Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day ... Early Summer ... December 2014.

It's been a while since I joined in Carol's brilliant GBBD meme.  I'm pleased that I've managed to fit in this post before 2014 ended.  December is officially our first Summer month.  Outdoors, the conditions here are hot, muggy and close. Daytime temps so far this month have been between 31 - 36 deg C  (87- 96 F), and there's only a slight change at night time when the mercury drops a degree or two. 

There have been a few dark clouds hanging around every few days or so, signalling the approaching end to our long dry season.  We've had just a couple of thunderstorms roll in, with brilliant lightning displays and some rain.  All up we had just over an inch of rain (37 mm), which fell in a couple of hours on two days in the last week.  Hopefully our wet season is not too far off now.

It's been another long dry season, which is typical for this area, and the soil is hard and parched.  While the surrounding bushland and our yard both look bleak and dry as a bone, there is some colour to be found in various corners of the garden where I've kept up the watering. There are no huge massed displays of flowers, rather little splashes of colour here and there amongst the garden beds.

There's a parade of various Hemerocallis blooms and it's a joy to spot them opening up one by one.  The colours are fabulous and a sight for sore eyes.

My one and only Cassia fistula is showing off its golden sprays, which are hanging from leafless branches.   The sprays could be mistaken for Christmas decorations hanging off the bare branches.  Great Christmas colour.

Another of the Christmas colours on show at the moment is the vibrant red of the various Delonix regias, or Poincianas, which are blooming on the property.  You'll see these splashes of red all over this rural neighbourhood  at the moment.  It a regular summertime sight.

Plumeria flowers are yet another of the usual sights here in the early summer, with my Plumeria rubra and Plumeria obtusa both blooming.

The Mussaendas are blooming,

and some of the Rain Lilies have been making an appearance.  I'm hoping that it's a sign of decent rainfall on the way, rather than a desperate effort to bloom with the merest hint of rain in the air.

Scaly-breasted Lorikeets have been enjoying the sweet flowers of the Eucaplytus and the Dypsis lutescens, or Golden Cane Palms.

Out in my shadehouse garden, there are pendulous blooms on my Anthurium gracile and Indian Rope Hoya.

In the tiered garden beds, there are blooms on the Iris domestica, Justicia brandegeana, Dietes, Gerbera and Adenium obesum.

In the driveway beds you will notice flowers on the Polygala, the Russelia and the Turneras.

Elsewhere, you will see blooms on the Lagerstroemia speciosa, the Wrightia, the Mandevilla, the Galphimia glauca, the Ixora and the Tabernaemontana corymbosa.

Lastly, I wanted to share the beautiful changing colours of my Gardenia 'Soleil d'or'.  I love watching the flowers change as they mature.  How I wish I could share the stunning perfume of these flowers as well.

That's it from this tropical corner of north-eastern Australia.  Summer is here and we're relaxing in the air-con while the plants tough it out in the heat and humidity outside.

I'm joining Carol's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day meme.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Here Comes The Summer ... My Dry Tropics Garden Journal ... Week 50, 2014.

 Date:  December 11, 2014

Season:  beginning of Summer, and beginning of our wet season

Wow!  I've just realised I've only made two Garden Journal entries for this entire year.  That's clear evidence of just how much I've lost the blogging urge.  To be absolutely truthful though, I've also lost the gardening bug a little this year as well.  One has definitely fed into the other.  

A few things have happened this year that have left me less than enthusiastic about getting out into the garden.   I've been spending more hours at work every week, and by the time I get home I usually only have time for the watering.  On top of that, my other half and I had made plans to head off overseas for about a month.  I knew I would have to do some culling around the place so I wouldn't leave a huge burden for my neighbour to look after while we were away.

Prior to leaving, I refrained from potting up the usual bulbs and annuals that I fill my courtyard garden with over our autumn/winter/spring.  I also knew the potted plants out in the courtyard wouldn't survive long without me (there were over a hundred pots!), and I had to cut down on the pots in order to leave a reasonable number for my wonderful neighbour to look after.

I spent quite a few weekends in the early half of this year planting over half of the courtyard potted plants in the three new garden beds that my darling had created for me at the end of our driveway, next to and around the car shed.  I did spend a couple of months getting these established before our overseas trip.  Some of the courtyard potted plants were added to the plant stall I ran earlier in the year for our church fete, and some were given away.

The end result of all this was a bare-looking courtyard for most of the year, with only a few potted plants in a couple of corners.  This has taken some getting used to. Usually the courtyard is crammed full of plants.

Some of those potted plants are blooming,

but the flowers are few and far between right now.

I think the break from tending so many potted plants meant a declining interest in tending other areas too, such as the shadehouse garden which is looking dreadful at the moment (and not worth sharing!)

Since we returned home from our trip, the courtyard has been looking like a construction site.  My other half was been working on re-vamping the pond area, which included pulling down the wooden structure around the concrete pond and re-building. 

The new wooden structure looks fabulous, but any effort on my part at kick-starting the usual courtyard display will be delayed now until after the summer.

Prior to leaving for our overseas trip and upon our return, we have been completing quite a bit of re-painting and restoration work around our old Queenslander home.  Well, when I say 'we', I really mean my darling husband, because my contribution tends to be more in the areas of keeping the mess contained, keeping the house relatively functional and making lots of cups of tea and sandwiches, as well as keeping up the supportive comments and compliments.

One of the major jobs around our home this year has been the re-painting. The entire verandah ceiling and walls have been re-painted ... look to the left of the photo below and you will see the gorgeous green and salmon pink combination that looks cleaner and fresher now.

The other huge job was the kitchen re-do, as can be seen in the above photo to the right.  Not only were the ceiling, the walls and the fretwork sanded back, under-coated and re-painted with two coats (I did help with that!!); but every single cupboard door and drawer was removed, sanded back, re-sealed and re-painted.  A new range hood was installed and a new gas cook-top was purchased, but has yet to be installed.

The kitchen was a complete mess for weeks and weeks and weeks, and the mess spilled out onto the verandah and into one of the nearby rooms.  Everything was coated with dust from the sanding back, and our home resembled an obstacle course.

Half of one wall in the kitchen, the wall around the set of windows, had to be removed because of water damage.  If you look closely in the top photo, you will see the unpainted boards all around the set of windows.  That was the section that had to be repaired.  There was a huge gaping hole for a little while until my other half managed to find the right type of wood to replace the damaged boards. That proved to be a not-so-easy job.

Sanding back, re-sealing and re-painting the ceiling was back-breaking work for my darling.  There were also around 40 brass cupboard and drawer knobs that had to be removed, ground back and re-varnished.  That was also a rather tedious job.

The kitchen has ended up looking a whole lot fresher and cleaner.  Just walking into this space gives me a wonderful homely feeling once more.  It's amazing how a fresh coat of paint can somehow make you feel more settled and content.  Of course, all this effort in fixing up the house meant something had to give, and for me, that something was the garden.  Thankfully it  seems to have pottered along without a huge effort from me.  I've only lost three plants in amongst all this general mayhem and garden mistreatment.

So after a rather long break from blogging, and a quite sporadic gardening effort throughout the year, I thought it was about time I shared the state of play out there in the various garden spaces as our hot, humid, horrid summer comes storming in.

Now I've noticed that his is already a long post, so I think you'd better make a cup of tea or coffee and settle in if you're still interested in reading further.

December is our first official month of summer.  The daytime temps. have climbed a few degrees this month and now hover somewhere between 31 - 36 deg C mark.  Humidity levels are up and the bright fierce sunshine now lasts around 13 hours every day.  We've started seeing some thunderstorms roll in, and there have been a couple of showers of rain in the last few weeks, but they haven't made any difference to the dry, compacted ground.

As already explained, my courtyard garden is looking less than brilliant. I'll be working on getting that space back to its former glory once our summer is over.  I'll be going for a more tropical look and less of a cottagey-garden look, to try and cut down on water usage.   I do love flowers, but I feel like a change would be nice in that gardening space.

The new garden beds built around the car shed near the entrance to our house, are coming together nicely, but there's still quite a bit of work to do out there as well.

The largest bed, pictured above, located at the end of our long driveway and next to the wide path that leads to our home, is take shape and filling out slowly. 

This is where I planted so many of what were previously potted plants in my courtyard garden, and I've slowly been adding other plants to fill in the holes.  I stand back every couple of months and take a good look before I decide on what on add next.

At the moment, there's a bit of colour happening there with the Gardenia 'Soleil d'or', the Crossandras, the Hippeastrum, the Tabernaemontana and the Habranthus and Zephyranthes all blooming.

The perfume from the Gardenia is amazing.  This shrub has flourished beautifully since it was planted in the ground.

I just love watching the flowers opening as a creamy white and slowly turning orange as they mature.

 I also love seeing the fantastic shape of the Tabernaemontana blooms.  They really are eye-catching.

It's been wonderful to see all the Rain Lilies popping up over the last few weeks, even though we haven't had much rain so far.  I'm left wondering if perhaps it's a sign that the coming wet season won't be all that great and the Rain Lilies are putting on a show now whenever there's a hint of a few raindrops!!!

This is the first year I've had Hippies on show, and I've thoroughly enjoyed the blooms in the new bed.

In the other new garden beds, the ones that run down two sides of the car shed, things have also been developing slowly.  It's hard to get a good shot of these beds without the cars, the boat, the mower and the trailer photo-bombing!!!

The two photos above show the larger section at the back of the car shed.  I haven't really done much in that space for months now.   Off to the right, you can see the corner section.

This is where the Hemerocallis have been on show in just the last couple of weeks.

This is the narrowest section where the beautiful Croton Zanzibars grow.

Down further in the middle of the long narrow bed, the gorgeous Gardenia has been blooming and filling the air with its delightful perfume.

Remaining in this general area ... around the new garden beds ... there's also the Fern Gully garden, to the left of the entrance to our home.  It has been suffering once more through our long dry season, but still looks fairly reasonable.  It's hard to see, but there are three Frangipanis that have started blooming in there underneath the Cadaghi Gums,

 There's also a Lagerstroemia speciosa right at the top of Fern Gully that has also started flowering.

I do so adore the Lagerstroemia speciosa, or Queen's Myrtle blooms.  They're such a fabulous colour.

Tucked in between the Lagerstroemia and the Plumerias, is a native Planchonia careya, or Cocky Apple tree and I'm still finding a few blooms on its branches even now.   The ones that grow out in the surrounding bushland all seem to have finished blooming however.

Moving on down the driveway, the garden spaces look pretty much the same from year to year,

although at the moment the flowering Poincianas are visible out the front near the entrance gates,

and at the end of the driveway where the car shed sits.

The Delonix regia, or Poinciana blooms are a common sight in the tropics at this time of the year.

On to the tiered garden beds outside the shadehouse garden,

there have been a succession of plants starting their blooming cycles, including Hemerocallis, Justicia, Dietes, Iris, Mandevilla and Oleander.

Out the front of our house, things have that usual dry season drab look.  We only water garden beds on our property, so the rest of the place looks fried and frizzled after months without rain.

There are a few blooms showing in the bed that sits on the other side of the stairs in the photo above.

The Galphimia, Allamanda, Mussaenda and Hibiscus are showing some colour.

The bush that surrounds our place is also looking dry and drab.  Our dry season has lasted seven months this year.  It was back in April that we received our last heavy wet season downpours.  Since then a total of 151mms, or 6 inches, of rain has fallen. So we had about 33 cloudy, drizzly days between April and December.

Most of the trees have dropped their leaf load as they wait for the rain.

At times, the skies look promising and we wait patiently. 

On a positive note, we did get a few showers last month, but we need our proper wet season now to really penetrate and drench the ground.  The 'wet' could arrive at any time between December and February.  It's a matter of wait-and-see.

To end this lengthy post, I thought I'd add some shots of the wildlife that's been around in the last month or so.

There have been lots of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos,

Rainbow Lorikeets,

Pale-headed Rosellas,

and Scaly-breasted Lorikeets feasting on the blossoms of various trees around here.

The butterflies have been out and about,

and there has obviously been a rather large Python slithering around, shedding its old skin as it grows longer and longer!  I'm going to have to keep an eagle eye out whenever I'm strolling around the place now as there will be lots of snakes out and about in the warmer weather.

The other night we were privileged to spot an Echidna having a stroll around the courtyard.  

These are shy creatures and not seen very often, so I just had to grab my camera and take a few shots.

Well there you have it!  I bet that cuppa is long gone by now and you've started nodding off, so I think it's time to wrap it up. I'll leave you with an image of the brilliant Xmas display one of my neighbours has on show at the front of his property.

I just love living in this rural suburb!!!

I'm joining Donna's Seasonal Celebrations meme.

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