My first Heliconia …

Anyone who lives in the tropics will think this event is quite ho-hum, but for me it’s quite exciting.  For the past three weeks I’ve been watching the development of my very first sub-tropical heliconia flower.

I had begun to give up hope of mine ever flowering, but finally here it is, helped no doubt by the unusually long warm autumn we are having.

Resident insect
Resident Helicona insect

Last night the temperature dropped to 6C, so I don’t like my chances of seeing the remaining heliconias open, but I’m very happy with my very first flower.

More Heliconias to come?
More Heliconias to come?

And there are some other sub-tropical plants blooming at the moment – the Cat’s Whiskers, Brazilian Cloak, Champagne Ginger and the ever crazy Costa Rican Butterfly vine.  Not bad considering Winter officially starts in only six days!

Optimistic masochistic gardening …

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Scarlet Fever Ginger

Depending upon which map you consult, Bellingen is either just inside, or outside the sub-tropical gardening zone. Either way, I knew that trying to establish a sub-tropical garden this far south was always going to be a bit optimistic.  The problem is that I am drawn to the lushness of tropical foliage.  Perhaps this is due to spending my formative years living in the outback desert town of Woomera ?

Unfortunately, it wasn’t an ideal summer to start the sub-tropical part of my garden … three months of spring drought, followed by a month of hot weather, then a severe wind-storm, a flood, then weeks of daily rain and no sun. Our rainfall total for the first three months of the year was 1084mm!

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Rubbish Skip Bromeliad

Many plants have been un-affected by the weather, others have sulked and refused to perform.  The Ylang Ylang, which finished winter looking like a dead black stick, burst into life again, but other even more optimistic plantings just well … croaked !! The beautiful Barbeletta bamboo I purchased for $150.00 is stone-cold dead, whilst the bromeliads I rescued from a friend’s rubbish skip are looking fabulous and producing pups and flowers. Is this a lesson?  The more expensive the plant, the more likely it is to die?

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Thai Beauty ginger

Some of the best performers this summer have been the gingers … the bees love them, they have flowered enthusiastically and their perfume has turned mowing from a chore into an aromatherapy session. The Thai Beauty which died down over winter, produced beautiful fragile blooms, but the torch gingers that I planted after falling in love with them in the Singapore Botanic Gardens, must have known they were doomed and didn’t even bother to raise themselves out of the ground.

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Musa Velutina

As always, the bananas can be relied upon to go absolutely bananas !! The pink Musa velutina have flowered their heads off, and provided snacks for the honeyeaters, and the not-so-dwarf Cavendish provided me with a huge bunch of small sweet bananas. The Abyssinian has finally settled in and is producing spectacular leaves. ( I have five Abyssinian seedlings ready to go in the ground, and I suspect that these will be next summer’s stars.)

So now that summer is over, I should be having a sensible talk with myself … but next month I am indulging in some more masochism. Three weeks in monsoonal and truly tropical Sri Lanka and the opportunity to drool over plants that I couldn’t possibly hope to grow in my garden.  Or could I …. ???

More tropical inspiration …

A path to who knows where …

Last weekend, feeling the need for some more tropical inspiration I drove up to Sunnybank in Queensland to visit Dennis Hundscheidt’s open garden. Heavy rain and flash flooding had been forecast for the weekend, so I decided to get there early and I was one of the first to enter the garden.

Dennis has transformed the gardens of three adjoining suburban blocks into a lush tropical garden paradise of winding paths, moss covered statues and pots, water features and displays of heliconias, gingers, frangipani, bromeliads, clumping bamboos and much more … every turn in the path reveals another “garden room” with it’s own water feature and collection of exotic plants.  Even though the garden is only 1000 m2 (about a quarter of the size of mine) it feels like it goes on forever.
Still enthused by my visit, I have booked myself on one of Dennis’ morning workshops in two weeks time.  A ten hour return drive for a three hour workshop – that will give you an idea of how impressed I was with his garden !!

♥   ♥   ♥  

The tropical beds project …

One evening early last year, I was standing on my balcony with a glass of wine in hand contemplating my garden when I had a sudden rush of inspiration.  Whether it was due to my recent visit to Coco’s Cottage or the effect of the wine … who knows … butdecided it would be a great idea to convert my front lawn into sub-tropical garden beds.

After much pacing backwards and forwards and the laying out of garden hose, I came up with a plan.  Friends Brian & David helped by delivering multiple loads of rich garden soil.  Jason the Kwik-Kerb man laid the edges, and I built up the beds with cardboard, soil and sugar cane mulch.  Other friends added to my plant stock with donations from their own gardens.

Now growing happily in the new beds are … various gingers, pandanus, ornamental bamboos, a black sapote tree, a ylang ylang tree, tiger grass, pink bananas, galangal, turmeric, costus, and a beautiful apricot datura.

At the end of summer I’ll post a complete time-lapse article
with photos taken from my balcony
♥ ♥ ♥