Monday, 25 February 2013

A Pain in the Neck

I haven't been out in the garden very much recently.
In part because it seems to rain every weekend.  - Not surprising. After all, this is our wet season.
The other reason is that I've hurt my neck and can't do much. A few minutes of weeding is more than enough at the moment - It's very frustrating because there's so much to do.
I need to take lessons from Missy on how to supervise. She looks like she's napping while she does it.

You will note all of these photos are close-ups so as not to show the weeds.

Waterlily about to bloom
I am often curious about the garden and why plants do the things they do. I'm guessing that quite a few Summer bloomers must be responding to rain or maybe humidity rather than heat or length of day. Our wet season was a little late in starting this year and some of the plants that usually are in bloom at the start of the year have only just started flowering since the rain began.

Our first canna bloom for the year - better late than never
Heliconia rostrata
The heliconias got knocked about in the Australia Day weekend storm and lost a few stems but this one seems to have recovered already. I'm hoping some of my other heliconias start flowering soon.

White agapanthus
Certain plants are even flowering out of season. The agapanthus that bloomed in Spring have a second flush of flowers and the Tibouchina usually flowers in Autumn but look it.
It deserves a second look..... a bit closer
Tibouchina Alstonville
People might complain about rain, but plants certainly love it.

Another thing I discovered while checking out the garden - extremely large caterpillars eating the alocasias in our pond.
If anyone can shed light on what they are I'd be grateful. They start out green and end up a pinky-brown (maybe because they are munching on red/black leaves) and they are about 6-7cm long.
They've demolished almost the entire plant.
On a brighter note... another surprise
An orchid we adopted from John's mothers' house is flowering - Again I haven't a clue what it is, but it's lovely.

It's raining at the moment and there's more forecast.

Did I just see that croton smile?

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

My Favourite Flowering Shrubs

Whether they are part of the understorey beneath our palms and other trees, a stand-alone specimen or part of a screen along our fence-line, shrubs play important roles in Missy’s garden. With an acre to fill we needed to garden on a larger scale than you would when planning a courtyard garden or even a small backyard, so shrubs become a staple component. We had lots of spaces to fill when the garden was new and water restrictions meant that we could choose only the hardiest of plants. Some of the shrubs I chose didn't cope with our conditions. Others have thrived. Some have been removed and replaced because they thrived a little too well and needed constant pruning. If trees are the framework of a garden then shrubs must be the walls.

What makes a shrub one of my favourites?
  • It must look good for most of the year.
  • It must be suitable for our sub-tropical climate - able to cope with long dry spells as well as the occasional drenching and with heat as well as the occasional frost.
  • It must be low maintenance. I don’t have time for constant preening and fussing.
  • Ideally, it should grow from a cutting. I like the idea of buying one or two and propagating more.

1.    Golden Candles (Pachystachys lutea) is quite an old fashioned plant.  The floral spikes consist of golden yellow bracts with white flowers. The bracts remain on the plant, retaining their colour, long after the flowers have fallen.   Two of my Golden Candles are planted in a lightly shaded spot in the garden and are almost continuously in flower. I have another in denser shade should move it because it has spindly growth and very few flowers. Small honeyeater birds love this shrub. 

2.    Allamanda cathartica Stansill's Double', a cultivar with double flowers
This plant is not a climbing plant but it lends itself really well to being tied to some kind of support. The long, trailing woody branches can be easily directed and tied up to look like a vine. Without support, you can prune it into a gorgeous shrub. They need to be pruned heavily in spring and summer to keep their shape and encourage flowers. You can grow new plants from the prunings. Alamanda also come in single & double flower, white, purple, pink or orange.
3.    Brazilian Red Cloak (Megaskepasma erythrochlamys) In flower this is a brilliant plant. Mine flowers in late summer and autumn. It’s relatively easy to grow but is quite weak-stemmed and can
suffer damage in storms. Again, you can grow new plants from cuttings, and it's surpising how quickly they grow.
4.    Justica carnia like at least part shade and will survive some neglect but seem to respond to regular watering and fertilising (or a good downpour of rain) by flowering profusely. Mine are under frangipani so have winter sunshine but part-shade in summer. Justicas (in general) come in a wide variety of colours and flower types - lots to collect. Most can be propagated from cuttings.
5. Hibiscus – hibiscus rosa-sinensis
What’s not to like. Dark green foliage and beautiful flowers in a huge range of colours. Some can grow to around 5m if not trimmed.
They are pruned each Winter.  Flowers can be single or double.  Foliage can be variegated eg "Snow Queen". 
They like a full sun and well drained soil. It's important they don't get wet feet. I fertilise my grafted bushes with a specialised hibiscus food to promote flowering, but the older varieties seem to flower without any special care. I have some as feature plants and some along a fenceline as an informal hedge.

6.    Calliandra tweedii is a smaller growing calliandra (up to 2m). For most of the year it is covered in red pompoms – at its best over winter. It’s a tough plant and will tolerate dry conditions. An occasional trim keeps it in shape. (I haven’t grown one from a cutting but they self-seed)

7.    Mussaeandas have been my greatest challenge to grow but they are a favourite because they are spectacular and I know they do well in this area – I just need to learn how to grow them and get them established. When they are deciduous in winter they should be kept dry but need frequent watering when the weather is hot. I currently have two and I’m hoping that since they’ve survived a winter and a summer they are in my garden to stay. (the photo is from someone else's garden - mine is still quite scawny)
8.    Ixoras (ixora coccinea) bloom for much of the year and look good even when not in bloom. I have a few different colours (pink, orange and coral) but there are more I’d like to collect. They seem to do equally well in sun or shade.
Although ixoras can grow to 2m in height, mine are about 1m or less in height. A couple are dwarf varieties. They rarely need pruning, will grow from cuttings and add great colour.
9.    Mock Orange (Murraya paniculata) has rich, glossy, green foliage and makes a great hedging shrub.  It grows in full sun to part shade and will tolerate most soil types.  I’ve propagated them from both cutting and seed. Very easy to grow but requires trimming to maintain height otherwise can become quite large.  Highly scented, white flowers are prolific after rain.
10. Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulchemima) A favourite because they provide bright colour in winter. If you want a plant that will grow easily from cuttings, these are the best. They need to be pruned heavily at the end of winter and should be pruned again in February to keep their shape. We have a red double and a white poinsettia. They also come in pink and yellow and even with variegated leaves.

When I started to write this post I intended combining flowering and non-flowering shrubs but I have so many favourites I’ll cover non-flowering shrubs in another post.
What are your favourite shrubs?


Sunday, 3 February 2013

When John sleeps in

I know they had to make some repairs after the storms but it looked like they were back in business. I wouldn't have booked a table for breakfast if I'd known the service would be so bad.
Hey waiter!  Can we get some service over here!
How long do I have to wait for my breakfast?
It's disgusting. It's embarrassing.
I arranged to  have breakfast with some friends.
I told them this place had the best food around.
They're whispering about me over there.
I won't be able to show my face in the flock again.
What are you complaining about?
We couldn't even get a table.
They usually have plenty of food at this time of the morning.
So - should we just wait patiently or go look for a new restaurant?
Where is that waiter!!!
Where is our breakfast?



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