Garden Mid Summer 2016


The two months of Summer, December and January’, here in Melbourne have been quite mild, with only few hot days. The last few days of rains have made the garden look more alive with various new blooms. Even the lawn suddenly has started to look greener.
The two pear trees are full of fruits, and we always share them with wild Lorikeets. Now I can hear their noisy chits-chats and squeaks.

Pears and Rainbow Lorikeets:

The Beurre Bosc pears are hanging heavily on small branches, while noisy rainbow lorikeets (Trichoglossus haematodus) are chewing and munching the half-ripe fruits and making quite a mess. The colourful birds spit out most of the chewed flesh to the ants’ advantage. We always share the pears with lorikeets. I only picked the best looking fruits for making stew. I love to see those colourfull birds:)

Water Lilies:

The creamy white water lilies always bloom easily in the summer, but this year the pinkish red one also growing good. They are quite pretty to look at, but don’t last very long, only around 3 days before starting to wilt.

Rose ‘Peace’:

A surprise second batch of flowers! How few rainfalls recently do wonder, all of sudden the ‘Peace’ rose is flowering again. Quite a few and look pretty colourful and fresh.



Kalanchoe ‘ Silver Spoon’ and ‘Copper Spoon’:

The ‘Silver Spoon’ Kalanchoe (Kalanchoe hildebrantii) in the garden dropped a lot of leaves and few months ago I made some cuttings to grow in pots. Today they have grown nicely ready to be transplanted back in the garden. The tougher ‘Copper Spoon’ Kalanchoe grow nicely in the garden and now the colour is vivid copper brown.

Echeveria nodulosa:

The Echeveria nodulosa rosette leaves have interesting colour and some people call them ‘painted beauty’. We grow this plant in the garden and I notice that snails have eaten some of the tender leaves. I plan to dig it up and grow it in a pot instead. The interesting flowers are brightly coloured.

Epiphyllum/Disocactus ackermannii Fruits:

For the very first time, the E. ackermannii is growing quite a few of fruits. They are the size of marbles and the inside is similar to Dragon fruit, I tasted it….kind of sweet but I don’t really like the taste


The small yellow Hibiscus plant has eventually started to establish itself and grow bigger. The leaves look green and healthy and the yellow ruffled flowers look vibrant. While the Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) is having flowers here and there.

Tears are the summer showers to the soul……. (Alfred Austin)

Arabian Jasmine – Melati Menur

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This Arabian Jasmine plant (Jasminum sambac) is still in its original pot since I’ve bought it about 2 years ago in Caribbean market. At first, I was not very sure that this tropical plant could grow well here in Melbourne. The seller assured me that it would grow reasonably good here in a pot or in the garden.

The better choice is by growing it in a pot, so that the plant can be moved around. In the summer it can be placed outside in the sun and when the temperatures are low during winter, it can be kept indoor near bight window or under a covered veranda. This way, the plant will not drop foliage during winter time.

The other choice is by planting it in rich soil in the garden. As the plant is exposed to all weather elements, the possibility is that it will die down during winter and will grow again when the temperature starts to warm up in spring.

I’ve chosen the first choice by letting it grow in the pot and I keep the plant under the shade of the veranda during winter and move it in sunny spot during warm months. The plant will go dormant in the winter and only lose few leaves. By the end of spring it will start to grow flowers all the way in summer to autumn. It seems that the plant is a climber, but I trim it down to make it grow more branches. Some people prefer to strip leaves that grow on long branches to promote new growths and make it bushier.

Now our Arabian jasmine plant is growing the second batch of blooms. The smell lingers and fill the surrounding area with the most delightful fragrant. Once the flowers are spent, pluck the stems off and not very long will flower again and will only stop when the air starts to get too cold by the end of autumn. I find that this Jasmine plant is heavy feeder and will appreciate good amount of fertilizer. Manure pellets or slow release fertilizer granules combine with occasional drink of seaweed liquid fertilizer will make the plant happy and have green leaves and many flowers.

The aroma of this bunga Melati  (Indonesian name) always reminds of home in Central Java. My belated father used to grow them in the courtyard along the side of the house. The one that he grew was the more common variety that has single petals which is called ‘Melati’ while the one with double petals is commonly known as ‘Menur’ in Central Java.


Indoor Plants

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Yesterday I redid our terrarium. After few years, one plant, the Begonia rex dominated the limited space in the glass container. I hardly watered it so it went unchecked. If only I regularly trimmed the plants, probably it would never happen.

Other indoor plants seem to be good.

Terrarium and Begonia rex:

The 2 pictures above are the terrarium after redoing in 2013, Begonia rex was one of the plants. It seems that it was the most suitable plant to survive inside a terrarium and gradually took over and did not give the other plants a chance to survive. Just before I redid the terrarium yesterday, the colourful Begonia plant was the only survivor, the pretty leaves grew crowded and filling the whole confine space of the glass container. If I gave more attention by pruning it regularly, probably the invasion would never happen.

The photos underneath are the terrarium after replanting/redoing yesterday:

The colourful Begonia that grew out of control inside the terrarium has been transplanted. One small cutting goes back in the glass container together with a Sanseviera hahnii and a Peperomia. I deliberately not to overcrowd the terrarium, so hopefully each plant will have enough room to grow.

The remaining large part of the Begonia rex was replanted in a Chinese ceramic pot. The colourful foliage still look crammed after growing in a confined space for a long time. Hopefully it will grow and look better over time.

Parlour Palm (Chamaedorea elegans):

My friend Viv bought this plant when we visited Vasilli’s Garden Shop in Coburg few years ago. One pot had a clump of the pretty miniature palm, and she divided them into two and gave me one part.

Rattlesnake Plant – Calathea lancifolia:

I read that this plant is a bit hard to grow in colder climate, but ours seems to be happy sitting near south facing window next to my computer. Occasionally I give the plant water from the fish tank and the new leaves grow bigger and longer.

Golden Pothos – Devill’s Ivy – Epipremnum aureum:

This indoor plant with heart shape leaves and interesting colours is very versatile. Need to be kept moist but not too wet. Here in Melbourne this plant can be grown outside under protected veranda. In the winter keep it away from cold draught, otherwise just keep it indoor in a brightly lit room. Propagation is by stem cuttings after the trailing plant has grown too long.

Mother in Law’s Tongue – Sansevieria:

Another tough and easy to grow indoor plant. The interesting leaves come in different colours and patterns. Some grow tall and others are miniatures. The ones that we have are variegated standard with long blade like foliage (Sansevieria laurentii) and the other one is miniature (Sansevieria hahnii). I remember this plant grew wildly along the edge of a dirty and smelly creek behind my grandmother’s place in Solo when I was a child.


Few years ago I cut out Dracaena fragrans (Cornstalk Dracaena) into 3 parts and replanted the top part with leaves in a pot, and the two cuttings in another pot. Since then, they have grown quite good. I keep one with two cuttings inside and the other one stays outside under the veranda.

The three lucky bamboo plants (Dracaena sanderiana) don’t grow in water anymore. I replanted them in  soil.

Polka Dot ot Plant – Hypoestes phyllostachya:

If grown inside, Polka Dot plant will tend to grow taller and lanky. To make it look fuller, it needs to be prune once the branches has started to grow long. I find that this plant need a lot of water, especially during hot days. If the leaves start to look a little limp, it needs watering.



Two Shades of Blue


Two shades of blue flowers, one is Bromeliad neoregelia and the other one is Kaempferia galanga. The latter one is not a perfect bloom, it did not open properly and just quickly wilted. Nonetheless, both look quite pretty in photos.

While taking photos of these flowers is exciting, the song with the same title is kind of sad, but a beautiful song nonetheless.

Two Shades of Blue – a song by BZN

We painted a beautiful scene
With brown eyes and emerald green
The black of the night and the silver moonlight on you and me
But the tears that we’re crying each day
Have bled all the colors away
Now all I can see

Two shades of blue
Poor me and you
What will we do
Two shades of blue

In our kaleidoscope dream
We could have had everything
If only our lives would have started the night when we first met
But reality pulled us apart
Now we’re dancing alone in the dark
What a sad silhouette

Two shades of blue
Poor me and you
What will we do
Two shades of blue



Oncidium ‘Dancing Lady’


It seems that this orchid can flower anytime during spring or summer. The one that we have has a tight cluster of blooms, while many others are more spaced along much longer stems.

Unusual smell, almost peppery, a mixture of cinnamon and clove. I love the colour combination of copper brown and yellow.

Hoya carnosa

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This Hoya carnosa plant was given to me by our dear friend Viv from Coburg. The H. kerrii that I bought sometime ago lost all the foliage and until now there is no sign of new growths though the main stem is still green.

It is obvious that Hoya carnosa is one of the easiest to grow. The trailing plant with thick green leaves grow quickly from a small cutting. This year to my delight, it has started to grow flowers for the very first time.

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It is coming with a Vengeance


Eventually here in Melbourne the summer heat is coming with a vengeance. A four days in a row temperatures over 30 deg. C and it will reach the highest 41 deg. tomorrow. Christmas day forecast will be 34 deg.

All lawns are yellow and dry specked with yellow Dandelion flowers which obviously can better withstand the heat. Very annoying look, really.

Stop complaining about the stinking weather, instead look somewhere else where things are doing quite alright.

Kaempferia galanga (Kencur):

The heat has sped up the growth of this fragrant plant. The pretty and shiny leaves grow flat.

Himalayan Lantern:

To my surprise the Himalayan Lantern (Agapetes serpent) is having some fruits for the very first time. It flowered many times before but never developed into fruits. The purplish colour of the fruits look quite odd. Actually this year it is only flower sparingly, so it is a real surprise to see the fruits.

Phalaenopsis Orchids:

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A Redback Spider (Latrodectus hasselti):

The other day when lifting a plant pot, I noticed a small black spider. After looking at it closely, to my horror it had red marking along it’s back which is a distinctive sign a of a very venomous redback spider. For a while I was thinking of killing it, but then I decided that it too has the very right to live… yes right here in my garden. With the help of a stick I lifted the small spider and I let it go in the garden away from the back veranda. Hopefully that it brings a good karma so that I will never be bitten.

There was a redback on the toilet seat

When I was there last night

I didn’t see him in the dark

But boy, I felt his bite…… (from the song The Redback Spider)

Red Back Spider in backyard Dec.17-2015

Red Back Spider in backyard


They are found Australia-wide and will live almost anywhere as long as there is adequate food, a sheltered web site and warm enough for breeding.  They are especially common in disturbed and urban areas, in association with human habitation. – See more at: (http://australianmuseum.net.au/redback-spider#sthash.3naMiPLw.dpuf)

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