The Flower Garden
For a variety of reasons, flower-focussed gardening has fallen out of favour in Queensland gardens (and elsewhere, too, no doubt).
However, the appeal of flowers will never die. If you'd like to inject a bit more life and colour into the garden, if you're nostalgic for an old-fashioned garden like Nanna used to have, or if you just want to impress the neighbours, how about some more flowers?
This page will focus on achieving a traditional (or "English") style garden with plants suitable for tropical and subtropical climates, including some of the old-fashioned shrubs and unusual perennials that could be used to extend the flower palette in Qld but are hard to find at present. There will also be recognition that most people don't have the time these days that Grandma had to look after the garden, so tips and tricks for getting the best flowering for the least work will also be a priority.
For more in-depth coverage of flowering plants for the subtropics, subscribe to Get Results Gardening. It's a newsletter-style, mini-magazine for Australians, with an emphasis on the South East Queensland. Besides plants suitable for this regions it discusses basic gardening technique, trends and design concepts that will be of interest to homeowners across the country. Get a three month trial for free and without obligation with a simple email request and learn more about other plants suitable for the subtropics. More information at calyx.com.au/getresultsgardening.html.
First, Be Realistic
You can't have masses of flowers on every plant all year long. Unfortunately, biology doesn't work that way. You might have seen competition gardens that are jam-packed with flowers, but these have been designed to peak for judging and showing. A lot of knowledge and hard work goes into achieving such displays, and it wouldn't be nearly as colourful the rest of the year.
Do also bear in mind that photographs of spectacular gardens you might see in books and magazine have probably been taken at the very best times and from the very best angles, with any unattractive bits cropped out. We can't be sure that extra plants from the local nursery weren't inserted at the last minute to fill in the gaps, either.
This page is about getting more flowers into the Queensland garden with something pretty to throughout the year, but within the constraints of time and money most of us are limited to. A garden that looks pretty all year round shouldn't bee too difficult with a good selection of appropriate species, properly treated.
Trees and Shrubs
When we think flowers, we might think of pansies, petunias or perhaps roses. However, a lot of colour can be injected with flowering treees and shrubs. Once planted, most require little - if any - maintence apart from occasional pruning. What's more, they can provide privacy, shade and wildlife habitat. Many fruiting plants also have attractive flowers while they are blossoming.
If you're selecting with flowering in mind, you may have to choose whether you want an intense mass flowering over a limited period (e.g. Jacaranda, Camellia) or a sparser display of flowers produced over a longer season (e.g. hibiscus, frangipani).
If you choose a broad selection, each can be appreciated in its own season, with something of interest in flower at just about any time. For more information go to Shrubs and Trees
Worth a special mention here are dwarf bougainvilleas are hard to beat for extended colour displays and are one of the few groups of flowering plants that revel in the baking Queensland sun. The dwarf bougs do very well in pots (see more on containers below), so can be used in even small gardens.
Cheat with coloured foliage
The "masses of colour" illusion can be boosted by introducing coloured foliage plants. So many golden-foliaged or variegated plants in cream to yellow tones are available that it would be very easy to overdo these. For more variety, look for foliage with pink, red and copper coloration.
Annual Flowers and Bedding Plants
Containerised plants allow you can introduce life to paved areas or move them around to fill gaps in the regular garden. You can create seasonal displays with annuals, bedding plants or bulbs. A variety of shrubs are also amenable to tub culture, and this is an especially good way to grow suckering shrubs that you might not want to let loose in the main garden. Read more: Container Gardening
Don't forget fragrance
Fragrance adds an extra dimension to the garden, and is something to consider in both selection and positioning of plants. Sometimes fragrant flowers aren't particularly showy but may be worth considering especially if it particularly suits a spot in other respects (size, sun or shade tolerance etc). Read more: Fragrant Gardens
Having flowers throughout the year
Even in subtropical SE Qld, which doesn't have the well-defined four seasons characteristics of cooler climates, there tends to be a concentration of flowering in springtime. Unless you intend entering a spring garden competition, you'll probably want to spread the display of flowers throughout the year.
Something you might especially want to consider is trying to have flowers around the Christmas-New-Year period. Whether you're on holidays or just able to take advantage of the longer daylight hours, you may have more time to enjoy the garden. Plus, you may be entertaining more at this time of year and would like to impress your visitors.
Cultivate Happiness - Grow Flowers!