To include the flora of a whole continent in less than 100 acres would be quite some feat, but that is exactly what the Australian National Botanic Gardens in Canberra does very successfully.
The Gardens are sited impressively on the lower slopes of Black Mountain with great views back over Lake Burley Griffin and the centre of the city. This helped to confirm their inclusion in my Top Ten Gardens of the world.
After I had travelled many miles around the wide open spaces of Australia with relatively few different plant species in any one area, I found it refreshing to visit these compact, well-designed Gardens containing over 6,000 different Australian plant species, interspersed with a range of art and sculpture such as the centrally placed sundial.
Although it is only 43 years since the Gardens officially opened, many parts, such as the Sydney Region Gully and Tasmanian Gully, already give the impression of being naturally present. The Rain Forest Gully was artificially produced by introducing a misting system, but again it feels quite natural.
There are various walks around the Gardens. Initially I chose the relatively leisurely Main Path which meanders gently through the major features of the Gardens and is suitable for wheelchairs. However, there are many side paths and places of interest to visit along the way, including the display glasshouse, the rock garden based on local granite and sandstone, the swamp and mallee (Australian bush) environments and areas devoted to groups of plants such as grasses and lilies, boronias, banksias, mint bushes and the eucalypt lawn.
The steep 2 mile Telstra Tower Walk provides superb views, but for the less agile of Seniors, the Visitor Centre and Botanical Bookshop provide much of interest and refreshments can be obtained at the recently renovated Floresco in the Gardens café. For something very different, try the dining experience featuring fresh produce and Australian bush foods.
The Gardens open every day of the year except Christmas Day. Entry is free of charge although you do have to pay for car parking. For more information see the official Gardens’ website.