Brisbane Local Food

Growing local

18 months ago I built a bamboo trellis to shade my vegetables during the Summer heat.

I grew Choko vines over it and it worked a treat as the veg underneath were protected from the worst of the sun's rays and heat.

But this year the Choko vines weren't vigorous because of the dry conditions and I didn't get much shade coverage at all.I'd entered a vicious circle...

Then Ex Cyc Oswald blew parts of my trellis  down....

The grape vine I planted under it is slow to grow ...and my beans have been tardy in climbing skyward.

But I'm wondering -- given that deciduous trees aren't common  in the sub tropics -- whether I can secure my shading needs by growing Frangipanis at intervals in my garden beds.

  • Cut them back in the cooler months (Frangipanis are so easy to manage. Just break them to shape and height  with your hands or asharp knife.)
  • Grow creepers over them
  • Frangipanis are so easy to strike and any number could be cultivated. 
  • Frangipanis grow really well here on the Moreton Bay coast because they'll thrive in the sandy conditions. Other local tree species that tolerate the sand -- eg: melaleucas and such -- put out their own toxins or grow too big.
  • Frangipanis are drought resistant

I suspect that a Frangipani root system isn't invasive ..and a vegetable garden framed by frangipanis  in flower would be visually stunning.Imagine the play of colours. You'd be able to control shade levels by simply snapping off branches here and there.

The only drawback -- which may be a plus -- is that they are slow growing. But even when small they'll shade, and even when small I should be able to grow stuff on them especially during those months that the branches are leafless.

My partner came back from Bali recently singing the praises of the Frangipanis there and it got me thinking ....What else can you do with this tree besides look at it and smell it?

Is there a downside?

If I harvested  tall franchipani branches I could initially use them as garden stakes which may then root -- as happens with mulberry and bamboo cuttings.  Around here harvesting an array of frangipani colours and stems is as easy as visiting your neighbours and asking for a snip.Its' like going shopping for colour patterns and flower shapes. 

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My only worry is that it could be a fair bit of work.  I know you can cut them back like crazy each winter, but what about the trunks?  They'll continue to thicken (not that they get really huge).  I suppose you'd need to think carefully about the compromise on spacing - how long do you want to wait for the shade effect vs not over-crowding).  I'd check on the roots as well just in case.  

On the up side - they will also give you leaves for compost/mulch, it would be hugely pretty and should work as you've described.  

Dave, you may be onto a winner. 

What have I got to lose? Its' not as though they'd take over, leastways in a hurry.

The trunks would stay in place as would  most of the branches throughout the year. My experience growing frangipanis suggests that it's just a question of shaping the tree to suit. In the past I have grown Choko over them...and what got me thinking more about their use was  the fact that the frangipanis I already have  survived the recent storms completely in tact. They lost only a few petals despite, the winds,  the wet soil and their shallow roots.

I've gown pawpaws in veg gardens before to good effect but they don't offer shade or much of a climbing frame. Bananas are just too bulky ..and mulberries take over forever. 

It would certainly be a long term experiment as they are so slow growing. It's going to be a long time before you have to worry about cutting them back.

You may want to look into the possible toxic effect of the sap as far as using the leaves for mulch etc. May not be a problem once they have lain around in a compost pile or whatever for a period of time, but I would have to wonder if it might inhibit the growth of plants underneath the tree.

Certainly not good for people but then I've had a lot of euphorbia type plants over the years myself that I just loved, including frangipani.

I love frangipani!  Some are quite prone to rust, but I love that they strike so easily and flower so readily.  They are all over Brisbane - and some absolutely spectacular specimens can be found in the gardens of old Queenslanders in so many colours they take your breath away!  

You could alternate with native palms like Bangalow (smaller than Alexandra) and dracaena too (which also readily strikes from cuttings).  I have often thought it would be prudent to plant shady non-trees in a vegie patch.  Myself, I chose buddha belly bamboo on the southern edge of the garden to cast shade in summer but let the northern sunlight in through winter.  But there is an embankment there that can't be cultivated and we have the garden space to spare.

On the coast here -- on sand -- while frangipani grows well, the branches aren't dense. I was trying to find any other use of the plant like I had in mind. 

And this image is suggestive:

I used to be a keen bamboo gardener but my wife has put her foot down. The advantage with frangipani over clumping bamboo is that it is bare in the cooler months and can be trained to spread out as it goes up -- akin to a sort of espalier by breaking off where yo don't want it to go. 

I was working in the veg garden today, thinking through the frangipani option and imagining planting location and growth direction. relative to the arc of the Summer sun. 

The advantage of frangipani as a natural trellis is its ease of maintenance and adjustment. Break a bit off here or there -- braches or leaves -- to let in more light underneath, cut it right back anytime so easily. Let vines or creepers limb the branches.

You don't need to go very high -- you just have to ensure that you have operational space underneath. I'm suspecting that -- from my experience with the tree -- that even if I do a lot of  ikebana with the trunk and branches it is not prone to fall over as other trees will because frangipanis 'seem' to withstand gale force winds OK as they are so 'empty' inside their crowns.

Here a least, they grow really well in confined, shaded spaces, such as between a shed and a fence. They have a sort of bamboo utility like that and your use of bamboo makes me think of how the frangipani compares.

While I go on like this I cannot find any other examples of using frangipanis in this way. I've used choko and New Guinea bean for shading before and the bean was far too dense. And besides the fruits tended to knock you about like pendulums. 

The frangipanis would  contain the garden like a  potager framework . 

Lovely!  My own garden probably has too much clay for plumeria but your situation sounds ideal.  Go for it!

I love it!

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