The Toowoomba Violet Rediscovered
The sale of bunches like this one helped build the Toowoomba Mothers' Memorial after WWI | |
In the city of Toowoomba stands the Mothers' Memorial, a tribute the sons who went to the First World War but did not return. To help fund construction of the monument, flowers of a beautiful fragrant violet widely grown in the region were gathered and sold, at threepence per bunch.
In 1932, Toowoomba declared the violet its official floral emblem, and now forms part of the city's coat-of-arms.
Toowoomba is the main service center for the Darling Downs, one of the nation's prime agricultural regions. Also known as "The Garden city", since 1949 it has staged the famous Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers.
With such a proud horticultural history, it was sad that the violet which had been such an important part of that history, and which is a symbol of the city to this day, had been apparently lost.
Nobody knew for sure which (if any) of the assorted strains offered for sale as "Toowoomba Violet" over the years were the original variety. If it had survived somewhere, how could it be distinguished from the many other cultivars, not to mention sports and hybrids, now growing in the region?
Where was the true Toowoomba Violet?
In 2009, horticultural teachers at Southern Queensland Institute of TAFE, decided to bring back the violet. First, they asked locals to contribute candidate plants from their home gardens, which were then cultivated at the college. At flowering time, prominent Toowoomba gardener and flower arranger Joan Falvey was asked to identify the flower closest to the Toowoomba Violet she once knew.
The Toowoomba Violet | |
As it turned out, the Toowoomba Violet had been growing in a TAFE teacher's garden for years! Subsequently, the variety has been identified as Viola odorata 'Princess of Wales'.
Plants have been propagated at the college and sold locally through garden shows and campus plant sales, with some of the money benefiting the Toowoomba Hospice. However, numbers are still limited. Options for making the violet more widely available are currently being explored.
Thanks to the efforts of the TAFE teachers and students, Joan and other dedicated gardeners, the coat-of-arms won't be the only place to see Toowoomba Violets. The fragrant flower is certain to be gracing more gardens in Toowoomba and beyond in the years to come.
Acknowledgment: Thank-you to Mike Wells for contributing information and images used in this article. You can learn more about the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers at www.tcof.com.au
Native suggestions help gardeners in dry times
If creating a native garden, using species that occur naturally in your area can be beneficial environmentally as well as provide an extra interest to the garden. One of the problems, however, is finding information on what grew locally originally.
Toowoomba gardener and author Patricia Gardner has come to the aid of Darling Downs residents with her Toowoomba Plants book duo, the first volume of which (Trees and Shrubs) is available now. It contains detailed descriptions of 277 trees, shrubs and mistletoes.
The book isn't just for native enthusiasts, however, because Patricia concentrates on species suitable for residential properties. The range of drought-tolerant suggestions will help homeowners in the Toowoomba region and beyond create attractive gardens with less water.
There is a particular focus on "dry rainforest" species. Patricia says these are good for homeowners wanting a rainforest look at home, because they are not only drought tolerant, but they tend to be smaller-growing than species from high-rainfall areas.
For more information, including how to order, click here: Toowoomba Plants
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Some older news which may still be of interest to residents of the region is retained below.
Adopt a tree on the Western Downs
Western Downs Regional Council report that response to their "Adopt a Street Tree" program has been very encouraging. Registrations for 2017 are now closed, but interested residents can register for 2018 online here or phone the council. Source: Community gets behind leafy initiative (August 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)
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)
Another award for Gumbi Gumbi Gardens
Gumbi Gumbi Gardens at the University of Southern Queensland has won overall champion at Toowoomba Regional Council's inaugural Gold Leaf Awards for Excellence, representing the most outstanding entry across the fields of urban design, heritage and environment. The Gardens tell the story of the country's Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander customs, rituals and practices. They feature a fire pit, basalt grinding stone, yarning circle and meeting place, with plants traditionally used by local peoples and work by local Indigenous Australian artists. A smartphone App that provides a guided tour of the approximately two-hectare Gardens can be downloaded for free. Source: Gardens take 50,000 years to establish (March 2015)
Tree plans for Garnet Lehmann Park
Designers of the detention basin (a flood mitigation measure) in Toowoomba's Garnet Lehmann Park will strive to remove the minimum number of trees necessary, and replant at least two trees nearby for every one removed. Toowoomba Regional Council streaa that the park will still be available for recreational activities. Source: Council working with community on Garnet Lehmann Park (February 2014)
Native garden opens in Toowoomba
Gumbi Gumbi Gardens, comprising approximately 2.2 hectares of native flora at the University of Southern Queensland campus at Toowoomba, has been officially opened. A feature of the gardens are extensive plantings of plant species used by local Aboriginal communities and was designed inpartnership with Elders of the region. The gardens also include a number of teaching spaces. Source: Gumbi Gumbi Gardens set to impress (October 2013)
Green waste bins a possibility outside Toowoomba
Toowoomba Regional Council is asking those residents outside the city who are interested in a fortnightly green waste bin to register by 28th February 2013. At this stage, Council is trying to gauge demand and plan feasible service routes. Where offered, the optional service will attract an additional charge. More information at the council's website: Regional residents urged to register interest in green waste service (December 2012)
Myall Park receives heritage listing
The Queensland Heritage Council has announced that Myall Park Botanic Garden has been entered in the Queensland Heritage Register which means it will be protected under heritage legislation. Read more: Botanic Garden sows seed of success and celebrates heritage listing (November 2012)
Toowoomba tree plan takes trophy
The Toowoomba Street Tree Master Plan has won the Sustainable Initiatives Category in the national Parks and Leisure Australia Awards of Excellence
A bloomin' great effort bags national awards (September 2012)
Heritage listing nomination for Myall Park
Myall Park Botanic Garden has been nominated for state heritage listing. Located near Glenmorgan (west of Dalby), the garden is best known for its grevilleas. However, it displays and protects many native species over its 128 hectares, including many rare or threatened species. Submissions on the proposed heritage listing will be accepted until 7 August 2012. More information: Myall Park Botanic Garden nominated for heritage listing (July 2012)
Peacehaven expansion on the way
Toowoomba Regional Council has acquired land adjoining Peacehaven Botanic Park, which will allow continued development of the park and a better overall layout. Residents are invited to contribute their ideas for the site at a community consultation day on 30th June. Details on the council website here: Land acquisition promises big plans for Peacehaven Botanic Park (June 2012)
Warwick to remove Planes before they crash
Seven London Plane trees in Guy Street, Warwick have been assessed by an arborist as unsafe and will be removed. They are too rotten to be treated. Source: Council to Remove Dangerous Trees (May 2012)
Prisoners' skills contribute to 2012 Carnival
Old trailers are being transformed into "mini floats" for the Grand Central Floral Parade at Toowoomba's Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers in September by prisoners from the Darling Downs Correctional Centre. This is an opportunity for the prisoners to apply the skills learned through their trade courses to help the community. Refurbishment of the donated trailers included mechanical and structural repairs, plus the underlying construction for the displays. Final decoration will be done by the community groups using the floats, and can be changed each year. The Centre is calling for donations of more trailers for new courses. More at the Toowoomba Regional Council website: Prisoners' hard work to be showcased during 2012 Carnival (April 2012)
2011 Carnival a great success
Toowoomba Regional Council reports that a record number of people attended the 2011 Carnival of Flowers. In addition to the garden competition and displays, and the great spring weather, the food and wine component of the modern Carnival is credited with contributing to it's success. More information at the Coucil's website: Record visitor numbers add to 2011 Carnival lustre (October 2011)
Updated Weed ID book for S. Queensland
Published by the Weed Society of Queensland, the updated "Weeds of Southern Queensland" is available from Southern Downs Regional Council offices. More informatiion: Get your hands on free updated weed identification book (June 2011)
Coup for Queensland concrete company
Toowoomba Regional Council is trialing a new environmentally friendly concrete associated with lower carbon emissions on a new footpath in Rome Street, Newtown. "Earth Friendly Concrete" was developed by a local company, who claim that it also has superior durability. If the trial is successful, the council will continue to use the product. Source: Council trials world's first premixed 'green' concrete in Queensland first (August 2010)
Bush tucker garden for USQ
A garden to promote understanding of indigenous women and health is planned at the University of Southern Queensland, Toowoomba. Featuring bush tucker and medicinal species, the Gumbi-Gumbi garden is named for Pittosporum augustifolium. Source: Gumbi-Gumbi Garden planned for USQ (June 2010)
New landscaping enhances quality of life at retirement village
The grounds of Drayton Villas, Toowoomba have been redesigned with input from the residents themselves. Enhancements include brightly coloured flowers and deeply textured foliage for the visually impaired, avoidance of allergy-inducing plants and removal of trip hazards. A synthetic bowling green should require less maintenance and water than the natural lawn alternative. (March 2009)
Boyce Garden water tanks out of sight
New underground water tanks at The University of Queensland Boyce Garden, Toowoomba, will help solve the problem of maintaining and developing the gardens while preserving the character of the heritage-listed property. Installation should be completed in time for the Toowoomba Carnival of Flowers in September. More at the University of Queensland website here: Heritage UQ Boyce Garden drought-proofed in Toowoomba (August, 2008)