The Shadehouse Area is a centrepiece of the Gardens and contains some of the most dramatic plant displays. It includes a display of Lord Howe Island plants arranged around a water feature, shadehouses and gardens beds full of orchids and bromeliads, and a display of carnivorous plants.
Lord Howe Island Plants
The Gardens' display of indigenous Lord Howe Island plants, opened in December 2002, is the only such display in mainland Australia. It includes Kentia palms and ferns characteristic of the island's rainforest environment.
The Bromeliad family (Bromeliaceae) is extremely diverse and grows in its habitat as both an epiphyte and as a terrestrial, frequently in the company of Orchids, Philodendrons and many other well known flora. Bromeliads range from the southern states of the USA through Central America, the Caribbean, and the countries of South America as far south as Argentina and Chile. All the South American countries number Bromeliads amongst their native flora.
Bromeliads have been in cultivation for centuries, with some species first used by the South American Indian as part of their diet. The edible form of Ananas comosus better known as the commercial pineapple is a much improved form of this original plant. Starting with Christopher Columbus the early European botanical explorers noted and collected many more species, which were transferred to the great private collections and botanical gardens in Europe where they were prized for their great beauty. In the twentieth century, the bromeliad remained popular in Europe, but it was the American botanists and collectors who advanced the cultivation of them by introducing many new species and abundant hybrids.
Click here for more information on the varieties of bromeliads and their cultivation.
The Gardens has an impressive display of bromeliads which demonstrates the diversity, beauty and adaptability of these plants. The plants are grown naturally in the shade of palms or under the natural eucalypt, angophora and banksia flora of the Gardens as well as in the Bromeliad Shade House.
The bromeliad display in the gardens is supported by the Hunter District Bromeliad Society.
The Orchid House displays Australian and exotic temperate orchids both ephiphytic and terrestrial in a landscaped setting.
The garden beds surrounding the Orchid House contain a variety of ferns and bromeliads. More orchids are to be seen here including Cymbidium hybrids as well as Australian Dendrobiums.
On entering the Orchid House, on the left are large plants of Phaius tankervilleae and Thunia marehalliana. Nearby are to be found Paphiopedilum insigne and Phragmipedium schroederii. On the right is a large plant of Laelia superbiens and another Phaius. The two Vandas near them are Vanda tricolor and V. denisoniana. Near the pool can be seen the Cymbidium species Cymbidium aloifolium and C. iridioides.
In front of these plants is the deciduous Chinese orchid Bletilla striata which flowers in spring and summer. Also deciduous are the Australian Pterostylis which are found on the opposite side of the House. These little gems flower in winter.
On the ground towards the back can be seen the summer flowering Australian Calanthe triplicata with its white flowers and pleated leaves.
The three dead trees have attached to them various genera: Australian epiphytic Dendrobiums, Indian Dendrobiums, Vandas, Laelias and a Pitcher Plant (Dionaea sp.).
The walls are hung with a variety of orchid genera: Australian and Asian Dendrobiums and their hybrids, Cattleya alliance, hybrids and species, and Coelogyne species.
The entry walls have climbing on them several different Hoya species.
At the back of the House are suspended baskets containing Stanhopeas, a curious genus whose inflorescences come through the growing medium displaying their bizarre shaped flowers below their basket.
During spring the spider like flowers of Brassia verrucosa and the small yellow and brown Oncidium sphacelatum can be found in several locations.
At any time of the year you can expect to find at least some orchids in flower here.
Carnivorous plants normally grow in waterlogged soils in which nitrogen and sometimes other nutrients are deficient. They have overcome this deficiency by evolving various means of trapping insects, which they then dissolve by secreting emzymes and absorbing them as food. This small collection contains the Venus Fly Trap Dionaea muscipula and the related genus Drosera which employ sticky exudates to snare their prey, and the pitcher plants, Sarracenia species, which use fluid containing traps produced fom modified leaves to catch insects, as well as some Bladderworts, Utricularia species.