DREAM­ING OF GREEN XMAS

SINCE FLORA AND FAUNA PLAY A BIG PART IN CHRIST­MAS CUL­TURE, WHY NOT START SOME AUSSIE TRA­DI­TIONS?

The Weekend Post - Cairns Eye - - Front Page -

Flora and fauna play a sig­nif­i­cant role in Christ­mas cul­ture. A par­tridge in a pear tree couldn’t be any more English re­ally. Let alone the swans, tur­tle doves, geese and milk­ing maids. The Aus­tralian Christ­mas has al­ways been about canned beet­root, ice­berg let­tuce, fat juicy prawns and a few char­grilled snags.

But, in the gar­den con­text, we are well out of kil­ter with the poinsettia as a Christ­mas flower.

If noth­ing else – apart from the spi­ralling white fly that sets up home un­der its bright red bracts – it hardly flow­ers here at Christ­mas.

This is where the anom­aly between hemi­spheres hap­pens.

Here is an open­ing for swamp blood­woods and their de­light­ful bib and bub gum­nuts left af­ter the bris­tles of red flow­ers.

As an ex­ten­sion there are a cou­ple of hy­brids that have been de­vel­oped from the par­ent called ‘sum­mer red’ (scar­let flow­ers) and ‘sum­mer beauty’ (pink flow­ers). Th­ese are good-sized gar­den trees up to about 5-6m high and more Aus­tralian than beet­root.

Queens­land holly is noth­ing like the Euro­pean ilex aquifolium species that typ­i­fies Christ­mas with its sharp pointed mar­gins, glossy fo­liage and red berries. The only re­sem­blance is the lo­cal ver­sion (grap­to­phyl­lum spinigerum) has prickly leaves like its Euro­pean name­sake and has tiny white flow­ers.

It’s a hardy plant that likes good drainage, reg­u­lar wa­ter and some oc­ca­sional prun­ing for shape.

Other Christ­mas ‘dou­bles’ have to be the Dain­tree pine (gym­nos­toma aus­tralainum), is in fact a ca­sua­r­ina that is sup­posed to be a rare na­tive pine of the Dain­tree Rain­for­est re­gion.

It is widely cul­ti­vated and would imag­ine the ‘rare’ tag might no longer be ap­pli­ca­ble. But a good Christ­mas tree does it make.

Plant af­ter­wards as a sin­gle spec­i­men or a few to­gether to make a 4m high soft pine-like hedge.

Fauna is easy; in­stead of geese maybe curlew, in­stead of tur­tle dove maybe sun­birds, in­stead of par­tridge how about a cock­a­too and swap the swans for ibis?

That would make for an in­ter­est­ing lo­cal Christ­mas.

Thanks for your sup­port over the year. Have a great Christ­mas and use your gar­den in ex­change for good health next year.

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