Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Winter Garden Happenings ... My Downunder Dry Tropics Garden Journal ... Week 26, 2011

  Date:  June 29th, 2011

  Season:  beginning month of Winter and two months into our dry season.

Despite the fact that we are getting the occasional shower of rain, the effect of our drier weather is now becoming more visible around our place.

The rain we do receive barely touches the ground and the 'grass' (I use that term very lightly indeed!) around the yard now has huge brown patches everywhere, as is evident in this photo.

That's my collection of re-seeding pots and propagating pots basking in some sunshine. 

The wallabies are now digging down deep to get at the roots rather than simply grazing on the grass blades, or pulling down tree branches to nibble on the leaves or fruit.

We've even had some uncommon garden visitors using their fantastic long curved beaks to dig way down in search of grubs and other wrigglies.

Once you take your eyes off the busy burrowing bird, you will notice further evidence of just how well the grass cover dies off during our dry.

This bird, the Straw Necked Ibis, is not seen up here in the foothills very often, but is a more common sight down on the flats.   It has the most fabulous glossy blue-black back with a metallic purple, green and bronze sheen which is quite dazzling in the sunshine.

Now that the dry season is well underway, things slow down considerably around the place.  Well that's how it feels to me anyway.

Of course, regular readers know well that there are very, very few seasonal changes around here ... unless you count the changes wrought by a destructive wet/cyclone season.

The all-year round bloomers carry on business as usual.

There are some flowers and berries on some of the Palms around my place usual.


The foliage plants, like the Crotons, always add splashes of colour around about, as usual.

Now to some of the unusual for this year.  Everything that is still in cyclone-recovery mode, protracted now thanks to the arrival of the dry season, is really not doing much other than marking time.  Fingers crossed they all make it through the dry and don't give up easily.  To be honest I expect that will be the case, as they are all such drought tolerant, tough plants.

Here's a great example.  This is what was once my 5-metre tall Dracaena fragrans 'Massangeana', sometimes known as the Corn Plant.  It was knocked down during our cyclone season and then trimmed back to a stump less than 30 cms tall.

Despite the lack of watering or care of any sort since then, it has sprouted quite a bit of new growth.  I'm sure it will take quite a long time to reach its' former height, but I'm pleased to see it powering on.

That's my Tabebuia impetiginosa with its' rather stunted looking shape after a post-cyclone haircut.  It has usually started blooming by now, but that is unlikely this winter.  I'm finding that when I drive down the driveway after work, I do rather miss it's usual wintertime display.

I'm really, really missing the flowers on my other usual winter bloomer, Bauhinia variegata.  There is no fabulous show of these delightful white flowers this year.

As a mater of fact, there has been no added re-growth on the stump that was left in the last month or so now.  The poor thing is still just a stump with some skinny branches and leaves.

In the midst of these losses though, there is some pleasure from other sights in my garden.  There are some plants that are carrying on with their usual winter show and that brings a smile to my dial!   Out in the tiered garden bed the Euphorbia pulcherrimas are displaying their showy bracts and tiny yellowish flowers.

This is my dwarf pink Euphorbia pulcherrima.

Here's the dwarf red Euphorbia pulcherrima which, even though it was planted well before the pink, has not done as well. I had to move it when I found it was getting flooded by the torrential wet season rains in its' original spot.  It looked dead, but I cut it back, moved it to a drier spot and ... voila! ... it's back.

Lastly here's the white, which was only planted a little while ago now and is the baby of the family.  Not a bad looking little bub, either!

I got the answer to a question I asked in one of my previous garden journal entries.

Would the deciduous Plumerias, that had started sprouting new growth after the cyclone damage had been trimmed off, drop their new baby leaves for the winter?  Yes.  The broken branches are pretty leafless now.

Out in the Courtyard Garden, the potted plants carry on, as usual.

I haven't got around to trimming the little weeds that pop up in between the pavers ... as you can see ... but I have being catching up with the fertilising, re-potting and potting up of more annuals and perennials. 

It helps that I'm on holiday from school right now, so I can get to these jobs at last.

I had some luck striking cuttings of my Plectranthus, so I will be potting up those with some Brachyscome, more commonly known as Swan River Daisies.  Unfortunately I lost all my Gazanias and nearly all my Portulacas, both potted and in the ground, during the wet, so I'm starting again.  I'm also potting up some more of the gorgeous 'Dusky Hues' Salvias that I love so much, some white Ivy Pelargoniums and some citrus coloured Violas.  That will certainly fill in a lot of the empty corners out in the courtyard.

I've had to do a bit of trimming of all my Pentas plants, in the Courtyard Garden and in the Downstairs Bed.

Every single one of them had become infested with what looks like aphids ... this amateur gardener is no expert on garden pests.

So every shrub has been trimmed back and given a lovely warm soapy water wash down.   Here's the before and after shots.

But it did give me an excuse to have a few little vases of flowers inside the house for a change.

As the mornings have been a little cool of late ... yes well, when the mercury drops down below 15 deg C, we call that cool!! ... I've been making late starts! 

You will find me still inside with my cuppa at nine in the morning, but by ten I'm usually out wandering around the garden taking a peek at what is going on.  So come on with me as I stroll around this fine winter's morning.  There's a light drizzle, but nothing that would keep me from my wandering.

There were quite a few birds around today, incluidng the male Yellow-Bellied Sunbird (above) and the Forest Kingfisher (below).

I noticed a very busy little Blue-Banded Bee laden with full pollen sacs.

Sorry it's a little out of focus, but you can see those heavy sacs!

I found the first bloom on my 'Super Swiss Giant' Pansies ... hmmm, not so super giant to my eyes though!!!

I'm loving the form of these cute 'Velveteen' Snapdragons ...

... and the weird little form of the first white Osteospermum 'Ecklonis Passion Mix'.

Hmm, I'm not so sure that's where your petals are supposed to be little one!

There's some of my favourite whites to feast my eyes on ...

... and some brilliant reds to brighten the day.

There's that busy litle Blue-Banded Bee hard at work on the Begonia blooms again!  Great to see!
Now to end off this rather lengthy wandering around ...

... here's a colour combination that I've grown quite fond of.  Purple and blue ... who knew?

I'm joining MsGreenthumb Jean at Bloomin' Tuesday with my post today and I would encourage you to go on over to see what's blooming around about.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

It's a Winter's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day ... June 2011

Our Winter has begun and the dry weather has definitely arrived.  From mid-Autumn to now, our rainfall total has really dropped away ... 88mm or 3.5ins in April (mid-Autumn) to 15mm or 0.6 of an inch so far this month (early Winter). 

The conditions haven't varied much from cooler bright blue, sunny sky days and quite cool nights.  The days are getting shorter ... the sun is barely visible by 5.00 pm and rises around 6.30 am.  Our daytime temperatures usually remain somewhere between 23 and 26 degrees C (73-78 F) and the nightime temps are dipping down to between 15 and 10 degrees C (59-50 F).  Last night it got down to 9!

It's wonderful winter weather here in the Aussie tropics.

Out in the garden, not much has changed around the place since my last Garden Journal entry Our Dry Season Has Begun.  The cyclone damaged plants mentioned in that post are still in tortoise-paced recovery mode as they're not getting any watering at this time of year.  But there are the usual things in bloom right now.

Some of the purple container plants:

Starting top left:  Spathoglottis or Ground Orchid, Barleria obtusa, Gomphrena globosa or Bachelor Buttons, Petunia ShockWave 'Pink Ice' ... and in the centre, Lavendula dentata.

Some of the pinks:

Top row:  Antirrhinum 'Velveteen' or Snapdragon, Pentas lanceolata, Schlumbergera or Zygocactus.
Second row:  Azalea, my pink dwarf Euphorbia pulcherrima or Poinsettia, Salvia splendens.
Bottom row:  Impatiens hawkerii 'Celebrette Orchid Star' or New Guinea Impatiens, Antirrhinum 'Strawberry Crush' and Verbena.

In the courtyard garden, all my container plants are powering on, but need watering every second day.  The pots dry out quite quickly in these dry season conditions, especially during the many blustery windy days we experience at this time of year.  Unfortunately, due to the busyness of work and the occasional week away from home lately, I still haven't finished potting up my annuals for their winter-spring display.  There are a couple of pots of Petunias, Pansies, Osteospurmum and Verbena on the go, but that's nowhere near as many as I had this time last year. 

My Cleome spinosas both had to be cut back severely after becoming infested with what seemed like white mould.  It's a real pity that they're not showing off their brilliant lavender-purple flowers right now, as they are usually a feature out in the courtyard garden during our winter.

The Euphorbia leucocephala or Snowflake Bush has begun its' winter blooming and it always adds a great splash of brilliant white beside the courtyard garden steps.

The Jasminum officinale or Poet's Jasmine continues to bloom out-of-season.  As I've mentioned before, this climber didn't enjoy the past Summer/Wet Season at all and showed no blooms whatsoever during it's usual Summer flowering period.  The flowers started appearing sporadically around mid-Autumn and have continued ever since, although the perfume is nowhere near as heady as usual.  Still, it's great to see those little white blooms.

I have re-vamped small area under one of the Cycas revolutas out in the courtyard.  During the post-cyclone clean-up, I finally got in and trimmed back all the dead and dying fronds on the Cycad near the courtyard steps.  It's something I had put off for ages, mainly because of the deadly sharp spines on the fronds that make such a job a bit of a nightmare.  But it's done now and I added some lovely New Guinea Impatiens and Bromeliads underneath.

One of the Broms has bloomed, but I'm still waiting on the New Guineas to show their gorgeous flowers.

In the outdoor tiered garden bed, there's quite a bit of cutting back to be done.  Unfortunately, that job has been put on the back burner for now.  The Salvia madrensis sure does need to be trimmed as the golden spires are looking more like weird hairy caterpillars!

The Iresine herbstii 'Blazin Rose' is flowering, but will need pruning very soon.

I do rather like the combination of dwarf Angelonia angustifolia, Salvia leucantha, Scutellaria suffrutescens and Scaevola in this patch in the tiered bed.  It all happened quite be accident, but I don't mind it!

This plant has just popped up beside the patch shown above, and while it certainly does look attractive, I'm not sure what it is or whether I should keep it!!  Can anyone help with an ID?

Elsewhere in my garden there are some lovely whites, oranges and yellows:

From top left:  Pelargonium peltatum 'Blanche Roche', Mandevilla 'White Fantasy' and Pentas.

Top row:  Bracteantha bracteata, Portulaca grandiflora, Neomarica longifolia and Ixora 'Twilight Glow'.
Main shot:  Cosmos sulphureus which popped up down the driveway after our long, long wet season.  It's now blooming and showing its' lovely yellow and orange flowers.

For loads more wonderful GBBD posts, please visit Carol at May Dreams Gardens

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