Sunbird Garden

John Sullivan

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Nestled behind the beautiful foreshore vegetation of Four Mile Beach, Port Douglas, is a glowing gem of tropical architecture. Garden designer and horticulturist John Sullivan takes us through the design of this impressive modern home. Images Kym Joseph.

The boardwalk entry over a natural pond to a wide living space opens onto a large curvaceous pool. The interconnection of the indoor and outdoor space of the unique building design combined with a bold interior design required a complementary external landscape that worked with all other facets of this home.

The scheme of white hues and stained timbers is strongly punctuated with bold orange furniture with the planting reflecting these splashes of vibrancy.

As the landscape designer, John's solution was to provide a strong base of simple green foliage to soften the edges of the space and to draw inspiration from flower colour using Heliconia psittacorum 'Sassi'. This is one of the most vibrant of the smaller heliconias with contrasting bright orange, pink and white flowers. "A difficult scheme to work, due to the strong contrast, however the tropics are about vibrancy and being able to break some rules if you can pull it off," John reflected on the overall design.

From a 6 page Feature Article in Issue Twenty Five
Sunbird Garden
Sunbird Garden
Garden of Dreams
Arno King




A garden created by an avid plant collector is like walking into an antique store with surprises around every corner and prized specimens displayed to their best advantage. Landscape architect Arno King takes a tour with the creators of this fascinating garden.

Tropical gardens are a joy to behold and it is no wonder that those of us who live far away from the tropics endeavour to create these gorgeous gardens in our own backyards; sometimes with success and sometimes with setbacks. Sydney horticulturist Helen Curran explains some techniques to help protect and acclimatise tropical plants to the chillier districts of Australia.

Tropical gardens are filled with large luxuriant foliage in a variety of shapes and textures and in a veritable plethora of colours. The flowers add to this plethora with an array of colours from the subdued pastels through to intense eye-catching hues. They can instil a feeling of warmth and energy, or introduce a tranquil, relaxed ambience to our busy lives.

Gardeners invest a lot of time and money along with hopes and dreams in their gardens, especially when buying precious new tropical plants. With fingers crossed we hope that Mother Nature provides a warm winter
to help our plants through their first year.

It is possible to successfully grow a tropical garden in areas with cool winters including areas that experience frosts in winter and late spring. This magazine has subscribers in cooler districts such as Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth and Western Queensland, all keen gardeners with a passion for tropical and subtropical plants.

From an 4 page Feature Article in Issue Twenty Five
Aechmea tessmanii.
Entry to a shaded path.
Philodendrons - Love Tree

Stephen Flood

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With lush leaves, the ability to climb up palm trunks and their adaptability as indoor plants, tropical philodendrons have become a popular plant for use in landscape design. Horticultural teacher and landscaper designer Stephen Flood looks into these fashionable and hardy garden plants.

The large genus Philodendron is a member of the family Araceae which is sometimes called the Arum or Aroid family. The genus was first named in 1829, being derived from the Greek words philo for 'love' and dendron for 'tree'. Although some debate exists regarding the number of naturally occurring species of philodendrons most sources confirm that at least 450 species exist.

These plants are found in many diverse habitats in Mexico, Central and South America and the Caribbean. Philodendrons are mostly found in humid tropical rainforests however they have been observed growing in many other environments including swamps, dry scrubland and as lithophytes on rocky outcrops. Apart from the naturally occurring species that have been introduced into Australia, collectors and gardeners have access to a range of hybrids that have been created by plant breeders.

It is fair to say that some confusion is evident regarding the botanical naming of some of these plants.

Popular Philodendrons:

  • Philodendron bipinnatifidum
    (syn. P. selloum)
  • Philodendron 'Butt's Hybrid' and Philodendron 'Butt's Gem'
  • Philodendron coriaceum
  • Philodendron erubescens
  • Philodendron gloriosum
  • Philodendron 'Magnificum'
  • Philodendron martianum (syn. P. cannifolium)
  • Philodendron melanochrysum (syn. P. andreanum)
  • Philodendron stenolobum
  • Philodendron sodiroi
  • Philodendron tenue
  • Philodendron xanadu
From a 8 page Feature Article in Issue Twenty Five
The spathe and spadix inflorescence.
Philodendron martianum.
Passionate Friends

Joanna Roberts

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Joanna Roberts takes a look at the Association of Friends of Botanic Gardens in Australia.

People expect a lot of Botanic Gardens...

  • the recreational space and facilities of a park
  • the design appeal and inspiration of superb landscaping
  • examples of best practice horticulture
  • a wealth of plant variety
  • botanical exactness, information and interest
  • climate-controlled environments for delicate specimens.

At least, those are my criteria for a place deserving of the label 'Botanical Gardens'. Quite a big 'ask' – especially when you consider the funding constraints placed on many public Gardens.


From a 2 page Feature Article in Issue Twenty Five

Karoo Gardens – National Botanic Gardens of South Africa.
Van Dusen Gardens, Vancouver, Canada.
The Kim Walters Choices Garden

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The Kim Walters Choices Program at The Wesley Hospital in Auchenflower, Brisbane, has recently had a major 'make over' and now has a beautiful new garden for the benefit of patients, staff and visitors alike.

The Kim Walters Choices Program supports people living with breast or gynaecological cancer. The centre is located in a building under the Maternity Wing of the Wesley Hospital. Prior to the makeover, the area around the Choices entry was without plant cover, dry and heavily shaded. The recently planted garden provides a green entry to the Choices building and a restorative, tranquil backdrop for its outdoor terrace.

Design practice Deicke Richards, became involved in the garden project on a probono basis when patient Ann Moran and her husband David asked if the practice would provide a preliminary design to support a grant application.


From a 2 page Feature Article in Issue Twenty Five

Honor Webster-Mannison and Lucia Schultz help with planting.
Colin Campbell, Janine Porter-Steele and Arno King at the sod turning.
Understanding Ornamental Grasses
Noel Burdette



The grass family (Poaceae) is one of a small number of families of plants that have successfully managed to colonise every continent on the planet. Passionate gardener Noel Burdette discusses their selection, care and use in the garden.

Their diversity, adaptability and zest for life has resulted in grasses being highly successful across the globe. The strong reliance of animal life on grasses is so great, that if they were to die out, we would witness extinction on a massive scale and the impact it would have on human life would be unimaginable.

When you think of it in that sense, it's hard to believe that those humble road side ''weeds'' that we see as we drive past have built up such important relationships within the cycle of life as we know it.

Also covered is:

  • Status
  • Definition
  • Style
  • Regional suitability and care
  • Uses

From a 6 page Feature Article in Issue Twenty Five

Miscanthus sinensis f. variegatus closeup of leaf blade.
Palmarosa Grass (Cymbopogon martini).
Water Plants

Paul Plant

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Following on from our feature in Issue 24, Paul Plant looks at more aquatic flora that can add a unique character to the garden.

Species covered are:

  • Yellow Flag Iris (Iris pseudacorus)
  • Madagascan Arum Lily (Typhonodorum lindleyanum)
  • Chameleon Plant (Houttuynia cordata)
  • Swamp Hibiscus (Hibiscus coccineus)
  • Pitcher Plants (Sarracenia sp.)
  • Umbrella Sedge (Cyperus exaltatus)

From a 2 page Feature Article in Issue Twenty Five

Chaemeleon Plant. Image Margaret Vita.
Swamp Hibiscus. Image Paul Plant.
Pitcher Plant. Image Paul Plant.
Garden Plant Names - Part 3

Annette Irish

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Most gardeners are unaware that their repertoire of gardening terms includes botanical terminology. In fact, the typical gardener has a reasonable grasp of botany and with this in mind, horticulturist Annette Irish revisits some common terms we all use. This article is a continuation from Part 2, in STG Issue 23.

When we refer to most plant identification books we see standard terms such as the family, genus, species, variety, cultivar, deciduous or evergreen, colour of leaves, bark, flowers, type of fruits, and importantly plant shape, form and size.

Confusion can surround the shape and size of a plant. Is it a tree, a shrub or a climber? All evoke set images, ones that we can visualise and hopefully we can recognise their differences.

This confusion can even cause the professional horticulturists to scratch their heads, trying to identify the species by the description provided by our gardening friends – even with a sample of the plant in their hands.

Main terms listed are:

  • Tree
  • Shrub
  • Climber, scrambler, rambler

From a 2 page Feature Article in Issue Twenty Five

Hibiscus 'Snow Queen' is a typical shrub.
Samanea saman is a typical tree.
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