Expert advice for Top End gardeners 

Bromeliads are all plants that will thrive during the Wet

The build-up may not seem like the best time to get down and dirty in the garden, but experienced horticulturalists from Charles Darwin University say now is the time to pull out your green thumbs and establish your garden.

A CDU Horticulture lecturer for more than 20 years, Liz Hagan knows her tropical plants and garden maintenance. She even has some advice for a plant species that could make a good tropical Christmas tree.

“For those without irrigation, the best time to plant native trees and shrubs is just before and in the early wet season so the plants receive sufficient watering to allow them to establish and survive in the dry season,” Ms Hagan said.

“Unusual plants such as the bat plant Tacca, either the white or black species, will give you a beautiful flower in the wet season showing a large bizarre bat/spider like flower,” she said. 

“Bromeliad, Caladium and Cordyline are all plants that will thrive during the Wet. There is also a new Philodendron called ‘Orange’, which is really unusual and can be used as a climber.”

Ms Hagan said that a good native tropical Christmas tree could be a Callitris intratropica, a tropical cypress pine.

“They can be bought as small trees in tubs and would make great local Christmas trees because they have a lovely pyramidal shape,” she said. “If planted in the garden it can grow from 16 to18 metres, however judicious pruning would keep it under control for several Christmases.”

Ms Hagan said it was also time to get the mower back into action, with lawns often needing mowing every 10 days. She also warned of the dangers of gardening in the wet season and advised keen gardeners to wear covered shoes and use gardening gloves.

“Gardeners need to be aware of bacteria in the soil that can be brought to the surface by the heavy rains and can cause an unpleasant disease called melioidosis, especially if one has cuts or abrasions on their hands or feet.

“If you are on holidays make sure you move any pot plants out from under the eaves of the house so they can take advantage of the rain, and remove all empty cans and buckets so they don’t fill with water and attract mosquitoes.”