The Unusual and the Unexpected
Winter is a great time of year to get lost in the Australian Garden. Many plants are coming into bloom including many species of Grevillea, Correa, Banksia, and more. You can stand in any one spot in the Australian Garden and see dozens of wildly different shapes and textures without moving an inch. This garden showcases an awe-inspiring tapestry of leaves and flowers representing some of the most fascinating in the plant kingdom.
About the Collection
Australia is an island continent that is as large as the continental United States. As a result of its isolation, there are many distinct plant species that have evolved over time representing extreme diversity. Key features of Australian flora include adaptations to aridity and fire. Many plants are serotinous, needing fire for seed germination, such as the bottle brush (Callistemon) and sclerophyllous, developing reduced, thick leaves as an adaptation to an arid environment such as Acacia. We have many genera in the Australia Garden that include these adaptations including Banksia, Eucalyptus, and Leptospermum.
The original "Eastern Australia" garden dates back to the 1930's. In the 1980's, Dick Turner, former Garden director and editor of Pacific Horticulture, created a plan for renovations, and Rodger Elliot, a noted Australian plantsman, carried out the planting plan for the circular rock garden near the Friend Gate. However, it was the building of the new restroom that initiated the latest renovation. In the winter of 2004, Australian landscape designer Bernard Trainor devised the plan for the new plantings. Trainor was responsible for the new plaza and plantings. Sculptured walls were hand poured to resemble ancient rock strata and provide a secluded semi-circular seating area.
Many Australian plants seem otherworldly. The development of many unusual and unexpected plant species can be attributed to the continent's isolation. Some that should not be missed include:
Banksias are some of the most popular and well known Australian flowers and have become very popular in floral arrangements. The genus is named after Joseph Banks, a botanist on the expedition to Botany Bay in 1770 who collected the first specimens. They are woody plants ranging from trees to prostrate shrubs and are sometimes called honeysuckles due to the plentiful supply of nectar. There are many species and specimens of banksias in the Australia Garden, one highlight is the river banksia, Banksia seminuda, which you can read more about at the link below in the In Bloom section.
Platycerium bifurcatum (Staghorn Fern)
These amazing ferns are epiphytic, often growing on other plants in large clumps and deriving moisture and nutrients from air and rain. Their native range is widespread, extending from North Queensland to New South Wales and Lord Howe Island. The specimen in the Australia Garden is growing on the trunk of a water gum (Tristaniopsis laurina) in bed 60B.
Eucalyptus regnans (Mountain Ash)
Eucalyptus regnans, native to the Australian rainforests of Tasmania, Victoria and New South Wales, is the tallest flowering tree in the world, reaching over 300 feet. Only the California Coast Redwood, Sequoia sempervirens, grows taller, and there is some disagreement among plant experts regarding which species holds the record. The mountain ash's timber is light and strong and often used in construction. The leaves are known for their pungent fragrance, a result of oil glands that deter pests. The 'Coolabah tree' in the Australian ballad 'Waltzing Matilda' refers to this regal tree. Our specimen is only 16 years old and is already over 75 feet tall. It is located in bed 75B, northwest of the restrooms that are near the Friend Gate.
Lacy Tree Fern
Tea Tree, Manuka