Two days after midwinter and two days until Christmas and we’ve had a week in the low to mid 30’s. When I was out in the midday sun yesterday I was casting no shadow. Phew!
For someone who has worked in horticulture and gardened in the UK all their lives, one of the pleasures of coming to a place like Australia is being surrounded by unfamiliar plants, both cultivated and in the wild. One of the things I don’t know about them is where they all originate from. Most people’s gardens bear little resemblance to what is left of the natural flora hereabouts so it is easy to assume that most of the garden plants are non-native; though without knowing what most of them are there is no easy way to check.
Out in the “wild” I have seen a number of things that I am fairly sure are aliens, some of them invasively so, but have probably failed to recognise others because I simply don’t know what they are. It is tempting to think the climate here is too challenging for much to gain a foothold, but it does.
Brisbane has two botanic gardens, one in the city centre and a more extensive one at Mt Coot-tha out in the suburbs. We visited the latter earlier in the week and dragged ourselves around in 35°C for a few hours. It was a pleasure and an education and quickly overwhelming. So many fabulous plants, so many unfamiliar names, so much new information to absorb and process. My six this week are from there.
A large area is devoted to native plants and plant communities and there is some encouragement to plant native plants, in particular those from this part of Australia, in gardens. What struck me about some of these plants was just how good they were, how very garden worthy. Grevilleas stood out, with flowers of various shades, all very exotic looking and all having the bonus of being attractive to lorikeets and other nectar feeding birds.
Just inside the entrance is a large area given over to succulents. Much of Australia is arid but succulence is not an adaptation that the native flora has adopted much. These non native ones are very happy here though.
Making it just a little more interesting is the fact that overhead in many places there are massive spiders webs, densely populated by massive spiders.
Buckinghamia celsissima or Ivory Curl is from NE Queensland and in the Proteaceae. That much is on the label. It is a rainforest species that makes an evergreen tree to about 10m in cultivation. I have seen it in gardens and as a street tree and covered in its 20cm long white flower spikes it is an impressive sight.
Araucaria bidwillii, Bunya pine. Not a pine, of course, but a relative of the monkey puzzles, this was once abundant in Eastern Australia. Logging for timber and land clearance have taken a heavy toll but it is not an uncommon sight still and a good specimen is very handsome. The botanic garden have planted a sizable grove which is now beginning to cone, necessitating warnings about the cones, which can be football sized.
Grevillea ‘Golden Lyre’. One of the areas of native plants has a wide selection of Grevilleas on display. Most have cultivar names but whether they are selections found in the wild, or hybrids raised in cultivation I don’t know. This one stood out as much for its habit as its flowers; large scale ground cover anyone?
Corymbia ficifolia. I’ve been driving past three specimens of this every day to get out of the estate. I had tentatively identified them as Eucalyptus ficifolia, but it turns out that it was moved to Corymbia in 1995. It comes in red and pink and seems to want to make a low spreading bushy tree. In the botanic garden there were cultivars called ‘Summer Red’ and ‘Summer Beauty’, presumably grafted cultivars. It may be that seedlings of the species would be more upright but perhaps of less good colour.
Bamboo. There are some very impressive clumps of bamboo in the garden, though one with exceptional blue stems that we saw last time we were here is now gone. An unwilling volunteer was press-ganged into appearing in the picture, for scale. I forgot to note the name of the plant.
I hope that warmed you up a little. Now I have to steel myself to see what everyone back at the other end of the world are up to and by extension, what our own garden is enduring in our absence. It’s off to The Propagator for lots of links.