Thursday, August 30, 2018

Spring Gardening in Tropical Mackay, and some Spring recipes

Welcome to Spring, let's celebrate. It's official, Spring starts today. However the birds, the bees, the McNees and the plants  have considered it Spring for the last few weeks, despite the occasional and very short, cold snap courtesy of southern climates meandering their way up North. Whilst overseas friends are bemoaning the end of their Summer, and I feel for you, we are embracing the ambience of Spring, not so much the heat of summer though, which is also just round the corner.You are very welcome to take a walk with me through our tropical garden to see what we can discover. First the ornamentals, then the edibles. 

This is a Tillandsia or Air Plant in a hanging basket, surrounded by the light green  Button orchid which erupts into small golden flowers which the butterflies love. Growing in the garden below are my Matchstick Bromeliads which need breaking up and relocating. Another job to do when they finish flowering. When they first bloom, these Broms are very pretty with purple tips resembling match heads. This is all hanging off the very tolerant Lychee tree, which isn't very interested in fruiting so it has become an excellent tree for hanging baskets.

It's been a busy few weeks including a lot of gardening, and a new gardening project which I will tell you about in the future. Seeds and seedlings are planted, now I have to be patient. I've been striking some more purple Salvia, some Cordylines, some rosemary (which for some reason didn't take so will try that again), and fertilising my orchids. Now is the time to prune Hibiscus if they are straggly.

Rosella seedlings
These are Rosella seedlings. Each year I keep some seeds from the Rosella harvest and replant them the following Spring. Normally I just plant them straight into the garden and a few germinate, however planting them in seed raising mix this year has yielded a 100% success rate. Lots of jam and tea making ahead for me, and some will be gifted to interested friends. I am all for spreading the love, aren't you?

Purple salvia which has struck from cuttings
My Phalaenopsis orchids are starting to bud and flower, and are looking healthy. The flowering ones weren't fertilised last time though as that isn't a good idea until the flowering finishes.

Phalaenopsis orchid
Below is my Yellow Soft cane Dendrobium which I am delighted is flowering this year. Last year it decided not to.  Who knows why?

 Of course I have been gradually Spring cleaning, enjoying some cooking which often involves using up fresh garden and seasonal surplus, as regular friends and readers of my blog will know. I also keep knitting a few dishcloths to keep my skills up.

I'll let the photos tell the story of our garden which is a constant source of enjoyment for Mr. HRK and me, and a good source of exercise as well, I am hoping so anyway.

 I call this one the Cat's Tail Plant, however it deserves more recognition than that as it is a bit of show stopper. This is Acalypha hispida, a flowering shrub in the Euphorbiaceae family (I won't try to remember that last name.) It is also called the Chenille Plant, the Fox Tail, and Red Hot Cat's Tail. It requires regular pruning to keep it under control in this part of the world but is worth it for the beautiful colour it brings to our front garden. I think it is one of those old fashioned plants which is often handed on by cuttings.

Red flowering bromeliad 
This next one is a bright red Pelargonium, not a geranium, although they are often called that now. My Mum first gave me a plant from her garden in Rockhampton many years ago and I keep a few plants in the garden as I dread losing it. They don't really like the humidity or the wet weather but I prune it right back, strike new cuttings, and I have managed to  keep it going.
Add caption
There is always a flower with Gerberas.

Happy Jade.

And now for the EDIBLE Plants.

I couldn't survive without a Rosemary bush, could you. I use it almost daily in my cooking. It thrives in full sun. This a fairly new plant so I am looking forward to the beautiful little purple flowers it produces.

Our lime tree is flourishing in a pot in the front garden, very Mediterranean..

The ubiquitous Lebanese eggplant. I am thinking my Eggplant Parmigiana for you, little ones.

My favourite Eggplant Antipasto recipe is this one, click on the recipe here.

These chillis are from a recent harvest and the bushes keep producing more and more. They are all from seeds that I have dried from previous crops and honestly the bushes seem to get better and stronger with each new generation of plants, and the chillis even sweeter, supporting the theory that they keep adapting to their environment.

I have been making lots of jars of Sweet Chilli Jam, and Thai Pickled chilli which are delicious and will boost our stockpile. I also finely slice them in scrambled egg, vegetable stir frys, soups and a lot of my dishes really. I am amazed at how expensive they are in the supermarket and they grow like weeds in this part of the world. Are you able to grow chillis where you live, I hope you can. They also provide a lot of beautiful red colour in the garden, as well as the culinary and health benefits.

My mint pot is doing well, and is delicious in so many recipes and drinks. Recipe for Mint, Ginger, Walnut and Cauliflower Rice

We are very excited that our Finger Lime is flowering for the first time, it is only a couple of years old. I couldn't capture a photo of the very small finger limes but we have a few about an inch long. It is growing in a large pot. As it is an Australian native rainforest tree, called Citrus Australasica, it is amongst other foliage and located under the Golden Penda tree so it is shaded during the heat of the day. Beware though, it is very thorny. I am so excited at the thought of harvesting some exotic Finger Limes to use in the kitchen over Summer.

Very hardy and pest resistant red Mignonette lettuces.

Watercress is doing well in a well mulched, covered raised garden. Delicious for sandwiches and salads. I'll try to do something really interesting with the watercress on one of my blog posts.

We have yellow nasturtiums in flower, and we have just planted some orange and red ones. (No photo unfortunately). Here is the recipe for a delicious cake which I made after our trip to Lord Howe Island last year and which is decorated with edible nasturtium flowers. I really recommend this cake.
Honey, Yoghurt and Chocolate cake recipe

Last but not least, the strawberries are finally starting to yield a good crop of fruit. This is Mr. HRK's garden, he loves his strawberries,  and they have been on notice for the last 12 months to produce fruit this year or they will be pulled out. Lots of attention, fertilisers, a bed of straw, and this is the best crop in 3 years. I doubt there will be enough for jam this year as they are eaten as soon as they are picked but that is the fun of it, don't you think?

Happy gardening to you all.

Best wishes



  1. I am very envious. I am just starting to look at setting up my garden now I am looking at retirement. My first start is tomatoes which have been fabulous. I have been reading you blog for a couple of months and find your post entertaining and giving me ideas to kick start my new life. I love your orchids.

    1. Thanks Bernie. The passion for orchids sneaks up on you, and I inherited a lot of them from my Mum, plus years of advice, which got me started. I always think you know when you are ready to embrace retirement. Enjoy. Pauline

  2. Hi Pauline, Wow! Your garden looks amazing! I am so impressed with all that you're growing. My mom used to have orchids. They were so beautiful. Sometimes rosemary takes a few tries to root. I think I heard that it doesn't like to be transplanted. It took me three attempts, but now I have a huge bush. The hibiscus is lovely, and everything you're growing looks so healthy.

    1. Thanks for your comment Stephenie. It's a lovely time of the year here for gardening. I will give striking rosemary another go.Pauline x


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