Saturday, 23 June 2012

What's flowering this time of year

I haven't been in garden for over two weeks, which for me may as well be two years. Incessant rain and below average temps (15c - brrr!) have kept me well away. Luckily today offered a respite and I managed to get some tasks done. Here are some of the flowers which are in the garden today.

The Thunbergia grandiflora is still sprouting buds, although the blooms are half their usual size

The black-eyed susan is always in bloom.

I've noticed the Clerodendrum speciosum is really going well at this time of year, blooming bigger and better than ever

The ornamental bananas are doing well. Above is velutina and below is ornata. They are blooming well but smaller than at other times of the year

It is rather cold at this time of year and days are short. Our mornings aren't too bad (no frost recorded here) but days seldom go above 16. This is fine for a few weeks, even a month or so, but for three continuous months it does take a toll on the plants.

So far, however, so good.

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Trip to the Florida Keys - Key West

I thought I'd share some photos of my trip to Key West, Florida. Key West is the western and southernmost island of the Key Island Chain, extending from the tip of southern Florida. It is small with a very cosmopolitan and diverse population of approximately 25,000 people. It is also the southernmost point of continental U.S and is closer to Havana, Cuba than to Miami.

Every view is a postcard on this island. Especially beautiful is the architecture, perfectly preserved elegant dwellings from the mid to late 1800s:

The housing style is a mixture of Victorian, Caribbean and New England styles all blended and painted in pastel shades. The look has been replicated in many new dwellings on the island so well that it is literally impossible to distinguish them from older, renovated houses:

Most of all, I love the gardens. Vibrant spaces overflowing with traditional eye-catching tropical growth, such as poincianas, coconut palms, orchids, travellers's palms and frangipani dominate the cityscape here (such a nice change from Australian tropical gardens of a similar nature being replaced with tufts of native grasses and other nondescript shrubs).

(If anyone knows what the beautiful shrub on the right is, please let me know)

Bougainvilleas spill out onto the street

Poincianas abound and really add to the beauty of the place:

I love how every space is utilized for gardening - such as the sidewalk. In fact, many places with great gardens are those which do not have a lot of space - people are forced to be creative and the lack of space forces you 'into' the plants, to walk past them, brush against them, and have their perfume 'forced' upon you - rather than admiring them from afar behind large sections of clipped lawns. It allows for a far more active interaction with plants. The small setbacks of the houses results in a vibrancy sadly missing from the spacious lawns in the suburbs:

The above picture was taken while flying past the highway to Key West on a bus (hence the power lines). Nonetheless, the scene is stunning. I can't think of a more pretty site. There are lots of traditional plants to see and great gardening design ideas to be taken away from the Keys.


Sunday, 17 June 2012

The Versatile Blogger Award!

Many thanks to Steph of Steph's Green Space for nominating me for "The Versatile Blogger" award. I have only been blogging since January of this year and I consider it a real compliment to get this award. Here are the rules for accepting the award:

  1. Thank the person who gave you the award.
  2. Include a link to their blog.
  3. Select 15 bloggers that you follow or have just discovered who you would consider fit the bill of a 'versatile' blogger.
  4. Tell 7 random facts about yourself.
  5. Include this set of rules in your post.
  6. Inform each of your nominated bloggers of their nomination.
Here are some of the blogs that I read on a regular basis and would like to nominate for the award In no particular order):

1. My Rustic Bajan Garden - this blog features stunning photography of the author's Barbados garden and is a real eye-opener for me to see how my plants would grow if in an optimal climate. The photos are dreamy and will send you to islands!

2. Lotus Leaf - a lovely blog from southern India with some weird and wonderful plants.

3. Fun and Vjs - this blog is all about renovating a traditional Queenslander home in Brisbane, Australia. The author has a lot of quirky furniture and while it is not strictly on gardening, the blog is interesting and unique in its own right. I keep fantasizing about designing a heritage Brisbane garden for the house!

4. bernies garden - this is a well-known blog about a lovely garden in the dry tropics of north Queensland. Some lovely photos and lots of wildlife pictures too. This was one of the first gardening blogs I started following.

5. African Aussie - a lovely blog from Townsville about a dry tropical garden. Some beautiful photography and interesting garden tales too!

6.  - a blog from the far north of Queensland. What always surprises me is despite our vastly different climates, what grows in this garden generally can be found growing down here, too!

7. Plant Fanatic  - the name says it all. A beautiful Hawaiian blog on local gardens in the islands.

8. Missy's garden - another great blog from Brisbane, with lots of interesting photos of subtropical plants.

9. flowerladysmusings -   a lovely blog not just of plants but with recipes and other artistic creations too! Very interesting!

10. Grower Jim - a gardener from Miami with some wonderful pictures of tropical plants and great advice on growing them.

11. Tropical Life - my photo blog of life in the tropics

12. A warm slice of Brisbane - photo blog of Brisbane

13. Past & Present - historic blog of Brisbane

14. Nice garden - a beautifully-done blog about gardening in Malaysia. The author is a lot like me in   that she finds it hard to not plant what others don't want!

15. Year Round Garden - lovely blog from Florida with some gorgeous plant pictures

Some facts about myself:

1. I speak and read fluent Cantonese.
2. I never notice when it is hot but I am very sensitive to the cold.
3. Nature is what brings me true happiness
4. I speak (Cuban) Spanish
5. Since I was very young I always wanted to live in the tropics
6. I enjoy cooking for my partner and family
7. I love cats! I have a furry black feline named 'Milton' (He was named after a suburb in Brisbane).

I want to thank Steph for nominating me and for those who visit my blog. Although I have gardened all my life (literally since I was a toddler!), I haven't shared it with too many people until now - so thanks to all!

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Winter colour

The weather is dismal. Grey, wet, cold (about 13 degrees celcius) and bitterly windy, the house is my retreat at the moment. Although I love the garden, sometimes I appreciate this weather for actually forcing me out of the garden - I spend so much time there I forget I have other interests, too!

Luckily at this time of year there is plenty going on to keep me entertained. First is my zygocactus (schlumbergera). This one is the old-fashioned deep cerise-colored one. I give it no attention all year and despite this, it gives me two flushes of blooms - one in late Autumn and the other in mid-winter.

The blooms are followed by these pink fruits which last a very long time (these are from last year!). I plan to propagate them when they eventually become ripe:

Another very happy plant at this time of year is the one below. I did know its name once, but it escapes me today (something to do with monkeys?). I do remember it is a warm-climate ground cover which likes sheltered spots. It thrives on neglect and blooms throughout winter for me:

The foliage is velvety and fury and has an interesting sliver stripe pattern to it.

It roots easily in water or soil and grows rapidly. I left this one in an out-of-the-way spot where it did OK until I stored some stacks of pots next to it - it then went crazy and doubled in size (it must really like its privacy).

The blooms are pretty in dark corners where nothing else will grow.

Thanks for visiting! Hope you have a great day :)

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Mexican Flame Vine (Pyrostegia venusta)

I learnt it's name as Mexican Flame Vine, but this beautiful climber is also known by a plethora of others - Orange Trumpet Vine, Flame Vine, Firecracker vine and Venusta vine. The beautiful, vivid orange blooms usually appear mid-winter but seem to have bloomed earlier this year. I found this lovely specimen beautifying an otherwise boring Sydney laneway:

The flowers are tubular and arranged in clusters. No perfume but with flowers this eye-catching, a scent would be superfluous:
The plant is reputed to be very cold sensitive which is unusual as it is flourishes in Sydney (or maybe our climate isn't that cold)
I like the combination of the burgundy wandering jew transcendia creeper with the shiny green leaves and orange blossoms.

I've successfully propagated this plant from cuttings, although they take long to root and are very slow to establish this way. Flame vine isn't rampant but climbs via tendrils and always seeks the highest point of the nearest structure. It generally grows well in warm-temperate climates and north.

I've always thought the plant would look great on a front fence with a background of vivid red poinsettia. The beauty of such a combination is demonstrated on the illustrated travel poster below:

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