How to TRANSFORM your garden in 10 steps

Is your garden looking tired and unloved? Perhaps you haven't had time or have just moved into a new space. Depending on what you’re starting with, some or all of these steps may apply to transform your garden. I’ll share below the 10 exact ways we transformed our Sydney courtyard garden .

How to transform your garden

When my husband Scott and I moved into our current townhouse the garden was running wild. It hadn’t been touched in about 6 months, and the weeds had well and truly taken over. Fortunately for us most of the plants were still alive, but boy was there a lot of work to do.

Lucky for me, Scott works as a landscaper so we attacked the project with a plan in mind. We managed to transform our garden in 10 simple steps. and create a green space we love and enjoy. 

1. Weed & Prune

garden before, full of weeds
a few established plants and weeds!

The first thing you need to do to transform your garden is remove any weeds and prune back any dead leaves or branches. Wear gloves and use a bucket to collect weeds before disposing of them in green waste. Be sure to dig deep to remove all the roots of the weeds. Hand weeding is the best way to remove weeds in an overgrown space so no damage is caused to surrounding plants that you may wish to keep.

More challenging weeds may need a chemical treatment. I’d suggest trying an organic weed killer over glyphosate based products (where possible). Be sure to follow any label instructions carefully when preparing weed killer chemicals and wear protective attire. Be mindful of spraying in windy weather, as spray drift could cause damage to surrounding plants. Painting on weed killer chemicals is preferable (where suitable).

It’s important to note that a weed is simply, any unwanted plant. If there is a plant or group of plants that you think don’t belong or suit the space, remove them and put them aside. You may find a spot for these plants later, otherwise they can be composted or placed into green waste.

When pruning, it best to prune back to a node or branch of new growth. You'll want to use clean and sharp secateurs or shears. Never remove more than ⅓ of a plant to ensure sufficient foliage remains for photosynthesis. Pruning should be done after fruiting and flowering has ceased unless the size of the plant warrants an immediate prune. Weeding and pruning promotes growth and encourages healthy plants.

2. Improve the soil

level the soil
level the garden & freshen the soil

Uneven soil, slopes and sinkholes can make a small garden look very messy and unkempt and overgrown spaces may have depleted soil nutrients. Once the weeds have been removed it’s a good idea to level the soil in the garden by adding more to areas that have weathered away or where plants have been removed.

Use a premium garden soil mix or compost to freshen the soil nutrients and fill holes and gaps. Soil may sink or settle once watered so if possible allow new soil to settle in the garden bed overnight before finishing the job.

3. Planting & Transplanting

Transplanting and adding a few new plants is a simple way to transform your garden. We removed a clump of spider plants that were filling up a sinkhole. We use them to create an entirely new border along the retaining wall rocks. Spider plants are often referred to as “weeds” because of their ability to reproduce quickly, however they are not currently listed on the noxious weeds list for our area (at the time of writing this post). We ensure to maintain them regularly by removing pups and either propagating or discarding them. Now these plants have established themselves we have created a beautiful outline for our tropical garden.

transplant, plant and spider plant border

During our clean up of the garden we also found a philodendron hiding in the back corner behind the compost bins that we thought was worth showing off. The plant only had one leaf so we transplanted it to the other side of the garden where there was a gap and now it’s got plenty of room it has sprung to life!

Be sure to consider the light and heat from the sun when moving plants to ensure their survival. We transplanted a few of our pot plants from our previous balcony garden. This immediately transformed the garden filling gaps so it looked more lush. Since then we have had added more plants and cuttings from friends gardens and plant swaps. In my opinion, a garden is never finished and will change and evolve with the gardener.

Once the garden started to come back to life we discovered a few challenges, including growing our veggies in the raised garden bed. Our improvements to the soil and maintenance of the garden helped many of the plants find their vigor and therefore shaded this area significantly. Instead of trying to relocate the entire raised garden bed, we just changed what we planted there and now its a thriving herb garden. 

the garden comes back to life

4. Screening

Want to cover up an ugly wall or fence? Need more privacy from your neighbours? Screening is a simple and cost effective way to transform the look of your garden. We opted for bamboo screening at 1.8m to cover up our old and ugly fence. It also served to help stop our inquisitive cat from jumping the fence or sneaking out through gaps in the old palings.

screen the fence

The impact you get from screening is astounding! We fixed the screen to the fence using a few nails and cut off excess screen using wire cutters. As we are renting, adding a bamboo screen was the best way to temporarily transform the look of the fence. If your budget allows you could also try a new coat of paint, stain or new fence entirely!

5. Mulch

Mulching your garden is important for two main reasons, the first is to help stop new weeds from surfacing (ensuring you hard work pays off!). The second is, mulch will help hold moisture in your garden soil. Another great thing about mulch is the variety of options available that can help transform your garden.

mulch

We chose to mulch with red wood chips for a contrast in colour. The red wood mulch really makes the beautiful green foliage pop against the bamboo backdrop now covering the fence, if we were to mulch this area again I would probably change and opt for a more neutral colour and something that would add additional nutrients to the soil like cypress wood chips.

You want to add a thick layer of mulch at least 50mm to ensure no light reaches the soil, any gaps where light can still get in will allow weeds to form. You may need to add additional mulch yearly or more as it will eventually break down and provide nutrients to your plants. Depending on the mulch you use and your garden some mulch may also get blown away in windy weather or kicked off by pets or wildlife.

6. Containers, Pots & Baskets

avid container gardener

Being an avid container gardener, I still had a number of pot plants to find homes for. Just because you have garden beds doesn’t mean you can’t add pot plants to your garden. Containers in the garden bed can add interest, height, variation and contrast depending on the colour, style and plant. With so much extra space we added a raised veggie garden and a few of our larger pots along the fence line. We also added a number of hanging baskets along the awning of the house for another dimension to the garden.

containers in the garden

The great thing about containers is they can be moved and rearranged with ease. Meaning you can change up the look of your space as you get new pots or plants. This garden has changed a lot since we first started, with new plants being added, more containers and regular rearranging. The main thing to remember with container gardening is that you are responsible for maintaining the nutrients and water. Container plants can’t access groundwater or microorganisms found in the garden, so it's important to use premium quality potting mix, fertilise and water regularly.

7. Stepping stones & Pathways 

Mulch directly under foot isn’t always the most comfortable thing to walk on, and as we built the raised garden bed towards the back of the garden close to the fence line, we decided stepping stone pavers would make it more easily accessible. We used 3 travertine pavers, dug into the mulch for stability. One of the challenges we eventually found was the Camellia Sasanqua overhead would drop huge amounts of petals when in flower, which covered the pavers making them very slippery. We decided a wooden deck walkway would be easier to maintain, and this is the pathway now.

pavers to the vege patch
wooden deck to the vege patch

The rest of the courtyard is covered in brick pavers, we are yet to transform these but a few choices could be; pull up the pavers and install wooden decking over the top, painting the pavers, or completely re-paving. We used a gurney to clean the pavers right up and then applied a path weeder to stop new weeds from forming in the cracks. If you have slippery areas in your paving that might be more damp or moss covered, wet and forget is a great product to help solve this challenge. 

8. Furniture

outdoor furniture is essential to enjoy your outdoor space

Outdoor furniture is a must have for any garden to be enjoyed. Our bench seats and table begun centered in the largest open space of our garden. I also use a plant stand shelf to house many of our  succulent pots and a bench Scott made to add height for smaller pots and planters.

Recently, we added a fire pit to this space and moved the benches and table. This has helped us enjoy the garden even in winter. With the seats now under cover, it also means I don’t have to worry so much about wet seat cushions. The view from the bench seats allows us to enjoy the whole garden. These benches will move in different seasons and when we are entertaining.

9. Lights 

lights in the garden

Enjoy your garden at any time of day by lighting it up with solar garden lights, either stuck into the soil to light up your favourite plants or hang fairy lights from above for alfresco dining or that evening drink. I’ve also added a few candle lanterns, hanging in the trees. You could try a combination like I have for a bright outdoor oasis. Adding lights can really transform your garden at night. 

light up the garden with fairy lights, lanterns and a firepit

10. Statues, Ornaments, Wall Art & Wall Planters 

wall planters
ornaments, wall art and wall planters

Statues and ornaments can add whimsy and interest to your garden and create a theme for your space. Choose earthy colours and tones, or liven things up with bright and bold items. The theme in our garden started earthy and eastern, accented by a Buddha statue.

buddah in the garden

We recently were gifted some frangipani wall art which has added a pop of colour to the fence, but ties in nicely with our tropical theme. Scott has also constructed several timber frames which I have affixed plants to and hung on various walls. These really help to green the whole space and the timber helps to tie everything together.

the garden grows
a summer afternoon in the garden
a full and lush garden in autumn

And that’s it, our garden has continued to transform over the year and a half we have lived here. These 10 ways to transform your garden are exactly what we did to create our green sanctuary. What do you think? Tell me in the comments below how you have transformed your small space garden. 

Let me help you create a green space you will love. 

Did you know Our Green Sanctuary now offers Plant Consulting? We can help you create a green space you will love. What is a Plant consult? I'll ask you questions related to the area you'd like to plant out, like; sunlight, climate & size of the space. Then I'll ask you questions about your lifestyle, desire for upkeep & functionality for your family & pets. I'll then select plants that I think fit within these requirements and offer you a detailed list. From there, I offer additional services including; plant sourcing, design & installation. 

I work with your budget and style, offering advice to help create your green sanctuary.Click below to book your Plant Consult today!

Top 10 tropical plants for around the pool

Top 10 tropical plants for around the pool

Top 10 tropical plants for around the pool

Understanding which tropical plants to choose for your pool area means understanding the environment. The pool creates a warmer microclimate but in Sydney you still need cold-tolerant plants. Around a pool area, plants should be tidy, low maintenance and people-friendly.

New Zealand flax (Phormium)

New Zealand flax (Phormium)

Featuring striking colours from light green to russet bronze and sometimes striped, Phormium have long broad strappy leaves, these tropical grassy plants are low maintenance and drought tolerant once established. Remove older leaves as required and cut back halfway every 4 years. Suitable for full sun positions Phormium can be used as a feature plant with varieties growing up to 1m, and is very well suited to our Sydney climate.

Origin: New Zealand and Norfolk Island

Size: H 1-3m W 1m

Light: Full sun to part shade

Soil: fertile & very well draining soil is required

Cost: $29.95 per 200mm pot

Cordylines

Cordyline is a genus of about 15 species of woody stemmed grassy plants. Available in striking colours & patterns, these strappy leafed plants have sun tolerant and shade loving varieties suitable for most tropical gardens. Shade varieties such as cordyline rubra compliments palms beautifully with contrasting colours adding interest to a tropical landscape. Sun tolerant cordyline varieties such as “Electric Flash” and “electric pink” add bright pops of colour. Cordylines can develop woody stems, if these aren't to your taste, simply chop the tops off and replant. Cordylines are otherwise relatively low maintenance & can be drought tolerant once established.
Origin: Native to Western Pacific Ocean region: New Zealand, Australia, Polynesia, Asia and South America
Size: H 2-2.5m W 1m
Light: Full sun to full shade depending on the variety
Soil: fertile & very well draining soil is required
Cost: $29.95 per 200mm pot 

False cardamom (Alpinia nutans)

The lush dense foliage of False Cardamom the evergreen ginger, is fantastic for filling mid-ground spaces in tropical or subtropical gardens. Another great feature of the plant is the spicy fragrance of the foliage. A simple plant to care for, all it will need is a tidy up twice a year. Cut older stems back to the ground, remove dead leaves and flowers.
Origin: Native to New Zealand, Australia, Polynesia, Asia and South America
SIze: H 1-1.5m
Light: Full sun to full shade depending on the variety
Soil: Fertile, well drained soil.
Cost: $29.95 per 200mm pot 

Liriopes

Arching clumps of shiny, slim, strappy foliage, featuring tight tall lavender flower stems from the centre of the plant. The dark green grass is offers simple elegance and will compliment the tropical garden foliage. Perfect for borders or in clumps, Liriope loves the shade but tolerates some sun. A simple plant to care for, remove dead flowers and cut back damaged foliage, trim to ground level yearly to maintain growth. A very tolerant plant in many climates and conditions through drought tolerance, wet feet and frost.
Origin: Native to East Asia
SIze: H 30 - 80cm W 30 - 60cm
Light: Part sun to full shade
Soil: Moist, well drained soil with reasonable fertility.
Cost: $19.95 per 200mm pot 

Clivia miniata

Broad strappy deep green leaves spray outwards forming clumps of green foliage. Trumpets of orange, cream or red flowers sit atop green stalks appearing in late winter and early spring. Low water in winter and generally low maintenance, keep mulched and well watered in the warm months. Suitable for mild conditions, protect from frost and extreme cold, planting in shaded conditions under trees. Use in borders or clumps, and best mass planted.
Origin: South Africa
Size: H 50cm W 50cm
Light: Dappled morning sun, shade
Soil: fertile & very well draining soil is required
Cost: $29.95 per 200mm pot 

Justicia carnea

The Brazilian Plume Flower features Pink or white flowers from early summer to late autumn, and may spot-flower in winter. A soft wooded shrub to 1.5m with large lush leaves and a rewarding plant, simple to care for requiring a light trim after flowering. A tough plant but may be pruned back hard - even to ground level if required. It will flourish in sun and still flowers in shade, tolerant of Sydney's hot summers and cold winters.

Origin: Native to New Zealand, Australia, Polynesia, Asia and South America

SIze: H 90-120cm

Light: Full sun to full shade depending on the variety

Soil: Moist, well drained soil with reasonable fertility.

Cost: $29.95 per 200mm pot

Bird of Paradise

Nothing says tropical quite like Bird of paradise. There are a few varieties of bird of paradise including my personal favourite Strelitzia nicolai, along with Strelitzia reginae and Strelitzia juncea. Featuring unique long lasting bird shaped blooms and large grey to green leaves, these low maintenance plants can be planted in containers or in large garden beds. Use as a feature plant or to create a feature part of your garden by double or triple planting with Strelitzia nicolai.
Origin: Native to South Africa
SIze: H 6m W 3.5m
Light: Full sun to part shade depending on the variety
Water: Moderate
Soil: Moist, well drained soil with reasonable fertility.
Cost: $29.95 per 200mm pot 

Rhapis excelsa 

Large fanned glossy, green palmate leaves, deeply divided into broad, ribbed segments, like fingers. Clumping bamboo like stems, wrapped in a protective fibrous sheath where new foliage emerges. They are relatively cold tolerant and can be grown outdoors in subtropical or warm temperate climates. Also suitable for indoors and listed by NASA as one of the top air purifying plants. This palm is great to use as a specimen plant or to create a lush screen. The Rhapis palm is a low maintenance plant with only the occasional brown leaf to remove.
Origin: China and Japan.
Size: H 3-4m W 1-2m
Light: Bright indirect light, shade
Water: Moderate
Soil: Moist, Well draining
Cost: $49.95 per 200mm pot 

Bangalow Palm (Archontophoenix cunninghamiana)

A Native to Australian the Bangalow Palm is found along the east coast of Australia in QLD and NSW. A single stem palm is sometimes sold in multiple plants per pot with bright green leaves on paler stems. Growing to a mature height of 30m and trunk width 30cm in diameter bangalow is cold tolerant but not frost tolerant. Requiring little maintenance but a good water supply during the growing season.Fertilise with a palm-specific fertiliser. Bangalow Palm can also be grown as a pot plant or planted in the ground to reach maturity.
Origin: Australia
Size: H 30 m W 2.5m
Light: Full sun to part shade
Water: Moderate
Soil: Moist, Well draining and fertile soil.
Cost: $29.95 per 200mm pot 

Golden Cane Palm (Dypsis Lutescens) 

Sun tolerant and clumping the golden cane palm is named for its yellow stems and sometimes golden foliage which arches in long pinnate fronds, appearing much greener in the shade. A good screening plant, the golden cane palm creates shade with dense foliage providing that lush look and tropical vibe to any pool area. Can be planted in containers but will do best when grouped with other plants as golden cane doesn't love the cold. Feed in the warmer months and maintain by removing dead fronds.
Origin: Madagascar
Size: H 8 m W 2.5m
Light: Full sun to part shade
Water: Moderate
Soil: Moist, Well draining and fertile soil.
Cost: $19.95 per 200mm pot 

The best way to maintain a tropical garden with these plants is simply feed and water regularly during the warmer months but keep much drier over winter to prevent root rot and other fungal diseases. Clean up dead or damaged foliage and flowers. The majority of this work can be done once a month.

What are your favourite plants for around the pool? Drop them in the comments below! 

Can plant care teach us self-care?

I’ve reflected on my experiences as a houseplant parent and how caring for my plants has taught me to care for myself.

I started creating my green sanctuary about five years ago. But in the last year I’ve been studying horticulture and my love affair with plants has become a true passion. Plants calm me, soothe me and invigorate me to learn about them and understand them.

So how did houseplants help me discover self care? 

In my previous blog post I explored two of the major benefits of houseplants: their ability to clean the air and remove toxins and how they improve our wellbeing. 

Since then I’ve researched more articles and discovered through numerous studies that plants offer so much more. I realised that I’ve experienced all the benefits houseplants have to offer and that's why I keep coming back for more! So let me break down how caring for my plants taught me to care for myself. 

Tending for plants helps us tend to ourselves

Plants help me remain calm and stay focused, improving my concentration and memory. I keep plants in every room of my house. This alleviates stress, anxiety and helps me keep a tidy space so I can always access and enjoy my plants. When caring for my plants I am focused on the task and my mind is calm as I go through the motions of checking and watering. I am not bothered with other things in my mind. 

Plants make people happy 

Happiness from plants can come in many different ways. I enjoy looking at plants, buying plants, potting plants, caring for plants, learning about plants, propagating plants and most of all, watching plants grow.

Did you know? Plants used in schools have proven to help children focus and learn, and plants in offices are found to increase productivity and overall happiness at work.

Speaking of routine, plants love it too! Once a week on a Sunday I ensure to check all my plants for water, and water them if required. I look for bugs, signs of stress and new growth and deal with any nasties I find. When I have a routine with my plants they are happier and well cared for, which reminds me to stick to my other routines so I’m happy and well cared for too. Doing this on a Sunday helps me set myself up for a great week, when my plants are tidy, my house is tidy, and I’m ready to start the week.

Plants help us heal 

Spending time with plants is therapeutic. I am constantly surrounded by greenery and I know I’m a healthier person because of it. I feel less anxious, have not had a panic attack, and can better manage my mood and stress. Living and working with plants has been the best medicine I could ask for. 

Did you know? Horticultural therapy is a well respected field that has been adopted by hospitals, and various health and wellness institutions worldwide. Therapy gardens have been used to assist people with sense impairment, learning difficulties, mental illness and those recovering from trauma and experiencing memory loss.

Plants also have many valuable medicinal properties including two of my favourites Aloe Vera and Lavender.

Caring for my plants reminds me to take it slow, have a break and do things for myself. As my plants grow and change I’m reminded to check in with myself too. As the seasons change I am aware and in the moment, caring for plants helps me stay present. 

My plant passion has lead me on an amazing journey of healing and self discovery. After finding joy in caring for plants, I decided to work in the field and soon I will be providing regular houseplant workshops to the public to encourage others to start their own journey into healthy living with plants.

What have plants taught you?

Tell us in the comments below!

Rachel 

Our Green Sanctuary

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How to add Houseplants to your home & office. 

How to choose the right houseplant for your space

Now you know houseplants are great for your health, and are a super easy way to style your space, so how do you choose the right houseplant? Selecting the perfect houseplant for your space takes some consideration, so I’m going to share with you the top things to consider when choosing the right houseplant for your space. 

LIGHT

Why is light important for houseplants? Plants need light to grow. For houseplants light is essentially their food. The process of plants eating light is called photosynthesis. Plants take the energy they receive from sunlight, carbon dioxide they absorb from the air and water and turn it into carbohydrates which they use to grow and release oxygen.

If plants do not receive adequate light then they may not be able to photosynthesise. 

Adequate light requirements may differ between houseplants, as some plants can handle less light than others. You can read about my top 10 low light houseplants here

Houseplants are often found next to large windows, in bright indirect or filtered light. Most houseplants will tolerate direct morning sun however, hot direct afternoon sun is not generally recommended. 

When choosing where to put your houseplants, consider that the further a houseplant is away from a window, the less likely it will receive enough light. Keeping houseplants in windowless rooms will only be successful when providing the plant with a substantial artificial grow light. 

SIZE

How big is the space you have for houseplants? Plants come in many shapes and sizes which may change and increase over time. After all, they are a living thing! Consider the size of your space when selecting appropriate houseplants. You may wish to style a collection of small houseplants with shelving or plant stands, or fill an empty corner with a larger plant in a basket such as a Kentia palm. 

Take into account the maximum size in height and spread of the houseplant, and whether its slow growing or not. Be aware, grow time will also be relative to the conditions the plant is kept in. Strelitzia nicolai - Bird of Paradise is a stunning houseplant which can quickly grow in excess of 2 metres high and 1 metre spread indoors. 

Hanging planters and macrame plant hangers are also an effective way to display plants and are perfect for small spaces. Climbing and trailing house plants such as hoyas, syngoniums and some philodendrons are great choices.  

TEMPERATURE & AIRFLOW

Is it getting hot in here? Many houseplants are tropical in nature and require warm and humid environments to thrive. You will need to consider the temperature and airflow of the area you choose for your houseplants and take into account any doors or windows where a cool breeze could pass through. Fluctuations in temperature due to artificial heating and cooling will also have an effect on houseplants. For very dry areas, you may find a humidifier will be beneficial to your houseplants. 

Houseplants such as Calathea species are particularly affected by unsatisfactory temperature and humidity and often require a pebble tray or humidifier to increase the humidity in a space. This can be indicated by brown tips on the edges of a plants leaves. 

TIP: What is a pebble tray? 

A pebble tray is simply a tray filled with pebbles and covered in water. Place underneath or nearby plants that require increased humidity. The water will need to be topped up regularly in order for humidity to be created.

Brown tips on your houseplants are a sign their environment needs changing. Light, temperature and water all in play. Under or over watering are often the issue so always use the finger test when watering your plants.

Placing houseplants by large windows can assist in providing the best environment for your plants as the window should provide adequate light. 

Grouping plants together can assist in creating humidity, and grouping plants that have similar water requirements makes watering day so much easier! 

GO SHOPPING

This is the best part! The lush green walls of plants… Don’t get distracted! When you purchase your plant, take note of the environment it is kept in. A nursery or garden centre should keep its plants in their optimal environment so they look great to sell. Are they outside in the direct sun? Or shaded under cover? Houseplants will be where the plants are either indoors or under cover. Be aware most plant shops don't grow their own plants and advice can vary so, don't be afraid to ask questions and do your own research. 

What do you look for when choosing a houseplant for your space? 

Tell us in the comments below!

Rachel 

Our Green Sanctuary

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Dig in! Houseplant advice straight to your inbox.

Simple gardening advice for houseplant enthusiasts.



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How to add Houseplants to your home & office. 

What is so good about houseplants?

What is so good about houseplants? Why do plants make people happy? They certainly make me happy, so I decided to find out. 

There’s actually tons of recent research that puts science behind the reasons people love placing plants in their homes.

Plants have the power to improve health & wellbeing.  

So what's the science? 

Research on the benefits of plants for health and wellbeing has been carried out over numerous studies for the last 50 years. Of the more famous, is the NASA clean air study which was first published in 1989. More recently, Horticulture Innovation Australia in conjunction with RMIT University and University of Melbourne reviewed over 100 studies on the subject and concluded, there is evidence plants provide two major benefits:

Improved air quality

Improved wellbeing

More and more of the population live in an urban environment and are spending up to 90% of their time indoors.  We as Humans have an innate connection with nature, which is sometimes ignored in our day to day lives.  A simple small group of plants can liven the dullest of spaces, and make even the tiniest apartment feel more like home. 

So how do plants improve air quality? 

Indoor plants can reduce air pollutants and Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) by 75-90% 

VOC’s are compounds that readily become vapors or gasses. Examples include benzene, formaldehyde and trichloroethylene. These compounds can be be found in various household items including:

Household chemicals & cleaning products

Paints

Furniture finishes 

There is still a common misconception among the general public that plants shouldn't be kept indoors because they think plants take oxygen out of a room. I can tell you, this is definitely not the case, all plants release oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide.

Essentially, the level of improvement in air quality depends on the type and size of the plant.

You can read about NASA’s widely published study defining their top 10 plants for improving air quality here.

How do plants help to improve wellbeing?

Wellbeing can be defined as the state of feeling comfortable, healthy or happy.

Evoking feelings of relaxation, inspiration and positivity.

According to the research completed for plant life balance, the total number of plants combined with the variety of plants is the key to offering these benefits. 

I think I've got a pretty great balance below. 

Our Green Sanctuary

This space is our green sanctuary, and thats me. 

I often sit on the couch and stare at this awesome collection of plants. I've taken the living room quite literally! There are 39 plants in this space. 

So how many is too many?

If you search anything related to plants on instagram  you'll find there’s millions of homes and apartments filled to the brim with plants. Georgina Read from The Planthunter says “Go wild with plants”. I love this sentiment and agree wholeheartedly.

I suggest starting with one and growing your collection gradually. Once you develop a routine of watering and maintaining your plants, having your own indoor garden will be providing great benefits. 

Not sure where to start?

Georgina Read and the Planthunter crew worked with Horticulture Innovation Australia to add a bit of style to this research into a new app plant life balance. The app combines the research with a virtual reality interface for the user to style plants in their space. It can even generate a plant list the user can save to refer to at their local nursery.

The research panel created a simple rule of thumb to help people get started adding plants to their homes. 

1 medium size plant increases air quality in the average room by 25%

5 plants of various species and sizes leads to significantly increased wellbeing 

Plant life balance also offers eleven different themed looks like the one below, to help inspire the would be houseplant enthusiast. 

Plant life balance Jungle Vibes

Are you convinced? 

Ready to start creating your own urban jungle and styling your home with plants? You are in the right place. Below you’ll find a link to join our newsletter, links to other blog posts and above use the site navigation links for plant profiles and more. 

We’re here to help you with simple gardening advice for house plant enthusiasts. 

Got a question? Drop it in the comments below. 

Rachel 

Our Green Sanctuary

Greenify your life!

Dig in! Houseplant advice straight to your inbox.

Simple gardening advice for houseplant enthusiasts.



Get your copy of the houseplant cheatsheet now! Simply enter your name and email below and we'll send you the link to download your free copy now. 


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How to add Houseplants to your home & office. 

My five favourite palms for indoors

I love palms, so I’m sharing the love with my five favourite indoor palms. I’ll share care tips for each palm & links to their plant profiles! For me, palms are the perfect indoor plant. Their feathery foliage, large long leaves or fanned varieties, evoke tropical vibes & ooze luxury. They are relatively easy care, all requiring a very bright room & regular water (when the top 3cm of soil is dry). These beautiful plants really give off those jungle vibes we love styling our home in and come in all sizes suitable for your space. Meet my five favourite palms for indoors. 

Howeia fosteriana - Kentia palm 

move plants to where they will receive the most light

This was my first & is my favourite indoor palm, I repotted it when I bought it and it has grown beautifully filling the corner of my living room. Native to Lorde Howe Island, this palm is grown for its large foliage.

Bright indirect light,

morning sun 

Water when dry,

ensure good drainage 

Fertilise during active growth, Spring, Summer & Autumn

Height 1.8-3m 

Spread 1.5-2.4m 

Mist spray for humidity

Rhapis excelsa - Lady Palm

I love the fanned leaflets on this broadleaf palm, it’s unique shape adds character to my plant collection. It has bamboo like stems, and finger like leaves in deep green. This palm is native to China and Japan. 

Bright indirect light,

morning sun 

Water when dry,

ensure good drainage 

Fertilise during active growth, Spring, Summer & Autumn

Height 2-4m 

Spread 2m 

Mist spray for humidity

Chamaedorea elegans - Parlour palm

The smallest of all my favourite indoor palms, the parlour palm is simply adorable. Its perfect grouped with other plants on a low table or when mature on a stand or side table. Native to Mexico & Guatemala.

Bright filtered light,

morning sun 

Water when barely moist,

ensure good drainage 

Fertilise during active growth, Spring, Summer & Autumn

Height 0.45-1.2m 

Spread 45-75cm 

Mist spray for humidity

Chamaedorea Cataractarum or Altroviren - Cascade palm

The very soft and feathery pinnate leaves of this palm will soften a room & exude elegance. Grown for its beautiful dark green foliage this palm is native to southern Mexico and Central America.

Bright indirect light,

morning sun or full shade

Water when dry,

ensure good drainage 

Fertilise during active growth, Spring, Summer & Autumn

Height 1-2m 

Spread 1-2m 

Mist spray for humidity

Chamaedorea erumpens - Bamboo palm 


The most recent addition to my collection, the leaflets on this palm are what it’s all about. Clusters of bamboo like canes form the tall stems with dark green pinnate leaves some thick and others feathery thin. Native to Guatemala and Honduras.

Bright filtered light,

morning sun 

Water when barely moist,

ensure good drainage 

Fertilise during active growth, Spring, Summer & Autumn

Height 1.5-3m 

Spread 0.75-1.2m 

Mist spray for humidity

Do you have a favourite palm?

Tell us in the comments below!

Rachel 

Our Green Sanctuary

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How to repot a new houseplant

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It’s so easy an 8 year old can do it!

If you‘re like me and enjoy your houseplants in matching pots, you may need to know how to repot a new houseplant. This weekend I was fortunate to have a visit from my awesome sister and her kids. My 8 year old niece Leah offered to help me repot a few of my houseplants from their plastic nursery pots, into new plastic & glazed clay pots. Leah has just sparked an interest in plants & was keen to get her hands dirty, we had a lot of fun. Below are the simple steps we took to repot the houseplants and what we used. 

What we used to repot a new houseplant

Before we got started I gathered all the items together that we needed to use onto a sheet of black plastic for easy clean up.

  • Gloves
  • Premium potting mix 
  • Spade 
  • Pot of choice, should be slightly larger than the nursery pot 
  • Seasol diluted in a watering can 

Now we were ready to repot the new houseplants. 

New to indoor gardening? Grab a tool kit like the one above here.

What we did to repot a new houseplant 

First Leah placed some premium potting mix in the base of the new pot. She was very enthusiastic and asked questions along the way. I felt very privileged to share my passion with her. 

The new pot is only slightly larger than the nursery pot which is good because this plant doesn’t have a large root ball.

A lot of the existing soil from the nursery pot fell away from the roots so I was able to easily see that they were white and very healthy.

I held the plant in place in the new pot while Leah added fresh potting mix to fill the pot.

I also mixed in some of the existing mix from the original pot. 

We gently patted down the mix to make sure the pot had enough soil. We left about 3cm from the soil to the top of the pot. 

We repotted a few more plants and I showed Leah what to look for when repotting a new houseplant.

Tips for repotting houseplants 

If a plant is potted up to an oversized pot the extra soil can hold additional moisture the plants roots may not use which in turn can encourage root rot.

Here is an example of one that I showed Leah. It's pot was too big for the size of the plant

This plant is a Sansevieria which prefers to fill the pot before repotting up one size, as you can see there is a lot of soil and minimal roots, so we moved it to a smaller pot. 

Pot up plants by one to two sizes.

This Sansevieria has plenty of roots. 

So we potted it up one size larger from its nursery pot to one of my matching indoor pots. 

All newly potted plants need to be watered in, we added seasol to our watering can which is a soil conditioner derived from seaweed that aids plants in stress and helps avoid transplant shock in newly potted plants.  

Leah and I managed to repot 5 houseplants and pot up a whole load of Kentia palm seedlings gifted from a friends garden. I'll share that story here soon. 

Special thanks to my sister Merilyn for the fantastic images & Leah for being an awesome helper. 

Do you have any tips for repotting new houseplants? 

Tell us in the comments below!

Rachel 

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7 best houseplants for your bedroom

Disclosure: Some of the links below are affiliate links, which simply means, if you make a purchase through a link you have clicked on, I may receive a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Are you looking for the best houseplants for your bedroom?  Adding houseplants to your bedroom is a great way to create a calm & relaxing oasis for sleeping in. Plants not only filter toxins from the air, some plants also release oxygen at night giving you a better nights rest. Your bedroom will be your own green sanctuary providing a tranquil place to rest and recharge at the end of your day. I’ll share with you which houseplants are the best for your bedroom and why.  

1. Snake Plant - Sansevieria

Sansevieria

A perfect bedroom plant, Sansevieria is easy to care for and can handle medium and low light positions. All this plant needs is a well drained pot of soil & water every few weeks. This structural & strappy leafed plant releases oxygen at night and filters out some common household toxins such as formaldehyde, trichloroethylene and benzene. You can place your Sansevieria species on a side table or dresser making it a perfect match for the bedroom. 

2. Devil's Ivy - Epipremnum aureum 

Epipremnum aureum

Another exceptional air purifying plant the Devils Ivy is listed on NASA’s top air purifying plants for filtering toxins such as formaldehyde, benzene and xylene. Devils Ivy prefers to stay on the dry side requiring water every week or so, less in winter. It will climb or trail, making it great for bedroom hanging planters like these Macrame Plant Hangers.

3. Aloe Vera 

aloe vera

Aloe Vera is another plant that emits oxygen, and it does it all the time. Also a succulent, the aloe vera plant stores water in its leaves and therefore has very low water requirements. Aloe plants can be small, but also reproduces very quickly in the right conditions so soon you may have Aloe plants for all areas of your home. It grows best in direct sunlight so you’ll need a bright window sill for this one. 

4. English Ivy - Hedera helix 

hedera helix english ivy

This gorgeous trailing plant has small dark green leaves that look great trailing down from a shelf, or climbing over a bedhead. Requiring moderate light and regular water English ivy is another awesome air purifying plant. English ivy filters four major toxins from the air: formaldehyde, trichloroethylene, benzene and xylene. Do note this plant is also toxic if eaten by humans and pets.

5. Peace Lily - Spathiphyllum 

Spathiphyllum

Peace lily is a common houseplant for a few great reasons, it’s beautiful, easy to care for and is one of the best air purifying plants around. Adapting to moderate and low light conditions, the Peace lily does need a bright position in order to flower. Its long deep green leaves shiny and erect, will droop & appear dull when the plant is thirsty. Eliminating all five major toxins from the air including ammonia the peace lily will create an ambient space in your bedroom for a calm sleep. The Peace lily should be kept out of reach of pets and small children. 

6. Corn Plant - Dracena fragrans ‘Massageana’ 

Dracena fragrans

Dracena is one of my favourite houseplants. I love the height and colours of Dracena fragrans, and its air purifying ability made it the perfect choice for our bedroom. The Dracena’s large long leaves sit atop the tree trunk and are some of the most interesting in my collection. A great height for an indoor tree, the Dracena fills the space and warms the corner of the bedroom. The Dracena easily handles low light and has low water requirements. 

7. ZZ plant - Zamioculcas zamiifolia

zz plant

The ZZ plant or Zanzibar gem is one of the easiest care plants around. A perfect beginner plant or plant for the lazy houseplant lover, the ZZ plant stores water in its stem and will go without water for a whole month. Clusters of upright succulent green stems littered with pairs of leaves make this plant perfect for side tables and tall boys. Greenify your bedroom with the best bedroom plant for beginners. 

7 best houseplants for your bedroom

Now you know which houseplants are best for your bedroom you can choose the right one’s for your space! Keep in mind the toxicity of some houseplants if you have pets or children. Don’t forget to regularly dust your leaves to make sure your plant can do its job. Check out my houseplant care tips for more ideas. 

What houseplants live in your bedroom?

Tell us in the comments below!

Rachel 

Our Green Sanctuary

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How do you know if your plant needs a new pot?

how do you know if your plant needs a new pot

How do you know if your plant needs a new pot?| July 2018
|Our Green Sanctuary Blog

Don’t feel daunted if your plant needs a new pot. Without speaking about a particular plant, most houseplants will require repotting every 6-12 months. So, how do you know when your plant needs a new pot? There are a few signs your houseplant needs a new pot, and depending on how fast your plants grow, will determine how often repotting is required. I’ll take you through the main indicators your houseplant needs a new pot and offer a few tips along the way.

My first tip is, where possible, repot your house plants in spring. The roots will then actively grow into their new soil, and this will minimise the risk of transplant shock. What is transplant shock you might ask? If your plant shows signs of stress after transplanting it may be experiencing transplant shock. This could include wilting, so ensure not to overwater newly potted plants.

This is my parents Dracena, the plant had stalled growing and was looking quite sad.

How do you know if your plant needs a new pot?

To determine when your plant needs a new pot, consider the following:

How often do you need to water the plant? Plants which are thirsty can indicate its time for repotting, as the roots are taking up most of the room in the pot, there is less soil to hold moisture.

An easy way to determine whether a plant is ready for a new pot, is by looking at the soil at the top of the pot for signs of roots. You can move or scrape the soil at the top of the pot and feel any roots that have moved to the surface. Can you see roots growing through the holes in the bottom or showing at the surface of the soil? Roots showing in these areas is a clear indication the plant is becoming pot bound and should be repotted as soon as possible. 

Does the plant appear to have stopped or stalled growing? This will be less obvious in winter, but during the growing season if your plant seems to stall or growth has slowed even with regular fertiliser and the right care. 

roots on the surface of the soil

Can you see the veiny roots on the surface of the soil?

Choose the right container.

Choosing the right container for your pot is an important consideration before repotting.

You will need to think about:

The size of the container. Don’t pot up into a container too large as the plant may look out of balance and the extra soil will hold additional moisture 

this container has two drainage holes

This container has two drainage holes

It's about one and a half times larger than the current container

It's about one and a half times larger than the current container.

Sometimes you may find a plant has been in a pot for a little too long and is starting to or has become root bound. In this case, it’s definitely best to repot the plant into a pot 1 and a half, to 2 times larger than the original container. If the roots are really bound, gently tease or cut to separate them so they continue to grow into the new pot, I would suggest to check youtube for some advice about your particular plant if this is the case. 

The roots are quite bound

The roots are quite bound

So I used this tool to help separate them

So I used this tool to help separate them.

I gently teased out some roots to encourage growth

I gently teased out some roots to encourage growth.

What material is the container is made of? I usually choose lightweight containers for my house plants so they are easy for me to move when watering and taking photos. Terracotta containers can also help dry out soil quicker, so may not be suitable for all houseplants. There is also specialised potting mix you can purchase for terracotta containers.

Another reason I repot my plants is because I want them to look good in my home! The colour and style of the container should be of your preference. The container should suit the plant size, style and your home decor. 

Why should you repot your plants?

Often when you bring home a new plant from the nursery, garden centre or wherever you buy your plants, it may need repotting. It’s good to repot new plants for a few reasons. You can check the plants roots and see if they are healthy, free from root rot and any disease.  You can also ensure the soil is free from bugs and plant your new houseplant in premium potting mix to give it all the nutrients, fertilizers & trace elements it needs to keep blooming and growing. 

We lined the base with fresh potting mix before transplanting

We lined the base with fresh potting mix before transplanting.

Speaking of potting mix.

The soil you use when repotting is definitely an important factor. Specialised potting mixes are available for a variety of houseplants and should be used where available. Alternatively, premium potting mix has all the nutrients, fertilizers & trace elements for great all round plant health. Always add fresh soil in with the existing plant soil when repotting. I don’t recommend recycling soil in case of disease, I add any used soil to the compost heap and recycle it for the garden. 

Finally fertilise & water.

If you follow all the steps above, you might also like to fertilize your newly potted plant. A new pot provides room for growth, so feeding up your plant with a suitable liquid plant food or slow release fertiliser will encourage your plant to grow.

So now you know what to look for when your plant needs a new pot, and what to consider when repotting, I’ll share the final rule for potting up a plant. Always water your plant as soon as it has been repotted. This is important for two reasons, firstly it will stimulate the roots so they grow into their new home, and secondly it will compact the soil into the pot so you’ll know if you need to add a bit extra. 

After repotting and a drink, I removed all the damaged foliage. My parents were very happy!

After repotting and a drink, I removed a lot of the damaged foliage. My parents were very happy!

Repotting your houseplants is a fairly simple process. If you remember the tips above, your houseplants will continue to flourish year after year. 

How often do you repot your houseplants?

Share your tips in the comments below!

Rachel 

Our Green Sanctuary

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12 Day Tropical North Queensland Rainforest Road Trip

12 Day Tropical North Queensland Rainforest Road Trip

12 Day Tropical North Queensland Rainforest Road Trip|
July 2018 | Our Green Sanctuary Blog

Strap yourself in, this one is a long one. I’m about to take you on a journey through the tropical rainforests of North Queensland. A stunning and inspiring landscape of open roads and amazing scenery. Grab yourself a warm beverage & find somewhere comfortable to sit as I immerse you in an aussie road trip adventure. 

Millaa Millaa road trip

Our road trip through Millaa Millaa 

We spent 12 days traversing national parks, exploring rainforests and driving through stunning landscapes. We gorged on delicious pub food, slept in motels & hotels and swam in roadside swimming holes. We saw so many species of tropical plants thriving in their natural habitats, we ventured through rainforests, by waterfalls and even met a crocodile on the way. If you love the outdoors, don’t mind the heat & enjoy a bit of adventure, then you’ll love North Queensland. 

Daintree Rainforest

Daintree Rainforest

D A Y  O N E:
C A I R N S

We started the trip flying into Cairns from Sydney, spending one night at the Palm Royale. A little out from the main esplanade, the hotel provides two huge swimming pools and a bus service in case you don’t hire a car.

view from the spa, the pools & gardens - Palm Royale Cairns

View from the spa, the pools & gardens - Palm Royale Cairns

We walked around the esplanade in the evening after catching up for lunch with friends at Wharf ONE Cafe. The view from there is stunning, I definitely recommend walking along the boardwalk and enjoying the waterfront and garden landscape. 

Bromeliads are epiphytes all over palm trees in Cairns and surrounds

Bromeliads are epiphytes all over palm trees in Cairns and surrounds

D A Y  T W O:
C A I R N S-P O R T   D O U G L A S

After a night in Cairns we headed to the Skyrail, a cableway that travels across the Atherton Tableland Rainforest to Kuranda,  a quaint village in the rainforest. We purchased tickets on arrival for a return trip coming back on the Kuranda scenic railway.

Our cable car travelled over the top of the rainforest - Atherton tableland Queensland

Our cable car travelled over the top of the rainforest - Atherton tableland Queensland

During our journey on the Skyrail we stopped to explore the middle of the rainforest, walking on a short guided tour through the giant trees littered with birds nest ferns - epiphytes.  

The Atherton table land is Australia's oldest rainforest

The Atherton table land is Australia's oldest rainforest

Insects camouflage on the tree bark

Insects camouflage on the tree bark

On the second stop we viewed Barron Falls, a massive hydroelectric waterfall before crossing just metres above the treetops and arriving in Kuranda.

After a short stroll down to the markets, we stopped for lunch at a rainforest view restaurant where the view was exactly as promised.

With full bellies we took a leisurely bushwalk back to the railway station, it was beautiful & truly showed off what a visit to the North is all about.

Fan palms in Kuranda - Atherton tableland

Fan palms in Kuranda - Atherton tableland

Variety of palms in Kuranda - Atherton tableland

Variety of palms in Kuranda - Atherton tableland

The train ride back offered a different perspective. The journey was accompanied by a pre-recorded narration presenting a historic recount of the early life in the area & detailing the building of the railway tunnels. A captivating story which greatly enhanced the experience.  

Kuranda scenic railway

Kuranda scenic railway

Along the journey the landscape shared the deep floors and valleys of the rainforest, climbers and understory ferns and a close up with a stunning waterfall. 

From Cairns our next stop was Port Douglas, the drive there takes about 1.5hrs & was full of winding roads and a strong breeze. But the views were breathtaking, mountains meeting the sea. We stopped at Rex lookout for a few snaps before finding our bed for the night at the Retro Apartments Port Douglas.

Rachel & Scott at Rex Lookout

Rachel & Scott at Rex Lookout

I can’t rave about this accommodation enough, the facilities provided were excellent, the pool was a small green oasis & the proximity to everything was a short walk.

We found dinner at a local restaurant named chillies, a fun outdoor venue with a great family running the kitchen & a separate bar. The pasta was fantastic & the vibe was truly North Queensland.

The retro apartments pool

The retro apartments Port Douglas

The retro apartments Port Douglas

The retro apartments Port Douglas

D A Y  T H R E E:
P O R T  D O U G L A S

We organised a snorkel tour to the Low Isles with the Reef Sprinter which takes you out to the reef in a speedboat. The Low Isles are a great way to experience the Great Barrier Reef, we saw tons of fish, coral and a turtle! 

Port Douglas cruise terminal

Port Douglas cruise terminal

Reef Sprinter snorkelling tours

Reef Sprinter snorkelling tours

Floating by Low Isles in the Great Barrier Reef - Queensland

Floating by Low Isles in the Great Barrier Reef - Queensland

Heading back from our snorkel on the reef to Port Douglas

Heading back from our snorkel on the reef to Port Douglas

The tour brought us back to the wharf at the perfect time for lunch so we headed down towards the beach for a burger.

Later in the afternoon before sunset we wandered up four mile beach and climbed the stairs to the lookout for another incredible view. 

Four mile beach - Port Douglas

Four mile beach - Port Douglas

D A Y   F O U R:
C A P E  T R I B U L A T I O N

We continued our journey north towards Cape Tribulation, stopping on the way to take a cruise down the Daintree river and meet some crocodiles. The Daintree river cruise is a few more minutes up the road from the Cape Tribulation ferry turn off, and takes you down the daintree river with a very knowledgeable guide for one hour.

The road to the Daintree river cruise centre

The road to the Daintree river cruise centre

Another angle of the tropical North Queensland rainforest, the tree canopy almost covered parts of our float down the river. We had a great guide and were fortunate to spot a large male crocodile sunning himself on the river bank, a juvenile croc of about 2 years perched over a rock and a female crocodile hiding in the scrub. Our guide shared a lot of information about the history of the rainforest and how it interacts with the river and its life. 

The Daintree river

The Daintree river

Back on the road, we headed to the ferry to cross the Daintree River, before meeting a stunning scenic drive through the Daintree National Park. A drive that could take one hour point to point took us most of the afternoon as we stopped along the way at a lookout, plenty of walking tracks and a secret swimming hole.

A secret swimming hole

A secret swimming hole

Fan palms in the Daintree rainforest

Fan palms in the Daintree rainforest

A walking track in the Daintree rainforest

A walking track in the Daintree rainforest

Canopies cover the road as you drive past Cassowary warning signs, dozens of varieties of palms, figs and stringy barks, covered in climbing and hanging vines, ferns and other epiphytes. I was in awe. The rainforest is one of the best places for a plant nerd like myself. I’m in love. Arriving at our accommodation we wandered along Cape Tribulation beach to soak up the marvelous views of mountains meeting the sea. 

The Daintree Rainforest lookout

The Daintree Rainforest lookout

D A Y  F I V E:
C O O K T O W N

Up and ready for another adventure we wandered the beach just after sunrise on a cloudy day. The ocean lapped at the sand and a few birds sang. We passed a few sleeping campers as we made our way to the Cape Tribulation Lookout offering a short walk through the thick mountain forest to a stunning panoramic lookout of the Cape.

Cape Tribulation beach at sunrise

Cape Tribulation beach at sunrise

Cape Tribulation Lookout

Cape Tribulation Lookout

Back in the car we marvelled at the landscape as we wound our way back through the Daintree Rainforest National Park one last time before heading on our drive to Cooktown via the inland road.

There are two ways to reach Cooktown from Cape Tribulation, one is suggested 4WD only via the Bloomfield track although we were told later by some locals at Mission Beach that the drive isn’t that bad. I’ll have to let you know because we didn’t see it ourselves, a 4WD hire from Cairns isn’t as easy or inexpensive as you might think and unfortunately not in our budget, so off we went. 

To reach Cooktown via the inland road we travelled south, back across the Daintree River on the ferry and towards Port Douglas.

Feeling hungry, we stopped for Breakfast in Mossman, where you can find the Mossman Gorge. Deciding against another stop we travelled on the Bruce HWY for about 2.5 hours to reach Cooktown.

I don’t know if it was the time of year or the time of day, but we hardly passed any cars or trucks on the way up & saw more cows on the road than anything else!

The road to Cooktown

The road to Cooktown

The landscape on this drive was like nothing I’d ever seen coming from Sydney. Expansive views from a mountain top over the Savannah landscape. Closer to Cooktown we saw huge Banana plantations, mango farms and then just on the outskirts we stopped at Black Mountain.

The road to Cooktown - Black Mountain

The road to Cooktown - Black Mountain

Black Mountain is made up of hundreds of gigantic granite boulders, some the size of a house. We were told by some locals, people say they were deposited here by aliens, but according to wikipedia “The national park's distinctive hard granite boulders and range originally formed out of magma that first slowly solidified under the Earth's crust about 250 million years ago”. I thought it looked pretty cool myself.

Black Mountain

Black Mountain

I did learn a valuable lesson on the drive to Cooktown, sunscreen is a priority for those with a more pale complexion like me. The sun is stronger in the North and while driving in shorts my legs got incredibly sunburnt, I now sport a permanent shorts tan line! 

Sovereign resort pool

Sovereign resort pool

The band at Cooktown RSL

The band at Cooktown RSL

The view from our room at sovereign resort

The view from our room at Sovereign resort

Cooktown is a small town like no other I have visited, the main road boasts several storefronts, Sovereign Resort & the local RSL. On arrival we checked into Sovereign resort & after a swim we joined the locals down at the RSL. We drank Great Northern Beer while listening to live music by the local band on a Sunday Afternoon. We drank so many beers while the band sung and swore and laughed together. The lead singer was very entertaining and as Aussie as they come, when singing “I've been everywhere man”, he substituted most of the towns in the song to Cooktown repeated and the whole crowd roared and clapped along. We chatted with some locals about the beauty of the town and surrounding areas, the life there was a slow one & work was hard to find. We headed back to the resort for dinner before retiring for the night in our beautiful suite. 

D A Y  S I X:
M A R E E B A 

After a nice swim in the resort pool we headed up to the Cooktown Botanic Gardens, the plaques helped me to confirm plant identifications for my future jungle garden that I’ve dreamt up, inspired by the rainforest. The gardens offer 200 plant specimens and walking tracks to finch bay and cherry tree bay. We wandered over to the secluded finch bay beach for a few snaps before making our way up to some of the best views I’ve ever set my eyes on at Grassy Hill lookout. This is where Captain Cook climbed to, in order to figure a way out of the harbour when his boat ran aground and needed repair back in the 1700’s. The water is aqua blue & coral reefs jut out from the steep coast line. In the other direction, grassy islands mound out of the deeper blue ocean.

the view from grassy hill lookout

The view from grassy hill lookout

The old cooktown lighthouse

The old Cooktown lighthouse

The town of Cook

The town of Cook

Next we were headed down to Mareeba, a halfway stop of sorts that we really didn’t research all that well. You could visit the safari lodge for a wilderness escape which is what we should have done, but on our budget we grabbed a motel instead and thought we’d visit the wetland the next day. 

D A Y  S E V E N:
M I L A A  M I L A A

After a night in the motel doing laundry and dinner at the local sport club we headed to the coffee plantation Skybury. The view was beautiful from the quiet deck, we even spotted a young Kangaroo hopping below in the open plane as we sipped our coffee.

The view from skybury

The view from skybury

After breakfast we meandered over to Golden Drop Winery to pick up some tasty Mango wine and check out a local Mango Farm. They hedge the Mango trees so they’re easier to pick from, but this creates a stunning uniform landscape of lush balls of greenery. After a tasting we purchased the sweet white and the sparkling, both delicious choices, that didn't last long after we got home. 

Our plans to visit the wetland unfortunately didn't eventuate as the road there was flooded with water and we decided it was unsafe to drive through, so we set off next to Millaa Millaa. This part of the trip was the best decision I could have made. We drove toward Atherton, the namesake of the oldest rainforest in Australia. We took a wrong turn through a beautiful farm landscape of windy roads and rolling hills before  we arrived in Millaa Millaa. We found the main road and stopped in for late lunch at the local general store cafe, we were sure to check our supplies before our 7km drive to the Millaa Millaa River Song Retreat.

The gardens surrounding the deck at river song retreat

The gardens surrounding the deck at river song retreat

Greeted on arrival by two beautiful doggies and the owners Bob & Carina we were guided around our accommodation and Bob offered a guided bushwalk of the property.

Eager to unpack & explore, Scott and I unloaded the car & stocked the fridge. With hiking boots on, we headed out to the deck to meet our guide Bob. He proceeded to show us the properties expansive decked area, full of charm, tons of gorgeous plants, & a large BBQ area. The whole deck was surrounded by beautifully landscaped gardens, I loved all of it. Bob took us down a pathway to some man made steps that took us deep into the rainforest, down to the amazing river. 

We ventured down into the rainforest

We ventured down into the rainforest

climbing down man made steps

climbing down man made steps

This place was magical, nothing but pure nature. The sound of the river & the hum of birds, there is so much life and so much peace here. I was so grateful to Bob and Carina for sharing this with us. Later we would sit here enjoying a picnic of wine and cheese and sitting listening to the tranquil sounds of this beautiful natural wonder.

the river at river song retreat

the river at river song retreat

Bob took us on a bush walk through to an area he had cleared along the river bank. He provided visual markers and shared abundant knowledge of the forest before leading us to some gigantic boulders in the middle of the river. I think Bob could tell Scott and I were having a great time when we eagerly climbed out onto the boulders in the middle of the river. The water gushed past as we marvelled at the rainforest and watched its beginning stages of regeneration from the recent flood damage. 

Scotty puts it into scale

Scotty puts it into scale

huge boulders in the river

huge boulders in the river

We were fortunate to experience the rainforest as the locals do & I found my most happy place. Scott cooked up a delicious BBQ for dinner & Carina took care of all our washing up. What a treat this place was. With wine in hand we spent the rest of the evening sat out on our private deck enjoying Bob and Carinas lush tropical garden landscape and talking the night away. This place was by far a huge highlight of the trip and I can’t wait to revisit again one day. 

I loved all the gardens at the river song retreat

I loved all the gardens at the river song retreat

D A Y  E I G H T:  
I N G H A M 

After a peaceful nights rest we were treated to a scrumptious continental breakfast bar of fresh fruits, muesli & yoghurt from the local dairy. With some toast & coffee we feasted away, excited for our most energized day yet.

We couldn't say goodbye without one more walk around this amazing property & a visit to the river so after packing our bags, we made our way down the steps for a final bushwalk to the river. We watched the calm pool of water before the waterfall in the hope to spot a platypus, Bob & Carina told us we might be lucky to see a pair having a swim. Unfortunately it was not our lucky day. We climbed back to the walking track from the day before and wandered along the rambling riverside a final time to the rainforest retreat. It was a glorious way to start the day & we were ready to hit the road. 

The beautiful river of river song retreat

The beautiful river of river song retreat

Millaa Millaa is famous for several beautiful waterfalls, three of which are a stone's throw from one another on a single loop road. Millaa Millaa falls is one of the most stunning swimming holes, worthy of several instagram photos! It’s easy to access for a swim and offers a toilet block to change in.The falls are flanked by tall tree ferns, and surrounded by a lush tropical landscape of the Atherton tableland rainforest. We visited each of the waterfalls on the loop, with a short drive between each. The second stop was Zillie falls, the viewing platform is above the falls & allows you to look down on the cascading waters in the middle of the rainforest. We loved listening to the sounds of the rushing waters & local wildlife. Next up was Ellinjaa Falls, to get there we took a zig zag walking track into the cool rainforest surrounded by ferns, vines and huge trees. The falls are much smaller but still stunning & the walk down was one of my favourites. 

Millaa Millaa falls

Millaa Millaa falls

Zillie falls

Zillie falls

Ellinjaa Falls

Ellinjaa Falls

Back on the road we marvelled at the stunning landscapes and stopped multiple times for a photo. We paused for lunch at Mungalli creek dairy, for some gourmet dips at their Cheesery & Teahouse. Just down the road we found Mungalli falls, our fourth waterfall for the day!

This area of queensland is by far one of the most beautiful places I have ever visited. It’s funny how much one’s appreciation for plants can evolve into a newfound appreciation for all things green. One of the lookouts showed us rolling hills between the mountains covered in tree’s. Small houses dotted amongst the green pastures & strips of road. The open countryside was lush & long, I was reminded how much driving this area allowed us to experience.

Mungalli Falls

Mungalli Falls

Our next stop was at the awesome Mamu tropical skywalk. This boardwalk is suspended 15 metres above the forest floor of the Wooroonoon National Park and features a cantilevered lookout and an observation deck. To reach the observation deck, we walked along pathways surrounded by a lush plants and impressive trees to the 15m high boardwalk that would take us through 350m of rainforest. Even after all the rainforest we had already experienced, this height offered yet another point of view.

If you’re game, climb the stairs, up to the 37m high observation deck. You’ll be in awe of the stunning view of the national park from high above the ground. Once at the top it was a quick visit for us as my husband had worn out his bravery for the day and wanted to be back on solid ground. 

Mamu tropical skywalk observation deck looking out onto Wooroonoon National Park

Mamu tropical skywalk observation deck looking out onto Wooroonoon National Park

On the road again, we headed south to Ingham where we checked into the Tropixx Motel for one night. We grabbed dinner at the local pub, which was hosting a Chicken Schnitzel special, our favourite! We dove into a Seafood & Schnitzel combination of chicken breast schnitzel covered in garlic prawns and a smothering of white sauce. Stuffed and sleepy we headed back to the motel for a good night's rest. 

D A Y  N I N E:
C A R D W E L L

Up early, we headed to town for supplies & breakfast before heading west through winding forest lined roads & up a steep mountain incline to Australia’s highest single drop waterfall Wallaman Falls. A 300m high drop from top to bottom.

Wallaman Falls

Wallaman Falls

On our way there we stopped to wander through a few bush tracks, a lookouts & enjoy the view of the coast from the mountainside. Once we arrived we marvelled at the waterfall from the lookout. Unsure about the available bush walk ahead, we wandered down the walking track towards the base of the falls, after reading a few warning signs we decided against the four hour return hike and enjoyed the view nearby instead.  

The view from the top of the walking track down to Wallaman falls

The view from the top of the walking track down to Wallaman falls

Time to head north again we made our way to our next destination, Cardwell. A beautiful beachfront town that looks out to one of the largest island national parks in the country, Hichinbrook Island. 

The road just south of Cardwell

The road just south of Cardwell

Sunset at Cardwell from the end of the jetty

Sunset at Cardwell from the end of the jetty

D A Y  T E N:
M I S S I O N  B E A C H

Cardwell Jetty at sunset with Hichinbrook Island in the background

Cardwell jetty at sunset with Hichinbrook Island in the background

The lovely motel staff shared a detailed map of the area and local sights to check out so our day was full of activities before our short drive to Mission Beach. With swimmers on we drove south a short way to five mile swimming hole, a large natural swimming hole 5 miles out of Cardwell. After a cold swim and a few pics, we jumped back in the car towards Cardwell again and turned left down a dirt road to see a few more sights. The Cardwell lookout gave us sweeping views over the small coastal town, we then stopped at a swimming hole, abundant with fish, trickling sounds and clear pools, suitable for all ages. 

The view of Hichinbrook Island from Cardwell Lookout

The view of Hichinbrook Island from Cardwell Lookout

Arriving in Mission beach we made our way directly to Castaways resort where we checked into our awesome accommodation and immediately found the pool & a cocktail. It was Scott’s birthday after all.  After a few drinks by the pool we wandered out to the beach to see what all the fuss is about, to be met with stunning views & soft yellow sand. People swam in the safety of a stinger net, so we didn’t hesitate to finally swim at the beach. The ocean was warm and the sun shone down, making the sea glitter & setting the mood. I’d arranged with the restaurant staff to have cake later in the evening for Scott as a surprise. 

Castaways resort Mission beach

Castaways resort Mission beach

We headed back to the room to freshen up for dinner & then headed into town. Walking along the beach for the beautiful scenery we passed a bonfire & couples walking at sunset. After checking out a few restaurants we found ourselves listening to a fabulous local band & ordering a spread of seafood dishes at Ocea restaurant. Stuffed to the brim & ready to party we wandered back towards the beach & into Theshrubco where we listened to a guitarist and made friends with a bunch of locals. After several drinks we almost forgot about the cake (which was no longer a surprise), so we scrambled back to Castaways to sing Scott “Happy Birthday”. The night wasn't over so we returned to our new local friends at the pub where we partied the night away until closing time. 

D A Y  E L E V E N : P A R O N E L L A  
P A R K 

So hungover from our celebratory evening I struggled hard to motivate myself to get up for the day. But knowing our plan was to visit Paronella Park I knew I needed to make it happen. Ever since I first saw a picture of Paronella Park I’ve been dying to go there. A long shower, a powerade, and a piece of toast got me into the car & on the road. Luckily Scott wasn’t quite in the pain I was so he took the wheel & we headed north to Paronella park. On the way we passed some beautiful green pastures with cows grazing and a few quaint little towns. 

On arrival at Paronella park, I knew we were in for a treat. This park came across my news feed a few years ago when I was searching for a wedding venue, after seeing a picture of the waterfall I googled Paronella Park and found this amazing place.

The Park was created back in the 1930’s by a young Jose Paronella, an immigrant from Spain who came to Australia for new opportunities and stayed for the love of tropical north queensland. His dream was to build a kingdom with castles and opulent grounds which he realised over years of construction and a few cyclones. Nowadays the castles are quite dilapidated as the materials used to build them were not the best to last through the decades. The grounds however are a natural wonder & you can see how well thought out each section is. From the avenue of kauri pines to the bamboo forest, rivers, streams and waterfalls surrounded by lush tropical gardens, dozens of turtles and even an eel, this place is a must see for all nature lovers. 

Paronella Park

Included in our ticket was a guided tour, a 45 minute tour through the gardens with commentary about the story of Jose Paronella and the history of the garden since his death. The amazing collection of plants and spanish inspired structures create a beautiful and tranquil space which looks so natural from its age. The story of Jose Paronella’s life is an emotional one & I found myself fighting back a few tears as the guide carried us away with his story while standing amongst the tallest trees on Kauri Avenue. We spent another hour wandering and exploring the stunning grounds and gardens, enjoying the alluring atmosphere of this magical place.

Kauri Avenue Paronella Park

Kauri Avenue Paronella Park

Exhausted and still recovering from our wild night we set off back to cairns for our final day in the tropics. 

D A Y  T W E L V E : C A I R N S  

Our last day in Queensland, we decided not to tackle too much sightseeing and spent the morning relaxing by the pool and reading a good book. We planned to fit in one last adventure before the end of our holiday, so that afternoon we made our way over to the Cairns Botanic Gardens. Scott and I wandered through some market stalls where we reached the entrance to some walking tracks. Thinking this must be the way to the gardens we wandered up some steps that brought us to map showing where the walking tracks went. We ended up climbing 100’s of steps to an awesome view of the airport and surrounding mountains, before walking back down 100 more steps through the tropical rainforest. We got some great exercise and then found the gardens, 250m in the other direction.

Finally finding the Cairns Botanic gardens and our friends, we strolled across a beautiful lawn to a winding pathway. These beautifully landscaped, tropical gardens feature a huge variety of plants & trees that thrive in Cairns hot & humid climate. Following more winding pathways we crossed a bridge & passed some huge palms. Around the corner was a giant domed greenhouse which was full of hanging ferns, orchids, pitcher plants & staghorns. I found another green sanctuary, one day I hope to have my own greenhouse & garden as lush and tropical as that space. 

Cairns botanic gardens

Cairns botanic gardens

For our final night we grabbed tickets to a comedy show at Cairns Dinner Theatre & grabbed a bite at one of the nearby bars “chicken and beer”  and yes we had chicken but I skipped the beer. Since mIssion beach I needed a break from the drinks!

Returning to the hotel we packed our bags ready for our morning flight back to Sydney. 

Cairns botanic gardens

Cairns botanic gardens

This road trip experience will be forever imprinted on my mind. Australia's landscape is so diverse and incredibly beautiful. I feel like I understand the true meaning of Great Southern Land. The open road took us from the city to the rainforest, past farms with cattle, mango plantations, to the desert & rocky mountains inland to Cooktown. We saw at least half a dozen different waterfalls, incredible views of green mountainsides & ravines to massive boulders & acres of tree’s as far as the eye could see. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to explore the rainforests of tropical north Queensland, from the Daintree all the way to the Atherton tablelands and beyond. We couldn't swim in most of the beaches but we snorkeled the Great Barrier Reef, found swimming holes & took a dip inside the net at mission beach . It rained occasionally but it helped us cool off form the heat. If I were to do this trip again I wouldn't do it any other way. Australia's tropical north is amazing & I hope everyone has the opportunity to see it one day.  

Beware of the crocodiles in North Queensland

Beware of the crocodiles in North Queensland

What is your favourite adventure destination?

Tell us in the comments below!

Rachel 

Our Green Sanctuary

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