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Finding Delights In The Dry And Desolate ... mid-Spring 2011

Category: My Dry Tropics Garden | Posted: Sun Oct 16, 2011 7:31 am

The dry season marches on in my corner of the world, and it's now being flanked by the rising temps brigade and the higher humidity company. No rain has fallen here for nearly six months now, which is typical for this region. The mercury is creeping up over the 30 deg C (high 80s-90 F) mark every day and humidity is up around 60%. It's beginning to feel a lot like Summer, even though it's only mid-Spring.

Of course, the surrounding bushland has dried up considerably and the grasses have turned a brilliant shade of dead! Our property looks remarkably similar. The bushfires still rage in the mountain ranges that ring our outlying rural suburb and we've had many, many hazy days.

Looking over the bushland during 'dry' season ( photo / image / picture from Bernieh's Garden )

My gardening spirits have been brought low lately, not just because the dry season has created such a parched landscape ... I'm used to that happening every year ... no, it's a few other annoyances piled on the top.

Hungry Agile Wallabies ( photo / image / picture from Bernieh's Garden )

For the first time ever I'm seeing considerable damage being caused by ravenous wallabies. They've been nibbling away on so many plants in the outdoor garden beds, and then had the hide to move onto the courtyard garden plants!!! This has never happened before, so I suspect there might be a couple of slightly-brighter-than-the-average wallabies around, and they've figured out there's loads of delicious plants in pots scattered around the back of the house.

I've had to barricade off the seemingly most delicious plants ... like the Euphorbia 'Diamond Frost', the Crossandras and the New Guinea Impatiens ... and put most of the pots of flowering annuals and perennials ... like the Torenias, Nasturtiums and Plectranthus ... up on the outdoor dining table so they're out of reach. It makes for a great looking tabletop, but a rather barren and drab courtyard!

Then there's the unsightly view of the construction site that was a car shed at the end of our sad looking cyclone damaged driveway garden beds. There used to be a lovely Jacaranda tree and a massive great stand of Golden Cane Palm in this area. Not any more! This project just seems to go on and on and on. I know it's a hard, complicated job and my darling hubbie is doing it all by himself, so it's not been easy ... but I am getting rather sick of this sight when I come home from work in the afternoons, particularly at this time of year when everything around is so drab and dreary.

Work In Progress ( photo / image / picture from Bernieh's Garden )

To top it all off, there's the re-construction work that has now begun on our cyclone damaged house. It's been eight months since Cyclone Yasi ripped through here and caused not only damage to the trees and plants, but also damaged the bull-nosed verandah awning, and we've been waiting patiently for something to be done. Then, out of the blue, it's started!!

Repair Work On Cyclone Damaged House ( photo / image / picture from Bernieh's Garden )

I'm hoping that the roof will be repaired and the scaffolding removed before the next wet/cyclone season is due ... that's now only two months away!! Do you think I'm being too optimistic?

Repair Work On Cyclone Damaged House ( photo / image / picture from Bernieh's Garden )

(Just a quick aside ... these shots give you a great idea of just what 'dry' season means around here. We don't water the lawn area ... trying to keep that green for around ten months of the year with sprinklers would cost an absolute fortune in excess water fees. Not worth it)

Back to it ... Oh yes, did I happen to mention that there's garden beds under all that scaffolding. It seems that the scaffolding team didn't notice there was a garden in front of the house. They just trampled over the beds and plants in their frenzy to get the walkways up ready for the roofing guys to come and do the repair work. Let's take a closer look, shall we? I hope you're not squeamish!

Repair Work On House ( photo / image / picture from Bernieh's Garden )

Repari Work On House ( photo / image / picture from Bernieh's Garden )

Now if I'd known the scaffolders were coming, I might not have baked them a cake, but I most definitely would have trimmed all the shrubs in those two front garden beds. The last thing I need right now is more damaged vegetation!!

Anyway all in all, this gardener is quite simply down for the count right now and I'm hoping that in writing this post, I will find some small delights around this dreary looking place of mine. Bear with me, I think this is going to be a long post!

Let's see .... do I sit down and moan endlessly about just how dry and ugly the view is around here, or do I sit and appreciate the stunning sunrises that light up the bleak dry landscape on so many mornings?

Bushland during dry season and Sunrise ( photo / image / picture from Bernieh's Garden )

Many of the cyclone damaged shrubs growing down both sides of our driveway are suffering quite a lot right now. Unbelievably it seems that a few of the Duranta repens shrubs have actually died off. Now, it takes a lot to kill a Duranta, but it seems the combination of cyclonic wind damage followed by months of dry season has been too stressful for some of them. So do I get upset with those losses ... or do I jump for joy that there are some flowers appearing on the remaining stunted Durantas that are still trying to recover????

Duranta repens ( photo / image / picture from Bernieh's Garden )

So many of the shrubs and Palms down the driveway are showing signs of distress from thirst, and I've had to resort to turning on the irrigation system once or twice, which has helped restore them to health but the downside will be a pretty high excess water bill at the end of the year. Do I get cranky about the impending expense of our water usage in an effort to keep plants going, or do I find delight in the fact that my beloved damaged white Bauhinia is actually flowering?

Driveway Garden Beds and white Bauhinia tree ( photo / image / picture from Bernieh's Garden )

The Agile Wallabies have been finding it hard to feast on their usual diet of grass, and have been raiding the garden beds every night in an effort to fill their bellies. They pull down the branches, shred off all the leaves they can reach, nibble off almost every flower and even dig up entire plants. Should I feel down because the shrubs look broken and ravaged, or should I find solace in the fact that there are still some flowers blooming up high on the bare stripped branches where the wallabies just can't reach???

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis ( photo / image / picture from Bernieh's Garden )

Should I focus on the ugly mess of building materials lying scattered about the place, or look for the cute things like the sight of birds enjoying a quick shower under the sprinkler when I turn it on in the evenings?

Work In Progress and Bathing Bird ( photo / image / picture from Bernieh's Garden )

Maybe I should just avert my eyes from the fern fronds being singed and burnt. They're now being exposed to the full force of the sun, since the tree canopy was stripped away from this garden bed during the cyclone.

Ferns and Brunfelsia ( photo / image / picture from Bernieh's Garden )

I should perhaps be more appreciative of the sight of all the Brunfelsia blooms. The 'Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow' shrub hasn't seen full sunlight in many, many years and it's just rejoicing in the new state of affairs since the removal of the tree canopy.

The Plumerias are also very appreciative of this change in conditions. They are simply loving the new full sun position. The deciduous Plumeria rubras have started sprouting their new spring foliage and one has even thrown out a flower cluster. Obviously very happy indeed! I'm fully expecting a fabulous show of flowers throughout the summer from these two deliriously happy Frangipani trees.

Plumeria rubra ( photo / image / picture from Bernieh's Garden )

I know I really should stop fretting about the state of some of the older established shrubs in the driveway garden beds ... shrubs like this poor Croton below. Some are just doing it tough through this dry season and there's really not much I can do to help them along, apart from giving them the occasional watering. At least there's evidence of new growth!

Croton, Scuterllaria and Turnera ( photo / image / picture from Bernieh's Garden )

On the other hand, I should be totally overjoyed by the progress of the new plantings in the driveway rock garden. I have been religiously watering them just a little every other evening and they seem to have settled in well, especially the Verbena, the Scutellaria indica and the Turnera ulmifolia.

Maybe I need to cease trying to work out just what it is that's afflicting some of the older shrubs around the place. I just can't work out why one of the Crotons is suddenly becoming paler and paler and looking decidedly ill ... or why one of my oldest Hibiscus rosa-sinensis (the only one that's not been ravaged by wallabies!) has suddenly developed variegated foliage! Neither of these plants have given me any trouble previously and I'm at a bit of a loss.

Sick shrubs and peeling bark ( photo / image / picture from Bernieh's Garden )

I think it would be far better to focus on the more usual occurrences ... such as the beautiful shedding of bark on both my Eucalyptus platyphylla and Corymbia torelliana.

Every year the Corymbia torellaina or Cadaghi Gum Tree sheds it outer covering to reveal a gorgeous green trunk underneath. It's simply beautiful!

The Eucalyptus platyphylla or Poplar Gum also sheds its bark every year to reveal a new trunk of the most gorgeous salmon pink colour. This eventually turns to the familiar smooth white trunk in the coming weeks. Both are sights that never fail to please me.

I must, I must, I must ... increase my tolerance level for wallaby-nibbled plants. There's really nothing I can do about it, because it's just been impossible to predict what they will eat next!!! They're chomping on plants that they've never touched ever before. So I will take comfort in the fact that the leaves on the Iresine herbstii will grow back ...

Poor Iresine and a lovely Hemerocallis ( photo / image / picture from Bernieh's Garden )

... and in the meantime, I will rejoice in the fact that the wallabies haven't yet developed the taste for Hemerocallis blooms. This is the first for the season and so far, there's not a trace of a nibble! Hemerocallis 'Blackberry Jack' has not yet made it onto the menu of Bush Bernie's Wallaby Restaurant!!

OK, now I'm just being silly ... "goin' troppo!" as we call it here in the tropics. I need something to soothe the weary gardening spirit. Thankfully, there are still some lovely flowers here and there.

First of all, here's what's blooming in the pots out in the courtyard garden, whether they be sitting atop the table or braving it out on the pavers.

There's New Guinea Impatiens, Black and Blue Salvia,
'Bonanza' Petunias, Salvia 'Dusky Hues', Gazanias, Streptocarpus, Rosebud Pelargonium, Torenias, Snapdragons, Bracteanthas, Tabernaemontana, Cleome, Vanilla Marigolds and Bumblebee Petunias.

Mid-Spring Blooms In The Courtyard Garden ( photo / image / picture from Bernieh's Garden )

It's also terrific to see the first ever blooms on my Diffenbachias and the first 'break' on one of my Cycas revolutas.

Diffenbachia blooms and a 'break' on a Cycas revoluta ( photo / image / picture from Bernieh's Garden )

Here's some of the lovely sights out in the shadehouse garden.

There's Asiatic Lilies, a purple Anthurium, Cane Begonias, Impatiens walleriana, Stromanthe and Boat Lilies.

Mid-Spring Blooms In The Shadehouse Garden ( photo / image / picture from Bernieh's Garden )

Finally, there are still a few blooms left in the tiered garden beds.

There's Scaevola, Callistemon, Ground Orchids, Caladiums, Hemerocallis and Ozothamnus.

Mid-Spring Blooms In The Tiered Garden Beds ( photo / image / picture from Bernieh's Garden )

So, all is not drab and dreary.

Last edited: Sun Oct 16, 2011 9:42 am

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Sjoerd wrote on Sun Oct 16, 2011 9:05 am:

G'daai B--Boy, I don't know where to begin with comments on this very good posting of yours.
I was surprised to see the foto of the wallabies frolicking-about on your patio in between the potted plants.
Then moving on to the building series and the trampled bedding plants where the scaffolding was thrown-up. Tch!
Then that series of the plus and minus fotos. --very balanced and well done.
The Frangipani tree. I am almost addicted to that plant and its flowers. I like it so much and it brings back all sorts of exotic and very nice memories.
Then finally, the composite...or mosaic-like presentations: I found them to be just superb.So many beautiful things blooming.
I do worry about the degree of dryness already present there in the spring.
I hope that the chappies can get your place back in order before the next cyclone season begins...on the other hand,maybe if the scaffolding is left in place it might afford a degree of protection. haha.Who knows.
A final word--That bird.


Bernieh wrote on Sun Oct 16, 2011 9:20 am:

Thanks Sjoerd, I was worried that it might be too long for anyone to actually get to the end!

Yes the wallabies do come up onto the courtyard mostly late at night or early morning, although I have caught one or two popping in for lunch during the day!!

The re-construction work will probably go on for some time, so I should just get used to everything being in disarray. It's hard to do though. I'm not sure about having all the scaffolding still there when the wet and cyclone season arrives later in the year. It's expected to be another bad one.

The dryness is typical of our 'dry' season. It's like this every year ... well, with the exception of last year when we had our wettest 'dry' season on record ... if that makes sense.


eileen wrote on Sun Oct 16, 2011 10:11 am:

Oh dear your poor garden is under attack on all sides!! It's bad enough having wallabies munching your plants and everything drying up but..... those builders have trampled so much!! I really feel for you and just hope that the work being done on the roof finishes soon and your plants will recover.

On a cheerier note you've posted some gorgeous photographs and, thankfully, not everything is dead or dying. The pictures of your plants in the shadehouse and tiered garden beds must still bring a smile to your face when you se them. I note that your Diffenbachias is in flower for the first time - congratulations.

Keep your chin up as I'm sure, once all the work is completed, your plants will show you that they can outdo those builders and spring back again.


Sjoerd wrote on Sun Oct 16, 2011 5:48 pm:

Heh heh heh....I thoroughly enjoyed your posting. I absolutely did NOT find it too long. I read every word and looked at each pic.

I see what you mean aboutr the scaffolding, but I was implying that the scaffolding might hold it together hahaha (but it was meant "tongue-in-cheek".

Good luck with the continuing re-construction work. Chapeau to your man---that is a big job he's working on.


cherylad wrote on Mon Oct 17, 2011 2:55 am:

I too read every word and looked at each photo. I'm just amazed and the differences and similarities our gardens have to endure.


Bernieh wrote on Mon Oct 17, 2011 2:57 am:

Thanks Sjoerd. I'm glad to hear it wasn't too wordy. I can ramble on sometimes.

If that scaffolding is still up when cyclone season arrives, I'll be giving the insurance company a bit of "cheek", lol!


Bernieh wrote on Mon Oct 17, 2011 2:58 am:

Cherylad, I think we all know about the good times and the not-so-good when it comes to gardening. It doesn't matter where we are, there's always a little of both.

Cayuga Morning wrote on Mon Oct 17, 2011 12:07 pm:

Ernieh--I really enjoyed your posting. I am not familiar with a dry tropical garden, so it was very informative for me. The wallabies look very cute, but I appreciate that they are th scourge of the garden. You probably feel about them the way I feel about our deer.

I loved the collages of blooming flowers! And I did not know that diffenbachia bloom. That was a new one for me.

Good luck with the multiple constructions on your house/property. I appreciate you are trying to focus on what is good not what is dying/getting trampled/munched. Good luck!


Bernieh wrote on Mon Oct 17, 2011 12:43 pm:

G'day Cayuga Morning. Not too many people know that there is a 'dry' tropics zone. When people think of the tropics, they generally do think of wet tropic areas where there's plentiful rain and the landscape is lush and green. That only happens here for about two or three months at the most. The rest of the time it's brown and parched.

Yes wallabies are definitely cute, but pesky! Of course the reason they're eating through so many of the plants in my garden is because there's no grass for them to munch on here right now.


Sjoerd wrote on Wed Oct 19, 2011 10:51 am:

Ho ho ho B--I'd like to be a fly on the wall. :-)


Kay wrote on Sat Oct 22, 2011 9:43 pm:

I found your blog to be quite interesting. Pretty flowers, many of which I am familiar with, and some I am not...
I never knew Wallabies could be so ornery and destructive to a garden.
Hope you get your home repairs done soon, and the rains come to quench everything. And no more cyclones!!


Bernieh wrote on Sat Oct 22, 2011 10:47 pm:

Kay, this is the first year ever that the wallabies have become so annoying and destructive. They've been quite well-mannered up to now. But I have to say that we're no longer close friends!

The repairs are moving along very slowly. It's hard to get tradesmen to come out here to do the job. Not only that, but they keeping finding little problems with this old house of ours. There's still quite some work to do and the first cyclone of the coming wet season is expected in late December. We're getting slightly worried about that.

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