Thursday, 20 July 2017

Climate and Weather

Gavin's Subtropical garden in Coffs Harbour

Where we live determines what type of plants can be grown successfully. OK, I realise this seems a bit simplistic however it is true - unless of course you're into greenhouses with heat pads when you live in a cool temperate climate and want to grow stunning orchids!

In Australia we do have extremes but not as dramatic as say, Philadelphia which has sap-sucking hot humidity in summer and sub-zero snow conditions during the winter (from personal experience of both and the sap sucking was of me!). With local Australian conditions taken into account, we still need to be mindful of plant choices. It is possible to create a mini micro climate to nurture a particular plant but generally speaking we do need to be mindful of our climatic zone in plant selections.

The Bureau of Meteorology has a wealth of information and you can see a range of climate maps showing rainfall, temperatures, frost, humidity and sunshine. This information is invaluable when designing or undertaking gardening in a new area - so many of us here on the Coffs Coast have come from other regions and perhaps learn the hard way that what worked really well 'down south' will struggle with local conditions.

There are six key zones across Australia, based on a set of definitions relating to summer and winter conditions. These zones are described below:


Hot humid summer (average maximum temperature > 30℃) with a warm, dry winter. The primary area extends across the north of Australia from Carnarvon through Port Hedland, Broome, Darwin and Cairns and south to Bundaberg.


Warm humid summer (average maximum temperature < 30℃, minimum temperature > 10℃ with rare frosts). Mild dry winter. This area includes the eastern seaboard from Brisbane south through Coffs Harbour to Sydney. Also includes coastal WA from approximately Geraldton to Carnarvon. It has a mild climate, with low winter rainfall and reliable summer rainfall.

Warm Temperate

Warm summer, cool winter (average maximum temperature < 30℃, minimum temperature > 5℃, with some light frosts). Includes inland Qld, some NSW tableland areas and the coastal region south of Sydney. These zones experience the distinct four seasons. The ocean moderates temperature in coastal areas overlapping this zone with subtropical ones. The rainfall is reliable year round.


This zone shares many of the features of the Warm Temperate Zone except for rainfall which is predominantly in the winter with a low summer rainfall. It includes much of southern coastal Australia from Melbourne, Adelaide through to Perth. Winter is cool with an average annual lowest temperature of 5℃.  The summer is warm with a low humidity.

Cool Temperate & Alpine

Mild or warm summer, cold winter (average maximum temperature 0℃ to -5, with heavy frosts). Includes high areas of the NSW Northern Tablelands, Southern Tablelands, Canberra/ACT, Vic and most of Tasmania. Spring is a pivotal event and the summer growing season is short. Alpine areas experience snow.

Local Coffs Harbour garden

The Bureau have maps which show these areas and can been seen at BOM climate maps. Interestingly there are climatically similar areas of Southern Africa, Chile, Argentina, Brazil and New Zealand in the Southern Hemisphere and California, Florida, Mexico, China plus areas around the Mediterranean in the Northern Hemisphere which can be helpful when you wish to grow indigenous species from those areas.

For sound advice on plant selection perhaps the best place to start would be local nurseries. These people have vast experience on what grows best in your region. The internet is another great resource too, where it is possible to match up growing conditions with climatic areas. For instance I would just LOVE to grow Daphne however, it's just all wrong for our garden here but it thrived in our Canberra garden - by the same token, a Bougainvillea wasn't a goer in our Canberra garden but thrives here on the Coffs Coast.

Enjoy the research and then your plant selection!

Steve Parish - image Sally Browne, Girl Reporter

If you would enjoy further reading, Steve Parish on his Nature Connect website has written some fantastic articles on forest Ecosystems in Australia. You will see his stunning images capturing and defining the following ecosystems of Australia:

Australian Forests - An Introduction
Dry Sclerophyll Forests
Wet Sclerophyll Forests
Wet Tropical Rainforest
Subtropical Rainforest
Warm-temperate Rainforest
Cool-temperate Rainforest
Cloud Forests
Monsoon and
Dry Rainforest

All these articles can be seen at Steve Parish Nature Connect website.


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      1. Thanks Chris, pleased you have enjoyed some of the articles I've written. Regards, Maria

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