Thursday, May 30, 2024
Horticulturist Ryan Underhill working with the Pyrus trees which were planted to provide shade for the seating area (Image: Leonie Scriven)
Botanic Gardens

Partnering to give the gift of Mediterranean climate plants

By Dr Leonie Scriven and Emily Drewniak

The revitalisation of the Adelaide Botanic Garden Mediterranean Climate Garden represents an exciting new garden partnership. It unites the expertise of South Australia’s horticultural and landscape professionals. The dedication and experience of garden volunteers, enabled by community philanthropy and corporate support, has delivered a novel landscape which inspires visitors to grow and appreciate Mediterranean climate plants.

Every horticulturist knows that by selecting the right plant for the right place, you are on the path to a reward. Plants that naturally grow in the Mediterranean region around the world do wonderfully well in Adelaide, South Australia. The climate known as “Mediterranean” which lies between 30° north and 45° south of the equator, is characterised by hot and dry summers, a cool and rainy winter, and irregular rainfall with most of the rainfall in winter.

The work of the Botanic Gardens and State Herbarium, focuses on creating a community that is inspired to contribute to the sustainability of our living world; and understand the vital role that plants, fungi and algae play in our ecosystems and to human life. What better way to share that work than to showcase plants adapted to the local climate? Not only are many of these plants water-wise, but they are also adapted for the anticipated warmer and drier climates of the future.

Planting in action (Image: Leonie Scriven)
Planting in action (Image: Leonie Scriven)

Often, botanic gardens create extraordinary complex landscapes filled with interesting, rare and endangered plants, fulfilling their vital role of plant conservation, which is the underlying driver for their missions. However, if you are a visitor seeking inspiration for your own garden, these landscapes are often unachievable. When you visit Adelaide Botanic Garden, you will find a Mediterranean Garden display in the heart of the garden. Designed, and constructed over 15 years ago by Taylor Cullity Lethean, it’s a splendid example of water-wise design generously funded through donations to the Botanic Gardens 150-year anniversary.

Key members of the new planting design creation team Virginia Kennett -Garden Design, Tyler Rogers – Horticulturist, and Jason Lewis - Senior Curator (Image: Emily Drewniak)
Key members of the new planting design creation team Virginia Kennett -Garden Design, Tyler Rogers – Horticulturist, and Jason Lewis – Senior Curator (Image: Emily Drewniak)

Gardens are, however, living entities, constantly changing and in need of rejuvenation, particularly when all the plants are planted at the same time. The award-winning design not only offered great structural foundations, but a recognisable feature loved by all. The central water rill is a children’s favourite, with many a leaf boat having raced down this waterway. The quest was to revitalise an iconic space whilst creating a garden that responds to the climate challenge. The result needed to utilise the best of the existing infrastructure and plants, improve the ability to maintain and interpret the living collection and enhance the visitor amenity and usability of the space. Without a budget for the project and limited staff resources, the challenge was set.

The solution was a three-way partnership of the Botanic Gardens, the horticultural community, and the Adelaide Botanic Gardens Foundation. Together we could deliver on a myriad of opportunities. These include colourful plantings that are equally spectacular for home gardens, messaging and stories regarding gardening for current and future climates, and new interpretation signs in simplified and digitised forms relevant to a wider audience. This was a chance for staff to show their expertise, and an opportunity to create a special space for families, as well as host small-scale events and guided tours. Importantly, there was the chance to create a new garden volunteer group to enable the sustainable maintenance of the space in future.

The Foundation dedicated their 2023 campaign to raise much needed funds for the revitalisation project. A new Memorandum of Understanding was developed with the South Australian Mediterranean Garden Society who have a strong and knowledgeable membership base. Numerous collaborative on-site meetings were held, with ideas aplenty and abundant creativity. The sixteen-member volunteer group was formed and together with a small lead group of the Society members and Garden’s horticulturists, combined with hundreds of volunteer hours, the site is being transformed.

Planting for Stage 1 (Image: Leonie Scriven)
Planting for Stage 1 (Image: Leonie Scriven)

There are different plants in a new look landscape, more plant labels and new in-garden features. Previously the plants were strictly curated but now provide a sense of welcome and play through the site. The new café seating area, near the shade of the original oak tree, is popular with visitors. Local artisans are designing and creating ceramic pots, and stone walling for more seating. A grape vine covered arbour is envisaged for the northeastern corner and will be a very popular new shady destination in summer. Construction work is underway, and with the ongoing dedication by the volunteers, it is a joy to watch. The project aims to be completed in time for the international Mediterranean climate garden specialists visit to Adelaide later in 2024.

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