Information & resources about plants & gardens for Brisbane & Qld


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The Garden Scene

News about plants and gardens in Queensland, plus other interesting horticultural news from around the world.

Water restrictions - think of the trees

A recent analysis of data collected in Los Angeles in 2010 shows that the city was losing approx 100 gallons per person per day to the atmosphere that summer, through lawns (70%) and trees (30%). The lack of watering restrictions at the time meant lawns were being overwatered and using as much water as they could. Trees used much less due to factors including leaf area and ability to regulate water loss. The amount needed to maintain tree cover may be far less than perceived and a more nuanced approach to urban water allocation, especially in droughts, could be worthwhile for the long-term benefit of the environment and community. Source: LA lawns lose lots of water: 70B gallons a year City's rich and famous lose twice as much as poor; trees relatively efficient University of Utah, May, 2017

Australia gave NZ pohutukawa

Rata species and the revered pohutukawa (AKA New Zealand Christmas bush all belong to Metrosideros. Native members of this genus are found throughout the Southern Hemisphere, except for Australia. Fossil evidence from Tasmania showed it once occurred here, too. Newly discovered fossil species of Metrosideros now suggest that the genus first evolved in Australia. Why these species subsequently became extinct is unknown. Source: Australian origin likely for iconic New Zealand tree (June 2017)

Check out Chelsea
Although it's not held in quite the same esteem as it once was, Britain's Chelsea Flower Show is still the world's most celebrated garden event. Few plants will be suitable for SE Qld, but the elaborately staged show gardens are inspirational and can hold clues to more general landscape trends. Judging choices often create controversy and this year is no exception, with an exhibit representing an abandoned Maltese stone quarry winning Best Show Garden. Good websites for pictures and commentary include:
RHS Chelsea Flower Show - Official website, Royal Horticultural Society
Chelsea Flower Show - The Telegraph, which always has extensive coverage
A search of news websites and social media will deliver many more images and opinions from garden experts and the public. The show runs until 27th May 2017.
Mediterranean style on show

A new European show with potentially more relevance to us than Chelsea is the Radicepura Garden Festival on now in Sicily, Italy. This is "the first international event dedicated to Mediterranean garden design and landscape architecture". Although there are some important differences between those conditions and ours, many of the same plants can be grown. Arguably, the Mediterranean style has more relevance to us going forward (more on this in a future edition). Meanwhile, take a look at the Radicepura Garden Festival website and keep an eye on social media. This event runs until October 2017. (May 2017)

Nanning Garden redevelopment underway

The former Chinese Friendship Gardens in the Bundaberg Botanic Gardens is undergoing a makeover to better express the culture and garden aesthetics of sister city Nanning prefecture. After input from Nanning craftsmen and engineers the renamed Nanning Gardens will incorporate a traditional entryway and walkway bridge. Source: Work underway on redesign of Nanning Gardens (May 2017)

Tree policy towards an economic future

Toowoomba's Regional Council has approved a Street and Park Tree Policy to ensure its tree population continue to enhance the region for residents and visitors well into the future. Besides environmental and social benefits, trees are an important economic asset. (Travel site Expedia declared Toowoomba one of The 25 Most Beautiful Places in Australia). Source: Toowoomba’s ‘green’ image remains a top priority for Council (May 2017)

Kilcoy Koalas

An area at Kilcoy is to be protected from cattle grazing and planted with blue gums. Besides supporting the local koala population, it's hoped that the trees will eventually attract the grey-headed flying foxes currently roosting at Anzac Park. The forsted area will also help protect water quality in the catchment. Source: Koala Tree Planting to Occur in Kilcoy (April 2017)

Rare plant for Tondoon

A Yarwun Whitewood (Atalaya collina) has joined Gladstone Tondoon Botanic Gardens' developing demonstration gardens (opening in 2018). A collaboration between the gardens' nursery team and Gladstone Region council to propagate 400 plants to help preserve this endangered small tree. Since it was discovered on a Yarwun property in 1982, less than ten mature inviduals have been recorded. It's a small tree that is said to be tolerant of draought and poor soils. Source: World first planting at newly constructed demonstration gardens (March 2017)

New bottle trees for heroes

Four Roma bottle trees requiring removal due to poor health will be replaced in time for Anzac Day. Two of the trees are in Heroes Avenue and the plaques will be retained and associated witht he new trees, continuing the tradition of the memorial. Source: Bottle tree removal in Roma - this Saturday & Sunday (February 2017)

Award for Carnival
The Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers won best national major festival or event at the 2016 Qantas Australian Tourism Awards. Source: Golden night for Carnival of Flowers at 2016 Qantas Australian Tourism Awards (February 2017)
New garden competition for Douglas Shire

The Councils new initiative to encourage beautification of the region will include categories for small and large gardens residential, commercial properties and edible gardens. Entries can be submitted from 1st July 2017. Source: ‘Let It Grow’ for inaugural Douglas Garden Awards (February 2017)

Rainforest attraction opens on Sunshine Coast

Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve Rainforest Discovery Centre has opened at Maleny. In addition to spectacular views of the Glasshouse Mountains, there's a an elevated rainforest walk and Rainforest Education Centre. The "sensitively designed" building will house various displays and interactive experiences and is expected to become a major Sunshine coast attraction. Source: Governor of Queensland opens the new Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve Rainforest Discovery Centre (February 2017)

Dingo link to weeds

Overgrazing is not the only cause of woody shrub invasion into semi-arid Australia, a new study finds. Comparison of habitats either side of the dingo fence in outback NSW showed a proliferation of woody species in the absence of dingoes. It's believed that foxes and feral cats reduce numbers of small mammals which eat the shrub seed, thus preventing its germination. Exclusion of dingoes removes a way of controlling these feral predators. Source: Detective work across dingo fence reveals new factor in woody shrub invasion (December 2016)

Dry Tequila

Like many other plants adapted to arid habitats, the tequila agave uses Crassulacean Acid Metabolism (CAM) to be able to photosynthesise while avoid opening its stomates during the day. Genetic analysis of tequila has indicated that CAM plants and regular plants have the same genes regulating these processes, it's the timing with which these genes are switched on and off. Scientists speculate that if the triggers can be identified, it may be possible to induce this water-saving mechanism in mainstream crop plants. Source: How tequila could be key in our battle against climate change (December 2016)

Ipswich backs beautification

The Beautiful Ipswich program launched by Ipswich City Council is intended to develop local pride and community participation for a "greener and cleaner" city. It will begin with park and street landscaping and suburb entry statements in Collingwood Park and Riverview. Pathways and waterways will be a priority. Residents will also be encouraged to request street trees for outside their properties. Source: Beautiful Ipswich initiative will spruce up suburbs (December 2016)

Gold Coast more than beaches

A survey of Gold Coast residents has should a hight level of satisfaction with the city's parks. Feedback indicated a need for more good "destination" parkland projects. Local parks need pedestrian links, high quality turfed areas and trees. Shade is very important and council says it is responding with more tree planting throughout the city. Gold Coasters love their parks (December 2016)

Steam Weeding the Cassowary Coast

Cassowary Coast Regional Council is introducing steam as a control measure for weeds in public areas. An advantage of the steam unit is that it can be used in all weather conditions, as well as reducing chemical use. It can also be used for killing mold on pathways and other cleaning. Source: Controlling Weeds with Steam on the Cassowary Coast (October 2016)

Horticultural therapy promising for the aged

Elderly women who took part in a 15-week gardening program showed improvement in physical health and mental function while nonparticipants declined, a South Korean study shows. Satisfaction with the program as a physical activity was very also very high. Source: The many health benefits of gardening for elderly women (October 2016)

Bougainvillea landmark to go

An much-loved bougainvillea on Redbank Plains Road, Ipswich is to be removed as part of a road upgrade. However, Ipswich City Council will be taking cuttings. Plants will be made available to the public at future mobile nursery events, allowing the local landmark to establish a new generation in neighborhood gardens. Source: Plant a piece of Ipswich's iconic bougainvillea (October 2016)

Brisbane trials community composting

A new trial laynvhed by Brisbane City Council aims to reduce organic waste going to landfill by allowing residents new community gardens to contribute food scraps for composting. Participants near each of the trial hubs will receive a caddy to collect the waste. Volunteers will assist in the gardens. Source: Community composting trialled in gardening hubs (October 2016)

Shrubs' Keys to Success

Shrubs occur on 40% of Earth's land surface, making them more common than trees at 28%. Theortically modelling has shown that it is the multistemmed nature of shrubs that makes then so successful. For a given volume of above-ground wood, the greater cross-sectional area at the base means water and nutrients can be transported faster to the leaves. The larger area of bark, from which buds sprout, is also believed to be advantageous because a canopy of twigs and leaves can be developed faster. Trees can ultimately attain the height that allow them to compete, but not before th faster shrubs have flowered and spread their seed. The growth form of shrubs are also better suited to extreme environments. Source: Shrubs More Expansive Than Trees (September 2016)

London Plane a CBD fail

At least 4 London plane trees in Warwick streets will be removed by Southern Downs Regional Council after root barriers failed to prevent damage to nearby road and footpath underground pipes. Given the risk of continuing damaging, these and possibly all 24 of the trees in Warwick will be replaced with species more suitable for a CBD location. Source Safety concerns prompt removal of invasive trees (September, 2016)

Drought means dry air

A new study indicates that the effect of low air humidity beeen an underestimated cause of plant stress during drought. Closed stomates will consequently mean less photosynthesis and growth. Source: During drought, dry air can stress plants more than dry soil (September 2016) [Consider how much better plants respond to rainy weather compared to artificial watering - Editor]

Secrets of miracle fruit revealed

Miracle fruit (Synsepalum dulcificum) is more than just a party trick. Its ability to make sour foods seem sweet is attracting the attention of the food and medical industries aiming to reduce sugar consumption. Much is to be learned about the plant's biology, but Malaysian research into flowering and fruiting at a microscopic level has now provided insights that should help in the commercial production of this crop. The flower takes 100 days to develop from initiation. The flower appears to be insect-pollinated, with mechanisms that prevent self-fertilisation. Fruit ripened 90 days after flowering, but a high percentage of fruit dropped between 40-60 days. These findings point to ways crop yield couldbe improved, be it provision of pollinators or water and fertiliser management at fruiting. Further research is required to indentify the pollinator. Source: Miracle fruit's flowering, fruiting behaviors revealed (August, 2016)  [More about info about Miracle Fruit

Park trees poisoned

Rapid deterioration of six Ficus microcarpa var hillii in Queens Park, Ipswich indicate deliberate poisoning. Efforts to save the century-old trees have failed, leaving no choice but to remove them for safety reasons. Two other trees in the park were lost a year ago under similar circumstance. Anyone with information regarding these crimes are urged to come forward. (August 2016)

Balinese garden icon dies

Made Wijaya, the former Australian who essentially created the lush "Balinese" style of modern tropical garden, has passed away due to illness. His many landscape designs implemented around the world included the home of David Bowie. He also wrote extensively on Balinese life and culture and became a prominent figure in his adopted home. (for more, see Fairfax Media news report: Death in Sydney of renowned garden designer keenly felt in his adopted Bali) His company website PT. Wijaya Tribwana International has many illustrations of his projects. Tropical landscape enthusiasts should take the opportunity to have a look while it's still available. (August 2016)

USC identifies backyard-appropriate koala tree for SEQ

A University of the Sunshine Coast team, led by Dr Stephen Trueman, have spent nine years researching which koala-friendly trees are most suitable for urban South-East Queensland, including backyards. They assessed around 20 species and variants, including grafting experiments. The only one that grew well and stayed sufficiently small was Eucalyptus kabiana ( Mt Beerwah mallee), reaching 6m in seven years. They can provide food and habitat for koalas and should be useful in creating corridors between existing habitats well away from dangerous roads. The first 350 seedlings to be planted across the Moreton Bay Region were given to the Moreton Bay Regional Council and the Pine Rivers Koala Care Association at the project launch. The next step is to assess them in various locations with different soil types. Source: Dwarf gum tree plantings to help safeguard koalas (July 2016)

Earthquake-proof coconuts

When coconuts fall, often from a great height, the fruit must be able to protect the seed within from the impact. A German research team is now studying it's structure with a view to improving the shock resistance of buildings. A distinctive ladder-like vascular system within the endocarp (the coconut "shell") is thought to resist bending forces and dissipate energy. Similar fibres in concrete could potentially help structures resist earthquakes and other disasters. Source: Coconuts could inspire new designs for earth-quake proof buildings (July 2016)

Gardens for the public by the public

Cairns has established a program to enable individuals and community groups to care for public spaces. "Green Space Our Place" provides plants, equipment and support while volunteers perform tasks like watering and weeding as well as collaborating on design. Machans Beach Community Association, for example, has created a Native Coastal Garden in Keith Edwick Park with species are native to Redden Island and surrounding area. Cairns City Council calls on for groups or individuals who have an idea for a project or who would like to get involved in an existing group to contact them. Volunteers find their place in green spaces (Jul 2016)

The not-as-sweet smell of warming temperatures

Increasing temperature reduces production of scent compounds in two petunia varieties tested. Subsequent interference with the ability to attract pollinators is another way in which climate change could alter plant development and ecological relationships. Source: Award-Winning Research: As Temperatures Rise, Flowers Emit Less Scent (June, 2016)

Californian street tree ROI

A report from the U.S. Forest Service has estimated that California's street trees "bolster property values and home sale prices to the tune of $838.94 million". This is in addition energy savings (heating and cooling) other environmental benefits. They calculated that for every $1 spent on planting and maintenance, the average street tree returns $5.82 in benefits. Over-reliance on a single species mean the urban forests of many communities could be devastated by a pest or disease outbreak. Source: California 'street tree' benefits valued at $1 billion (June 2016)

Gladstone policy on traffic islands

Gladstone Regional Council has adopted a new policy to address expensive maintenance of vegetated traffic islands. Small or high-maintenance medians will be replaced with concrete or artificial turf. Remaining watering sytems will be converted to drip irrigation to reduce weed growth. There will also be a long-term program to replace unsuitable vegetation. Source: New maintenance approach for city roundabouts and medians (June 2016)

Fitzroy River recreated in Kershaw Gardens

Designs for Kershaw Gardens' new central precinct approved by Rockhampton Regional Council provide a new family area while sealing landfill exposed by Cyclone Marcia. The many new features include a shallow water play area design based on the Fitzroy River and its various features. Source: Council reveals designs for new Kershaw Gardens central precinct (May 2016)

New Palms for War Memorial

The 12 Canary Island Date Palms at the Rockhampton War Memorial killed and damaged by Cyclone Marcia are to be replaced. Semi-advanced plants will be used to recreate the formal arrangement encircling the Cenotaph. The memorial is heritage-listed. Source: Work begins on Cenotaph Date Palms (May 2016)

Garden spend soars in U.S.

American spending on lawns and gardens jumped to $36.1 billion dollars in 2015 from a five-year low in 2014, according to the annual National Gardening Survey. Analysis suggests participation did not decline much during the economic downtown, but spending was curbed. It's estimated that about 75% of all U.S. households did some lawn and garden activities themselves in 2015, with 5 of the 6 million households new to gardening being "millenials". Source: ​ Spending on Lawns and Gardens Jumps, Led by Millennials and Boomers (April 2016)

More for kids at Whipbird Walk

The latest stage of the Whipbird Walk children's experiential garden has been achieved with completion of the Whipbird Village. Located inside Maroochy Regional Bushland Botanic Garden, Whipbird Walk incourages discovery and interaction with nature. New additions include carved granite whipbird eggs and "pods" of native plantings within a network of enticing trails. Source: A new children’s experiential garden unveiled to inspire and delight (April 2016)

Helping the Richmond Birdwing

It's hoped a release of about 80 Richmond birdwing butterfly caterpillars across three Sunshine Coast will boost numbers and genetic diversity of the species in the region. The release is part of a collaboration between the Queensland Government and Sunshine Coast Council which also involves planting of host vines and ongoing monitoring. Council has also previously been involved in land aquisition and habitat restoration to aid butterfly revovery, including a successful flagship project at Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve, Source: Helping the beautiful birdwing butterfly to soar again (February 2016)

Gardens make you feel better than balconies

In Austria, 811 people across a wide age range were questioned about their restorative value of their private lounges, terraces, balconies and gardens. Gardens were rated significantly better than balconies or terraces, with the restorative value increasing with the number of "natural elements" present in the garden. Age or gender made no difference, but the reported effectiveness of gardens did depend on the individual's ability to switch off from their worries and having a positive relationship with their gardens. "The message is that you should design your garden to be as close to nature as possible but, above all, you should enjoy it." A second study is further investigating the health-promoting effects of private gardens as well as more communal gardens. Source: Public Health Study: private gardens are more restorative than lounges (April, 2016)

Australian wattle threatens Chinese flight safety

Black wattle (Acacia mearnsii) are rapidly spreading around airports in China's Yunnan province, endangering both the environment and flight safety. It is feared the fast-growing trees will provide shelter for birds and increase the likelihood of bird strikes. The species has been planted widely worldwide for its multiple uses, but is now poses an invasive threat in many locations. Source: 30-Mar-2016 Black wattle's new biogeographic distribution threatens flight safety in China (March 2016)

Saline soils have crop potential with  Agave

Agave species could extend farming into hot, arid areas, producing a variety of edible and non-edible commercial products, but salinity could be a problem. When four types of Agave were tested, however, two species (Agave parryi and Agave weberi) performed well enough to demonstrate potential for cropping in saline soils. Source: Impacts of salinity determined for Agave (March 2016)

New symbiosis found

A new type of plant-fungus association with the potential to increase crop yields has been discovered in Europe. A type of Colletotrichum was found in wild Arabidopsis on phosphorus-poor soils. It lives within the whole plant and though it colonises via the roots, is not a mycorrhiza. However, function appearsto be similar moving phosphorous to leaves. Plants inoculated with the fungus produce more fruits and seeds. Source: A new plant – microorganism symbiosis discovered by UPM researchers (March 2016)

A wild defence

Wild tomatoes have some way of discouraging whitefly from settling on the surface of the plant, a study has shown. When pest was given a choice, they were 80% more likely to settle on the commercial variety 'Elegance' than wild type Lycopersicon pimpinellifolium. Such resistance is part of reason for popularity of wild and heritage varieties amongst home gardeners, but yields are too low for large-scale production. Researchers suggest returning some of these genes back into commercial varieties and emphasis the importance of preserving wild species. Source: Breeding wildness back into our fruit and veggies (February, 2016)

Profusion Zinnia a space pioneer
Profusion Zinnia a space pioneer
Credit: Scott Kelly/NASA

A zinnia is the first ornamental plant to flower in space. This is part of the International Space Station's Vegetable Production System research. Although the primary aim is to produce fresh food on long missions, "space gardeners" have also reported how psychologically beneficial it is see and interact with live plants in this environment. News of the zinnia has been widely reported but with little mention of the variety. It was in fact a Profusion Orange. The Profusion series were developed by Sakata Ornamentals by hybridising Z. elegans and Z. angustifolia and have gained popularity around the world for heat, drought and disease resistance. Sources: ZINNIAS FROM SPACE! NASA Studies the Multiple Benefits of Gardening, Profusion Zinnias Become First Zinnias to Bloom in Space! (January, 2016)

Clay sprays have potential

Kaolin (aluminosilicate clay) has been shown to have insecticidal properties in temperate regions, but this was largely untested in the tropics until Columbian researchers studied greenhouse whitefly on bean. They found that kaolin treatment was nearly as effective as synthetic chemical insecticides, Furthermore, a high application rate reduced transpiration and increased chlorophyll content compared to untreated plants, which could also make it useful in times of drought stress. Source: Kaolin effectively controls whitefly in beans (January, 2016)

New species discovered near Agnes Water

The Gladstone Tondoon Botanic Gardens' curator Brent Braddick has discovered a new species in the Agnes Water area. The Mischocarpus species (family Sapindaceae) is a shrub up to four metres with "enormous" leaves. Source: Gardens' curator discovers new plant species (November, 2015)

Childhood obesity intervention with gardens

A study of English children has shown that those in lower educated households, or those in higher educated households located in disadvantaged neighborhoods, that have no access to a garden between the ages of 3-5 years have an increased risk of obesity by age 7. Source: Study from England shows no garden access for young children linked to childhood obesity later in childhood (September, 2015)

Floral density lures city bees

Insufficient pollination due to a lack of pollinators in an urban environment could potentially limit yield from city farms and gardens. An experiment in San Fransisco placed flowering tomato plants in various locations in the city, and flower clusters either covered (self-pollination only), covered and artificially pollinated (by tuning fork) or left open to pollination by local bees. Researchers were surprised to find that there were plenty of bees available to to the job, producing bigger and more numerous fruit than self pollination alone. Furthermore, the size of the garden nor the amount of green space in the surrounding area did not affect the amount of pollination occurring. Rather, it was the density of flowers in the garden that was important in attracting bees, meaning small city gardens can still be effective in this regard. it also debunks the notion that ornamental flowers will distract bees from visiting food-producing plants. Source: City buzz: Urban pollinators get the job done (February 2015)

Does greywater on the garden make you sick?

An Israeli study in which the health of users was compared to non-users over a one-year period has shown no greater risk of water-related diseases such as gastroenteritis by garden irrigation with graywater, at least in arid areas. Source: Graywater Reuse for Irrigation Deemed Safe (December, 2015)

More habitat secured for Brisbane koalas

Brisbane City Council has added a 52 hectare property at Burbank to Brisbane's Koala Bushlands, which has grown by more than 1,000 ha during 25 years of the Bushland Acquisition Program. The recent Burbank acquisition contains a large number of mature scribbly gums, which not only provide koala food, but can be expected to provide tree hollow habitats for many species. Source: Brisbane's Koala Bushlands grows by 1,000 hectares (November, 2015)

Green walls a potential health hazard

While living plants are usually considered a beneficial inclusion in urban environments, new research suggests that green walls could have adverse health effects in hot, polluted cities. Reactive volatile organic compounds emitted by plants can oxidise to form ultrafine particle pollution and indoor levels could be made worse where green walls are located close to buildings' air inlets. Source: Green walls: a red card for office worker health? (October, 2015)

Brisbane to sparkle with new and revitalised fountains

Victims of the drought, three fountains in Brisbane's CBD will be flowing again by the end of 2015. This includes installation of "Water smart" systems to conserve water. The designer of the EE McCormick Place fountain (Upper Roma Street) has also been consulted to help restore the original 1971 vision for the project. Emma Miller Place (Roma Street) and Mooney Memorial Fountain (Queen and Eagle Streets) are the other two locations to be refurbished. Brisbane City Council has also committed to constructing a new fountain somewhere in the city. Sources: LM to bring back fountains and beautify Brisbane and Works start flowing on city fountain revitalisations (October, 2015)

Calliope tree planter honored

The work of former Calliope Shire Clerk Bob Smith planting and caring for over 400 trees since 1987 has been recognised with a ceremony and plaque at the site in the Calliope River North camping area. The site now features a substantial array of cabinent timber species including bunya pines, Mackay cedars and silky oaks. Source: Bob Smith's parkland vision recognised (September, 2015)

Some older news items of continuing interest have been moved to an appropriate subject page at Check the Guide to Pages.



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