Friday, February 26, 2010

Quiet and Serene

A weekend coming up - yes! 
It is a wonder I ever get any gardening done - looking at this scene is just so relaxing...  saturday mornings we have a cup of coffee and look out at this wonderful image.  My hubby often says that he feels as though we are living right in the garden, as from every window you can look out and see plants, flowers, birds and butterflies.  I am so blessed, and so happy to be able to share it all!
We look out to the east, and as the sun shines through these plants, if it has rained in the night, the plants are often filled with sparkly diamonds! So hard to capture the feeling on camera though.

I have always loved willow trees and this weeping tea tree is just the answer in our small yard. 
Just look at the lovely detail on this bark..
Have a lovely weekend everyone!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

A collage made in Picassa


Gosh I love my flowers!
Happiness is... being a gardener of course!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Fine tuning and creating perfect blog posts

It is seven months since I started my blog, and thirteen months since I started my garden!  My original thoughts were that I would be able to track progress, see when I had sown seeds, and monitor harvesting time.  By perusing other bloggers great blogs, I have fine tuned mine a lot and wonder if some of my ideas might be helpful to others. 
Labels:
At first I didnt use labels, thinking they created clutter on the page, and then I saw someone who had them in a cloud, and thought - oh gosh I like that!  Of course then I had to go back and add labels.  Just recently I have realised that if I want to go back and look at what happened this time last year I would have to have an easy way to search the blogs posted in this month.  I started editing each blog then realised that there is a quick and easy way to do it! If you just click on the little square next the blogs in the dashboard and go up to the label drop down menu you can attach any label to that particular bog, or section of blogs.  How cool is that!  while on the subject of labels, I went through my cloud and consolidated all the ones that were similar and grouped them under one label.  For instance all under tomatoes, instead of some under cherry tomatoes, ripe tomatoes, etc.   Or frogs, and green frogs.
Photos:
I do want my blog pages to load quickly, and dont have a problem with that since I have an old camera that is only 3.5mp.  Most of my photos are about 40000byes and 308 X 408.    I do intend buying a new camera in June, so want to keep an eye on how large my photos are.  Right now I am posting them as large or extra large - so might change that if my photos end up too big. You can always double-click on a photo to see more detail and I would prefer to use that option than have people fall asleep while waiting for all my photos to download.
Layout:
I do like the way my blog loads up with the post first up.  I want to see new and exciting photos every time.  I find I get impatient when you have to download a bunch of header photos (that you see every time you open the blog), so I kept my header simple, and then increased the width of my page to full size, and just had my quotes up at the top right hand bar.  So new information is viewed first.  I like the simple easy to read format, and I find the colour gentle to the eyes..  My template is Minima Stretch.
Gadgets:
I have been tempted by many gadgets, but so far have resisted the urge on most of them.  I do love link within and the Garden Definition of the day. Useful ones I think!  Links to blotanical, statcounter and copyright tabs I have placed right at the bottom.  Maybe I am a bit pedantic, but I want you to read my blog first rather than all the other stuff!
Now, this by no means an instruction for others on how to produce their blogs - that is the great thing about blogging  -  is its individuality!  In the beginning I was really quite blind about blogging (now I am only half blind and sometimes fumbling in the dark) and just wanted to share some of the cool things I have learnt the hard way.  I am in no way a technical person, and prefer not to follow long lists of instructions about setting page width etc.  I am a simple gardener after all!  I have so enjoyed blogging and thought if I somehow eased the path for a couple of newbie bloggers it would make my day!

Some of the things I am still having trouble with:
There doesnt seem to be spell check on the posting page!
Often when I try to post a comment (on my own page) it wont post and gives me an error message.  Blogger help is no help at all in this regard.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Spiders and colour

After all this rain the colour seems to stand our more vibrant and alive on the persian shield.

And the croton
Right on time, as Easter draws near, I see the Easter lilly is starting to bloom!
This spider looks happy - I am sure he is consuming plenty of mosquitoes.
I hope you are not getting tired of looking at heleconias, I know I never will.
This one is my daughters favourite!

Storms and more rain

Someone asked me the other day why I keep talking about the rain - isnt there a drought in Australia?  Not here, not in the wet season!  This was our backyard Friday afternoon......


We have had some huge electrical storms lately, and one of them knocked out our modem at home, so have been off the internet for a while.  Our local electronics man ran out of modems!   So we have been waiting for one to come up via courier. 
We have at times been shut off at home unable to get out because of flooding over the roads, and on Friday I was the last one to get through.

Is it any wonder this grass struggles to grow?
I found a moth on this sodden plumbago, trying to search out some nectar, I imagine it would be well diluted.

But when the sun comes out, it is so beautiful, and makes me smile

Look at this spiderweb.....

I am anxiously awaiting the end of the wet season, we do have changing seasons here, but they are different. This little purple anthirium is a tiny plant and flower nestled under the large showy dark pink ones, I almost missed the flower:

Friday, February 12, 2010

Ideas needed please!

Rainforest gardener put out a few photos of an area at his folks place that he was going to make into a balinese themed garden.  He got some wonderful ideas and made a beautiful garden, so I want to copy his idea.  There are so many wonderfully talented gardeners out there (and some of them actually read MY blog) and I would like to get some input about what to do with my garden.
a short history: we moved into our new home 14 months ago and there was a huge lychee tree and not much else.  Our idea was to create a screen of tropical plants in the triangular area under the lychee tree and along the back fence. I had accumulated a lot of plants in pots and so cleared the area and planted everything, keeping to the loose plan of higher plants at the back and lower plants in front.  I also tried to place plants that needed more shade in the shady area and vice versa. 
this is the area to the right, which I am very happy with:


















My problem now is that the area to the right of the tree (which gets more sun) is more colourful and prettier than the area to the left (which is almost full shade most of the day).  I have cut back the branches of the tree which is allowing more light into that area, and I notice has decreased the amount of bugs.
this is the area to the left:


















And in more detail close up:



















So, a couple of questions: 
 I love the little path into the garden on the right - would it look silly to put the same thing on the other side? Or maybe continue the path behind the tree, so you could walk all the way around?  Should I put a small path leading to a "bright coloured feature" like a pot? Do I need more plants with light coloured leaves to add some depth?  I do have some, but they are not that big yet.
I put cordelines in the left area, hoping they would add some colour, but they seem to get lost, and the colour is not that bright. I have noticed that cordelines are not actually any brighter colour in the sun, and we have some out in the direct sun and they are the same, so it must be something in the soil that makes them brighter and lighter in some areas.  I also have heleconias in theat area and they have not flowered - maybe they need more light?  I am hoping that opening up the branches above will achieve that. I have seen them flowering in areas of quite low light.  The tree fern will fast grow into quite a tall tree and touch the above branches and to the left are two fan palms which will also grow quite tall. 
I am looking for something that will "draw" you deeper into that area, and feel at the moment it just looks "flat"
Oh and one more question - does anyone have the same problem that I have with some of my photos (taken in the shade) that they have a pinkish tinge?  I do have a very old camera (only 3.5pixels) but plans to buy a new one in June so am trying to fine tune what I am looking for in a camera.
So, here I am starting the weekend with lots of questions, hope you all have exiting plans for the weekend!

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Bright Summer Flowers

I just love all the tropical colour in my garden at the moment
the heleconia
then this orange bud

opens into this flower - doest it seem to be stretching its arms out to reach every ray of sunshine?

The tumeric flower on the other hand hides deep within the fronds

It doesnt need to hide away - look how beautiful the flower is!

Everything about the tropical summer is intense - colour, rain, humidity, heat, - not for the fainthearted!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Using Catalogues to identify plants

Well, I never!  I opened up one of the latest gardening catalogues to discover that my beehive gingers were displayed in all their glory but with different names to what I had been calling them - ooops! sorry!
The one I was calling the shampoo ginger is in fact called Zingiber cocoa delight (Zingiber otensii)

 and the one I called beehive is actually Zingiber yellow (Zingiber spectabile). 

Closer,

and a  deep look into the pockets


 They dont show the infloresence of what they call shampoo ginger, but it has a variegated leaf.  I think zingiber is just the latin name for ginger...
There is another plant that I bought at the market, that totally dissapears during the winter.  (I thought I had lost it!) It surfaces every wet season and I now discover that it is called Peacock ginger (Kaempferia pulchra)
It was a bit drier this weekend and I was able to be outside without being attacked by too many mozzies.  They seem to get very agressive just before a big storm or so the locals have told me.  Certainly was true this time.   We had a walk through the botanical garden in Cairns on saturday and there were lots of mozzies there!  Check out the post on my other blog http://www.explorthetropics.blogspot.com/ for those photos.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Up, up and away!

One of the principles of permaculture is to grow plants up , instead of letting plants scramble around the ground taking up precious space.  Just looking around the garden, I have definitely taken that to heart!  In actual fact the plants have done that on their own without my help. Take for instance this passionfruit vine:

 When I first planted the passionfruit vine next to my little arch and alongside the fence, I knew it would ramble, but gosh, once it started to climb this happy plant it just continued to reach for the sky.  It suits us very well as we have a rather ugly Telstra building behind there, and I would much rather look at a 30ft wall of green.  When the passionfruit ripen, they just fall to the ground and I can walk around and pick them up.  How convenient is that?

I planted pigeon peas as a green manure crop this year, and sometimes I miss the fine print when choosing plants - like how tall they grow!  I read that they can be used as "living" stakes for tomato bushes, so have them on either side of the old table framework full of composting garden waste which is where I will be planting tomatoes later this year. A symbiotic relationship - I like that.......... plants helping plants :)


The other vines that I keep cutting back are the luffa and snake bean vines - I keep removing them from climbing over the roof and send them back the way they have just come, along the fence.  They dont seem to mind.  I ate a little luffa and have not eaten any more thinking that I do want some to grow bigger to use as bath loofas.  Today I was scrambling around looking for passionfruit as I want to try a passionfruit jam recipe so need lots.  What did I find? but this HUGE luufa - so excited :)


The beehive ginger leaf fronds reach way up into the leaves of the tree and when I cut them back as they yellow and die, I remove the leaves, then set them aside to dry.  They make perfect plant stakes, and best of all, they are free!
another useful permaculture plant is chillies - you can crush them up with garlic to make a pest reppelant spray - these birds eye chillies are small but they pack a punch!

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Drip, drip, drip

Over the last couple of weeks we  had a cyclone hovering around the coast and traveling up and down.  At long last it has headed further south and petered out.....  Hopefully we can begin to dry out a bit.  Over the weekend  when I walked in the grass I sunk down to my ankles in squelchy mud!  Everything was dripping with moisture.  As soon as the sun came out it got incredible humid - I guess that moisture began to evaporate into the air! We have received 900mm in January! Thats a lot of rain!  The thing I miss the most  though is the sunshine.  I think the sun infuses happiness right into my soul and when I am surrounded by heavy cloud cover I feel an oppresive weight on my shoulders.  That weight has lifted and the sun is shining hooray :)
Actually I just read that vitamin D increases the seratonin in your body!  so my whole theory about sunshine making me happy is based on fact!  How is that :)

I spent some time  during the month cutting back some tree branches and trimming back plants to open the area under the tree up, hoping  to get some air in to keep the amount of bugs down.  It seems to have helped a bit.  I might also have to think about what I have planted in that deep shade as some heleconias havnt flowered.  I think the cordelines too might have better colour in an area with more light, and they seem to have really suffered with something chewing holes in their leaves.


The leaves of the costus are slightly furry and I love the way the water droplets seem to hang in suspension.


I think the whites in these variegated leaves make me feel cooler - or is it just wishful thinking?
I cant say I am a huge fan of the hot wet humid season, but maybe the fact that my garden is looking so luscious and colourful does help.
We had a lovely walk on the beach yesterday and there were millions of little blue backed crabs running around.   It was low low tide and the reflection of the mountains in the tidal pools was magnificent.  We will be back again today with the camera and hopefully get some good shots.
Life is good.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Lots of colour

During the wet season the tropical plants really shine, and my garden is looking quite colourful.
We have created the privacy screen between us and the neighbours as we wanted.

A close up of a bromeliad flower - what vibrant colour!

the purple tips seem almost electric!

Growing to eat through the seasons

My aim was to try and grow and eat as much as I could from my garden year round, not just the drier winter season which is our main growing season.  I have been harvesting pawpaw and passionfruit, and then asparagus for the beginning of the wet season, but leaving the shoots now to grow the crowns.  Herbs are all doing OK, but do struggle with the huge amount of rain and bugs.
 I was wondering what I was doing wrong with my luffas -
The veggie garden fence is a tangle of vines -
the thick snake beans, with their beautiful shaped leaves and delicate flowers
then the neighbours passionfruit vine that keeps coming over to my side,
then the luffa, with huge green leaves and tons of yellow flowers.  Often I would see the beginnings of a luffa, but then it would shrivel up and die.  I wondered if they needed more light, so cut back some of the excess vines, and trimmed some piegon pea plants that were growing nearby.  I see tons of honeyeater birds, butterflies, bees etc so didnt think it was a problem of pollination. 
I posted my frustration on KGI (if you havnt checked out that site please do - what a wealth of information   http://my.kitchengardeners.org/ ) and a fellow gardener responded back to be patient - luffas took forever.  As so often happens, the very next day I began to see a luffa start to develop. 
I wasnt sure how big it should be when they said to eat when small so this one was chopped up right away for the pot!

It was a very nice firm texture, and a great taste - little more flavour than zuchini, gosh I am going to like eating luffas - I think! :)   since it was little I also peeled a snake bean and stir fried that alongside.  Here you can see the comparative size! (and I didnt get the complete length of the snake bean in the picture)

I dont want to harvest too many luffas as I want to make sure to save lots to dry out and make luffa impregrated soaps.  I do know that I will be making luffas a permanent part of my wet season garden.
Over christmas we splashed out and ordered some gem squash through mail order.  We grew up with gem squash in South Africa and  I have tried to grow it here before, even though the climate is very different.  I threw a couple of seeds into the garden and lo and behold they have come up!  How exciting.  I am thinking they might suddenly keel over and die from the heat and humidity, but it is a good sign that the seeds are viable  - I saved all the seeds so have lots and lots :).
My pigeon pea have also started to flower, so am anxious to taste those! 

I have been bandicooting (digging produce away from the side without harvesting the whole plant - I LOVE that term!)  sweet potatoes.  I found it difficult to tell how big a potato is going to be.  I dug up two that had their shoulders sticking out - one was big enough for three meals, and the other was a tiny little excuse for a potato. I also couldnt resist and dug up a couple of small jicama - they were very tasty but also small so will resist harvesting any more until they grow a bit bigger. 
 Mmm I do like eating produce from the garden and it seems that my idea of growing vegetables year round here might still work. 

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