Garden guru plants growing interest in native flora

If Carinity Elim Estate residents ever require sage advice about gardening, they only need to give Bruce Tinworth a holler. The noted horticulturist and conservationist is the native plants guru at the Ipswich retirement community.

Bruce has a passion for using local native flora to re-establish wildlife habitat in the urban environment. His interest stemmed from adventures in the bush with his grandfather, who was a logger and a conservationist.

Gardening Australia host Costa Georgiadis helped to launch Bruce Tinworth’s popular environmental weeds book
Gardening Australia host Costa Georgiadis helped to launch Bruce Tinworth’s popular environmental weeds book.

He has written extensively on invasive weeds, releasing books such as Garden Escapees Become Environmental Weeds and 100+ Invasive Weeds of Ipswich. He has also contributed regularly to SubTropical Gardening magazine.

Bruce is a member of a growing community of green thumbs interested in planting native species and removing exotic invasive weeds.

“There were a number of people with much more expertise than me that were doing publications on local native plants,” Bruce said.

“Whilst people were spending their weekends trying to enrich areas of bushland, no one was really doing anything on introduced species that are environmental weeds.

“I wrote about the worst environmental weeds in the Ipswich area and offered three alternatives, so the house and garden people had some reference material they could work from.”

Bruce said there are misconceptions about which common plant species are native to Australia and which have been introduced from abroad.

“There is a huge amount of people who think that the jacaranda is native because it’s everywhere. Most of our environmental weeds are either originally from South America, central or southern Africa, or a little bit from Indonesia,” he said.

“Million and millions of taxpayers’ dollars are spent managing weeds. We are introducing around 80 exotic species to Queensland every year, and about 10 per cent of those become invasive.

“Invariably, a plant that is an environmental weed propagates really easily, almost every seed germinates, it will grow in a crack in concrete path, rarely needs to be watered, and escapes into other gardens and native bushland with little competition. Whereas all of our native plant species are in balance with nature.”

Renowned horticulturist and conservationist Bruce Tinworth watering plants near a river in Ipswich
Renowned horticulturist and conservationist Bruce Tinworth watering plants near a river.

The retired TAFE teacher and Greenpeace member – he was on the deck of the Rainbow Warrior shortly before it was sunk – has consulted on numerous conservation projects and government environmental initiatives.

He was heavily involved in the Society for Growing Australian Plants, Land for Wildlife, and is a Life Member of the Ipswich branch of Native Plants Queensland.

Bruce’s passion for native plants is rubbing off. Carinity Elim Estate’s Grounds Maintenance and Liaison Officer, Scott O’Donoghue, is branching out and planting more native plants at the Raceview retirement village.

“Bruce has already been very helpful, giving me a copy of his book, helping me identify weeds and pointing out possible problem plants,” Scott said.

“At Bruce’s request I have cut out several plants from his garden, in preparation for the rare natives we want to plant when the summer heat has passed. He has already added to our food forest garden with some Mexican Tarragon he brought with him.

“It is very useful having his knowledge available and his influence can only steer the Elim Estate gardens in a good direction.”

As well as his plant expertise, Bruce is also an award-winning artist, a photographer and author, having written an extensive history of the Kickbusch family and an owner’s guide and maintenance manual for the very rare 1950-52 Model 77 Norton motorcycle.

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