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The Geelong Botanic Gardens
Scattered across rural Victoria are some very interesting botanic gardens. One of these hidden treasures is the new Geelong Botanic Contemporary Gardens, located at the rural gateway to Western Victoria. The drought tolerant garden concept was created by Chris Dance and implemented by John Arnott. It is amazing, exciting and really modern. This is 21st century gardening.
The new contemporary site fronts 19th-century gardens and is situated on a hillside overlooking Corio Bay. Geelong has a strong harbor connection, with bow-like structures reaching into the waterhole and reminding you of the prow of a ship.
This new modern garden is absolutely fantastic and inspiring. John Arnott explains that it is full of ideas that we can apply to our own gardens. Geelong Gardens are special, they reflect two different centuries and they do it well. Often times you see modern and tradition clash but here in Geelong the two marry brilliantly as the design creates a contrast between the two eras and is a transition point rather than a transition zone. It’s black and white whether you’re in the 21st century or the 19th century.
Gardening in Australia is changing in the 21st century. We no longer have the resources to create a 19th century green oasis style garden. 21st century gardens at Geelong reflect this. The Geelong area receives below average rainfall and has been experiencing drought for 7 years. The idea behind contemporary gardens is to capture people’s imaginations and stimulate intellectual conversation about today’s challenges. 21st garden is not cozy and quiet. Challenging our notions of what a garden is. Casing shows how to use attractive plants from around the world as well as Australian drought tolerant plants and how to create a sustainable garden.
There are 3 themes for new gardens:-
- Less water needed
- Use of indigenous plants
- Uses of plants in arid regions of the world
The contemporary garden is based on the philosophy of sustainability. We can no longer afford to waste water on high water users. In the last 10-15 years, there have been major changes in ecological practices and principles in urban horticulture. The new garden represents our shift from controlling the microclimate to suit the plant, to selecting plants that are best suited to environmental conditions. Choosing the right plant for the right place. Agave’s beds are in great condition to withstand summer sun and catch any runoff that may occur.
One of the designer’s difficulties is interpreting the banya-banya pines Araucaria bidwillii (it dates from the Gondwana period) is different from the 19th century garden. Gondwana was the great southern continent that included Africa, Australia, South America, Antarctica and New Zealand. Over time the continent broke up but we still have some remnants of vegetation. A clever solution was found by surrounding the banya-banya pines with vegetation of the period. While walking around the area you will notice plants like spear lily Doranthes palmeri and luster leaf holly Ilex latifolia.
Another problem was how to make the garden relevant to visitors. It was decided to divide the garden into two parts:- North/South. In the northern section the endemic species are subtle and beautiful and in the south the cacti collection is large and bold. By using these two types of design, everyone can find something to relate to and enjoy.
Site preparation was very simple. John explained that he worked with the heavy clay soil of the existing soil which is terrible. It is cracked in summer and rough in winter. The cacti bed was the only area modified where drainage was significantly improved. The choice of plant material was severely limited by soil conditions. No compost or animal manure was added to dry plants like low nutrient soils. Mulch is a wonderful aid in reducing evaporation but it can soak up moisture and prevent it from percolating to the topsoil. Therefore only a thin layer of eucalyptus < 40 cm was used. White stones were also used as part of the beauty.
It is interesting to note that the water system was installed but has been used only 10 times in the last 3 years. Plants are watered at the time of planting and twice a week for 6 weeks to establish them. After an active root system was established, watering was stopped. The garden survives on rainwater and the difficult adaptations of trees. Lessons learned from dying species, don’t replant them.
The design of this garden is formal and predictable. It is an open design where you can see everything. And since the design was about the plants and not the landscape, the two hurdles are that it’s no surprise, and that the general public doesn’t have many ideas on how to create the all-important shade in a hot climate like Australia. Plum pine (i>Podocarpus elatus Or Myrtle Beach Nothofagus cunninghamii.
The garden has beautiful trees that provide color and interest throughout the year. There is an interesting collection of other plants such as American salvia and blue bush sage Salvia eurekaDiffuse blue bells Wahlenbergia gracilis And chocolate lily Arthropodium strictum. Many trees and shrubs offer flowers and interesting foliage, such as coastal yucca Yucca Aloefolia and Wine/Jelly Palm Butia topita.
This garden explodes the 1970s myth that when natives are planted, you can forget about them. They need TLC (tender loving care) just like any other plant. A 21st century garden in Geelong is managed like a 19th century garden. It is considered a traditional herbaceous border or short-lived perennial. It is managed in such a way to keep it aesthetically pleasing.
This new park for the 21st century is challenging. It’s not about design or strict landscapes. Focus on the plants instead! Choosing the right plants for the right place and using species that create interest and intrigue not just in Australia but around the world. The goal of the garden is to excite and inspire you and show the home gardener what these plants are capable of. The goal is not for you to go home and copy them exactly, but to give you ideas so you can use them to suit your garden and save water.
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