Tag Archive | Botanical Gardens

Arid Botanics

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As you might guess, the Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden in Port Augusta, South Australia,  is devoted entirely to plants that grow in the driest parts of this continent. To the casual observer, the arid areas might seem dull and lifeless, but there's plenty to see: discovery requires careful observation.

The Botanical garden was established in 1993 to encourage a wider appreciation of the flora that grows in the arid zones. The 250 hectare garden is located in a stunning setting with views over the Upper Spencer Gulf to the Flinders Ranges. The visitor can wander along one (or more) of the walks within the park and enjoy the plants, birds and reptiles that make this area their home.

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There are sculptures scattered about the garden, including this one, which is near the entrance, and is reflective of the tortured appearance  of some native Australian plants. Or maybe it’s some kind of demented Triffid bent on mischief. Fortunately it’s firmly bolted to its plinth.

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Eremophilas, also known as emu bush, native fuchsia or turkey bush, belong to a large group of around 200 named plants and many of them grow in the Botanical Garden.  As it is Winter, not all were flowering at their best at the time of our visit, but these two were quite lovely. The garden is home to a large selection of these plants.

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There are many species of eucalypts in the garden, some considered rare, perhaps because their habitats have been compromised in some way:  logging, aggressive clearing of land for farming or encroachment by human habitation. This Eucalyptus youngiana or Ooldea Mallee had the most amazing gumnuts.  New buttons for your cardigan, anyone?  Unfortunately it wasn't the right time to see them but its flowers are very large, as you can imagine, and a strawberry jam pink.

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Grass trees, or Xanthorrhoea, are unique native plants and are extremely tough, withstanding fire and drought.  The brown flower spike has gone to seed now, but birds love them when they are fully in flower and they probably love the seeds too.  Just look at the uncompromising position of this grass tree.  You would be forgiven for wondering if any plant would survive in that environment.

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This Wattle is just beginning to bloom.  September 1st is Wattle Day in Australia, but I am sure on any given day; rain, hail, sun, drought, or  fire, a wattle will be flowering somewhere in the country. Those jaunty yellow pom-poms are very attractive to bees.

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We were lucky to see this.  Somewhat out of season, this Swainsona formosa, or Sturt's Desert Pea, the  floral emblem of South Australia, was doing its best to bloom, but only putting out a couple of flowers. But what flowers they were!  They come in several shades of pink and red, some without the black centre or ‘boss’, and more commonly with an even darker boss than the one above. They can even be white! In their natural habitat, Sturt’s Desert Pea plants spread out in a large mat, and I imagine they would be a wonderful sight to see. They are protected: it’s forbidden to even take a seed from a plant. Seeds can be purchased though, and I am going to try growing some this summer.

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Another feature of this botanical garden is the area displaying ideas for the home gardener to try, using native plants instead of more water-hungry exotics.

When we visited, there had been very little rain in this part of South Australia for a long time, and to be truthful,  some plants, even though drought hardy,  were showing signs of stress.  Generally speaking though, it's just amazing how resilient our natives are in this climate.

If you would like to read more about The Australian Arid Lands Botanical Garden, you can find some more information  here.

I like the idea of a Botanical Garden catering for a specific climate.  Do you know of any gardens like this?

Six on Saturday, May 19th

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It's astonishing how quickly Saturdays seem to roll around. I've no sooner read everyone's Sixes than it's time to prepare another one of my own.

Six on Saturday is hosted by The Propagator. Participants are invited to show six things from their garden: flowers or vegetables, trees or shrubs, paths or gardens, successes or failures. Six things. From a garden.

Don't forget to drop in to The Propagator's blog to catch up on what other gardeners are doing.

Since last week the weather here has been glorious. Cold in the mornings, yes, but the days have been full of sunshine. People are still wearing shorts! Wonderful weather for gardening.

Here are my six for this week:

  1. Leucodendron salignum.   The label describes it as 'Red Devil' but something tells me this plant is wrongly labelled! The second picture is a different view of an older flower on the same shrub.  Various websites tell me it must have plenty of sun or the flowers won't colour. Well, sun is something it's had in abundance, so my guess is an incorrect label.
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2. Last of the Iceberg roses. They will flower sporadically until they're pruned in July, but I'm not expecting too much more from them.

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3. A garden view.  The two poor bay trees on each side of the steps have been in those pots for at least five years.  They are very sulky, and who would blame them?  They're going to be released from their misery next week, all going according to plan, and planted  in the ground.

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4.  An iris flowered! It was the only one, and who could possibly guess that this would happen?  Its time with us was fleeting: in two days it was finished.  There will be more of course, but not for a while.

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5.  Crepe Myrtle.  Unlike last week's crepe myrtle, this one is a shrub which was given to us as a house-warming present.  I don't know its name as it began as a cutting from the friend's garden.  It's looking rather autumnal with its tiara of berries.

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6.  This week's unsung heroine is Alyssum,  (it was Lobelia last week, you may remember),  another flower that will brighten our garden during winter with splashes of pink, mauve, apricot, purple and white. There’s even a yellow one, although I have never seen it. Alyssum self seeds readily, filling small spaces in a very obliging manner.

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Weather today:  0 -19 degrees C and sunny.  Of course!

Happy gardening everyone.

Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne

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It was a dull day in April when we visited the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne, but our enthusiasm was not dampened by the louring clouds as we wandered around the 38 hectare site with its Autumn leaf-covered lawns, its lofty trees and waterways.

The RBG was founded in 1846 and is an idyllic oasis in the middle of Melbourne only a short walk from the skyscrapers which can occasionally be seen above the trees. Like most botanical gardens,  it's divided into areas such as the Australian Forest Walk, the Tropical Glasshouse, the Southern African collection and the Perennial Border to name only a few.

Because it's a big site, it isn't possible to see everything in one visit, but although we missed quite a lot, we were well satisfied with our morning's meanderings.

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Banksias and chubby-trunked Boabs greeted us near the entrance to the gardens. I think these Boabs are youngish because I read that there's one in Western Australia that has a girth of 14.7 metres! It's thought to be 1 500 years old.

 

 

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We first wandered along the Australian Forest Walk, photos above.  Here native trees majestically imposed themselves on the landscape: Corkwood, Hard Corkwood (which is apparently  different  from not-so-hard corkwood), Cabbage Tree Palms and Queensland Kauri jostled for space amongst the Eucalypts,  Corymbia, and Angophoras (which look like 'gum' trees with typical gum-type leaves), and they in turn sheltered the ferns, Dracaenas and Queensland Firewheel Trees.

Firewheel trees-'Stenocarpus sinatus'- have spectacular flowers that really are in the shape of a wheel, unfortunately not depicted very well in my photo on the right.

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In another part of the gardens, known as the Oak Lawn people were occupied with enjoying the day even though the sky was grey and threatening. Schoolchildren played organised games or completed projects set by their teachers.

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In the ‘Camellia Collection’  blooms in many shades of pink could be seen.  Autumn is the best time to see Camellia Sasanquas flowering in Australia.

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A Wattlebird sipped nectar from a Floss Silk tree, Black Swans, native to Australia, swam in the lake, and an Eastern Spinebill (so difficult to photograph) found his lunch in the Echeverias.  Can you just see him there on the right?  He has a very long slender beak.  I'm happy to say I have Spinebills in my own garden, although I haven't been able to photograph one yet.

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A wander through the rainforest provided us with an idea of what it would be like to be in a real rainforest.  This area is kept damp with frequent waterings and there are tall sprayers placed frequently but unobtrusively throughout.  It's full of huge ficus trees with buttressed roots, epiphytes, ferns, and a wide variety of palms. A delightful stream runs through, wending its way down the slope, finding its way under roots and finally into one of the lakes on the lower level of the gardens.

 

Finally, with our feet aching and the sky threatening rain, we headed off back to the city, anticipating a delicious lunch at the highly recommended 'Chin Chin' restaurant.  I had to take one last photo which wasn't strictly in the gardens, but I couldn't resist this unusual combination of colours.

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Do you have a favourite public garden that you like to visit?