger,

 a Marigold that's soldiered on from last year's Autumn planting,

my beautiful Mussaenda philipipca 'Aurore',

 Ixora 'Twilgiht Glow'

and Ixora 'Raywards Pink'.

The Koelreuteria formosana or Golden Rain Tree is flowering for the first time since we moved to this property over ten years ago now.  The flowers are quite lovely.

There's also some berries and fruit to be seen in certain spots.

Here's the bright orange berries on a Duranta repens, and the maturing fruit of the Ardisia elliptica or Shoe-Button Ardisia, which will eventually turn bright red and then black.

Then, of course, there's the wonderful wildlife that accompanies me on my wanderings ...

the Orchard Swallowtail Butterfly or Papilio aegeus,

the Forest Kingfisher or Todiramphus macleayii,

the laughing Kookaburra or Dacelo novaeguineae,

female and male Figbirds or Sphecotheres vieilloti flaviventris,

Rainbow Lorikeets or Trichoglossus haematodus,

Agile wallabies or Macropus agilis  (this is a little joey),

... oh, and then there's the snakes, like this Spotted Python or Antaresia maculosa.

All these creatures were spotted over this past weekend, doing their thing in and around the garden that makes up part of their natural habitat.  I think we've all had a fabulous weekend.

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