Sunday, 26 February 2012

Gaining Garden Inspiration

Between the scattered showers and the heavy downpours we did very little in the garden this weekend.   We did, however, visit one of the best tropical gardens in Australia. Dennis Hunscheidt opens his garden to the public once a year. I hadn't seen it for a few years and even though it was raining I didn't want to miss it.

So what is it I love so much about this garden.
I'll show you.

Throughout the garden there are numerous water features - each perfectly placed to complement their surrounds.

Around every corner you discover something new.

As you walk through the garden you are never far from the sound of water - bubbling urns, cascading fountains and waterfalls and streams and ponds.

Some of the ponds were a little muddy due to all the rain we've had but still looked fantastic. I love how the grass grows right to the edge with this one.

Their pool is a giant water feature as well, I think.

Dennis describes his garden as tropical Asian style with a strong Balinese and Thai influence.

The garden is a series of garden rooms connected by paths and gateways.

A glimpse of the next room tempts you to move on.

This is a garden to explore and discover.

As a gardener, the paths themselves inspire me.

Pavilions and garden seating tempt you to stay a while and enjoy the garden.

This is a garden to sit and relax and just take in the beauty that surrounds you.

Whenever I visit Dennis' garden I am in awe. The design elements of this garden seem to me to be perfect. The overall layout, the transition from one area to the next, the use of garden features, the use of space, symmetry and perspective, the use of plants as design elements - and that each element complements the others and the overall theme. ....and yet I know that he is constantly changing it and trying new things.

Stone artifacts throughout the garden  add to the tropical Asian theme. Their careful placement means that they complement never overwhelm the real stars of this garden.
Over a hundred different species of palms help form the canopy for a range of plants that would be the envy of many botanic gardens. The garden is packed with plants. Many are rare or unusual and all appear in perfect health. The garden is set on two thousand square meters (That's half the size of Missy's)  but would have at least a hundred (maybe a thousand) times as many plants as ours. There doesn't seem to be space for one more plant, but as all gardeners know, for the right plant I bet there would be.
I have to show you a couple of my favourites.
I 've never seen such a variety of beehive gingers and all perfect specimens. I didn't photograph all of them.... and....I must admit one came home with us from Dennis' plant sale.

Bromeliads feature throughout the garden - often as a border plant or as a "filler".

Giant bromeliads (Alcantarea imperialis) are also used as feature plants.

They are even covering palm trunks.
Many were in flower. Look at the size of the flower spike on the one on the right.

In case I get a bit despondent that our garden will never look as good, or envious of his collection of amazing plants, I remind myself that to Dennis, this garden is his livelihood. He is a professional gardener with many years of experience and a professional garden designer. He earns his living creating beautiful gardens for clients, conducting gardening classes and consulting.

I am happy just to see his garden, to learn from it and to be inspired.

Monday, 20 February 2012

My garden is on the nose

If you put your face very very close to the screen, I'm sure you will be able to smell these beautiful ginger blooms.

Come a bit closer.

How about now?

What about this one?
It has a slightly different fragrance.

Well it's a pity.

The fragrance is divine.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

Don't take palms for granted

Palms are an essential part of our garden. When we first began the garden we planted dozens of palms of different varieties - some in groves to provide shade, some in a line to form a screen or windbreak and some as individual specimens. The original ones are now about 5 years old and, while most are still not at their mature height, they are the tallest plants in our garden.
David from Tropical Texana asked me to show some of our palms. He made me realise that lately the only time I really think about the palms is when I'm collecting fallen palm fronds.

Palms form the skeleton and the background to the garden.

They tower over the rest of the garden plants, providing a layered effect as well as shade.

They compliment their underplanting of cycads, philodenrons, etc

They keep growing happily, even while the plants at their base get all the attention,
but, palms can also be feature plants.

Maybe I need to look UP more often.

The Bismark Palm demands attention with it's huge grey fan-shaped leaves.
Even though this palm is still young, its fronds are almost 2 metres wide already.

The triangle palm attracts attention with its shape.
The fronds grow from the trunk as a perfect triangle. 

Its trunk's not bad either.

...and when it comes to unusual trunks,
guess how the Red Neck Palm got its name.

Red, you said.
The Red Latin Palm has red fronds.
When they first form they are completely red, then change to green with red highlights as they age.

The Alexandra's seeds attract attention as well

especially from the local birds.

The inflorescence begins like this and then changes to red or orange as the seeds form.

 There is such a variety of colour, shape and texture in palm fronds.

I really shouldn't take them for granted.
Thanks David for reminding me. 

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Making more plants

We have a large garden and could never afford to buy enough plants to fill it without propogating our own - besides - creating new plants is fun to a gardener.
Before deciding to buy a plant in a nursery, a major consideration is often whether it has the potential to give me more plants in the future. I feel better about spending the money if I can imagine in a year or so there will be a whole row of plants from the one I bought.

Of course, all plants reproduce naturally. We just give them a helping hand. Some produce seed. Some form clumps that can be divided. Others send out runners. Some even produce their own baby plantlets.
It's amazing just how many plants will grow from a cutting. This would have to be the easiest way to get new plants for the garden.

The 3 C's of a tropical garden, crotons, cordylines and coleus can simply be cut and placed in a jar of water until the roots form. It's best to remove most of the leaves so the plant isn't using up nutrients keeping the leaves healthy, but they will usually shoot even if you don't remove the leaves.

These croton cuttings were placed in water early December and just left outside with an occasional top up of water until mid January. (about 6 weeks) Once the roots are formed, they are planted in potting mix for a further month or two.

This is what they look like now potted up.
I won't transplant them into the garden until they have a nice thick root system.


Alternatively you can just poke them into a propogating mix. (I use a mix of peat moss, potting mix and sand - roughly equal amounts) I want the cuttings to stay moist but not soggy or they will rot.
John collects styrofoam boxes from the same fruit shop that gives us the scraps for the chickens. They make great planter boxes for cuttings. Our shadehouse is next to the vegie patch so the cuttings get a regular watering while I water the vegies. They'll be ready to plant out into the garden in about 6-8 weeks.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

Are there gardening genes?

I’ve discovered that my love of growing things may be genetic.

On Christmas day, I was talking with my uncle about family history, and about my great great grandfather who, apparently was an early pioneer/settler of the Rockhampton region. He sparked my curiosity so while driving home from our holidays, we detoured slightly to see if we could find the old homestead and graveyard. There were streets and even a bridge named after him but we didn’t really know where to look.

I have kept searching and with the wonders of the internet and google maps, I’ve since located it. I'll go exploring in person next time I’m near there. I was also able to find quite a number of old newspaper articles about him including his obituary on He lived to 91 and was well known in the district. 

He arrived from Ireland on the ship “Bayswater” at age 19 with his new bride in 1864.

For a while he worked as a contractor building fences and stockyards around the district until he was employed by the Archer and Co to build fences in 1868. They were the original settlers of the Rockhampton district in 1855. After completing the fencing he was employed as a farmhand on their cattle station. Then, after two years, he was placed in charge of the orchard and garden – described as “a place of beauty growing all kinds of fruit and vegetables”. Ahaa, says I – He had a green thumb. The road into the old homestead is lined on either side for 1½ km with tamarind trees which he may have planted. Remnants of the original orchard still remain too apparently - so I’d love to see it.

He was later in charge of another property - the Shorthorn Stud where all the growing of feed for the cattle was also to be carried on, but he determined the soil was too poor to grow feed good enough for stud cattle, so chose a different location on the other side of the creek which, of course, led to a bridge being needed. The bridge we saw is to commemorate the one he built. Among his achievements were building the first grain silo in Qld, and later, being in charge of the district dairy and butter factory.

He retired in 1908 and went to live with one of his sons where he continued growing vegetables and keeping chickens. In his retirement he became well known for winning first prize at the Rockhampton Agricultural Show many times for both his vegetables and his poultry.

The greenness of the thumb has faded slightly over the generations but it’s nice to know, in my small way, I’m carrying on old James’s legacy.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Leibster Blogs

What a lovely surprise. Marisa from Onslow and Miss B has given me a Liebster Blog Award. Thank you so much Marisa and Missy says to give Onlow and Miss B a pat from her (although Missy will never believe that two dogs are better than one). Marisa's garden is in the same part of the world as ours and is full of wonderful  sub-tropical lushness. She also features usual plants she finds elsewhere, so I often learn about a new plant to add to my wishlist when I visit her blog.

Liebster is German for ‘favourite’. The Liebster Award is given to blogs with less than 200 followers. In accepting this award, the recipient must pass it on to 5 favourite up and coming blogs with less than 200 followers.

There are so many blogs I visit and enjoy it's hard to pick five. If you've never visited these blogs before, you are in for a treat.

 1. Quarry Garden Stained Glass - Karen not only has one of the best gardens I've ever seen, but a wicked sense of humour as well.
2. Mrs Bok and the Bok Flock - Mrs Bok has a busy job (or two) but still finds time for the little Boks, the feathered flock, Tim Tam and a bountiful vegie patch.
3. Andrea in this Lifetime - has a truely tropical garden, wonderful photography and has a wealth of botanical knowledge
4. Tropical Texana - an industrious subtropical gardener in Texas who also has a great sense of humour and a flock of chickens
5. AfricanAussie - who has recently been away on holidays but is one of my all-time favourite bloggers. Her tropical garden is both beautiful and productive.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Flowers and Fertiliser - First Friday in Feb

The beehive ginger clump near our back patio is becoming huge. Might need to divide it and plant some in other parts of the garden after it finishes flowering.

 I don't recall the name of this ginger. I just call it the orange one.

We have had heaps of rain over the past couple of weeks. Not unexpected. This is our wet season.
The plants love it and I don't mind either, as long as there's a bit of time between showers to get out in the garden.  Gardening is great when it's cooler and overcast and the ground is wet.
Last weekend the entire garden got a good feed of pelletised fowl manure. With so much rain, I'm sure the soil nutrients needed a top up. We've also been buying mushroom compost by the trailer load to spread around the garden. It's quite economical and plants respond well.

The heliconias bloom at this time each year.  This is another plant that's been divided as the clumps got larger and is now in several spots around the garden.

These heliconias look like they need more fertiliser. They are quite a hungry plant during Summer.

I love allamanda. It grows happily along the fence with just a prune now and then to keep it from taking off into nearby trees.

We have a single and a double - plus a recently acquired pinkish one which hasn't flowered yet.

With all the rain the Murraya are blooming. They make a great close-up subject to practice depth of field.

Our big orange broms - Aechmea blanchetiana - are sending out flower spikes. The aim is to have a whole bed of these sun tolerant beauties. I started with one and keep spreading them as they set pups.

The self-seeded pawpaw trees are flowering as well.

In the rainforest area, the euodia are flowering. Butterflies and lorikeets love these flowers.

I'm looking forward to getting out in the garden this weekend to do a some weeding and trimming and maybe even some planting. More rain is forecast but hopefully it won't be too hot and there'll be some breaks between the showers. We may also get another load of mushroom compost to spread around.

Check out what flowers other people have in their gardens



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