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Mention the term ‘cottage garden’ to many people and what instantly comes to mind are small thatched roofed homes situated somewhere in the heart of England. Simply overflowing with an abundance of colourful flowering annuals, shrubs, climbers and perennials, the air is filled with fragrance whilst all plants are silently at war with one another and jostling for the best position to be noticed.

The nostalgic charm of an English cottage style garden has never died, yet many would say that re-creating such charm and beauty in today’s harsh, drought stricken (Australian) environment is a challenge often too great to attempt.

Although traditionally associated with cooler or temperate climates, creating a cottage garden is within the reach of the enthusiast and can be enjoyed to its fullest in our warmer climates. The key to this is understanding and accepting your own garden conditions and microclimates, whilst making allowances for some small adjustments and climatic plant substitutions along the way.

Unlike many modern style gardens that look ‘finished’ after a few weekends of tirelessly planting, cottage gardens take on certain evolutionary stages where they only begin to truly show themselves after several months or even years after being planted. This is due of course to the imminent maturity of the many different species used. It would be fair to say that cottage gardens are never truly ‘finished’ as the owner is on constant vigil for new acquisitions to help set the picture and the mood. Needless to say that garden owners are very patient souls.

From a 8 page Feature Article in Issue Twelve
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Good ideas to some are often a challenge to others. Especially when a builder decides that there is a large space on a roof deck that could use a garden – just as construction is nearing completion.

The idea is just great and there should be more of it - but the point is that gardens need a plan as much as a house. In this case, a prestige beach home in the exclusive seaside suburb of Clifton Beach, 22 kilometres north of Cairns.

On closer inspection there were a number of other parameters to consider. The overall depth of the garden was restricted to no more than 23cm high at the edges; there was limited drainage; and the possibility that the waterproofed concrete surface may rupture due to root growth or due to building settlement.

Adding to this challenge was the Body Corporate ruling that restricted plant height in the garden to just over one metre…so as to preserve the view from houses located to the rear. Easy? Perhaps in some ways, but certainly worth listing the hard conditions and eliminating them one by one, with a solution for each.

The plant list:

  • Summer Love (Acalypha reptans var. pymaea)
  • Desert Rose (Adenium obesum)
  • Variegated Pineapple (Ananas bracteatus ‘Striatus’)
  • Bougainvillea (Bougainvillea ‘Raspberry Ice’ & ‘Temple Fire’)
  • Sago Palm (Cycas revoluta)
  • Dwarf Gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides ‘Radicans’ )
  • Dwarf White Ixora (Ixora chinensis ‘Peggy’)
  • Dwarf red Ixora (Ixora chinensis ‘Sunkist’)
  • Dwarf Mock Orange (Murraya exotica ‘Min-a-Min’)
  • Dwarf Mondo Grass (Ophiopogon japonicus ‘Kyoto Dwarf’)
  • Gold Moss Sedum (Sedum mexicanum ‘Gold Mound’)
  • Morning Star (Turnera subulata)
  • White Storm Lily (Zephyranthes candida)
From a 4 page Feature Article in Issue Twelve
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The Clivia (Clivia miniata) is a plant that should be more widely grown throughout the subtropics. It does best in dappled light under trees where it is hard to find other plants that will tolerate tree root competition.

Specimens in large pots are ideal for shady courtyards, patios and balconies. Variegated foliage is highly prized amongst collectors.

In its native South Africa (from Morgan's Bay in the Eastern Cape Province up into northern KwaZulu-Natal and Swaziland), it does extremely well in the decaying leaf litter on the forest floor enjoying moist summers and dry winters. There are several strains (when distinctive line breeding produces uniformity or similar looking plants) such as C. miniata Belgium strain, with their handsome broad leaves; and C. miniata Sahin’s Twin strain bred in Europe that have broad short leaves and a shorter plant – better suited to balconies. The Sahin’s Twin strains often flower in both spring and autumn providing an added bonus.

The fashionable Clivia is traditionally admired for its upward and outward facing flowers held in a globular umbel in a range of colours throughout spring. However other species provide the collector with pendent flowers.

Other species:

Clivia caulescens – from Npumalanga and Swaziland; flowering in late spring to early summer.

Clivia gardenii – from KwaZulu-Natal at low altitudes; flowing in autumn and winter.

Clivia nobilis – from the Eastern Cape Provence; leaves have a unique notch or are bluntly rounded whilst other species have acute tips; flowering mostly in late spring.

Clivia robusta – described in 2004 from Port St. Johns in the south to the Mzimkulu River in the north; flowering from autumn to winter.

Clivia mirabilis – discovered in 2002 in the Northern Cape Province; flowering late spring.

Other topics covered include:
Interspecific hybrids, culture, pests and diseases, propagation, Clivia societies and where to buy them.

From a 6 page Feature Article in Issue Twelve
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Ideas for your garden can come from gardening books or magazines, visiting open gardens or from holidaying in other locations. On a recent trip to Bali, Helen Curran was captivated by the combination of differently coloured foliage plants - from the vibrant to the more subdued.

Six distinctive plant combinations are illustrated that reflect the essence of Bali.

From a 4 page Feature Article in Issue Twelve
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Exotic plants conjure up images of luxuriant foliage, outlandish or ‘bizarre’ flowers and a smorgasbord of fascinating new plant species for people to grow.

The word exotic means… ‘strikingly unusual or strange in effect or appearance’. Many Australian natives fit this description with their unusual flowers and striking foliage.

Exotic plants provide variety in the garden…a sense of ownership, a sense of personality. They even aid in the development of a sense of place. If my garden was restricted to local indigenous plants it would have very little uniqueness to set itself apart from the beautiful surrounding bushland, or from the neighbours – everyone would have the same thing... lack of individuality.

  • Foxtail Palm (Wodyetia bifurcata), Fan Palm (Licuala ramsayi) and MacArthur Palm (Ptychosperma macarthurii)
  • Coral Tree (Erythrina vesperilio)
  • Native Cassia (Senna magnifolia prev. Cassia magnifolia)
  • Native Holly (Graptophyllum ilicifolium)
  • Weeping Tea-tree (Leptospermum madidim var. sativum)
  • Baobab Tree (Adansonia gregorii)
  • Aniseed Tree (Backhousia anisata)
  • Spear Lily (Doryanthes palmeri)
  • Native Murraya (Murraya paniculata var. ovatifoliolata is generally now known as Murraya ovatifoliolata, although some people now classify it as Murraya paniculata)
  • Zamia Fern (Bowenia spectablis)
  • Swamp Banksia (Banksia robur)
  • Roly-poly Satinash (Waterhousea unipunctata)
  • Cunjevoi (Alocasia brisbanensis)
From a 4 page Feature Article in Issue Twelve
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Red represents passion. It is one of the most striking colours in the intense sunlight experienced in the tropics and subtropics. It is a bold colour that varies from the intense tones of blood-red to the subtle blends of oranges, purples and pinks.

Magazine Features:

Summer Love
(Acalypha reptans var. pygmaea)

Blood Leaf (Alternanthera brasiliana previously A. dentata)

Amherstia nobilis

Painter’s Palette
(Anthurium xcultorum)

Lipstick Tree (Bixa orellana)

Cassia Leaf Caesalpinia
(Caesalpinia cassioides)

Red Powder Puff
(Calliandra haematocephala)

Flaming Beauty
(Carphalea kirondron)

Caribbean Copper Plant
(Euphorbia cotinifolia)

Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima)

Thai Euphorbia
(Euphorbia xlomi Poysean Group)

Queensland Holly
(Graptophyllum ilicifolium)

Caricature Plant
(Graptophyllum pictum)

Grevillea (Grevillea cultivars)

Heliconia (Heliconia cultivars)

Coral Hibiscus
(Hibiscus schizopetalus)

Bloodleaf (Iresine diffusa f. lindenii previously Iresine lindeni)

Sleeping Hibiscus
(Malvaviscus penduliflorus)

Brazilian Flag
(Megaskepasma erythrochlamys)

Broad-leaved Tea Tree
(Melaleuca viridiflora Weeping Red Form)

Ashanti Blood
(Mussaenda erythrophylla)

Bleeding Heart
(Neoregelia 'Perfection’)

Red Passionflower
(Passiflora quadrangularis)

Pavonia (Pavonia xgledhillii)

Native Daphne
(Phaleria clerodendron)

Rangoon Creeper
(Quisqualis indica)

Deep Yellow Wood
(Rhodosphaera rhodanthema)

Rose (Rosa cultivars)

Powder Puff Lily (Scadoxus multiflorus subsp. katherinae)

Parrot Tree (Schotia brachypetala)

Firewheel Tree
(Stenocarpus sinuatus)

Water Cherry (Syzygium aqueum)

Red flowering bulbous plants announce a festival of seasonal colour and activities:

  • Alstroemeria
  • Brunsvigia
  • Calostemma purpureum
  • Canna
  • Clivia
  • Cyrtanthus
  • Haemanthus
  • Hippeastrum
  • Sprekelia
  • Vallota

Climbers should not be overlooked as these plants can fill in where space is limited such as along the boundary fence. When in flower a climber over an arbour or pergola will raise the eyes upwards providing an impression of height to the garden space.

Potential red flowering climbers include:

  • Bleeding heart (Clerodendrum splendens)
  • Bougainvillea
  • Cardinal creeper (Ipomoea horsfalliae)
  • New Guinea Creeper (Mucuna bennettii)
  • Quisqualis mussaendiflora
  • Scarlet passionflower (Passiflora coccinea)
From a 4 page Feature Article in Issue Twelve
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Open any gardening magazine or book and you are likely to see a garden that incorporates hedges or topiary as a feature of the layout.


  • Provide screening or shelter
  • Introduce architecture into the landscape
  • Can support the design character or heritage of a garden
  • Are cost effective – they are much cheaper to build than a fence or wall with similar proportions.

Another style of hedge popular in warmer climates is the informal hedge of old fashioned foliage colour. This type of hedge provides low maintenance screening and is made from many popular shrubs including Beefsteak Plant (Acalypha wilksiana cultivars), Croton (Codiaeum variegatum cultivars), Caricature Plant (Graptophyllum pictum), False Eranthemum (Pseuderantheum carruthersii), Aralia (Polyscias species) and Sanchezia (Sanchezia speciosa).

As a general rule, plant hedge plants at centres to the width of the final hedge, or at half the standard planting distance for the untrimmed shrub. This equates to centres of 750mm to 1m for a 1.5m high hedge; 500mm for a 1-1.5m high hedge; and 150-300mm for a low hedge.

Featured hedging plants include:

  • Mock Orange (Murraya paniculata)
  • Hedging Ixora (Ixora chinensis)
  • Waterfall Plant (Phyllanthus minutifolius)
  • Hibiscus (Hibiscus rosa-sinensis cultivars)
  • Hedging Acalypha (Acalypha wilkesiana ‘Compacta’)
  • Malay Bamboo (Gigantochloa heterostachya ‘Malay Dwarf Variegated’)
  • Dewberry Plant (Duranta erecta)
  • Lillypilly (Syzygium paniculatum)
  • Scarlet Fuchsia (Graptophyllum excelsum)
  • Henna (Lawsonia inermis)
  • Sasanqua Camellia (Camellia sasanqua)
  • Port Wine Magnolia (Magnolia figo – prev. Michelia figo)
  • Fringe Flower (Loropetalum chinense ‘Razzleberry’)
  • Dwarf Mock Orange (Murraya paniculata ‘Min-a-Min’)
  • Dwarf Ixora (Ixora chinensis cultivars)
  • Singapore Holly (Malpighia coccigera)
  • Dwarf Gardenia (Gardenia jasminoides ‘Radicans’)
  • Milky Way (Sauropis albiflorus)
  • Acalypha lysonii
  • Mirror Plant (Royenia lucida)
  • Fukien Tea Plant (Carmona retusa previously Ehretia microphylla)
  • Dwarf Snow Bush (Breynia disticha ’Compacta’)
  • Japanese Boxthorn (Serissa japonica previously S. foetida)

Further information covers small growing hedges.

From a 6 page Feature Article in Issue Twelve
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Exotic citrus species were first introduced into Australia in 1788 by members of the First Fleet, however it was not for another 100 years that colonial botanists had `discovered' that there were several species of citrus indigenous to Australia. Aborigines have traditionally included native citrus fruit as part of their diet for thousands of years, however the European settlers only started to recognise their potential during the mid 19th century and began using the strange fruit to make jams, cordials and desserts.
There are in fact six native citrus species, four of which occur in the rainforests of the east coast from Cape York to northern New South Wales. The other two are unique members of the citrus family (Rutaceae) in that they are the only ones that naturally occur in a semi-arid environment. Native limes were, until recently, classified under the genus Microcitrus due to the relatively small size of their flowers and fruit but now have been re-classified as true Citrus.

Of the four rainforest species, two occur in South East Queensland. They are the Finger Lime (Citrus australasica) and the Round Lime (Citrus australis), also known as the Gympie lime or by its Aboriginal name, Dooja.

Other limes covered include:
Mount White Lime (Citrus garawayi)
Russel River Lime (Citrus inodora)
Desert Lime (Citrus glauca) and the recently described, Citrus gracilis.

From a 2 page Feature Article in Issue Twelve
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