Friday, 28 December 2012

Christmas at Tony's

Once again Christmas celebrations this year were based around the annual ritual of loading the car with pups and pressies and heading down to spend Christmas Day with my brother Tony and his family. I shared last year's Christmas at Tony's over three posts here,  mostly bromeliads here, and the orchids here.

He has a much more extensive garden than me (not hard really when I am just on a regular suburban block), and, in addition, despite Ballina being only a two-hour drive south, he is blessed with wonderful chocolatey volcanic soil and more frequent rainfall. It's always great fun exploring his garden. This is what was happening on Christmas Day.

This butterfly on the buddleia was just that bit too high to get a good photo.

Luckily, a much more obliging one was also visiting. I think the spots and stripes are very chic!

Tony always has masses of bromeliads out in bloom.

Aechmea fasciata


The two little grey-foliaged bromeliads below are tillandsias or air plants, because they don't require any soil to grow in. The second is coming into bud and the Spanish Moss on the left is another kind of tillandsia.

One of his frangipani Plumeria rubra. This soft pink is one of my favourite colours.

Probably the most widely grown of all bromeliads, the pineapple.

Lovely mix of colours in the bougainvilleas


I love the combination of the erigeron daisy and the cherry tomatoes, but I can't believe that I forgot to pick a supply of the tomatoes to bring home with me.

This bougainvillea was growing on the vacant block next to Tony's, and below it is the view north from the top of his road towards Lennox Head, though it's hard to see the sea in the photo.

A few properties further along I spotted this Illawarra Flame tree Brachychiton acerifolius, which always has a particularly festive look to me with its red bell-like flowers. I have posted about them previously here.

The walk wore out the pups who needed a bit of a lie down in the patch of Panda Grass that was such a favourite with them last year.

 Hoya, one of my Dad's favourites.

This tall copper-coloured bromeliad is Aechmea blanchetiana

Still more broms under the bamboo

I am rather taken with this blue-flowering bromeliad (above and below) at the moment. I think it is another Aechmea and will definitely put my hand up for a pup on my next visit.

But then again, this white form is rather lovely too.

This is the standout performer among Tony's bromeliads this visit. His ten-year old Alcantarea imperialis rubra is in flower. Onslow kindly popped himself into the picture so that you can get an idea of scale. It must be nearly 7 foot high.

There were different Alcantareas in flower at Tony's in-laws, where we descend like the ravenous hoards that we are, each Christmas Day for some of the best country cooking I have ever tasted thanks to the very wonderful Joyce and Leo.

Just a couple of glimpses of the scenery between Cumbalum and Wollongbar. The rows of trees running down the hills in the second photo are part of a macadamia nut plantation.

And finally, for my Christmas snaps this year, how could I go past this bevy of beauties: my nieces Yasmin, Bethany and Eliza.

Eliza is the next chicken to leave the nest, so Mum Leanne made her this beautiful quilt for Christmas with special memories in every block and love in every stitch.

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Back to boring...and loving it!

It's almost two months now since my return from Jakarta, and finally, the pace is beginning to slow down a little. My office is closed until the 2nd January, so it is great being able to just potter round the house and garden and have time to smell the roses, er frangipani. I do love this white Plumeria obtusa, but there are some wonderful coloured varieties too that I shared earlier in the year, here.

We have had some decent rain and a couple of impressive storms,

sometimes followed by wonderful sunsets.

Over the last week or so, we have experienced a couple of really muggy days, so Onslow was a very happy pup when I topped up his paddle pool for him.

One member of the household didn't fare so well. A goldfish went missing. Am I just imagining it or does this kookaburra have a glint in his eye? He did seem to take a fancy to sitting in the frangipani overlooking the goldfish just prior to the mystery disappearance.

A more innocuous visitor was this gorgeous critter. It looked like a moth and acted like a bee, but the green body and clear wings threw me, so I contacted Kathy at Queensland Uni. She told me it is an interesting type of hawk moth (Family Sphingidae) called a bee hawk moth or clear-winged moth (Cephanodes sp). If you are interested, you can read about them here.

I can't quite remember when, maybe this time last year, I bought three potted caladiums. I vaguely remember thinking that I must plant them into the garden, but had quite forgotten about them.  A couple of weeks ago, these popped up, and I must admit they might be my new gardening obsession.

Below is a glimpse I caught of a corner of one of my neighbour's gardens. Don't the caladiums look brilliant paired with bromeliads. Interestingly, I went online to find who stocked them, and it seems sourcing them is a bit of a challenge here in Australia. Most of the commercial nurseries don't have them, so it is a matter of hunting them down at markets and stalls, or buying them on e-bay. I found a great website and got some helpful information here.  I especially like how Brian has used them in landscaping.

Elsewhere in the garden, the Sambac Jasmine 'Grand Duke of Tuscany' has come out a little more since Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day.

 so too, the Yucca.

There are a couple of different daylilies out.

'Donna Mead'

'Finish with a Flourish'

and my first ever Scabious are coming into bloom. Here with Salvia 'Heatwave Sizzle' in the background and the garden bed 'mulched' with fallen poinciana flowers.

Of course, when it all gets too exhausting observing the weather, the wildlife, and the garden, it's time for a snooze on the couch with Bella and Onslow.  In fact, that's where I am heading right now. I do love holidays!

From all of us at Casa Bella, have a great weekend and a wonderful Christmas break.


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