Monday, 30 August 2010

The End of Winter

You can always count on this little magnolia to tell you when Winter is ending and here it goes again. Right on cue. John's sister, Anne, gave him this tree for his birthday a few years ago. Thanks Anne - We love it.

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Using up the zucchinis

Zucchini Quiche Slice
4 medium size zucchini
1 medium onion
2 eggs and 4 egg whites
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/4 cup parsley (chopped)
1 cup pancake mix

Slice zucchini thinly (do not peel). Dice onion. Add oregano, basil, garlic powder and parsley flakes; mix well. Beat eggs until lemon coloured. Add oil. Add pancake mix. Mix with zucchini. Place in pan. Bake at 180 C (350 F) for about 1 hour until brown.

Zucchini and corn fritters
1 1/2 cups self-raising flour
1 cup milk
2 eggs
2 large corn cobs, kernels removed (or small can of corn - drained)
1 zucchini, trimmed, grated
olive oil, for shallow-frying
1 cup tzatziki dip, to serve

1. Sift flour into a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Using a fork, whisk milk and eggs together in a jug until combined. Pour over flour. Stir until smooth. Add corn and zucchini. Stir until well combined.

2. Add enough oil to a large, non-stick frying pan to cover base. Heat over medium heat until hot. Using 1/4 cup of mixture per fritter, spoon mixture, 3 fritters at a time, into pan. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes each side or until golden and firm to touch in the centre. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

• To freeze: Wrap each fritter in plastic wrap, then foil. Freeze for up to 2 months. Remove from freezer in the morning. Place frozen fritters in lunch box with a small container of tzatziki. Fritters will thaw by lunchtime

Carrot and Zucchini muffins
2 cups self-raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons caster sugar
1/2 cup finely grated carrot
1/2 cup finely grated zucchini, squeeze in a strainer to remove excess moisture
1/2 cup coarsely grated cheese
2 tablespoons dill, chopped
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup extra light olive oil
2 eggs
2 teaspoons sea salt flakes (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 200°C. Lightly grease a 12 x 1/3-cup capacity muffin pan.

2. Sift flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Stir in sugar, carrot, zucchini, cheese and dill. Whisk milk, oil and eggs together in a jug. Pour into dry ingredients. Stir until just combined.

3. Divide mixture evenly between muffin pans. Sprinkle tops with sea salt. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until a skewer inserted into the centre of a muffin comes out clean. Stand for 5 minutes in pan before turning onto a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature.

To vary – sprinkle the tops with sea salt flakes before baking or add ½ cup finely chopped bacon or a finely diced onion to the mixture.

Sunday, 22 August 2010

Time to divide and conquer

I will soon have many more bromeliads and the garden will look refreshed and tidy again. Each year in Spring I divide my broms. It's not quite Spring yet, but it's close enough. Each year it is taking me longer and longer. I can remember when it was a mornings work. Now it takes a few weekends. I probably should do them more often but I don't. A lot of my broms have serrated leaves. I wear gloves but still end up scratched and bleeding.
Most of my bromeliads are in pots. The pot either sits in the garden or I double pot  by placing their pot inside a slightly larger one buried in the ground. When we first started growing them I was told this was the best way to keep broms. It has a number of advantages.
You can move them about to find just the right amount of sun vs shade. Most prefer dappled sunlight or part-shade.                                       Too much shade makes them green and leggy (like these poor neglected fellows) but the midday or even the  afternoon sun can be fierce in summer and can burn them.

You can protect them from hail (if you’re home when the hail strikes).

Drainage remains good. Our soil has a fair bit of clay so they must either remain in pots or be planted in a raised bed with a bark mix.

You can clean fallen leaves and debri out of their well more easily - just tip it upside down and shake. Rotting vegetation in the well will kill most broms.

You can divide them more easily when they set pups.

The double potting protects the inside pot, keeps them contained and stops the roots escaping into the ground.

Also, of course, you can move them to a better spot for showing off when they are in flower or looking especially handsome.

This year I have quite a few that are really overdue to be divided. I like to wait until the pups are between 1/3 and ½ the size of their mother before removing (I seem to lose quite a few if I try too soon).

Sometimes by the time I divide them, the mother plant has died and the pot has three or four pups fighting for space.

Other people may have different methods, but this is how I divide them. 
I cut the pups off as close as possible to the mother plant. Some you can twist and they break off easily. You may need to take the plant out of the pot and remove some of the mix to do this. In that case, I sit the pot in a styrofoam box to avoid spilling the potting mix everywhere.
Potting is simple. Just don’t bury them too deep but make sure they are firm enough to remain upright. Some will already have roots but if they don't there's no need to worry. Most form roots within a few weeks in warm weather.
The mix I use is approximately 2 parts cymbidium potting mix, 1 part standard potting mix and 1 part coconut fibre, with some blood and bone mixed through. I only use pots with multiple holes in the base. Because we can get quite a bit of rain in summer and drainage is important.

I like to do do this job as a production line - get all the pups removed and put into buckets - then mix up my potting mixture and pot them all up.
If I don’t have time to pot them all they will remain happy in the bucket for a few days.

The smaller pups will go under a tree in the shade where I will remember to check on them & water them until they form a good root system. The others go back into various part of the garden. That is the fun bit - rearranging the garden.
Some I'll plant directly into the ground when they are big enough to survive but most will remain in pots. Some will be given away to friends.

Most of the old original plants will go on to produce more pups but not all of them. Even when the older plants start looking ratty and bedraggled I don’t like throwing them in the compost bin until they are actually dead. I put them in the old plants home - a hidden corner of the garden with a pile of old potting mix and bark. It’s amazing how many have produced further offspring.

From the plants I divided yesterday I have over 30 new plants. Not a bad mornings work.

Friday, 20 August 2010

Jade Vine - advice please

On our recent holiday I saw Jade vine (Strongylodon macrobotrys) growing over a trellis at Flecker Botanical Gardens in Cairns. Because it is winter this vine would not have been at the peak of flowering but it was still spectacular.

The flower clusters can be over a metre long and are the most beautiful aquamarine colour. It is a truly spectacular vine. I’ve thought about growing this vine for a while now but have hesitated for two reasons. First, I may not be able to even source it in Brisbane and second, if I can, I'm not sure if it will survive our Winter.

They are native to the Phillipines (so I've been told) and I’ve read they will not tolerate frost or temperatures below 15 degrees C. But then I’ve also read elsewhere that people have successfully grown them in cooler areas. One person said they will tolerate winter as long as they aren’t too wet which sounds reasonable. I think I should try – It would be worth it.

We have a good strong trellis to grow it on or I could also grow it up over a tree. We only get very light frost and generally only few a few days each winter. I think it would survive. I think it is definitely worth trying.....
Has anyone grown this guy and can give me advice on what I should do?

Monday, 16 August 2010

Mosaic Monday - Cairns Botanic Gardens

While in Cairns the Flecker Botanic Gardens are a must-see if you love tropical plants. After wandering through the garden for an hour or so we had lunch on one of the lawn areas, then set off again to explore more of the gardens. The camera got a real workout so I've combined some of the photos to post my first Mosaic Monday.

A sample of the heliconias

Some gingers

the orchid house

the fern house

rainforest walk

just a selection of the beautiful tropical plants in this magnificent garden.

Saturday, 14 August 2010

An underwater garden

At the risk of sounding like a tourist brochure - If you ever get the chance you have to visit the Great Barrier Reef.  We are so lucky to have this natural wonder off the coast of Queensland. It is as beautiful as any garden (in my opinion anyway). It stretches along the coast for almost 2000kms.
I always want the window seat when we fly into Cairns because I love seeing the reef from the air.

Even more than seeing the reef from the air, I love to go snorkelling and see it close-up. You're transported to another world that is full of beauty and constant surprises with fish of all shapes, sizes and colours & corals & giant clams & anenomes & starfish & turtles.
Me underwater
John on top of the water
Last time we went on a reef trip we bought a CD of underwater photos. I thought I'd share some of the images with you. There were no copyright warnings so I assume it's OK to use them. 
 If you've seen Finding Nemo you'll recognise some of the stars.

We look like tourists don't we.

Friday, 13 August 2010

Darwin Botanic Gardens

We had some time to spare when drove back to Darwin to catch our flight home so what do you do other than visit their botanic gardens.
 You feel like you're in the jungle rather than in a beachside suburb of Darwin, just a couple of minutes from the city centre. The gardens were created 130 years ago and cover 42 hectares.

They have a large rainforest area - quite wild looking - large trees with wonderful buttresses and root systems. The rainforest trees are underplanted with palms, ferns and creepers and has raised walkways to protect the soil from becoming compacted as much as to provide a dry safe walkway for visitors I would guess.

To show some of the crotons I've tried a a small slideshow.

White musseanda in full bloom.

This is a Saraca thaipingensis from the Phillipines. I hadn't seen one of these before but the flowers are spectacular.

Hope you enjoyed the short tour.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Jurassic Garden

The owners describe their garden as Jurassic and although I wasn't around then (well not quite) I think dinosaurs would have felt at home with many of their plants. This garden definitely is very different to the types of gardens I'm used to.
Not sure if I liked it or not. Make up your own mind.
It was 35 degrees C in the shade on the day we were there and there was very lttle shade. I can't imagine what it would be like at the height of Summer. Maybe the dinosaurs became extinct with heat stress.

The garden was built on rock and contained a wide variety of cycads, euphorbias, agaves, aloes and cactii. I'm not going to even attempt to identify the various plants. Well, maybe I'll try, but I'm out of depth with cactii and succulents.

Most of the cycads were different to the ones we grow on the East Coast. There were quite a huge variety. This is just a small  sample.

I know this is a euphorbia not a cactus because the sign said so.

So, are both of these cactii? The front one is. I'm not sure about the other one.

These are agaves

Some euphorbias in flower

I know these as desert roses. Adenium obesum I think - could be wrong.
Another euphorbia

Finally, I know what this is - an Australian Boab tree (Adansonia gregorii) . They grow in the Northern Territory around Katherine, across northern Western Australian and around the Kimberleys. They are well adapted to the extremes of climate this region dishes up. They lose most of their leaves in the dry season, but will be lush again when the wet season starts. Boabs are very slow growing trees. This fellow would have been here long before the garden was started. They have very large seedpods which drop around the tree and start a family of boabs.


Katherine doesn't have winter. The temperature was over 30C each day we were there and the nights so hot you needed air-con or a fan to sleep. In the Northern Territory they have the Wet and the Dry seasons. The rain pours down from November to March then it barely rains at all for the rest of the year.

During the Wet, the Katherine River floods and Pippa's farm, which is near the river, is surrounded by water. The paddocks flood and the lagoon behind the horse yards fills with all sorts of waterfowl. At the moment it's dry and dusty. They have a permit to pump water from the river and Steve is a plumber so they have a system of sprinklers to water the garden around the house.
The rose bushes are almost as high as the roof. Mel is waiting until they stop flowering before she prunes them but they don't seem to want to stop.


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