Saturday, August 17, 2013

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day ... August 2013 ... Our Last Month Of Winter

I'm a little late in posting, but as I missed last month's GBBD I thought I would try and catch up this month.  Downunder, August is the last month of our winter.  Here in the tropical north we're starting to feel the weather warm up considerably, and that fierce sunshine can definitely be felt now in the middle of the day.  The nights are warming up as well, and the doona has been pulled off the bed. 

Our daytime temps have been hovering up around the late 20s ... 26 to 28 deg C (78 - 82 F) ... and the humidity levels have started climbing up around 70%.  Skies have remained bright blue and fairly clear.  We've had no rain for the month of August, as is usual for our long dry season. 

Now, when I say our skies have been fairly clear, I should have said mostly clear, as it's burn-off time and bush fire time around our city.   Smoke from controlled burn-offs, and smoke from uncontrolled bush fires in some of the bush areas around our city, have created some hazy days of late. 

This is the time of the year when our Fire Brigade and Volunteer Fire Service members actually do set fires in various locations around our city as part of the annual fire-prevention measures.  These burn-offs are designed to create a protective barrier around various residential suburbs, as during this dry and cooler time of the year, the risk of fire is very high because of the tinder-dry vegetation all over our region.  There are also a couple of bush fires blazing in a couple of areas on the outskirts of our city.

Looking at this photo taken from my side yard this morning, you might be forgiven for thinking those are rain clouds hovering to the north, but no ... that's smoke from a bushfire that's raging in one the ranges near our outlying rural suburb.  We're in no danger from this fire, as it's quite a long way off and will never make it to this location, but this is the time of the year when we have to vigilant in suburbs like mine.

Now onto what's blooming around my place. 

As you enter the property and pass through the gates, you will see the Calliandras in bloom on either side.

These Powderpuff flowers are looking fabulous at the moment.

As you drive further down you might notice the last of the Tabebuia impetiginosa blooms high up amongst the tree tops on the left hand side.

The flowers are quite beautiful if you can get close enough to see.

Right towards the end of the driveway, you will then see one of the Bauhinia variegata tree covered in its stark white orchid-like flowers.  It's a fabulous sight to come home to after a long day at work.

When you stop at the end of our long driveway, you might also notice that there are still some gorgeous pink bracts and little flowers on my dwarf Euphorbia pulcherrima in the tiered garden beds,

and as you wander down the concrete driveway that leads to the house, you will see the potted Eucharis grandiflora, that's sitting under the African Oil Palm next to the concrete driveway, blooming beautifully at the moment.

Upon stepping into the courtyard garden, you will see lots more colour.  This space is a favourite of mine at this time of the year, because you forget about the dryness and dreariness of the surrounding dry-season landscape, and you can enjoy all the lovely blooms.

Some of my favourites right now are ...

the Salvia splendens hybrids

the Rosebud Pelargonium

Cleome 'Senorita Rosalita'

Angelonia angustifolia

Petunia 'Bumble Bee'

Petunia 'Bonanza Series'

the dwarf Azalea

and the Torenias.

There are lots of insects buzzing around the various blooms in the courtyard at the moment, but the Salvias certainly seem to be a favourite right now.

After you've enjoyed a cuppa whilst sitting out in the courtyard and enjoying the bird song, you might then wander through the house and enter the shadehouse garden that runs down the entire western side of our house.

There's quite a bit of colour out there at the moment, mostly provided by the various pots and hanging pots/baskets of Impatiens walleriana and Dragon Wing Begonias.

There's also a couple of hanging pots of Streptocarpus caulescens in bloom,

and some rhizomatous Begonias flowering.

This space is another of my favourites at this time of year.  I really enjoying just wandering around in the shadehouse doing the watering every couple of days before I head off to work in the morning.

There are so many little corners just filled with great colour and texture.

I'm joining Carol for her terrific Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day meme.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

So It's Been A While ... My Dry Tropics Garden Journal ... Week 32, 2013

Date:  August 4, 2013

Season:  end of Winter, dry season

So it's been a month since my last Garden Journal post ... where does the time go???  Well, I thought it was time to catch up again.

August is our last Winter month.  Of course we have quite mild winters here in the tropics, with very reasonable temperatures and loads of bright blue sunny sky days.   It's my favourite time of the year.

This year's winter has been particularly mild so far. The average daytime temp for our first winter month of June was 26.6 deg C (79.8 F), and for July it was 26.3 deg C (79.3 F).  Night-time temps averaged 15.1 deg C (59.1 F) in June, and 16.1 deg C (60.9 F) in July.  Definitely warmer than the same time last year.  I've worn a jumper only twice, and we've turned on the electric blanket about four times since our winter began.

The downside of winter here, is that it coincides with our dry season.  We're now into our fourth or so month of the dry.  Over the winter so far (June-July), we've had 4.8 mm of rain, which is around 0.1 of an inch.  It barely touched the ground! 

Consequently the landscape around here looks dry and parched, with grasses and weeds turning a delightful shade of brown in both our yard and in the bush paddock.   We're all used to it, it's part of the cycle here.  We don't bother with watering the yard, as we consider this a waste of a valuable resource, and it's very expensive to do so.  We know the grass (and weeds) in the yard will turn a lovely shade of green again when the rains return much later in the year. 

Anyway, there is a bit of colour amongst the trees and plants.  Down the driveway, when you raise your eyes from the strip of dead grass and look to the trees, you will see stark white flowers on the Bauhinia variegatas and pretty pink blooms on the Tabebuia impetiginosa.   They're a welcome sight in the dry season.

The Calliandras, at the entrance to the driveway, have been blooming for some time now.  They're winter bloomers and the pop-pom blooms attract lots of honeyeaters like the Dusky Honeyeater and the Yellow-bellied Sunbirds.

Winter is the time for the Bougainvilleas to begin another blooming cycle.  I only have two Bougs.  One ekes out its existence under a Delonix regia behind the carshed, while the other struggles on near the pergola.  Both have lovely crimson pink flowers.  It's also time for the Begonias to show off, especially the Cane Begonia and Begonia 'Tiger Paw'.  The Dragonwing and Bedding Begonias bloom pretty much all year round.

Winter is of course the time for the Euphorbia pulcherrima to show its pretty pink bracts and little orange and yellow flowers.  It grows in the top tier of the tiered garden beds and always catches my eye when I drive in from work in the afternoons.  Out in the shadehouse, the Streptocarpus caulescens and Impatiens wallerians brighten up the space at this time of year.

Out in the courtyard, the Petunias are on show.  This is the best time for Petunias at my place.  It's still hot enough for them, and there's lots of direct sunlight for them to soak up.  This year I'm only growing my special favourites ... the double 'Bonanza Series' and the 'Bumblebee'.

The courtyard garden is my solace during the dry season.  It's where I tend all the potted plants that fill the space with colour, when elsewhere, things are rather dreary.

All these potted plants sit out underneath the spreading bare branches of our native Sterculia quadrifida.  It's winter deciduous and is covered in seed pods, which change colour from green,

 to bright orange-red.

Quite a few birds drop by to feast upon the seeds that are exposed when the fruit pods open.
The gardening jobs during the dry season here are relatively few and far between.  Watering of course, is an essential job, but primarily only in the courtyard and shadehouse gardens.  I'm watering the potted plants about twice a week.  With the slight drop in temperatures and humidity levels during winter, the water needs of the potted plants drop off a little, compared to their summertime needs.

I did order a few more Hemerocallis plants again this year.  I find it hard to resist the sale prices!

They're potted up now and waiting to be planted out in their new spot, along with the Asiatic and Oriental Lilies that are just starting to spring up from their slumber in those large pots, and a few other little things I've been collecting or propagating. 

Did you catch the fact that there's about to be a new spot for gardening.  I'm so excited.  Actually I'm getting a couple of new spots.  One of the projects that's happening at the moment, is the creation of a couple of new garden beds.  Woohoo!  I've been planning and scheming about this for quite some time.

When you drive in the long driveway, arrive at the car shed and park your car, there's a sloping stretch of concrete driveway that you have to walk down to get to the entrance to our house.  The area beside this stretch of concrete driveway has always been rather boring and dull. 

Here's a shot I took way back in 2009, when I first starting planning about the changes I would love to make to this entrance area to our house.  In the wet season it didn't look too bad, and it provided a convenient parking place for visitors. 

During the long, long dry season though, it was a remarkably unattractive view to all those who came to visit.  It became the bane of my gardening life, and I've so longed for lush garden beds on either side.

Well, it's been a long time coming!  Of course, cost was the most prohibitive factor.  We simply couldn't afford to start the project for years, and quite a few more important jobs kept springing up along the way.  One of which was the building of a proper car shed area at the end of the long driveway onto our property.

Towards the end of last year my darling husband finally finished most of the car shed project.  It had been a very long laborious job.  He had done all the work himself, mainly because of the tight budget, and also because he knows when he does it himself, it's done properly.  He's a bit of a perfectionist.

Anyway, just a couple of weeks ago he decided it was time to start the 'garden bed' project.  Again, he's doing all the work himself so it's done properly.  I really wanted the garden beds to be edged with huge rocks, but hubby convinced me that the garden beds absolutely had to be built with retaining walls because of the slope on this part of the property.  In the wet season here, the water rushes through this area like a raging river.

Hubby got a great deal on some blocks for the retaining wall.  They were seconds and were quite heavily discounted.  Just perfect for what we wanted!

So, there will be a quite narrow garden bed beside the first section of the car shed.  I think this will be the spot for the Lilies ... Hemerocallis, Asiatics, Orientals ... and some Rain Lilies ... Habranthes and Zephyranthes.  I also wanted to add a couple of dwarf Gardenias for perfume.

The bed will continue along beside the back section of the carshed, where it becomes a little wider.  (The carshed structure has now been delivered and that will be the next project for my darling ... putting up the structure on that concrete slab shown in the photo).  I'm still deciding what to plant in this section.

Towards the back of that concrete slab, the land slopes quite considerably and the garden bed in this section will be very deep and wide.  I intend planting a few Hibiscus shrubs and Pentas back there.

Standing at the corner and looking back to the driveway, you can see just how much of a slope there is in this area. Quite a challenge when it comes to building a garden bed, but my DH has taken on this challenge willingly ... well if I ignore the grumbles and moans and constant reminders that he is only doing it because he wants to make me happy .... yes willingly and happily!!!

On the other side there will be another new garden bed as well.  I'm not totally convinced that there needs to be a block wall on this side, but I suppose it would have a more consistent look about it if the blocks are used on this side as well.  I would prefer rocks for a more natural look.  Well, we'll see just how far the blocks that we've purchased will go.  If we use most of them on the retaining wall around the carshed, then maybe I'll get my rocks.

I've been amassing a little collection of plants ready for the new bed on this side, but I've still got a few more purchases to make yet.  I'm going for a tropical look with lots of Cordylines, Ferns, Diffenbachias, Plumerias, small Palms, Hymenocallis and Costus.

So, there we are now.  I'm up-to-date with the goings-on around my place.  I can't wait until I can start planting up all these new garden spaces and watching them take off during the wet season next year.

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