"A nursery in the CBD"

The Growing Friends' Nursery is a gem for Sydney gardeners.
Sunday, 27 January 2013     

The Growing Friends Nursery, Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney

A nursery in the Sydney CBD? Sounds unlikely, but in fact there is a great one slap-bang in the middle of the city. It is the one run by the Growing Friends of the Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney, a dedicated band of volunteers who propagate and sell many of the interesting and unusual plants grown in the Botanic Garden.

Most of the plants are grown as tubestock, making it easy for customers to transport them home, and they are ready to take off as soon as they are planted. The range of plants is extensive and the prices are very reasonable. There is a good collection of Salvia species and cultivars, and an excellent assortment of Begonia, propagated from the truly wonderful Begonia Garden not far from the nursery. Begonia are perfect plants for shaded or semi-shaded sites in our climate and many flower for months on end - and they require very little in the way of cosseting or maintenance.

There are a number of succulent and other plants with low water needs, along with a variety of grasses, many native plants and even tree saplings and herbs. The tables in the middle of the nursery are covered with excellent shrubs and shrubby perennials - many of them unusual - that suit our Sydney climate. One the other day that took my eye included Malpighia coccigera (pictured), a cute little shrub from the West Indies, growing to around 1 m in height, with small, shiny, holly-like foliage and pale pink flowers that look a bit like those of the Geraldton wax (Chamelaucium uncinatum).

I also saw plants of the gorgeous blue ginger (Dichorisandra thyrsiflora), a great plant for shaded spots in Sydney gardens. There were quite a few coleus (Solenostemon) plants - these are planted extensively in the garden and give long-lasting colour in a range of hues, and other good semi-tropical foliage plants too, such as Ctenanthe, Alocasia, gingers, Arthropodium and Calathea, as well as many bromeliads - all so useful for shaded areas.

This nursery has the one of the biggest collections of Acanthaceae plants that I have seen in Sydney, reflecting the extensive use of these semi-tropical plants in the Royal Botanic Garden since the 19th century. This link will take you to the plant sales page on the Royal Botanic Gardens website, where you will find a downloadable list of the plants stocked by the nursery, which gives useful descriptive and cultivation information for each plant. Not all the plants on the list are always available, but there is constantly a very good selection offered at the nursery. All plants are well labelled.

With the shrinking of the commercial nursery sphere in recent years, we are very lucky to have this resource, and numerous plants in my own garden have come from this nursery. The proceeds of plant sales are used to fund a range of projects with the Botanic Garden. The volunteers who run the nursery are friendly, knowledgeable and enthusiastic, and will help you with your plant choices if required.

The nursery can be found in the Middle Gardens, near to the Maiden Theatre. It can be accessed off Mrs Macquaries Road, or by following the signs from the Woolloomooloo Gate or from the Succulent Garden. The nursery is open 11.30 am to 2 pm, Monday to Friday, and two Saturdays of every month, 9 am to 1 pm. For further information, you can phone (02) 9231 8182. The Growing Friends will also be having a stall at the Collectors' Plant Fair on 13 and 14 April 2013 at Clarendon, NSW - a highlight event for all keen gardeners.

 Reader Comments

1/7  Peta - 2758 (Zone:9 - Cool Temperate) Monday, 28 January 2013

Hi Deirdre, Completely agree with you re the Friends Nursery. I met up with Jorgen and Jane, two of the volunteers, last Monday. Not only passionate plantspeople but highly organized. They wanted to check out their site for the upcoming Collectors" Plant Fair that you mentioned. Great to have lunch together and learn more about the Growing friends. I rather like the look of the Malpighia. We will welcome them with open arms in April. Thanks, Peta. We will all be looking forward to the fair! Deirdre

2/7  Margaret - 2122 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 28 January 2013

Hi Deirdre, I also use the Friends nursery, and have bought many plants from them over the years. I noticed the Malpighia is flowering in a bed near the Kiosk. Mine has grown well, but no flowers as yet, has yours flowered? I would encourage anyone,looking for an unusual plant, to make a visit, from time to tme. If a plant is not present, you can ask for it to be propagated for you, if it is available. Thanks, Margaret. Good to know that we can request plants from them to be propagated. My Malpighia hasn"t flowered yet - but I saw them flowering near the kiosk last week too. Deirdre

3/7  Steven - 2007 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 28 January 2013

Hi Apart from being excited by almost two days of rain in Sydney, I"m really excited about visiting the Friends nursery. I had heard of it but never been. My partner is sure to be rolling their eyes at the thought of tube stock arriving! Thanks again, Steven Hope you enjoy your visit to the nursery, Steve. And yes, this rain is amazing and wonderful. Deirdre

4/7  Steven - 2007 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 28 January 2013

Apparently my mother is a great fan of yours - I sent her the link to your blog and she was quick on the phone to tell me how behind I am! She goes to a couple of garden clubs where you speak/attend. Epping and somewhere else on the NS. She is Janice of 2069. Mum is now booked to go to the Friends Nursery too. Yes of course I do know her! Hope your visit to the nursery goes well. Deirdre

5/7  Meryl - 2206 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Monday, 28 January 2013

Can I urge people to become a "Friend"? Just visit https://www.rbgsyd.nsw.gov.au/foundationandfriends for more information. There are lots of benefits, including even cheaper plants from the nursery, and you will be supporting the gardens. Yes, it is really good to become a Friend of the Garden. There are always interesting events on and you receive a good magazine telling you all about them and what is happening in the Garden. There are also lots of volunteer options for those who would like to get even more involved. Deirdre

6/7  Marinka - 2041 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Tuesday, 29 January 2013

Hi Deidre, many thanks for drawing my attention to this nursery! I am planning a visit as soon as possible, with a view to loading up on salvias, begonias, acanthacae, & whatever else takes my fancy! Regards, Marinka. Thanks, Marinka. Hope you enjoy your visit. Deirdre

7/7  Carmen - 2222 (Zone:10 - Warm Temperate) Thursday, 07 February 2013

Yesterday I went to the nursery and was delighted with the range of plants. As salvias are a special interest of mine and I have been trying to locate Salvia Limelight from online nurseries with no luck, I was pleased to find that it was available at the nursery. The plants may be tube stock but they are certainly well established and not just a few centimetres tall. I bought several other plants and will certainly be returning. Thank you,Deidre, and also thanks to the Friends of the Gardens. Thanks so much for your feedback, Carmen, and glad you find some interesting plants to buy there. Deirdre

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