Colourful trees: a lot more to choose from than just jacarandas

ADAPTABLE: Cape Chestnut trees grow well in most areas and are a striking addition to the streetscape.

ADAPTABLE: Cape Chestnut trees grow well in most areas and are a striking addition to the streetscape.

In addition to the beautiful purple displays made by Jacaranda trees recently, other trees have been providing a most attractive display in local parks, gardens and streets. These trees include; Illawarra flame trees, Cape Chestnuts and Norfolk Island Hibiscus.

A tree that displays a glorious show of colour at this time is the Illawarra flame tree, displaying bright scarlet red flowers. They form quite a spectacular combination when placed near purple-flowered jacaranda trees and silky oak trees that can be covered in deep orange flowers.

The Illawarra flame tree, Brachychiton acerifolius is actually a native of Australia. The best know tree of this group would be the kurrajong. Large, leathery green leaves that are maple-like in shape cover the tree.

Flowering is often variable, without any discernible reason. Some seasons only half the tree may be in flower, while other years may have little or no flowers. Because many trees are raised from seed, growth and flowering can be quite variable. Some trees have other coloured flowers, such as shades of pink.

The Illawarra flame tree grows best in warmer situations, in a sunny position. It prefers well-drained fertile soil, with protection from wind and frosts.

The Cape Chestnut, Calodendrum capense, eventually grows to about 6-7 metres in height. It is basically an evergreen tree, although it may lose some leaves in colder areas and is a native of South Africa.

Glossy green leaves make an attractive background for the large heads of pale pink to dark mauve flowers that are produced from November through to January. The flowers feature five narrow, long, thin petals with wavy edges. The colour deepens at the main stem. The petals alternate with five petal-like sterile stamens that are a paler colour but are conspicuously dotted with purplish to maroon markings. A beautiful specimen can be seen on Raymond Terrace Road, near Victoria Street station.

Cape chestnuts can be grown from seed, but flower colour and flowering intensity cannot then be predicted. It may be preferable to purchase a grafted specimen as this will guarantee a good flower colour.

They will grow in most areas of Australia, except where mountainous areas where extremes of cold are experienced. A sunny, sheltered position with protection from strong winds and frosts is preferable.

Norfolk Island Hibiscus trees (Lagunaria patersonia) are particularly suitable for planting in streets and parks.

They can reach about 12-20 metres in height. Dense, greyish-green, oval shaped leaves are covered with soft hairs when young.

Flowers vary from pink to mauve, although deeper coloured forms are available. The colour of the flowers provides a good contrast to the leaves.

The flowers are followed by brown capsules that contain a number of black seeds. The capsules also contain white fibres that can be irritating to the skin.

Trees are tolerant of a range of soils and environmental conditions including salt spray. Young trees may require protection from severe frosts. 


Potted plants make bright and long-lasting gifts at Christmas. Seedlings that are planted out now into attractive pots will make good growth just in time for Christmas giving.

Herbs used in this way will provide an attractive, as well as most useful gift. Parsley, basil, sage, oregano and different varieties of thyme will provide different leaf shapes, colours and textures. Pots that have been developed specially for use with herbs will allow the plants to spread over the edges.

Pots containing brightly-coloured annuals such as petunias are also ideal to use in this way and would be most suitable for well-lit porches, courtyards or front verandahs.

SPLASH OF COLOUR: A pot of plants can make a wonderful gift.

SPLASH OF COLOUR: A pot of plants can make a wonderful gift.

Dwarf marigolds, pansies or impatiens would also be suitable choices.

People who have enjoyed gardening for many years, but now cannot manage tasks because of different disabilities will then be able to enjoy the bright colours displayed in these pots.

Seedlings should be planted into a premium potting mix as this will help to ensure prolonged flowering.

Water saving crystals that have been added to the soil mixture will assist with water retention, thus reducing the frequency of watering required, particularly during periods of hot temperatures.


Cymbidium orchids that have multiplied and now fill their pot will have reduced flowering as they will gradually become starved of needed nutrients.

Once the plants have been removed from their pot, which may take some effort if they are very overgrown, the old “soil” should be removed from the roots.

Then the plant should be divided into smaller plants, making sure each one has some older shoots as well as one or two strong new shoots that will eventually produce the flower spikes.

Older and damaged roots should be cut from the plant. It is advisable to sterilize the secateurs in between treating plants in an effort to avoid the transfer of diseases.

Perhaps the most important thing to remember when repotting orchids is the medium that is placed into the pot with the plant. Orchids require a very free-draining mixture.

Maitland and District Garden Club