Alloxylon flammeum Backhousia citriodora
Buddlejia Calodendrum capense
Caryopteris x clandonesis
Deutzia Delonix regia Poinciana
Heliconia Hibiscus cv
Ivory Curl Tree
Magnolia Little Gem
Mussaenda Nerium oleanda
Euphorbia ‘diamond frost’
Oenothera (evening primrose)
Pachystachys (shrimp plant)
Solidago (Golden Rod)
Arthropodium (Renga Renga Lily)
Canna & Calla lilies
Curcuma (Cape lily)
Habranthus (Rain lilies)
Vanda Orchid & Portea Bromeliad
WHAT IS FEATURING IN THE GARDEN IN DECEMBER:
The sounds of Summer are certainly here; The raucous calls of the Channel billed Cuckoo, the haunting sounds of the Koel warning us that stormy weather is upon us and the melodious drone of the cicadas signify a hot and humid clime. The whooping of the Coucals during the day and the gentle hoots of the Boobook Owl at night completes the audio picture of summer sounds.
In our subtropical climate summer storms are a natural occurrence. My garden is made up of many gardens which house perennials and bulbs. Without the shrubs I feel that many of these delicate and sometimes brittle smaller plants would suffer with the fierce winds that accompany these storms not to mention the heavy rain.
I think of the garden as having 3 tiers; the tall trees that are the canopy giving shade and strength to the garden, then the shrubs that give structure and form at a lower level and lastly the ‘delicate’ undergrowth of the perennials and bulbs which are the pretty, colourful and usually the changing features of the whole picture.
When you think about palms in tropical areas that experience cyclones and fierce storms. These plants are very flexible in high wind situations, bending with the wind and very resilient.
We can use shrubs as a buffer to help protect our garden: conifers, fiddlewood trees, dombeyas, pendas, umbrella trees, evodias, lillypillies, photinia, duranta and bauhinias to mention a few. These shrubs or small trees have hardwood but are also flexible enough to bend with and help break the wind’s ferocity in a storm.
I have a hedge of Bauhinia galpinii on the western boundary fence which is where our fiercest winds come from and where we are the most exposed. These bushes are also a fire retardant as there is vacant bush on the other side of the boundary. Hedges of duranta and photinia also help to buffer the winds.
Gingers, strelizias and heliconias form a nice big clump with their soft canes that bend although the leaves can split, they still look good. Bamboos, the clumping kind of course can form another interesting and formidable wind break.
The succession of flowering trees continues to delight us with the beautiful colours of the Poinciana, Tipuana and crepe myrtles, closely followed by the Frangipani as Christmas draws near. What a glorious sight and aren’t we lucky that someone had the foresight to plant all these wonderful trees. We must make sure that we also plant some more of these beautiful trees for our future generations to enjoy.
The warmer temperature is a great opportunity to take a few cuttings of the subtropical plants like Carphalea, Croton, Dracaena, Ixora, Justicia, Eupatorium and Mussaenda. Take a soft stem piece, cutting just below a joint, take off the lower leaves and cut off any flowers. Plant a few of these cuttings in a pot with the joint just below the surface of the soil. These plants won’t be ready to be re-planted until next year, but they will give you fillers for this time next year or you may be considering a new garden.
One plant that I love at Christmas is the hydrangea with its big mop heads of flowers. They do need a large pot and a lot of water and do better where they get air movement and early morning sun. They reward you with big beautiful pink, white or blue flowers right on queue for Christmas. These beauties can be grown out in the garden where rainfall is high throughout the year, but unfortunately our sub-soil is too dry for them here so I grow mine in pots. They are very easy to strike cuttings. Just cut beneath a node on a green new stem and pop the cutting into a pot.
Tomatoes, snake beans, pumpkins, melons, cucumbers, silverbeet, beetroot and zucchinis are making rampant growths and need water daily. Don’t forget to mulch the vegetable garden as well as this will condition the soil and provide nutrients. Collect seeds from lettuce, chard and any other plants that bolt, store them in an envelope for autumn sowing. Lettuce is best grown in shade during summer and the smaller varieties which are quicker growing are best in our climate.
The chillies, ginger and tumeric are taking off with the onset of the warmer weather. These all add a great fresh flavour to summer salads and stir fries.
The hard cane Dendrobiums are sending out new growth which will hold the next seasons flower spikes. Dendrobium Thyrsiflorum is a Thai Orchid and grows very well outside in shade but good light in a pot. They flower around December every year and put on a great show. Orchids should be misted or watered daily as the temperatures rise as they love humidity created by misting. Orchids in clay pots could do with a sprinkle morning and afternoon on the really hot days. Like roses they like their foliage dry for night time so water them early morning or before 4 pm.
Jim and I wish you all a wonderful and safe Christmas.
IN THE GARDEN