Legacy in the Tropics

Julie Roach

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Townsville arborist and horticulturist Julie Roach visited her own gardening guru recently to have a look at the property he has developed over a lifetime.

John Roach has been a horticulturist all his life... from searching for ground orchids in the local scrub of his primary school at Lucindale (SA), to overseeing the establishment of the plantings in the Adelaide Botanic Gardens’ Tropical Conservatory. More recently he spent eight years as the Senior Horticulturist at the Townsville Botanic Garden and then over thirteen years service for what is now the Cassowary Coast Regional Council as the Parks and Gardens Coordinator.

This is truly the wet tropics. The soil appears almost edible and the site drainage is exceptional.

From the deck of the beautiful, lovingly renovated Queenslander strategically sited near the top of the east facing slope, there is a backdrop of the Basilisk Range lit by the soft light of the setting tropical sun. The garden has become what it was once conceived in this gardener’s eyes, nearly twenty years ago. This shows amazing foresight and a commitment to producing an artwork on such a grand scale.

The 12.14 hectare (30 acre) property has numerous gullies and creeks, and a variety of aspects with a range of microclimates. The well drained, volcanic basalt soil has allowed John to indulge in collecting a huge selection of plants. Many of these plants have their own story, as John has grown them from seeds or cuttings. He can recall the details of all the parent plants.

Extensive areas of revegetation now link and preserve the diverse rainforest clad gullies, with their now clear-flowing streams. This was a priority when he first took on this challenge.

From a 3 page Feature Article in Issue Thirty Six
Selenicereus grandiflorus, a night flowering climbing cactus. [JoR]
The pond area near the house has become a wildlife habitat and a garden owner’s retreat. [JuR]
John and one of the first trees he planted at Mena Creek. [JuR]
Grevillea Cultivars

Heather Knowles

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Few Australian native plants have captured the hearts of local gardeners, international visitors, florists and landscapers to such a degree as the genus Grevillea. Their diversity is apparent not only in the colour of their iconic flowers, but also in their size and habit of growth. Many gardeners have fallen in love with the flowers due to their irresistible bird attracting characteristics. As too has horticulturist Heather Knowles.

  • Basic Requirements
  • Grevilleas dislike wet feet
  • Grevilleas dislike fertiliser with a high phosphorus content
  • Grevilleas usually like sunny positions
  • Grevilleas in flower attract birds and insects
  • Grevilleas will appreciate a light prune after flowering
  • Knowing the plant parentage will help you pick the perfect location
  • Small Grevilleas can be used in rockeries or containers
  • Shrubby Grevilleas can be used as informal hedging
  • Read the label – but remember it may not be 100% accurate

Species featured this issue are:

  • Grevillea ‘Austraflora Bon Accord’
    G. johnsonii x G. wilsonii
  • Grevillea ‘Austraflora Canterbury Gold’
    G. juniperina (prostrate) x G. victoriae var. leptoneura
  • Grevillea ‘Apricot Tingle’
    G. juniperina x G. ‘Goldfever’
  • Grevillea ‘Aussie Crawl’
  • Grevillea ‘Autumn Waterfall’
    G. bipinnatifida x G. 'Honey Gem'
  • Grevillea banksii ‘Ruby Red’
  • Grevillea 'Billy Bonkers'
    G. nana subsp. abbreviata x G. banksii
  • Grevillea ‘Birdsong’
    G. ‘Honey Gem’ x G. banksii
  • Grevillea ‘Boongala Spinebill’
    G. bipinnatifida x G. caleyi
  • Grevillea 'Canberra Gem'
    G. juniperina x G. rosmarinifolia
  • Grevillea ‘Candelabra’
    Parentage is possibly G. banksii hybrid
  • Grevillea ‘Carol Ann’
    G. juniperina x G. ‘Forest Rambler’
  • Grevillea ‘Coastal Impressive’
    G. ‘Sylvia' x G. 'Majestic'
  • Grevillea ‘Coastal Sunset’
    G. banksii (red) x G. ‘Golden Yu-Lo’
  • Grevillea ‘Coconut Ice’
    G. bipinnatifida x G. banksii (white flowered form)
  • Grevillea ‘Cooroora Cascade’
    A seedling of G. ‘Golden Lyre’
  • Grevillea ‘Droopy Drawers’
    G. thyrsoides x G. bipinnatifida
  • Grevillea 'Elegance'
    Also known as Grevillea ‘Longjohn’. G. longistyla x G. johnsonii
  • Grevillea ‘Ember Glow’
    G. juniperina x G. rhyolitica
  • Grevillea ‘Fire Sprite’
    G. longistyla x G. venusta
From a 6 page Feature Article in Issue Thirty Six
Grevillea ‘Candelabra’
Grevillea ‘Coastal Sunset’ – G. banksii (red) x G. ‘Golden Yu-Lo’
Grevillea ‘Cooroora Cascade’ – A seedling of G. ‘Golden Lyre’
Personal Resort

Melina Simpson




Gardens do not always need to have a myriad of colour to be inviting. A variety of textures, heights, forms and landscape features also play a role in giving a garden depth and interest. One garden located north-west of Brisbane combines well-maintained natural bushland with manicured lawns and lush subtropical plantings. Local horticulturist Melina Simpson spoke to the garden owners, Bruce and Jacqui, about their garden.

The owners first built on the property twenty-two years ago and started the gardens at approximately the same time. As well as pursuing their passion for world travel, the recently retired couple continue to maintain and improve their garden. It was built by Bruce and the couple’s son, Mason.

Inspiration for the initial plantings came from the Mackay Airport. On arrival, Bruce noticed a large group of various palm species that created a cool peaceful atmosphere. The character and emotional response became the inspiration for transformation of the garden.

As well as creating something relaxing, the couple also wanted a garden that would be relatively easy to manage.

From an 4 page Feature Article in Issue Thirty Six
Various plantings contribute a variety of textures and shapes.
A smiling Buddha oversees this corner of the garden.
The glossy leaves and white spathes of Spathiphyllum are glimpsed through the feathery leaves of Chamaedorea cataractarum.
Roses in the subtropics
Phillip O'Malley

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Roses have been grown and admired in China for many centuries, with at least 50 different plants being recognised around 1000 AD. Landscape Designer Phillip O’Malley takes a look at roses in a warm climate.

Two main groups of roses, called China and Tea roses, were imported from China in the 1700s and 1800s.

Tea roses arrived in England on East India Company ships carrying cargoes of tea, hence their common name. These roses added a wider range of colours to the palette of existing European roses and included reds, pinks, whites – and particularly yellows and oranges. Dawn colour tones of gold, warm pink and rose (a colour between red and magenta) merged into each other and added further colour range and depth.

China roses have the distinction of having flower colours that deepen with age whereas most other rose colours fade with age.

Many of the highly regarded qualities of modern roses like Hybrid Teas and Floribundas can be attributed to the diverse and dynamic qualities of early Tea and China roses.


From a 3 page Feature Article in Issue Thirty Six

China rose ‘Mutabilis’.
Rose garden mix.
Tea rose ‘Marie van Houtte’.
Sharing Plants..? Beware!

Jill Coomb




Being part of a community garden or garden club has many rewards such as sharing plants around. Although this is one of the best ways to source unusual and old fashioned plant species and cultivars, some caution is recommended with this practice.

Nurseryperson and horticulturist, Jill Coomb takes a look at an undesirable aspect of sharing plants.

Most student horticulturists learn that ‘a weed is a plant growing in the wrong place at the wrong time’. Every plant has a place where it can be grown but that place may not be in your yard or local council area or state or perhaps even the country you live in.

Garden designers, garden centres and professional horticulturists are occasionally asked to source plants that may be listed as weeds. This understandably can cause some professional anxiety.

Qld – www.daff.qld.gov.au/plants/weeds-pest-animals-ants/weeds/declared-plants

NT – www.lrm.nt.gov.au/weeds

NSW – www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/agriculture/pests-weeds/weeds

WA – www.agric.wa.gov.au/pests-weeds-diseases/weeds

Vic – www.depi.vic.gov.au/agriculture-and-food/pests-diseases-and-weeds

SA – www.pir.sa.gov.au/biosecuritysa/nrm_biosecurity/weeds

Tas – dpipwe.tas.gov.au/invasive-species/weeds

Within Australia local councils may have their own lists of weeds. Take the time to know those weeds listed in your local district.

For other parts of the world, refer to your local government website.


From a 2 page Feature Article in Issue Thirty Six

Rainbow Wandering Jew (Tradescantia ‘Rainbow’) is attractive but considered a weed.
Water Security – Seqwater, Wivenhoe Dam.






Gardeners are generally well informed when it comes to dealing with periods of drought and flood. However when rain falls regularly, attitudes to conserving water can sometimes be lax in the garden and within the home.
The Bureau of Meteorology has predicted a strong likelihood of future drought periods, so this is an ideal issue to review how we can improve our garden’s water security.

The most effective methods to address water security are to reassess what we do in the home and garden, and to consider the storage infrastructure facilities already existing.

Water is generally sourced from water reservoirs (dams, etc.), rain water tanks, utilising recycled water or using desalination plants. One source may dominate in one district or region or country but a different source may dominate elsewhere. Within Australia, we tend to rely on rain water that is captured in dams to supply most cities and country regions. Many properties rely entirely on rainwater captured by water tanks.

Topics covered are:

Cultural Practices

  • Plant Selection
  • Myth – debunking use of indigenous and native plants
  • Water Infrastructure

Waterwise Resource
Waterwise Plant Selector

From a 2 page Feature Article in Issue Thirty Six
Seqwater, Hinze Dam.
Arno King




I often hear gardeners saying that they “need more colour in their garden”.
However when I visit many client gardens to provide consultation, I generally find that this perceived need for still more coloured leaves or flowers is the last thing that is required. Often it is other aspects that require attention, such as: overall structure and layout; appropriate scale; or cohesive plantings that support rather than compete with one another.

Let’s face it, green is a colour – a wonderful colour.

Recent research suggests that spending more time in green environments, surrounded by vegetation, is also very important to our long term health –
and spending at least 55 minutes each day walking in a natural environment can help protect us from some of the most concerning health issues of the day, including heart issues, diabetes, cancer and dementia.

From a 2 page Feature Article in Issue Thirty Six
Contrasts in form and texture dominate in this predominantly green garden at the Royal Sydney Botanic Gardens.
Jamaican Iris (Xiphidium caeruleum) and Ruellia rosea provide a contrast in plant form.
Tropical Lotus

John Sullivan

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Award winning landscape designer John Sullivan offers a personal insight into why he adores the tropical lotus.

I have always pondered why we tend to see so few Lotus (Nelumbo nucifera) plants grown in gardens in tropical Australia, and apart from a few experiments growing these plants for myself, there seems to have been little success with this most beautiful of water plants.

In looking back through STG Magazine, Arno King delivered some great advice (Issue 2; p.26-33) on establishing and growing these plants, however it was not until a chance meeting with Geoff Cochran from The Blue Lotus Farm, Victoria, that I realised there is much more to learn about this species.

A few years back Geoff and I established a couple of ponds at the Hortulus nursery in Port Douglas, to investigate which cultivars grew and flowered best in Far North Queensland. As a professional horticulturist I have an interest not only to develop a broad knowledge of the plants that I grow, but also to gain experience in the culture of these plants. Geoff selected a couple of classic cultivars plus some of his own cultivars and we established each in their own pond. The results have surprised me.

From a 2 page Feature Article in Issue Thirty Six
‘Thai Pink’ lotus grown in small water bowls and pots.
A simple way to grow lotus without a pond – convert a pot into a water pond.
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