Information about plants & gardens for Brisbane & Qld


Gardens for Queenslander-style homes

Traditional and contemporary interpretations

What is the Queenslander garden?

The "Queenslander garden" refers here to the type of plants and gardens which would have been associated with a traditional Queensland home, from settlement of the colony in Brisbane to our own grandparents' gardens.

If you're restoring an old Queenslander, you might like to consider restoring the garden in a way that's appropriate to your house and suburb. Or, you may have a modern home built in a colonial or Queenslander style, and want to recreate the ambiance of the Queenslander lifestyle. A Cottage Garden would also be be very compatible with a Queenslander home, but what tends to be considered a modern cottage garden style (with a predominance of flowering perennials) is heavily influenced by Northern hemisphere gardens and contemporary gardening magazines.

On the other hand, you might just be interested in finding plants that are reliable and easy to grow in this climate. Most old-fashioned plants would have been passed around from neighbour to neighbour and from one generation to the next. These plants would have to be easy to propagate, and easy to keep alive in the days before irrigation systems or even mains water (although they may have had more rain in those days!).

Making and Keeping Garden Inventories - A Vital Part of Garden History

Feature Article

by Dr Michael Simpson

Most people enjoy visiting a well prepared private or public garden. Very few understand or appreciate that cataloguing the garden from each bulb and groundcover to the largest tree is vital to a garden's long-term existence and value.

There are so few references for Queensland's gardening heritage, it's as though there was no Australia north of the Tweed. We go further to say that the lack of accessable records has made it easy to sweep aside Queensland historic gardens and landscapes.

Brunfelsia latifolia (foreground) and Michelia champaca (background) at The Shambles.

In order to give future researchers valuable material, existing public and private gardens should have inventories, plans and photographs collated and published in as many formats as possible.

My original motivation for keeping an inventory of our garden at "The Shambles" (available at was to record the successes and failures among plant species, to assist with maintenance and as a basis for futher research in garden books, magazines and nursery catalogues.

We have found that many "old fashioned" colourful ornamentals in our garden are found in the 1875 and 1885 Brisbane Botanical Garden Catalogue as well as in earlier nursery catalogues.

In our book "Australian Gardens Making History, the Vital Role of Making and Keeping Garden Inventories" we have attempted to verify the heritage credentials of many common garden plants by consulting such sources.

It would appear that early Queensland gardens contained a wide variety of colourful and exotic plants collected in a far more adventurous spirit than today. The genetic material from surviving gardens is a precious resource.

Kyleigh & Michael Simpson own "The Shambles" at Montville and have produced a number of books and DVDs about their garden and heritage plants. Visit The Shambles website for more information.


As mentioned above, most of the plants associated with old Queensland gardens were easy to grow without a lot of fuss, water or fertiliser. Unfortunately, some of the plants turned out to be a little too easy to grow. Some species are now considered environmental weeds and should not be planted: e.g. Camphor Laurel, Privet, Cocos palm, Ochna. If you've taken over an older home with a neglected garden, there's a good chance the yard already contains a lot of these weeds. Their removal should be factored into your renovation expenses.

Below are just a few plant suggestions. The links will take you to the relevant pages on this site for more information on those particular plants.
Hibiscus, particularly older varieties      
Malvaviscus - see Hibiscus
Pelargoniums (Geraniums)
Choko - see Vegetables
Rosella - see Vegetables
Maidenhair fern - see Ferns
freesia, gladioli, arum lillies - see Bulbs
marguerite daisy, shasta daisy, chrysanthemums - see Daisies


If you're looking for decorative accessories to complement your Queenslander garden, try the following pages on this site:


Get some Cairns style
Cairns Regional Council has produced a style guide which can be used by developers, builders and home renovators to ensure that that Cairn's tropical character is perpetuated. It identifies key elements of traditional buildings and landscapes that express the identity of the region. Practical adaptations for sustainable living in a tropical climate are also addressed. Source: Guide to tropical city style launched (December 2010)

Help for Brisbane Heritage homeowners
A new Heritage Incentive Scheme (HIS) will provide free consultation and grants for conservation work to property owners on Brisbane's City Plan Heritage Register. More information from Brisbane City Council (December, 2005)

Avenues of Honour
The Avenue of Honour Project 1915-2015 aims to document, preserve and restore trees planted to honour servicemen and women in the last century, in addition to planting new ones, in time for the Centenary of the Anzac in 2015. Many coummunity groups and government bodies (including Brisbane City Council - More information about their participation HERE) are collaborating with the RSL and TREENET on this project. If you have any information about memorial trees in your district, or you would just like to learn more about the project, visit the website: TREENET Avenues of Honour Project

Other Information Resources

This page is intended to provide information about traditional / heritage / historical / colonial style plants and gardens suitable for Queenslander or "colonial" style houses.

However, information about architecture of these houses is more generally available, and links to such information have been provided below. Sometimes they include photographs and snippets of information about the gardens of the time. Some links about garden history from Britain and North America have also been included for historical background.

Garden & home heritage, Queensland
Queensland House including the garden, by Queensland Museum
'Ashgrove 150' Heritage Bus Tour in: Australian Garden History Society Queensland Branch Newsletter October 2006 (PDF). Some information and pictures of historic homes and gardens in Ashgrove, Brisbane
Subtropical Landscape Plants for South East Queensland ….. Exuberant and Sustainable ? from: Subtropical Cities 2006 Conference Proceedings, Queensland University of Technology. Discusses SEQ gardens of the past and challenges of maintaining the subtropical character of the region in the future. (PDF)
The Shambles, A country garden in Montville that specialises in "old fashioned" plants
Thozets at Muellerville Website about 19th Century botanist Anthelme Thozet, including the gardens at his Rockhampton property
On the Edge of a Garden Example of a terracotta tile manufactured in Brisbane in the late 19th or early 20th century and used for edging gardens of the period
Hibiscus Around the World, January 1964 (Letters to J.W. Staniford 1963-67 from Ross H. Gast reproduced at, which contains some information about cultivars available in Qld in the 1960s
Townsville's Heritage Townsville City Council. The Heritage Information Kit contains sections on Townsville Gardens and Townsville Fences
Does the Queenslander have a future? The Brisbane Institute (PDF)
BRISbites offers historical information on many Brisbane suburbs
Brisbane's History Brisbane City Council (PDF)
Ipswich Heritage Ipswich city Council. Includes information about researching the History Of Your Home, House Types By Period and the council's Heritage Adviser Service
Queens Park Ipswich. Queensland Heritage Register, Environmental Protection Agency, Queensland
Maryborough City Council can help its residents with information about the various styles of heritage homes in the city and restoration guidelines. It can also offer advice if you want to trace the history of your property and neighbourhood. More information from Maryborough City Council HERE
Cairns Style Design Guide Cairns Regional Council
Myendetta Station, near Charleville
Cairns Heritage Page Cairns City Council
(Links to many other local councils on the Regional Pages)
West Toowong Community Association Inc includes information and photographs of historically significant properties
Walter Taylor South Action Group south west suburbs of Brisbane.
Our House This website by the Australian Heritage Commission contains profiles on several Queensland properties
Australian Heritage Directory Search the Australian Heritage Places Inventory for your region of interest
Historic trees Information on several heritage-listed trees in Qld, such as the "Burke and Wills Dig Tree". Environmental Protection Agency, Queensland
PictureAustralia® (National Library of Australia) Search for archived images
Archicentre Fact Sheets Download factsheets on a variety of Queensland house styles, including "The Colonial Queensland Home". Archicentre, Australian Institute of Architects
History of Caboolture Caboolture Shire Council
Cooktown Life includes some pictures & information about history of the town

Garden & home heritage, other parts of Australia
Federation Gardens and Plant Lists by Christopher Betteridge for Heritage Council of NSW, 1986 (PDFs)
Death of the mixed shrubbery Article about the loss of original plantings from heritage gardens (particularly in Sydney) and the advantages of old-fashioned flowering shrubs (PDF)
Camden Park Estate and Belgenny Farm (Draft) NSW Heritage Office (information on early ornamental horticulture in Australia)
Edna Walling at the ABC website
Rise of the Australian Plant Garden Association of Societies for Growing Australian Plants
Colonel Light Gardens State Heritage Area Information about this 1920s planned "garden suburb", in South Australia
Project Gutenberg of Australia Many books of historical interest available online
Colonial Slab Huts of Australia Australian National University

Garden history, international
Here are some links about garden history in Europe and North America, should you wish to research historical styles that would have influenced settlers establishing gardens in Australia, or what styles were contemporary in the northern hemisphere at the time.
Garden History Society United Kingdom
Thomas Jefferson Center for historic plants Some very good articles on ornamental and edible plants
Heirloom Plants for Texas Gardens Aggie Horticulture, Texas, USA
The OtHeR HoUsToN Blog about Houston Bungalow & Cottage Gardens
My nostalgic garden fence and wall collection Collection of photos from Texas at the Tropical Texana blog
Which plants were mainstays in gardens circa 1900? Discusses mainly Galveston Island, Texas
gardenhistorygirl Informative blog about garden history around the world
Making of America (MOA) is a digital library of historical texts including several gardening books
Garden and Forest Journal Historical American periodical available oline
George Washington: Landscape Architect Read about George Washington's garden, including a list of plants he ordered for his Mount Vernon (Virginia) estate from John Bartram's nursery in 1792.
Meditations On a Monastic Garden Montgomery County, Maryland
A Shakespeare Garden Montgomery County, Maryland
Strawbery Banke Museum Restored buildings and gardens at the site of one of America's early white settlements which became Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Website includes information on The Landscape and Gardens and the Herb Garden
The Elizabethan Gardens North Carolina, USA. A tribute to the first English settlers.
The Pulham Legacy Website about the English landscaping company of the 1800s and early 1900's, James Pulham and Son
A colonial approach for your landscape Montgomery County, Maryland (PDF)

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