Things Heat Up:
  The seasons in a
             subtropical garden

In the shade of my over-canopied garden, colour is still a shy thing to be coaxed and cossetted, and encouraged. Any opening in the tree cover that lets light through is an opportunity to enjoy a flowering shrub or a brilliant understory plant. This is just what happens in a tropical forest, along the edge of a stream or a path, or where some majestic tree has lived out its life and fallen.

My version of a tree-fall happened a couple of years ago when a single lightning strike killed six of my tall palms. Consternation at the time, until I realized that this had opened up a clearing which would support some wonderful colour. That storm cloud certainly had a silver lining!

What would best make use of this? Gingers like the Hedychium 'Elizabeth' at the top of the page, calatheas and begonias were all obvious choices, and so the space filled up almost as fast as it had appeared.
Before the spring slides seamlessly into summer there is a burst of growth as the rains become more frequent, with short rains alternating with clear skies - plenty of water and high levels of sun that together make the plants jump. There is a lot of flowering all around me in the neighbourhood, and some shrubs and trees of my own do their best at this time.

The last of the amaryllis (Hippeastrum evansiae) enjoy part shade as their flowers age from lemon-yellow to pale brick red.

Clerodendrum wallichii is another plant that does not demand one of the full sun positions.

I mustn't forget the various types of Amorphophallus that announce their flowering with strange odours. I have only the common species: A. konjac at the left, A. bulbifer below left and A. paeoniifolius below right.

My daughter has had nine of this species in flower at once - enough to have buzzards and vultures hovering overhead.

If amorphophallus interest you, there is a site that is almost overwhelming in its coverage at

The summer is a time of great interest in the garden, even though we often revile it as the "dog days". Hot? Yes. Sticky? Vilely so, and no time to be doing any major physical labor. But the early mornings, before the sun is quite over the horizon, can be pearly-clear and worth taking a few turns around the garden before going in to shower and throw that set of clothes in the wash.
The evenings, too, can be clear, and when the moon is almost big enough to touch, and the brugmansia are scenting the whole neighbourhood, it is possible to forgive the heat of the day and enjoy a glass of wine, or two, as the day folds down.

On to more of the same

Back to the beginning of the garden description