Sunday, November 29, 2015

The End of Spring Is Nigh ... My Dry Tropics Garden Journal ... Week 48, 2015.

Date:  November 29, 2015
Season:  end of Spring, and dry season 

Our long, long dry season just keeps rolling on and our region here in north Queensland has now been declared a 'drought affected area'.   Townsville has officially had two failed wet seasons - in both 2014 and 2015 - which means the conditions during the two dry seasons that followed have been significantly intensified.  We're now going through one of our driest periods on record.  Unfortunately, 86% our our entire state of Queensland is now drought declared. 

The watering restrictions imposed by our City Council have been tightened for a second time this year, with Level 2 restrictions now in place.  Our city's dam level is now apparently just below 30% capacity, and if it falls even further to 20% we will have Level 3 watering restrictions imposed.
Sprinkler time
Level 2 restrictions means that we can now only have our sprinklers on twice a week on our allocated days, and only in the evenings between 6.00 pm and 8.00 pm.  Odd numbered houses can put out sprinklers on a Wednesday and a Sunday for two hours in the evening, whilst even numbered houses can do this on a Tuesday and a Saturday.  Any infringement results in a hefty fine.  Hand-held watering is still allowed at this point in time though.

Of course, living in the 'dry tropics' as we do, we have been through periods like this before ... and in fact, we've been through much worse.  We're now waiting to see whether or not the coming summertime is going to be as dry as predicted.  Our summertime is the time when our wet season is supposed to arrive, but it's such a hit-and-miss affair and doesn't always turn up.  If we have yet another failed wet season at the beginning of 2016, then the situation will require further restrictive measures.

There have been a few rather nasty bushfires that have flared up around Townsville in the last month or so.  Winter/Spring are amongst the driest months of the year for us, and that's our bushfire season as well.  In our particular corner of Townsville the fire danger rating is now at 'very high'.   Just a couple of weeks ago there was an enormous bushfire raging through an area not far from our suburb, across the highway.  Houses were lost and properties extensively damaged as a result.  Thankfully, we haven't had any fires close by here.

The closest bushfire we've seen here in our neighbourhood so far, is the one that's been burning across the foothills of the ranges over the last three days.

The fire is well away from us, across the creek and burning through uninhabited bushland off in the distance, but we can see the smoke from our verandah.

At the moment, my garden is still doing fairly well.  About two weeks ago, our little outlying suburb of Townsville received a wonderful short-lived downpour of rain, whilst the rest of the city and suburbs received a sprinkle.  The reverse is usually the case. About 70 ml fell in a few hours here at Alligator Crrek.  It was so unexpected and absolutely delightul.  Of course, it didn't really do all that much given the length of the dry conditions we've endured so far, but the plants did seem a lot cheerier for a while, and there has been a faint hint of green out in the front yard.

Shot taken just last week
This lovely hint of green won't last much longer as our daytime highs are now well and truly settled around the 32 deg C mark, with relative humidity levels rising to the 60% mark.  Our summertime weather has arrived and any green grass cover will die off pretty quickly in the heat and humidity.
Murraya paniculata
It was amazing though how that short, sharp downpour caused all the Murraya paniculata shrubs around here to suddenly burst into bloom a few days later.
Murraya paniculata flowers
The perfume in the air was intoxicating as I took my early morning or early evening walks around the place.  Yes, I know the Murraya is classified as an environmental weed and it does pop up quite regularly in various spots.  I have removed most of them since we moved in here over 14 years ago, but I have also left just a couple here and there so I can enjoy the beautiful perfume from these gorgeous white flowers.
Another shrub throwing out beautiful perfumed flowers right now is the Gardenia shrub that grows in the front-of-house garden bed.  That was a well-established garden bed when we moved in, but the Gardenia has rarely bloomed over the years.
Granted, that poor Gardenia shrub is in an impoverished spot that rarely receives attention from me apart from the occasional watering, so I am part of the problem!  Anyway, for some inexplicable reason that shrub has suddenly thrown out several blooms in the last couple of weeks.
It's been wonderful experiencing the Gardenia perfume wafting in through the lounge room doors of a late afternoon when I arrive home from work and throw open the doors at the front of the house.   The house is quite hot inside when I get home, and to have a lovely perfume steal inside when I open up to try and catch a breeze certainly gladdens the spirit.  It's also such fun watching the flowers turn from stark white to a creamy gold colour.
There have been a couple of things happening around our place lately that have had the potential to bring down our spirits.  As some readers would know from my last garden journal post, wallabies had ravaged and voraciously munched their way through so many plants through the winter and early spring that our place was looking decidedly ugly, compounded by the fact that we've had such a dry year.  

Well, then we discovered that the two sets of wooden stairs - at the side and the front of our house - had rotted almost completely through in parts.  Originally my husband thought he would just have to rip out a few of the treads and some of the railings, but the problem was much worse.  Neither sets of stairs could be deemed safe any more, so they have to be demolished and re-built.
Demolition in progress
This of course means another massive job that my darling husband had to undertake, with its accompanying mess. He's never built a set of wooden stairs before.  He never trained to be a carpenter or had any huge woodworking experience, but he's always prepared to give anything a go.

He's been making such great progress on the side stairs.  They're starting to look like stairs once more.
Unfortunately, with the side and front stairs out of action, I only have one way down to the laundry which is underneath the house.  I have to walk out through the courtyard and go down the cement driveway that winds downhill to the workshop and laundry that both sit underneath one side of our house.  Now that's usually a fairly easy thing to do ... until now.

Yes folks, that's the way into the laundry!  Usually the cement driveway is clear and not covered by piles of leaves.  However, we've had a pair of scrub turkeys build their nest in the raised garden bed at the back of the courtyard.  You can see the raised garden bed off to the right in the photo above.

The male scrub turkey scratched up every single leaf in that garden bed first in order to form a mound for the nest.  But he didn't stop there!  For some unknown reason, the male has been scratching up loads and loads and loads of leaves from a section of the yard downhill from the driveway.  Off to the left of the above photo, the land dips down to a little gully-like section, and the male has literally spent days and days scratching leaves uphill from there onto the cement driveway, and then spent hours scratching them up to the rock wall that surrounds the raised garden bed!

There are calf-deep piles in some spots next to the garden bed!  I mistakenly cleared off the first huge carpet of leaves over a week ago, but the male wasn't impressed with that and came back to do a bigger, better job!  It makes for a fun excursion to the laundry every day!

Another little hiccup that's happened around here is the demise of our oldest and largest Poinciana tree at the front of the property.

U - huh!  That's what we came home to just last week. The Poinciana had toppled over out of the ground and was only really being held up by branches on the other Poinciana saplings in our neighbour's yard.

We think the problem was a fungi that we had noticed growing around the base of the tree earlier in the year around April.  Ganoderma?  Obviously it wasn't a good-guy fungi.  We now know it's a wood-decaying fungi.

It certainly did a good job in just a few months.  It seems to have gobbled up pretty much all of the inside of the base of the tree and its root system.

Anyway, now my poor darling husband has another massive job on his hands.  He's already begun the chopping down phase, but his little chainsaw can only do so much.  I don't think he's quite worked out how to get that massive stump out of the way.  It's going to be a big enough job just getting rid of all the branches that have been cut down so far.

Well ... this is post has been a long, long tale of woe hasn't it!!!!  I think it's time to move on to some brighter notes from the garden.

Let's see what's blooming despite the recent wallaby ravaging, and the horrid summertime temps., and the ever-so-dry weather we've had this year.

Delonix regia, or Poinciana
First of all, the other Delonix regias, or Poincianas, are all in bloom.  They're always a cheerful sight towards the end of a long, dry season.  Those brilliant splashes of red and orange really do brighten up the dreary landscape.

I love looking out for the lone flower in the spray with the white speckled petal.

Lagerstroemia speciosa or Queen's Myrtle
One of my Lagerstroemia speciosa, or Queen's Myrtle, has begun blooming and showing off its pretty purple flowers.
Tabebuia pallida or Pink Trumpet Tree
Whilst the tall Tabebuia pallidas have been covered in its pale pink flowers for several weeks now,

providing delicious nectar for the Sunbirds.

My Plumeria rubra and Plumeria obtusa have been in bloom for weeks and weeks as well,
Planchonia careya, or Cocky Apple
as have the native Planchonia careyas, or Cocky Apples.

It's lovely walking around the place and noticing the fallen blooms scattered here and there.  Nature's art work.

Mussaenda philippica 'Bangkok Rose'
The Mussaenda philippica 'Bangkok Rose' is showing off its bracts and yellow flowers and providing some much needed colour out in the front garden bed.

In the courtyard garden,

Cycas revoluta 'break'
the other Cycas revoluta has thrown up a new 'break'.

In the new garden bed under the Triangular Palm,

Scaxodus multiflorus or Blood Lily
the Scadoxus multiflorus has popped up from its slumber and is beginning to bloom once more,
Alpinia zerumbet 'Variegata' or Variegated Shell Ginger.
whilst the Alpinia zerumbet 'Variegata' has begun blooming for the very first time.

Adenium obesum or Desert Rose
In the driveway garden bed and the tiered garden bed, there are a couple of Adeniums in bloom, 

Garden visitors over the last month have included ...

Blue-banded bees feasting on the nectar of Salvias.

 Yellow Honeyeaters feasting on Salvia nectar.

A Short-beaked Echidna looking for ants,

and Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos feasting on the Cadaghi Gum nuts.

Right, I think I really should finish off this post now.  That was round-up for the month of November, our last month of Spring.  It's now time to get ready for the approaching Summer.


  1. I so loved your blog, Bernie. I think you should be writing a book....and I'm a writer myself! You have a wonderful, unforced style. Loved all the pics too. You have so many challenges but still there is so much interest, beauty and optimism. Have a wonderful Christmas...a rainy one preferably. xx

    1. Thanks so much for visiting Pauline. We're wishing and hoping for rain now with every fibre of our being. Unfortunately the predictions are for a fairly dry summer, so that's not great news. Usually our wet season arrives towards the mid to end of Summer into early Autumn, so we'll just have to wait and see.

  2. Thanks for the interesting news Bernie, I'm glad that fire is a safe distance away. How big is your property, if I may ask? A few months ago I lost a big Acer negundo in similar circumstances to your Poinciana, but they told me the fungus grew on an already dying tree. Fortunately it fell inside the garden, it was right next to the front fence and would have been disastrous if it had fallen onto the road! Have a good summer!

    1. Hi Sue. Our property is around 3.5 hectares but it's on a rocky hillside and our house and yard occupies about half of the property. The rest of our place is very steep and rocky, not suitable for much at all.

      The fungi we had growing was definitely not growing on an already dead tree. The Poinciana was still sprouting leaves and flowers. Thankfully the whole tree didn't crash to the ground as it would have destroyed the fence altogether if that had happened. You were very lucky your Acer fell the right way. Thank goodness!

  3. Enjoyed reading again about your experiences in the garden in the drought of Queensland. Good thing your husband is very handy with building two new stairs and such a shame of the beautiful Poinciana, but I see you have more of them, such a beautiful colours. Then the scrub turkey making a nest near the way to the laundry, amazing how they keep themselves busy with all those leaves..... Love to see all those tropical flowers which don´t grow here. I have a tiny Gardenia in my greenhouse which was blooming past summer with only three flowers, but the fragrance was heavenly. Now I´ve put it in the conservatory where it´s warmer, hope it will survive winter.
    Wish you a lovely summer and of course I shall try to send you some rain from here.

    1. Thank you so much for visiting, Janneke. My husband is worth his weight in gold! He is truly an amazing man. He will have a go at repairing / building / making just about anything and he does it all by himself. I am most thankful that he's so very clever!

      The fragrance of the Gardenia is simply amazing isn't it! I do hope that yours gets through your winter out in the conservatory. Fingers crossed!

  4. Dear Bernie ~ What an interesting post! It is wonderful that your dear husband puts his mind, hands and back into projects, good and bad that come your way. He is a blessing.

    I'm glad the fires have stayed away from you.

    Your blooms are lovely and wonderful as always. I'm sorry you lost that beautiful poinciana though.

    May you get some 'liquid sunshine' soon to water your bit of paradise on earth.

    Love & hugs ~ FlowerLady

    1. Lorraine, my dear husband is an absolute treasure and I'm such a lucky lady to have him by my side. He really does work ever so hard to look after our house and property, and is able to turn his hand to just about anything. He's amazing!

      Oh, for some of that 'liquid sunshine' lol!!! We really need it.

  5. I'm so glad to see that your house is safe from the forest fires, it must be a very worrying time for you.
    What would we do without our willing helpers when big jobs need doing, they are worth their weight in gold, turning their hand to all sorts of problems.
    You have so many wonderful flowers but I hope you have some decent rain soon to help them all.

    1. We're definitely far away from the bushfire now. It's headed off down the ranges through uninhabited bushland.

      My darling husband is a real treasure and will turn his hand to anything. He's amazing and I'm always in awe when he begins jobs I would just have no idea how to start. To top it all off, he's always hell bent on doing a perfect job!

  6. Hi Bernie, I love reading about your gorgeous garden even though things are a little tough at the moment. You are an inspiration and I realise how hard you must be working to keep everything going under such adverse conditions. We are struggling here in Brisbane from lack of rain, but in your neck of the woods it is so much worse. I pray the rain comes soon and we can all enjoy a lovely cool wet Xmas.

    1. Thanks so much Sylvia. Things are tough, but we have had tougher, so I try not to get too down-hearted. Rain is badly needed here, but unfortunately the predictions for the coming wet season are not great. We could hit Level 3 or higher water restrictions next year. I do remember when you had similar level restrictions about two years ago. I was visiting my son and I had to have a bucket in the shower and bowl in the sink to catch any water used showering or brushing my teeth!

  7. We are both very fortunate to have a practically minded Other Half. I know what a blessing this is. As ever, I'm oh so envious of the exotic (to me) plants that you can grow although the drought must be a worry. Naughty turkey!

    1. These hand men are just wonderful aren't they! I can't believe the tasks my darling man manages to do. The dry season this year is tough, but so far I haven't lost many plants to the dry conditions. I have lost plants as a result of very hungry wallabies and destructive scrub turkeys though, which has not helped my usually sunny disposition at all!!

  8. wild fires near neighbouring suburbs here too, but thankfully no tall trees going horizonatal ;~)

    1. Hopefully those fires stay away from you and your property. Here they've headed off into the ranges so we're safe now. The removal of the Poinciana is turning out to be a huge job. The trunk is just so think! I'm not sure how we're going to get rid of it yet.

  9. Lots happening at your place - I'm guessing the school holidays are starting soon so I hope you get some good rain to help your garden - and Queensland in general. We've been fairly lucky in the SE corner but rain would be a wonderful Christmas present. Had to laugh about the scrub turkey. I know it's not funny when it's your garden they are messing with, but they are persistent.

    1. Yes Missy, only two days of school left now! Yahoo! I'll have time to help get the plants through the summer with lots of hand-held watering. We'll see how it all turns out. Rain would be a fantastic Christmas present! I'd also like the scrub turkeys to vacant and find somewhere else to live! We'll see which comes first ... scrub turkeys leaving or rain arriving!!

  10. Hello Bernie,
    Greetings from Bambaroo, up the road in the Hinchinbrook. We've been here 10 years and this is the driest year I've experienced to date. That heavy rainfall last week was very much welcomed. While you received around 70mm we had the highest rainfall for Nth Qld of 122mm. Evenso, much more is needed. While we are in the wet tropics and at the foot of the Paluma Range which brings us much more rain than than elsewhere, our bore is running low and pumping sand along with water which stops the pump working. called a local electrician to inspect the pump just a few days back and he tells me one of his neighbours' bores has run dry. We at least still have some water, and a rainwater tank for backup. Like you, we are eagerly waiting for an end to the prolonged dry season and for the rainy season to get underway.
    Regards, Carol

    1. Oh dear Carol, it sounds like you're doing it very tough up there. Obviously the recent downpour isn't going to help out much. We both need to start doing some serious raindances, I think. Bring on a proper monsoonal wet season.

      Just wondering if this is Carol from the site Folia? I haven't been there for ages now, but I think it might be the same Carol.

  11. Yes, Bernie, the one and same.

  12. Beautiful photos and your header is stunning!

  13. Hi Bernie, as an English gardener still very new to Australia, and even more new to Brisbane and Queensland, I've come across your blog while searching for information on plants. I love your blog, and your photos, so very, very useful, thank you! I note you've not posted since last year, hope all is well still with you and your beautiful garden?

  14. Dear Bernie ~ I saw your comment on Rusty in Miami's blog and thought I'd come over here to see if there is anything new in your part of the world. It's been almost a year since you posted last. I MISS you. Your blogs and gardens were one of my favorites.

    I do hope all is well with you and yours.

    Love & hugs ~ FlowerLady


I appreciate your comments and will endeavour to reply to all. All comments are moderated, so spam will be fried.

Related Posts with Thumbnails