Monday, 29 November 2010

A walk around the garden

A walk around the garden can sometimes be a pleasant stroll just taking everything in, but more often for me it's a patrol - a reconnaissance mission. It will either result in a "to do" list a mile long or be interrupted by some pruning or weeding. I'm sure most gardeners are the same - always on the lookout for what needs doing next.

The pink justica is looking stunning but I'm going have to watch that red coleus. It will grow huge if you let it. It will need to be chopped back soon.

The pink cannas have started to flower. They are a smaller variety than the others and are always the last to flower.

The orange canna are powering along but next weekend I'll check them again. Once a stem has finished flowering it starts to die so it needs to be chopped off at ground level. If they are left you have a very tatty stand of canna, and it encourages diseases.
The orange ones deserve a close-up

Orange and lime green. I love the lime coloured leaves of the ornamental sweet potato and it makes a great ground cover but it's invading the orange broms so will need to be trimmed back. The orange flowers are nastursiums growing in amongst the sweet potato.   

The date palm is flowering.
This Balinese agave Furcraea foetida 'Medio Picta' is almost as tall as me and a couple of meters wide. We had to redesign the garden pathways to accomodate it because we'd under-estimated its spread and planted it too close to the edge. It fights the Bismark Palm for attention at the moment. As it gets bigger the Bismark will win. They are a spectacular palm.
This is a different Bismark in another part of the garden. A friend had it in a pot and didn't want it anymore so we found it a home. Seems happy here.

The area John redesigned and replanted a while back is looking healthy.

Behind the pool everything's growing like wildfire. I need to get into this area with my secateurs.  The hibiscus (centre) really need cutting back. They are nearly as high as the palm trees. 
Around the front of the house - the climbing bauhinia - from in front of the shed. It grows over a retaining wall as well as over the fence.

In the rainforest area there's always something in bloom this time of year. The Silky Oak grevillia robusta is just starting to flower. Looks like the birds have been into them already - That's OK. That's what they are there for.
I can see someone that needs a trim.  I should never have planted a Sheenas Gold in with crotons and cordylines. It just grows far too fast. I liked the contrasting colour but forgot how often they need pruning.
Meanwhile inside, John has brought some Christmas trees up out of the shed. 
Only 4 weeks to go.

Friday, 26 November 2010

What's Flowering in my Herb and Vege Garden

The flowers in the vege patch can feel under-appreciated sometimes. All the other plants have their picture taken when they are in flower. The plants in the vege patch flower too if they get the chance but sometimes I forget about how beautiful the are. -- so today they get their chance. Today they are the stars of Fertilizer Friday.






Pineapple sage

Aloe vera
and last but not least Eggplant

 To see more flowers being flaunted from all around the world visit Tootsie Time 

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Something's eating my cycads

The flush of new growth on my cycads was disappearing before it even unfurled and the culprit must be found and dealt with.

I don’t mind insects having a bit of a chew here and there. It’s all part of the cycle of life and besides, you can’t have butterflies without caterpillars. But this was different. They threatened to kill the plants if left unchecked. They had declared war. Ugly brown little grubs were all over some of the leaves.

I looked up “eating cycads” on the PACSAO website and discovered that the lovely little butterflies I had been admiring in the garden were the culprits.

"Plants in cultivation and in the wild often fall prey to insect activity and the result can be devastating. Some of these insects have the ability to completely devour a new flush of leaves overnight.

One culprit is a pale blue native butterfly whose larvae feed entirely on cycads. Ironically this small butterfly is known as "Cycad Blue"- Theclinesthes onchya. It is unique in that it is the only Australian butterfly caterpillar that feeds on Cycads.

Spraying is the best option but it has to be done on a daily basis to properly destroy the grubs that constantly keep hatching from tiny pale blue to white coloured eggs.
(their photos - not mine)

The article didn’t say what spray to use. I will not use insecticides in my garden and risk killing the birds I have tried so hard to attract or the beneficial insects that help my garden stay healthy. Couldn't find a natural remedy on the net or in any books I've got. Meanwhile they were chomping away. No time to lose.

Then I remembered Colin Campbell (a local gardening sage) saying a mixture of vinegar and water sprayed on cycads would kill the larvae of something or other. Worth a try!

I tried it. Every day for a week I sprayed the new leaves and it’s worked. I can't see any larvae on them at the moment and I’ve saved most of the cycads’ new growth.
The butterflies are still around so I will need to be vigilant.

They only seem to have attacked the common cycads - Cycas revoluta. My cardboard sago - Zamia furfuracea hasn't been affected. maybe because it's a different species.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Australia Zoo

Last Monday 15th November was Steve Irwin Day. It is four years since the Crocodile Hunter died while filming on the Great Barrier Reef and his family decided each year to celebrate his life with a day in his honour. Politicians, entertainers and the general population around here join them in remembering Steve. People wear khaki. There is a ball in his honour and Australia Zoo host a special event.
Like most people, I only knew Steve Irwin through seeing him on TV and hearing a few interviews but I liked him.
During his life Steve attracted a fair deal of criticism and controversy here in Australia. He loved wildlife of all kinds and spent much of his life working for the protection of endangered animals. He didn’t blindly follow the traditional politically correct line of thought regarding conservation. He did not march in the street holding placards or lobby politicians. He acted on his beliefs and he did it his way. He brought wildlife to people’s attention and tried to make us all as enthusiastic about protecting vulnerable creatures as he was. He enjoyed what he did and was passionate about it. In an interview once he was asked if people should feed birds to encourage them into their yards.  He said  that he believed it was a good thing - that sort of interaction between people and wildlife benefited both. It enriched the person’s life and created a stronger bond with nature and desire to help and protect wildlife.

He was “larger than life” always upbeat and used phrases like “Crikey” and “Blimey”. Some Australians cringed and saw him as an “Okker”, embarrassed that the world may think we all run around in khaki shorts wrestling crocodiles. Others saw him as “True Blue” the archetypal Australian that few of us will ever be.

After his death, it seems, everyone realised what a special person had been in their midst. Strange how often that happens.

He put his money where his mouth was. With the income from his documentaries and the zoo, he bought up parcels of land to preserve habitat. Iron Bark Station Wildlife Rehabilitation Centre, which manages 3,450 acres of wildlife sanctuary and other large tracts of land throughout Australia were purchased for the sole purpose of preserving them as wildlife habitat.

He established an organisation called Wildlife Warriors. Along with Australia Zoo, there is the Australian Wildlife Hospital, tiger conservation in Sumatra, elephant conservation in Sumatra and Cambodia, orangutan conservation in Sumatra, Tasmanian devil conservation, cheetah conservation in South Africa and whale conservation and research.

His wife Terri and children Bindi and Bob carry on his work and his vision. They continue to fund these programs and even expand the conservation efforts.

Australia Zoo is the Irwin’s home and they say the staff and animals are like an extended family. You only have to visit the place to realise this is not just a publicity blurb. The grounds are immaculate. The workers are happy and friendly whether they are tending the gardens, picking up animal droppings, selling food or presenting one of the many shows. The animals seem very happy too. Their enclosures are huge and mimic their homelands. Their needs come first and viewing of the animals is scheduled around their daily routine.

It’s a couple of years since I’ve been there. We like to take our grandchildren when they come to visit. Next time I go I’ll try to take some pictures of their garden not just the grandkids, but I can’t promise.

Monday, 15 November 2010

What's blooming as Summer approaches

As it heats up here, the garden increasingly comes to life. Some of the Cannas are blooming  again after their winter rest.
The red Epicactus or Epiphyllum was hidden away down the back of the greenhouse with the cuttings that didn't take and the half dead plants that I really must throw out. Lucky for me, it's flowers are so large and bright they are hard to miss.
In the rainforest area, the lilly pillies are starting to bloom. There are still many more buds than flowers on most of them. The local birds love these flowers and the red berries that follow.
Justica is covered in pink blossoms. It will keep flowering now for the next few months as long as it gets enough water.  Some of the Ixoras have starting to bloom. They'll be at their peak mid-Summer. The little groundcover daisies and the calliandra have actually flowered throughout winter.

The frangipani have their leaves back again but only a few are starting to flower yet and just a patch here and there. They look their best December through to April. It's still a bit early for them yet. 

Now, if you'd like to see many more marvelous mosaics visit the Dear Little Red House or to be blown away by bountiful blooms visit May Dreams Garden. Just click on the link.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Carefree climbers

There are plants in the garden that don't seem to care whether you are there or not. You could go away for weeks or even months and they wouldn't notice. They don't need fussing over. They don't need to be watered. They are just happy with what nature provides them.
My garden relies on these plants. It is  large and I don't get to spend nearly as much time gardening as I would like, so it can often become survival of the fittest. I do have quite a few plants that need regular care but many were chosen because they were suited to this climate and would require little care. Some of our climbers that need little attention are flowering at the moment. I thought I might feature a few.

This climbing bauhinia (Bauhinia corymbosa) is a great example. It grows happily on a fence between the house and John's shed. It flowers all year round to some extent, but at the moment is simply covered in blooms. The only care it gets is to be chopped back if it starts to head for the gutter or roof.

The mandevillia is fairly tough as well, but does respond to some extra attention by producing more flowers. We've had a lot of rain this Spring, plus I have tipped some worm tea around its roots, so it has flowered more than usual this year.

Bougainvillea must be the supreme example of climbers that thrive on neglect. When they get too much water they put their energy into growing more foliage and branches rather than flowers. They can become a real problem if let get too rampant. They will cover trees or buildings and require a lot of pruning which can be painful with their thorns. (A friend has her back fence covered in them to deter tresspassers. Much prettier han barbed wire, but just as effective.) We only grow the bambino varieties and keep them in pots. I have discovered they are one of the few plants that can be kept in a pot and remain happy even if they are not frequently watered.
I just realised why they flower so brilliantly - it's the only time the poor things get any attention.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Bamboo loves the rain

When we planted the bamboo I envisaged a grove of bamboo underplanted with heliconias, gingers and all manner of lush tropical growth, maybe a water feature, a winding path, a seat to relax in the shade. So far, we have the bamboo.......
 ....and a thick layer of leaf litter which it turning the ground into a rich organic soil (I hope). One day I will add the other plants or maybe not, maybe we will just leave it as solely bamboo....

This is Chookie Heaven. Can you imagine a world where the mulch is thick and scratchable, where there are shady spots but also a few patches of sun, unlimited bugs and worms all with a pleasant stroll from home? When we are home, this is where the ladies spend most of their day and that is the main reason why nothing has been planted under the bamboo. Freshly planted anything would not stand a chance against the ladies and their quest for bugs.
Even though we haven't added the underplanting yet, this is still one of my favourite areas of the garden. There is such a variety of bamboos available. We have eight different types ranging in both colour and size. They require very little work. The older stems need to be removed from time to time. We use them as garden stakes and throw fertiliser into the centre of the clump to encourange them to stay as a tight clump. Being a giant grass, they like a lot of water, but other wise require little care. Each Spring they send up new shoots, significantly thicker and taller than the year before. When they reach their desired height, leaves appear on the new growth and over time they drop their lower leaves. They drop a huge amount of leaves actually so would be terrible near a pool or a neat expanse of lawn. We need all the compost/mulch we can get, so we love it.
 The new growth on Timor Black (right, and the one Gladys is scratching around above) starts green and turns black as it ages.
 All of our bamboo is clumping (not running). Some form quite tight clumps like the slender weavers bamboo in the top picture and some form quite open clumps like the two below.
This one is called Budha Belly for obvious reasons. It is extremely attractive. The stems are now about 3 inches diameter.

This yellow and green stripey one is called painted bamboo.

Ghost Bamboo has white stems.
Sacred Bali bamboo (on the right) frightened me when it first flowered. I had read that many bamboos die once they flower but it continues to live and flowers each year. 
I'm sure bamboo would not be everyone's "cup of tea" and definitely is not suitable for a small garden but it really does have it'd own special beauty.


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