Sunday, July 29, 2012

All Is Quiet On The Gardening Front ... My Dry Tropics Garden Journal ... Week 32, 2012.

Date:  July 29, 2012

Season:  mid-Winter and dry season

Our mid-Winter month is drawing to a close, and things are fairly quiet in the garden.  Actually things are always fairly quiet at this time of year.  As we're well into the dry season now I don't have to worry about weeding all that much, or trimming back and tidying up, as there's really no noticeable gain in plant growth when there are weeks and weeks and weeks of wide, wonderful, clear blue skies.

Whilst there certainly have been mostly blue-sky days during this mid-Winter month of July, there was a very unusual event about three weeks ago which created leaden grey, overcast skies.

87.6 mm or 3.4 inches fell and a record was established for the wettest 24-hr rainfall total for the month of July ever since records began 71 years ago.  It was a very strange turn of events ... something I've never seen in my lifetime!  There was a little drizzle every day for nearly a week following that day, but absolutely nothing since.  So our July total rainfall has been 101.6 mm or 4 inches over 7 days.  Our average July rainfall is 13.6 mm or half an inch!!!!

Shadehouse Garden, mid-Winter

Courtyard Garden, mid-Winter

The rain was so very refreshing and the dry garden certainly perked up!   The  (what I loosely term)  'grass' has stayed green for much longer than is usual,

and the abundant number of flowering weeds that grow in between the few-and-far-between blades of grass have provided the Pale-Headed Rosellas with an enjoyable meal.

One thing I did notice after the unexpected rainfall earlier this month, was the appearance of little Cosmos sulphureus babies out on the grassy area in front of our house.  It seems that some of the seeds have spread from the driveway to the front yard. 

I'm going to leave them though as I rather like the idea of these little flowers popping up out in the front yard.   Maybe I could end up with an almost wildflower-meadow look out there.

There are a couple of other lovely things that have popped up as well.   This purple-blooming plant to the left, and the plant with the white flowers pictured underneath.

I'm not sure if they're invasive weeds or desirable flowering plants.  Chances are they're probably something undesirable, so I will need to do some research before I decide if I get rid of them or not.

But, apart from an extraordinarily long green show put on by the grassed area at the front and side of the house, and the appearance of these new volunteers, the usual mid-Winter garden events have continued to occur.

The native Sterculia quadrifida or Peanut Tree, out in the courtyard, is looking very bare.  It drops its leaves during our wintertime and clusters of fruit pods are left to dangle from the leafless branches.

These pods slowly turn from green to a bright orangey-red and then open to reveal the seeds inside.

These become delicious food for birds like the female Figbirds (shown above),

... and the Great Grey Bowerbird, also know as the Queensland Bowerbird.

The bare-branched Sterculia has also become a building site.  The pair of Sunbirds that have been visiting the courtyard every day have been very busy building a new nest up high in the Sterculia's branches.

It's taken me a few days to notice it, as it looked so much like a green ant's nest.   But now I'm out there watching both the female and the male build this creation using leaves, little sticks and grasses.  It's way too high for me to get a close-up shot, but hopefully I'll hear the sound of little fledglings in a few weeks.

It's not just the Sterculia quadrifida that's deciduous during the wintertime here though.

The same is true for the Plumeria rubras, beside the hill driveway, and the Lagerstroemia indica, out in the tiered garden beds.

Both the Corymbia torellianas, or Cadaghi Gums growing beside the hill driveway, on the other hand, have a canopy that is now covered in blooms and seedpods,

... and the magnificent looking Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos have been enjoying the feast.

There are blooms on my still-recovering winter-blooming Bauhinia variegata 'Alba', growing beside the gravel driveway.  The tree itself is still very stunted and only about a metre and a half in height, but with the wet season that arrives at the end of the year, I think it will start another big growth spurt.

The other winter-blooming tree, Tabebuia impetiginosa which also grows beside the gravel driveway, is certainly displaying flowers on the side of the tree that was not damaged by Cyclone Yasi last year.  The other side though remains bloomless, but there's certainly vigorous and healthy looking re-growth there now.

The winter-blooming Calliandras are putting on their usual show out at the front gates,

and there are some flower spikes once more on a couple of the Codiaeum variegatum, or Crotons, growing down beside the gravel driveway.

It's been so pleasing to see a couple of the Duranta repens shrubs throwing out their pendulous flower sprays and returning to their former glory.

I was also overjoyed to see lots of new little Cosmos sulphureus seedlings popping up in the spot beside the driveway, where I planted some pass-along seedlings sent to me by a fellow garden blogger last year.  The parent plants looked fantastic when in full bloom from February through to the middle of April this year.   They have self-seeded and now there's a whole new batch of plants ready to mature and bloom again in the coming months.  I can't wait to see these bright cheery flowers once more! 

At the moment though, these are the blooms I'm seeing when I stroll around the place.

Courtyard Garden blooms.

Shadehouse Garden blooms.

Tiered garden bed blooms.

Driveway garden bed blooms.

The only regular gardening job I have at the moment is the potted plant watering job.

I water with the hand-held hose every afternoon, taking turns to water the hanging pots and baskets out in the Shadehouse Garden one afternoon,

  and then watering the many potted plants out in the Courtyard Garden the next afternoon.

At the moment I'm really enjoying the glorious perfume from the Dracaena fragrans, which is in bloom under the pergola, while wandering around the Courtyard Garden with the hose.

I consider myself very lucky to be able to enjoy these two fabulous garden areas.  There's nothing better than coming home from work, grabbing a cup of tea, and heading out to do the watering as the sun starts to sink in the late afternoon, around 5.00 pm.  It's such a pleasant, calm, peaceful and restorative experience.

One job I really want to get to is planting up the Oriental and Asiatic Lily bulbs that arrived a week and a half ago. Unfortunately I haven't been all that well lately and I've just not gotten around to this important job.  The poor bulbs seem to have survived so far, but I'm not sure how much longer they can wait.  I'm hoping that my darling hubby will help me out filling and moving the large pots this afternoon.

Sunday, July 15, 2012

Snapshots On This Mid-Winter Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day ... July 2012

I'm adding to my Snapshots series with this Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day post.  The 'Snapshots' series is where I highlight what's happening around the garden mid-season throughout the year.

Conditions during July

It's our mid-winter month here in Australia, and up here in my north-eastern corner we've been experiencing some rather unusual weather for this time of year.  Mid-winter is almost smack bang in the middle of our 'dry' season here, and rain is usually very light on, or even just non-existent. 

Well, we had an unusual occurrence this week.  Rain teemed down from the leaden-grey skies on Tuesday.  Around 87mm or 3.5 inches fell from the heavens, and that made it the wettest July day we've had in over 70 years.  A 24-hour rainfall total like that is far more common during our monsoonal 'wet', but is most certainly not common during our 'dry'!  Since Tuesday, we've had overcast dreary showery weather nearly every day.

Our dry season began normally enough.  16mm/ .7 of an inch fell over just 2 days back in April  when our dry season officially began.  Around 70mm/3 ins fell over 8 days back in May, and we received 26mm/1 inch of rain which fell over 7 days in the whole month of June.   So far this month, rain has fallen over 5 days amounting to 100mm/4 ins already!!!!   Rather atypical and a little out-of-the-ordinary for mid-Winter and mid-dry season.  I'm left wondering what will happen next month.

Needles to say, our usual bright sunny blue-sky winter days have not happened this past week while the rain has been falling.  It's been overcast and dreary every single day and old man sun has taken off somewhere else.  Perhaps not surprisingly, given the amount of cloud cover recently, our winter daytime and night-time temperatures have risen quite a bit.   During our July days so far, the mercury has been up around 23 to 25 deg C (73-77 F), while at night it has only dropped to between 16 to 20 deg C (60-68F) ... well apart from two nights when we had 8 deg C (46 F) and 10 deg C (50 F).

Of course, I'm not complaining about the rain or the rise in temps.  I've been able to take a break from the usual dry season watering schedule ... and the recent winter temps has meant no need for jumpers and no need to put on the heating on the reverse cycle air-con.  The doors and windows have all been opened up again to let the breezes flow through, and we've enjoyed time out on the verandah once again. 

Dry season is usually the time when things slow down around our garden.  Usually the front yard has started to brown off in July, as the grass slowly dries up and dies.  As you can see in the photo above though, that hasn't happened as a result of the rather damp conditions.  The surrounding bushland is usually starting to dry up at this time of year as well.  By now the Eucalypts have usually started dropping their leaves and the grasses have turned brown.  Again, that hasn't happened this July.

Sometimes at around the beginning of July there may be plumes of smoke visible in amongst the ranges and foothills around here, as it's usually about this time in the dry season when bush fires begin to break out.  So far all I'm seeing is loads of whispy grey cloud cover, although I swear I could smell smoke in the air yesterday.

OK, moving on to just exactly what's blooming around my place this week in our mid-Winter month of July.

Starting with the trees around the place ... what's flowering?

After checking last July's Snapshot post Snapshots of Mid-Winter ... July 2011, things are remarkably similar.  Last year the winter-blooming trees were recovering from the disastrous cyclone event that hit our area just a few months earlier.  Well, those same trees are still in recovery mode and, whilst their growth has certainly progressed well, there's only one that is actually blooming right now.

While the usual winter-blooming Spathodea campanulata or African Tulip Tree, and Bauhinia variegata 'Alba' or white Bauhinia are showing no flowers at all, the Tabebuia impetiginosa is putting on a display.

The Tab. impetiginosa was showing just a few blooms at this time last year and there are a few more this year, but it's still not back to its' former glory just yet.  Still, the trumpet-shaped deep pink blooms are a great sight.

At this time of year, there are no flowers on the Plumeria rubras.  They are deciduous in winter and have dropped most of their leaves, leaving their rather bare-looking branches on show.

It's during our Winter that we see something close to Autumn colours here in the tropics.  The leaves of the Lagerstroemia speciosa or Queen's Myrtle trees start turning yellow, orange and red before they also drop.

Now onto the shrubs ... what's flowering?

The pink-flowering Calliandra surinamensis has returned to its usual routine this mid-Winter, and is blooming.  Last July, flowers were conspicuously absent, as it had not recovered fully from the cyclone event in February either.

The red-flowering Calliandra haematocephala has not missed a beat in years, and is producing loads of its red powderpuff blooms again this winter.  Just call it old reliable!

The various Duranta repens shrubs have still not recovered or shown many blooms at all since early last year.  At the moment there's a spray or two, and some of the orange fruit evident on just a couple of these shrubs.  Maybe next year ... !!!

The young Lagerstroemia indicas or Crepe Myrtles have started dropping their colourful end-of-Autumn foliage.  Like the Lagerstroemia speciosa, the leaves of the Lagerstroemia indica change colour and then drop at this time of year, leaving bare sticks on show ...

 ... and clusters of dark brown fruit.

The winter-blooming Euphorbia leucocephala or Snowflake Bush is on show out in the courtyard. 

As you step off the back verandah to wander through the courtyard, you can see the stark white petal-like bracts of the Euphorbia behind the lattice work outside the kitchen.    I'm always compelled to stroll around the corner and take a closer look at the tiny little flowers.  Despite comments made by reputable gardening authors, I've never found the Euphorbia leucocephala to have any sort of scent or perfume.

Out in the Shadehouse Garden ... what's in bloom?

Dragonwing Begonias are always blooming, as is the Anthurium and the Impatiens walleriana in their hanging pots.  There are flower spikes on the Cane Begonias and the purple Streptocarpus caulescens, also known as Nodding Violet are flowering prolifically.  The clumps of Tradescanthia spathacea are in bloom and there are little white flowers are opening up along the arching stalks of the Chlorophytum comosum 'Ocean'.

 Now, out in the Courtyard Garden ... what's blooming?

 There's quite a bit of lovely colour amongst the container plants out in the courtyard at this time of year.

There are the usual Plectranthus 'Mona Lavender', Azalea, Salvia splendens, Impatiens walleriana, Petunias and Coleus all blooming at the moment.

I really love the little Salvias that are scattered around.  Apart from the Salvia splendens cultivars pictured in the previous collage, there's also Salvia farinacea 'Victoria Blue', Salvia farinacea 'Victoria White', Salvia involucrata, Salvia farinacea 'Strata' and Salvia glechomifolia ... all seen on the top row of the collage above.

Other blooms to be spotted out in the courtyard today are the double white Impatiens walleriana, the variegated Crossandra infundibuliformis 'Glamour Puss', Azalea, Angelonia angustifolia, Viola hederacea, Neomarica longifolia, Pentas lanceolata and Pelargonium.

There are a few annuals in pots as well.  Winter would not be winter here in the northern tropics without a display of annuals such as Pansies, Petunias, Snapdragons and Celosias.

In the tiered garden beds ... what is flowering?

Out in the tiered garden beds there's definitely lots of red and pink in amongst all the green.

The Iresine herbstii 'Blazin Rose' is not only showing off its wonderful deep purple with pink foliage, but its spikes of white flowers as well.  It's time for the Euphorbia pulcherrima to put on its winter display of pink bracts and tiny red and yellow flowers.

The beautiful bracts and flowers of the Justicia brandegeana are on show ...

... and the flower spikes have appeared in amongst the dark burgundy-red winter foliage of the Acalypha 'Spitfire'.

On the other side of the tiered garden beds the Impatiens walleriana and Euphorbia 'Diamond Frost' are putting on a great show.

In the front and side yard garden beds ... what's blooming?

In the side yard garden bed, the Pentas lanceolata are pretty much always in bloom.  They do need a decent trim back very soon though, so the flowers will be missing in the next few weeks.

For the moment though, they're a great source of nectar for the Yellow-Bellied Sunbirds and butterflies.

Out in the front yard garden beds the dwarf Azalea is putting on its usual wintertime display and the large stand of Cyperus involucratus is covered in flowers.

The clumps of Russelia juncea follow continuously all-year round ...

... and there's always a flower to be spotted on the variegated Hibiscus rosa-sinensis.

I'm joining Carol for her Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day  meme.

I'm also joining Gesine for her Blogger Bloom Day

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