Space Invaders

Helen Curran

  Print This Page


Gardening is one of life’s greatest pleasures. There is nothing more enjoyable than to be able to sit for a while on your own or to visit someone else’s garden. It would be a wonderful way to relax, if only you did not notice those weeds invading the garden.

Weeds will fill any vacant spot, wherever there is bright light at ground level, and removing them can be time consuming. So why not invade ‘their’ space and plant some of the more stunning tropical and subtropical plants instead?

The words ‘tropical gardens’ conjures images of lush, dense gardens filled with different leaf sizes and textures contrasting beautifully with each other and a plethora of stunning flowers. Contrast leaves with varying shades of green, or with an array of pinks, reds and yellows, create a kaleidoscope within the garden.

Different plant forms range from ground covers and strappy leaved plants, to rounded or narrow upright shrubs. Above this are the palms and trees forming a canopy. Planting can result in a few gaps – empty spaces – places to fill with new plants.

Contributor’s Open Day

My own garden, Tropical Breeze, will be open with Australia’s Open Garden Scheme on 19-20 March, 2011.
Address: 24 Johnson Ave,
Seven Hills, NSW.


From a 4 page Feature Article in Issue Twenty Two
Lysimachia congestiflora ‘Gold Clusters’.
Trailing Velvet Plant (Ruellia devosiana).
White Brazilian Plume (Justicia carnea ‘Alba’). Image Paul Plant.
Image Craig Zillmann
Arno King



Gardens as well as houses and infrastructure suffer after flooding has occurred. Landscape Architect and Horticulturist Arno King provides valuable advice for those who are affected by floods.

History shows that cyclones and floods occur in Queensland mainly in late summer and early autumn, usually after long periods of drought. It has happened in the past and will happen again.

Flooding is a traumatic experience and whereas the initial focus will be on the house and valuable infrastructure and contents, the damage to the garden can be equally traumatic.

We look briefly at:

  • Lack of sunlight
  • Lack of soil oxygen
  • Pollutants and poisonous substances
  • Compacted soil
  • Compromised soil biology

After the homes are re-established post damage, consider giving plants as a gift to property owners to help them re-create their beloved gardens.

We covered some topics of environmental garden design in STG Issue 6 in the aftermath that was Cyclone Larry and have a download PDF available for you as well as the link below:

PDF Download


We also have some Flood Fact Sheets (courtesy of NT Government).
PDF Download

From an 2 page Feature Article in Issue Twenty Two
Image Paul Plant.
Image Craig Zillmann

Ben French

  Print This Page


With China’s huge population and high-rise skyline, many people are amazed at what the country offers for tourists. The family and I travelled to Shanghai and ventured to destinations within a four hours drive of this very bustling city. We started our visit, exploring the energetic hive of activity, that is, Shanghai.

The skyscrapers went as far as the eye could see, and for the most populated city in China, they did really well at greening the concrete aisles of the city, with thriving little patches of vegetation everywhere. There were bromeliads planted across overpass walkways; small shrubs following the edges of freeways; street trees shading the busy roads; and there were even overhead plantings above bicycle racks.

From a landscaping point of view, it was incredible to see the attention to detail in every facet, particularly the intricate and time-consuming pebbling of the pathways. There were some amazing patterns and a great use of materials.

The Chinese people are warm and friendly, the food was delicious and the gardens exquisite. All up we visited over a dozen beautiful gardens in China and would highly recommend it to anyone considering making the trip; it was really rewarding and eye opening.

The gardens explored are:

  • Yùyuán Gardens and Bazaar, Shangha
  • Humble Administrator's Garden, Suzhou
  • Tiger Hill, Suzhou
  • West Lake, Hangzhou

Travel with Editor, Paul Plant from subTropical Gardening on the Great Subtropical Gardens of China Tour! For more info download the Ad below:

PDF Download

From a 5 page Feature Article in Issue Twenty Two
Yùyuán Gardens and Bazaar, Shanghai
Humble Administrator’s Garden, Suzhou
Tiger Hill, Suzhou
Glorious Tropical Ornamental Gingers

Paul Plant

  Print This Page


Naturally seen in tropical, subtropical and warm temperate areas around the world, ornamental gingers have long been used for traditional celebrations as decoration and food. Typically regarded as a fringe forest plant group many species often take advantage when extra light reaches the forest floor due to natural tree fall or human induced clearing.

Though most ginger genera prefer warmer conditions, Cautleya and Roscoea are best suited to the cooler temperate gardens, and are therefore not detailed in this article.

When grown outside the humid warm climates, most ginger plants make great container pot plants.

All gingers have underground stems, correctly referred to as rhizomes. The above-ground structure we typically see in alpinias, hedychiums, costus, etc. are pseudostems – leaf stalks (petiole) wrapped around each other to form a false stem. The large leaves we see of gingers are technically called the leaf blade, or lamina.

Topics also covered in some detail are:

  • Flowers
  • Culture
  • Watering
  • Mulching
  • Fertilising
  • Pests & Diseases
  • Propagation

We look at various genera of gingers as well:

  • Alpinia
  • Burbidgea
  • Costus
  • Curcuma
  • Dimerocostus
  • Etlingera
  • Globba
  • Hedychium
  • Kaempferia
  • Monocostus
  • Siphonochilus
  • Tapeinochilos
  • Zingiber

From a 6 page Feature Article in Issue Twenty Two

Hedychium greenii. Image Arno King.
Tapeinochilos densum.
Zingiber spectabile.
Planning for Gold
Noel Burdette

One element that carries the strongest influence with many plant collectors is foliage colour and many have devoted entire gardens to the accommodation of a particular colour tone or leaf variegation. This has seen a growing interest from both novice and experienced gardeners alike to make additions to their collections of the simplest of plants species that others would just take for granted.

One of the most unique and often highly attractive colour tones in plants is the ‘golden’ foliage cultivars that exist. Stumbling across a golden toned variant of a much loved species can be like falling in love all over again.

Do not be fooled, as the term ‘golden’ does not always refer to the colour yellow as the name may suggest. Apart from very strongly toned foliaged plants such as Duranta erecta (syn. D. repens) ‘Sheena’s Gold’, the term golden may also be used to describe much softer and less intrusive tones than those we have become accustomed to seeing in virtually every commercial residence. These can also include soft lime or chartreuse coloured plants that enhance and not overwhelm a garden space.

Utilising golden foliage plants in the garden, no matter the size can bring subtle highlights to semi-shaded corners or provide a strong focal point in full sun situations. Depending on the depth of golden colour that each individual species carries, restraint is the key to providing a good flow in the garden.


From a 6 page Feature Article in Issue Twenty Two

Ipomoea batatas mixed planting along raised garden bed.
Golden Leaved Pelargonium cultivar.
Coleus (Plectranthus scutellarioides syn. Solenostemon scutellarioides) cultivar.
Bomana War Cemetery
Kim Morris



The experience is overpowering and defies anyone to stand among the gentle silence without a tear in their eye for the loss of 3,821 Servicemen who paid the supreme sacrifice on Australia’s doorstep during the Second World War.

Amongst the burials are the remains of 702 unidentified Servicemen, including 438 British Royal Artillerymen, prisoners of the Japanese from Singapore who died in captivity in the Solomon Islands. Those who died fighting in Papua and Bougainville are buried at the Bomana War Cemetery. They all lie before the moving and symbolic presence of the Cross of Sacrifice that is a feature of most Commonwealth war cemeteries around the world.

The cemetery perimeter is surrounded by stately groves of Rain Trees (Samanea saman) which offer a perfect shady border to the manicured lawns of the cemetery.

Bomana is not far from the foothills of the famous Kokoda Track and on the way to Nine Mile and exists as a pristine testament to the memorial of each and every man who fell in the quest of freedom. The War Cemetery is approximately 19 kilometres north of Port Moresby and was originally established as a cemetery adjoining a large field hospital in 1942. The cemetery was completed in 1958.


From a 4 page Feature Article in Issue Twenty Two

Headstones at Bomana War Cemetery.
Marigolds (Tagetes patula) are reliable plants beside headstones.
View from the Memorial to the Missing of the main body of the Bomana War Cemetery.
Nepenthes Tropical Pitcher Plants

Words by subTropical Gardening team
by John Creevey



Carnivorous plants grow wild in many areas throughout the world, with some native to Australia. Though grown primarily for their traps, many of these plants are gaining popularity for their overall attractiveness.

Some gardeners may find Sundews (Drosera spp.) growing naturally on their plot of land. However the majority of carnivorous plants require special growing condition unlike those found in the typical garden. Fanciers of these plants construct elaborate bog gardens to reap the ultimate performance of foliage and flowers. Novice gardeners can successfully grow many of these plants in a tray of water in the bush house or on the patio, while Tropical Pitcher Plants are grown in hanging baskets.

Grow most carnivorous plants using a mixture of about 75% sphagnum moss (or sphagnum peat moss) and 25% propagating sand (or perlite), usually sitting on a tray of water. Rain water is ideal, but if unavailable, tap water will suffice.

Do not fertilise the plants or ‘force feed’ them with insects, however, Venus Fly Traps are known to grow better if a weak solution of fertiliser is applied to plants that are kept in sealed terrariums.

This brief introduction to carnivorous plants highlights four of the more common genera sold at garden centres.

  • Nepenthes – Tropical Pitcher Plants
  • Sarracenia – Trumpet Pitcher Plants
  • Dionaea – Venus Fly Trap
  • Drosera – Sundews

From a 4 page Feature Article in Issue Twenty Two

Sarracenia Trumpet Pitcher Plants
Dionaea Venus Fly Trap
Drosera Sundews
Children's Gardens Play
Claire Bickle


We have talked about the precious gift of observing nature and the life long skill of learning to grow edible plants yet we all know what children love to do best and that is PLAY!

When starting a new garden or redesigning an existing one, having and creating areas for your children to express themselves through play is vital to their creativity and development – physically and socially, despite cultural backgrounds or age.

You do not need to spend a fortune on the latest play equipment and gadgets for your children to have fun. Children will play no matter
what the circumstances.

When designing a garden with children in mind here are a few fun ideas to consider to incorporate into an existing garden or to keep in mind when starting a brand new one. Even if there is no garden at all, some of these creative ideas can still be put into action.

Topics covered in The Outdoor Playroom are:

  • Play equipment
  • Activities
  • Water
  • Worms
  • Pets and animals
  • Outdoor games
  • Plants for fun and snacks on the run
  • The whimsical land of make believe



From a 4 page Feature Article in Issue Twenty Two

Good old-fashioned games such as hop scotch never seem to go out of fashion.
Passing the time cloud-watching and imagining all manner and type of cloud creatures.
The simplest of toys – a skipping rope, still popular and great exercise as well.
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