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Small rainforest garden in Brisbane

Carol Guard is justly proud of her small rainforest garden in suburban Brisbane. This story outlines how she built a sense of community, committed to a design and selected her rainforest species.

A desire to create a sense of community

When Carol Guard, moved to Shorncliffe, Queensland, 20 years ago, she was keen to become integral members of the community. She is proud of how her small rainforest garden in Brisbane was instrumental in developing an excellent relationship with her neighbours. It was a different community then to what it is today. All of the traditional ‘Queenslanders’ are now preserved and restored. This creates a special heritage niche seaside suburb on this headland jutting into Moreton Bay beside Cabbage Tree Creek.

Carol’s vision for her small rainforest garden

There were large shady street trees (Moreton Bay Figs) and a scattering of other species in residential gardens. But the small narrow lots with houses occupying most of the block did not offer scope for large gardens.

Carol’s vision was to create a very special native garden. Her design philosophy  was shade, trees, foliage, fruits and flowers. The rear garden of this long narrow site was planned as a rainforest canopy with a diversity of understorey planting. The front garden and footpath would feature tall and medium native shrubs and groundcovers in a formal way. It is this street front garden that attracts the community as they walk along the footpath. They invariably stopping to ask Carol what plants are currently in flower. They never leave without the necessary species details and several Native Plants Queensland brochures. Carol often gifts them seeds or cuttings as well.

Starting with a rainforest canopy, then understorey

Carol began by carefully selecting a dozen or so tall, slender, rainforest shade trees. These would create the framework of scattered trunks with a foliage canopy to cast shade on the understorey plants below. These developed quickly in the well-watered and fertile sandy loams of the bayside location.

With much research and thought, Carol acquired and planted a diverse range of species that thrive in the filtered sun. Each plant has been carefully located in the optimum sunny or shaded microclimate position. The neighbours each side have open full sun backyards, so Carol’s rainforest receives a diverse pattern of sun and shade across the garden daily and seasonally.  This is unusual for such a small residential site.

Pots for plants that don’t suit the conditions

If Carol wants a species that she suspects will not tolerate the site conditions, she establishes it in large containers. Frequently this has produced a ‘bonsai’ like specimen which brings flowers and fruits down to eye level or lower. Perhaps the most eye-catching container plant was a very large bowl, mounted on a pedestal in which a Stream Lily, Helmholtzia glaberrima. It was thriving in the shallow water decorated with numerous ‘feather duster’ like flower spikes.  This was one of many attractive potted specimens and artefacts that gave the garden such interesting focal points.