Tuesday, 29 December 2015

Mango Surprise: Nam Doc Mai
7cm of Nam Dok Mai mango

This is an exciting time of the year for those with young mango trees as the fruits begin to form and enlarge after the spring flowering. One wonders whether the profuse flowering of the youthful trees will lead to a successful, but small, harvest of fruit. This is also a time for reflection about the growing characteristics of the trees. So where do we stand?

Our Nam Doc Mai seedling is our mango surprise. Despite regular spraying many of the flower panicles blackened off, while a large number of immature fruit appeared to have suffered damage, either from fungal attack or from damage due to a small hail storm which we experienced in November. These damaged fruit were quickly shed from the tree. 

A smaller fruit

This month, however, our disappointment turned to surprise and excitement. When clipping away the remnant flower stalks, two lovely little Nam Doc Mai fruit were uncovered on the interior of the plant. Is it possible that their interior location protected them from hail damage?

Mindful of the splitting of last year's first two fruit, fertiliser will be withheld until harvest. Furthermore, we will be very careful not to over-water. Being only in its fourth year, the tree will require some water if dry weeks are ahead...

You can follow the progress of our seedling mango trees over the past year by clicking on the mango label of the blog.

Thursday, 24 December 2015

Water for Butterflies

Just as butterflies require food sources in a garden setting, they also need a source of water. With the continuing development of our front yard, we have recently prepared two water sources.

The first was the purchase of a pedestal bird bath. It is never filled completely, acting as a shallow water source. Within the bird bath we have placed 'perching' stones, places upon which the butterflies can land to drink... Needless to say the bird bath elicits visits from our local birds too! 

 Our most recent inclusion is rather simple: a pot drip tray. It has been arranged in a similar way to the pedestal bird bath, except that it has been placed at ground level. Over time, the tray will be edged with low growing flowering plants and flat native rock... at the moment it is rather like a sore thumb!

The idea for providing water sources came from simple observations. One butterfly visitor was photographed resting on a rock in our fish pond, while another beautiful migrant was observed seeking water from a patio after the garden had been watered.

At this point we cannot claim success with our plantings and arrangements for the front butterfly garden... However, we are encouraged. Below are some recent sightings...

Monarch butterfly on paving
Caper White drinking from wet paving
Common Crow butterfly feeding on Kasturi Lime flower

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Christmas Tomatoes
The Colours of Christmas

Part of our history, a wonderful cultural tradition, Sydney home gardeners have for decades striven to produce their first ripe tomatoes, ready for the Christmas dining table. Tomatoes are the colours of Christmas. They are the taste of Christmas.

A tradition under threat!

Ripening Rouge de Marmande Tomatoes
Sydney's current unsustainable development threatens the cultural tradition of the backyard garden. The headlong rush to create massive high-rise developments in urban 'hubs' with the concurrent need for major road and rail infrastructure projects comes at a human cost. The more we price young families out of the housing market, the more we force people into high-rise housing developments and the more we promote the sub-division of traditional blocks of land by building 'granny flats', the greater the likelihood that we will lose an important cultural tradition... The words, 'sustainable development' are rarely uttered by our leaders.

Five home-grown varieties
It has been a good year for tomatoes at this address. The fruit is abundant and well-coloured and the dreaded fruit fly has not arrived in large numbers... touch wood! We have protected our crop with a Cera Trap. However, it has not trapped a single fruit fly to this time.

Tomatoes are not an easy crop: you cannot simply plant and wait. They require regular watering, plenty of mulching and fertilising, protection from the dreaded 'fly' and in wetter years you need to beware of fungal problems. However don't let this deter you: a home-grown tomato is worth two from the shop!
Mini Tiny Tim tomatoes contrast with a single Sweet Bite 

Our favourite variety is Rouge de Marmande which is an early ripening large variety. However, we also grow Beefsteak and a low-acid yellow variety. Our miniature tomatoes include Tiny Tim, Sweet Delight and Sweet Bite.

I would encourage everyone to continue a wonderful Australian tradition and grow your own tomatoes. 

Friday, 18 December 2015

The World's Largest Free-Flight Aviary

Egret admiring waterfall
Located in the scenic Lake Gardens, the Kuala Lumpur Bird Park is truly worth a visit. Covering an area of about eight landscaped hectares, the tropical gardens of the Bird Park are divided into a number of thematic sections, presenting the time-pressed traveller with an opportunity to witness and observe some remarkable bird species, albeit in a controlled environment.

Beautiful Koi Pond
Be prepared to allow plenty of time for your visit. There is a lot of territory to cover in Kuala Lumpur's legendary heat and humidity, and water is a must. 

One has the opportunity to hand-feed some of the 'residents' such as the famed hornbills, the macaws and parrots. However, the range includes many species of water-birds, melodic bulbuls, colourful lovebirds, statuesque flamingos and friendly, flightless birds.

Flamingo Pond
Regardless of the birds, the landscaping is beautiful. Enormous tropical trees provide cover for many other splendid plant species set around and amongst waterfalls, ponds and running water. There is even an opportunity to cool down walking behind an artificial waterfall.

Very close to the Bird Park is the Kuala Lumpur Orchid Park. In the near future I will post some photos of this superb floral presentation. 
Victoria Crowned Pigeon
'Perhaps I'm a little broody'