Albury Botanic Gardens – Part 1

Albury’s botanic gardens were established over 130 years ago. While many botanic gardens seek to grow as wide a variety of species as possible, this garden takes a different approach. The garden focuses on displaying plants that do well in the climate in ways that gardeners might use them in their home garden. As a result, it’s easy to understand why the gardens have won a number of prizes over the years for layout and design.

Different sized plants, growing at different hegiths, from ground cover ferns to large bushes and trees are shown
The garden offers examples of good plant selection
a border of low, upright strappy plants separates the lawn from the garden bed which contains a variety of plants of different heights and shapes
Another example of good garden composition – note that both these examples show how gardeners can create multiple layers of plantings within garden beds, allowing many more plants to be displayed in the same area

We recently visited the gardens on a holiday and I have to say, this would have to be one of my favourite botanic gardens. We seem to be pretty unlucky with our visits to gardens because it always seems to rain! But hopefully you’ll get an idea of just how lovely this garden is despite the overcast conditions.

raindrops can clearly be seen through a gap in the foliage
As with other gardens we’ve visited, it rained while we were there (click on the picture to see a higher resolution version where you can really see the raindrops!)

In our climate, there aren’t too many plants that flower in winter. Even plants that are supposed to flower in winter usually don’t flower until early spring for us. As a result, we were pleased to see lots of plants in flower despite the fact we visited the garden right in the middle of winter.

a single hellebore flower - white with lots of deep burgundy freckles
Despite it being the middle of winter, there were plenty of flowers on display like this lovely hellebore.
a cluster of small white flowers, some open and some still closed
More winter flowers just opening
red flowers on bare branches
And more winter flowers – I was especially pleased to see these open as they don’t open in my climate for at least another month and a half!
two pure white lily of the valley flowers standing proud above green foliage
Classic lily of the valley
three pink camellia flowers with white speckles
Classic camellias were also in flower

Even better than that though was the fact that the garden designer has clearly selected some flowering plants to attract wildlife. I always love watching honey eaters and other such birds twirling around kniphofia flower stems to gather nectar from each individual flower.

a honey eater gathers nectar from a kniphofia flower
The flowers weren’t just chosen for their looks either – some have been specifically chosen because they attract birds and other beneficial organisms

We saw other birds too like this friendly ibis that clearly hangs out in the garden regularly as it wasn’t bothered by the many Pokemon Go devotees who were wandering the garden when we were there (despite the rain).

An ibis hunts for a meal in the lawn
All kinds of wildlife is attracted to this garden

I was also pleased to see that the garden is designed to have colour throughout the year, even when there aren’t any flowers open. I must say, I look forward to our gold dust plants one day growing this big!

a large gold dust plant provides additional colour all year round
Variegated foliage also provides colour when flowers do not

As with most botanic gardens, this garden contains a few handy features, such as benches and a gazebo, to make visiting more comfortable.

a traditional hexagonal gazebo
The gazebo would be a lovely spot for a sheltered meal on a wet or really sunny day

The gardens are quite small but the designers have managed to pack a lot into the space they have. There are lots of open lawns for picnics and, of course, a water feature completes the feature set.

a triangular river sits in the lawn with three foot bringes - one spanning each side of the triangle
The garden has lovely lawns with tranquil water features

The garden also illustrates one good technique for keeping grass out of your garden beds (provided your lawn isn’t composed of grass that spreads via runners – think couch and kikuyu). The photo below illustrates how metal garden bed edging can be used to good effect. Unfortunately, the photo also shows what happens when you don’t build garden beds, especially lowered garden beds, with adequate drainage. Those poor rose bushes would not have appreciated having such wet feet!

Roses are planted in lowered garden beds with metal edging which protects the beds from grass encroachment but also means the beds are full of water and look like ponds - not something roses appreciate
A good example of how not to plant your roses

As you can see, the gardens are indeed lovely but it is the newest addition to the gardens that I enjoyed the most and my next post will be about that part of the garden.

Until then, I hope this post has given you some tips on good garden design, from layering plants, to selecting species for year-round colour, to edging garden beds and the benefits of good drainage.