Neofrabicia myrtifolia 1
Neofrabicia myrtifolia 1

GARDENING: Plants the bright spot of 2020

As 2020 comes to an end most people would struggle to have a positive to say about this year.

Here in the Rockhampton region we have had to deal with COVID, drought and then the water shortage in Mount Morgan and I could go on.

But there is a bright light in 2020 and that has been in our garden.

Throughout 2020 our plants seem to have looked lusher, flowers better, encountered less insects and grown faster.

Or am I looking at this year through rose coloured glasses?

So here are my top 10 performers of 2020 that were featured in the Morning Bulletin garden columns.

Cuphea Tiny Mice
Cuphea Tiny Mice

  • Number 10: During April I visited a garden on The Range that was full of butterflies. And was the selection of plants in this garden that impressed me the most. Many of these plants are normally grown in our part of Queensland. With the unique flowering Cuphea Tiny Mice a stand out. This is an evergreen, low growing shrub providing something different for the garden with masses of small mice-like flowers produced during the warmer months. It is excellent as a specimen plant and is ideal for borders and pots on patios. It handles sun or part shade, is salt tolerant and frost hardy.

Brachychiton bidwillii
Brachychiton bidwillii

  • Number 9: Growing at the entrance of the Rockhampton Police Station is the Little Kurrajong or Brachychiton bidwillii and is the smallest member of the Kurrajong family. The Little Kurrajong grows very well in local gardens and can reach a height of around 3m. During spring bunches of large bell-shaped pink flowers, clustered around the branches, will make this plant a feature in most gardens.

Orthosiphon stamineus
Orthosiphon stamineus

  • Number 8: Flowering up a storm on the summit of Mount Archer is the Cat’s Whiskers or Orthosiphon stamineus. This small bushy shrub grows 1m x 1m with beautiful feathery white flowers tipped with blue or mauve flowers tipped with white covering the plant in summer. Orthosiphon stamineus does also have bio-medical value as Java tea. Java tea is believed to improve health and also used in the treatment of kidney or bladder inflammation. It requires a sunny or lightly shaded position and is hardy. Spent flowers are best pruned off, helping it to flower better the next season.

Neofrabicia myrtifolia 1
Neofrabicia myrtifolia 1

  • Number 7: While doorknocking during the 2020 council election, I visited a garden in Forbes Avenue that had a great collection of unusual native plants including a perfumed yellow flowering Tea Tree. The Neofrabicia myrtifolia or Yellow Flowering Tea Tree would be one of the most under-utilised perfumed flowering shrubs available to local gardeners. With its large scented yellow flowers mingled with copper-coloured new growth, this plant can create a highlight in the garden. You can expect this shrub to grow up to 4m high and 2m across, and will tolerate most soil types.

Ixora Sunkist Rockhampton Airport
Ixora Sunkist Rockhampton Airport

• Number 6: Forming a floral hedge at the Rockhampton Airport is the Ixora Sunkist. This is a delightful Ixora with the added advantage of being dwarf and compact. Ixora Sunkist is genuine miniature which masses in heads of scarlet flowers for many months during summer. It is suited for semi-shade and ideal for tubs, gardens, rockeries or a sunroom.

Graptophyllum ilicifolium Frenchville State School
Graptophyllum ilicifolium Frenchville State School

• Number 5: Many of the schools in the Rockhampton region have great collections of local native plants. In the grounds of the Frenchville State School is a plant grown around the world and even taken as a floral emblem by other cities yet this plant is found naturally growing in many of the small pockets of dry rainforest scrub to the north of Rockhampton. The Graptophyllum ilicifolium or Holly Fuchsia is a shade-loving plant that will grow in full sun. At the end of spring beautiful deep pink tubular flowers engross the entire shrub. The flowering season is short, but very showy. The Holly Fuchsia will grow between 2 to 3m high and it is intolerant of frosts.

Erigeron
Erigeron

• Number 4: Growing in the carpark gardens at Cedric Archer Park is the mass flowering Seaside Daisy. Planted during 2020 these plants have quickly filled in the gardens. The Seaside Daisy is a hardy groundcover that produces a mass of small open-faced white daisy type flowers with a yellow centre. It flowers most of the year in warm sunny positions. It can be invasive and need to be checked periodically, as it is a very fast grower.

Ervatamia Coronaria
Ervatamia Coronaria

• Number 3: Growing in front of the old Commonwealth Bank building in Mount Morgan is the very hard Ervatamia coronaria or Mock Gardenia. When I was in Mount Morgan the week before Christmas this very hardy shrub was in full bloom yet wilting due to the dry. The Mock Gardenia is a beautiful tropical shrub growing around 2m high by 1m wide. This shrub is suitable for most positions in the garden and can be heavily pruned. It will flower throughout the year with lightly perfumed white flowers that covering the shrubs like snow.

Cassia Rainbow Shower Gracemere
Cassia Rainbow Shower Gracemere

• Number 2: Cassia Rainbow Shower flowers form a canopy of pink and butter coloured blooms, which, when viewed from a distance, give the tree a peach coloured appearance. The trees planted at Anna Mears Park in Gracemere are some of favourites. It is best described as being medium sized, growing on average between five and seven metres high, in a sunny, open position. Cassia Rainbow Shower is a hybrid cross of two extremely well known and popular cassia shade trees. The parent plants of this Cassia are both well used trees in the Rockhampton region, Cassia javonica and Cassia fistula, commonly known as Cascara. The foliage is glossy green and somewhat similar to that of Cassia fistula. This parentage ensures that the tree will grow successfully in this area, as well as passing on other favourable characteristics. Cassia Rainbow Shower does not have seed pods unlike all other cassias that become a high maintenance problem.

Gazania scandens Norman Road
Gazania scandens Norman Road

• Number 1: Gazanias scandens has become as identifiable with Rockhampton as beef and the bull statues, the Tropic of Capricorn Spire or barramundi fishing in the Fitzroy. Gazanias scandens has been successfully used to brighten the streetscape of Rockhampton. Like the medians gardens of the major entry roads from the north, south and east. Gazanias scandens is available in several colours, and may be planted as a colour mix or as a single colour for greater impact.

Gazanias are easily grown, full sun lovers and have a large range of brilliant colours and bi-colours. Gazanias are native to South Africa and are herbaceous perennials. Gazanias seed very easily and many seedlings appear around the plants.