Monday, August 30, 2010

Mosaic Monday ... Pink and Purple Gardening Candy for the Eyes!

Winter's drawing to a close here in Oz and right now there's a lot of lovely pink and purple in the garden.  Two of my absolute favourite flowering plants for adding these soft, fluffy, feel-good colours are Plectranthus 'Mona Lavender' and Azaleas.

First my gorgeous Plectranthus 'Mona Lavender'.  Whilst the foliage is not all that exciting ... this plant comes into it's own when it's covered in these tiny little flowers.  Take a closer look at the intricate patterns on these dainty petals.

Now to my Azaleas.  I have one dwarf variety growing in an outdoor garden bed ... and it has astounded me for quite some time!  It is the most resilient, hardy little Azalea I've ever met.  How it survives outdoors during our Summers here is beyond me ... but it does ... and for the last three years it has burst into bloom every Winter and puts on this terrific show of colour.  Unfortunately I have no idea of its varietal name.  I've named it 'One Tough Little Mama'!

I also have two potted Azaleas ... bought around four years ago.  These two did very, very little for the past three years ... then, suddenly this year they have burst into bloom.  Both have been covered by masses of frilly pink flowers ... and they're into their second display for this Winter.  Everyone who visits, comments about these beauties in the courtyard garden.
The potted Azaleas and the Plectranthus together make a wonderful combination.

Now for more wonderful Mosaic Monday posts, make sure you visit Mary at Little Red House

Friday, August 27, 2010

Flower Flaunt on Friday ... last week of Winter ... and another Skywatch Friday.

Such a weird week of weather this week.  It all began with the daytime temps. hitting the 30 deg C mark at the beginning of the week.  A bushfire broke out in the hills surrounding my rural suburb ... which is quite strange during Winter ... resulting in quite smoggy days with smoke-filled skies and the smell of smoke permeating every corner of the house!    Then, suddenly early yesterday morning the temp. dropped down to 19 deg C and barely reached 22 C during the middle of the day ... yesterday also started with a gloomy looking sunrise!
Then last night we had rain ... it was just a shower, but yet another surprising sprinkling of rain during our last week of Winter.  Today has been rather cool  ... maybe it's just a little reminder of what Winter could have been like!!   It has also been another dull, overcast gloomy day.

Anyway ... to lift the spirits I went out to fertilise ... and took my camera along to capture some of the blooms out in the garden while I was busy feeding the hungry hordes!

Begonia elatior hybrid 'Glorious'  ...

Cineraria ...
Pelargonium (unknown variety) ...

Plectranthus 'Mona Lavender' ...
Calliandra surinamensis (Pink Powder Puff) still in bloom ...

Croton flower spike full of buds ....

Just a few blooms left on the Tabebuia impetiginosa ...
... and the Pelargonium peltatum 'Ville de Dresden' is full of gorgeous flowers.
Unfortunately Spring is just around the corner ... Spring is just a fancy name for early Summer here ... there's almost no difference!!!  The days will be getting hotter, more humid and the sun should be endlessly shining with intense ferocity pretty soon ... it will be interesting to see if we get any more overcast days or maybe even rain during our Springtime ... it has been a year of odd weather so far.  This morning there was even dew on the grass!!!!

I'm joining in the Flaunt Your Flowers/Fertiliser Friday meme and Skywatch Friday meme ...  so please pop on on over to visit:

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Wildlife on Wednesday ... the native Blue-Banded Bee.

Introducing a real garden and bushland treasure ... this is one of our native Australian bees.  It's found throughout most of Oz except for Tasmania and the Northern Territory ... not exactly sure why they don't like those two spots!!  This brightly coloured native bee is a very common sight in my garden though.

The Blue-Banded Bee ... Amegilla cingulata ... has iridescent blue on black bands all over the abdomen ... rather like a fancy waistcoat ... and it's head and thorax are covered in gold hairs.  Apparently the males have five blue bands while the females have only four!!!

This bee is around 15 mm long and is a solitary bee.  Actually we have many hundreds of species of native bees that live solitary lives.  There are no Queens or Workers in solitary bee species ...  so you will see them all out there working hard on their own to collect pollen.

These bees will nest in tiny holes in the ground or in wood.  Each nest is built by one female ... although it's an interesting fact that the females have been known to build in the same location close to other nests. 

Blue-banded Bees are such important pollinators and are specialists in what is known as 'buzz pollination'.   They use this special technique to get the pollen from certain flowers.   Apparently the 'anther' of these particular flowers is tubular with an opening at one end.  The pollen inside is very smooth-grained and attached firmly.

These bees come along, hold the flowers and by moving their flight muscles very, very quickly, they cause both the flower and anthers to vibrate. This vibration causes the pollen to drop!  That's why every time one of these bees rests on a flower, you will hear a short buzzing sound!  (Sorry you won't hear the bee's buzz on my video clip because the sound of the wind blowing through the Eucalyptus trees in just too loud!)

Blue-banded bees have a very distinctive 'dart and hover' flight pattern ... which was evident in the video. Another fascinating fact about these bees ... the males apparently rest at night by clinging tightly onto plant stems.

To encourage and support native bees such as these, it's important to plant nectar-rich flowering native plants such as Eucalyptus, Callistemon, Grevillea, Melaleuca, Leptospermum, Westringia and Xanthorrhoea.  We need to avoid using insecticides and if you're clearing up around your yard or property look out for possible nesting sites.  These bees will build nests not only under the ground but also in:
-- burrows in soft sandstone, mortar or mud bricks
-- hollow pithy twigs (including tree fern fronds and even dead canes of lantana ... as we found out when clearing away large patches of it out in the bushland!)
-- old beetle holes in trees or logs
-- soft timbers such as dead mango branches and grass tree flower spikes
-- hollows inside large trees.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Mosaic Monday ... An Itsy-Bitsy Bouquet, Fabulous Foliage, Pretty Pentas and Sombre Skies.

The weather lately has been slightly odd.  After getting so excited last week that the blue-sky sunny days had returned after so many overcast, dreary days, there was a return to the dismal weather with lots and lots of oh-so-sombre skies.  Our Winter skies have been strewn with dark clouds quite often this month and we've even had the occasional light shower of rain.  This is not normal!!   This is the time of year when we're supposed to be seeing endless days of bright blue clear skies ... but instead ... this was the view from the verandah again today.
Well to brighten the mood, I quickly put together this rather modest bouquet to add to the afternoon tea tray this afternoon ... it's not much, but it did add a little cheer!  I added some Plectranthus 'Mona Lavender', a Pansy, a couple of Violas and Bracteantha bracteata (Straw Daisies).
Another cheery sight right now in my garden are my fantastic Pentas plants.  These beauties will flower all year round ... but after receiving a rather severe trimming back earlier this Winter, I was missing their bright colours ... I'm so glad to see these blooming once more.

To end this Mosaic Monday post, I'm adding photos of some great foliage plants that add such wonderful colour to the garden on these dreary days.

Here's a touch of pink and green with (clockwise from top left) Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Roseflake', Cordyline fruticosa 'Morning Sunshine', Rhoeo spathacea 'Candy Stripe' and Acalypha godseffiana 'Firestorm' ...

... and a splash of green and white (clockwise from top left) Dracaena godseffiana, Acalypha wilkesiana,
Hypoestes and variegated Nasturtium leaves.

I'm joining in two memes today, so please go on over and have a peek at some fabulous posts at Mary's Mosaic Monday meme and Noelle's Monthly Garden Bouquet meme.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Flower Flaunt on Friday ... last month of Winter.

Yet another strange Winter's day here ... we've had another light shower of rain (way out of the ordinary) and the temps have now soared close to the 30 degrees C ... today the expected high is 29 deg C but with humidity levels already around 78%, it will feel like 30!!!

Around the garden today-
...  Pelargonium

... Hibiscus rosa-sinensis

...  Snapdragons
... more Snapdragons
...  Anthurium
...  Gazania
...  Duranta repens
...  Neomarica longifolia (Yellow Walking Iris)
...  Pentas
...  Salvia splendens
... the last bracts of the Euphorbia leucocephala (Snowflake Bush)
... the fruit of the Dypsis lutescens (Golden Cane Palm)
... the buds of Corymbia torelliana (Cadaghi Gum tree)
...   double Impatiens walleriana.

... Hibiscus rosa-sinensis 'Roseflake'.

Now some of the great foliage plants ... after the shower! 

Top to bottom:  Cordyline 'Red Wings' and Aralia, Cordyline fruticosa 'Morning Sunshine', Croton 'Zanzibar' and Dracena marginata 'Tricolour'.

I'm joining in Tootsies's Flaunt Your Flowers/Fertiliser Friday meme ...  so please pop on on over to visit other great posts:

Monday, August 16, 2010

Mosaic Monday ... A Garden Blogger's End-of-Winter Bloom Day

It's August and the last month of our Winter in my Downunder garden.  August has been a little cooler ... with just a couple of very cool mornings to remind us that it is our Winter ... and there's been a welcome return of bright, cheery, blue-sky sunny days!

I'm joining in Mary's Mosaic Monday meme and, for the first time, Carol's Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day - August meme.  Make sure you click on these links and visit some other fabulous posts for these memes.

Over the weekend just gone, I spent a bit of time trimming back lots of the potted annuals ... they had already had their first rush of blooms and were getting quite leggy, so it was time to trim back ready for their next show over our Spring.  Before I gave them all haircuts, though, I remembered to take some photos to share.

So let's look at some of the lovely annuals before they had their new 'do!  Cheerful little pansies and violas ...
... and pleasing Petunia blooms.

The Pelargoniums are gearing up for their Spring display  ...

 ... and the Salvia splendens are looking fabulous!

Now I've added a Smilebox presentation to show off some of the other wonderful blooms out in my end-of-Winter garden.  Please make sure you stop the Playlist on the sidebar ... over to the right ... as there's music on the Smilebox to enjoy!

Click to play this Smilebox photo album
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