Philip Swindells,
renowned author on
water gardening including
Waterlilies, 1983

Australian Roundup

Philip Swindells
Editor, Australian Water Gardener

Water gardening in Australia continues to grow steadily. I am delighted to see Water Garden Paradise Nurseries, Bass Hill, New South Wales pioneer in embracing the recently introduced Truly Named program launched by Water Gardeners International. In recent years, the team at Water Garden Paradise have made great progress extending the range of waterlilies available to gardeners in Australia. This includes not only new introductions of tropical cultivars from North America, but also some old favourites familiar to northern hemisphere gardeners, such as ‘Graziella’. Marliac introduced this in 1904, but until recently has not been widely available in Australia.

Sheila Tierney
Another great pioneer in popularizing water gardening in Australia, and introducing its water gardeners to new plants is Sheila Tierney of Waterlily Acres, Canungra, Queensland. Great champions of water gardening, Sheila and daughter Nicola promote the hobby at every opportunity, especially with their colorful and informative web site. Sadly, owing to ill health, they must sell Waterlily Acres. We all hope that someone as enthusiastic as Sheila and Nicola acquires the property and takes the nursery into the future as successfully as the Tierney family have done.

 Many members are enthusiastic about irises. Amongst the irises suitable for waterside planting, some of the finest belong within the Louisiana hybrids. One of the finest nurseries developing these beautiful flowers is Iris Haven in New South Wales. Heather and Bernard Pryor operate this growing enterprise. Previously they experienced some difficulty reliably providing the northern hemisphere with their new introductions. They are resolving this problem according to their recently announced co-release program with Iris City Gardens, Primm Springs, Tennessee in the United States. Now they plan to release lovely new cultivars, like their 2006 introduction ‘Susannah Fullerton’, simultaneously in both the northern and southern hemispheres

Iris ‘Susannah Fullerton’
Image courtesy of Iris Haven

I am pleased to learn of recent provisions under the latest Approved Wildlife Trade Management Plan for the flora of Queensland, regarding native Australian Aponogeton species. Their collection in the wild, except under a scientific permit, is strictly prohibited; their use for commercial purposes is banned. We really should learn how to grow these interesting aquatics successfully, and then establish proper production for the aquatic garden and aquarium trade, much as has been done in Turkey in collaboration with the Dutch bulb industry, for the sustainable production of hardy Cyclamen species. The local population derives income from growing the plants rather than collecting them from the wild. They produce a sufficient number of plants to meet market demand.

Although unlikely to become a particularly desirable addition to the water garden, I nevertheless happily report that one of Australia’s rarest swamp gum trees is proposed for the endangered plant species list, and therefore much better protection. A small tree, the Mount Compass Swamp Gum, Eucalyptus paludicola, grows 12-30 feet (3.7-9.1 meters) high with broadly lance-shaped foliage. It displays smooth gray or creamy bark on the upper branches and bears distinctive gum nuts borne in clusters of seven. Endemic to the Fleurieu Peninsula and Kangaroo Island in South Australia, it grows in fragmented populations in wet or waterlogged soils.

While on the subject of naturally occurring aquatic species, two great news items show that Australia really pushes forward to conserve its wetlands and native aquatic flora. The most significant is that the Kakadu Draft Management plan for Kakadu National Park, home of some of Australia’s rarest aquatic plants, is presently being finalized for submission to the Minister of Environment and Heritage. The new plan, when approved, will guide management in the park for the next seven years.


The second item proves equally rewarding. Wetlands Centre Australia in the lower Hunter Valley shares the 2005 Ramsar Education Award with Ms. Reiko Nakamura from the Ramsar Centre in Japan. The award recognizes international excellence in communication, education, and public awareness about wetlands and their communities. Hearty congratulations go to the Centre and all its volunteers.

< Wetlands Centre Australia
celebrates Ramsar Award
Image courtesy of Ramsar

Finally, I must add an item that I believe could only come from Australia. As we well know, the greatest man-made environmental disaster to strike our continent has been the introduction of the cane toad. Originally brought in to clean up bugs in the sugar cane crop in northern Queensland, it now multiplies across much of Australia, displacing other amphibians and ruining many natural wetland ecosystems.
Very difficult to control, the public have resorted to a number of forms of trapping and disposal that the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals do not approve of as being humane. In Darwin, the RSPCA have implemented a unique initiative. They have teamed up with Coopers Brewery and the Cavenagh Hotel to encourage the more civilized treatment of these pests. Toad collectors now exchange their catch for vouchers, which in turn they redeem for a free beer at the hotel. At the time of this writing, collectors have handed in 250 toads.

1 toad = 1 beer

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