Saturday, April 28, 2018

Good old Rain Gods!

Thank you Huey! It is so nice to wake up this morning to hear the gentle hiss of rain on the tin roof that covers the back part of our house. And to look out upon the garden and see the pathway covered in a shiny film, I know that finally the plants are getting a proper watering, a soaking of their souls that a mere gardener with a hose and a watering can cannot hope to provide. 

Pictured below is soggy land this morning, bathed in the dull light of low grey clouds.

I am sure I must have mentioned it a few times before on this blog, but I love watering the garden. Even though we didn't have much of a garden in the home where I grew up, as a little boy I still loved watering the garden. All we had then was two hydrangeas, a lawn and a row of unruly oleanders that didn't need any help whatsoever from wistful little boys. But for me even then, watering the garden was a lovely time of quiet contemplation and daydreaming.

Despite my lifelong love of watering our garden, some mornings I do get a bit sick of it. As the weather cools down (finally!) this autumn, the garden's established plants don't need extra water, but we always have some new crops that need a regular drink. And so yes, some days even one of my favourite things can become a chore. Sigh. Being a grown-up can be so boring sometimes ...

And so here's truly heartfelt thanks to our Rain Gods, for doing a wonderful job and also letting me have the morning off.

Friday, April 20, 2018

A good wall pot plant

Keeping a diary is something I have always been very poor at. A classic gift idea, diaries. I have been given many of them over the years and I've hardly opened or used any of them. I realised, however, some time ago, that this gardening blog of mine is probably my best effort at keeping a diary, and lo and behold I've been doing it for almost 10 years now. 

And so when I checked back on my blog/diary to see when my Vriesia bromeliads last flowered, it will come as no surprise to find out it was also in late April. In fact, a scan down through the years shows they flower like clockwork ... "hmmm, the bromeliads are flowering ... it must be late April".

Here they are settling into their work this sunny April afternoon. Now, I was expecting something weird to happen to their flowering time this year, as the weather here in Sydney sure has been weirdly hot and not remotely like any Autumn that we know of. But as far as these clockwork flowers are concerned, their inbuilt calendar isn't going to be upset by some stupid heatwave. Hell, they're from Central America anyway, and they love heatwaves.

Now, the purpose of this rare update on my blog is simply to let you know that if you have a boring brick wall somewhere, especially one that gets no direct sunlight at all, then these are ideal plants to plant in a wall pot.

They need very little maintenance, apart from the occasional sprinkle with the hose (and not too much, either). My wall pots are completely under cover, under a covered pergola, so they never get rained on. So, I just make sure that every few days when I'm watering the vegies, that I sprinkle my bromeliads as well. As their pots sit right above the spot on the wall where my hose reel is mounted, I never forget to do that job.

The plant label name of this commonly available bromeliad is Bromeliad vriesia, and it sometimes is also labelled as 'Isabel'. Its flowers should last for a few months at least. And when they're not flowering, at least the potted plants offer up a lot of pleasant, green, strappy foliage.

Prior to these bromeliads I had tried some other plants in wall pots and they were either too much work or at least didn't thrive. These guys loved it from Day One.

The best way to kill a bromeliad, if you really enjoy plant murder, is to place it in full sun (you cruel beast), or overwater it (I also suspect the over-waterers also own fat cats and fat dogs, but that's just a theory). 

I plant mine into a 50:50 mix of orchid potting mix and normal potting mix, and that's all they need. I never fertilise them, and I water them very sparingly in winter, but more often in summer.

They do have little water "cups" at their base which some people become obsessed about and constantly fill up, most of the time killing their bromeliads at the same time.

If you're in Australia and reading this blog now, in April or later on in May, these plants might be in flower at your local garden centre. Maybe. Perhaps. If you're lucky. They should be. They're a great plant for apartments and balconies, too.

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Climate comparisons

Just saw this little map online and thought it was worth sharing. It's a map of Australia that has been divided into the climate zones of other regions around the world, just for comparison. 

The matches aren't perfect, as the little notes panel mentions. For example, rainfall amounts may differ, but the comparisons are handy for readers internationally who understandably might struggle with figuring out if their own garden's climate is similar to that of the Aussie blogger they sometimes read.

Here at Garden Amateur in Sydney, we're comparable to Argentina — hola Buenos Aires! — while up in Brisbane it's more like Sao Paulo. Melbourne is Fremont, Perth is Los Angeles, Darwin is Mumbai ... etc. 

The extra map below is of little Tasmania, which is not to the same scale as the map of Australia. This always happens to Tassie. It gets its own separate panel (much like Hawaii and Alaska do in maps of the USA). It's a very pleasant climate down in Tassie. The winters can be chilly but they do have the loveliest summers, especially on the east coast, which is comparable to Southern Chile.