Enjoying the Spring Walk

Sunday, 30 September 2012

The Spring Walk, Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney

Fired up with my new resolution to grow a few more spring-flowering plants in my garden, I spent an enjoyable sunny morning on Sunday in Sydney's Botanic Garden. At this time of year, the double-bordered Spring Walk - located between the Botanic Garden Creek (near the Palm Grove Centre) and Lion Gate Lodge - is the highlight. This feature was first planted out with azaleas and other shade-loving plants in 1856 by the then director, Charles Moore. It has undergone a rejuvenation in recent years and showcases some of the best plants for a Sydney spring display.

Wisteria floribunda Kuchibeni in the Spring Walk, Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney

One of the most stunning plantings is that of 11 standard Wisteria, located at regular intervals along the borders, and they were cascading with blossom during my visit. Standardising these vigorous plants is probably the best way to deal with them in Sydney gardens, as otherwise they can take off and smother your whole property. One I particular admired was Wisteria floribunda 'Kuchibeni', a lovely white-flowered version. Behind this specimen was a planting of some of the semitropical shrubs that bloom in Sydney in spring: fluffy purple Eupatorium megalophyllum, multi-coloured Brunfelsia australis and the larger-flowered species Brunfelsia pauciflora, and scented Rondeletia amoena.

Prunus persica Versicolor in the Spring Walk, Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney

Another repeated planting along the length of the Spring Walk comprises 12 ornamental peach blossoms: Prunus persica 'Versicolor', which has semi-double flowers of different colours - pink, white and red-and-white striped - all on the one tree. It is one of the best blossom trees for Sydney's humid climate, and gives a gorgeous freshness to any spring garden. Oriental shrubs like the Prunus seem to shine as the main spring bloomers - other examples to be seen in the Spring Walk include frothy pink Weigela florida, long-tasselled Pieris japonica 'Sarabande' and the classic may bush (Spiraea cantoniensis).

Ranunculus, Spring Walk, Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney

Underplanting for the shrubs included annual pansies and Primula malacoides, and bulbs such as Ranuculus cultivars, Watsonia species and tulips. Ranunculus and tulips don't tend to flower after their first season in Sydney gardens, so have to be planted afresh each autumn, but they add a wonderful colour and sparkle to a spring garden. There were a number of Alstroemeria cultivars in full flower - far ahead of those in my own garden. The proximity of the Botanic Gardens to the ocean means it has a slightly warmer climate than much of the rest of Sydney.

Rhizomatous Begonia in bloom in the Begonia Gardens, Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney

Elsewhere in the Botanic Garden, there is lots of other spring colour. In the Begonia Gardens, nearby to the Spring Walk, rhizomatous Begonia are in full flower, with their dainty clouds of tiny blooms. Many of the shrubby Begonia are also flowering - again, far ahead of those in my garden. This part of the Garden shows how shaded areas can be made very beautiful with the use of Begonia plants combined with warm-climate foliage plants.

Alloxylon flammeum, Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney

There are some dramatic native plants to be seen throughout the garden. Near the Spring Walk is an amazing tree waratah (Alloxylon flammeum) covered in stunning large, orange inflorescences. I saw many flannel flowers and kangaroo paws in different areas, and Callistemon species were in full bloom.

Cream-coloured Clivia, Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney

In the shady tropical borders, there were mass plantings of orange and cream Clivia miniata on a scale that I don't think I have ever seen anywhere before. It was a sheer delight to wander along these paths and admire these plants so suited to shaded Sydney gardens. And I can report that during my whole visit, I did not see (or smell) a single flying fox! The campaign to relocate them seems to have been a success and, hopefully, the Botanic Garden trees will soon recover from the damage these animals inflicted. To those who regret the departure of the flying foxes (and I know of at least ONE person), I can report that the ibises are still there in fine form!

I returned home full of the joys of spring and inspired to add a few more features to my own September garden. I will be having a break for a week or so, but will be back soon with more garden musings.