Sunday, May 27, 2012

Getting A Little Chilly ... My Dry Tropics Garden Journal ... Week 23, 2012.

Date:  May 27, 2012

Season:  end of Autumn, and 'dry' season

Who turned the thermostat down?  It's a little chilly here this weekend.  Even the wildlife is taking refuge in the warmth of sheltered spots around the garden.

When I began this post at around 10.30 am, it was under 19 deg C (66 F).  That is a little out of the ordinary for May.  The temperature dropped significantly on Friday.  On Thursday the mercury was hovering around the 30 deg C (86 F) mark, which is pretty normal, then suddenly ... out of the blue ... the mercury barely made it to 20 deg C (68 F) on Friday.  That was at least 8 degrees lower than the average daytime temp during May.  The last time the temp dropped that low in May was around 22 years ago.

Not only that, but there were gale force winds and rain!!!!   Rain ... at this time of year!!  That was even more unexpected.  We received around 60 mm of rain on Friday, and we've had light drizzly showers all over the weekend.  Until midday today, we hadn't seen the sun since Thursday and we had to plunge into the dark recesses of our cupboards to pull out jumpers and cosy PJs!!!!   (This is the point where northern hemispherians will be rolling their eyes and audibly groaning!!)

Obviously our winter has arrived a little early, and we're having a little break from our usual dry season.  Of course the garden is loving this wonderful gift of liquid sunshine (as we call our rain) instead of the more normal bright clear blue-sky weather.

I've been confined to the verandah for most of the weekend, just looking out over the yard and garden, as the showers keep on rolling in.  I'm so used to warm summertime rain that the idea of wandering around when chilly raindrops are falling is not all that appealing!!  

It was a very different story last weekend.   The weather was very warm and the skies were crystal clear.

My darling hubby was busy working with an unusual visitor. We don't see its type at our place very often. The skid loader was put to good use spreading and levelling out more of the fill needed for the new car shed area, as well as distributing some of the fill to the enormous dips and ditches that were scoured out down the long driveway during the wet season earlier this year.

It was my job to spread out the piles of fill and even out the roller-coaster of a dirt driveway.  This is something we have to do ever other year, as the wet seasons here take a huge toll on the driveway and the monsoonal downpours carry away a lot of the dirt and gravel away down the slope our property sits on.  One of these years we'll be able to afford to put in a concrete driveway ... I can't tell you how much my darling hubby is looking forward to that!

He's also looking forward to the day when the car shed area is finally finished ... and boy, so am I!  It's a project that's been going on for well over a year now, and when it's eventually done there's going to be a great ugly spot at the back where the huge pile of concrete and blocks sits very high on the slope.

There it is ... can you see it while looking up through the front yard tiered garden beds?  That's the wall that will support the concrete slab that will form the car shed floor.

Let's walk around the tiered garden beds and take a closer look.  Uuuu  ....  gly!  The whole of this area has been looking like a construction site for so long now, that I'm having trouble trying to visualize it actually finished and cleared.

Even when the floor is set and the car shed structure erected, it's still going to be an eyesore at this end.  I think it's a spot that's going to need a great big tiered garden bed on these two sides.  That will hopefully be a project for us next year as we're really hoping to get this car shed finished by summertime at the end of this year, before the next wet season arrives.

As well building garden beds around the car shed, I'm hoping to create another new garden bed in the area off to the right around that African Oil Palm and under the Triangular Palm behind that.   I'm getting very excited at the thought of having some new garden beds!  Roll on next year!

But for now there hasn't been all that much to do in the established garden areas, apart from the occasional weed pulling or branch snipping.

Everything is doing quite nicely, especially after the lovely downpour on Friday and the light showers every since.  The weeds are lying low, the pests seem to be on holiday, and there are some lovely blooms in almost every corner.

I'm happy to report that the sun is now shining and the mercury has climbed up to 22 deg C  (71 F).  I've just been out to wander around and warm up my cold little toes and fingers!

 I was lucky enough to catch sight of quite a few of the birds that frequent this area,

and I spotted loads of butterflies and bees hanging around as well.

I think it's time to get and do so fertilising and some more mulching to reap the benefits of the unexpected rain.  I'll finish off with a glimpse of some blooms that are looking pretty pleased with themselves.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Have I Told You Lately? ... My Dry Tropics Garden Journal ... Week 22, 2012.

Date:  May 20, 2012

Season:  last month of Autumn, and dry season

You may know the classic "Have I Told You Lately?"  written by Van Morrison.  It actually became part of my life's soundtrack when Rod Stewart made it a hit back in 1993, but my favourite version is definitely the one recorded by Van Morrison with the Chieftains back in 1995.  I've included the music track as part of my post today.  So, if you want to hear it while reading through this post, just scroll right down to the bottom of the page and stop the usual Soundtrack from playing, then come back here and click on the play button to enjoy a beautiful song.

Well now that' done ... let's move on.  What is it I'm rambling on about ... oh yes ...

Have I told you lately how much I love this time of year here in the north-eastern tropics?  The weather is simply glorious.  There's a slight nip in the air first thing in the morning, then there's usually lots of bright blue-sky daylight hours, followed by lovely cool evenings.  No torrential rainfall ... no sweltering heat ... no fierce furnace-like blasts of sunshine ... no biting insects ... no need to cower indoors with the air-con on high.

I'm absolutely smitten with this time of year.  Most of the hard work that needs to be done in the garden after a long wet season, is now well and truly done and dusted.  This is the time of year when I can just enjoy strolling around, hosing spots that need a drink as the dry season rolls on, and planting up a few annuals here and there.  So here's what caught my eye as I wandered around this morning.

The two not-so-long-ago re-vamped rock garden spots are doing just fine.  The newer plants all tucked in for the long dry season that's ahead and seem to be making the space their own ... if a little slowly!

The Thunbergia erecta 'Tru Blu' is starting to come into its own now and throwing out more and more of those lovely purple blooms.

Turnera ulmifolia is also taking off and showing more and more of those golden flowers which are so attractive for the pollinators.

Pennisetum advena 'Rubrum' is starting to bloom again after I had cut it back.  The feathery purple spikes always catch my eye as they wave around in the soft breeze.  

As I wander further down the driveway to the front gates I notice the spiky pom-poms on the Calliandra haematocephala.  Then as I turn and wander back again,

I see lots of flower spikes on the Crotons,

a new shoot on the Licuala ramsayi,

the last blooms on the last remaining clump of Cosmos sulphureus,

and the shedding bark of the Eucalyptus platyphyllas.

All this is very usual for this time of year, but then I noticed something a little out of the ordinary.

Yes, it seems the unloved lemon tree tucked away about half down the driveway is fruiting.  There was only one lemon hanging from the branches, but it was a delight to behold.

 Back towards the house now, I look down upon the front tiered garden beds,

and notice the new blooming cycle of the Justicia brandegeana has begun.

There are flowers on the Mandevilla again.

 The Scutellaria suffrutescens and the Salvia madrensis make a great combination

and the first blooms of the Ixora chinensis 'Splash' are almost ready to show themselves.

It was at this point that I had a lovely surprise.  I heard some rustling in the bush just over our fence, which is a common occurrence.  It's usually an Agile Wallaby or a Pheasant Coucal moving around, or sometimes a very large snake!  But this time it was none of those.  Can you see her?

Yes, there's a new creature on the block.

It's our neighbour's children's gorgeous little pony.  She often comes over to say a quick hello!   I obliged politely, and then kept on my wanderings.

Looking down to the front yard, it's becoming noticeable that the dry season is here.  The 'grass' out in the yard is starting to brown off now, and it won't be long before it's looking pretty dead and gone.  We don't waste precious water trying to keep the grass green.  It will come back when the wet season rains arrive.

Walking on into the shadehouse now where everything is always green and lush.  There are splashes of other colours here and there as well.

I see that my new Iris domestica syn. Iris chinensis seeds are powering along wonderfully well.  (Thanks Marisa!)

I need to pot them up soon.  I already have the orange variety of this lovely Iris, but these new plants will have creamy white/red splotched flowers.  I can't wait.

I can also see the first buds appearing for this year on this Schlumbergera.  I love watching the development of the flowers at the end of these peculiar cactus.

Turning around I take a moment to enjoy the cool lushness of my shadehouse garden, then I wander on out to the courtyard garden.

That's the little alleyway that connects my shadehouse on the western side of my house, to the courtyard at the back of my house.  This alley is usually filled with sick plants, cuttings that have to be potted up or new plants waiting to be planted.  Right now though it's empty.  There's no potting up to be done or patients to tend to.  I'm very pleased when everything is growing happily in its spot out in the garden.

Looking over the courtyard from the back, I'm feeling a lot happier with the way it looks from this angle.

Heading onto the back verandah, I turn and look out from the other side and I'm quite content with the potted plants in their places now. 

I'm waiting now for the annuals to really take off and fill the place with colour.

 The courtyard garden is my favourite garden space and this is the time of year when I spend a lot of time out there, just sitting enjoying a cuppa or quietly reading and listening to music playing on the record player inside the house.  Ooo ... have I mentioned that I just love this time of year?

Even the space under the pergola is starting to bring a smile to my dial after all this time.

It's been a long haul getting this spot to a point where it no longer makes me cringe and wince at the same time.

The star is this newly planted section is definitely this wonderful Salvia, sent to me as a cutting by a lovely fellow garden blogger (thanks Titania!)  I think it's either Salvia puberula / Roseleaf Sage or Salvia involucrata / Rosebud Sage.  Hoping someone can help with this!  The colour is such a draw card, and it works so well in amongst the Ipomea batatas 'Sun Kisses'.

As I wander up the steps under the pergola and turn back, I'm so pleased to see the Jasminum officinale on the right side of the steps, almost ready to start spreading across the top beams,

and to see the area around the pond filled with plants once more.

The end of May (and our Autumn) is a wonderful time of the year.
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