Christmas decorations

Not the tinsel, baubles, angels, wreaths and stars you might be expecting.

My backyard is slowly hanging out its seasonal array. Most gorgeous of all is the lavish scarlet blooming of the poinciana (Delonix regia), which hangs out its starry red pompoms in good time for Christmas. It really is as bright as it seems in the photo below, almost glowing in the sunshine.

I love these decorations. I didn’t have to buy them, or hang them, and I won’t have to take them down when Christmas is over! I don’t have to worry about colour co-ordinating, or arranging them nicely. Nature takes care of Christmas in my backyard…

Poinciana blooming

Decorations 2 Decorations 1




The Gardens of Chiconia 42: an everyday rainbow

Today, I think the pictures say it better than I ever could. Spring is here, Summer’s on its way.

ROY collage GBV Collage

Linda, this one’s for your rainbow collection. Let me know if you’d like the collages or any of the individual shots.

The Gardens of Chiconia 28: Fruits, flowers and fabulousness

It’s time for another visit to the jungle-in-waiting known as the Gardens of Chiconia.

I say jungle because it’s growing like crazy, especially the bits you’d really rather not, such as the grass and weeds everywhere… On the upside, everything else is making good progress too, and the lemon tree, which seemed to be at the point of death, is staging a comeback.

A few images to entertain you.

Many of you will remember that mango tree from when it was a small sprout, barely knee high on me and looking a bit shaky in its first few months. Now, I think we’ll have to get it into the ground soon or it’ll burst its pot. Oh, and that rudely shaped object is the first set fruit from the Monstera deliciosa. The plant/tree/shrub/whatever is now covered in flowers, so we can expect a spot of fruit-salad flavoured bounty in a year or two. That’s apparently how long the fruit takes to ripen. I won’t be holding my breath…

Tomorrow I should have more stitchery to share.

The Gardens of Chiconia: The Frangipani’s Tale

Once upon a time in the Gardens of Chiconia, there was a dead stick.

Screen shot 2015-01-29 at 8.39.15 AMIt had been cut off the old frangipani tree at the gate of old Chiconia before the tree was cut down by the evil neighbours because they wanted a nice concrete slab in its place.

The stick lay on a bench in the Gardens and dried out, its leaves dropped off and the cut sealed over. One day, it was stuck  hopefully into a nice blue ceramic tub with some nice potting soil and compost. It got a lot of encouraging chat, good drainage, worm tea and plenty of water

All around it, other plants were springing joyfully out of the ground.

Screen shot 2015-01-29 at 8.37.21 AMDays, weeks and months passed. The dead stick watched the sun rise and set, watched weather dry and wet. Nothing much happened. Until one day, at the ends of the dead stick’s branches appeared little dark red pointy leaf buds. Great excitement ensued in the Kingdom of Chiconia.

The leaves came out… and fell off again when winter came. Once more, it was a dead stick.

Chiconia itself moved, and the stick in its blue ceramic tub came too. It travelled on the back of the trailer, its few leaves flapping in the wind, and there was some concern that it would not like the change or the bumpy ride, or the flapping.

But the stick loved its new home. It put out more and more leaves, bigger, shinier and better leaves. And one day, there were Other Buds.

Screen shot 2015-01-29 at 8.31.45 AM

And they grew.

Screen shot 2015-01-29 at 8.30.30 AMAnd they grew.

Screen shot 2015-01-29 at 8.30.46 AMAnd the dead stick was transformed into a beautiful frangipani, with fabulous pink and gold flowers and a marvellous scent.

And the moral of this tale is: if you have a frangipani dead stick, don’t lose hope. It’s just waiting for the time to be right.

The Gardens of Chiconia 13

Meet the new members of the team…

Screen shot 2014-04-26 at 9.13.37 AM Screen shot 2014-04-26 at 9.15.57 AM

There’s not a lot of ground space left in the tropical garden, and one entire section of fence is now entirely covered with passionfruit vine. The other fenced side has the banana tree, gingers, heliconia and monstera in front of it, so not much space for climbers.

Screen shot 2014-04-26 at 9.51.03 AMScreen shot 2014-04-26 at 9.51.44 AMHowever, alongside the patio is a long stretch of fence which has nothing growing near it. It’s a little shaded, both by the patio roof and by the large palm trees next door. One end gets quite a lot of sun, the other quite a lot of shade.

At the sunny end, I’ve planted the Orange Trumpet Vine (Pyrostegia venusta). It grows fast, loves fences to scramble over and has bright orange trumpet shaped flowers in great profusion. At the other end of the fence, next to both the patio and the tropical garden, I’d like to plant the Purple Wreath (Petrea volubilis). My only concern is that it may be too shady, so I’m going to transplant it into a larger pot and place that where I hope to plant it, to see if it likes its surroundings. The sun here is very bright and very hot, so it may be sufficient. If not, I’ll have to find it another home, but I want to make sure it’s somewhere I can see it, because it’s spectacular. The leaves are thick, crisp and papery, and the surface feels exactly like fine grit sandpaper. The flowers are also papery and stiff, but are a fabulous shade of lilac to purple. It’s also available in white, which isn’t nearly as pretty in my opinion.

Screen shot 2014-04-26 at 9.52.16 AMScreen shot 2014-04-26 at 9.52.38 AMI also got out there this morning before the heat really got going, and weeded everything. All the interlopers have now been abolished. There are very few palm shoots coming through in the desert garden now, so all the hard work last year has paid off. One or two are still creeping out to see if I’m paying attention, and get swooped on promptly. I do NOT want another palm tree out there. There’s also thousands of baby purslane plants giving it a good old try, but I’ve had no mercy. My succulents are looking pretty decent. One, which started life as a single leaf snapped off a neighbour’s plant, is now knee high and putting down some serious roots.  My second aloe vera, also started as a single leaf, is about 20cm high, and all the originals bar one are reproducing themselves madly. There are dozens of baby chalkstones, kalanchoe, aloe, echeverias and sedums. I’m doing something right out there…

Screen shot 2014-04-26 at 9.51.22 AMMy gotu kola has now gone from a slightly tragic little droopy pot plant to one that’s making a bid for world domination in one corner. The basil’s huge. The coleus is now nearly waist high, and continues to flourish so long as I nip the flowers out regularly. If I let it set seed, it’ll die back.

Screen shot 2014-04-26 at 9.52.55 AMSadly, my frangipani is not happy. I think it has brought with it the rust from the parent tree, and most leaves are spotted. Some of the new leaves are also curly and deformed. If it doesn’t do better, I’m going to have to get rid of it, as it’ll never thrive.

The Gardens of Chiconia 8

It’s a long time since the green stuff got a look in.

I haven’t had to water for a few days, thanks to the wonderful rain we got recently. Despite the forecast saying we’d have rain for the past week, though, it hasn’t materialised and I was out again with the hose this morning. And really, I was amazed at the growth things put on in this climate after a good soaking. It’s the usual culprits: banana, passionfruit, mango – and now they’re joined by the avocado, lychee, and even the citrus. Time for more before and after shots, I think!

Musa acuminata x balbisiana var. awak (Ducasse, or Pisang Awak banana)

Dwarf Ducasse banana, just planted

That same tree, this morning...

That same tree, this morning…

The banana’s the one that’s impressing me most. It loves its slightly damp corner by the fence, where it’s fairly well protected from the wind blowing its leaves to bits, and the ground is slightly lower so moisture accumulates there. Even so, the growth is almost visible. What is a rolled up pointy leaf bud in the morning is fully unfurled and a huge leaf by the evening.

I’m constantly nipping out the growing tips on the passionfruit vine, which, if left unchecked, would be all over two neighbours’ gardens and strangling the flame tree. It has the added benefit of making the vine produce more side shoots, which is what I want.

The Dead Stick

The Dead Stick

... and the Dead Stick today!

… and the Dead Stick today!

The Tree Formerly Known As A Dead Stick, or Frangipani, is also flourishing. Its leaves are enormous, and more appear every day.  It clearly enjoys life in a large ceramic pot, with its feet out of any water that might pool while the rain is heavy. I look forward to pink flowers one day soon.

The avodado before

The avocado before

The avocado now

The avocado now

I am fighting an ongoing battle with caterpillars and grasshoppers. You can only pick off so many by hand… They are munching holes in almost everything. Where there’s a lot of foliage, or the plant is well grown, I’m not so concerned, but they have destroyed a few plants down to the bare stem. I don’t know what the answer is. We get limited success spraying with soapy water, and I’ve had to resort to pyrethrum where a plant is infested with a dozen or so insects, but if I could point all the little devils at one or two sacrificial plants, I’d be happy! And of course, their favourite food is the tender young leaves on the fruit trees, and my most cherished ornamentals. They have made lace of the lower leaves of the Brugmansia (Angel Trumpet), so obviously they are immune to the poison in the leaves.

The Monstera deliciosa (Swiss Cheese Plant) in the corner is also thriving. It’s at least doubled in size, the leaves are huge and glossy, and I’m still amazed that I can grow something like that outside which has to be carefully nurtured inside in a pot in Europe. Tropical gardening is a continuing adventure and delight.

Come the autumn, I look forward to discovering how vegetables do here, with the construction of my raised beds and shade tunnel. I’m going to miss the things that prefer cooler weather. The area I have to work with is small, sheltered and hot, and floods in the Wet. Which means that even the things other people in this climate can grow don’t thrive in my back yard. So the first year is going to be a process of trial and error, seeing what works and what dies. I may be growing some fairly exotic stuff, working with the climate and environmental conditions, instead of against them! And I certainly don’t expect to feed us completely out of such a small plot: 3/4 square metres – especially if the grasshoppers discover it.

The lychee 3 months ago

The lychee 3 months ago

...and the lychee now.

…and the lychee now.

Everyone is getting a nice dose of worm tea and Seasol tonight, and a good watering. We’re going away for three days, up to Cairns and the Atherton Tableland, and while I’m away, the garden is left to the kind and tender mercies of my neighbour.  She’ll water for me, but she doesn’t know the plants and their preferences, so I want everything to have a good feed and be as strong as possible. I’m a tremendous enthusiast of worm tea. It might smell like, well, what it is, liquid poo, but it is absolutely chock full of nutrients and micro-organisms and the plants, which have no sense of smell, adore it.

And now, it’s time to sit in my swing seat with a cold glass of water, enjoy the sound of trickling water, and plan what plants I want to install next.

The Gardens of Chiconia 6

It’s been a while since greenery featured, so here’s an update.

Frangipani and friends, doing well

Frangipani and friends, doing well.
I’m hoping the three agapanthus
will flower this year: one white,
one blue and one pale
pink, very unusual.

The frangipani and its friends are getting bigger, lusher and bushing out nicely. Which is good, because they’ll feature strongly in the view of the Chiconia garden this Christmas, when the family descends.  All of them. Or, let’s face it, all the local ones, since if we included remote Chiconis it would be well out of control.

Fruit corner: the passionfruit vine and the Ducasse banana.

Fruit corner: the passionfruit vine
and the Ducasse banana.

Also doing well are the Ducasse banana and the passionfruit, which is doing a spot of neighbours’s-garden-invasion.  Pam next door keeps pushing it back over the fence, but it likes her side. Something to do with how much sun, or a more humid microclimate? Who knows, but at any rate, most of its inordinate new growth is still on my side.

There’s a new hibiscus in there since my last garden post, pale green and white variegated leaves and a scarlet blossom.  I’m looking forward to seeing that.

The desert garden, looking very green for a desert...

The desert garden, looking very green for a desert…

The desert garden’s getting nice and sprawly too.  Things are big, happy, flowering, spreading and generally giving the impression they’ve settled down and have some confidence that food and water will be regularly supplied.

Young fruit trees: foreground lychee, centre avocado, back, mango

Young fruit trees: foreground lychee, centre avocado, back, mango

Out the back, the young fruit trees are doing well.  The avocado hasn’t given me a day’s worry, but it’s also not growing much to the naked eye.  Still, so long as it’s not dead.  The lychee and especially the mango are tearing away, but it’s the time of year for pests to start increasing.  I’ve had to drench them both to knock off loads of tiny white eggs on leaves and bark, and the lemon tree is infested with tiny green grasshoppers. Every so often I go and knock them all off, knowing they love the new young leaves and will be back as soon as my back is turned.  The tree seems to be doing OK in spite of this. The lime tree has also had its young leaves infested with something.  Time to go and get another white oil spray and smother the little devils.  Anyone with any other helpful suggestions about dealing with grasshoppers, please speak up.

That’s it for now.  I may have more later today, but it’s almost time to get ready for work.