Thursday, February 3, 2011

A biased report of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne

Entrance to the Ian Potter Foundation Children's Garden... with Muehlbeckia sculptures trained on wire (bad hair day! as my girls said), and tactile fronds of asparagus fern, Asparagus densiflorus.
A friend of mine who also happens to be a psychiatrist, said once that women always have a special relationship with the houses they lived in when they got their babies. I think this could be extended to other significant places from that same period of time in life, like the parks and gardens where they went with their babies. Just thinking of the first steps my daughters took on the rolling lawns of the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne makes me completely and positively biased towards this peaceful, blooming park by the Yarra river, just a stone's throw from the bustling tennis courts of the Australian Open tournament.
A Victorian house for private functions with adjoining perennial border.
Furry stems and flowers of kangaroo paw, Anigozanthos 'Big Red'.
Founded in 1845, only ten years later than the City of Melbourne, the Royal Botanic Gardens follows the proud tradition of botanical gardens around the world. Trees, shrubs and other plants form all around the world grow on the grounds, many of them gathered in special collections highlighting special plant habitats or regions. Many plants are neatly labeled, which helps the curious visitor to identify the surrounding botanical riches. Extensive lawns that were designed in the mid-1900s provide sweeping views of the plantings, which are often gathered into islands and large beds. Large ornamental ponds reflect the greenery and double as water reservoirs.

Red flowering gum, Corymbia ficifolia 'Summertime' in full bloom in the children's garden.
Queensland bottle trees, Brachychiton rupestris, by the entrance of the children's gardens. Tower of the Governor's House in the background.
A bamboo grove for young explorers to get lost in.
One of the most exciting parts of the gardens is the new Ian Potter Foundation Children's Garden, where kids can run around, explore and learn about plants. It is beautifully designed, with tunnels, water rills and climbing platforms to enjoy water or the canopies of the high bamboos. Alternatively, they can check our what's in season the kitchen garden - during our visit, salads had already bolted, but radishes and onions looked delicious.
View from the kitchen garden.
Echinaceas thriving in the kitchen garden.
It would be very spoilt to say that there is nothing extraordinary about the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne, even if in one sense there isn't - all features of the gardens have been done elsewhere in other botanical gardens, even if the children's garden is one of the best I've seen. But the abundant vegetation, temperate climate, softly rolling hills and location by the river Yarra make their magic here. And the way Melburnians use their gardens, from sunrise to sunset.

The herb garden.

Buds and flowers of pomegranate, Punica granatum.
First thing in the morning, early joggers 'do the Tan', a nickname for the path that leads around the gardens (out of nostalgia, I did the Tan every day during our visit, exchanging a smiling good morning with every jogger I met...). Later, moms with strollers and the lunch crowds arrive, and during afternoons, whole families gather to play together in the gardens. In the evenings, culture aficionados devour Shakespeare plays or all kinds of concerts under the starry skies. So even without my memories about my girls, with unsteady steps and eager to smell the flowers, nosediving into the lush flowerbeds, this garden would be a wonderful oasis to visit. And with those memories attached, it is one of the special places in my and my daughters' lives.

Families teaching cricket to their toddlers in front of the bamboo groves (ball games are strictly prohibited, but quietly tolerated when the participants are under 5...).


scottweberpdx said...

Great post...looks amazing...i'm in love with those brick gorgeous!

Sophia Callmer said...

En vacker botanisk trädgård även om jag aldrig varit där. Intressant det där med parker/platser man gått i med små barn, jag har ett sådant förhållande till Søndermarken i Köpenhamn. Inte så magnifik som Melbournes botaniska trädgård, men en vacker klassisk parkanläggning, med många siktlinjer, gamla träd och nivåskillnader.kram Sophia

Stone Art's Blog said...

I absolutely love the Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne, in fact I absolutely LOVE Melbourne, the coolest city Ive ever been to, so alive. And for someone like me who loves art, architecture and plants, its paradise. I wana go back (why dose Ireland have to be so far away :(

The Intercontinental Gardener said...

Hi Stone Art, sometimes I do wonder the same thing, why we ever left... but then, I love my garden in Sweden, too. So many places, so little time.

Ruben said...

Intressant om denna trädgård, och jag är säker på, att den är precis så vacker som du beskriver den. Vad trevligt det låter, att den används från morgon till kväll (och alla som lunchar i parken plockar väl upp efter sig?). Klätterställningen? i barnens avdelning gav mig en idé till en "bredbent" ställning för bönor - och ett ställe för barnbarnet att gömma sig i.
Ha det gott!

The Intercontinental Gardener said...

Visst är det fint, Ruben! Klättertällningen är ett stöd för bönor och andra klätterväxter, det finns flera sådana tunnel i köksträdgården. Varför det inte fanns några bönor på dem i år vet jag inte... Och det som jag beundrar är just att folk verkar uppskatta parken så mycket att de plockar upp efter sig och annars också tar hand om att parken inte störs. Härligt ställe, verkligen!

madeleine said...

Hmmm.... that grass at the gradens always makes me want to take off my shoes and run around on it! You will be pleased to know that after a very wet 6 months Melbourne's water storage has gone from 35% last year to 55% today and expected to rise to 59% in the next few weeks. Not bad for a city that was running out of water 2 years ago and good news for my garden!