Sunday, July 31, 2011

Change Is In The Wind ... My Downunder Dry Tropics Garden Journal ... Week 31, 2011.

Date:  July 31st, 2011

Season:  mid-Winter and 'dry' season

Our last winter month begins tomorrow and our winter weather so far has been deliciously mild.  Lots of lovely sunny, fairly clear, blue-sky days.  Of course, our 'dry' season is well underway and there's been no rain.

So this was the view as I worked in my thongs and t-shirt in the front yard this weekend.  ('Thongs' being footwear, people!!!)

It's been a busy time in the garden here during the month of July.  I've done such a lot of trimming back and clearing out in various spots around the place.   As I mentioned in my last journal post Mess And Mayhem In My Garden, I've managed to finish the cleaning up jobs so badly needed in both the Outdoor Tiered Garden Beds and the Shadehouse Garden, so they are both looking fairly decent once more.

Here's a couple of views of the now-tidy-and-no-longer-overgrown outdoor tiered garden beds  ...

... and a view of a nice-and-orderly-looking corner of the shadehouse garden.

Now that's one little apparent change.  There are a few others around the place.

Cyclone damaged trees and shrubs in the large established outdoor garden beds slowly continue their recovery growth.

There's a little more growth on my beloved white Bauhinia ...

... and the Duranta repens shrubs have all grown a tiny wee bit taller.

There's a few flowers on the non-cyclone damaged half of my Tabebuia impetiginosa ...

... and there are blooms on the white Bauhinia leaning over the driveway fence from my neighbour's yard.

Can you see those white Bauhinia flowers to the right of the photo above?   Here they are.

It's a delight to get to see a few of the usual winter blooms down the driveway even if it's not the usual display or in the usual places.

One of the other delights that I found down the driveway after the cyclone clean-up was a scraggley ugly looking Hibiscus that had been struggling to grow under a huge Duranta repens.  With the drastic cut-back of the Duranta, the Hibiscus has once again become rather a looker!

I'm loving the new blooms that have started appearing on this re-vitalised Hibiscus shrub.  They look like doubles to me.  None of my other Hibiscus have double blooms, so this shrub will be receiving some special attention from now on.

Now to the garden beds down the hill driveway.  There are a couple of deciduous Plumerias growing in that area and for the first time in at least fifteen years, these trees are receiving full sun once again.  They had been permanently shaded by the canopy of my other neighbour's very tall 30 foot trees, but nearly every single one of those trees has now been chopped down as a result of the damage inflicted by Cyclone Yasi.

Here's the hill driveway garden bed early last year ...

... and here it is this year.

You can see there's a huge difference in the conditions.  So, as a result of this loss of canopy,  I'm expecting the Plumerias to put on a fabulous flowering display later this year.  I'm hoping they will be absolutely covered in blooms for the first time since we moved into this property.

Of course, with this loss of canopy the underlying ferns in my ferny grove are now also exposed to almost full sun.  While this isn't such a big deal during our winter, I'm a little concerned how they will fare during the summer at the end of the year.  I'm hoping that the two Cadaghi Gums that are growing in that bed will be fully recovered from their cyclone ordeal and have full canopy cover by that time.

Righto ... onto another little area of change.

The front garden beds had become very overgrown and needed a good clean-up.  There was a more pressing reason for the clean-up though.  We've finally got the go-ahead for the repair work to commence on all the cyclone damage around our place, including the damage to the front verandah hood.  We've been living with the hood draped down over the garden beds ever since Cyclone Yasi hit in February.  So, to enable the workmen to access this spot, those Acalyphas needed cutting back.

Much better ... now it should be a whole lot easier for workmen to get in to fix the damage.

Aah ... now this photo shows clearly what happens to our place during the 'dry' season.  Notice the brown grass cover all over the front yard.  We're not in drought ... that's just what our place typically looks like during the seven to nine month 'dry' season we have here every year.

I know there are a few gardeners out there who complain bitterly when it doesn't rain for a month or two, and they start talking about a 'drought'.  For many Australian gardeners, those conditions would not come anywhere near what we would call a 'drought'.  Months without rain for many of us is just the 'dry'.  Years without decent rain is 'drought'.  No I know, it's horses for courses.  Months without rain is definitely drought for some, but I would use the term very differently for a vastly different situation.

Our property doesn't have good soil (well there's actually barely any soil in the yard at all) and we're on a slope, so there's considerable problems with drainage (any light rainfall here would not penetrate the ground in any significant way), so we're behind the eight ball from the start when it comes to having a lovely lush yard, ... but ... I do have a little problem feeling sympathetic for gardeners who say they're experiencing drought conditions but still have lovely green grass everywhere.  That would be pretty close to heaven for this gardener!!!    OK, off the high horse now.

So, the Acalyphas have been tamed.

But in between those two shrubs there's another shrub growing.  I have no idea what it is.  I'm hoping that someone out there can help.


Here's a shot of the unknown shrub taken last year.  I've never seen any blooms on this unknown shrub.

It has grown almost as tall as the roofline many times before it has been trimmed back.

The leaves are quite dark and glossy on the top.


On the other side of the front garden, I got in and did a lot of weeding and trimming.  The Russelia was getting out of control and the shrubs needed a little snip here and there.

  (Notice the patch of green resulting from watering run-off.  That patch is my one and only patch of green in the yard at the moment.)

Everything is doing quite well in that bed.  Starting at the bottom left of the collage and going counter-clockwise:
the old old Hibiscus rosa-sinensis out the front is recovering from cyclone damage rather slowly,
the Allamanada cathartica 'Sunee' just needed a trim back (it's not flowering right now),
the Mussaenda philippica 'Bangkok Rose' is recovering slowly but is showing new growth,
the dwarf Azalea is carrying on with it's usual winter display (it hasn't missed a beat this year),
and finally the Hibiscus rosa-sinensi 'Snowflake' and the 'Roseflake' beside it, but not in the shot, are both doing very well ... tough as old boots those pair.

Now ... (boy, this has been one long post, sorry!!!) ... out in the Courtyard Garden I've finished all the potting up and things are going along quite nicely.  Here's a quick look around.

All the annuals are starting to do their thing and I'm looking forward to a better show of flowers as we get closer to Spring.  I did re-arrange some of the pots because of the changing light conditions in winter out there, and everything seems quite happy in their new position.

There is one little thing that's a bit different out there this year.  Some of these little creatures have turned up in the courtyard garden.  I've never noticed them here before.

They are fungus eating ladybirds - Illeis galbula (bright yellow with black markings) busy at work on
some of my plants ... the Torenias, the Verbena and the Dahlias.  Apparently they live on plants infested with a fungus like powdery mildew and I shouldn't squish these little ones as they're doing my plants a real favour.  So, I'm quite happy to leave them be.  We'll see how well they do their work and how well these plants fair in the coming weeks.

Finally ... there will be quite a big change coming up very soon for my Courtyard Garden.  As I mentioned earlier in this post, the repair work will be commencing soon on all those things damaged by the aforementioned cyclone.  One of the major works will be the replacement of our pergola out in the courtyard.

As you can see the wooden perogla is quite a large structure ... and you might notice that there's a considerable lean to the posts.  The pergola was left leaning quite dramatically from the force of the cyclonic winds.

The structure is no longer considered safe. The shot shown above was taken the day after Cyclone Yasi blew through here and you can clearly see the lean.

Presently, the entire pergola is covered in Jasminum officinale.  There's also quite huge plantings of Hibiscus schizopetalus at two ends, a planting of another climber Petrea volubilis and an Allamanda cathartica.  All of these will have to be chopped down ... yes I finally said it out loud!  The thought of this has been weighing on my mind for some time now, but unfortunately it's a necessary evil in order to fix the damage. 

I'm not looking forward to the disruption and mess that will be needed during the destruction and then construction work.  I know it's necessary, but it's going to alter the look of my favourite garden space for quite some time to come.  The newly constructed pergola will look rather bare and ugly to my eyes until that Jasmine gets growing once more ... and I know that will take a long time.  So, for now, I'm out there every spare second just enjoying the space as it is before the workmen arrive.

So, there you have it ... little changes and some big changes are afoot at my place.  Never a dull moment!

Friday, July 15, 2011

It's A Downunder Mid-Winter Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day

The delightful winter days continue here in my corner of Downunder.  Winter here is warm and mild compared to many other corners of Australia.  We did have what we refer to as 'cold days' a few weeks back, when the mercury got down around 20 deg C during the day and dipped below 10 deg C overnight.

But that all seems a distant memory right now, as our daytime temperatures hover once again around the 25 deg C mark, and nightimes are a pleasant 14 - 17 deg C.

The only downside is of course, that our dry season began just on six weeks ago now.  In that time it's rained sporadically on six of those days, totalling just 35 mm or 2 inches.

There has been an unexpected surprise out in my garden this month.  My lovely Tabebuia impetiginosa tree is usually covered in blooms at this point in our winter months, but after the damage and distress inflicted on the tree by the cyclone that swept through here earlier this year, I was not expecting any blooms at all this year.  Mother Nature has decided that was not to be the case.

Despite the fact that there is only a smattering of flowers on the tree, I'm overjoyed to see any at all.

Another fantastic surprise comes from my neighbour's white Bauhina tree which is hanging over the fence into our yard.  There are blooms of this tree for the very first time and I get to enjoy them as well.  It's just wonderful to see the brilliant white flowers as I drive down the driveway after work.  I'm missing the usual display on my own white Bauhinia which is in recovery mode, so it's a real treat to spot these shared treasures.

Isn't Mother Nature kind sometimes?

Meanwhile, out in the tiered garden beds,

I'm seeing the first ever blooms appearing on my Dietes bicolor ...

... and my tiny little surviving red Kalanchoe blossfeldiana has started its lovely display.

The dwarf Euphorbia pulcherrima is in bloom ...

... and the pink is my favourite!

This time last year I had far more annuals on display out in the courtyard garden, but things are slightly behind this mid-Winter after the rocky start to the year.  Still, there are the beginnings of an annual show for this year.

Osteospermum 'Ecklonis', Elatoir Begonia, Antirrhinum 'Velveteen' and 'Strawberry Crush', Torenia, Verbena, Petunia, Violas and Pansy.

It's terrific to see the first little blooms on some of my Salvia splendens 'Dusky Hues'.  I adore the shades in this mix.

I'm also loving the vibrant flowers of these Viola 'Petite Citrus'.

Here's another lovely surprise out in my courtyard.

It's wonderful to see the first blooms on my Strobilanthes dyerianus, which I had cut down to almost nothing in a desperate attempt to re-vitalise and re-invigorate a very lanky, lack-lustre plant.

There's splashes of purple and pink from ...
... Plectranthus 'Mona Lavender' and

my candy pink Azaleas.

Just as well I like having lots of purple in my garden.

Elsewhere there are blooms on the Aechmea, the Fittonia 'Red Vein', the Caliente Pelargonium, the Gomphrena globosa, the Anegelonia angustifolia and the Begonia semperflorens.

For some fabulous posts for this Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day, go and visit Carol at  May Dreams Gardens

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