Monday, 28 February 2011

Monday Mosaic - Grand Openings

The heliconias love Summer. Each day as they open they change until they reach their final shape.
I thought they would make a great subject for a Monday Mosaic.

Check out many more mosaics at at  Little Red House

Friday, 25 February 2011

Garden Tour Countdown - 1. The Rainforest area

Finally at the end of the tour!

I feel like a Mum on graduation night. I am so proud of these trees. They are all native Queenslanders. Most are from this region. A couple are from tropical rainforests further North. They were so tiny when we planted them. Some we grew from seed. They needed regular water and mulch to ensure they would remain healthy. Now they are growing up. They look after themselves and I am merely a visitor who comes to enjoy their company. They provide their own mulch and are adapted to their environment.

When you look up they have formed a wonderful canopy - not quite mature trees yet. They will keep growing for many years and some may even become giants. In their natural environment some grow to over 30m tall.

I did quite a lot of research before choosing these trees to ensure they would be suited to our climate and conditions.
They take turns at different times throughout the year at putting on a show, not just with flowers but with their beautiful new leaf growth. Many produce fruit. I've seen recipes using the fruit of a number of our trees but so far haven't tried any. I prefer to let the birds eat them.
I'll do a roll call.
This may not be everyone, bit it's most of them.
• Silky Oak  - Grevillea Robusta • Tuckeroo - Cupaniopsis anacardioides • Blue Quandong - Elaeocarpus grandis • Wheel of Fire - Stenocarpus sinuatus • Golden Penda - Xanthostemon chrysanthus • Illawarra Flame Tree - Brachychiton acerifolium • Pink Euodia - Melicope elleryana • Eumundi Quandong - Elaeocarpus Eumundi • Native frangipani - Hymenosporum Flavum • Crows Ash - Flindersia australis • Queensland Box - Lophostemon confertus • Ivory Curl - Buckinghamia celsissima and last but not least, the  lilly pillies -  Blue Lilly Pilly - Syzygium oleosum, Rose Apple Lilly Pilly – S. Moorei, Bush cherry - S. paniculatum, Powder puff lilly pilly - S. Wilsonii, Small leaf lilly pilly - S. luehmannii & S. australe.

As the trees grow taller I’ve started to mark out pathways and have started to think about under-planting. Until they were established I didn’t want other plants competing with them for nutrients but I think they are old enough to cope now.

Every class need a group photo.
Oh dear, now I know where John was moving the trailer to. 

So now I've been right around the garden and have a record of each part as it is in 2011. In a couple of years, God willing,  I will do this again and see how it has changed. That is one of the most interesting and exciting things about a garden - it is always changing.

Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Garden Tour Countdown - 3 and 2. Chookie World -

 The Chook Pen, the Bamboo and the Compost Bins

We are back today in the productive area of the garden.
This is an area we where spend a lot of time and it's very possibly Missy's favourite. Lots of lovely smells.

Looking from the back of the garden where we were yesterday.

Our chook pen - the purple palace. There's a small door on the side that opens into the bamboo area as well as the main doors. Sometimes we let the ladies roam throughout the main part of the garden, but more often we close the gate so they can scratch around under the bamboo but can't get into the rest of the garden. I don't think they mind. 

Missy having a ride on the mower while John was moving the trailer

I've posted about the bamboo quite often. With all the rain we've had this year it's powering ahead. After all, it's a very large grass and grass loves the rain and heat. We cut out the stems from a couple of years ago and use them as garden stakes, frames for tomatoes, etc.

What I'd really like to show you are the compost bins.

We have a 3 bin system. John used the hardwood planks from the pallets our pavers came on and wedged them between two star pickets. This created a  side that can be raised or lowered or completely removed as needed. When I'm shovelling the compost into the wheelbarrow I can remove one or two planks and easily get the shovel into the pile. We've used wire and the plastic covered cardboard along the back of the bins.

The planks just slide out.
We create (and use) a lot of compost. All our prunings are shredded and composted. 

John collects scraps from the fruit shop near where he works and tips them in most days. The ladies eat what they want. The rest get broken down. Each weekend we clean out the purple palace and the dropping get added the the bins. Sometimes grass clippings go in there as well, but only when we are fairly confident that they're weed free.

You can never have too much compost.

Garden Tour Countdown - 5 & 4. The shade garden and behind the pool

Speeding up the countdown now! Two at a time.

The area along the back fence behind the pool  is suffering from "out of sight out of mind" at the moment. It was very waterlogged during the flood and the grass was too soggy to mow for a few weeks. The canna have fallen over. The weeds are flourishing as well. Consequently it looks quite unkempt. The plants in the garden are healthy enough. They are a mix of golden cane palms, variagated hibiscus, draceneas, cordylines and crotons.
It needs a major clean-up. Because it's way up in the back corner I haven't bothered with it. A solid day's work would have it looking nice again. Soon.... I promise.....

Along the side fence, a mixture of rainforest trees and palms create a shady area where many plants feel at home. The soil in this area was naturally quite good but we have continued to add compost and it’s paid dividends, but again this area has been neglected a bit lately as well.

The path needs raking and it could do with some maintenance but thankfully, because it is shady and has a good covering of mulch from dropped leaves, there are very few weeds. I don't want this area to look neat and manicured. I much prefer it to look as natural as possible so I'm not all that worried that it's a bit messy.

Eventually I would like the pathway edged with a mix of broms and mondo grass but I won't be buying any. I'm prepared to wait until there are enough pups to spread along the edge of the path.   The vine with the elongated dark green leaves is Pararistolochia praevenosa which is the host plant for the Richmond birdwing butterfly. I planted this in the hope of attracting them to the garden. They are similar to the Cairns Birdwing only smaller and are endangered but have been seen across the river (1/2 km from here) so I'm hopeful. If not, it's still a lovely vine.

This area is separated from the pool area by a strip of grass which currently need mowing. At the moment we have to mow every weekend to keep the grass looking like lawn. The tree in the foreground is an avocado. It's only about 18 months old so no fruit yet.   I love avocado so can't wait for it to fruit.

Future plans - Well, I've given myself a list of jobs that need doing.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Garden Tour Countdown - 6. The Pool area

Nothing like a swim on a hot day. For us in south east Queensland the weather is warm enough for swimming from late October through to early April. So you may ask what good is a pool for the other half of the year.

When we thought about getting a pool we wanted a garden feature as well as a place to swim.

There's a spa....

.........and water fall at one end and at the other a shallow “beach” platform (about shin deep) that small children can swim in. Jumping into the pool after a day at work makes the stress of the day float away.

But the gardens surrounding the pool make it a big water feature that you can also swim in.

The Balinese hut is always a great place to be - cool, even on the hottest Summer day. There's power connected so we can cook and have dinner there on a warm evening if we want to.

In the corner behind the Balinese hut there is total shade provided by giant Stelizia Nicolai, heliconia and a few palms...
 and under them there's a variety of shade-loving plants.

This is cordyline nigra (a black cordyline about as high as I am) but because it is growing in the shade the new leaves remain pink and green for quite some time. The older leaves do eventually go black.

We're having a party in a couple of weeks and I'm sure this will be the most popular spot in the garden.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Garden Tour Countdown - 7. The Circle

Woo hoo! - over halfway through the countdown.

Our garden is quite large and divided into a number of interlocking parts. Some areas require lots of work. Others tend to look after themselves because we have chosen easy-care plants that thrive in our local conditions. I'm systematically making a record of each section so there's a complete picture of the garden.
Today's area we call the circle -  if you look at the aerial view in the sidebar you can see why.

John wanted a piece of lawn he could pamper and preen to perfection. We marked out a perfect circle. He laid the edging and top-dressed, fertilised, mowed and weeded the grass, but nature has conspired against him. Too little rain and too much rain have made achieving the perfect patch of lawn very difficult. To me, it’s green. It looks fine. It’s the gardens surrounding the grass I care about.

There are three doorways (points of entry) to this garden room.

From the side garden featured in my previous post. White wisteria grows on either side and will eventually (I hope) grow over the arbour. It looks beautiful for the month it flowers but for the rest of the year is rather boring so I’ve placed pots of dwarf bougainvillea at each corner to add a bit of interest. Being in pots, they can easily be kept in check. If they were planted in the ground they would soon take over the entire structure.

From the back patio area there's a raised wooden walkway. You can just make it out in the centre of the picture below.

The tree to the right in this photo is a Cassia javanica – the pink cassia. It’s 3 years old and yet to flower. This tree taught me a valuable lesson. Never put bromeliads under a semi-deciduous tree. Their ‘tanks” fill up with rotting leaves and they die. It is now under-planted with white cupheas and little white daisies Erigeron karvinskianus.

From the pool area.

My favourite feature in this area is the seat. It’s sunny in the morning and shaded in the afternoon – a perfect spot to enjoy the garden.

The water feature we bought recently has settled in reasonably well. The waterlillies are flowering but the fish haven't fared as well. They disappeared. I'm guessing they became food for the birds. We were hoping the plants would be enough to protect them but will have to put some wire netting over the top before we replace them.

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Garden Tour Countdown - 8. the garden along the side fence

Come with me for a walk around this area.

We’ll start outside the fernery. This bed is mainly a mix of crotons and cordylines. Eventually I would like this garden bed to be dense and overflowing with cordylines but they are still fairly small.

Along the side fence are a line of frangipani. We bought the dark red one but all the rest were grown from cuttings that John’s Mum collected from her friends at the bowls club. We planted mock orange Murraya paniculata along the fenceline behind them to protect the frangipani from wind damage and to fill in the area during Winter while the frangipani are dormant.  This is where Missy greets her doggy friends and protects the garden from people walking by. She has a partner in crime called Rambo who is even smaller than Missy and lives over the road. They yap at the big dogs or children riding bikes or whoever they think should be yapped at and, of course, to maintain your line of vision you have to run up and down through the garden. 

To continue our walk around, next we come to the lemon and lime trees in the corner. My brother gave them to John 5 years ago for his birthday. They are both wonderfully productive trees. The branches on the lemon tree are weighed down with fruit which will ripen in Autumn/Winter. We love them and plan on planting more citrus.

The beds along the back fence have a row of golden cane palms alternating with variegated hibiscus to create a screen and an assortment of plants including Alternantheras, Cannas, Dracaenas, Crotons and Coleus – chosen because they basically look after themselves with very little care and they were all propagated from cutting or division so didn’t cost anything.

The back fence from a distance. As you can see, this area is roughly rectangular.

Then as we turn the corner you can just see in to the next area of the garden we'll look at tomorrow. (the circle).
This is the other end of the tunnel from the bromeliad garden. We have to redesign the pathway as the Balinese agave Furcraea foetida 'Medio Picta' keeps growing larger and larger.
The Bismark Palm is the focal point of this area but the Calliandra gives it a run for its money when it’s in full bloom.

Turning the corner the bed on this side is a row of golden canes underplanted with a mix of lime green and orange - ground cover of ornamental sweet potato Ipomoea batatas, Bromeliad Aechmea Blanchetiana Orange, Heliconia Psittacorum and the occasional coleus to fill in any empty spaces.

……… and that brings us back to where we started.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Garden Tour Countdown - 9. The Fernery

John built the fernery not long after we moved into our house in 2006. It is outside our bathrooms so as well as looking good provides privacy. It all started with a tray of 25 tiny tubestock ferns bought at the Rocklea Markets. We grew them on in pots until they were big enough to plant in the ground or in hanging baskets. For those we planted in the ground we mixed Coir peat (made from coconut husks) into the soil to help retain moisture. The ferns planted in the ground have thrived – so much so that we have had to thin them out each year and get rid of those with more aggressive growth so they don't smother their smaller friends. They are actually due to be thinned out at the moment.

The hanging baskets require more work and are much fussier. To keep them healthy we dip them from time to time in a large tub of a fish emulsion and seaweed extract mixture. They need regular watering and I've lost quite a few over time by forgetting to water for a couple of days in very hot weather.

One of our luxuries is to sit in the bath and look out on the fernery.


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