Saturday, August 22, 2009

Mount Annan Botanic Garden - The Native Plant Garden of the RBG

Today we decide we'll lunch at the Mount Annan Botanic Gardens. It's a glorious day and the daughters are hankering for getting out of the house.

I love the entrance to the gardens. The dry stone walls and the rock gardens always look lovely.

They've had some difficulties over the years. At first the entrance avenue was planted with Angophera Costata - I guess it must be everyone's favourite! Unfortunately it simply failed to thrive. It likes a lighter soil than that which tends to dominate out here on the Cumberland Plain. Eventually they accepted defeat and replanted with local species. Eucalyptus tereticornus I think, with an understorey of Kai'mea, wattle and other flowering plants.

Along the entrance drive one of the large Kai'mea is putting on a marvellous show with multiple flower spikes. The close up is actually from another plant, but you can see the flower head is massive. I hope you can see how large the Kai'mea are.

We drive past the fenced children's playground and the restaurant and park the car. We take a brief look in the gift shop, which as always has awesome things on display. You can always count on the Botanic Gardens to have the BEST gift shop! Really classy stuff. Boronia au de cologne. Heavenly.

We decide we'd best hop to it and have lunch. We take a table outside and rue having been lured into coming out without a jacket. It's quite cool in the shade, so we head inside.

We share a bruschetta (quite good) and some above average salt and pepper squid. Soon the mains arrive. Daughter wins hands down with her crispy skinned baramundi fillet with macadamia nuts and orange sauce which was very good. Possibly the best barra I've had in a LONG time. The portions are generous and quite acceptable for the price charged with is only early $20s per main.

Dessert is half and half. Hubby and Daughter 2 have opted for the devonshire tea. I and daughter 1 have gone for the home made lemon tart.
All in all a very enjoyable meal.

Across the road at the beginning of the terrace garden there is always a lovely display of rockery plants. Kangaroo paw, and some that I now associate with Weddin Mountains National park. Paper daisies, brachyscombe's dainty purple daisy flower. Scaevola of various types. Very pretty.

Around about, again this as every year, there are beds covered with netting. This is the annual spring WA paper daisy display. It's got a way to go to come into bloom yet. They have to net the beds or the birds wreak havoc with it. In a month or so the colourful flowers will be making a wonderful display and making us all wish we could head over to WA and see the real thing across the landscape. Here we have a local paper daisy in bold yellows and whites.

I walk up into the terrace area and the revamped water features. They are progressively redeveloping the terrace garden and some sections are closed, but I don't have much time to explore. I regret it deeply. I'd forgotten what a lovely place this is.

Across a way I come to a small Eucalyptus ficifolia "wildfire" covered in young gumnuts. Another west aussie spectacle. Wildfire is a grafted cultivar to try to improve it's tolerance for being over here in the east.

From here I look over to another landscape feature and then over to the lake.
I wonder can you see the Alogyne Hueglii - sort of like a hibiscus in rich vibrant purple. These ones are only young. They always remind me of the huge specimen we saw at Shear Outback in Hay NSW one spring. It was absolutely smothered in flowers and was a spectacular sight.
The xanthorea fronds are waving in the breeze like one of those fibre optic lamps from the 70s.

Closer to the gift shop, a hardenbergia violacea is covered in it's purple pea flowers. A very versatile and tough plant and a local native, hardenbergia can grow as a ground cover or a climber. Like all creepers it needs a trim back regularly to prevent a build up of dead growth underneath.

Daughter 1 and I are both on the look out for plants for our gardens which in both cases need redevelopment. Daughter is very taken with the Hardenbergia. There is also a white variety of hardenbergia, but I don't think it's a patch on the original deep purple. If you wander in the remnant bushland of the gardens - which is endangered Cumberland Plain Woodland, which originally covered much of the Sydney area - you can see the wiry little stems of creeping hardenbergia here and there. It does it tough away from the irrigation of course and is not so boldly showy, but much more dainty.

Around the corner the hardenbergia are mixed in a bed with small white paper daisy plants. .. I should know the name but for the life of me I can't think of it at the moment.. something-or-other anthemoides I think....

Next in line we have the Geraldton Wax. Another spectacular WA native it does well if left alone on sandy soil. Most WA natives don't like it in the more humid east coast climate, but I've had good success with Geraldton Wax and mine is still going strong after nearly a decade and flowering beautifully this year. The wax in the name refers to the waxy character of the blossoms which make a very popular and long lasting cut flower.

I am pleased to see that the occassional revamp of the gardens has not caused the loss of the lovely prickley little ground cover wattle which like so many wattles at this time of year is going all out to look spectacular.

We take a drive around Cunningham Drive, through various arboretum. Up the hill with views across the district both east and west and down again along the water race before we and stop to commune with what must be the best specimen of Eucalyptus crebra in exhistance. Indigenous to the Mt Annan site, I think either it's thrown a branch or they've trimmed it, as it used to have branches hanging right to the ground. The branches create a beautiful sihouette as the lowering sun swings in behind the tree to the west.

The water race is a feature in itself. Happy to take a back seat to the rest of the gardens it is actually an engineering marvel. On gravity alone it transports water across vast distances between various water reservoirs. When the idea was floated they said it couldn't be done. They said Australian engineers were second rate and they'd better get experts out from the mother country. Well, the local engineers turned out to be pretty good after all.... well that's the story as it was told to me at any rate.
Just across the road, the Woodland picnic area provides electric bbqs covered shady picnic tables and a large lawn which is typically utilised for a ball game of some sort. Maybe cricket, maybe soccer or touch footy. Traditional Aussie picnic pastimes.

In the gardens of the woodland picnic area, some native clematis clambers among some native pea or other. Purple seems to be very much in vogue at the moment!

We cruise along now to the rear of the gardens. They have cleverly got things set up so that you have multiple opportunities to pass the cafe and shop and playground, but we pass by and head around for some more views and to check out the wattle garden, which should be looking a picture.
There's a lovely flowering creeper on the amenities block.

However it is, as you would expect, the wattles that steal the show here. Many different varieties, most of which will go unnamed by me! Except for Acacia cultriformis - which was a favourite of some friends of mine. It's adapted very well to life in the gardens and has self sown down along the road up to the garden's entrance.

We will close with an array of beautiful wattle blossom. The epitome of spring in Sydney.

As we depart we spy an abundance of native clematis creeping over the nearby shrubbery in the remnant bushland. This is a must for my redeveloped garden. Hardy, local and beautiful.

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