Attrition: Our Garden techniques and Plants lost 1992-2022

PLANTS LOST FROM THE GARDEN “The Shambles” 1992-2022

The catalogue of plants which we have planted and lost in our garden has been compiled by referring to our five garden notebooks maintained since 1992. We keep all the labels and record plants ad their position in the garden in these notebooks.

While our list of failed plants looks extensive (and expensive) it reflects 30 years of trial and error and lessons learned. Our lush, probably overplanted garden supports thousands of healthy plants in hundreds of genus. The microsystems in our garden support lichens, fungi, mosses and al sorts of invertebrates, birds etc.

Our inventory of plants is maintained on our website .Chapter headings such as Trees, Shrubs etc can be clicked on and one scrolls down the full list and information, in alphabetical order.

Between 1997 and 2009 much of southern Australia experienced a prolonged period of dryness. Conditions were particularly severe in the densely populated southeast and southwest including South East Queensland. The Murray–Darling Basin and virtually all the southern cropping zones were severely affected. In contrast, it was a wet period in many parts of northern and outback Australia.

‘Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it,'” Winston Churchill paraphrasing Santayana. By compiling and reflecting on our failed plantings we can comment on what most likely went wrong and what avoidable mistakes may have been made.

Firstly our gardening conditions need to be considered and overall, they are pretty favourable

  1. ¾ Acre garden, gently sloping land toward the North-East.
  2. Altitude 500 meters but only 25km from the Pacific Ocean
  3. Above average rainfall at over 1000mm/year
  4. Average Temperature 19’ C often 4-5’ C cooler than surrounding areas
  5. Soil open and free draining, basaltic and mildly acidic.
  6. Old hedges protect the garden on the Southern and Western Side
  7. We have no irrigation system and rely on rainwater tanks. Plants will have supplementary watering while being established, if clos enough to one of our two outside taps.

Factors affecting plant health out of our control.

Conditions out of our control of course include the local weather from 1992 to 2021. Locally the Millennium Drought was associated with acute dry periods with little relief.  A feature of the drought was a long period without major wet episodes. While 2002 and 2006 were the only years which were severely dry over large areas, there were very few periods of sustained above-average rainfall. This prevented water storages from recovering. The early stages of the drought were largely confined to Victoria and Tasmania, but from 2001 onwards it extended to most remaining areas of eastern Australia south of the tropics, as well as to the southwest. All capital cities except Darwin were affected by persistent, or periodic, drought episodes. Major Queensland centres impose water restrictions. We were forced to buy water, delivered by water tankers during the worst of these times. Heavy rain and flooding events in 2011 and 2013 had an adverse effect on plants in our garden which were better suited to dryer conditions. Australian plants such as Grevilleas and others quickly succumbed. Foliage disease were accelerated on some plants.

After a particularly wet winter and spring in 2016 over much of Australia, conditions turned dry in 2017. The three years from January 2017 to December 2019 were the driest on record for any 36-month period starting in January, when averaged over the Murray–Darling Basin and New South Wales. Average rainfall for the Murray–Darling Basin was more than 100 mm lower than the second driest period (January 1965 to December 1967). A notable feature of the rainfall deficiencies of these three years is that they were especially concentrated in the cooler seasons. Rainfall for April—September was far below average in each of 2017, 2018 and 2019 in most of New South Wales. The situation was the same in Queensland south of the Tropic of Capricorn. In our area we somehow avoided the worst of the fires while experiencing the drought of 2019.

Across Australia as a whole, spring 2019 saw the highest fire weather danger as measured by the Forest Fire Danger Index (FFDI, a common measure of fire weather conditions), with record high values observed in areas of all States and Territories. The hot conditions further combined with the dry landscape and strong winds to produce dangerous fire weather conditions during December 2019 into early January 2020.

2020 leading into June 2021 has seen consistent rain and shower episodes and probably one of the best seasons for growth and flowering we can remember. The above mentioned periods of extreme dry, heat or rain have been associated with certain specimens failing in our garden

Autumn rainfall 2022 was above average for Queensland overall, with large areas of the state having totals in the wettest 10% of records since 1900. Days were warmer than average for most of Queensland during autumn, with most of the north having maximum temperatures in the warmest 10% of records since 1910. Night-time temperatures were also very much above average across the entire state with an area of warmest on record extending from the Central Coast to the Southeast Coast and adjacent inland districts.

  • Rainfall in 2022 was 21.9% above average for Queensland overall, the wettest autumn for the state since 2012.
  • Heavy rainfall at the end of March and widespread heavy rainfall in May saw many sites record their heaviest rain on record

Wet weather and root rot.

The cause of root rot is a fungus. Species of the Pythium, Phytophthora, Rhizoctonia, or Fusarium fungi are the usual culprits. These fungi thrive in wet soil, and you can transfer them from one part of the garden to another when you transplant ailing plants. Root rot is a disease that attacks the roots of plants growing in wet soil. Since the disease spreads through the soil, the only root rot remedy for garden plants is often to remove and destroy the plant. However, you can try these corrective measures if you want to attempt to save a particularly valuable plant:When it comes to identifying root rot, look at the plants. Plants with root rot can’t absorb moisture and nourishment from the soil properly. The plants often resemble those suffering from drought and stress and mineral deficiencies. Signs of root rot in garden plants include stunting, wilting, and discolored leaves. Foliage and shoots die back and the entire plant soon dies. If you pull up a plant with root rot, you will see that the roots are brown and soft instead of firm and white. Montville is often very wet and the conditions for root rot often can’t be avoided

  • Wet weather across much of Queensland in 2022 triggers eruptions of fungus across the state
  • Amateur mycologists say there’s a “world of discovery” available as little is known about the kingdom of fungi. When a rain event occurs the mycelial network has the resources from the hydrostatic pressure to produce fruiting bodies. Some local types flow in the dark.

    Only about 150,000 of an estimated 3 million species of fungi had been identified globally. The Queensland Herbarium houses only 1,145 species of fungi, two of which are naturalised to the state but not endemic. In contrast, the herbarium holds about 10,500 plant species.

Factors affecting plant health which we could potentially control.

Plant Selection: It has been our good fortune to be collecting plants into the garden for 30 years at the rate of half a dozen new genus or species per week. Our choices have become more controlled and refined as the garden has developed and we have tried to learn from our failures. E.g. We no longer have room for new specimen trees unless a space appears when trees are removed.

Initially like everyone else we were tempted by beautiful flower images and descriptions in Garden books and magazines (from Southern Australia and England) and Southern plant nursery mail order catalogues. In the past we have made foolishly optimistic plant purchases of shrubs, trees and bulbs etc which were completely unsuited to our sub-tropical garden. These trials were brief and unsuccessful (Kalmia, Luculia, Moraea etc) or had a lingering and tortured demise (Kolkwitzia, Forsythia, Exocorda).

As our trees and shrubs have matured the garden is much shadier and cooler. We have limited space for new sun loving plants. Trialling daisys and other perennials in the shade didn’t work.

Roses: Experience has shown that grafted roses from a commercial nursery consistently fail in our conditions. Old Fashioned Tea and China roses from cutting thrive. We don’t buy modern commercial roses but have received them as gifts. It may be that commercial roses grafted and raised in Southern Australia have rootstock which are not suitable for our soil and climate. It may also be that old fashioned roses from cutting are genetically tolerant of our humid conditions and reduced hours of sunlight.

Azaleas and Vireyas: These plants will not tolerate drying out in their first year. However experience has taught that the safest choice for us are the Single flowering ‘Southern Indica’ type Azaleas which are slow but reliable starters. Many (or most) commercially available double cultivars of Azalea do not survive.

While appearing to be suitable the Azalea garden in a shady area East of the house with no irrigation system may have been too cool, dry and dark as it proved fatal to Vireyas. It may have been poor nutrition.

Camellias: By and large we have a happy collection of Camellia sasanqua, japonica and species types. The 2019 drought proved fatal to some young Camellias and these, once distressed, could not be rescued by watering.

Australian Plants: It may be that some have a disappointingly short natural life span. However, we are paying greater and greater attention to placement as these many of these plants won’t tolerate a wet, shady position.

Bulbs: Yet again excessive shade, reduced soil temperature and possibly fungal and harmful insect attack under the ground may have contributed to or losses

Plant sources

Our plant collection continues to expand and the following are our sources

  1. Commercial Nursery plants in pots, tubes or punnets. Including “Sunray nursery” Nambour, “Manawee” Nursery Buderim, “Rosemount” Nursery via Nambour, “Fairhill” nursery Yandina on the the Sunshine Coast. Like everyone else we have bought plants from the Plant Nursery section of Hardware Chains like “Bunnings” Caloundra or Maroochydore and “Mitre10” Nambour or Maleny.
  2. Mail order plants from Southern Nurseries such as “Tesselaar” Victoria, “GardenExpress” Victoria and in the past from “Perennialle Plants” NSW and the ‘Diggers Club” Victoria. Initially our mail order choices were risky choices of plants which often failed due to our unsuitable climate. Lately we will still use mail order but with greater care and chance of success.
  3. Cuttings grown plants, often rare and unusual, from specialized collectors (Leonie Kearney, Rosevale, Penny McKinlay, Pittsworth), Specialised market growers (Grandmas Garden Wanda Huth) or skilful friends and neighbours. Sometimes plants arrive as gifts.
  4. Plants grown in our own propagation area from cuttings gathered from gardens of friends, neighbours and fellow enthusiastic gardeners.
  5. Plants have almost always been of good quality when sourced from the above sources. Some we doubt such as the “Diamond in the Dark” series Lagerstroemia. We do however buy reject/discounted plants at commercial nurseries and take a chance. Overall the condition of plants from the above sources is not a cause of plant losses. Inappropriate plants for our conditions, perhaps chosen and planted in difficult weather is a cause for losses.

Plant Placement and planning

Our collection of rainforest trees, conifers and precious specimens create a shade belt along the western border and southern border. Large trees on the border with our Eastern neighbour shade that aspect too.  Shade is vital for a Queensland garden, providing protection from the heat and sun, necessary most of the year in the sub-tropics. We now search for sunny spots for any new plants but some of our older plants have failed to thrive when overtaken by shade

Plant pest control

We have not bothered with pesticides and fungicides for many years. We do use white oil on scale. Occasionally leaf eating insects with almost defoliate our Abutilon collection, but hey recover spontaneously after a time. Aphids will attack fresh rose shoots and will be manually removed as possible.

Real plant losses seem to be confined to the action of borer beetles on an old woody rose.

Our Azaleas carry some degree of mite damage on their foliage but I didn’t believe that using mitocide in the past really made much difference and the established Azaleas remain healthy.

We believe that if a garden is mature and complex then a natural balance of beneficial insects, spiders and birds (and microbiota) keep plants healthy.

Plant nutrition

Over the last 30 years our approach to supplemental plant nutrition and fertilizers has changed with the increasing size and complexity of the garden. I cannot claim that we have any consistent fertilizing schedule.

One consistent strategy is to apply biscuits of straw mulch to garden beds, around plants and then to dress with handfuls of dynamic lifter and pray for rain. This fine for roses and perennials however we have been wary of fertilizing Azaleas and Camellias in this way. Azaleas should be fed after flowering, but who remembers this.

With such a lush garden and many mature shrubs and perennials the “chop and drop” method of pruning and deadheading has added many layers of organic material to the garden.

Leaf fall from deciduous Red Cedars, Lagerstroemias and needles from Taxodium are blown and raked from paths directly into beds.

There is an increasing (at times mountainous) amount of plant material which is cold composted in heaps and in our conditions with a healthy population of worms and saprophytes produces compost which is placed back on the garden.

Slow release pelletized/granular fertilizer id a favourite especially slow release “Nitrophoska”® and  “Prolific Blue AN”® which contains Ammonium Nitrate, Iron Oxide, Mono Ammonium Phosphate, Potassium Sulphate, Zinc Oxide, Calcium Borate, Manganese Oxide, Magnesium Sulphate, and Superphosphate (N,P, K = 12, 5,14). Granular fertilizers in the limited volume we use are convenient, while of course recognising that they may not be suitable for our Australian plants

We supplement Potassium sulphate on roses and it probably does what it says on the tin, promote strength and flowering.

We have a growing catalogue of potted plants including Anthuriums, Medinellas and some perennials, annuals and bulbs on trial. “Thrive”® diluted liquid fertilizer with NPK 25: 5: 8.8  Plus Sulphur 4.6, Mg 0.5, Iron 0.18, Boron 0.005, Copper 0.005, Zinc 0.004, Molybdenum 0.001. We also use Seasol® in diluted liquid form. Seasol® is apparently made from two species of seaweed namely Bull Kelp (Durvillaea potatorum), Chile Bull Kelp (Durvillaea Antarctica) and Knotted Kelp (Ascophyllum nodosum). It is not, by definition, a fertiliser but a soil conditioner (as it contains only marginal nitrogen and phosphorus levels). There are different formulations with added We have not explored the possibilities of other Seasol® related products which sound appealing e.g.  Seasol® Foliar Spray which combines Seasol® with a specially formulated nutrient mix and trace elements, plus organic chelators for fast foliage uptake;  PowerFeed® a liquid fertiliser and dynamic soil conditioner, that is safe to use on all plants including specific formulae for Tomatoes & Vegetables and for Flowers, Fruit & Citrus.

Of particular interest would be PowerFeed® with Troforte, granular organically enriched plant food, safe on all plants including natives which apparently contains W/W: Nitrogen (N) 12.0%, Phosphorus (P) 1.2%, Potassium (K) 6.0% plus potent quantities of biologically active trace elements. Trace elements are added in specific granules containing natural ores in the form of rock minerals (feldspars, mica, humates, silicates etc.), which are organically coated with beneficial microbes. These microbes work to improve soil structure. We almost certainly try this granular plant food.

With all of the above I do not believe that we have ever overdosed or inappropriately dosed plants in a way which caused their demise. With our open free draining soil and in heavy rain it is possible that nutrients are leached out and not adequately replaced.


G =  Grafted bought as a bagged bare rooted or potted specimen from a commercial outlet.

C  = Grown from cutting

Blackboy    G

Babe           C

Cousin Essie  X 2    C  One lost to borer South Rose garden, one to wet shade in North

Abraham Derby X3  G   Both shady and favourable conditions applied

Candy Stripe     X 3  G

Camille Pisaro          G

Carabella          X2   C

Lilli Marlene             G

Louis XIV                 C

Madame Berkeley     C

William Morris             G

Restless                       C

Sunny South      X 2    C

Mme Alfred Carriere     G

James Mitchell             G

Sparieshoop                 G

Pierre de Ronsard         G

Lamarque                     G

RSL Rose                     G

Perfumed Perfection      G

Iceberg                         G

Burgundy Iceberg         G

Henri Mattise                G

Francis Xavier              G

Julias Rose                     G

Queen Elizabeth              G

Mr Lincoln      X 2            G, C

La Savilliana

Red Pierre de Ronsard       G

Harry Wheatcroft               G

Lorraine Lee                       G

Edna Walling Rose            C

Mary Rose         X 3          G

Fragrant Cloud                G

Renae                  X 3

The Squire                       G

Kardinal                          G

Papa Meilland                  G

Woburn Abbey                 G

Chameleon                       G

Avon                                G

Don Ponset                      G

Ispahan                           G

Cornelia                           G

We have lost other roses but retain healthy specimens of those varieties elsewhere in the garden


Azaleas do not tolerate drying out when first planted. We have no irrigation system and hand watering is not enough once they show signs of stress.  Once established they are tough but subject to mites and foliage disease which is most harmful to small specimens

Pride of Dorking  (replaced)

Mr Kint

White Schame

Elizabeth Lawrence


Reinholdt Ambrosus

Rosa Belton

James Belton



Dr Arnold

Single “Southern Indica” types such as “Alba Magnifica” do best for us and are rough tolerant when well established


Clare Rose

Saxon Glow


Sweet Rosalie

Elegant Bouquet


Coral Sea

Desert Song



Rhododendron potamium

We have no irrigation system. Azaleas and Vireyas are vulnerable to drying out when newly planted. In dry conditions it is hard to maintain soil moisture around these plants with hand watering


Great Eastern




Night Rider

Wirlinga Princess


Camelllia sinensis x 2

Camellias have been lost in conditions of excessive dry where supplemental watering cannot redress the bone dry soil moisture condition.  They do not tolerate drying out during the first year

Trees                    W  = weed, self seeding nuisance

Syagrus romanzoffiana, Cocos palm                      W

Guioa semiglauca            removed western boundary

Koelreuteria panniculata (Golden rain tree)   “’  “”  W prolific self seeder

Inga edulis                     removed NW Corner         W prolific self seeder

Tabebuiea chrysora       removed Driveway             W prolific self seeder

Wollemia nobilis                  lost in drought

Gymnostoma australianum  lost in drought

Ligustrum ovalifolium        removed  NW Cornr      W

Macadamia integrifolia          lost in storm

Chamaecyparis lawsoniana   reduce shade North garden



Excessive Wet   = Wa  Excessive dry/drought = D   Excessive Shade =  S

Grevillea hybrids and cultivars:

Caloundra Gem                      Fanfare

Golden Lyre   D.S                   Firesprite  Wa, S

Ned Kelly     D,S                      Pink Midget  Wa

Majestic                                  Pink Surprise

Malongalo    D, S                    Flamingo   Wa, S

Anigozanthus (kangaroo paw cultivars)

Bush Pearl, Bush Ballad,  Bush Tenacity  Wa, S

Backhousia citrodora

Eleocarpus reticulatus

Graptophyllum excelsum  D,S

Darwinea citrodora

Austromyrtus dulcis

Pavonia hastata

Hardenbergia violacea

Mallotus claoxyloides    

Melaleuca “Pink Surprise”

Oxylobium robustum

Artenema fimbriata (Koala bells)

Ceratopetalum (NSW Christmas Bush)

Cordylline ”Red Sensation”

Dampiera purpurea

Dodona viscosa

Angiopteris evecta

Hibbertia scandens

Although drying out can affect these plants our principle, threat is from excessive ran, even in our well drained soil, and reduced hours of daylight with excessive shade as our shrubs and trees have matured over time.


Anisodontea capensis  (replaced)

Cantua pyrifolius

Allamanda cathartica cultvars REPLACED

Dipladenia cultivars

Otocanthus (Blue Boy)

Jasminium sambac cv


Metrosideros hybrids and cultivars

“Springfire”  Variegated

Liculia grandis and CV “Fragrant Cloud”#

Phygelius x rectus


Lavandula spp and cv


Clerodendron bungeii

Oleander cv “Dwarf Apricot”

Rhodoleia championi

Exocorda macrantha  #

Escallonia macrantha

Escallonia rubra

Buddleja cv “Silver Anniversary”

Bouvardia ternifolia x 3

Stokes Aster

Helliborus foetidus

Felicia amelloides  (replaced)

Cuphea purpurea x 3

Tacca chaterei (Bat Plant) REPLACED IN FERNERY

Lonicera sempervirens  (Honeysuckle)

Buddleja colvillei x 2

Abelia floribunda

Kolkwitzia amabilis     #

Weigela florida variegata

Weigela cv “Eva Rathe”

Weigela folius purpureus

Physocarpus opulofolis (Nine Bark) #

Osmanthus heterophyllus (Ivy Leaf)

Turnera elegans

Viburnum plicatum  #

Scuttelaria costaricensis

Wisteria sinensis x 2 removed as invasive

Agave outgrew it’s position with deadly spines

Mussaenda cv                               “Queen Sirikit” “Dona Luz” (replaced)

Leucospermum reflexum (Protea)

Forsythia viridissima #

Fuchsia boliviana

Fuchsia cv “Alice”, “Marcia” “Viona”

Euphorbia fulgens

Chocolate Cosmos

Lobelia x speciosa “Starship”

Eupatorium Chocolate

Centranthus ruber

Iochroma fuchsioides

Iochroma coccinea

Garrya elliptica “James Roof”  #

Kopsia fruticosa

Begonia luxurians

Vinca “Tattoo”

Cytisus racemosa

Kalmia latifolia  #

#  =  Outside natural cool climate zone

Bulbs Corms Rhizomes lost 1992-2021

Zantedeschia cv Calla lilies

Lilium lancifolium (Tiger Lly)

Lilium regale


Tritonia crocata

Ornithogallum arabicum

Freesia refracta

Anenome coronaria cv

Dierama pulchellum

Allium sphaerocephalon “Drumsticks”

Euchomis comosa

Kniphofia uvaria (dwarf Poker) ‘Apricot Nectar’

Moraea villosa (Peacock Iris)

Tigridia parvonia (Jockey Cap Day lily)


There is nothing inherently wrong with the Plant genus, species, hybrids and cultivars listed on our inventory of failures. These plants were trialled with hopeless enthusiasm but some were inappropriate choices from the outset. Some cool climate plants were misguided purchases where I gambled that our elevated cooler position in the sub-tropics may let us “get away with it”

Of course, most of our plant losses were an unpredictable consequence of extreme heat and dry but also of relentless rain. Having no irrigation system we rely on plants to establish safely with natural rain. Some of the plants on our list of losses will be re-trialled with careful attention to site, time of year and weather prediction e.g. Iochromas, Weigelas, escallonia etc. We would never lure to our garden and willfully murder Kalmia, Daphne, Lilac or Western Australian anything.


Michael Simpson