Compulsive Collectors

Paul Plant

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Plant-a-holics, Flora-fascinators, Phyla-followers – all fun names we give people who are passionate about plants, their culture and propagation.
Editor Paul Plant investigates this addiction to which there is no cure, only support and encouragement from like-minded folk.

Plant collecting was once limited to the extremely wealthy. Bulbs were traded at prices greater than gold, exotic orchids collected from far reaching countries and transported by ship, and herbs and spices have long been traded throughout Asia and Europe. People have stolen, bartered and murdered to source rare plants for personal gain or due to jealousy while others have freely donated specimens for philanthropic reasons. Great expense has been invested in massive greenhouses and heating systems across the globe for well over a century for both public and private plant collections. Today, thank goodness, plant collecting tends to be far less dramatic.

Collectors of today come in the full range of ages, from children who start to collect daisy or carnivorous plants, to adults who are respected for decades of collecting and breeding specific plant species.

From a 6 page Feature Article in Issue Twenty Six
Caladiums were once fashionable and are now once again in high demand by collectors.
Vriesea ospinae 'Windows' is a popular specimen amongst bromeliad collectors.
Tropical Hydrangea (Dombeya wallichii), also known as Pink Ball, is a highly desired collectable plant.
Popular Polyscias
Arno King




Widely seen in older gardens within Australia, Polyscias are highly regarded overseas as valuable and adaptable garden plants. Landscape architect and horticulturist Arno King investigates why these plants are so popular and worth considering in your garden.

Polyscias, or 'Aralias' as they are often called, have proven themselves in warm climates to be hardy, long lived, low maintenance plants that survive flood and drought and provide dense screening in the most difficult of locations. Yet despite these attributes, they are not readily available from garden centres in Australia.

The name Polyscias means 'many shaded', referring to the multiple leaflets on the leaves. The most recent revision lists some 159 species found in the forests of the Indian subcontinent, Asia, Australia and the Pacific Islands. Many species are tall trees, and although occasionally seen in cultivation, this article focuses on those shrubby species that are most widely grown in gardens. Formerly these plants were included in the genus Panax and before this in the genus Aralia – both these names have persisted as common names and in older references.

Coming in a variety of colours, from deep blackish greens, to mid greens and yellowish greens; with variegations of white, cream and yellow; with broad or finely divided leaves; and from small trees to dwarf shrubs, many people may not have realised that all these plants are all related. What links them is their growth habit, hardiness and durability.

From an 7 page Feature Article in Issue Twenty Six
Polyscias cumingiana 'Golden Prince'.
Polyscias fruticosa 'Parsley'.
In pursuit of tropical plants in Sydney

Helen Curran

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Locating reliable sources for tropical-looking plants that thrive in Sydney's climate can at times seem almost impossible. Local 'tropical plant' collector Helen Curran discusses options for Sydney residents where they can find tropical and subtropical plants for their gardens.

Sydney gardens are undergoing a change. The current lifestyle trend of outdoor garden design is now focusing on subtropical plants for 'future landscaping' in a warming urban environment. The question designers and gardeners now have is "where to source and see these plants?" and "how to find out which plants will thrive in the area and not turn up their toes as the weather cools?"

The good news is that many tropical-looking plants that thrive in the tropics and subtropics will often also thrive in sheltered locations in warm temperate gardens. The bad news is that there are many that do not fare as well. Some research into this subject will pay dividends.
Many innovative designers and gardeners head north for gardening events in Queensland for inspiration and to source plants. However options exist closer to home.

Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens is a veritable treasure trove for those seeking tropical-looking plants. The mild harbour foreshores provide ideal conditions for a wide array of subtropical plants that have been growing in situ for many years.

From a 2 page Feature Article in Issue Twenty Six
Odontonema callistachyum.
Up, up and away
climbing plants for a small garden
Noel Burdette

With the average backyard becoming smaller, the availability of useable outdoor space has been greatly reduced and can often limit home owners with options for creating interesting garden spaces. Noel Burdette takes a look at the ever enthusiastic climbers as a solution for small gardens.

Gardeners are a resourceful lot and one solution to the problem of space limitations is 'if you cannot go sideways, go upwards'.

Traditionally, climbers are seen as acquisitions for trellis and archways and with careful planning can be used to create picturesque privacy screens on neighbouring boundary lines, provide abundant shade over entertaining areas or disguise and bring beauty and colour to unsightly or tired fences.

With so many eye-catching choices available in today's market, it can often be confusing as to which climbing plants to use for a particular purpose.
For instance, the term "fast growing" can be appealing to many, but with it comes the hidden pressure of containing a plant that naturally wants to escape its boundaries or show boisterous tendencies towards neighbouring plants. Pruning and training may be a necessity.

On the other hand, deadly slow growing species can often leave the garden owner with an overwhelming anxious feeling about when…and if, their chosen plant will ever do the job it was purchased for.


From a 4 page Feature Article in Issue Twenty Six

Bleeding Heart Vine (Clerodendrum thomsoniae).
Giant Potato Vine (Solanum wendlandii).
Petrea volubilis 'Purple Passion'.
Travelling Gardeners

Paul Plant

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Editor Paul Plant highlights why travelling provides more rewards to gardeners than just entry stamps on a passport.

The experience of travelling is enhanced when accompanied by friends and like-minded souls. Gardening tours generally have a tour guide with horticultural expertise, a behind-the-scene coordinator who makes sure everything runs smoothly and of course a bunch of keen gardeners to discuss the trip highlights with. It is more than just visiting gardens – it's about enjoying the companionship of others and learning how others tackle horticulture in different climates or districts.

A recent tour in 2011 to the southern cities of China by the Editor and a group of magazine readers brought with it the realisation that we grow many of these same plant species and yet it highlighted the diversity of flora that defines both countries. To the surprise of all who travelled combinations observed in the botanic gardens and in short-term display gardens showcased tropical species mass planted amongst plants we would normally regard as being of cool temperate origin – is a design like this sustainable in our own climate back home?


From a 2 page Feature Article in Issue Twenty Six

Chinese Dwarf Banana (Musella lasiocarpa).
1999 World Horti-Expo entry at Kunming.
Water Plants

Paul Plant

Images Margaret Vita,
Suncoast Water Gardens.

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Following on from our feature in Issue 25, Paul Plant takes a look at more aquatic plant life that can enhance the garden.

  • The following plants are featured:
  • Water Plantain (Alisma plantago-aquatica)
  • Needle Primrose (Ludwigia arcuata)
  • Smooth Nardoo / Rainbow Nardoo (Marsilea mutica)
  • Water Celery (Oenanthe javanica 'Pink Flamingo')
  • Woolly Frogmouth (Philydrum lanuginosum)
  • Pink Rotala (Rotala rotundifolia)

From a 2 page Feature Article in Issue Twenty Six
Smooth Nardoo / Rainbow Nardoo 
(Marsilea mutica).
Wooly Frogmouth (Philydrum lanuginosum).
Buying & selecting a plant
Jill Coomb





The task of buying a plant at a garden centre, an open garden or an event is made easier with some pearls of advice from nurseryperson Jill Coomb.

When we go into a nursery to buy a plant we are normally attracted to thriving, blooming plants. Lush green leaves, beautiful flowers or delicious edibles often entice us to impulse purchase. However, before buying your next plant there are a few simple things to check.

Also covered is:

  • Read the tag
  • Is it a plant for your region
  • A good size
  • A fair price
  • Free of pests and disease


From a 2 page Feature Article in Issue Twenty Six
Incorrect pruning, staking and care results in weak specimens not worth buying.
Exposed roots – has this plant been treated correctly before you buy it?
Garden Plant Names

Annette Irish

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Horticulturist Annette Irish continues the series on some common terms that can cause some confusion. This article covers the standard terms describing plant life cycles.

When researching 'how does this plant grow?', one of the major problems for warm climate gardeners is finding references that provide botanical terms that address tropical and subtropical plants and growth patterns.

Topics touched upon are:

  • Life Cycles
    • Ephemeral
    • Annual
    • Biennial
    • Perennials
      • Woody perennials
      • Herbaceous perennials
  • Evergreen or Deciduous
    • Evergreen
    • Semi-deciduous
    • Deciduous
From a 2 page Feature Article in Issue Twenty Six
Garden Zinnia (Zinnia elegans) has an  annual life cycle.
Hibiscus rosa-sinensis is typical of an evergreen shrub.
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From a 3 page Feature Article in Issue Twenty Six
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