The Lost Garden of Belli Park is not so much ‘lost’ but well tucked away, nestled in the rain forest on the wetter eastern side of the dividing ranges an hour north of Brisbane. The verdant green backdrop of the rain forest sets the tone of the plantings throughout the property. This is with out a doubt a tropical garden. The house is surrounded by mature palms planted over the last 18 years, the most prominent of which is a mature Raphia Palm (Raphia vinifera) in full flower. These palms with several mature ornamental trees provide the shelter and shade for the colourful and bold tropical under story. The trunks of some of the larger trees were cloaked with Philodendrons and Devil’s ivy (Epipremnum aureum), Brugmansia and Tibouchina trees were in full bloom, Cordyline cultivars add splashes of colour, mature clumps of Heliconias and Gingers fill the damp air with scent and the ground beneath all these plants were swathed with Bromeliads and Tradescantias. In the deepest shade the bizarre flowers of the Bat plant Tacca hovered over glossy rain soaked leaves.
The meandering paths lead from the bright busy boarders around the house into the surrounding rainforest that makes up the most of the 55 acre property. Entering the forest the canopy closes in around you and riotous colours are replaced with green. Stags horn and birds nest ferns grow from the crux of bows and Alocasias hold their leaves up to the light. The atmosphere enhanced by the sound of the heavy rain dripping from leaf to leaf and the mist drifting through the trees further adding to the sense of envelopment. Despite the rainfall the previous week had been dry and one of the most prominent features of the garden, a 12 meter high waterfall, was sporting only a coating of moss and algae and no cascading water. Perhaps the day after I visited the rainfall would have made its way into the creaks and the falls would be in their full splendour. From the rainforest paths you emerge onto a grand sweeping lawn sweeping down away from the house to a large lily pond and out to views out over distant hills.
The one thing that struck me most about the garden is how similar it is to the Exotic Garden I worked in back in England, both in terms of plants and style. The one difference being the distinctly different climate. The frost free climate enables a whole wealth of plants to be grown that simply couldn’t be protected back in England. As for those plants that both gardens have in common, in The Lost Garden they do seem to have the edge. The Brugmansia trees aren’t limited to the size of your biggest plant pot and the height of the greenhouse roof. The Cannas and Gingers form massive evergreen clumps only needing the old flowering stems removing every now and then. Bromeliada are free to pup and form thick carpets, even working their way up tree trunks pup by pup rather than being restricted to pots. Here in tropical Queensland the plants have the conditions to reach their prime and the garden looks luxuriant year round. In contrast, back in chilly England, time after time visitors arrive in the garden and their jaws drop in amazement at the unexpected. Defiant of the winter the draw back is the massive extra work load of the spring plant out and the autumn dig-up, not to mention the heating bill. This work load does however afford the opportunity to change the planting plans year on year and enjoy the seasonal variations however dreary the winters may be while the boarders are bare. There seems to be benefits to creating tropical gardens in both locations and at the end of the day I guess it all depends on where you are.
It was great at last to go and explore an Australian garden at last. The garden was open for the Australian Open Gardens Scheme. Here are some more pictures for your delectation.