Remembering 2015

(Click on the images for a bigger view.)
On several occasions over the past  summer months I have smelt, rather than seen, this sweet smelling Cestrum nocturnum (night blooming jessamine). Considered a weed in coastal Queensland and N.S.W. it is also highly  TOXIC and the Queensland Health Department even has a warning of its fragrance causing difficulty with breathing. The fruit are especially toxic. In subtropical India it is also  known to attract snakes!
Cestrum sml
This beautiful spray of purple flowers from the Petrea volubilis (Purple Wreath)  is considered an alternative to wisteria in tropical areas. The  verbena- like flowers, each surrounded by 5 distinctive purple  sepals, are produced over the warmer months. This  woody climber is not one to smother or clamber over  surrounding plants and will need a support on which to climb. This plant is on the  fence line at the lower end of the rose garden.
Petraea sml
Wow! These berries look good enough to eat! Wrong – unfortunately they’re poisonous! This is Viburnum opulus, a wild species form of the well-known Snowball Bush (Guelder Rose), which is a sterile cultivar that doesn’t have fruit. This specimen can be located at the entrance to the rose garden under the Giant Sequoia.

Our first autumn note! This tall Impatiens, I. sodenii,  is one of those old-world plants you tend not to see anymore. I remember its unusual seed pods as a child, where, when you squeezed the ripe capsules, it would split down the side and spring open like an exploding jack-in-a-box, and throw its seeds far and wide. Thus one of its common names, Oliver’s touch-me-not (an older name was Impatiens oliveri). The very pale pink/lavender coloured flowers light up the shaded understory  of the Oak pathway down to the Field station.
The ancient, twisted trunk of the Leptospermum  laevigatum, Coastal Tea Tree, situated in the Native Garden, has a lovely ground cover of native Violet. (Viola hederacea). This Tea Tree was likely planted in the 1920s, and the trunks resemble twists of thick rope.
leptospermum laevigatum
Nearby in the Native Garden is the beautiful grafted Eremophila (Emu Bush) hybrid. (E. Bignoniiflora  x polyclada) The vast number of individual flowers, each with a spotted interior, are a welcome delight for  bees and birds.  A.S.
(Today’s Impatiens and eremophila images from the Burnley Plant Guide.)

Another summer dormant bulb that makes a  spectacular show in late summer is the Blood Lily, Haemanthus coccineus. This South African bulb has flowers rather like a large orange paint brush (thus one of its common names) and is followed after flowering by two, rather thick, strap like leaves. This specimen is growing in the rockery opposite the east side of the main building (reception)
haemanthus 2
While we are mentioning spectacular South African plants, this giant of the Gardenia family, Gardenia thunbergia, is currently in flower in the Azalea lawn area below a large fig tree. (Ficus obliqua). The evening fragrance is well worth experiencing (moth pollinated) and it’s interesting to think that in its native environment, the woody fruits (rather like a very large nutmeg) are only released and dispersed once picked off and eaten by elephants, antelopes and buffalo.  A.S.
gardenia thunbergia
You have to admire bulbs, they lie dormant during inhospitable dry periods and then pop up with  a great surprise. This spider lily, Lycoris radiata, looks like fireworks going off. Once the flowers have finished, the new leaves emerge when the changing of the season  brings rainfall. Certainly, for dry-land gardeners, this pattern has  rich rewards.
Lycoris radiata var. radiata
Walking down the orchard border pathway, near the orchard gates, a wonderful fragrance fills the steamy tropical air of February. This Golden Angel’s Trumpet Brugmansia aurea, towers into the air of the yellow border and not only is visually stunning but also gives a welcome, rather heady, fragrance to share.
<brugmansia aureaalt=”Brugsmansia”/>
Often blue flowers are hard to come by, what we tend to think of as blue, often is more purple in hue. This deciduous, non- climbing Clematis, more like a shrub, is also in the nearly blue category. The fragrant flowers of Clematis tubulosa, like many Clematis, are produced over a long period during summer and has bold, interesting foliage as well. Although recommended for full sun, we find the hotter weather, above the mid 30’s, tends to scorch the foliage. Whereas the foliage tucked under the canopy of other plants remains undamaged.
clematis tubulosa

This tiny white flowering bulb is easily missed. Even though its common name is Autumn Snowflake and species name  is “autumnalis” to match , this Snowflake (Acis, the  previous genus name was Leucojum) flowers in summer. Growing in the white border, to the left of the Orchard Gates, it is a beautiful new addition to the Garden.
It’s always worth seeking out new and improved cultivars for seemingly well-known plants. This purple liriope , Liriope muscari ‘Royal Purple’, is certainly a great improvement on the usual form. Having dark purple stems, as well as a more intense hue of purple to the unusual, long lasting flower heads, this cultivar stands out above the rest.
liriope muscari royal purple
It’s always good to use plants in a slightly different way. This star jasmine, Trachelospermum jasminioides, is usually used as a climbing vine. However its twining habit makes an ideal  ground cover and very little maintenance is needed to keep it looking good. This plant has many great attributes, not only due to its long flowering, fragrant flowers and low water use (once established) but also because it can be grown successfully in a variety of light conditions, from shade under trees, to full sun along walkways.
trachelospermum jasminoides

At this time of year, in early February, the crepe myrtles (Lagerstroemia) are looking at their best. This specimen, in the north island bed on the east side of the main building is putting on a beautiful display.
Lagerstroemia indica
For sensational foliage it’s hard to beat sweet potatoes. This patch is down within the field station, in the alternative vegetable garden that lecturer Chris Williams has established. When you see the amazing foliage contrasts of the different varieties, it’s not hard to see why sweet potatoes are widely used for bedding display in Northern America and also for roadway median displays in Darwin. The fact they are edible is a bonus.
sweet potato
This long flowering native fan flower, Scaevola aemula ‘Fan Dancer’ is beginning to knit together after being planted at the start of summer. Located down in the orange purple border behind the orchard gates, they provide a ribbon of purple below the orange clipped balls of Black- eyed Susan. (Thunbergia alata)
Scaevola aemula fan dancer

One of the biggest eucalypt flowers you will come across is that of Eucalyptus macrocarpa. This spectacular  flower has large ornamental, silver foliage   and can be seen in the grey border under the large Ficus macrocarpa near the Sugar Gum Table.  Normally a tangled mass of multiple stems, rather than a tall tree, in its native habitat in south west Western Australia, it is well suited to the rather dry sandy loam of this part of the Garden.

Eucalyptus macrocarpa
This beautiful white flowering summer bulb brings joy to the garden in the January when many other flowers struggle to cope with high summer temperatures. It is part of the white flowering collection at the colour theme borders to the right of the  Orchard Gates, and it’s name is Ornithogalum candicans.

Ornithogalum candicans

A new addition to the ramp at reception is this curved, ornamental climber support. Built by Andrew Smith, (no not me but a very talented engineer with the same name) who used woven wire material donated by RONSTAN Tensile Architecture , it will provide  a wonderful shape  for the Gum Vine (Aphanopetalum resinosum) to grow over.
ramp climber support

This lovely pink flowering native Hibiscus is looking at its best in the rainforest in January. A relatively under- used small shrub, it flowers over a long period throughout the summer and early Autumn months.
hibiscus geranioides2
A fantastic  plant for any garden is the white flowering summer daphne, Daphne transatlantica ‘Eternal Fragrance’. This fast growing, long flowering, fragrant plant is remarkably drought tolerant and suited to  a wide range of soil types. It continues to flower on new shoots throughout the warmer months and has been planted outside the reception area of the Campus.

daphne transatlantica

One of my favourite trees in the Gardens is the Brachychiton rupestris, well named as a Bottle tree. This tree is slow growing and this specimen was likely planted in the 1920s.
brachychiton rupestris

At this time of year, around Christmas, some flowers seem a bit more Christmassy, as far as their green and/or red colour. One such green and red display comes from the rather weedy Alstroemeria psittacina. Its upright stems make good floral arrangements to fit in with the Christmas colour theme.
Alstroemeria psittacina
Fuchsias provide a  fantastic colourful display and many cultivars are good for pots to bring indoors as a table display.
fuchsia blue wren
An unusual looking flower is the African Ruttya fruticosa or Monkey Flower, also known as Jammy Mouth!. Its strange flower shape and black crinkled centre looks like something you might hang off a Christmas tree.
ruttya fruticosa2

The new rain garden bed outside the main building reception has now been planted up. Choosing the 20 plant species that have winter wet and dry summer tolerance required a different way of thinking to most other aesthetically orientated garden planting projects.  The tall ‘Big Red’ Kangaroo Paw cultivar has certainly caught everyone’s attention and many of the other species  will provide a long- flowering display for this front entrance of the Campus.
To see more pictures, see our entry on the building of the rain garden under What’s happening in the Gardens (under The Gardens drop-down menu.)

There are few more evocative plant names than the Fairy Fishing Rod, as it so aptly describes this delightful early summer perennial. This South African corm, Dierama pulcherrimum,  comes in a variety of purple, pink and white colours and this pink specimen has been a long term fixture to the west end of the Perennial Border. This end of the border has a beautiful combination of pink and purple salvias to complement the graceful, drooping pink flowers.


In the Grassland section of the Native Garden, this rare and endangered Button Wrinklewort, Rutidosis leptorrhynchoides, is surviving well amongst the surrounding Wallaby grass.

button wrinklewort(1)

The Orange and Purple border behind the Orchard Gates have a lovely collection of clematis. This purple flowering Clematis viticella ‘Polish Spirit’ is nicely complemented by the pink flowering Clematis texensis ‘Duchess of Albany’. The purple flowering ‘Polish Spirit’ is particularly  long flowering, as it goes on right through until autumn.

purple & pink clematis

A lovely splash of colour in the dry and exposed western side of the pine bed. The mauve flowers of the Centaurea cineraria are a welcome bonus to this striking silver foliage plant. It is endemic to the small isand of Capraia, off the Tuscan coast of Italy.







The Carob Bed, west of the Grey Garden, has had its edging re-done, and has been re-planted with the purple flowering  lantana (L. montevidensis) The treated pine  edging, likely to have been done in the late 1970s/early 1980s, was removed and replaced with rocks that are more in keeping with the surrounding bed garden bed edges.

carob bed

Visitors to the Gardens recently may have done a double take when looking at the lily ponds. No you aren’t seeing things, they’re flamingos. Sasha from the nursery felt there wasn’t enough fun around the campus so bought a collection of flamingos to brighten up the place. Mysteriously, they move about each week, so you don’t know where they will show up each Monday morning,


One of the beds that has all year round  appeal in the Gardens is the rock point near the lily ponds. One of the standout plants in this bed is a ginger lily called Hedychium greenii. The winter flowers, an unusual orange red, are followed in late spring by even more unusual aerial vegetative offsets, that grow at the end of each flowering stem. Each offset is a miniature of the parent plant, complete with leaves and bulging root nodes.

greenii offset

The well displayed flowers and  burgundy  underside of the leaves and stems   make this ginger lily a lovely addition to mixed borders.

greenii foliage


The Gardens had some new ducklings arrive this week. No doubt, if previous years’ observations are anything to go by, the  mother duck would have stopped traffic when taking them over the Boulevard from the Yarra and up into the Gardens. The lily ponds and adjoining lawns seem to be their preferred spot to roam and swim. This is one of the reasons we now stipulate dogs be brought into the Gardens on leads.


A new addition to the Gardens over the last year is now in full flower. This dwarf Streptosolen jamesonii  cultivar ‘Ginger Meggs” is well named as Marmalade Bush. Growing in the new Orange/Purple border on the Field station side of the  new Orchard gates,  this cultivar was obviously named after the  comic strip of the same name. Ginger Meggs is the longest running comic strip in Australia (1921- ) and tells the tale of a red-haired boy who is always up to mischief. Fortunately the plant is no such trouble.


A beautiful annual Oriental Poppy  along the Orchard borders. This self- seeding  poppy loves to germinate along the edges of the path, where you can admire them at close range.

poppy closeup