3S Landscape Design

Colour in Canberra

One of the joys of a cold climate that we don’t experience so much in Perth is the beauty of autumn leaves. There are a few trees that will grow well in our climate and provide some colour, notably the Chinese Tallow, but on the whole our deciduous trees do not develop the amazing colours seen in the ACT and Victoria.

I enjoyed a few days in Canberra in May and was spellbound by the gorgeous colours, especially on bright sunny days. the Mountain and Desert ash trees were particularly spectacular. The maples are my favourite and they can be grown in Perth if you can provide them with sufficient shelter from the sun and wind. I have seen a lovely old maple nestled into the southside of a courtyard garden in one of the Australian Open Gardens.

  • Liquidambar Liquidambar
  • Mountain Ash Mountain Ash
  • Desert Ash Desert Ash
  • Gorgeous Japanese Maple Gorgeous Japanese Maple
  • Maples against a winter sky Maples against a winter sky

I have to admit though, as much as I love the colours of cold climates its good to come home to Perth and find my cattleya orchid flowering happily outside under the flowering frangipanis.
  • Cattleya orchid Cattleya orchid

New Red Centre Garden

In January I was in Canberra to visit family and friends and had the pleasure of visiting the Australian National Botanic Gardens.  I have watched this garden develop throughout my life and I love the most recent addition: a red centre garden, magnificently landscaped to resemble the ecosystems of central Australia.  The garden has a wonderful sculpture of a  thorny devil (about 100 times life size),  gullies and streams and rocky outcrops as well as beautiful plantings of central Australian plants.



  • Gossypium sturtianum Gossypium sturtianum
  • gully gully
  • Brachyscome Brachyscome
  • pot plantings pot plantings
  • Thorny devil Thorny devil
  • Daisies Daisies


Many of the flowers, including the beautiful Gossypium sturtianum (Sturt’s Desert Rose) are purple or mauve, a lovely contrast with the red soil.

It will be great to visit the gardens from time to time to see how the red centre garden is developing.

Elsewhere in the gardens there are many Western Australian plants including the gorgeous flowering gum Corymbia ficifolia.

Corymbia ficifolia

I also love the rock gardens with their many water dragon lizards and the rainforest gully, showing the diversity of Australian plant habitats.

A display bed of everlastings was especially beautiful.


Canberra in winter

In late July/early August I visited friends and family in Canberra.  It is a very cold time of the year but the bonus is enjoying the violets, camellias, Daphne and early spring bulbs which don’t find Perth’s winter quite cold enough.  On several mornings I walked up Mount Taylor to enjoy the views and the trees.  I also took the opportunity to see the new National Arboretum, which is 94 forests of rare, endangered and symbolic trees from around the world.  The Arboretum is  a fantastic initiative and one that will only increase in value and beauty over time.  Its wonderful to see the city making something nourishing from the disaster that was the fire that burnt the pine forest previously on this land.

The Arboretum is also home to the National Bonsai and Penjing collection of Australia, with bonsai (miniature trees in pot) and Penjing (miniature landscapes) loaned or donated by the artists or their friends. Well worth a visit!

  • A wonderful sculpture overlooking the Arboretum A wonderful sculpture overlooking the Arboretum
  • The cork forest The cork forest
  • One of several species of Birch forest One of several species of Birch forest
  • Araucaria araucana, the monkey puzzle tree Araucaria araucana, the monkey puzzle tree
  • The bonsai collection The bonsai collection
  • A perfect bonsai A perfect bonsai
  • A view from Mount Taylor over Lake Tuggeranong A view from Mount Taylor over Lake Tuggeranong

Gardens of the Mornington Peninsula

I just spent a lovely few days on the Mornington Peninsula and had the chance to visit the first Victorian garden opening for the winter season of  the Australian Open Gardens Scheme: Illyarrie at Balnarring.  This garden is extremely interesting as it consists entirely of Australian plants, mostly from Western Australia!  In the cool lush environment of the Mornington Peninsula some of them look quite different: much greener and softer.  Many of the plants flower at different times too, for example some Leschenaultias were flowering and the owner said they will flower from now until Christmas.  In Perth they flower for  few weeks in early spring.  I was especially inspired by (and envious of) the lovely pot displays and the huge clumps of native orchids.

On the second day it poured with rain, a great opportunity to visit the Peninsula Hot Springs, which are wonderfully landscaped with Australian plants but still look very Japanese in the mist.  Our last day was spent at Heronswood, the home of the Diggers Club, and always a joy to visit.  The café was warm and inviting on a cold day but the sun came out for a while between morning coffee and lunch, allowing a leisurely stroll in the gardens.  The Diggers Club promotes sustainable organic gardening and heirloom varieties.  The vegetable parterre is always picturesque as are the espaliered  fruit trees and the kitchen garden.  In the medicinal garden for the first time I saw a Mandrake plant flowering.  The root has traditionally been used in medicines and magic rituals but I didn’t realise the flower is so attractive (photo below). The nursery was brimming with rare and desirable plants, most of which can be bought on line from Western Australia. The plants and seeds are mailed but need to go through quarantine so unfortunately I was not able to buy anything from the nursery!


  • Inspirational pots at Illyarrie Inspirational pots at Illyarrie
  • Vegetable parterre at Heronswood Vegetable parterre at Heronswood
  • A most unusual Cestrum A most unusual Cestrum
  • Mandrake flowering Mandrake flowering


Lotus ponds

My garden has two ponds: one is a lily and iris pond with a waterwall of tiles brought back from Turkey, the other is an Australian billabong with a rock waterfall and only Australian plants including nardoo and fringe lilies.  Both ponds have a contented population of native pygmy perch (which don’t eat frog’s eggs or tadpoles), frogs and snails, all of which are breeding.  Various insects such as dragonflies also use the ponds.

Recently I visited Siem Reap in Cambodia and stayed at the lovely Le Meridien Hotel.  The grounds of the hotel are home to many frogs, toads and lizards and at least a couple of snakes!  I love the design of the swimming pool and so do the frogs!  Around the pool there are watergardens with waterlilies and lotus in pots, which revived my desire for a lotus.  The frogs sit on the lilypads in the shade of the lotus leaves which are held above the water.  I don’t have room for a lotus in my lily pond and want to keep the front pond Australian but I heard there are now mini lotus which have been bred for pots and small ponds. I found one at the local Claremont Farmer’s Market where the breeders of this variety sell their range of waterplants including edible water plants!  Now the search is on for the perfect bowl to make a third pond in the shade.


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