Native Gold

Joan Dillon

Images John Dillon

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Green and gold are the colours of our national floral emblem, Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha), and also the standard colours of our sporting teams competing in international events. A sprig of golden wattle and a golden southern cross on a green background could make a decent national flag! Canada, after all, has a maple leaf so let’s go with a botanical theme. When it comes to a winning edge, native plant expert Joan Dillon says Australia must be a long way ahead botanically with its golden flowers. There are many to celebrate in the tropics, subtropics and warm temperate climates. Images by John Dillon.

North Queensland has given many of our cities a popular and favourite tree, the Golden Penda (Xanthostemon chrysanthus). Less often seen is Leichhardt Bean or Brewster’s Cassia (Cassia brewsteri) which is an open forest tree with showers of small orange-yellow flowers, and the stunning rainforest tree Crown of Gold (Barklya syringifolia). Another essential tree for the list is the Golden Myrtle (Thaleropia queenslandica).

At the other end of the scale is the tiny Donkey Orchid (Diuris sulphurea) found growing in shallow soils on ridges and slopes.

Within Australia we have trees, shrubs, ground covers and forbs (small, herbaceous soft-stemmed plants), all with gold or at least yellow flowers.

From a 5 page Feature Article in Issue Thirty Nine
Xanthostemon chrysanthus.
Neofabricia myrtifolia.
Hibiscus tiliaceus ‘Rubra’.
Fine foliage plants – in the subtropics

Julie Roach

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Tropical and subtropical gardens often conjure up images of bold lush foliage, mostly of large glossy leaves with bright and vibrant colours. But not all tropical and subtropical gardens are such. Landscape designer, Phillip O’Malley discusses incorporating fine textured foliage plants in the garden.

There are many fine-leafed plants which thrive in our humid subtropical and tropical climates, both native and non-native. Some of these fine-leaved species have very elegant foliage, becoming outstanding when placed against their classically bold and vibrant neighbours.

Visually, this can work really well, or it can result in an awkward contrast. Often one plant dotted here and there can look out of place, without a natural flow or connection to its placement.

Fine foliaged plants can also be striking in their overall shape and form. Some have fountain-like silhouettes; others show delicate and intricate attention to detail. Subtlety can be a relief in a world of tropical garden style.

The surest way to incorporate fine foliage plants in a garden so they shine is to plant them in groups, clumps or drifts. That way they lend a subtly soft, yet strong element, to the landscape.

From a 3 page Feature Article in Issue Thirty Nine
The Australian Grass Tree (Xanthorrhoea species) in the background glistens with its fine foliage.
Coral Plant (Russelia equisetiformis) ‘Lemon’.
Graceful weeping foliage of Ponytail Palms (Beaucarnea recurvata).
Benefits of Gardening for Children

Paul Plant

Images Anthony & Georgie Burke

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For children, life can be awesome, scary, wonderful, stinky, fun and full of questions. So too can a garden. Paul Plant looks at the importance and benefits of gardening for children. Images by Anthony & Georgie Burke.

There is nothing more educational than nature. It is a classroom of knowledge and learning about wildlife, the environment and recycling. It develops skills in self-confidence, understanding, responsibility and discovery. An appreciation and fondness of nature is developed through participating in gardening tasks and this leads to the obvious outcome of improved physical and mental activity and health.

Key benefits of gardening:

  • Lifelong positive relationship to gardens, plants and the environment
  • Positive social and interpersonal skills
  • Healthy eating and nutrition
  • Science achievement and enhanced attitude towards learning
  • Design skills growth
  • Environmental stewardship
From an 2 page Feature Article in Issue Thirty Nine
Stick with one hard landscape surface material.
Use low plants in small areas to conserve space.
Elkhorns & Staghorns – the natives

Heather Knowles

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Iconic components of the Australian rainforest, the native Staghorns and Elkhorns are much admired by photographers and home gardeners. Native plant enthusiast and horticulturist Heather Knowles investigates the
surprising features of these native ferns.

The fern genus Platycerium is in the family Polypodiaceae and contains about 18 species, of which four are native to Australia. These ferns can be found across a variety of habitats in tropical to temperate regions of Australia, South America, Africa, Southeast Asia, New Guinea and the South Pacific Islands.

Their unique antler-shaped fronds, give these ferns the common names of Staghorn or Elkhorn ferns.

The two most common species grown throughout Australia are Platycerium bifurcatum and Platycerium superbum. They can be grown attached to trees, wooden plaques or rocks and can be planted to great effect in hanging baskets. Each species has two different types of fronds – the infertile shield fronds (sometimes referred to as a ‘nest’) which encircle the growing plant and fertile fronds (referred to as the ‘antlers’) that carry the dust-like spore.

A brief overview of native species found in Australia:

  • Elkhorn – Platycerium bifurcatum
  • Northern Elkhorn – Platycerium hillii
  • Staghorn – Platycerium superbum
  • Silver Elkhorn – Platycerium veitchii

From a 10 page Feature Article in Issue Thirty Nine

Young Staghorns growing on a rope.
Platycerium bifurcatum x Platycerium veitchii – narrow leaf form.
Platycerium hillii – Cape York form.
Coconuts – the heated debate




Gardening is one of the most rewarding activities a person can undertake foPicture any tropical coastal holiday destination and white sands, blue sky, aqua sea and coconut palms are the key ingredients. It’s the image that inspires people to travel, relax and spend time away. It’s what the tourism industry banks its money on. It seems Australia has a chip on its shoulder about one of these four iconic images and this is where subTropical Gardening magazine hopes to investigate an important question... what is the role of coconut palms (Cocos nucifera) in Tropical Australia?

Coconuts are native to Australia.


From a 3 page Feature Article in Issue Thirty Nine

Palms on the beach along Huahine Island in French Polynesia. Image Gino Trafton.
Jim Findlay Park, Newport, Queensland. Image Paul Plant.
Downsizing II... more tricks for garden design

Paul Plant

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One of the most popular gardening trends over the last decade has
been the increased interest in growing herbs, vegetables and fruit. It is possible to incorporate edible plants into a small garden by thinking about these plants not as ‘vegie patch’ specimens relegated to the back yard, but as functional and aesthetic garden plants. By doing this you can gain both ornamental interest and increase productive space.

Many edible plants are highly ornamental. Parsley with its glorious deep green leaves makes a striking edging plant near walkways. Bush Greek Basil (Ocimum x citriodorum ‘Lesbos’) can be clipped into a quaint hedging plant, as can rosemary and chilli. Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus) are also a good plant for small gardens – looks good and have edible leaves and flowers.

Get a touch of classic garden design by incorporating a striking ornamental grass. Use an edible plant such as Lemon Grass (Cymbopogon citratus).
For groundcovers, why not try edible plants such as sweet potatoes, oregano, thyme, mint or Betel Leaf (Piper sarmentosum). Not only will these plants be productive, but many may release a pleasant fragrance when brushed or stepped upon.

Highly attractive and productive flowering shrubs include Blackberry Jam Fruit (Rosenbergiodendron formosum), Grumichama (Eugenia brasiliensis), Jaboticaba (Plinia cauliflora) and Ceylon Hill Gooseberry or Downy Rose Myrtle (Rhodomyrtus tomentosa).

In a small garden there is no need to sacrifice a productive space.

From a 2 page Feature Article in Issue Thirty Nine
Cumquats and other citrus: ideal for small gardens.
Nasturtiums (Tropaeolum majus) with edible leaves and flowers.
Edible Common Plantain (Plantago major) grown vertically to save space.
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