EARLY NORTH QUEENSLAND GARDENS
Domestic architecture influenced garden design in the early settlement period. The gardens reflect the typical European attitude of the times, using nature to create a barrier between the house and the outside surroundings, - the relationship between the built environment of the house and the natural surrounding environment. Over time attitudes changed and our early settlers learned to adapt to local conditions, they made some concessions and established a more comfortable relationship with the local tropical environment.
Pre 1900, the high set timber house, positioned centrally towards the front of the large 1/4-1/2 acre allotments with large rooms and surrounding open verandahs, was predominant. The open verandah, used for living, provided a link to the outdoors at a comfortable distance. They were retreats for relaxation and entertainment, decorated in the Victorian fashion, with ferns and other foliage plants in pots and hanging baskets, which created a cool comfortable atmosphere.
A more common feature on the large 'plantation' gardens in the area was the front ornamental garden formally laid out in geometric design, often featuring a distinctive central circular bed. Ornamental gardens of the time included popular temperate plants such as roses and hydrangeas as well as tropical species like oleanders, frangipani, crepe myrtle, hibiscus and bougainvillea, carefully enclosed in beds and with fences. For formal structure tall pine species or palms were included and sometimes paired in front of the dwelling to frame either the entrance or the house. The coconut was popular as a tropical symbol.
Backyard space was divided according to its function and as it was not for public display little design was employed. The early economy of experimental agriculture was reflected by selection of trees grown for their prospective produce, including paw-paws bananas, citrus, mulberries, as well as custard apples, soursop, mangosteen, star apples, avocado and guava. Shade trees were grown including mango, tamarind, raintree and native fig as well as local native species made available by Eugene Fitzalan at the Botanic Reserve.
There are no records of the original Cominos garden layout or plant varieties used except for some shrubs along the front fence and large mango trees. Plants used in the new Cominos House garden have been selected from regional native plants. As we preserve our cultural heritage in the form of this magnificent building we also preserve our natural heritage by the use of native plants. Many of these indigenous plants provide food and shelter for native animals. Aboriginal people utilised native plants as a source of food medicines and shelter.
The towering Melaleuca leucadendra, or Paperbarks, that dominate the current site are some of the original inhabitants of the area and their protection and preservation was an important feature in the redevelopment of this building. Early gardeners did not have the diversity of plants to select from that we do today and would have used such native plants as Alexander palms, as well as plants imported from other tropical countries.