"Enjoying the Spring Walk"

A visit to the Royal Botanic Garden in Sydney gives ideas for spring plantings.
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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

 Reader Comments

1/6  Sue t. - 2566 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 01 October 2012

Hi Dierdre,your visit to the Spring Walk brings back memories of the then magnificent Azalea Walk which sadly succombed in later years to petal blight. Sue Thanks, Sue - yes, sad re the azaleas but it is such a common problem throughout Sydney unless one is prepared to spray. The replanting in the Spring Walk does give some great ideas for what does do well in Sydney for spring colour. Deirdre

2/6  Leonie - 2119 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 01 October 2012

Hi Dierdre, I also enjoyed a lovely walk in the gardens yesterday. Its always such a treat in the spring time. The scents as you stroll along are just wonderful, especially now without the bats! (After visiting the Wisteria festival at Cumberland Hospital last weekend I thought many of the bats must have moved to the Parramatta River. There seemed to be more than last year, denuding the trees there). The azaleas along Epping Road at Lane Cove are also looking beautiful at the moment. Leonie Hi Leonie - shame we didn"t see each other there! It was a gorgeous day for garden strolling. Yes, the bats have had to go somewhere, and they must be swelling the numbers at the other eight or so bat colonies around Sydney! The Wisteria Festival sounds nice. Deirdre

3/6  Kim - 2154 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 01 October 2012

I have a small/medium tree with masses of large creamy white scented bell shape flowers. I bought it as a throw away special from Cat"s nursery in Carlingford in 1987. Wondering what it"s called please? If it is out now, Kim, it sounds like Rothmannia to me - a lovely little evergreen tree for Sydney spring! I recently put one in. Deirdre

4/6  Ian - 2506 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Tuesday, 02 October 2012

Hi Dierdre, Lovely post as always but I am waiting for you to get a video camera so we out-of-towners can do the walk with you. cheers Ian Thanks for the suggestion, Ian - something I can think about for the future! Deirdre

5/6  Grahame - 2777 (Zone:9 - Cool Temperate) Wednesday, 03 October 2012

Hi Deidre, I publish monthly e-newsletters Outdoor Living Trend and Enviro Hort News. Last month I featured one of your blog articles "Introduction to Acanthaceae". I hope you like it. Here"s the link http://www.mynewsletterbuilder.com/email/newsletter/1411477532 Good luck with your blog Grahame

6/6  Margaret - 2122 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Sunday, 07 October 2012

Enjoyed your comments on the spring walk - it was a pleasure to be working in the gardens during that time, with the myriad of colours and varied fragrances - makes you glad to be alive! Thank you, Deirdre. You are so fortunate to be able to see the Spring Walk every week due to your volunteer work in the Garden, Margaret. It was probably towards the end of its peak when I went last Sunday but I still enjoyed every minute of my visit. Deirdre

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