When I take time out at Melbourne’s Royal Botanic Gardens (RBG), there are two major options. I can walk…and walk…and walk some more, relishing the big picture. The history of the garden and its inviting design. The great variety of plant species. The way the big old trees interact with newer or smaller ones and set off the sloping expanses of deep green lawns. The winding paths, the lakes, the shape and definition of intriguing shrubbery, the fine ground-cover planting,
Or I can settle at a specific spot, to look at detail. This is what I did today.
It was a surprise, because I really had intended to walk. Briskly, right around the RBG whose area is 38 hectares, up and down the steep slopes and steps. I came in halfway up the hill, through Gate B past a splendid Moreton Bay fig, and thought OK, this is a good starting point. But I wasn’t sure which way to begin. Down towards the Viburnum collection? Up through the roses?
Then as I looked around, some way off I spotted the top of a broad tree covered in deep pink flowers, reaching into the blue sky above and between shorter trees and shrubs and beside a towering palm tree.
What on earth is that? I wondered. And headed along a curving path to find out.
The tree stretched up in the midst of a small, round garden bed, with shrubs on either side of its fascinating trunk giving way to lower plantings and ground covers.
As I got closer it displayed fewer flowers, especially on the lower branches.
Then I looked down and realised the flowers – each with five cream-centred petals – were falling fast, lying in profusion on the ground…
yet retaining their hue and shape, decorating not only the low plants that filled the bed but the grass beyond it. And also the roots that were visible at the base of the tree – which is fascinating viewed close-up, its trunk deeply green-stained in places…
and studded with short spiky prickles.
Those fallen petals set off more silver-leafed planting. Eucalyptus pulverulenta, the mountain gum from New South Wales
which is kept small and cut down to ground level every second year to maintain its juvenile round foliage. Hibbertia truncata from Victoria,
Homoranthus flavescens from NSW and Queensland,
Ajania pacifica – one I’d never heard of – from Japan,
and also some that didn’t show a name.
Just like that beautiful big tree. I did wish I could identify it.
This was a small garden bed, only 60 steps around, but noting the plants took plenty of time. Half an hour elapsed as I moved on slowly, admiring those that were unlabelled, again silver-leafed but with flowers in different hues – deep pink/purple, soft brown giving way to cream/white with a gorgeous touch of yellow, deep yellow.
Plus one that had finished flowering. It looked like nothing much but the name was interesting – Armeria pungens or ‘Sea Pinks’. It is said to grow naturally along the coastal dunes of Portugal, southern Spain, Corsica and Sardinia.
How I admire the way in which the Royal Botanic Gardens blends Australian and imported plants! They match superbly, and almost seem to be talking to each other. Now if one of them could tell me what that picturesque flowering tree is called, I’d be happy.