Thursday, April 29, 2010

Pigeon pea shade

The red and yellow flowers on the pigeon peas are so pretty, but way up too high to get a good photograph.
My experiment to use them as green manure and then as stakes has worked well.  They are bushing out right at the top as I have pruned away all the side branches, and woven odd bits of sticks and poles to bring them into a straight line down the middle of the vegetable garden.  This means that they really only shade the garden from the midday sun which is perfect.  I began to wonder if I was ever going to get a harvest from them as they have take a good eight months to flower.  Luckily a fellow gardener in Nicuaraga grew them last season so I knew to be patient.  You never grow in full sun here, as even in the winter the sun is quite intense, and I much prefer a living shade.
The good news is that  it has not been raining so much this week - just a few little sprinkles, so a bit more sunshine to get those vggie seedlings off to a good start.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Pink in the tropics

I have a lot of red flowers in my garden,  but this weekend, pink seemed to be the colour of choice.
The sliver of orange peeks out ready to erupt into multicoloured heleconia.
A different type of cordeline - this type has large very leathery feeling leaves

and a close up of the wonderful colours inside the new leaf

My cordeline in full sun in the front garden has turned very pink.  I think this aswers my question as to whether they have better colour in sunshine.  I am thinking of moving all my cordleines (or most of them) from the deep shade to alongside the wooden fence which looks quite bare now that the shade cloth is gone.

This little pink foliage plant is easy to propogate from cutting and I have it scattered around the garden. I love the way it looks next to the cordeline leaf.
The central rib is quite  a stunning hot pink shade.
as you can see from the photos we are having quite  a bit of sunshine.  The plants seem to have got used to all the rain and are wilting midday, but then recover later.  I guess they will have a period of adjustment. 
PS   I just got the name iresine or bloodleaf for this plant, (from Bernie) so will add it for future reference.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Drunken radish

My bok choy, radish and lettuce are coming up nicely, but seem to have long curved stems before the plant starts.  What could be causing this?  We have had a lot of rain lately and consequently very little sunshine.  Here you can see the detail on the radish stems.  They also dont seem to be developing a bulb.
I went though all the bok choy and mounded up the soil around the bases, so they were no longer falling over drunkenly, and removed some and planted them elsewhere so that they have room to grow.  I just left the radish alone, should I do the same thing to the radish?  Did I plant the seeds too close to the surface? I also have a cucumber already - wow they are quick!
The garlic chive flowers are so pretty and attract bees and butterflies.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

It all started with the jicama harvest

It all began with harvesting my jicama, I had popped a few seeds in the ground alongside the fence before the wet season.  The plant insisted on climbing through the fence and flowering on the other side.... and in order to grow bigger tubers these flowers and pods have to continually be pruned off.  So on Sunday I decided to harvest the jicama and remove the vines. The jicama are pretty puny, and I found out were quite hard to harvest behind the other plants so I wont be planting there again.  Not sure if they will shoot up again from remaining roots.

This has left the fence very bare.
I had an old wire wastepaper basket (useless in the office, as everything falls out the side) and I put a crucifix orchid in there and hung it under my thermometer.  That helps to make the wall a little less bare in that area.

I realise that I have been just adding plants in this area without much of a plan.  The only plan being to hide the fence and have some greenery. I tend to put plants here that like a bit more sunlight, and the persian shield has been doing really well.  The thing is that between the jicama on one side and the persian shield on the other my little madevilla vine has been smothered.  The base of the plant is very brown and woody...

I cut back the persian shield to allow a little more light in and watered with some seaweed foliar feed.  Further up the branches there are little patches of greenery, so hopefully this fills out.

The stephanotis was also engulfed in the jicama vine and hopefully that too will have  a new lease on life.  Right now it is just one long leggy stalk.  And that is the whole reason I got impatient and planted the jicama there, maybe at the expense of these two vines.  
Maybe I just need to be a little patient with these vines, not sure if I should prune them more to have them branch out and become more bushy.  Does the base of the plant really need much light?  I do have the fan palms  and the curry leaf tree which will eventually grow quite big and tower over the fence.  I imagined the fence covered with the stephanotis which has lovely white sweet smelling flowers, and the mandevilla which has bright red flowers.  I just hope that opening it all up, tying the vines back and giving them some love will give them a new lease on life.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Can anyone grow a lipstick plant?

Floridagirl made a comment in my last post that she wondered whether a lipstick plant would grow in her part of the world.

From searching the internet I have discovered that my lipstick plant actually originates from Southeast Asia and is called
 "Aeschynanthus radicans 'Crispa'

Family: Gesneriaceae
this came from:
here is the content:

Aeschynanthus is a large genus of Old World tropical herbs. In many respects, they are analogous to the genus Columnea in Central and South America -- both are most often trailing epiphytes with fairly large and showy flowers that are frequently pollinated by birds. The appearance of the various Aeschynanthus species varies widely. The original 'Lipstick Plant' has hard-surfaced shiny leaves, with bright red flowers that emerge from a very dark red tubular calyx, in a fashion reminiscent of lipstick emerging from a tube. It is an epiphyte that grows in the angles of branches in the rain forest. As with all epiphytes, the lipstick plant does not live as a parasite on the tree, but takes its nourishment from fallen leaves and twigs that accumulate in the crevices of branches. Needs plenty of light, but not direct sunlight. They thrive in summer heat, and winter temperatures should not drop below 60 degrees. "

I have just had it in a hanging basket  -lots of coir mulch and loose potting soil mix, and then it occasionally has leaves that drop from whatever tree it has been hanging under.  In my last garden it was hanging under a tibouchina, and had a lot more sunlight.  It seems happy here under the lychee tree, and I am glad I looked it up as most sites say it is best to prune it back after flowering to make it branch out more.  They like to be potbound, and I had laid an extra crucifix orchid across the top of the pot during the rainy season when someone gifted me with a couple of spikes.  At that stage I had not seen any lipstick flowers for a while, and thought that it would add some extra colour if the orchid ever flowered.  Maybe that made the plant think it had better get a move on and show its colours.  

A lot of my gardening is like that - I obtain plants that have pretty flowers or foliage, then put them in somewhere and enjoy them.  If they thrive I am thrilled.  If not, I  might move them, or think about doing some research as to why they are unhappy.  I am just so lucky that I live in a very forgiving climate and seem to like  tropicals that grow so well without much human intervention.  They do get lots of love when they perform, but other than that they are on their own!

Thank you Floridagirl for making me do the research because I found out quite a bit about my own plant and it seems that yes, you just might be able to grow one in your area! (you might have to put it in a more protected place during the winter).
For anyone that has not seen Floridagirls lovely blog follow this link,

Friday, April 16, 2010

Colour in the garden again

There is always lots of colour in my garden, but it seems more so once the sun comes out!
 The lipstick plant  has such different flowers!

then my favourite heleconias never stop... and I never tire of them.

The bromeliad is lovely on its own,and then tiny purple flowers erupt from the center.
the cocoa zingiber goes red before it begins to collape from the lack of heat and humidity.  It will be back again next year.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

And on into the vegetable garden

I cut back more of the pigeon pea side shoots allowing all this lovely sunshine onto the vegetables seedlings that survived the rainy onslaught.  I wove those shoots in and out of the uprights creating a sort of rustic cucumber trellis.  The helconia branches I kept for plant supports have rotted, so that idea has been shelved.  Oh well, you live and learn.
I planted some more lettuce seeds, more beets and silverbeet.  those are the seeds that came up and drowned.  The bok choy, radish, cucumber and gemsquash have done ok.   I also transplanted some tomato seedlings into the ground, planting them deeply so that they can form a good network of roots.  They are in the framework behind the row of cucumbers.

I was left a couple of Malay apple trees when the gardening group met at my place a couple of weeks ago.  I gave one to my neighbour as she has a bigger yard than mine.  Then I had an idea to create an espaliered tree against the back fence.  I have never done this before, but a fellow gardener on Kitchen gardeners International has done a few on his allotment in England.   It is still little, but I planted it next to the passionfruit vine that did so well. They always succumb to woody passionfruit virus after a year or two, and I have already started another passionfruit a little further down the fence.  So now I have a few new projects to work on, as our "winter" season begins.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Curb appeal?

When we first moved in here 14 months ago, the front area looked a bit bare and unwelcoming.  Not at all what I wanted

The shadecloth provided quite a bit of shade, but what I wanted was a more tropical green area to provide privacy and create a welcoming garden type atmosphere. I extended the mondo grass line to create a tropical garden.  I want guests to get a sense already in the front, of the tropical paradise that lies beyond. Hubby liked the idea of having a privacy screen, so that you couldnt look right into the house from the road. As it started to take hold I realised I didn't want the golden cane there, which could become huge and then very difficult to remove.   All the other plants seemed very happy there and have filled right out - maybe too much?  I might need to thin some out.
Over the weekend I decided to take down the shade cloth.  We do not use that as a car port unless visitors park there, and it was looking a bit "daggy" (dont you love that Aussie word? - it doesnt need explaining I am sure).  I have a smaller triangular shade cloth that I tried, and it didnt look right, but the morning sun can be quite intense as it shines onto the front verandah, but there is no need for such a big shadecloth.  I need to make sure these plants get enough water too as it might be a shock now that their shade is removed.

What should I do to make this look more like a welcoming entrance and less like a line of plants?  Some people tend to try and walk through next to the car, whereas to the left of these plants is clearer access, but maybe not as visible. That is what I would like to be the "entrance" as it leads straight to the wooden door with a welcome to my garden sign, and the front door. I dont want to lose the "privacy hedge" that this creates.  To the left of this photo is a wooden fence and I want that to also be green.  I am thinking of a vine called chinese lanterns which looks like bouganvilla, but without the nasty thorns.
The funny thing is that for my gardening group, everyone came through the plant entrance, and the car wasnt even there!
After these photos were taken I tied the costus up to to a stake and that opened up the area a bit better.  I think non-gardeners dont like to brush against plants - isnt that strange?  The weeping tea tree at the back hangs over a bit, and I always reach out a hand and "stroke" the lovely silvery leaves as I pass it.  Hubby suggested cutting them back.  Maybe someone should do a poll.....

Monday, April 12, 2010

Red ginger progression

A while back I posted a series of progression photos for the heleconia flower.   This time I want to share the same sequence for the red ginger.
At first the flower appears at the very tip of a leafy branch.  Every branch has a flower that forms on the tip of it, so it make for a very colourful and prolific plant.
This opens up into a lovely red flower, which grows bigger and longer over the course of a couple of months.

Eventually shoots start to form at the base of the flower, as you can see to the left of this photo.
These can be propogated by a method called layering, when you would bend this down and secure with a type of large staple into a pot of soil.   I imagine what happens in the wild is this flower would eventually get heavy and fall down and lay on the ground where roots would form.  I propogated all of mine in this way.

sunshine at last

The garden and I were very happy this weekend when the sun came out

Of course these tropical plants do love the wet season and flower profusely.  The continual wet does bring on lots of insects and bugs - mainly mosquitoes!  Most of the weekend was spent tidying up a little and putting a few more seeds into the vegetable patch.  I lost a lot of little seedlings simply because there was too much moisture.  I do believe the wet season is drawing to a close.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

was a fairy here?

Venturing outside during a break in the unending rain, I found a discarded fairy dress.  My gosh, it looks as though she just stepped out of it right now.... is she still around here somewhere?

Oh, no, it must have been just a fallen flower, look how many there are around..

I do like to think though that if there were fairies that needed a new party dress, that they would know they were welcome to come and dance in my yard anytime.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Two hours now without rain

I had a four day weekend (I know, I love that fact that we have so many public holidays in Australia :)  I took my MIL to church at my favourite little church in Port Douglas for the Easter service,  You look out at the ocean through big glass windows behind the altar.  It sometimes can be hard to concentrate....  but we were drenched by the time we got home. 
this is what happens when I walk outside....
some of the plants are very happy though- the anthirium just loves all the rain..

And so do the ground orchids...

and even the pigeon pea are flowering, although they do seem to be dropping off a lot of their leaves which are turning yellow.  I dont know if they do that before the peas form, or if it just because of all the rain and no sunshine. They are such beautiful flowers

right now we have had two hours without rain, I have put some washing on the line and hope that this really is the end of the wet season. 

Recyling, repurposing and re-using

I am always interested in giving something new life instead of having it ending up filling the landfill. Sooo.... my hubby found this wheel rim lying around and asked whether I could put it to some use.

   I have been hankering after a bit of a water feature, I know, I know, I dont have the room, but still, could I line this with some rubber or something, then plant a water lilly?  I would have to have some fish or things that eat mosquito larvae - is it too small?  Water features here can sometimes cause huge problems, maybe it is better to leave the water feautrue idea alone. 
Should I go the other direction, since it already has drainage holes, and plant some colourful pansies or some nasturtiums in it?
I do love the shape, and colourful flowers against the black would be good..
I am thinking outside the bedroom window would be a good spot, and we do need some more colour there, and there is sunshine there. 
Stay tuned.....


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