Thursday, 27 October 2011

Kuranda garden has become a visitor attraction

When Graham Payne and David Sturge purchased 100 acres of Kuranda rainforest in early 2006, they could never have dreamt that the property would be such an attraction.

The two English gents bought with them extensive experience in horticulture and botany, so when the opportunity arose to acquire the unique property, that now contains three acres of garden, it was something they couldn't ignore.

''We looked elsewhere around Australia, including the Sunshine Coast, but the climate and location here are just perfect,'' Graham Payne told CairnsBlog.

Last weekend they again opened up their garden to the public as part of Open Garden Australia. The national organisation opens around 600 gardens each year for public visitation. The two are also selectors for the scheme. Around 230 visited Kuranda Palms over the weekend.

The property is located at the top of the Kuranda Range on the Cairns side of the Barron River, adjacent to the magnificent natural environment of the World Heritage National Park.

''We have created gardens in the temperate climate of England and also in the Mediterranean climate of Portugal, so we were keen to experience a tropical garden,'' Graham says. ''Over the years we have rejuvenated the garden, planting several beds of colourful exotics, which are alive with lush, vibrant colours of the tropics, palms, trees, shrubs, feature plants, and lawn.''

Payne says that in the warm, moist tropical climate the garden has grown rapidly. A permanent creek with a waterfall runs round the edge of the garden.

''We are most fortunate that a previous owner was an avid collector of unusual palms and cycads, with the result that there are many magnificent specimens here today,'' Graham Payne says. ''There are fine stands of Alexander Palm which provide a spectacular backdrop to the view across the large lawn from the house. There are also several mature unusual cycads.''

CEO of Open Gardens, Richard Barley from Woodend, Victoria, visited the garden in the weekend.

''I thoroughly enjoyed a visit to Kuranda Palms on the weekend. It was tropical, lush, and wettish. Perfect.''

Kuranda Palms is home to many kinds of gingers, especially Heliconias, Torch Ginger, and Costus. Climbing through the Queensland Umbrella Tree, Flame of the Forest, and the spectacular Jade Vine, a flower that is unique of all colours in the plant world. About one third of the garden is planted with ornamental and fruit trees set in lawns, providing an extensive shaded area on a hot tropical afternoon.

''Our land is registered under the Land for Wildlife scheme, and we encourage wildlife to visit our garden,'' David Sturge says. ''We see pademelons, bandicoots, goannas, ulysses and Cairns Birdwing butterflies and of course our unique cassowary. The cassowary often feeds on palm seeds and other fruit in the garden and even brings his chicks to visit.''

Both Payne and Sturge are active in Kuranda and Cairns, helping to co-ordinate social and non-profit community groups. They have assisted the Tablelands Regional Council with planting in the Kuranda township.

The open weekend saw a large number of visitors enjoying the tropical gardens, deep in the rainforest.

''We both love the garden and enjoy sharing our results with visitors,'' Graham Payne says.

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