Category Archives: Gardens

Albury Botanic Gardens – Part 2

Part 1 of this post about the Albury Botanic Gardens looked at the broader garden. As promised, in part 2 of this post, I am going to show you my favourite part of the garden – the children’s garden.

Despite the fact that I am a ‘grown up’ and don’t yet have any children, the children’s garden really called to me. The garden is well designed to be attractive to adult carers while being fun for children of all ages and abilities. If you plan to visit the garden while in Albury, be aware that the children’s garden is closed on Wednesdays (except during NSW school holidays) – note the website doesn’t say anything about this… We were only in Albury for a night and of course it was a Wednesday, so we nearly missed out on visiting this part of the garden. Luckily we were able to pop in after we checked out of our hotel the next day.

A sign showing information about the children's garden
The children’s garden is a great feature in this garden

The first thing you’ll see in the children’s garden, is the life-sized dinosaur. Pretty much all children are captivated by dinosaurs at some point so it’s a great addition to the garden. The best bit though, is the fact that there is a speaking tube built into the structure. I’m sure it’s a big hit with the children – but even us adults had a go too šŸ™‚

A large, long-necked dinosaur (probably a brachiosaurus))
A huge dinosaur guards the entrance of the garden
a side on view of the dinosaur
The dinosaur really is huge!
a silver speaker is embedded between the lips of the dinosaur's mouth
A closer look at the dinosaur’s head reveals a speaker that is connected to another speaker in the dinosaur’s tail allowing children to talk to each other (or make dinosaur noises) from the extreme ends of the dinosaur

There’s also a smaller dinosaur that children can climb on. The surface around it is nice and spongy so if anyone falls off, they’re protected from serious injuries. I’d still recommend carefully watching any children in your care though.

a smaller dinosaur
The baby dinosaur was very cute
giant clay broken eggshells
Where there are baby dinosaurs there must be empty eggshells!

Other than the dinosaurs, there were many other sculptures throughout the garden.

an imitation wood sculpture with lots of colourful 'carvings'
There are some amazing sculptures in the garden
a colourful scene with a mushroom house
An example of one of the colourful additions to the sculpture in the previous photo
a multicolour tower adorns the top of the sculpture
This is the largest of the additions to that sculpture
six small colourful inserts in the sculpture
More additions to the sculpture

Indeed, I think the ratio of plants to hard-landscaping features was pretty good.

a carved owl on a lectern is surrounded by listening animals
The garden has a good mix of plants and sculpture features

And the sculptures aren’t just for show. The castle below is actually the public toilets and drinking water fountains.

The public toilet is in the shape of a yellow castle
Even the public toilet has been made fun in this garden
a lizard
One of the ‘carvings’ on the castle that is the public toilet
A lizard's head pokes out of the wall of the castle and when you press the button water pours out of its mouth into a 'pond' where the drain is situated
Even the drinking fountains are decorative

There are also educational sections for the garden. Both adults and children alike can see what edible plants are in season at any given time of the year. The central sculpture within the edible garden even illustrates the transformation of a female squash flower into a ripe pumpkin.

Four curved, raised garden beds are filled with edibles and surround a lovely statue
The edible garden beds
The sculpture in the centre of the edible garden beds has a pumpkin in the centre. On top of the pumpkin is a female pumpkin flower complete with immature fruit at the bottom and the unopened flower petals at the top
The pumpkin sculpture shows a mature pumpkin and what the female flower looks like before it opens

Speaking of plants, the species selected for the garden have obviously been carefully chosen to simulate a prehistoric environment.

prehistoric looking tree
The plants in the children’s garden were carefully chosen to mimic the kind of landscape we expect dinosaurs lived in
small cycads
A dinosaur garden isn’t complete without some cycads
a huge tree sits in the middle of a path
There are some huge trees in the children’s garden for the little ones to admire

There are also places for adults to sit while they keep an eye on their young charges.

a bench is provided for adults to sit and watch their young charges play
There are thoughtful additions for parents and guardians

I particularly admire the way the garden designers have used plants as interactive elements to the garden. The living cubbies are a perfect example and they would be easy to replicate in a home garden.

a bench can be seen in amongst giant bamboo
There are lots of special places for children to explore and play in
Narrow bamboo is planted closely together to create the walls of a living cubby
Smaller bamboo is also used to create a living cubby

In addition to living cubbies, there is also a hut built from dead plant material. Again, this is something a home gardener could consider putting in their own garden.

a hut built from bamboo canes
Older children could potentially help their parents/guardians to build something like this in their own garden

Just like the broader gardens, the children’s garden contains a (fully fenced) water feature with the added benefit of a water-relevant mural behind it.

a fenced in water feature sits in front of a building with a mural of turtles and amoebas
The water feature is safely fenced and the building next door has been painted to create an interesting backdrop for the children to look at

Really, I could go on all day about the many wonderful features of this garden.

a wooden foot bridge has yellow buttons built into it
The yellow buttons in this bridge make noises
sculptures can be entered by small children
Some of the sculptures are a little more interactive
one of the 'carvings' in the sculpture above is five fingers with a little head on top
I love the detail on these sculptures!
a water pump children can use to pump water into a small pond
What would a children’s garden be without an interactive water feature?
a tree has been bent and curved and coiled around itself as it grew
This fantastic creation (yes it’s a living tree) would be at home in any garden – whether it’s for children or adults

I hope you’ve enjoyed this look at the Albury Botanic Gardens and are inspired to visit if you’re ever in the area. Even if you can’t visit the garden, hopefully you’ve picked up a couple of ideas for things you might include in your own garden – whether it needs to be child friendly or not.

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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.

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A succulent and cactus garden to remember at the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney

I recently wrote about the lovely herb garden at the Royal Botanic Gardens but that wasn’t the only standout part of that special garden. The succulent and cactus garden at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney is one of the best succulent gardens I’ve come across to date. My husband has never really understood the attraction of cacti in particular but has had his eyes opened at this garden.

a round garden bed centre piece with a variety of succulent types of differing heights
The succulent garden is one of my favourite parts of this botanic garden

The garden contains a good variety of succulents, including many cacti. Some are common in home gardens, while others are not but each species has something interesting to show.

lots of different types of succulents, including cacti
The succulent garden has lots of different types of succulents
average looking, spikey cacti alongside unusual, lumpy succulents
The garden mixes unusual succulents with those that are more familiar

TheĀ garden is well designed – there isn’t a single part that doesn’t offer an interesting view.

other succulent rooms can be seen in the background
Each section of the garden is designed to provide an interesting view

I often find that home gardeners mostly choose low growing succulents and cacti for their gardens so it’s not all that often that you find some of the various, very interesting, taller succulents. This garden certainly breaks that trend though with succulents of every height.

succlents of all shapes and sizes
The garden doesn’t just include low growing succulents – it showcases succulents of all sizes including small trees

Another thing I quite enjoyed about this garden was the good choice of mulch material. The colour and texture work well with the wide variety of succulents throughout the garden. Anyone planning their own succulent garden would do well to consider using a similar mulch. That’s not to say of course that there aren’t other good choices but if you’re unsure what to pick, this is a great option.

the garden is mulched with mostly red, rough pebbles
A key part of the design of this garden is the pebble mulch – it offers a good contrast to all of the succulents in the garden

TheĀ garden designer also chose a good mix of succulents with very different forms and textures.

a round succulent next to a straight succulent
The garden designer has cleverly combined succulents with different forms
a furry and spiky cactus
There were so many interesting textures to see

I was also please to see that the garden does a good job of showing visitors how succulents that are commonly used indoors can also be grown outdoors.

monther in laws tongue
It was also nice to see some of the succulents that are commonly used as indoor plants growing outdoors

Sometimes it can be hard to describe why succulents are such nice plants, especially for people who can’t get paskĀ all those spines but I think every succulent has something interesting to offer. And with all their amazing colours, patterns, forms and textures, they still mange to throw flowers into their tool box of wonders.

a succulent with leaves that fan out and change colour as they go
One of the best things about succulents is the wonderful patterns they make
spiky cactus with flower buds
I was pleased to find that some of the succulents were starting to flower as it’s too cold for most succulents to flower at our place so I rarely get to see such a treat
a tree succulent with white flowers
A succulent in full bloom
a flower bud on a cactus just starting to open
Another succulent just starting to flower

Another thing that struck me about this garden was the lack of damaged and deadĀ plant matter. With a garden the size of the Sydney Botanic Gardens, one might expect to find plenty of spent flowers and plants with damage from animals and the many visitors the garden gets every day. Not the succulent garden though. It’s clearly cared for by gardeners who truly appreciate it.

Many different succulents planted en mass
A proud display of succulents

This may or may not have something to do with the fact that it is situated right next door to the Sydney Herbarium… And this of course makes it very convenient to visit both places if you’re one of the Ā special people allowed to visit the herbarium.

succulents in front of the herbarium
The garden backs onto the Sydney Herbarium

Speaking of herbaria – it is also worth noting that the succulent garden has species from all over the world. As a result it certainly has some odd looking gems.

an opuntia aciculata from texas
The garden contains succulents from all over the world
a succulent with big, broad, flat leaves dotted with round, tubular structures
This garden certainly had some of the oddest looking succulents I’ve ever seen

I don’t visit Sydney all that often but now that I’ve seen the succulent garden, it’s definitely going to be on my list of places to visit again soon. If you get the chance to visit, I highly recommend setting aside a day to meander through the whole botanic garden but if your time is limited then I reckon the succulent garden is the place to go.