Sunday, March 17, 2013

Clean-Out Day ... My Dry Tropics Garden Journal ... Week 12, 2013

Date:  March 17, 2013

Season:  beginning of Autumn, and wet season

Not a lot has changed since my last Garden Journal entry posted last week.  The wet season continues to be remarkably dry, as predicted by the experts last year.  We've had day after day after day of bright blue skies and glorious fierce sunshine, but very few days of overcast grey leaden skies.

The only rain we've seen over the last few months has arrived courtesy of a few thunderstorms and a weak monsoonal low.  We haven't had the usual day or two of between 90-150mm of rain  (approx 3.5 ins to 6 ins), or the days and days of  between 50-70mm  (approx 2 ins to 3 ins).  These are typical events for a typical wet season.  Nothing like it has happened this year.

The garden continues to be fairly parched and the hand-watering of the potted plants continues.  I've already lost a few of the potted plants out in the courtyard and the shadehouse, as the heat and humidity has taken its toll.   As the end of our wet season is now just around the corner, the outlook for the established plants in the garden beds is not going to be a good one during the coming long dry season.  They will really struggle through the next nine months or so given that the topsoil and the sub-soil are so bone dry already.

We have had a slight break in the usual horrid summertime conditions though.  Whilst the daytime temps remain up around the 30-32 deg C mark, the humidity levels have dropped dramatically in the last week or so, which means I've finally be able to get out and do a few gardening jobs at long last.

I've been busy this weekend out in the shadehouse clearing out the overgrown jungle.

I started at one end at about 9.30am pulling out clumps of the Giant Sword Fern, and so many little plantlets of the Neomarica longifolia or Yellow Walking Iris.  They are the two plants that tend to take over the shadehouse during the summer.

I got to the middle section at around 11.00 am, and the pile of debris was pretty high.  I was now trimming back the potted Gingers and Cordylines as well.

I think I finished at around 2.00 pm, and it was time for a rest!  I have to say that I felt so very good after a decent day's work outdoors in the garden after such a long break over the summertime.  I slept like a baby last night!  But then I woke to the huge debris pile this morning.  It was still there, as I just ran out of puff yesterday afternoon.

Still it was fantastic to see some of the foliage plants on display once again, with so much of the fern and Iris removed.

I'm planning on removing the debris pile this afternoon, but this morning I've been spending this beautiful Sunday morning taking cuttings and potting up little seedlings. 

Last weekend, my darling hubby and I headed up to Mission Beach ... our favourite spot for a break ... to celebrate my darling's birthday.  Whilst there, I spotted a fantastic looking Ginger growing in the garden beds of the little place we were staying at, and made plans to grab a piece before we left.  I think it's Alpinia purpurata or Red Ginger Lily.

My hubby quietly mentioned to the manager how much I loved the Ginger and asked if it would be alright for me to take a piece.  She decided on another course.  She arranged for her lovely husband to bring in a flowerhead from their own garden which had loads of small plantlets ready to be potted up.  Can you see all the little babies in the photo above?  I was so touched by this kind gesture, and I'm really looking forward to see these little ones mature.

Anyway, the babies are potted up now and ready for some nurturing.

I've also taken some cuttings from my one of my own favourite Gingers that's growing in the shadehouse.  It's the Costus speciosus variegata or Variegated Crepe Ginger / Spiral Ginger.  I've been wanting to do this job for quite some time now, and I'm so happy I've finally gotten around to doing it.

Here's the parent out in the shadehouse.  Those variegated leaves have the most amazing texture.  They feel like soft velvet, and the flower of this plant is a beautiful white bloom resembling crepe paper.

While I was busy potting up this morning the background noise was the fabulous song of the Helmeted Friar Bird.  They are not the most attractive birds in the bird kingdom, as can be seen from the photo above.  They have rather large ugly heads and dull colouring, but their song is simply fantastic!

I just had to include a little video clip / soundtrack I recorded this morning.  I'm afraid the clip doesn't include much vision of the birds as they were so high up among the branches of the Cadaghi Gums, but I know you'll enjoy the song immensely in spite of that.

After taking a break to video the birds, I took a little walk around the place just to see what I could see!

I found that some of my potted Bromeliads have little pups at last.  I'm afraid I'm not very good when it comes to knowing the scientific names for the Broms I have. 

I also noticed one of the pups that I'd carelessly popped into one of the old stumpy leftover fronds of the Elaeis guineensis or African Oil Plam near the hill driveway, is now flowering.  I think this Brom is a Vriesea.

Both the Turneras are doing really well in the driveway garden beds.  I think I need a couple more!

My oldest hardiest double Gerbera plant just keeps on going despite the fact that I give it no care and attention at all.  It's a lovely little addition to the dry driveway garden beds.

There are little Cosmos plants popping up down the driveway again.  This patch is further down than the last patch that sprang up, so it looks like they're spreading their beauty around.

The fragrance of the Jasminum officinale is filling the courtyard space and it's one of the delights of that garden space.  At the moment the courtyard garden is looking terribly drab and dull.  I'll be starting to add pots of annuals in the coming weeks to liven things up a bit, and next weekend I'm planning on moving the established potted plants around quite a bit just to freshen up the look somewhat.

The Caladiums continue to add splashes of colour in the shadier parts of the garden.

It seems that the creeping plant that has been growing on the rock wall outside the kitchen, has now started a quest for world domination.  It's spreading to the strangest of places.  Here it is creeping all the way up the trunk of the Pritchardia pacifica or Fiji Palm.  I'll have to keep an eye on it, I think!

Well that's the round-up for this week.  At the moment all our eyes are on the tropical cyclone that's hovering off our coastline at the moment.  Now usually we're not all that keen on cyclones approaching, but this one is only rated as category 1, and it brings with it the promise of some rain.

At the moment Tropical Cyclone Tim is around 800 kms off the coast, and moving very slowly at about 10 kn an hour.  The predictions are that it will weaken below tropical cyclone strength by the time it reaches the coast and should bring about an increase in showers and rain around us.  Fingers crossed everyone!  Let's hope that T.C. Tim is a real gentleman and behaves well!!!

Friday, March 15, 2013

A Beginning Of Autumn Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day ... March 2013

March is officially our first Autumn month, but we don't see fabulous changing foliage colours here.  The Gum trees in the bushland around my place stay green all through the year.  Just in the last week or so the conditions have become rather more comfortable.  While the daytime temps are still pretty much the same as the summertime temps over the last three months (around 31-32 deg C or 87-89 F), the humidity has dropped considerably.  This makes a huge difference!

Unfortunately the wet season has proven to be a bit of a fizzer.  We're now almost at the end of our wet, and we've seen very little in the way of torrential downpours that are typical of a monsoonal rainy season.  So far this month we've only managed to reach a total of 67.2 mm  (2.6 inches), and most of that fell over a couple of days back at the beginning of the month.

So we've been seeing plenty of blue skies dotted with huge fluffy white clouds!!  Ho-hum!!

Summertime was downtime in my garden, so there's only a few blooms to show today.  Out in the courtyard ...

unknown Water Lily

Angelonia angustifolia 'Serena White'


Jasminum officinale

Costus productus or Orange Spiral Ginger

Clerodendrum ugandense.

Out in the shadehouse ...

Neomarica longifolia

Globba winitii


Aeschynanthus lobbianus.

In the tiered garden beds ...

Pentas lanceolata

Iris domestica

In the driveway garden beds ...

Pennisetum advena 'Rubrum'

Galphimia glauca

Thunbergia erecta 'Tru Blu'

unknown Bromeliad growing on the Elaeis guineensis


To finish off today, I'm adding some photos of a magnificent Lace Monitor I spotted climbing a tree in the bushland close by our fence.  Whilst it's not a bloom, it certainly does have fantastic dark grey colouring with creamy yellow scales forming stunning bands and blotches across its body.

It's just as beautiful as any bloom, in my opinion.

Another little visitor I spotted today, while roaming around taking flower shots, was this huge land snail.  I haven't seen any for a while.  The end-of-summer into autumn is usually the time I spot lots of these creatures, but I think with the lack lustre rainy season performance, they're not out and about as usual.

I'm joining Carol for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

and I'm joining Donna for her Seasonal Celebrations meme.

Monday, March 4, 2013

It's Been A Fairly Dry 'Ole Wet Season So Far ... My Dry Tropics Garden Journal ... Week 10, 2013.

Date:   March 3, 2013

Season: beginning of Autumn, wet season

Here we are at the beginning of March and the start of a Downunder Autumn once more.  Hallelujah!  It means that THE best gardening time of the year here in the northern tropics is not too far off now.  There won't be any changing of colour in the trees, but there will be lots more work done out in the garden.

Summertime is horrid here, and is not at all conducive to most gardening tasks, aside from the absolutely necessary watering jobs.  Summertime is 'downtime' for this gardener and her garden.  We're barely on speaking terms for those three months of the year!!!!

Now whilst our horrid summertime may officially be over, the hot and balmy summery conditions will continue for a little while yet.  As a result, I will be waiting just a little longer until the daytime temps drop and the humidity levels plummet, before I take up the tools, the potting mix and the mulch bucket once more.

March is also usually our worst time for cyclones, so there's still a chance of catastrophic cyclonic weather happening in the near future.  We have escaped cyclone season unscathed so far, so fingers crossed we can get through this month without one single cyclone.

Our wet season, which can run from November through to April  (late Spring through to early Autumn), has been a bit of a non-event as well.

November 2012 total:  7.8 mm  or  0.3 of an inch   ... less than one-sixth of the average
December 2012 total:  14.4 mm  or  0.6 of an inch  ... around one-tenth of the average
January 2013 total:  286 mm  or  11.3 ins  ... this was pretty average
February 2013 toatl:  81.6 mm  or  3.2 ins  ...  just over one-quarter of the average.

We still have this month and next for the wet season to redeem itself, but the chances of that happening are looking fairly slim.  Despite the poor totals, at least we've had rain and a break from our long dry season.  The showers of rain have been gratefully received.  Thankfully we haven't had to endure the extraordinary deluge that areas further south have suffered in the last month or so.

The surrounding bushland and the property itself looks nice and green after the measly amount of wet season rain we have received, and the 'lawn' (labelled so with tongue-in-cheek) out the front and side of the house really needs mowing.  Unfortunately our ancient ride-on has decided to take a break and seems to be hell-bent on joining in the downtime as well.  What a shame!

The occasional showers of rain that have been rolling in have not only helped change the landscape from brown to green, but have relieved me somewhat of the daily watering jobs in both the shadehouse and courtyard gardens.  Both those spaces are in dire need of some loving care and attention, and are definitely not looking their best.  I keep promising all the lovely plants in those garden spaces that my inactivity will soon be coming to an end, and I'll be out there primping and grooming them all with the utmost love and concern very, very soon.

Of course, most plants growing elsewhere have just gotten on with things.  The Lagterstroemia speciosa that grows next to the fence line has been blooming away beautifully for ages now.  It's a fantastic mid- to end-of-summer bloomer for me.

The display will last for several more weeks yet, but the best is over now.

There are still just a few blooms here and there on the Delonix regias on the property.  They've been flowering all through the Summer.

The Citharexylum spinosum bloomed a little later this year, at the end of the Summer, and so is still covered in blooms,

which are attracting lots of insect life.

If you look closely enough, you can still see a few golden racemes hanging from the uppermost branches of my Cassia fistula.

The trusty Portulacas have been providing most of the colour out in the courtyard, and they seem to be attracting huge numbers of these little black beetles.  So far I haven't noticed too much damage on the plants themselves, as the little beetles only seem to be interested in feasting on the nectar of the flowers.

There are more and more flowers appearing on my Jasminum and the perfume continues to float around the courtyard in the early morning and in the evening.

I see beautiful Water Lily blooms almost every day out in the pond.

There are Caladiums growing beautifully underneath the pergola,

and there are lots of flower spikes on the various Coleus plants around the courtyard.

The courtyard has been inundated with insect life of all kinds over the summer.  There have been hordes of little green grasshoppers munching their way through some of their favourite plants, like the Aralias and the Coleus.

I've also spotted what I think is the larvae of the Common Crow Butterfly feasting on the leaves of a young Oleander shrub.

I've also been seeing quite a few of these fabulous Crickets, having a wonderful time gorging on the leaves of my Liliums. 

One of the very few gardening jobs I managed to do a couple of weeks ago was the planting of several packets of seeds that had been sent to me by a fellow gardener who lives not too far away from me here in Queensland.

Thankfully I've had success with the germination of the various Zephyranthes or Rain Lilies,

and, joy-of-joys, the mixed packet of Adenium or Desert Rose seeds have produced quite a few little seedlings.  I think these little seeds have really been enjoying the light sprinkling of rain that blows in every now and then.

That's the wrap-up since my last Garden Journal post over a fortnight ago, and it's a brief one as the downtime continues.

Lastly, I thought I'd just share a photo of this lovely aspect seen over the hills late on Saturday afternoon.  It's always a wondrous sight and I never ever tire of seeing even one end of a rainbow.

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