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Australian Plants online

A Good Read...what's current in print?

Short reviews in this issue cover "Bottlebrushes, Paperbarks and Tea Trees" by John Wrigley and Murray Fagg and "Australian Native Gardens - Putting Visions into Practice" by Diana Snape. Also reviewed is a new CD-ROM, "Plants of Australia".

Bottlebrushes, Paperbarks and Tea Trees
John Wrigley and Murray Fagg

Published by Angus and Robertson, Sydney, NSW; 1993.

Reviewed by Fran Hoad and Dorothy Raine

This book deals with the Leptospermum alliance which is part of the Myrtaceae. The alliance is widely distributed within Australia on mainly infertile soils and commonly in heath or riverine/swamp communities. The sandplains of Western Australia are particularly rich, with some genera being endemic. Most species have horticultural potential. The most commonly known plants in this grouping are the bottlebrushes (Callistemon sp.), paperbarks (Melaleuca sp.) and tea trees (Leptospermum sp.)which are firm favourites with gardeners here and overseas.

Apart from their outstanding floral characteristics some species have considerable commercial value, others have good bird attracting qualities and many were used extensively by aborigines. These aspects are discussed in detail in an introductory chapter as well as the botanical history, pollination, naturalisation is Australia and elsewhere and conservation status.

Another introductory chapter discusses propagation and cultivation in general, however, propagation is also dealt with in detail under each genus heading and under individual species entries where special techniques are required. Mention is made of the work of the Society for Growing Australian Plants since the late 1950s in the promotion and study of these plants.

The seventeen genera of the Leptospermum alliance are each dealt with separately. Some are well known and others are rarely seen in cultivation but each genus has been carefully researched. The information provided includes the meaning of the genus name, the common names, the number of species, distribution, ecology, history, descriptions and cultivation notes. Every species, hybrid and cultivar known to exist is described. The arrangement is alphabetical.

It is noted that some species have become weeds; coastal tea tree, Leptospermum laevigatum, in South Africa and Melaleuca quinquenervia in the Florida Everglades and in Hong Kong where it was used to re-vegetate low lying areas. Locally, Kunzea ericoides is said to be colonising cleared land in the southern tablelands of New South Wales.

The text is complemented by Murray Fagg's colour photography, detailed line drawings, diagrams and distribution maps. The book also features a comprehensive illustrated glossary of terms and an exhaustive bibliography.

This is the definitive guide for anyone interested in the plants that make up the Leptospermum alliance.

This is a composite review and is based on articles published in the October 1995 issue of the newsletter of SGAP's Mid North Coast (NSW) Group and the September/October 1994 issue of the newsletter of the Newcastle Group.

Australian Native Gardens - Putting Visions into Practice
Diana Snape

Published by Lothian Books, Melbourne, Australia; 1992

Reviewed by Tony Cavanagh

Diana Snape, who is the leader of the Garden Design Study Group, states in her preface that "This book is the first in just over 200 years to record a variety of such gardens (established gardens with predominantly native plants), almost all private, and each with a different ethos." This fact alone makes it unique. Several excellent books dealing with garden design from an Australian native plants perspective are already available, notably John Hunt's "Creating an Australian Garden", Ellis Stone's "Australian Garden Design" and Glen Wilson's Landscaping with Australian Plants" but none of these attempts to depict a range of gardens of individuals which are "the product of their time, their ideas, and the knowledge they have gained through their own work and experience".

Two points made by Diana about Australian native gardens are worth pondering on. Firstly, there are a negligible number of Iong-established gardens "which have been handed on from one generation to the next, to be nurtured, extended and enriched". Secondly, even among the old established gardens, when an owner leaves, the future of the garden is often uncertain. Already, four of the gardens described have been sold. A native garden is often created by an "enthusiast" who loves the plants for their own sake, and is not necessarily particularly concerned with "landscaping principles". As such, a native garden is usually very individual and a new owner may not like what has been created. Diana is attempting to preserve a "snapshot" of 30 such gardens, most of them under private ownership. I think that future generations will thank Diana Snape for this book, for recording so faithfully the work of these gardeners at a stage when we are only beginning to realise the potential of native plants for landscaping.

The book is well illustrated in both colour and black and white, most of the pictures being taken by Diana and husband, Brian. The chapters follow a similar format, with a general description of the property, a plan of the garden, a brief table of facts such as age, area, soil type, what-was-there-before etc., comments/thoughts/philosophy of the owners, comments on establishing and maintaining the garden and a list of the owners favourite plants. Each owner also provides a short paragraph of advice to new gardeners - a novel but very useful approach as there are many dozens of years of experience among the gardeners whose gardens Diana visited. There are some well known names such as Don Burke, Ken Stuckey, Gwen and Rodger Elliot, Glen Wilson, Paul Thompson (the last two both well known Victorian landscape architects), Max Hewett, John Knight, and Sue Forrester and Bill Molyneux of Austraflora nursery. As well, it is great to see that several Dryandra Study Group members are listed, Neil and Jane Marriott and Pam and David Shiells.

I think that this book is a "must" for anyone who is serious about growing Australian native plants. It is full of ideas and advice and is a great source of practical help to new gardeners, especially for finding out the sort of plants that might grow well in their area. Both the small sketch plans and the many colour illustrations also provide information and inspiration.

Highly recommended.

This review has been reproduced from the January 1994 issue of the newsletter of the SGAP's Dryandra Study Group. Tony Cavanagh is the Group's newsletter editor and a former leader of the Group.

Plants of Australia
CD-ROM for Microsoft Windows

Distributed by Dataflow.

Reviewed by Anne Glover

Our Gymea Lily just refuses to flower. I've taken advice from a couple of 'experts' who have suggested everything from extra neglect (I think I'm already pretty good at that) to extra chook poo. But still they don't flower. So, when this CD-ROM came along, I thought I'd fix my lazy lilies in one go.

"Plants of Australia" features over 700 Australian native plants. Fortunately the A-Z index includes both botanical names as well as common names for more casual gardeners like me. A photo with a small amount of text appears with identification details. Planting and location get some attention but there's not enough troubleshooting for those of us without a green thumb. Looks like my Gymea Lilies will be without their flowers for another season.

We did take a short excursion to various regions such as the rainforest, wetlands and deserts to watch videos of the plants and some animals in those areas. Then we took part in a few activities. There's a jigsaw puzzle, a name the plant quiz and the option to match the flower or leaves to the correct plant.

This is a useful but not all encompassing reference guide for students and fans of Australian native plants.

For: Material is presented in a variety of ways and all info is easily accessible.
Against: It doesn't solve all my gardening problems and there is the odd typo.

This review has been reproduced from the June 1996 issue of "Your Computer" magazine with the permission of the author.

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Australian Plants online - September 1996
The Society for Growing Australian Plants