GARDENING: Do gardens and tourism make a good mix?
HAVE you ever visited a garden attraction while on holidays?
The Lifestyle Horticultural Industry believes that half the Australian population love to garden and visit gardens while they are on holidays.
So why is it that tourists always love to visit gardens when the travel yet you never see our region's garden attractions promoted in high-level campaigns?
There are many gardens in small townships throughout Central and Western Queensland that would impress even a non-gardener.
Even more interesting are the plants that are being used in these gardens.
I have always been impressed by the variety of colour in the gardens around some of these towns.
Our western towns have also provided the public with fantastic walkways linking these gardens.
Towns like Winton, Emerald or Longreach all have well-used and maintained walkways.
Every time I visit the town of Winton I am amazed by the range of plants grown. From the main street planting to the parks, Winton has the climate to grow the best trees and shrubs from all parts of Australia.
Then there are the gardens that surround the Waltzing Matilda Centre, a place that should be on everyone's bucket list.
There is a plant growing in the front gardens of the Waltzing Matilda Centre that has created a stir with gardeners.
The plant is the Ptilotus exaltatus, commonly known as the Feather Flower or Mulla Mulla, a short-lived but spectacular herbaceous perennial with dark green leaves.
During the transition from winter to spring and summer to autumn, purple feathery flower heads cover the plant.
These feathery flower heads are suitable for use as cut flowers.
For more than half a century the gardens in the town of Emerald have been admired by tourists from all over the country, with the most popular stop being the Emerald Botanic Gardens.
This is situated on the banks of the Nogoa River and was established in 1987 by the Emerald Shire Council.
Covering 42 hectares now, these gardens have been designed to cater for the entire community, especially families wanting a cool escape from the summer heat.
For those who enjoy walking, the gardens have 6km of walking tracks, most of which have tree canopy cover.
The gardens also feature a large working windmill that was built in 1931 and used to irrigate one of the early pioneer farms, Marathon near Emerald.
It was restored and erected at its present site in 1994 and now pumps water into a lagoon in the Gardens.
At this time of the year, the aroma of the clusters paperbark melaleucas growing along the Nogoa becomes another one of the features of Emerald's Botanic Gardens.
For those gardeners who love the natural landscape of the Outback, then Longreach has to be at the top of the list.
Longreach Botanic Walkway, a 2.5km interpretative native flora walk between the town centre and the Stockman's Hall of Fame, would be one of the best in the country.
It was designed by Laurie Smith, one of the country's best landscape architects.
Laurie has designed a number of botanic gardens across the country, including Gladstone's Tondoon Botanic Gardens, Mackay's Botanic Gardens and the Roma Street Parklands.
Longreach Botanic Walkway features many unique plants, some that have not flowered in years due to drought conditions during the past decade.
The rain earlier this year will trigger masses of blooms this spring.
If this column has whet your appetite for floral beauty, the best way to appreciate the splendour of these trees and shrubs in these towns is to take a walk early in the morning or just after dusk and this will also be great for your health.
So this spring, if things are still going in the right direction with COVID-19, why not make plans to visit some of Central or Western Queensland's most picturesque locations.
Then visit one of our neighbouring townships and view their gardens.