Game changing gardens

Cordyline Negra providing a back drop to the Ixora Sunkist.

I received an old fashioned letter last week from Roslyn of Gracemere asking if I could feature some of the gardens in the CQ Today area that I believe is game changing and for what reasons.

I think that is a great idea Roslyn and I will endeavour to have a game changing garden featured every few months.

So this week’s column features a garden that I love visiting for the colour combination of foliage and flowers. A garden that no matter what season or the weather conditions is always bright and colourful.

The gardens are located at Rockhampton Airport. It has a high public usage area with a large area of pavement that adds to the heat the plants have to cope with. Yet this garden is always a floral feature and well maintained very well, a credit to the team at Rockhampton Airport.

I should note that while I have been the chair of the Rockhampton Airport since 2012 I had no input into any part of the gardens. Other than admiring the beauty each time I visit the Rockhampton Airport.

There is definitely something about an avenue of Palms. You only have to look at the impressive frame the Bismarck Palms create at the entrance at Rockhampton Airport.

The Bismarckia nobilis or Bismarck Palm is one of the most attractive and waterwise palm varieties that can be grown in this region. This magnificent fan palm, with its attractive blue-grey foliage, is a native of Madagascar. This is not a palm for small gardens, in open areas and allowed to grow properly, it will reach a width of 3m across and eventually get quite tall.  While this palm variety has not been properly utilised as a landscape feature in Central Queensland, Rockhampton Airport has been able to feature these beautiful palms to frame the Airport landscape.  

In the gardens below the Bismarck Palms a selection of understory planting gives a perfect contrast to the palms’ blue-grey foliage. A plant species of note in this area is the Aloe. Aloe have been grown in Central Queensland for over 100 years but in recent times a series of hardy colourful hybrids have become available. These hybrids can flower for 6 months without a break in flowering. I just love the Aloe Bush Baby Yellow with its soft yellow flowers and dark green flowage.

Another plant so well featured in Rockhampton Airport is the Cordylines. In the last few years there have been many new varieties released, with vibrant red, pink or cream leaves that can provide huge splashes of colour.

One of the highlights of these gardens is the Cordyline Negra. It features stunning foliage that fans out from the main stem that combines young green leaves and matured dark purple leaves providing a vivid burst of colour. Also in the gardens is one of the hardiest of all in the strap leaved Cordylines, the Cordyline fruticosa Kiwi Pride this architectural plant will add great colour with green and lime sword shaped leaves striped with hot pink.

Rockhampton Airport has a collection of Crotons. These colourful tropical-style plants are available in yellow, orange and red tones. These hot strong colours brighten up a dark area. There are many hybrids available to gardeners. Some of the hybrids growing in the gardens are Codiaeum Victoria Gold Bell has narrow leaves of bright gold, red, orange and green. Codiaeum Lauren’s Rainbow has long slender foliage of bright green, orange, red and dark purple and Codiaeum Mammy with twisted leaves of rich red, orange green and gold.

Some of the most spectacular blooming shrubs in these gardens include the Ixora Sunkist. This dwarf Ixora forms a colour low hedge beside some of the walk ways.

The mass of flowers is so intense that the foliage disappears in the blooms. The Ixora is plant species that truly suit the season and is a perfect fit in the Rockhampton Airport gardens. Two of the best flowering taller varieties of Ixoras flowering at the moment are the beautiful pink flowering hybrid called Pink Malay and the hardy scarlet flowering Flame of the Woods or Ixora williamsii.

One of the most spectacular blooming Summer shrubs, Allamanda Sunnee with its masses of small yellow flowers is just looking great. When you think just how intense the Summer heat can be yet the Allamanda Sunnee will not stop even during a heat wave. I love the way Rockhampton Airport has used the dwarf Allamanda Sunnee in some of their carpark gardens.

Then there are the clumps of Heliconias and Strelitzias, some of nature’s wonders and a stunning addition to any garden. The Heliconias and Strelitzias are large-leafed, tropical plants with unique flowers from vibrant lobster-claw flowers, closely resembling the Bird of Paradise.  

The Heliconia psittacorum Golden Torch with its deep yellow bracts that flowers for much of the year and Strelitzia reginae or Bird of Paradise its spectacular orange petals and blue flowers provides another colour foliage contract in these gardens. These plants are the most exotic-looking tropical flower in cultivation and provide that added Wow factor to the gardens.

So if you have not been to the Rockhampton Airport recently? A lot has changed in recent times. Take the opportunity to have a look at this “game changing” garden the gives the very best first impression of Rockhampton to first time visitors to our Region.