Friday, 26 April 2013

A perfect time for gardening

Gardeners know that although there is work to be done throughout the year some seasons beckon the them to come out and play more than others.

Bright sunny skies and a soft cool breeze make this time of year just perfect for spending time on the garden.

Each season has its good points in our garden.
Spring brings new growth and warmth after the chill of Winter which in turn gives us a chance to catch our breath and to undertake landscaping projects and redesign the garden.
Summer is a time of lush growth and enjoying the longer daylight hours, but it can also be a frantic time for maintenance - keeping the grass mowed, weeding and trimming back plants whose growth is a bit too exuberant.
Autumn has it's own worth. In the subtropics, we rarely get to  see the changing colour or falling of leaves. What we have are clear blue skies and mild temperatures to greet us each day and tempt us into the garden.
The vegetable patch is full speed ahead at this time of year. We eat salads all year round and it won't be long before these lettuce are ready to harvest.
The bok choy and pak choy are destined for stir-fries. The carrots have spouted but we'll have to wait a while for them yet (and the broccoli). We're already using the basil, parsley and chives.
The mizuna is powering on as well - destined for salads mainly.
The passionfruit flowers are turning into fruit.
The eggplants are ripening. Eggplant lasagne - YUM! - with a home grown salad.
There is more coriander that we will ever use. I saved seed from last years plants and scattered a few (well quite a few). I think they must have all germinated because we have hundreds of seedlings.
We don't have the beauty of trees turning golden and red but Autumn in the subtropics has its own special beauty and bounty.

Monday, 22 April 2013

A Perfect Autumn Day

Autumn has begun.
I know that officially it began at the start of March but the weather has seemed more like Summer (with heat and rain) until now. The evenings and mornings are cooler and the weather is fine and sunny. It's a beautiful time of year.

The fragrant Hedychium gingers are blooming a little late this year but very welcome. I wish there was smell-a-vision to share their perfume with you.

Meanwhile, winter flowering plants like the Brazilian Red Cloak and calliandras are also blooming.
We are experiencing the best of both seasons in the garden at the moment.

Our climate allows us to garden all year round with different plants looking their best in each season. In planning the garden I've tried to include plants for each season and somewhat succeeded. Most of my cool weather bloomers, I've realised, have red flowers. They make the garden feel warmer and brighter on cold days and look so good against the greens.

I didn't do a lot in the garden over the weekend, just a bit of weeding and watering the vegetable patch (which is coming along nicely) but this weather is making me want to take some time off work to spend digging in the dirt and playing with plants.

The weekend wasn't wasted however. We spent the afternoon yesterday with some wonderful friends and on Saturday I finished two paintings I've been working on for a while.

This one had been sitting unfinished in a corner for a few years.

I am so enjoying getting back into painting. I haven't painted for ages and I'm very much an amateur, but it's relaxing and enjoyable. It also makes you appreciate your surroundings with renewed vision - to notice the small details, the play of light on a leaf, the colours and shapes of clouds, the fall of shadows. For me, it makes the world a more interesting place.

Tuesday, 16 April 2013

April flowers for GBBD

I love joining in Garden Blogger's Bloom Day. It's a chance to share my garden with other gardeners from around the world and to see their beautiful blooms. It has enabled me to see flowers
I never knew existed, visit beaytiful gardens and to experience Spring when it's Autumn here.

 I haven't joined in for quite some time, mainly  because I've been slack and when the 15th of each month arrives I haven't taken any photos. This month I am prepared (well more than usually anyway).

I wandered around my garden on Sunday with camera in hand and discovered quite a few blooms.
It's mid-Autumn but some of the Summer flowerers are still blooming as well.

The cannas will start to die back soon but still have a few flowers left.

There are still new blooms opening but they won't last long if we have a couple of cold mornings.

We've had quite a bit of rain and the blue ginger (which is not really a ginger at all) has responded by flowering. Hiding down below it is a bromeliad in bloom.

I rescued this plant from a friend's yard.  They had it growing in full sun and thought it looked ugly.  The poor thing was sunburnt and parched. It loves it's home in dappled light under a palm tree and in gratitude it flowers regularly and has become a large clump of plants. 

These bromeliads flower quite regularly as well. They like to be in the sun but are tolerating part shade at the moment. I'll divide them soon and plant some in a sunnier spot. In the sun they turn a brilliant pinky-orange.
Below the brom you may be able to see is another plant in flower - tiny white and purple  flowers.

This native violet (Viola hederacea) is a great goundcover for shady areas and so sweet. The flowers are about the size of a fingernail. (oops - a few weeds in there as well)

Nearby, frangipanis are still in bloom. They have begun dropping their leaves for Winter though so there won't be too many more flowers for a while.

The hibiscus seem to flower on and off throughout the year. They form an informal hedge around part of the pool area and need to be pruned a couple of times a year.

There are always a couple of blooms peeking trough the pool fence.

A couple of heliconias are still blooming

Pentas seem to prefer the cooler weather

The tibouchina is an Autumn bloomer

Bauhinia corymbosa is covered in flowers again.

Last but not least - passionfruit flowers on our new vines are a welcome sight.

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Tree dwelling chickens

The new girls have finally settled in to the purple palace.

For a while the older ladies had them bluffed and they would huddle together waiting to be picked on - either standing on their food bin or in a corner of the pen.  Feeding them vegetable scraps was like refereeing a boxing match - feather weight vs bantam weight.

That was until we gave them their own tree.

It's just a branch off a tree that was damaged during the storms in January. The girls spend most of their day climbing up and down or perched on a branch now. Even the older ladies have decided to become tree dwellers. It seems to have created much more harmony in the chook pen. Everyone has a turn.

We've started getting little eggs too - little white ones - so I'm not quite sure who has started laying - I'm guessing the black and white one.

The spirit of sharing and harmony must be catching. Usually the lorikeets and galahs will try to chase each other away. It's rare to see them eating together.

If birds can learn to share and live peacefully, maybe ........
Am I asking too much to expect it of humans?

Monday, 8 April 2013

Back in the veggie patch

I grow most vegetables during the cooler months of the year. In Summer there are numerous challenges - heat, humidity, heavy rain, bugs, bugs and more bugs and the range we can grow is limited. Autumn and Winter are perfect growing months for so many things. Usually Easter marks the restart of the veggie patch but this year it snuck up on me before I was ready. So, better late than never, over the weekend we got everything underway. John and I spent most of the weekend in the garden.

The beds were dug and refreshed with compost, blood and bone, etc.  I planted a real mixture - seeds  directly sown in the garden, seeds into seed trays and seedlings (some purchased and some raised in our shadehouse).  - Carrots, snow peas, beetroot, shallots, rocket, beans and broccholi seeds sown directly. Lettuce, strawberries and tomatoes bought as seedlings. Parsley, pak choy, bok choy and basil  seedlings raised by us.
Everything was covered with a layer of mulch when we'd finished.

Plus - lots of seeds into a variety of trays and containers will be ready to plant out over the coming weeks.
It's hard to describe how much I enjoy growing things and especially things to eat. But then, for another gardener, I'm sure I don't have to.

We've left the frame we used to protect the lettuce in summer but removed the shade cloth. They will be fine without any protection from the sun this time of year.
In the background are a few of our summer survivors. The sweet potato has almost filled the bed and engulfed the capsicum plants (sickly with no fruit), the lone tomato (lots of fruit but being eaten by bugs) and the eggplants. I hope we get a few sweet potato to eat and it's not just all show. I haven't dug around in there yet.

At least the eggplants are going well. I tried the white eggplant as well as the purple this year. 

There are still some aspasagus spears coming up. (also over-run with the sweet potato vine)
Since I discovered how nice they are raw and straight from the garden, very few make it inside anymore.

We have had a lot of rain recently. Look how lush the mint and comphrey are, and I haven't been watering. These are grown down the shady end of the veggie patch with the gingers and herbs that don't like too much sun.
So all the hard work is done and with a bit of TLC we will soon be harvesting our produce.
What's not to like about gardening.

Friday, 5 April 2013

A new path

John has been busy working on a new project - creating pathways through the garden.

We bought a couple of plastic cement moulds online - one for the pathway and one for the edging.

Step by step:

Clear and level the pathway and put the mould in place.
Mix cement, sand and gravel with water in the wheelbarrow.
Fill the mould.
John also added some cement colouring to give a more natural look.
Wait a few minutes then remove the mould.
Smooth off any rough edges, and wait for your cement to set.
Fill in between the gaps. John used deco (decomposed granite)
Final inspection.


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