Dennis Hundscheidt’s Garden

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Don visited the beautiful, tropical-style garden of Dennis Hundscheidt. Situated at Sunnybank in Brisbane, this is one of the best private gardens in Australia. 

Clever design

Although the garden is only the size of a normal suburban block (around 1000 square metres) its clever design makes it appear larger. It has been divided into many ‘rooms’, so it is impossible to get an overview of the garden from any one place. The boundary fences are all hidden from view, with plantings and water features creating fake vistas that seem to stretch away into the distance.

The garden framework is provided by more than 100 palms, which Dennis has collected from all around the world. One of his favourites is the Bismarck palm (Bismarckia nobilis), a handsome Madagascan fan palm with blue-green leaves. The palms are underplanted with massed tropical foliage plants such as crotons, cordylines and bromeliads.

Don was particularly impressed by the blue tropical waterlilies (Nymphaea ‘August Koch’), black elephant’s ears (Colocasia esculenta ‘Black Magic’) and the beehive ginger (Zingiber spectabile ‘Bee Hive’) with its orange-red floral leaves (or bracts) in beehive-shaped flowerheads. Several species of clumping bamboo are also featured in the planting scheme, including the giant Buddha’s belly (Bambusa vulgaris ‘Wamin’). It has spectacular bulging culms and long, narrow green leaves.

On the day we visited parrot’s beak heliconias (Heliconia rostrata) were in full flower, their scarlet and yellow bracts cascading down like strings of Chinese firecrackers. The use of bright, vibrant colours and the sound of running water from many water features create a feeling of happiness and good karma in this garden. Balinese statuary and ornaments complete the effect, which is both exotic and very private.

You can do it too

The same tropical look (that is palms with a colourful understorey planting) can be achieved almost anywhere in Australia, from Hobart to Darwin, by choosing foliage plants to suit the climate.

Dennis has planted tropical and subtropical plants but in a cooler climate a similar effect could be created with gold dust plants, Japanese sacred bamboo (Nandina domestica), Cordyline australis and aspidistras. Cool climate palms such as the European fan palm (Chamaerops humilis) and Chinese windmill palm (Trachycarpus fortunei) can be substituted for tropical palms.

Further information

Your local nursery can provide advice on foliage plants suitable for your area.

This garden is open in February 2005 with Australia’s Open Garden Scheme. Phone 1902 261 026 closer to the date or visit or visit