Sunday, January 27, 2013

Some Decent Rain Finally Arrived ... My Dry Tropics Journal ... Week 5, 2013

Date:  January 27th, 2013

Season:  mid-Summer, and wet season

How quickly things can change here in the tropics.

This was how part of the front yard looked about a week and a half ago.  We were at the end of our long nine-month dry season, with a few light showers passing over and sprinkling a few limp little raindrops around.  The only patch of green grass was the area in front of the tiered garden beds where the run-off ends up from the watering system set up in the garden beds.  You can also see how the trees on the other hillside were looking a little bare as they had dropped much of their foliage during the dry season.

This was the front yard this morning after a couple of days of monsoonal downpours at the end of last week.  Can you see the difference in just a few days?  There are large green patches all over the front yard now, and you can see the difference in foliage cover already beginning out in the bushland.

It never fails to amaze me just how the place can suddenly look a whole lot greener after a bit of decent rain.  As I mentioned in my last post, we had been waiting patiently for good rain after another long, long dry season.  While there had been showers coming and going, nothing worthwhile had eventuated ... well nothing that actually penetrated the baked earth.

A week later, and the story is a little different.  We had our first taste of this year's wet season last week.  Cyclone Oswald had been hanging around the Gulf for a little while, and then when he headed inland he turned into a monstrous monsoonal low system.  He's been slowly making his way down the eastern coast, and all cities and townships have had a good soaking. 

In this last week 230.2 mm  (9 inches) fell from the heavens, compared to 23.8 mm (0.9 of an inch) the week before.

It bucketed down, and as a result, for one afternoon at least, there were little rivers and waterfalls in my front yard which then flowed on down into the bush paddock.

The trees and shrubs not only got a great shower, but finally got a decent drink.

The many potted plants were completely drenched, as if they'd been sitting in the bath for hours.

It was fantastic to see the flowers covered in raindrops for a couple of days.

They seemed to somehow become brighter.

I also enjoyed seeing the tree trunks soaked and glistening in the sunshine when the sun finally broke through the cloud cover.

The creatures took shelter during the heavy downpours, and were not seen for a couple of days.  But with the return of the sunshine, there were a few trying to dry out.

We have a seasonal creek at the bottom of the cliff side our house sits on. It's dry for the majority of the year.  With the downpours last week however, we once again heard water running along the creek bed.

I just had to share this great video clip taken by a family who live just a little further away from us, closer to another of our local seasonal creeks.  It shows the exact moment that their seasonal creek started to flow with the arrival of some decent rain last week.

Seasonal Creek Comes To Life

The skies are bright and blue once again, and have been all over the weekend.  Let's see how long it takes for the next episode of the wet season to begin.

In the meantime, there's not much gardening happening.  The daytime temps are excruciatingly hot at the moment (up around 36 - 37 deg C or 96 - 98 F), and the humidity levels are bordering on stressful if you dare to step outside and attempt any work at all.  So, the garden carries on without much help from me as our mid-summer month comes to an end.

Mussaendas continue to bloom.

More flower sprays are appearing on the Lagerstroemia indica.

The Plumerias are still dropping their flowers.

There's still a bit of potted colour out in the courtyard garden.

Water Lilies are still showing off in the pond.

There are Caladiums rising from their slumber next to the pond.

Of course, the hardy trusty Gerberas continue to show their cheers faces,

and the Delonix regias are still showing their summertime colour.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Waiting On The Rain ... My Dry Tropics Garden Journal ... Week 4, 2013

Date:  January 20th, 2013

Season:  mid-Summer, technically 'wet' season, despite evidence to the contrary!!

It's been quite a while since I added a Garden Journal post.   I think the last one was posted back in November.  After that I became very busy at work as the school year came to an end.  Then at the start of the long school holidays back in early December, I headed off down south and was away from home for a month.  Well I'm back and ready to add the first Journal entry for the new 2013 gardening year.

The dry conditions have continued as the summer marched on.  December saw mostly sunny blue-sky days.  Apparently a little rain fell on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but I wasn't here to see it.  The total fall didn't amount to all that much though ... only 14.6 mm  (0.6 of an inch).

January is our mid-summer month, and since my return home the mercury has hit between 31 and 34 deg C (87 - 93F) most days, with the night time temps slightly lower.  Of course the high humidity levels have added that extra touch of excruciating discomfort to the hot conditions.  Levels have reached between 80% to 90% in the middle of the day. 

Throughout the last few weeks, the skies have teased us a bit, with a smattering of dark grey cloud cover ...

... and then last week we started getting the occasional shower of rain.  They've continued for last few days now and whilst the rain hasn't penetrated the dry sun-scorched crusty ground around here, it has given the potted plants a very refreshing drink.

So far this month the rainfall total has only reached 54 mm  (2 inches), which fell over 5 different days.  For January we usually average over 4 times the amount that has fallen so far, but the heaviest falls often come towards the end of the month.  We will have to wait and see if this happens again this year.  The predictions are for a dry 'wet' season though.

In my absence over December / early January, my darling husband tried to keep up the watering in the Shadehouse and Courtyard garden areas in order to keep the potted plants going.  He managed to do that pretty well.  There were some losses, but nothing that broke my heart. 

I immediately took over the daily watering of potted plants, and I did a little bit of tidying up when I first got back.

I went round the courtyard garden giving some of the scraggly-looking plants, like the Coleus near the kitchen windows, a severe trim back. Everything needed feeding.  There was also a bit of dead-heading that had to be done, and I had to trim off quite a bit of dead or dying foliage.  But that didn't take long at all.

It's really down-time now, as both the garden and the gardener wait patiently for the wet season rains to arrive.  Of course, I get to wait indoors in the cool of the air-con!

Outdoors ... I arrived home to find the Cassia fistula, that grows in the hill driveway garden behind the courtyard, covered in golden racemes.  Such a sight always screams summer to me.

The Mussaendas were also putting on their show of colourful bracts and little yellow flowers.

My favourite is the white variety that grows at the back of the courtyard garden.

The top tier of the tiered garden beds outside the Shadehouse Garden was looking rather drab, but there are some blooms to be found.

The Iris domestica has begun another blooming cycle.

There have been the occasional late bloomers in the Hemerocallis patch.  This is Hemerocallis 'Maleny Tiger' still flowering.

The Lagerstroemia indica have just started throwing out flower sprays.

The Mussaenda 'Calcutta Sunset' shows off its fabulous multi-coloured bracts.

The very first seed pods on one of the young Adenium obesum have appeared.  I'm really excited to be able to gather its seed for the very first time.

The Justicia brandegeana continues to bloom.

The Mandevilla 'White Fantasy' is starting to spread its wings at last.  It's starting climbing up over the top of the Shadehouse Garden.

The bottom section of the tiered garden beds needs a good clean-up, but it's just been too hot and steamy to venture out to get this done. 

It's the same story with the Shadehouse.  Maybe next weekend, on the long weekend before the students arrive at school, I'll get up the energy to get something done in there.  At the moment I wander in, enjoy the few blooms that struggle to be noticed in amongst all the green, and wander out again.

These are all-year round bloomers out in the Shadehouse, and very much appreciated at this trying time of year.

The driveway garden beds are doing it on their own, as they have been for the last few months now. 

I'm always amazed at the hardiness of these drought tolerant plants.

I really must plant more of this Polygala.  It seems to thrive in the harsh conditions and the poor soil of the driveway rock garden.

Russelia is an absolute star in my garden.  It takes the heat, the humidity, the fierce sun and the dry conditions.  It will also stand up to the monsoonal rains when they finally arrive.  It's a must-have.

In the hill driveway garden bed, the Lagerstroemia speciosa or Queen's Myrtle has thrown out the first flower spray of the new blooming cycle,

and there are still a few clusters of flowers on the Plumerias.

Going down the hill driveway towards the Courtyard Garden, there are lovely Portulacas thriving in the summer sun in their little pots,

and the Hibiscus schizopetalus is showing off its hanging lanterns.

Wandering down further towards the courtyard, the pond area seems to be getting through the summer fairly well.

The Jasmine is beginning to bloom,

and the variegated Chlorophytum comosum is starting to spread as the plantlets form roots and take hold.

A Water Lily or two appear in the pond every day.

I never tire of that sight.

Out in the Courtyard Garden,

the Kaempferia pulchra is blooming,

a Turnera ulmifolia has seeded itself in the pot where Ixora 'Twilight Glow' grows,

and there are still a few Petunias hanging on.

We've had quite a few garden visitors of the feathered kind over the last few weeks, particularly the ...

 Sulphur-crested Cockatoos

and Rainbow Lorikeets.

Other visitors I've noticed include

this rather handsome lizard,

and the Neon Cuckoo Bee.

Our wonderfully over-protective dog, Albert bailed up this rather forlorn little Ring-tailed Possum,

and alerted us to the presence of an Echidna burrowing its way into the Shadehouse Garden in the middle of the night.

So that's the state of affairs as we approach the end of the first month of this new year.  Fingers crossed the long-awaited decent rains of the wet season arrive very soon.
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