Here are some photos I took this morning as I finished up my walk in the shady expanse of the Townsville Botanical Gardens.
It’s taken me quite a while to develop an appreciation for these gardens. Back in Melbourne, we lived quite close to the massive and lavishly-flowered Melbourne Botanical Gardens. An easy amble on a sunny Sunday, down the left bank of the Yarra with a pause at our favourite art deco milk bar, would often end at the Botanical Gardens for a rest in the middle of the rose garden. In fact, all over Melbourne we were spoiled for beautiful English-style gardens.
When we arrived in Townsville, the appeal of these dank and overly shady gardens, infested with mosquitos, was really lost on me. I could well understand that it is too hot here for most flowering plants to grow, and that anyone who wanted a look of colour in their garden would instead plant one of the kinds with the variegated leaves. Back then, I thought they looked quite vulgar.
(These ones are actually known as Red-Neck Palms. How apt.)
I came to appreciate them more when I started to think about what I would plant in my own (hypothetical) garden in Townsville. Light and shade are super-important concerns here, because plants have to be really really tough if they are to survive the summer sun. The variegations of the leaves are a form of protection for the plants, a way for them to limit the amount of light they take in. Quite often it's only the new delicate growth that is coloured, while the rest of the foliage is ordinary green.
On the other hand, the plants that grow in the shade seem to require a really deep shade. The plants here are either super-tough or super-wimps. Nothing in between.