Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Hot, The Loud and The Proud ..... Cordyline.

This is my all-time favourite cordyline.  It's such a no-nonsense, fuss-free plant in a tropical garden ... and it rewards you with fabulous colour all year round through the rain, the drought, the heat, the fierce sun, the stifling humidity and even the arrival of hungry hordes of enormous grasshoppers!  No matter what the seasons throw at this plant, it always comes back!

My contribution to the meme hosted by Plant Fanatic in Hawaii The Hot, The Loud and The Proud

Presenting  ... Cordyline 'Red Wings'.   (You can click on the photos to get an enlarged view)

Up close .....
... and personal!

Monday, March 29, 2010

Mosaic Monday - Rejoicing in the Rain!

Rain is such a uncommon event in my part of the world for much of the year ... for around nine months actually ... that we look forward to a 'wet' season sooooo.... much!

But rain ... at the end of March!!!!  That's rather unusual.  This has been one bumper rainy season  ... around 45 inches / 1154 mm of rain so far this year and it's still falling.  Flying into the city this morning and the countryside was green as far as the eye could see ... another uncommon event! 

So ... hooray for the rain!  It's been wonderful!

I'm linking up with Mary's Little Red House - Mosaic Monday meme.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Wildlife on Wednesday - the Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo

This was the sight that greeted me when I came home from work one day late last year!  I grabbed the camera and took some shots – then I wondered what they might be thinking during the whole thing.

Maybe this …..

These birds are called the Sulphur-crested Cockatoo (Cacatua galerita).  It's quite a common bird across the top of Australia and down the eastern coast.

They’re a large white parrot with a dark grey-black bill, a distinctive sulphur-yellow crest and a yellow wash on the underside of the wings. Sexes are similar, although the female can be separated at close range by its red-brown eye (darker brown in the male).

They are a very, very noisy bird, whether they’re resting or in flight.  They will stay in the same area all year round.  We have a large flock of these birds living in the foothills that surround my home, so I get to see and hear these birds every day.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Mosaic Monday - Pink In The Garden

Today I've posted a collage of all the pink flowers in my garden during 2009. You can click on the collage to get a larger view ...  OR
.... underneath the collage is a link to a video that shows the collage photos as a slideshow - if you want a closer view.

Here is the slideshow ... just click on the link below.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

'Ului' turned out to be a bit of a gentleman!

Well, cyclone 'Ului' made landfall at around 1.30 am this morning (March 21st) and the outcome has been relatively good.  'Ului' crossed our coast around 230 kilometres away from where I live ... Townsville.

We have had very little rain and just a few patches of wind gusts ... so we got off scott-free! It's mostly been very, very still here ... which is what we expect when a cyclone is approaching, but not what we expect when it's close by. It's been a little eerie!  We're not sure whether we're going to get more rain and wind or if that's that!

Unfortunately my Dad lives a little further south, in Bowen, and that area was just within the heart of the cyclone ... that's the red part of the diagram above.  He lives only 50 kilometres away from where the centre of the cyclone's 'eye' hit .... so my hometown experienced wind gusts around 200 kilometres an hour.

My poor 'ole Dad said he could hear the roof lifting  ... the noise of the wind was apparently ear-splitingly loud!!  They lost power down there as soon as the 'eye' hit and it hasn't come back on yet ... and it's now over 10 hours later!   They experienced torrential rain and it's still raining ... there are lots of trees that have fallen down and power lines are down ...

... but luckily no deaths or casualties have been reported. They still can't leave their houses yet ... too much debris around.

There are reports of homes damaged, boats washed ashore, trees down and 60,000 homes without power,

but all in all ... 'Ului' turned out to be a bit of a gentleman.  He behaved quite well - given the fact that he was a Category 3 cyclone when he crossed the coast!   He only caused moderate damage ... well moderate damage for our corner of the world anyway! 

The Emergency Services and Disaster Relief Authorities credit the locals with being so well prepared that it helped create a positive outcome for this event.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

It's been a week of watching and waiting!

Thar she blows!!!!  We've had our eyes wide open watching and waiting to see just what 'Ului' was going to do.  All week this monstrous cyclone ... originally rated Category 5 - has been racing across the Pacific towards us.  There is no higher category for cyclones ... so there are things that we must do to prepare for such a cyclone.

Luckily we had time to do a lot of trimming back and tidying up during the previous two weeks in between showers of rain.  A pile started building and building ....

... so mid-week we invited some friends around and we sat around the bonfire having a quiet one!

As the week progressed, Ului started to deteriorate ... down to Category 3 and then yesterday down to Category 2 ... so it's now only a 'Destructive' cyclone instead of a 'Very' or 'Highly Destructive' monster.  But it's still heading straight for our section of the north-east coastline.  It's now around 580 kilometres away but is expected to re-intensify to Category 3!

So today has been a busy Saturday ... moving potted plants from the courtyard, moving seedling trays and cuttings into shelter out in the greenhouse garden, a bit more trimming and another bonfire, making sure that there's nothing in the yard that could be blown around or blown away ... actually we had this task pretty well covered as there have been two other cyclones that have made landfall here in the north-east already during the summer!  

Now ... if it stays at Category 2, the cyclone's strongest winds can still gust at around 125 -170 kms an hour.  So, tonight I'll be moving all the furniture off the verandah.

Of course, we've already filled the gas bottles, filled the pantry, filled large water containers and put out the torches and candles where they're easily found.  The generator has been given a test start ... just to be sure it's still working ... and now it's time to sit back and wait.  'Ului' is expected to make landfall early in the morning somewhere along a 300-kilometre stretch of our coastline.

While this all sounds rather drastic, this is a normal part of life here during the summer into early autumn.  We can get ready for an imminent cyclone at the drop of a hat ... it's second nature to us now.  This map (courtesy of the Bureau of Meteorology) shows the history of cyclones in our area over the last 34 years .... each coloured line shows the trail of a cyclone.

Our section of the Australian coastline ... I'm talking about northern Queensland ... unfortunately, is the area that experiences THE most number of cyclones in the entire country.

Now with any luck, all we'll get is a few hours of strong wind gusts and maybe some more rain ... fingers crossed! ... and we can hope that the cyclone crosses the coast in a unpopulated area and there's little damage.  It should be inland by Sunday evening ... after that we'll continue to get heavy showers and strong winds.

On a much lighter note ... today as I went out into the garden to prepare, I noticed my vanilla marigold is blooming ...

... now I'm thinking maybe it's not so much 'vanilla' as 'custard'!!!!  Maybe that's what they meant when they labelled it as 'vanilla' .... 'vanilla custard'.

Not only that, but just look ... finally ... my Empress Toad Lily (Tricyrtis x empress) has shown her beautiful face! 

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Wildlife on Wednesday ... The Common Green Tree Frog.

I couldn't resist posting this great photo ... two green peas in a pod!  ... and on St. Paddy's Day!  How appropriate!

We get so many green frogs here ... of course they are most commonly seen during the 'wet' season ... but there are some that just hang around our verandah eaves all year long!

These two are sitting right at the top of the verandah wall near the ceiling - I'm guessing it's a very cool spot. There's about six green frogs in various corners of our verandah - all way up high like these two.  These fellows are great climbers but it takes them a while to get up there. When they want to come down they simply turn and let go and there's an almighty thump as they hit the verandah floor!

They are the Common Green Tree-Frog (Litoria caerulea).  It's the most familiar frog in the tropics here.  They're a species of tree frog ... obviously! ... and are around 10 cms long ... what I would call a 'robust' frog!  They're nocturnal ... only coming out at night to hunt.

This frog has a dark olive brown to bright green back, which can change over a period of an hour.  They can actually dull down ...  The sides often have white spots as does the back and their belly is white and granular.

They really love to hide away in places like downpipes, bathroom drainpipes and in the loo!  Yes I've spotted many a Common Green Tree Frog in all of these places!   When they're calling from the downpipes, it's an almighty loud song.

Now there are two audio/video clips coming up:  the first is the very familiar call of our Common Green Tree Frog  .... and in the second clip you'll hear all his friends joining in!!  Just click on the links.

Common Green Tree Frog call ... Crawk, crawk, crawk ...

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A wishy-washy Autumn weekend!

The weather has been so indecisive ... Mother Nature just can't seem to make up her mind lately!  One minute it's this ....

... then an hour later, this!

We're now halfway through the first month of our Autumn and the weather is getting in the way of a good start to our growing season.  Autumn through to the beginning of summer is the best time in our gardens.

I've been running in and out of the greenhouse all weekend like an idiot moving trays of seedlings from the few-and-far-between sunlit patches to the rain-sheltered patches ... trying to encourage then along!  The trays are so moist at the moment that I'm sure I'll see signs of mould soon!  I've already lost some sunflower seedlings, some Marguerite daisies and Brachyscome.

I've also been trying to keep some rather friendly Agile Wallabies out of my courtyard garden and away from some new plants.  Yes these are the culprits caught in the act!!

Don't be fooled by those cute faces ... they're really Portulaca poachers and the Salvia snatchers!!!  NOT very happy with these cuties at the moment!

My other concern at the moment is what to do with the bulbs I received ... not having had much experience with these at all!  Right now I've got them in the fridge because the daytime temperatures are still quite high - around 30 degreesC / 86F - and so are the humidity levels.  They're to be potted up and I know the soil can get rather hot in those conditions.

I'm thinking that I should keep them refrigerated until the end of our Autumn ... that's around ten weeks away.  If anyone has any ideas on this, I'd be glad to hear them.  This is an experiment for me this year ... so I'll see how it all goes.

On a more positive note though ... I am rather happy with the first bloom on my Curcuma 'Anita'...

... my orchid is blooming once more ....

... and I've spotted the first bud on my Empress Toad Lily ... so exciting!!!!!!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Wildlife on Wednesday ... the White-Bellied Cuckoo Shrike (Coracina papuensis)

One of the more unusual-looking birds that often drops by property is this fabulous bird with the 'Lone Ranger' mask!!

Whilst it's not a brilliantly coloured bird, it is distinictive.  It's underbelly is white ... hence the name!
Legs and feet are dark grey, eyes are black, bill is black and then there is that fabulous patch between the eyes.

It's grey on the back and the wings are grey with black markings. The tail is dark-coloured tipped with white.

While we get to see so many brightly coloured birds around here, this gorgeous creature is a welcome sight as well!

Friday, March 5, 2010

Around My Garden After The Summer of 2009/2010.

This is my first attempt at making a video ... I can hear groaning!!  It's not that bad!  (I hope!)  so stay right where you are!  Don't move!

The video shows my Courtyard Garden ... which is down these steps ...

...and the Greenhouse Garden ... which is under this shadecloth flanked on one side by a rock wall and on the other by the house.

Just to set the scene:   Summer is now over here in north-eastern Oz.  Summer is very, very hard on the garden.  It begins with very long, very hot and steamy days ...

and then the 'wet' begins with lots of torrential rain and overcast days which are still hot and humid!!
It takes some effort to get my garden through a Summer without too many disasters.

This is a 'warts and all' video ... at this time of year neither of the garden areas are at their best, but I don't believe in always showing picture-perfect ... not that I ever feel I achieve that!!!!!!!

So this is the state of my two favourite garden areas after the worst time of the north-eastern Australian gardening year - the horrid Summer - and just at the beginning of the best time for my garden - Autumn through to the end of Spring.

(Sorry ... I had to upload the video in three parts!)

(Another sorry .... where I say 'mussaenda' I really mean 'euphorbia'!  My brain went fuzzy for a moment!)

Around My Garden After Summer: Part 1 - The Courtyard Garden

Around My Garden After Summer: Part 2 - more of The Courtyard Garden

Around My Garden After Summer: Part 3 - The Greenhouse Garden

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Wildlife on Wednesday ... The Red-Bodied Swallowtail (Pachliopta polydorous)

One of the most beautiful butterfly visitors I've ever seen in my garden.

This particular butterfly is rarely ever seen around my part of north Queensland ... it's mostly seen in the rainforests up on Cape York which is far to the north of us.  It is in fact a rainforest butterfly and is seldom spotted far from the margins of a rainforest so we are particularly blessed to have spotted this beauty in our garden.

The wings of this species are simply spectacular with the black with white streaks and elongated white spots. As the common name suggests, the sides and tip of the body is a beautiful rose-red.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Mosaic Monday - Valuable Violas.

It's the first day of Autumn here in north-eastern Oz ... that means it's the beginning of the best growing time for my garden.  I've already started sowing seeds and potting up cuttings for my annual/perennial display out in my courtyard garden ... so today's mosaic is a promise of things to come.

I particularly like violas as part of my display because they last so long for me, are virtually pest-free and give the most beautiful display of colours.  I just love to pop them in any corner of a potted plant I can find and then wait for them to spill out over the pot in all their splendour!
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