GARDENING: Neil Fisher’s Anzac Day special feature
All around Australia the use of gardens and trees play a very important part in the honouring the memory of our Anzac service men and women. In fact if an avenue were planted with a tree for every person lost in service of our country, at a spacing of 25-30m each side of the road, the avenues would stretch unbroken for 1600km.
Have you noticed the Pine Trees with the silvery-grey foliage growing at the Gracemere RSL? These Pine Trees have played important part in Australia‘s nation building history.
These trees form one of the best-known plants associated with Anzac day. The Lone Pine or Gallipoli Pine, as it is passionately known, or Pinus brutia. Commonly known as the Aleppo Pine where it is native to the drier southern areas in Europe. It can grow to a large spreading pine tree, growing up to 20m high, with attractive pale green foliage. There is a number of Lone Pine or Gallipoli Pine‘s growing around Central Queensland.
Another well-known plant associated with the Anzac legacy would be the Flanders Poppy or Red Corn Poppy or Papaver rhoeas is a hardy native of Europe, with large 50-100mm blooms that are fire-engine red in colour and vividly marked with purplish-black centres. Each flower is borne on erect hairy stems, and the foliage is relatively inconspicuous, allowing the full beauty of the flowers to be seen. It grows in well-drained soil in full sun to partial shade. In recent times the Flanders Poppy has been grown in Rockhampton. In the town of Tambo they have planted clusters of the Flanders Poppy in gardens surrounding the towns War Memorial.
There is one town in Queensland where a living Anzac tribute attracts people from all over the world. The beautiful “Avenue of Heroes” is heritage listed and features 93 Bottle Trees or Brachychiton rupestis as a tribute to the fallen soldiers from the Roma District who lost their lives in the First World War.
The planting of the “Avenue of Heroes” began in 1918 with each Bottle Tree displaying its own remembrance plaque. Sadly only one of these plaques survives and is now on a cairn located outside the Roma Post Office. The cairn also provides information regarding the rows of bottle trees and lists the 93 names originally displayed on the trees. The Roma War Memorial was completed in two stages the first was the avenues of trees and the Cenotaph followed.
To many native plant enthusiasts, the Narrow Leaf Bottle Trees or Brachychiton rupestis is regarded the king of the Brachychiton family. This spectacular looking tree with a bottle shaped trunk can grow to 12 metres in height when mature with juvenile growth up to 2 metres in first two years. When flowering during summer the Bottle tree is almost deciduous. The white bell shaped flowers are very unique and have mauve markings in the centre. It is frost hardy once established and will flourish in most climates throughout the world.
In Rockhampton an avenue of Peltophorum Trees was planted along Lakes Creek Road. The Peltophorums were planted in the 1950s as part of a memorial to Lakes Creek meatworks employees who served in the two world wars. The Golden Flame tree or Peltophorum pterocarpum has been utilised on many streetscapes across Central Queensland. Its showy yellow flowers will blossom from August to May most years. In most locations it will grow to a height between 8 to 10 metres high, although they have been known to reach 20 metres if the conditions are perfect. Peltophorum is a native of not only tropical Australia, but also South East Asia and the Pacific Islands.
The use of Peltophorum Trees, as a part of an Anzac Memorial is common through-out Northern Australia. As this tree is flowering at both Anzac Day and Remembrance Day, not many trees will do this.
Throughout Northern Australia, Papua New Guinea and Timor a single red flowering Hibiscus was used in many War Memorials. The Hibiscus used was what is now sold as Hibiscus Psyche. The reason was quite simple. The humidity of these regions makes it impossible to Poppies. So the Hibiscus Psyche provides one of the hardiest red flowering that blooms all year round. It is regarded as one of the best hedging Hibiscus available to home gardeners. Hibiscus Psyche can grow to 2m high in most soil conditions. Hibiscus Psyche has glossy red single miniature fringed flowers throughout year.
Locally there is a flowering tree that played a part on First World War 1 troop train to Brisbane. That tree is called Barklya syringifolia or is commonly known as the Bajool Rose or Crown of Gold. Flowers of the Barklya were used to form laurels and used to decorate the troop train.
Barklya syringifolia grows best in full sun but is a little slow growing, with deep green, almost heart-shaped leaves. A height of 6m should be expected with a width of 2 to 3m. When the tree flowers in late spring, it becomes indeed a ‘Crown of Gold’, very spectacular as the bright golden fingers of flowers contrast well with the dark green foliage. It is a bushy, very ornamental tree for moist soils and will grow from only a short distance from the beach to being able to handle the western heat.
A Bottlebrush hybrid that has become a popular planting around school War Memorials in Central Queensland is the Callistemon White Anzac. It is a low spreading bottlebrush that makes a perfect boarder plant for dry positions. Callistemon White Anzac is a form of Callistemon citrinus collected from a wild population on Anzac Cove, southern Sydney NSW. The cultivar was registered in 1986 and became available to gardeners two later. You can expect the best flowering during late spring and early summer, with masses of almost transparent white flowers, with yellow-tipped stamens. This showy Bottlebrush should grow no more than 1m high.
A Western Australian hybrid Grevillea has become another attractive plant to honour service men and women. Grevillea Spirit of Anzac is a low-maintenance shrub that thrives in full sun and heat with low water requirements. The Grevillea Spirit of Anzac was released by the Returned Services League of WA on 16 March 2015 in partnership with the Western Australian Kings Park plant breeding program. For Central Queensland gardeners always make sure you purchase grafted Grevillea Spirit of Anzac. With bright red brush flowers that contrast nicely against the shrubs silver-green foliage makes Grevillea Spirit of Anzac a feature in most gardens. This medium sized evergreen native shrub can reach 2m in a full sun garden position that has well-drained soil.
Next is an herb that has played a role in every Anzac Day. Have you ever wondered why sprigs of Rosemary are worn on Anzac Day and Remembrance Day? Rosmarinus officinalis or Rosemary has strongly scented foliage and it has always been believed that enhances the memory. It is a small woody shrub with fine, grey, scented foliage. Rosemary produces lavender-blue flowers throughout autumn, winter and spring. Rosemary has particular significance for Australians, as it is found growing wild on the Gallipoli peninsula. This hardy shrub has a good tolerance of drought and frost.
One last plant that has played a roll in honouring our Anzac‘s is the Acacia or Wattle. September first was Wattle Day and the day was used to raise funds for the war effort and sprigs of wattle sold on that day. Boxes of wattle sprigs were also sent to soldiers in hospitals overseas and it became a custom to enclose a sprig of wattle with each letter to remind our soldiers of home. The first Wattle day was held on September 1, 1910 in Sydney, Melbourne and Adelaide.
This spectacular group of plants, botanically known as Acacias, boast more than 650 known species throughout the Australian continent, and also occur in a number of other countries to a limited extent. Quick growing, showy and tolerant of a wide range of climatic conditions, the wattles are ideal plants for the Aussie garden enthusiasts whether they live along the sandy coastlines, in the cooler ranges or outback in the nation‘s arid centre.
To many, a wattle is just a wattle and most people have one growing somewhere in their backyard. They do not realise that there are literally hundreds of species of Acacia in the country from prostrate groundcovers and low, medium and bushy shrubs to very large shrubs and tall trees.