Kristen Mathews



To the north of Brisbane, behind Freshwater National Park, lies ‘Retreat’ – a slice of paradise. Keen plant collector and qualified horticulturist Kristen Mathews takes us on a tour of this garden.

Seventeen years ago the block was completely devoid of vegetation
except for a large Gum Tree (Eucalyptus species) located in one corner. The garden has been referred to as a ‘semi-formal cottage style garden’ or as a ‘country style garden’. It has evolved in stages – one garden bed at a time.

The soil is sandy in nature and this was improved by using copious quantities of organic-based fertilisers, horse manure and mulches. Cuttings, grass from mowing, and kitchen scraps were used to make compost which was then added back to the garden. The garden beds are currently mulched twice a year, using sugar cane mulch. This breaks down and supplies the soil with additional organic matter.

From a 4 page Feature Article in Issue Twenty
Golden Poinciana (Delonix regia ‘Flavida’)
Queens Wreath (Petrea volubilis) makes a bold statement in colour
Statuary has been used throughout the garden
Tacca chantrieri – Black Bat Flower



Bat Flowers (Tacca species) come from the family Dioscoreaceae (previously Taccaceae), a group of bizarre flowering plants that mostly dwell on the floor of the humid rainforests in the Asian tropics. Their lush foliage and striking summer flowers have made them sought after by collectors and keen gardeners. The ‘whiskers’ are actually filiform bracteoles, or small bracts (modified leaves) that protrude from the same axil as the flowers. All plants flower over the warmer months of the year.

Although there are 10 to 12 identified species, only a few are available in cultivation.

All these plants require humid conditions, well drained and organically enriched soil, and regular watering without becoming waterlogged. Keep plants slightly drier during the cooler months.

The article features:

Tacca chantrieri
Black Bat Flower
Origin: Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, India and parts of China

Tacca integrifolia
White Bat Flower
Origin: Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, India and parts of China

Tacca palmata
Palm-leaved Tacca
Origin: Malaysia and Philippines

Tacca leontopetaloides
Polynesia Arrowroot, Indian Arrowroot, Pia
Origin: Northern Queensland, Western Australia and Northern Territory, Pacific, India, Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Malaysia, Papua New Guinea, Philippines, Madagascar and into tropical Africa

From an 4 page Feature Article in Issue Twenty
Tacca integrifolia – White Bat Flower
Children's Gardens - nature & adventure
Claire Bickle



There are many aspects to creating an enticing and educational outdoor living space for children. Your garden or green space should be an eclectic mix of adventure, productivity and creativity. Claire Bickle introduces the first of a series of articles to create a lifetime of memories.

In this day and age of the shrinking backyard, computer games and
television we can easily forget how important it is for children to have an understanding and connection with nature. Even if you live in a unit or townhouse you can still create an environment full of learning and discovery.

Children do not need constant entertaining by adults or the media. Stimulation of the imagination can come from just sitting in a garden created for biodiversity and discovery. This in turn becomes and is a source of educational entertainment that will stay with your children or grandchildren for life.

  • The following topics are covered:
  • Wildlife watch
  • Secret wild places
  • Flower power
  • Small Space
From a 4 page Feature Article in Issue Twenty
Collecting seed
Butterflies at work. Observation of nature and insect life cycles.
Pelargoniums in the subtropics

Paul Plant



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

Information about local native species for pelargoniums and geraniums. (p. 22-27)

Pelargoniums Supplement

  Print This Page


Editor Paul Plant tackles pelargoniums, a group of old fashioned plants loved for their flowers, foliage and scent. They can be tricky to grow in warmer climates and Paul investigates their cultivation in a subtropical climate.

Pelargonium species are widely grown perennials, shrubs, groundcovers and succulents. Ornamental specimens of these plants were introduced into Australia very early in European settlement. Some were grown for their brightly coloured flowers, some for their colourful leaves and others for their amazing scented foliage. For the last 250 years growers have been breeding for bigger flowers, brighter foliage, varied scents, a robust growth habit and better disease resistance. Despite all this breeding, some gardeners prefer to grow the naturally occurring species.

Pelargoniums are often called or confused with geraniums. These are a related but different group of plants, often referred to as Cranesbills.

Covered in more depth is:

  • Cultural care
  • Position
  • Watering
  • Fertilising
  • Pruning
  • Choices
    • Regal (Pelargonium x domesticum)
    • Zonal (Pelargonium x hortorum)
    • Ivy-leaved (Pelargonium peltatum)
  • Summary Calendar
  • Geophyte Pelargoniums

From a 6 page Feature Article in Issue Twenty

Zonal fancy leaf Pelargonium ‘Golden Butterfly’.
Zonal coloured leaf Pelargonium ‘Happy Thoughts’.
Pelargonium caroli-henrici
Brazilian Walking Iris (Neomarica gracilis).
Noel Burdette

They have been grown and loved for centuries, immortalised by famous artists and engrained in architecture the world over. Noel Burdette delves into the enchanting beauty of the Iris.

The family Iridaceae is a distinguished and highly varied group of plants comprising of species from around the globe that either form a rhizomatous root system, small bulbs or corms. They all characteristically have flower parts in sets of three.

Many have flattened foliage, arranged in a fan. Foliage may emerge from the ground prior to flowering in deciduous species or the plants may remain evergreen throughout the year, providing visual interest and strong texture.

Although some species are tolerant of difficult sites, many respond well to an evenly moist soil with additional organic matter. Mulching can also be added, however take care with species that come from more temperate climates as greater depths of mulch placed up against the plants may cause the corms or rhizomes to rot during periods of hot wet weather conditions in summer.

Iris species featured are:

  • The Brazilian Walking Iris (Neomarica gracilis)
  • Yellow Walking Iris (Trimezia martinicensis)
  • Butterfly Iris – (Dietes grandiflora, D. iridioides and D. bicolor)
  • The Spanish Iris (Dietes bicolor)
  • Blackberry Lily (Iris domestica prev. Belamcanda chinensis)
  • Flame Freesia (Freesia laxa prev. Lapeirousia laxa, Anomatheca cruenta)

Gladiolus, Babiana and Crocosmia species are all relatives of irises.


From a 4 page Feature Article in Issue Twenty

Dietes iridioides ‘White Tiger’.
Flame Freesia (Freesia laxa prev. Lapeirousia laxa, Anomatheca cruenta)
Crocosmia warms any garden with vibrant blooms.
A Contributor’s Garden

Joan Dillon



Moving from suburban Darwin to 4.4 hectares in Queensland’s Sunshine Coast hinterland was quite a challenge. What does one do with all that neglected country growing just about every weed known to the region? It was also a great opportunity – high rainfall, good soil and a mostly blank planting canvas, weeds excepted.


From a 2 page Feature Article in Issue Twenty

Spectacular Alloxylum flammeum.
We can’t grow that here - or can we? Gardening in Sydney

Helen Curran



There are a lot of myths regarding what can and cannot be grown in Sydney. At the top of the list are those plants regarded as being tropical. Sydney horticulturist Helen Curran clears the air on this hazy topic.

When thinking about creating a tropical garden in Sydney, we often think of what we would like to grow here but just can’t. If only our winter temperatures were a bit higher and our summer temperatures more even…or if we lived in a tropical or subtropical climate; we could grow them. Yet with a changing climate there are many tropical plants that can now be grown in Sydney. Plants that only a decade or so ago would have died here.

The climate has been gradually changing in Sydney. The city has expanded, with new suburbs being built first to the west and then to the south-west. Recently a large area to the north-west of the city has been developed, changing from open space to housing estates and shopping centres. This urban sprawl, the roads built to service these new suburbs, the motorways traversing throughout the city and the smaller housing blocks with large houses have all contributed to our changing climate – reflective heat, heat banks, pollution – the ‘urban heat island’ is happening and Sydney is getting hotter.

Recommended for Sydney's changing climate:

  • Croton (Codiaeum variegatum var. variegatum cultivars)
  • Cordyline (Cordyline fruticosa cultivars)
  • Calathea (Calathea species)
  • The Zebra Plant (Calathea zebrina)
  • Sanchezia (Sanchezia speciosa)
  • Brazilian Flag (Megaskepasma erythrochlamys)
  • Bridal Veil (Clerodendrum wallichii syn. C. nutans)
  • Golden Candles (Pachystachys lutea)
  • The Brazilian Plume (Justicia carnea)
  • Golden Plume (Justicia aurea)

From a 4 page Feature Article in Issue Twenty

Calathea makoyana
Clerodendrum wallichii Image Jill Collins
Pachystachys lutea
Queensland Tree Waratah Red Silky Oak

Harry Crane



The Queensland Tree Waratah could truly be considered one of our most beguiling and beautiful of trees. When in flower, the vivacious deep red flowers are prominently displayed in clusters above the rich green foliage. When seen from a distance, they are sensational to behold. Harry Crane investigates this highly desirable bird attracting native tree.

Related to the common grevillea, Alloxylon flammeum occurs
naturally in the deep red loam soils of the Atherton Tablelands in patches of remnant rainforest. Unfortunately, due to the encroachment of farming and land clearing, this stunning tree has now been placed on the vulnerable plant list.

Since being classified, this tree has had three name changes by taxonomists. Originally named Embothrium (Latin referring to
the ovule producing part of a flower) wickhamii (named after Captain Wickman R.N.) it was later changed to Oreocallis (Greek word meaning Mountain Beauty) wickhamii.

These days, it is correctly named Alloxylon (Latin, meaning different or foreign wood, referring to the wood grain which is similar to oak) flammeum (Latin, meaning flame-coloured or fiery red).


From a 2 page Feature Article in Issue Twenty

Alloxylon flammeum


Everyone knows their primary colours – or do they – but just what are ‘complementary colours’ and what do ‘shade’, ‘tone’ and ‘tint’ really mean? Layout editor Shannan Kingwell explains some colour theory as a follow up
to last issue’s introduction.

Clour is something we often take for granted in the world of gardening. After all, it seems most are content with planting the odd flower or plant to supplement established trees so that they can say their garden is indeed ‘colourful’.

For real impact, it pays to have a little understanding of colour theory to help bring out the true ‘colour’ in your garden by choosing plants or flowers that can then co-exist harmoniously to a chosen colour scheme. Then you will really be complimented on your gardening prowess.

Topics introduced are:

  • Colours
    • Primary
    • Secondary
    • Tertiary
  • Colour Schemes
    • Complementary Colours
    • Split-Complements
    • Analagous (Harmonious)
    • Split-Analagous
  • More Colour Schemes
    • Diad
    • Triad
    • Tetrad
    • Monochromatic
    • Warm
    • Cool
    • Neutral

From a 2 page Feature Article in Issue Twenty

Secondary Colours
Split Analogous
Ph/Fax 07 3294 8914 | PO Box 2232 Toowong QLD 4066 Australia
© 2005-2012 Subtropicalia Media Pty Ltd T/A Subtropical Gardening – All Rights Reserved   ABN 79 113 106 862