Christmas in a native garden

This article is extracted from the Yuruga Newsletter
Vol 12 No 4
(December 2004).

The focus of this article is for gardeners in tropical Australia.
However, the basic principles apply for throughout Australia
with minor modifications for local conditions.

Native gardens all across the tropics are bursting into bloom for Christmas.

Here in our Yuruga gardens we have four different native cassias in flower all at once, making a blaze of yellow and orange hues against the bright blue summer sky and a beautiful carpet of fallen petals scattered on our lawns and pathways. What an absolute delight!

The native cassias are so lovely compared to the commonly grown exotic species that it really is a wonder why they are not grown more often. Cassia sp Paluma Range is one of our all-time favourite plants being a neat, tidy, dense shrub with dark green tropical foliage. The large bunches of bright yellow flowers hang down amongst the leaves and branches making a spectacular display of green and gold.

Cassia queenslandica is a larger, more open tree which is so much tidier than the common exotic Cassia fistula , while Cassia brewsteri and Cassia tomentella are hardy shrubs suitable for drier gardens. Together, the native cassias make an absolutely fantastic display.

Yellow and red are a feature of early summer. The Flame Tree Brachychiton acerifolius is now in full bloom, and the Red Beech Dillenia alata is making a fantastic show with its bright yellow flowers displayed against huge glossy green leaves. The Freshwater Mangrove Barringtonia acutangula is dripping with fluffy red flowers which carpet the ground beneath its branches, and the native cordylines are loaded with huge bunches of shiny bright red fruit.

High in the canopy the Queensland Maple Flindersia brayleyana is laden with large heads of fluffy white flowers, the Southern Silky Oak Grevillea robusta is ablaze with nectar-laden orange flowers which are driving the lorikeets crazy, and the Native Frangipanni Hymenosporum flavum is covered from head to toe with scented orange and white blooms. Everywhere we walk the ground is carpeted with flowers.

Down at eye level the Scented Daphne Phaleria clerodendron is packed full of the most beautiful scented flowers you can imagine, cramming every available inch along the trunk and branches. The Lime Berry Micromelum minutum is loaded with white flowers and orange fruit all at the same time, and the beautiful native gardenias are covered with stunning star flowers for Christmas. The native fuchsias (Graptophyllum spp) are packed with pink and red flowers all along their stems, the Pink Phyllanthus Phyllanthus cuscutiflorus is dripping with masses of delicate blossoms, and the Little Evodia Melicope rubra is a mass of flower for the third time this year.

Fluffy white flowers are hanging crowded from the trunk of the Lockerbie Satinash Syzygium branderhorstii, and several other lilly-pillies including Syzygium australe, Syzygium bamagense, Syzygium buetterianum and Syzygium pseudofastigiatum are also bursting into bloom. The Fibrous Satinash Syzygium fibrosum was covered with masses of flowers a few weeks ago and is now heavy-laden with juicy bunches of bright pink edible fruit.

Grevillea baileyana has been flowering for weeks now, and the masses of white flowers look fantastic amongst its bronze foliage silhouetted against the blue sky. And then there’s all the callistemons , melaleucas and grevilleas that are in flower, not to mention the loads of showy, colourful and decorative fruit that are starting to adorn the garden. The photos on this page show just some of them.

So, sit back and enjoy your native gardens in full flower and fruit this festive season.

Merry Christmas!

2 Replies to “Christmas in a native garden”

  1. Hi

    We produce the books titled Flora of Australia, and as such we get some more horticultural enquiries from the public whereas we tend to have more botanical information.
    So could you help me with this query.
    Does Phyllanthus cuscutiflorus have an unpleasant smell (when flowering I think) that is similar to old cabages. He said he couldn’t work out if it was the Phyllanthus or the drain, but was going to pull out the Phllanthus if it ended up with them making the smell.

    Thanks

    Helen

  2. Yes, Phyllanthus cuscutiflorus can have a strong smell when it flowers, and some people (not everyone) find it a bit overpowering. However, I think the benefits of this plant far outweigh the occasional strong smell, since it is very tough, hardy and fast growing, it is a very good screen plant, it has beautiful pink new growth, and the flowers are really pretty. If you are one of the people that really don’t like the smell, then plant it down-wind so that the smell won’t bother you.

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