Friday, April 30, 2010

The Hot, The Loud and The Proud ... Ixoras.

I'm joining in Noel's meme today by sharing the wonderful Ixoras I grow here in north-eastern Oz.  For other great posts on 'The Hot, The Loud and The Proud' please visit A Plant Fanatic In Hawaii

One of the most common shrubs in a tropical garden has to be Ixora coccinea.  I have a very tall specimen that is just over 3 metres tall now ... it puts on a fabulous display all year round.
The red blooms really do catch your eye.

I also grow the brilliant dwarf 'Twilight Glow' with its fabulous two tone apricot colours.
Looking close-up you can see the colours.

I have another lovely dwarf Ixora in my garden ... it's the rather more understated 'Sunshine Yellow'. 

While it has these lovely pale lemony yellow flowers for most of the year ....

 ... right now it has these marvellous berrries.

Another lovely Ixora that's growing in my garden and flowers all year round is the 'Raywards Pink'.

I also have the dwarf white Ixora ... Ixora chinensis 'Peggy'.

A recent purchase is this Ixora with variegated leaves.  It gets lovely yellow flowers but, as yet, hasn't bloomed.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Mosaic Monday - In The Kitchen

The mosaic this week shows my kitchen on a dreary, showery Sunday afternoon as I'm preparing scones for afternoon tea.

It's not a home magazine picture-perfect kitchen ... and there's no fancy china or cutlery, but I do so love this kitchen.  I'm lucky that, even though the rain stopped me spending a lot of time out in my garden, I get a lovely view out on parts of my garden from the kitchen.  I can look out at the jasmine tumbling over the top of the pergola and the giant sword ferns growing in the beds under the pergola.

For other great Mosaic Monday posts, visit Mary at Little Red House.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Wildlife on Wednesday ... the Lace Monitor Lizard (Varanus varius)

Today we meet another regular visitor to my place.  I see these beautiful creatures regularly during our summers here.  We refer to them as 'goannas' and they have the most stunning skin ... the patterning consists of white spots, lace-like blotches or bands all over their body.  Each one I've seen seems to have slightly different markings too - wider bands down the tail, larger lacy spots etc.

This particular goanna was on the hunt for eggs and attempting to get into our duck/chook pen.  It was interesting watching his attempt.   (Please click on the photos for an enlarged view)

Righto ... feeling a pit peckish!  Eggs for lunch I think!

Mmmm .... maybe I can slip in under the gate!

No luck ... I'll try going down here and see if I can get in under the fence!

Drat!  No luck there either ... hmmmm... thinking, thinking!

Hmmm! ... I wonder??

Aaaahaa!!  Aren't I a clever little lizard?

These beauties are members of the monitor lizard family - the Australian members of which are commonly known as goannas. They're found all along the east coast of Oz. 

This is the second largest monitor lizard in Australia - they can grow to 2 metres long from head to the tip of the tail!

These lizards are mostly terrestrial but they are often seen climbing trees and spending time hanging about in the branches. They are mainly active from September to May (Spring through Autumn), but not very active in our cooler weather.

They will eat insects, reptiles, small mammals, birds and birds' eggs. I think the lace monitors actually eat more birds and eggs than other goannas.  They will frequently attack the large nests of the scrub turkeys out in the bush to steal their eggs, and they are often spotted trying to get into the chook/duck pens around the neighbourhood.

They have very strong claws and powerful legs ... and can hang around in trees for ages!

Now look closely .... can you see me?

Come a little closer!

That's it!


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Time for an Honest Scrap!

Clare at Curbstone Valley Farm very kindly bestowed me with the Honest Scrap Award recently and I have finally gotten around to acknowledging this lovely gesture ... and to participating in this meme.

First ... I have to think of 10 honest things to tell you about myself that you probably wouldn't glean from my blog. This task is not an easy one ... I know for a fact that I'm pretty boring really and there's not much about me that would make a fascinating read!  Neither do I think it will be highly entertaining or even remotely amusing!  Anyway ... here goes...

Number 1.  My childhood dream was to have an elephant as my pet!  Yes ... whacky and sweetly perverse I know, but oh so true!  Common-sense considerations such as where on earth I would have kept it, or what on earth I could have fed it ... were never given a moment's thought!  I just knew it would be wonderful.  What's not to love about a pachyderm?  Just look at this gorgeous creature ...
Sadly, though my Dad thought I'd be just as happy with a Cattle Dog named Rover!! 

Number 2.  It's been over 30 years since I last played the piano and I've actually taken it up again.  I never liked it much the first time around ... another of my Dad's brilliant ideas.  I was taught by an old Irish nun, Sister Cecilia.  I would nervously try to get through each and every lesson while eyeing off the rather hard, thick stick of wood sitting on the top of the piano.  If you made what she considered a careless mistake, she would rap you across the knuckles with that stick.    

Maybe that had something to do with why I never developed a passion for this skill.
Well, anyway, I've been wondering often over the last few years whether I might like to try to play again. Lovely hubbie bought me a piano for my 50th ... it was a total surprise!  So, now I'm practising and trying to revive my long unused skill.   Believe me, it's no mean task .... I'm am not particularly gifted in this area and all that rubbish about once you've learned something it's so easy to pick it up again ... well that is just plain rubbish!   There's nothing easy about trying to get these old fingers and memory working again.  Thanks goodness, it's only the kookaburras and wallabies who have to put up with the racket!

Number 3.  I used to wait with anticipation every year for a new Catherine Cookson novel ... and then I'd read it right through to the end without a break immediately after purchase!  Loved everything about her writing ... shocking but true.  It's something I would NOT admit in public ... should really have been reading something far more high-brow as friends considered her books a bit of 'fluff!"  But there it is.  I was devastated when she left this world never to write again!  I have the complete library of her works and all the videos as well ... I still re-read the books and watch the movies every now and then.  I even made sure hubbie and I visited the north-east country when we went to England on our first overseas trip - I so enjoyed finally seeing all those places mentioned in her work .... Harrogate ... Tynemouth ... South Shields.

Number 4.  I was a child bride ... married when I was just shy of 19 ... and proud to say we're still together after more than 30 years of marriage.  So many well-meaning people thought to tell us at the time that we were both too young and it would never last.  They didn't know that I was fortunate enough to pick a lovely bloke!  We met the year after this following photo was taken ... during our Senior year of High School.  Wasn't he a spunk???  He' still gorgeous and even though we've both probably had our doubts over the years, we remain the best of friends and in love.

Number 5.  The thing I am probably the MOST proud of , however, are my two gorgeous boys.  Well-meaning people yet again told us we were far too young to have a family straight away, but even though it was very, very hard at times, there was never a moment's doubt that they were and are the best thing in our lives. Well, now they're men, but somehow they'll always be my blonde-haired, blue-eyed babies!

Number 6.  Even though I love all my grandchildren sooooo much ... there will always be a rather special place in my heart for the little guy who really struggled to make it into the world!  He's a precious little soul. SSSHHH!  Don't tell the others!  I was fortunate enough to be at the hospital when all my grandchildren were born ... but the day this little man was born was unlike anything I'd experienced before.  I don't think I've prayed so much in all my life!

Number 7.  I love purple! Lilac! Lavender! Mauve! Violet!  Always have.  My room as a child has purple everything - curtains, bedspread, sheets, rug and the walls were painted purple.  My lovely Dad ... who couldn't do handyman jobs to save himself (but he could grow a mean rose or two!) ... decided to paint my bedroom walls in my favourite colour as a special treat. 

He couldn't find the right shade of purple so he decided to mix up a batch.  Of course he hadn't estimated the correct amount it would take to paint the entire room ... so he kept running out of paint.  Every time he came back from the hardware shop with another can, he would mix up a colour that was a slightly different shade to the last one he'd created.  As a result, the wall panels were almost every hue of purple you can imagine.  Today, you will find lots of purple in my garden.

Number 8.  Love tea ... hate coffee!!  Love dry white wine ... hate red!!  Love fresh bread and tasty, even smelly cheeses ... hate eating lots of healthy salads and squash!!  Love Scotch and Dry ... hate beer!!  Love dogs ... hate cats!!  Love the cooler weather .... hate the horrible hot summer weather!!  (That's not good given where I live!)  Love classical music ... hate hip-hop!  Love Cold Play, U2, Paul Kelly, Snow Patrol, Boz Scaggs, Linda Ronstadt ... hate Elvis, Michael Jackson, Enrique Iglesias, Whitney Houston, Dolly Parton and Pink Floyd!

Number 9.  I grew up in rather poor circumstances ... but I never really realised it at the time.  We only ever got one present for Xmas and it was usually something small.  I still the remember the Xmas that I received a standing blackboard though ... it was my dream to be a teacher one day and that particular Xmas present was just the most perfect ever!  .... Yes I have spent all my working life in front of a blackboard!  Not that you would be able to find the blackboard very easily in my early childhood classrooms over the years .... luckily I'm a short person because my classrooms were always full of things hanging from every nook and cranny available!  This is one of my very first classes way back in the 80's.

Number 10.  Despite the fact that I grew up in a town that was surrounded by seven beaches .... I have never lived right on the beach.  In fact, I prefer to live where I can see hills!  I had a view of hills from the modest house hubbie and I bought after we were married ... and I now live in amongst foothills.  Whenever I travel I find myself looking for hilly spots to visit.  During my last trip down south to see my boys and grandchildren I had the chance to travel to an area known as the Glasshouse Mountains ... I can spend hours just soaking up the view from a vantage point such as this .... there's something magnificent about such an outlook.

Whew .... well that's over!  Now it's time to mention blogs that I enjoy reading. There are SO many fantastic blogs that I follow, but in choosing for this meme, I'm going to fly the Aussie flag and I'm going to choose blogs that have relatively few followers.  

Most are not well-known blogs, but I think they deserve a mention.  I also couldn't keep the list to just 7 ... and that's another honest thing about me ... I like things to be a little ordered and tidy.  10 in one list and 7 in the other is not very tidy!   Lol ... now there's lots that can be read into that!

OK ... blogs I enjoy:

I simply love the stunning photography at David Kleinhert Photography  This is a photoblog that highlights some of Australia's great fauna.  The photos are incredible!

I love the quirky sense of humour and the great stories at Adventure Before Dementia   Diane tells her tale of migration to Australia and her life here since, including what's going on in her garden here in my home state.
I also really enjoy Diane's hubbie's blog called Our Brisbane and Surrounding Areas    He takes fantastic photos of our state's capital city, Brisbane and gives a fascinating insight into this particular corner of Queensland.  I'm going to count these two blogs as one!

Another little known blog  Frangipani Gardens  is written by Pitta who lives north of my city up on Cape York.  She has a very simple blog that shows the tropical plants growing in her little garden in the middle of the rainforest ... but she is very knowledgeable about her tropical plants.

In The Shade Of A Nut Tree   is a blog, written by Kathryn, documenting all the ups and downs as she creates her new garden.  She is a transplant from ole Mother England and is coming to grips with gardening downunder.

African Aussie  describes the development of her tropical garden and her vegie patch here in north Queensland, as she tries to use  permaculture principles as the basis for all gardening.

Then there is Mandy's blog      She shares what she has learned on her gardening journey since moving into the house and garden she presently lives in. She has developed a lovely garden and I really enjoy the insights she gained as she struggled to understand what works best at her place.

the burrow   is a blog from yet another fellow Queenslander (Yes I know I'm being rather parochial!).  She has a great sense of humour and although she posts infrequently, they always make a great read.

Then there is a wonderful blog from Joan Elizabeth called  Blue Mountains Journal   in which she shares beautiful photos taken around a most spectacular part of our country.  She also includes appropriate verse from all sorts of fabulous writers such as Walt Whitman, Walter de la Mare, Robert Frost ... just to name a few of the latest!

Now for a blog that some of you probably already know, but I really enjoy reading.  She is a die-hard rose lover and keen on creating a wonderful butterfly, bird and bee garden area as well as a little cottage garden full of our natives.  Heidi's blog A Year In A Gippsland Garden   is such great fun.

Finally I have to mention the fascinating blog of Titania.  Now this lady has several blogs ... all very different and well worth a read ... but I do love her gardening blog  Yesterday Today and Tomorrow In My Garden    In this blog she shares her amazing garden and her incredible knowledge of plants and gardening in general.  Such a wise woman whose wisdom obviously comes from many, many years of success in the garden.

 Right so there it is ... this is the LONGEST post I've ever written ... applause please!  I don't know how many have stayed to the very end, but thank you if you have!  I do hope you get a chance to visit these blogs from downunder even if it's just a quick visit to say hello. 

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wildlife on Wednesday ... the Yellow-Bellied Sunbird.

Let me introduce you to the most commonly sighted bird in my garden and indeed, a well known and loved bird in the north of Oz.  I see these little guys and get to enjoy their beautiful song almost every day - it's Nectarina jugularis, the Yellow-Bellied Sunbird.

Here's the female Yellow-Bellied Sunbird with her long, slender curved black bill; her olive-yellow feathers on her back and wings; her deep yellow feathers below and her white tipped tail.

Here's the male with his long, slender curved black bill; his olive-yellow upper feathers; his deep yellow feathers below; his dark metallic purplish-blue bib and his white tipped tail.

Here's a better view of the male's fabulous blue bib ....

... and the top of his wing feathers.

Now you may have noticed that the sunbirds were feasting on the same flowers in all these photos.  These are the flowers of my Combretum constrictum.  I only have one Combretum growing near the corner of my front verandah and the sunbirds spend a lot of time nesting in this shrub and feeding on its nectar.  They seem to love the rather unusual blooms on this shrub.

So while we're rocking away on our rocking chairs in this corner of the verandah, these fabulous birds are flying almost within arm's reach of us.  It's delightful sitting there listening to their song while sipping on a cuppa.

While these birds seem to adore the Combretum's flowers, they also seem to love the blooms of the Hibiscus rosa-sinensis .....

.... and the tubular blooms on this Russelia.

Can you see a common theme here?  Yes ... red!  They seem to adore the nectar from red flowers.

The female Yellow-Bellied Sunbird constructs the most amazingly decorated and elaborate nest ... and they don't mind building them close to the homes of humans.  This one was built on one of my hanging plants just outside my kitchen window.

Now as fate would have it ... I had been planning to make the Sunbird the topic of this Wednesday's post for a week now and just this afternoon I had the opportunity to capture the male Sunbird's song.  The quality of the video is not great, but you do get to hear the song quite well ... so enjoy!  Just click on this link .....
Song of the male Yellow-Bellied Sunbird

There's a small river in my front yard!

Yes ... this morning we awoke to a gushing stream of water streaming down the hill that's our front yard.

No ... we don't usually have a stream in our front yard unless it's the middle of  a terrific 'wet' season and there's been a few days or weeks of torrential rain.  While we've certainly had rain nearly every day for around a month and a half now ... the torrential downpours ended around the end of February.

Therefore the aforementioned stream of water didn't come from the heavens this time .. no, it came from a busted water pipe!

As we live in an outlying rural suburb and our property is basically bedrock, our council-supplied bore water comes onto our property through large black, high density polyethylene pipes which sit just above the ground.   If you look very closely at the following photo, you will see the large black pipe sitting at the back of the driveway garden bed ... right up against the fence.

Of course, as this pipe ages, it cracks and we often find the leak a day later ... our property is not huge but fairly large which means we don't always know what's going on in every corner.

This morning however, when we awoke we could hear the noise of the enormous gushing fountain of water and the evidence of water flowing down they yard confirmed our suspicions.  It wasn't just a leak ... it was a gargantuan walloping great cavernous hole!  ... and of course, it was located in a hard to get to spot .... behind an enormous poinciana trunk and a clump of bougainvillea up against our property fence!

So ... first job was to ring work!  Hi ... not turning up this morning unless you want some grumpy old woman who hasn't showered, brushed her teeth or had her vital early morning cuppa ... (because someone - won't mention names! - forgot to fill up both water containers in the fridge) ... scaring all the kids!

Next job ... trim back the bougainvillea.  Yeaaaaahhhh!  So much fun!!!!  IS there a more fun job than trimming back loads of thorn-infested branches that seem to have a mind of their own ... no, no I think not!

While this was all happening, hubbie raced into the city to find a hardware shop that has large black irrigation pipe.  Guess what!  Two shops didn't have any!!! So it was onto the next one.  Now a round trip into the city usually takes about an hour at the best of times ... this trip took over two!  Wife back home was not happy ... still hadn't had her morning cuppa! ... and she hadn't been enjoying her rumble in the jungle with the bougainvillea!

Well ... four hours later and the job is done!  Two very, very grumpy people are sitting out on the verandah having a life-saving cuppa or two ... or four! ... pondering on the amount of the excess water usage bill that will be part of our next rates notice!  Aaahhh ... the rural lifestyle ... there's a lot to be said for living in the city!

On a lighter note ... the sun came out this morning and it's been a glorious morning for those who had the time and the mood to appreciate it!

Monday, April 12, 2010

Mosaic Monday - Grandchildren At The Gardens

Having had time off from the blogging world to visit my grandchildren, I just had to create this mosaic upon my return. For other great Mosaic Monday posts, visit Mary at Little Red House.

My grandchildren have grown up so far in two rather soul-less suburban gardens ... you know the ones!  They're located in those brand new suburban housing developments.  The backyard is grass ... nothing else! ... and the front yard has the obligatory kidney-shaped garden bed that includes the mailbox and plants that some property developer managed to get a great deal on when they buy in bulk!

So, when Gardening Grammie makes a visit, she tries to make sure they get to visit a great garden.  This one is my favourite ... there's far too much to see all in one go with three grandchildren, so they get to see something new every time they visit this public Parkland.  They love it ... and so do I.  The pleasure in their eyes when they get to see, touch, smell and appreciate all the colours and textures is a delight to the soul.  This particular part of the Parklands is called the 'Spectacle Garden' and it is quite a spectacle in Autumn!
(Click on the mosaic to get an enlarged view).

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Wildlife on Wednesday .... It's bathtime baby!

I'm a little teensy weensy bit late in posting this ... but I figured it's still Wednesday somewhere in the world, so it'll be right!


This particular Agile Wallaby mum was a having a little bit of trouble giving her baby a wash ... it's a delightful episode in the life of these creatures.

MUM:   OK we’ve finished our dinner, it’s time for your bath!

MUM:   First we do behind the ears!

JOEY:   Oh get off Mum! It’s clean I tells ya!

MUM:   I don’t think so darling, let me see.

MUM:   STAY STILL and let me do this!

MUM:   Now what about your neck?

JOEY:   What about yours, Mum?

MUM:   OOh! You little devil, get back here!

MUM:   Fine! Fine! You do it yourself then and I’ll look after myself!

JOEY:   OK then!

JOEY:   Don’t know what she’s goin’ on about!!
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