After a few days lazing about at home (not camping as we had hoped but, instead, watching beautiful films and knitting) we actually managed to catch the final day of the Eucalypt Festival at the Australian Garden in Cranbourne today! I’ve been meaning to get back there after visiting with uni just before it opened- and, in my book anyway, any festival celebrating trees is a reason to get out into the sunshine…
The garden is an ongoing project within the Royal Botanic Gardens Cranbourne (the arm of the RBG dedicated to all species native to Australia) and will eventually cover a huge total of 20 acres- all exploring the hugely diverse and striking flora of Australia. That is exciting enough in itself but what makes this project even more exciting is the format for the garden; it is one of a number of gardens here (like the Children’s Garden and Wigandia) that I find really beautiful and intriguing, not only because are they completely in keeping with our larger landscapes, but because they are engaging, innovative and adaptive.
Stage 1 of the garden was opened to the public in 2006 and marks the beginning of the visitors journey through the garden, encompassing the red desert that forms the heart of Australia (in a giant piece of art comprising of red earth, saltbush and curving sand dunes) and the birth of a river in the gorges and caves of the desert and its journey towards the coast and ocean. The garden is grounded in the plant world but is also full of metaphor, history, culture and education, which I think makes it accessible and enjoyable for many more people than just plant nerds like me ; )
A hundred thousand plants, from over thousand species, were planted just in Stage 1 alone, including a thousand mature trees, the oldest of which- Xanthorrhoea or grass trees- have been alive for nearly half a millenium.
The numerous different areas within the garden are divided quite formally and tap into themes of innovative and interesting uses for Australian plants, water management, our human need for gardens and what they represent to us and Australia’s botanical history, both before and after white settlement.
Although the design incorporates strong, straight lines in parts, my overriding impression was of curves; the shapes in the garden remind me a lot of Roberto Burle Marx‘s work- a pleasure for me because I really love his gardens.
In the four years since my last visit, the garden has grown up a lot! The trees have started to enclose and divide different areas and create shade and shelter, and most plantings have established themselves successfully, although the fluctuations in temperature and rainfall has meant that a few areas are in need of some rethinking. I was amazed to learn that one person was (is) responsible for the enormous job of plant selection- wow.
Stage 2 is currently under construction and should be completed by early 2012. I can’t wait to see what they’re creating in there…
We also had the good fortune to meet some wee creatures….
I have never worked out if I am a ‘big picture’ person or a ‘details’ person… but writing this blog is gradually bringing to my attention that I almost always notice and take photos of the small things. I guess I must be a ‘details’ person after all… so I apologize for the lack of perspective shots of this incredible garden- you’ll just have to visit the garden yourself : ) And I’ll try to remember to step back a bit next time I visit.