Monday, 18 March 2013

Travelling in Australia, part 6

Visiting a paradise
When I look out of the window here at home and see the almost 70 cm high snowdrifts and banks and the thermometer at -6 Celsius, I find it immensely invigorating to remember the beautiful, nice day that we spent in Cranbourne Royal Botanic Gardens with our friend Christine. Christine is also one of the voluntary redshirt guides without whom Cranbourne would not be the same. These guides possess a well of information of all things Cranbourne and Christine is no exception.
There is a Royal Botanic Garden in Melbourne, too, but I am glad that Christine recommended we visit Cranbourne instead. It will take about 50 minutes from Melbourne CBD to drive to Cranbourne but it sure is worth every cent you spend on petrol and more.

The whole area is not very old, although looking at what the gardeners and planners alike have achieved you would not think that. There are 170 000 plants in the area. Some of which, being fully grown, have been brought to Cranbourne from somewhere in Oz. A thing that is easier said than done. It is indeed very tricky to get grown trees transferred to a new environment and make them thrive there like they have done in Cranbourne. This is an Australian garden, so they do not even pretend to grow plants from all over the world but have truly concentrated on Australian plants.
The planning, constructing, and planting have taken 20 years. The size of the entire garden is 15 hectares so the visitors can easily spend a day there enjoying walking, playing, biking, and picnics. There is also a marvellous café offering something to eat and drink. And when you are done walking you can go and visit the shop which is quite a treasure trove for an eager gardener.
The incredible sight that almost overwhelms you when you enter the area is the Red Sand Garden.
The Australian Garden is a contemporary design that charts the journey of water from the dry inland deserts to the densely populated coast. The design is a collaboration between Taylor Cullity Lethlean Landscape Architects and plant designer Paul Thompson.
In the first half of the Australian Garden (completed in 2006), the journey of water begins in the red desert heart of Australia, the Red Sand Garden. Here in the dry, water is absent. Its journey continues: the Dry River Bed and the Ephemeral Lake Sculpture highlight the transient nature of water leaving the desert in drought arriving with unpredictable floods until it arrives in the Rockpool Waterway.
In the second half of the Australian Garden (the northern half), the Rockpool Waterway becomes a River Bend at the River Walk.

The main building

Ready to start a tour

The journey of  water begins…

The Water Saving Garden conveys the significance of water and its relationship to plant selection and suitability.  The Water Saving Garden promotes and explains issues of water conservation and the wise use of water in home gardens.
The garden is divided into three terraces linked by a number of paths and walkways that will demonstrate three distinct watering regimens. The terraces are the dry terrace, the water-conscious terrace, and the water wise terrace.

What a brilliant idea

I wish I could tell you what these flowers are, but they sure are pretty - that´s all I´m saying. PS. Thanks to my Aussie friends Heather and Debbie I now know that these flowers are called kangaroo paws.

There are lots of birds around. They must think this is an absolute paradise.

Different display gardens offer nice ideas. Wouldn´t you just love a bright red wall with a window in your garden? Wouldn´t go unnoticed.

I will be pestering Jukka forever to build me one of these…

The River Walk is a broad promenade with views across a meandering ‘river bend’ water body. This area, comprising a large, curving, treed walkway of granitic gravel and a waterside section of timber decking, connects the Rockpool Waterway with the vibrant Display Gardens and Howson Hill.

The Melaleuca Spits is the Australian Garden’s principle representation of Australia’s rich and distinctive estuarine coastal topography. Strongly reminiscent of Australia’s coastal regions, this evocative feature of the Australian Garden landscape is highly visible from many other locations within the Garden.

Nice use of familiar materials. Just waiting for the climbers to grow.

Visitors arriving at the Gondwana Garden will discover a lush and immersive landscape representing Australia’s ancient Gondwanan rainforest heritage

Lovely rusty planters

Like eggs in a nest - Cycad

This mysterious Weird and Wonderful Garden focuses on some of the stranger forms of Australian flora including dramatic plants such as Doryanthes, cycads, Xanthorrhoea (grass tree), Brachychiton, Flindersia, and Livistona ( a sort of a palm tree). These plants are juxtaposed with massive vaults of Castlemaine stone and water features to create a fantastic and surreal landscape. 

The bottle tree both looks like a bottle, contains potable sap, and is a characteristic sight of the dry inland savannah of Queensland, where the roots, shoots, and wood provided food for aborigines.

Beautiful moss. Requires a lot of work to keep clean, though. And strictly no walking on it.

Led by the water…

…you keep walking around the Red Sand Garden

Take a seat and let the scent pure your soul

What a remarkable variety of leaf forms Nature produces

This guy has come a long way, but it will be here another 8000 years or so. And just look at the beauty of it!

Plant a tree or...

…use some rocks to shelter you from the view.

Grass trees are a category of flowering plants native only to Australia.

Xanthorrhoea (grass tree) is important to the Aboriginal people who live where it grows. The flowering spike makes the perfect fishing spear. It is also soaked in water and the nectar from the flowers gives a sweet tasting drink. In the bush the flowers are used as a compass. This is because flowers on the warmer, sunnier side of the spike (usually the north facing side) often open before the flowers on the cooler side facing away from the sun.
The resin from Xanthorrhoea plants is used in spear-making and is an invaluable adhesive for Aboriginal people, often used to patch up leaky coolamons (water-containers) and even yidaki (didgeridoo, a musical instrument).
Xanthorrhoea may be cultivated, as seed is easily collected and germinated. While they do grow very slowly, quite attractive plants with short trunks (10 cm) and leaf crowns up to 1.5 m (to the top of the leaves) can be achieved in 10 years. The slow growth rate means that it can take 30 years to achieve a specimen with a significant trunk. So the trees below are maybe more than 30 years old and, I am assuming, they have been established plants taken from the bushland. Grass trees have a lifespan of around 600 years so these trees are only babies!
The "trunk" of Xanthorrhoea is a hollow ring of accumulated leaf bases. Nutrient transport is via aerial roots that run down the centre, thus being well protected. Maybe that is one reason why grass trees are very tough and they can endure droughts and bushfires. The bushfire will burn the trees but they will regenerate.

So whenever you are in the area, make sure you visit this paradise. The entry is FREE…