Monday, 26 March 2012

Mega -pruning

We "pruned" our Strelitzia nicolai on the weekend. I'm sure pruning's not the right word - maybe hack, slash and crash would describe the process more accurately.

Strelitzia nicolai grow very tall and form large clumps which is all very fine, to a point, BUT they were crowding out everything else in their corner of the garden. They had to be thinned out. When they get too tall they form a long brown trunk with a cluster of leaves on top. Their large blue and white flowers form up amongst the leaves so we don't get to see and enjoy them anyway.

John attacked them with an axe and a saw while I chopped the leaves off the felled trunks. We attached a rope to some to control their fall and reduce damage to the rest of the garden. This was definitely a job for two people. There's a licuala ramsayi  and a bamboo palm under them that have never seen the sun. I'm hoping that we don't get any really hot days or they may burn.

Once they are felled the remaining trunk can be hacked back close to ground level. Luckily their trunks are much softer that tree trunks. The younger smaller plants will soon fill the void. Some of the plants we left are already about 3 metres tall, so it won't take long.

There was a huge pile of vegetation. This is just what I dragged out to give John room to work.

 The trunks will be taken to the dump but the leaves were all shedded to make mulch for the garden. Bringing the shredder to the garden means that it goes directly to where it will be used as mulch.
Not a bad days work.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

My Top 10 Favourite Groundcovers

To become a favourite in Missy's garden, a groundcover must meet a few essential criteria. They must keep the weeds at bay and not require too much watering. They must not only look attractive but compliment the other plants around and above them. They should spread to fill their given area but not become rampant and overtake everything else. They must grow from either cuttings or seeds and be easy to propagate. (ie. be cost effective)


1. Rhoeo – Tradescantia spathacea grows in full sun or semi shade (in full shade it starts looking a bit scrappy). One rosette will soon produce a large clump. We use it as a border plant or as a ground cover. It comes in two sizes and different colour variants. The only thing it hates is too much water, particularly over winter. It will rot away. Snails will hide under it and have a good feast as well.


2. Purple heart Tradescantia pallida is a close relative and another easy to grow groundcover. Its use is a little limited because, as the fashion industry learnt during the 70’s, not everything goes with purple. It can also spread a little too readily if not controlled. John calls it a weed because it grows a little too well, but I like it.

They both come from the Wandering Jew family which are all easy to grow… In fact, one of their cousins, Tradescantia Fluminensis is classed as a noxious weed because it grows a bit too easily.


3. Ornamental Sweet Potato - Ipomoea batatas comes in lime green, dark purple, and a paler mix of green and red.
It will grow in full sun or part shade and is another fast spreader. Along the edge of the bed, the mower gives it a quick trim. It will grow from cuttings or tubers. During winter, it tends to suffer a bit, but bounces back in Spring. The lime green looks great under our heliconias.

The pink and green is planted under a salmon flowering justica and the darker purple is planted under some orange flowering canna tropicana and coleus.


4. Acalypha pendula – a prostrate form of cat’s tail or chenille plant prefers sun but will grow in light shade.


5. Good old nasturtiums probably should have top billing on my favourites list. We planted some in various parts of the garden as a quick and easy groundcover when we first started the garden. They have an added bonus of being a great nitrogen fixing plant apparently. Each year during winter the self-seeded progeny of those original nasturtiums fill the gaps left by plants that go dormant over winter. They're just starting to pop up around the garden at the moment.


6. Variegated jasmine - Trachelospermum jasminoides 'Tricolor' is actually a vine but grows happily along the ground. It seems equally at home in sun or shade and once established doesn’t mind going withour water for a while.


7. Seaside daisy - Erigeron karvinskianus flowers for most of the year (mainly in spring). I bought a punnet of 6 seedlings a few years ago and they’ve been happily spreading out ever since.


8. Mondo grass Ophiopogon japonicas – comes in different sizes and colours. The mini mondo is perfect for small areas. It won’t usually overstep its territory and is easy to pull out if it does. Its larger cousin will spread quite quickly given the right conditions. Both will grow in full sun but do better in part-shade. The black seems to do best in dry shaded areas and, for me at least, has been quite slow growing.


9. Temple Grass or Zoisya Grass – Took a while to get established (possibly because the soil was poor) but once it settled in formed a knobbly green carpet.


10. The neoregelias are not something you may think of as a ground cover but some spread to cover a reasonable area – the red centred - Neoregelia McWilliamsii plus the matchstick bromeliad - Aechmea gamosepala are two that spring to mind.

None of these are fancy plants. They are the work horses of the garden. They are cheap, easy to grow and serve a very important role - cutting down on the gardener's need to weed and water. That's what makes them my favourites.
There are lots of great groundcovers. What are your favourites?

Thursday, 22 March 2012

John's Escaping

 Soon, Missy won't have to look after the place all by herself.

John is escaping the rat race.


He’s being let out of his cage.
 He is retiring.

He’s set the date and given his notice.

He has eight weeks left to work.
He's counting down the days.

I'm really happy for him, but....
 must make a confession.
I’m a wee bit jealous.

I’m committed to the rat race for a while yet.
(That's me in the red car)

He tells me he will be busy working hard at home.

He has many projects to occupy his time.
There are always lots of jobs to do in the garden.
He says I will come home to a clean house and cooked dinner every night.
I'll like that!
We'll both have more free time on weekends.
He can see his grandchildren more often.
(instead of a quick occasional visit)
The boat he's been building may get finished and launched.
Finally
He's not thinking of it as retirement, merely becoming self-employed.
He'll do the work he hasn't had time to do because he's been going to work each day.


As I sit in the traffic on my way to work
I picture him relaxing and enjoying life.

 
I bet he sleeps in sometimes.

I would.

 

Friday, 16 March 2012

Too little, too late

Our vegie garden is looking a bit of a wreck at the moment. When we got home from holidays in January I thought I would try to squeeze in an extra Summer planting. I should have known better. I usually give the vegie garden a rest in late Summer, but I got carried away seeing other people's gardens and thought I'd see what happened.

It's a tragic tale.

Too late in the season
The first crop of corn I planted in early Summer produced large sweet and succulent cobs. This second planting... well I'll let the picture speak for itself...

From a distance they don't look too bad. the leaves are healthy enough and there are flowers and cobs forming, but the cobs are skinny and aren't forming properly.


I do believe, however, that the grasshoppers appreciated the feast, so at least someone benefited.


The eggplants that I planted in Spring are still healthy and still bearing (athough smaller than the earlier ones).

Too much rain
The squash and zucchini haven't fared much better. Mildew on their leaves and any zucchinis that didn't rot look so shriveled we didn't bother eating them.

My spring onions look rather ragged too. I dislodged quite a few trying to weed around them.
The weeds are growing very well. Lots of heat and rain produces a great crop of weeds. To make things worse I think the compost we used hadn't "cooked" enough to kill seeds and that may have aded to the weed problem.

Too much heat

The lettuce grows well and looks great (for a week or so) until bolting to seed. The ladies have eaten more of them than we have.

The watermelon vine was planted in early December but was neglected while we were away. I probably should have pulled it out, but I left it there and hoped it may come back to life. It did, but too late in the season for the poor thing to bear fruit. Any fruit that does form, reachs golf ball size and then disappears.


I also planted some rockmelon vines in the same area in January. Our rainy weather has produced mildewed leaves and not much else. It's hard to tell which little golf balls are rockmelon and which are watermelon (and probably doesn't matter).


So lessons have been learnt. My big mistake was to plant at the wrong time. I should have known better. 

To my surprise
The beetroot and carrots are OK and the radish were crisp and tasty.

The herbs and chilli plants in pots are also fine - maybe because they're perennials and love the heat.

The sunflowers are just starting to bloom.

In a couple of weeks I'll rip almost everything out, give it a refresh and think about what we want for Winter crops. Over the Easter break I'll start planting. For gardeners, one bad season is soon forgotten as we look forward to the next.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Playing with extension tubes

Santa brought me a set of extension tubes for Christmas and it's taken a while to start playing with them and learn how to use them.

John and I set the camera on a tripod and lined up the subject (a clump of tiny mushrooms). We also used the cable shutter release to minimise movement while taking the photos.

It was quite easy. You can zoom in with the LCD screen to focus finely on your subject. You can even lock on the subject in focus and carefully move the camera so it is in a new position on the screen without losing focus.
There were four tubes in the set. By using different sized tubes or a combination of tubes, you can achieve different magnification. By changing the focal length (f) on the camera  you can focus on one mushroom only or the entire group.


For our purposes, any flower from the garden would make a good subject....
We collected a few and played a bit more.....

A hibiscus stamen using a very narrow depth of field with just a few clumps of pollen in focus.

Murraya made a great subject

Probably a bit too close -
 We took a series of shots at various focal lengths and various exposures to see the difference it made.
a pawpaw flower

Of course extension tubes are not as effective for macros as a proper macro lens, but then they are very much less expensive. I'm happy to experiment with them and keep learning. For a very amateur photographer like me they are perfect. Thanks again Santa.

Friday, 9 March 2012

March friday flowers

 I don't think the garden has realised yet that we are in Autumn. It's been raining heavily and the temperatures are still very warm. If I was a plant I'd be confused.

The frangipanis are still flowering. Although it's hard to find flowers that haven't been knocked about by the rain.
They'll stop flowering soon and lose all their leaves over Winter, so it's good to still be able to appreciate them.

The tibouchina which flowers in Autumn has started blooming. It's covered in buds so will be putting on quite a show over the coming weeks.


The pentas are still in flower


The gingers are still flowering but will soon start hibernating for Winter

 and the heliconias will do the same.

Ixora have quite a long flowering period, so we can expect them to keep going for some time.

The Brazilian Red Cloak is just starting to come into bloom - definitiely an Autumn bloomer.

Strelizia bloom for most of the year it seems

The calliandra seem to flower more as the weather cools or maybe they just like the rain.....
The canna will start dying back soon so this will probably be its last flower for a while.
We are fortunate in Queensland that we have something in flower all year round. In Missy's garden I've try to include a range so that there are year round flowers.
As the seasons change, I'd like to share my garden and see what flowers are blooming elsewhere, so I'm joining Floral Friday Fotos



and Tootsies Flaunt your Flowers Friday

Go to their blogs to see many many more blooms.

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