Sonic Garden

Paul Plant

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The sense of sound is all too often overlooked by most gardeners. We may appreciate the song of a wren, the rustle of leaves, the croak of frogs and even the clucking chickens; however few people embrace the concept of nature inspiring art to make sound so that it becomes part of the landscape.

Editor Paul Plant ventured to sound sculpture artist Steve Weis in Kin Kin to experience a garden that focuses on the auditory.

The notion of giving items a second reincarnation is just part of the accepted mindset of artist Steve Weis. Recycling has taken on a new meaning with few things left to corrode alone on a field forgotten by their owners. For Steve a recycled item can be reused over and over again – four times if not more. Making it functional and artistic is all part of the skill and passion.

Having once lived in Maleny on acreage and guilty of land clearing at the time, Steve was adamant to right the wrongs he had done to land and nature. The next property was a polluted ex-battery factory site. After many years, along with a lot of learnings, the property ended up full of flowering roses, olive trees, palms and flowering bulbs. To non-gardeners it may have appeared just as an art-metal display centre, but to environmentally conscience gardeners it was a jungle that brimmed with life and plants – from what was once desolate and bare.

From a 6 page Feature Article in Issue Thirty One
The Lumerian Love Seat [2004] in the foreground to the massive Flooded Gum (Eucalyptus grandis).
Old farming disc ploughs are recycled into a vertical wall for succulents.
The spine of this beast is draped with Spanish Moss (Tillandsia usneoides) as well as other climbers  Dragon [2001].
Seasonal Change
Noel Burdette

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No matter what style of garden we choose to create, we all need to find inspiration from those aspects in gardening that hold our attention and connect with our personalities and emotions. Plantsman Noel Burdette investigates a garden that emphasises seasonal beauty by pushing the boundaries of what is normally grown in the local district.

For Brisbane garden owners John Cuff and Kim Hew it is crystal clear that their much loved garden, Westwood Hall ticks all the boxes and brings to the fore their love of plants and most importantly, the changing of the seasons.

Many gardeners will quickly advise that developing a seasonal cool climate garden could be a difficult path to travel. Our humid, wet summers can often result in the demise of many plants commonly seen in cooler climates and expecting a vivid autumnal display could be mistaken as a magical wish from overly hopeful, romantic gardeners.

But like all hard and fast rules in gardening, these are often the most enjoyable to break, and this is exactly where both John and Kim have discovered and experienced the most enjoyment from their garden.

In the nine years that they have both lived on the block, they have endeavoured to create a garden that reflects the many places that they have lived and visited overseas such as South East Asia, Europe, New Zealand, China, South Africa and of course Australia.

From an 8 page Feature Article in Issue Thirty One
A high elevated location in the garden is ideal for succulents.
A number of old world tea roses can be found around the garden creating a sense of surprise and wonder.
A bench overlooking the pond provides a contemplation point for people to rest along the pathway.
Bonsai  a world in miniature
Craig Jurd

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Bonsai has a long history, originating in China like many other Asian arts, and then taken to Japan where it was developed further to the art it is known today. Bonsai plants are now grown all over the world. They are more than potted trees or shrubs grown in a decorative pot.
Bonsai transforms your mind into a world of miniature. Regarded as the art of illusion, bonsai makes a plant look much older than it really is through styling and pruning to represent a mature tree or landscape in miniature.

What keeps a bonsai small?
The regular pruning of the branches, stems and leaves maintains the shape and style of the bonsai specimen. The styles in bonsai are based on trees which could be seen growing in nature, such as upright, slanting, cascade, windswept and root over rock. More information about bonsai styles will be covered in future issues of subTropical Gardening magazine.

The article introduces us to:

  • Conditions
  • Watering
  • Wiring
  • Suitable plants
From a 5 page Feature Article in Issue Thirty One
Displayed bonsai at Tiger Hill, Suzhou, China.
Bonsai specimen at World Hort Expo site in Kunming, China.
Cycads - Suitable for cultivation in the subtropics part III

Heather Knowles

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Following on from Issue 30, Heather Knowles investigates another genus as garden and landscape plants.

Named in 1753 by Carl von Linnaeus, Cycas is from the Greek koikas or kykas, meaning palm, referring to the palm-like growth habit.
There are currently 107 known species from Australia, Africa, Asia, India and the south western Pacific Islands. Of these, 37 species are indigenous to Australia, with a further 2 species found on offshore Australian territories – Cycas rumphii on Ashmore Reef and Christmas Island and Cycas seemannii on the Torres Straight Islands.

As with all cycads, Cycas species are dioecious (separate female and male plants), but the female cones are different to all other cycad genera, being arranged in a loose crown surrounding the vegetative apex of the stem. Seeds are spherical to ellipsoid in shape and the skin may be yellow, orange or brown when ripe. Stems are variable from subterranean through to compact dwarves to tree-like proportions of up to 9 metres tall.

Varieties covered are:

  • Cycas cairnsiana
  • Cycas media
  • Cycas megacarpa
  • Cycas ophiolitica
  • Cycas silvestris

From a 3 page Feature Article in Issue Thirty One

Cycas cairnsiana.
Cycas ophiolitica.
Cycas silvestris.
Social, Health & Aesthetic Benefits...of Trees

Jan Allen

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The below item complements this article read in the current issue:

To read Jan’s list of 10 of valuable references if you want to read up more on this topic:

Benefits of Trees


Life is so much easier under the shade of a tree. We all know the discomfort of standing on a hot pavement in the summer sun, waiting for a bus or loading our car with the groceries. Perhaps there are other less obvious benefits that we have all taken for granted. In a previous article, arborist Jan Allen listed some of the measurable environmental and economic benefits of trees in our cities; this article lists some of the less tangible but equally important influences that urban trees have on the health and wellbeing of our communities.

There is a wealth of studies that inform our understanding of the influence of trees and other greenery on human health and social cohesion. Most notable is the work undertaken by Frances Kuo and Associates at the University of Illinois Landscape and Human Health Laboratory
( and Dr Kathleen Wolf at the University of Washington ( or locally by Dr Jane Tarran of the University of Technology in Sydney.

Research shows that time spent in and access provided to ‘green nature’ such as parks and shade trees, can reduce crime (Kuo 2001), foster psychological wellbeing (Kaplan and Kaplan 1989; Kaplan 1992), reduce stress (Ulrich et al 1991; Parsons 1991), boost immunity (Rohde and Kendle 1994; Parsons et al 1989), enhance productivity (Tennessen and Cimprich 1995) and promote healing (Beck et al 1986; Katcher and Beck 1983). In fact, the positive effects on human health, particularly in urban environments, cannot be over-stated. As a result, urban planning should ensure that communities have adequate access to trees and nature.


From a 4 page Feature Article in Issue Thirty One

Grafton memorial plantings along Fig Avenue.
EG Waterhouse Gardens in Sydney provides a place to relax, watch nature and appreciate the camellias.
Native trees work well as street trees in Jannali, NSW.
Bushfire Safety
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The below item complements this article read in the current issue:

To access links about bushfire strategies for your local area:

Bushfire Safety





Many parts of Australia are not strangers to bushfires. Tragedies such as Victoria’s Black Saturday on 7th February 2009 highlight the speed these fires can reach and the danger these bushfires can bring. Whether a person lives on acreage or on a small suburban block, preparing for a bushfire is all about planning and safety.

A key factor is to recognise where you live. Bushfires in the southern parts of Australia occur mostly in summer when rainfall and humidity are low, air currents are favourable and the natural bushland has started to dry out. In contrast, regions in northern parts of Australia tend to have bushfires in late winter and spring when conditions are most favourable and the previous late summer rains have created an abundance of vegetation which have started to dry out by late winter. Most importantly vegetation in northern Australia, especially rainforest species, tends to be natural inhibitors of fire – more on this
in a future issue.



From a 2 page Feature Article in Issue Thirty One
The aftermath of fire.
Western Australia importing plants from the east coast

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Gardeners in Western Australia are often constrained by the restrictions that impede plants being transported from the east coast of Australia to their state. A letter in the last issue of STG (Angela from Broome) highlighted this frustration. However, there is a glimmer of light for gardeners. It may be as simple as understanding the approval process of Quarantine WA and paying a small fee. A fee for this service will be introduced in July this year.

After the resident identified what stock they were keen to buy, they contacted Quarantine WA for an approval to import in lieu of C71 (the treatment). There is a limit of twenty plants per consignment and requirements for the condition that the plants must be in. If the plant genus and species is approved, importation is permitted.

From a 2 page Feature Article in Issue Thirty One
Honeybees  our little heroes

Paul Plant

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A garden full of colour is a delight to see. A garden full of life is unequalled. Birds, bees, butterflies, lizards, wallabies and many other creatures bring a garden to life – even our pets. All are important but perhaps the most heroic are the busy buzzing honeybees that zip from flower to flower.
Editor Paul Plant takes a close look at these wondrous winged warriors.

Honeybees (Apis mellifera) first came to Australia in 1810 however this importation did not survive in the local conditions. Historical records indicate that the honeybees introduced in 1822 were the first specimens to survive and reproduce. These were the pioneers of the honeybee industry within Australia. Since then the honeybee population has been boosted by imported queen bees.

Without doubt the honeybee is recognised as the most important creature linked to human existence. Honeybees pollinate flowers that give us food. They pollinate crops from which we harvest food or source seed for the next season. They pollinate fruiting and ornamental plants.
Honeybees help to continue the existence of native plant species in all countries and along with other insects and vertebrate animals help sustain endangered plant species into the future.

Flower pollinators, including honeybees and other creatures, play a vital role in feeding our pets, domesticated stock animals and wild animals. Honeybees are directly linked to the meat we eat.

It is widely accepted that increases in honeybees, and to a lesser
extent native bees, in the urban and rural garden will increase yield to fruit and vegetables. There is now a growing trend for gardeners to have a bee hive to help their garden prosper. Honeybees are far more effective at pollinating crop plants than our Australian native stingless bees, although both are beneficial.

Topics covered are:

  • So what exactly do honeybees need to survive?
  • Honeybee friendly tips for gardeners
  • Keeping bees
From a 4 page Feature Article in Issue Thirty One
Routine hive inspection. Image Marion Weatherhead.
Worker bee collecting pollen from basil flower. Image Marion Weatherhead.
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