"Holiday snaps"

My recent holiday in north Queensland rekindled my gardening enthusiasm!
Sunday, 05 August 2012     

Bromeliads growing in a tree at the Nerada Tea Plantation

This July, my gardening enthusiasm was at an all-time low. After a bout of a really nasty flu, and being thoroughly fed up with what seems to have been one of the bleakest Sydney winters for quite some time, I had neglected my garden. The thought of living in an apartment was becoming very appealing. Luckily, we had some time ago planned a holiday in north Queensland and it proved just the tonic I needed to restore my interest in gardening!

For one thing, it was warmer up there - not hugely so, and the locals were complaining about their 'cold' winter - but enough to lift the spirits. Though I had not expected to look at plants or gardens during the trip, being so jaded at the time, I soon found myself drawn to them, as there was so much that was different to our gardens. I love the easy-going flamboyance of many Queensland gardens and envy their use of truly tropical plants. Coloured foliage is used frequently and I found that I realised I actually did like Cordyline plants after all! The cerise-coloured sorts were particularly effective, such as the one pictured above seen near Airlie Beach Lagoon. I have worked out a spot in my own garden where I can try some, to echo the similarly hued blooms of tall Canna iridiflora.

Another Queensland favourite seemed to be the golden-leaved form of Duranta erecta (one cultivar being 'Sheena's Gold'). I saw this used a lot as hedges, such as the one pictured in the grounds of the place where we stayed at Tinaroo Lake in the Atherton Tablelands. This plant is usually seen as a specimen plant, but it looked very effective as a clipped hedge.

In the Mackay Regional Botanic Gardens, a well-set out showcase of the flora, natural features and cultural heritage of the region, I admired many plants, but was particularly taken by the Phillip Island hibiscus (Hibiscus insularis, pictured). This is a critically endangered species, growing as a large shrub or small tree to 2.5 m high. Flowers open in a cream colour with a dark magenta centre but age to red or purple. It is endemic to Phillip Island in the Norfolk Island Group, where it is found only in three patches. I thought it was a very attractive flower.

Whilst visiting the Eungella National Park (in the Mackay region) - which I can highly recommend, as it is the only place I have ever seen platypuses in the wild - we came across a unique garden adjoining a cafe. It has been created by Susanne Dedner and contains some amazing mosaic, stone and crystal features, all constructed by hand, cleverly set within a tropical-style garden. There is a great sense of fun and humour in the garden, and it truly has to be seen to be believed!

I love tropical flowers, so I found it fascinating to see how well they were all growing in this part of the country - at home, my own warm-climate plants were struggling in the cold temperatures experienced some days this winter in Sydney. There were some really exotic ones that I had never seen before, and I brought home a couple to try - Wrightia 'Arctic Snow' (pictured), which has a lovely snow-white flower like a sort of daffodil, on a low shrub, and a red form of Plumbago (P. indica). Who knows whether they will grow in Sydney or not? But it is worth the gamble. I also managed to get some seeds of Cosmos sulphureus, a golden-hued annual that I once had but lost.

We saw a tea plantation and coffee plantations, which I found fascinating and visited many of the rainforest national parks in north Queensland, which are generally made very accessible for tourists, with boardwalks (often high in the canopy of the trees) and plenty of information. Another highlight was seeing a flock of large and gorgeous tropical butterflies that had hatched in our relatives' garden in Ingham: these were the Cairns birdwing butterflies (Ornithoptera euphorion, female pictured). This area of Queensland was very badly hit by Cyclone Yasi last year and much of our relatives' lovely well-established rainforest garden was destroyed - but a vine beloved by this particular butterfly (possibly an Aristolochia species) survived and thrived in the more open environment left behind after the cyclone.

I returned home full of fresh enthusiasm for plants and gardening and couldn't wait to get out into my own garden to get my hands into the soil again. It's sometimes easy to forget the revitalising effects of a holiday!

 Reader Comments

1/9  Ann - 2076 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 06 August 2012

Thanks for sharing your lovely trip! Susanne Dedner"s garden looks magical, and we saw and photographed the Philip Is hibiscus in Norfolk Island a few years ago. Ann Thanks, Ann. Would love to visit Norfolk Island one day and see all the interesting plants you saw there! Deirdre

2/9  Terry - 2470 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 06 August 2012

Perhaps 5 years ago, the Botanical Gardens in Sydney had a hedge of Hibiscus insularis but I don"t know if it is still there. At the time, I bought three small plants from the Friends of the Gardens and, shortly after, found that largish plants were being sold at my local nursery in Casino. Terry Thanks for that information, Terry. I will look out for that hedge. Hope your plants are thriving. Deirdre

3/9  Catherine - 2071 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 06 August 2012

So glad to hear that both a holiday & looking at new plants have restored your spirit! At least "sprinter" as Tim Entwisle calls our early Sydney first spring, is just about here. That Wrightia looks very interesting - what"s the foliage like? It looks a bit like a Carissa in the photo. Spot on re the Wrightia, Catherine. The leaves are leathery like Carissa and it belongs to the same Apocynaceae family. Both it and the Plumbago are looking a little shellshocked since being transported to Sydney but they may revive once we get some warmer weather. Will probably try them in pots at first so I can move them under cover in winter. Still, it is exciting to find something new. I love Sprinter - today was truly glorious! Deirdre

4/9  Jill - 3941 (Zone:10 - Mediteranean) Monday, 06 August 2012

Thank you Deirdre for sharing those cheerful holiday snaps - especially with a southerner. Jill Thanks, Jill. Hopefully, we will all have warmer days ahead soon! Deirdre

5/9  Helen - 2154 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 06 August 2012

I thought I must have been the only jaded gardener in Sydney & I was feeling guilty about it. Our lawn has a hump in the middle and it rules me. I have to take courage and get a Bobcat in. That will restore my enthusiasm. Then again, perhaps a holiday might be a better idea! Helen. Thanks, Helen. Yes, I hope you can bite the bullet and get that bobcat in. I have had machinery in quite a few times and it is fantastic what can be achieved in one morning with their help! Deirdre

6/9  Ben - 2065 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 06 August 2012

Fully empathise with u! Am also dealing with protracted flu & find myself losing passion for my garden, esp during this (neverending) winter! Recent trip to London and Singapore was just the remedy! Unseasonally warm weather in LON & inspiring blooms and the new SIN garden project was a quik tonic! Your trip sounds fab, Ben. That flu this year was a real shocker and it certainly made me lose the will to live for quite a while. The gorgeous weather yesterday and today have help increase my gardening enthusiasm and the longer days really help too. Deirdre

7/9  Therese - 2119 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 06 August 2012

Reading this made me hope, like everyone else, that at the end of this winter is a rainbow! The garden & lawn looks shabby (as I feel!) but feel energized by the thought of spring & maybe a holiday too! Thanks, Therese. My garden is very shabby but am hoping the warmer days will bring it to life. Start planning that holiday! Italy, perhaps?! Deirdre

8/9  Peta - 2758 (Zone:9 - Cool Temperate) Monday, 06 August 2012

Glad you are back. It"s funny, some plants here love the cold, daffodils and snowdrops - and the rhododendrons promise to be perfect. Not so my brugmansias. I was pushing the boundary with them. Fingers crossed they"ll be OK. I"m all for holidays. We came back after a month away really energized. Thanks, Peta. Yes, it is hard getting some of the more tender plants through winter. A lot of mine look sad. I won"t cut them back just yet - though OK to do salvias and plectranthus now. Your brugmansias will probably revive once the warmer weather arrives. I totally agree with you re holidays. Always seems too much hassle planning them and getting ready to go but once you are away, it is wonderful and they create longlasting memories to sustain us! Deirdre

9/9  Bronwyn - 4061 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Friday, 10 August 2012

Thanks for sharing your holiday pic"s. Beautiful sunny weather to re-spark your gardening spirit. Thanks, Bronwyn. With the bitterly cold weather we have in Sydney at the moment, it is nice to look back on that warmer interlude! Deirdre

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