In the late 1970’s, I had the great fortune of working at Avery Hill Nursery and Winter Garden. My first full time job was at the premier horticultural estate in south east London. To my knowledge, Avery Hill Winter Garden was the last place in SE London where school children could taste fresh sugarcane, pineapple or bananas, or smell the fragrant blossom of frangipani.
Every gardener is familiar with some members of the Zingiberales, you’re likely to find examples of six of these families in every street and garden centre in Queensland. You may even know their families are related. Plant a few and your garden can have its own source of attractively shaped, delightfully coloured and sometimes fragrant cut flowers and foliage.
If Vireya rhododendrons have started blooming, it’s winter in the subtropics. Vireyas are a subgenus of rhododendron, they are tropical shrubs originating from SE Asia to Australia. Many hybrids have been produced, some are very fragrant, and most are ideal for container growing on a balcony, on (or under) a tree, or in a shadehouse. In my experience, treating Vireyas as you would an epiphytic orchid really helps. Vireyas make good cut flowers and buttonholes (remember them?). If you start a collection, you can have them blooming over many months.
The culture of winter gardening evolved in Europe, a response to their long, gloomy winters. By contrast, Australian winters are briefer, sunnier and filled with interest – if you know what to do. What is a European winter garden? What can an Australian gardener in a temperate zone do to keep their garden filled with interest? What can food growers grow during the coldest season?
“There is one rainforest plant from northern Australia every coastal garden should grow: Phaleria clerodendron, the scented daphne. This compact tree can be grown as far south as Sydney and it will fill a garden with fragrant flowers up to three times as year…unless Australians discover and grow this magical plant, who else will?”
“How did they keep lawns trim in the days before lawnmowers? asks The Guardian newspaper. Animals and scythes were originally used to maintain closely cut turf…and Australia has an indigenous answer”.
Two years without rain is a long time between drinks in the garden town of Barcaldine, but it’s not out of place in western Queensland’s desert uplands. With a population of under 1,400, Barcaldine’s Get Gardening Expo attracted 600 locals and tourists to celebrate the region’s best food, wine, art, plants, gardens and gardeners. Not bad for a region where even desert cacti need shade, occasional watering, and have been known to explode in summer.
Vale, John Morgan of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Sydney: greenkeeper, gardener, ranger, friend since 1992. I’m reminiscing about the Turfculture team, a vital service, where John Morgan began his career in my department. Together, from 1992 to 2003, our team transitioned the lawns from conventional horticultural management to almost organic standards. When I moved to Brisbane,…
With 100 square metres of good soil you can feed a person all year round. That’s what my ‘Dig for Victory’ grandparents taught me when I was a teenager in London. Here in sunny subtropical Brisbane you also need a minimum of 7,000 litres of stored water, ideally 10,000 litres, to sustain that production through…
“Young Australians need to be educated about what a Bunya tree looks like, what the sound of snapping cones and breaking branches sound like, and to avoid lingering underneath them in high summer. When I was at primary school, we had a Bunya in the schoolyard. We knew what to do, how to harvest them, and no one was ever hurt.”
I own a critically endangered plant. It comes from Madagascar, an island degraded by human activity and peppered with endangered species. When I discovered the news that my Gerold’s Thornless Crown of Thorns was on the brink of extinction, I had a flashback to planning the Rare & Endangered Plants Garden for the Royal Botanic…
If ever there was a plant perfectly suited to the sets of the Wizard of Oz, it’s Hippeastrum. These flamboyant flowers are dead easy to grow and Australia is fortunate to have the likes of Mick Maguire, a dedicated hybridist and grower.