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Into Horticulture

Issue 21   October 2016


It may have gone unnoticed by most Australians for the very reason it happened - "Your Garden" magazine has ceased publication, after 60 years in print [1, 2, 3].

Decline in print magazines across the board can explain a large part of this decision. There have also been some criticisms of the management of the title.

Whether its demise can be partly blamed on reduced interest in gardening is an obvious question, nevertheless. It's been a while since we looked at reported sales trends in the garden industry around the world. An update might be forthcoming in the the next edition.

Meanwhile, with the internet taking over as a primary information source, a challenge for publishers and promotors of garden products will be how to attract and hold an appropriately targeted audience. On the web, people can dip into information from all over the world. Usually, the geographic origin and climatic relevance is not obvious. Garden plants, products and services have a much higher regional specificity than many other retail categories, however.

The audience of print magazines, newspapers, TV and radio usually had limits due to the physical difficulties of production and distribution, especially in the early days. Furthermore the cycle of production meant regular delivery of updated information. Going forward, how can information about a new plant release or fertilser reach enough consumers in the region in a cost-effective way?

Whatever the solution is, it probably won't last for 60 years.

[1] Your Garden Pacific Magazines

Plant & Garden News

Balinese garden icon dies

Made Wijaya, the former Australian who essentially created the lush "Balinese" style of modern tropical garden, has passed away due to illness. His many landscape designs implemented around the world included the home of David Bowie. He also wrote extensively on Balinese life and culture and became a prominent figure in his adopted home. (for more, see Fairfax Media news report: Death in Sydney of renowned garden designer keenly felt in his adopted Bali) His company website PT. Wijaya Tribwana International has many illustrations of his projects. Tropical landscape enthusiasts should take the opportunity to have a look while it's still available.

USC identifies backyard-appropriate koala tree for SEQ

A University of the Sunshine Coast team, led by Dr Stephen Trueman, have spent nine years researching which koala-friendly trees are most suitable for urban South-East Queensland, including backyards. They assessed around 20 species and variants, including grafting experiments. The only one that grew well and stayed sufficiently small was Eucalyptus kabiana ( Mt Beerwah mallee), reaching 6m in seven years. They can provide food and habitat for koalas and should be useful in creating corridors between existing habitats well away from dangerous roads. The first 350 seedlings to be planted across the Moreton Bay Region were given to the Moreton Bay Regional Council and the Pine Rivers Koala Care Association at the project launch. The next step is to assess them in various locations with different soil types. Source: Dwarf gum tree plantings to help safeguard koalas

Californian street tree ROI

A report from the U.S. Forest Service has estimated that California's street trees "bolster property values and home sale prices to the tune of $838.94 million". This is in addition energy savings (heating and cooling) other environmental benefits. They calculated that for every $1 spent on planting and maintenance, the average street tree returns $5.82 in benefits. Over-reliance on a single species mean the urban forests of many communities could be devastated by a pest or disease outbreak. Source: California 'street tree' benefits valued at $1 billion

Earthquake-proof coconuts

When coconuts fall, often from a great height, the fruit must be able to protect the seed within from the impact. A German research team is now studying it's structure with a view to improving the shock resistance of buildings. A distinctive ladder-like vascular system within the endocarp (the coconut "shell") is thought to resist bending forces and dissipate energy. Similar fibres in concrete could potentially help structures resist earthquakes and other disasters. Source: Coconuts could inspire new designs for earth-quake proof buildings

   Carphalea kirondron growing in Darwin
Carphalea kirondron growing in Darwin, Australia. Image courtesy Sean Caddy, Darwin Plant Wholesalers
Feature Article

Carphalea kirondron

Something old, something new for warm climates

Although a common reaction to viewing this spectacular flowering shrub has been to eagerly look for somewhere to buy it, Carphalea kirondron has been rare in the Australian marketplace until recently.

Reaching up to 3m in good conditions, the species produces vivid red flower clusters in profusion in the warm months through to early winter in the subtropics. In the humid tropics, it flowers year-round [1]. It's also reported as being an attractive nectar source for butterflies [2].

Superficially, the blooms resemble those of Ixora. Closer inspection will reveal a small white corolla protruding from some of the long-lasting red calyces. Furthermore, the calyx lobes in an individual flower are not equal in size. This trait is quite common in the family Rubiaceae, to which both Carphalea and Ixora belong, but is not as exaggerated in Carphalea as it is in Mussaenda.

   Carphalea kirondron inflorescence
Carphalea kirondron inflorescence
Carphalea kirondron inflorescence. (Brisbane, April, 2016). Note unequal calyx lobes

Common names include "flaming beauty" and "giant pentas". There are references to white-flowered and dwarf cultivars in online discussions of this plant, but no nurseries offering them could be identified at the time of writing.

The species is native to Madagascar, and was apparently introduced to the Philippines in 1957 [3], possibly by an attendee at a forestry conference held on the island [4]. It was cultivated in several Asian countries by the early 1980s but somehow became incorrectly known there as Rubia ornamentale. It's still being sold under this name or simply as "rubia".

A recent taxonomic revision [5] has renamed the species Paracarphalea kirondron.

Relative scarcity in Australia is attributed to its difficulty of propagation, either by cuttings or seed [6, 7] and of nursery production [8]. These issues have been addressed well enough to now make reasonable numbers commercially available in Australia, albeit at a premium price.

The plant also appears to be somewhat of a temperamental grower in the landscape, in southeast Queensland (subtropics) at least [9, 10, 11]. It does enjoy heat and humidity [8]. Nevertheless, for gardeners in frost-free regions wanting to add some "wow" to their landscapes, a Carphalea could be well worth trying.

[1] Carphalea kirondron, a flaming red beauty! John&Jacq~s Garden, Malaysia
[3] This date has been repeated widely but the original source has not been identified at the time of writing
[4] In Victorias City: Big Floriferous Rubia, Philippines
[6] Non-indigenous Rubiaceae grown in Thailand in Thai Forest Bulletin (Botany) No.31 2003 (PDF)
[7] Carphalea kirondron Baill. Flora Fauna Web, National Parks Board, Singapore
[8] Personal Communication, Sean Caddy, Darwin Plant Wholesalers
[9] The Gardeners Compendium Karana Downs Garden Club, Queensland (PDF)
[10] 2012 Autumn Plant Exhibition Buderim Garden Club, Queensland
[11] Spectacular Carphalea kirondron 'Flaming Beauty' Garden Express Garden Forums, Australia

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