Monday, 27 June 2011

Road Trip

Well it wasn't so much Thelma and Louise, as Sheryl and Marisa. And not so much a road trip, as a Sunday drive (on a Saturday!)  But with my buddy visiting for a week to escape Melbourne's cold, I was eager to show her some of the beautiful countryside in southeast Queensland, so hit the road we did!

First stop, Boonah, in the Scenic Rim, about an hour's drive from Brisbane and one of my favorite day trips.

Bought a gorgeous pendant like this one at Art and Soul Gallery.

We stopped for lunch at the Commercial Hotel.

Friendly locals in the public bar.

Then took in the scenery at Kooroomba Winery and Lavender Farm.

Orange trumpet vine (Pyrostegia venusta)

Take me home, country road

Renovator's delight!

Beautifully restored shops...

and B&Bs, in neighbouring Kalbar.

Why do we so often wait for visitors before getting out to explore our own neck of the woods?

Sunday, 26 June 2011

Aloe, Aloe!

Australia's Open Garden Scheme was established to promote the knowledge and pleasure of gardening by opening private gardens to the public throughout the year. The scheduled July opening of Taringa House Garden of Colourful Aloes here in Brisbane has been cancelled this year, but I was fortunate enough to visit in 2009. It was quite an eye-opener for me.

Although I love potted succulents, I am not a huge fan of cactii and had carelessly lumped the aloes in with them. The display at Taringa House showcased the aloes and also provided wonderful ideas for companion plantings. I was amazed how well they worked with plants I had previously thought of as more tropical.

Owners Michael and Alexandra import ornamental hybrid aloes from South Africa which are distributed in Australia under the trademark Aloe-Aloe. They have a very helpful website with lots of information about the different varieties, and gardening and landscaping with aloes

Potted aloe at entrance are 'Moonglow'

With rhoeo and cycads
With Dracaena draco (Dragon tree) and tree aloe in background and striped agave

With yuccas, ponytail palm and cycads.

With variegated Tulbagia (society garlic) in foreground.

With a beautiful lime euphorbia

Love this edging - square concrete stepping stones and river pebbles.

Flash ahead to Casa Bella in 2011 and all of the four plants I brought home from the House of Aloes display day are thriving. 

'Fairy Pink', which is actually white, finished flowering a few months back. It has very dainty sprays and would work well in a cottage-style planting. I think I will get about a dozen plants when I divide mine up some time soon, and I'll probably use in a winding row at the back of my daylilies.

I have two 'Southern Cross' plants now which are both in pots. I especially like the contrast of the decorative red edging against the blue-green leaves.

'Diana's' flower spike is providing a welcome splash of colour now when so little is out in the garden.  It is a taller variety that I think will come into its own as my 'Mexican garden' bed develops, or perhaps I should say, if it develops.

I selected mainly drought-tolerant plants when I established this garden about 12 months ago as we were in the middle of our longest ever drought. However, since the January floods, we have had lots of rain, which possibly indicates a return to more typically subtropical weather. If so, I am likely to lose a few plants that aren't so suited to the wetter weather - especially when I have a pretty gluggy, clay soil. Luckily, as everything is still fairly young I can still move things around as plants are culled for more suitable options.

'Gemini' has a great compact shape and is out at the same time at 'Diana'. I like that it repeats the theme, albeit in slightly smaller scale, which provides balance to the composition of this garden bed.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Helga's Folly

Nestled like a pearl in Sri Lanka's lush green interior, the ancient city of Kandy completely captivated me on my first visit in 2004 - the year much of Sri Lanka's coastline was devastated by the terrible Boxing Day tsunami.

Since then I have dreamed of going back, but it was only in March that the opportunity to meet up with very dear friends from England finally stirred me into action.

Among the highlights - visiting the Bawa brothers' sensational gardens outside Bentota, which I will share with you another time - and a return visit to the truly unique Helga's Folly.

A veritable explosion of colour and creativity, Helga's Folly is a million miles away from the package holiday highrise and the oh-so-tastefully-neutral international resort style found in tropical locations around the world.  If you are bohemian at heart, I think you will love Helga's as much as I do.

Rather lewd monkeys adorn the balcony.

Not even the fairy at the bottom of Helga's garden is your regular 'garden' variety fairy!

Monday, 20 June 2011

Hot lips!

Despite being cut back ruthlessly at the tail end of Autumn, my Salvia microphylla 'Hot Lips' is already flowering lightly again, in Brisbane's midwinter.

I planted three along my front fence line about 12 months ago and they have flowered continually and garnered many compliments with the flowers varying from bi-colour to occasional all-white or all-red flushes. Seeing comments from other gardeners online today, it seems these single colour flushes are linked to the temperature, with white predominating in summer and red in winter.

Much as I love my red and white version, I was thrilled to read in April's Better Homes and Gardens that there will be new colour combinations to look for in my nursery next season. The bi-coloured pink one featured is a 'must-have'!

Sunday, 12 June 2011

Green and Gold

Green and gold are Australia's national colours. It's a combination that doesn't always make for the most chic of national costumes. But, on a week when we experienced our coldest Brisbane day in 10 years, and have had grey skies and rain added into the equation for the Queens Birthday long weekend, the splashes of gold in the neighbouring bushland are a welcome break from bleak!

I have no idea what this plant is - some kind of daisy and probably a dreadful weed. It grows wild along the edges of the bushland and the creek. Some of the plants would reach 6-8 feet.

Roadside wattle

and just to make sure we get a double-dipping in gold, the wattle is out at the same time.

Meanwhile, back at Casa Bella, the Mexican Tarragon is repeating the theme; we are very patriotic!


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