renowned author on
water gardening including
Editor, Australian Water Gardener
Click images below to enlarge
Water gardening ranks as Australias fastest growing sector
of the lifestyle gardening market despite recent prolonged drought
and the often-negative press pronouncements about domestic garden
water features. Not being a native Australian -- and more used
to the well known rainy climate of the British Isles, where I
lived and gardened for over fifty years -- my introduction to
water gardening in Australia during the past few years, and my
involvement editorially with the Australian Water Gardener website,
has been quite a sharp awakening.
Andre Leu - Profile
However, it has been wonderful to meet Australian water gardeners
and to be introduced to some of the many wonderful native aquatic
plants of this great continent. Local experts, such as Andre
Leu and Surrey Jacobs, continue working successfully to (1) bring
Australias aquatic flora to our attention and to (2) learn
of the conditions under which we might grow it in our gardens.
Numerous plants exist to learn about, especially in far north
Queensland and the Northern Territory. Many are described and
recorded, but we need to learn much about their care and management
As in other parts of the world, we have quite a strong movement
in Australia towards growing decorative plants that are native,
thus reducing the risks of alien introductions escaping into
local waterways and wetlands. With Australia we have one small
anomaly; while politically the land mass is one country, geographically
it is a continent, a vast expanse that is difficult for Europeans
like me to comprehend without having experienced it. This poses
the question, Is a plant found naturally in the Kimberley
that escapes from cultivation in southern Queensland, and then
establishes locally in waterways, a native or an alien?
It is certainly a long way from home.
The environment and ecology are likely to be completely different,
but the plant is still Australian. How are we judging our natives
and invasives when such a large land mass is involved--natural
geographical areas, or those created artificially by man? This
gives us something to think about.
The Department of Agriculture in Western Australia speaks very
clearly about invasive aquatic plants and pushes hard to get
the message across to water gardeners and aquarists about the
dangers posed by non-local native escapees and the cultivation
of banned aquatics. Regrettably, gardeners continue to grow banned
plants in their water gardens. The Department recently reported
cases of Senegal Tea, Gymnocorinis spilanthoides, Alligator
Weed, Alternanthera philaxeroides and Horsetails, Equisetum
ssp. being cultivated in Perth. In one case Alligator Weed was
mistakenly grown as the Asian vegetable Phak Pet Thai.
Any time the Department of Agriculture discovers banned plants,
it recommends their removal from the pond and drying out on newspaper.
When the plants are dead, it advises that they should be buried
or disposed of with other green waste in accordance with Council
bye-laws. This method of desiccating plants does not work with
Horsetails, and advice should be sought from the Department of
Agriculture upon finding such plants. In demonstrating the importance
of complying with regulations, the Department recently stated
that the local taxpayer had to foot a bill of AUD$250,000 to
remove a rapidly spreading population of Hydrocotyle,
a garden pond escape, from the Canning River.
Although we have, as in most parts of the world, many ill-informed
people when it comes to the importance of wetlands and their
conservation, in Australia we are experiencing a fast-growing
appreciation of the beauty and value of the native aquatic flora.
Much of this is thanks to the efforts of those who promote the
annual Ramsar World Wetlands Day activities in early February.
Australians have taken wetlands to their heart and we always
have plenty going on during the first week in February to capture
interest and imagination.
One of the most interesting events this year involved demonstrations
and an exhibition of the use of the swamp-dwelling Pandanus
spiralis at the Window on Wetlands Centre, Humpty Doo in
the Northern Territory just south of Darwin. Called An-yakngarra
by the local Aboriginal people, Pandanus spiralis is more
commonly known as Spiral Pandanus or Screw Pine, owing to its
strangely twisted stem. This tropical plant commonly grows along
with River or Water Pandanus, Pandanus aquaticus, throughout
much of the Top End of Australia.
While not a plant for other than the enthusiastic water gardener
with plenty of room in a tropical climate, it is a fascinating
wetland species, as was demonstrated by the Humpty Doo workshop.
Aboriginal peoples still extensively use the foliage of this
plant for weaving, especially beautiful decorative baskets, of
both functional and ceremonial kinds.
Having said that Pandanus spiralis requires plenty
of room and a tropical climate, and indicated its probable cultivation
solely by the enthusiast, I could almost be echoing what I said
about Victoria amazonica in my Waterlilies book
published in 1983. Who would have thought then that Victoria
could have become as popular as it is today amongst regular water
gardeners? Maybe the Screw Pine also has a future in tropical
gardens. It is certainly a very fine plant when cultivated, compared
with when seen growing in tangled populations in the wild.
To return to Victoria though. There is exciting news that
tenders are being submitted this month for the construction of
the new Amazon Waterlily Pavilion at Adelaide Botanic Gardens
in South Australia. This project is a part of the current 150th
anniversary celebrations of the Botanic Gardens. These celebrations
started during 2005 and continue until 2007, embracing the period
from the date of the first Botanic Gardens Committee meeting
on 5th March 1855 until the time of the official opening of the
Gardens on 4th October 1857.
Rendering of the new
Amazon Waterlily Pavilion
Adelaide Botanic Gardens
Adelaide Botanic Garden
The Pavilion will replace the structure that accommodated Australia's
first Victoria to flower in 1868 and will incorporate the heritage-listed
pond that was constructed earlier the same year. The Pavilion
will be a contemporary energy-efficient glasshouse and smaller
in area than the original structure. Victoria amazonica
is an important plant historically for the Gardens, as it was
not only the first place for it to flower in Australia, but it
was collected by Sir Robert Schomburgk, the brother of the second
Adelaide garden director, Richard Schomburgk. Sir Robert had
originally sent plants to London, England, and from which John
Lindley made the original description of Victoria.