Botanic Gardens of South Australia, Part 1

To finish out their International Experience, the Fellows are spending two days with the Botanic Gardens of South Australia, a division of South Australia’s Department of Environment, Water, and Natural Resources. The Botanic Gardens include three garden sites–Adelaide, Mount Lofty, and Wittunga–and is the only institution outside of North America to be an accredited member of the American Alliance of Museums.

The oldest of the South Australia Botanic Garden sites, Adelaide Botanic Garden was first opened to the public in 1857.

The oldest of the South Australia Botanic Garden sites, Adelaide Botanic Garden was first opened to the public in 1857.

The Fellows spent the morning at Adelaide Botanic Garden, where they met with Deputy Director Tony Kanellos and Collections and Horticulture Manager Andrew Carrick to discuss the Gardens’ latest strategic plan. The plan is centered on their new collections policy. The policy helps the garden determine how to preserve and build upon the plants, objects, buildings, and even vistas that are important to the organization.

The Fellows explore Adelaide Botanic Gardens' new wetland area with their guide, Andrew Carrick. The wetland cleans and stores rainwater runoff so that it can eventually be used to irrigate the garden.

The Fellows explore Adelaide Botanic Gardens’ new First Creek Wetland with their guide, Andrew Carrick. The wetland cleans and stores rainwater runoff, which will eventually be used to irrigate the garden.

As the Fellows learned on their morning tours, Adelaide Botanic Garden is perfectly poised to educate visitors about the timeless importance of plants. The garden is home to both the Santos Museum of Economic Botany, which showcases the historic food and fiber plants of Australia, and the South Australian Seed Conservation Centre, which protects future plant diversity by preserving millions of native plant seeds.

Originally built in 1881, the Santos Museum of Economic Botany displays models of hundreds of food and fiber plants that were critical to colonizing both Australia and the British Empire.

Originally built in 1881, the Santos Museum of Economic Botany displays models of hundreds of food and fiber plants that were critical to colonizing both Australia and the British Empire.

The day ended with an afternoon tour of Mount Lofty Botanic Garden. Mount Lofty features numerous hiking trails, collections of plants from around the world, and incredible views of the Piccadilly Valley.

Hiking trails at Mount Lofty Botanic Garden offer sweeping views of the South Australian landscape.

Hiking trails at Mount Lofty Botanic Garden offer sweeping views of the South Australian landscape.

Not up for a mountainside trek? Visitors can also enjoy peaceful walks around the garden's small lake.

Not up for a mountainside trek? Visitors can also enjoy peaceful walks around the garden’s small lake.

Check back in with us tomorrow to read about the final day of our Australian adventure!

The Fellows took full advantage of the interactive art pieces at the Mount Lofty Botanic Garden.

The Fellows, taking full advantage of the interactive art at the Mount Lofty Botanic Garden


Off to Adelaide!

Clear skies on the flight from Melbourne to Adelaide this morning.

Clear skies on the flight from Melbourne to Adelaide this morning.

As the Fellows embark on the final phase of their International Experience in Australia, they bid adieu to the great city of Melbourne and hailed west, greeting their final destination, Adelaide, with open arms.

Though time in Melbourne was brief, it was filled to the brim with educational experiences, new perspectives, and insightful lessons. The Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, comprised of the gardens Melbourne and Cranbourne, are complementary in nature and committed to providing avenues of community engagements at every turn. While Cranbourne gardens focuses on the in-depth interpretation of native plantings and national histories, the gardens in downtown Melbourne showcase a spectrum of collections from around the globe and have both domestic as well as international visitorship. The fascinating conversations that came from both sites proved to be both inspiring and enlightening.

Pedestrian friendly shopping centers offer a sense of vitality in the Central Business District.

A pedestrian-friendly promenade offers a sense of vitality in the Central Business District.

The city of Adelaide is home to approximately 1.3 million people as well as the Botanic Gardens of South Australia, including Adelaide Botanic Garden, Mount Lofty Botanic Garden, and Wittunga Botanic Garden. The Fellows are excited to explore this new city and the vast horticultural knowledge it has to offer.

Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah


The Fellows with the backdrop of the stunning Blue Mountains

Nestled among the Blue Mountains UNESCO World Heritage site, the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden Mount Tomah masterfully weaves plant textures of the Southern Hemisphere together, capturing the imaginations and hearts of thousands visiting each year. Originally the home of the Brunet family, who produced cut flowers sold in Sydney, the gardens were donated in 1972. Though first opened to the public in 1987, the presence of the basalt capped mountains encouraged plant life to flourish, growing rapidly and offering the appearance of a far more mature and established garden.


Arranged by geographic origin, dense plantings complement and contrast one another through various texture, scale, and color

The Fellows were fortunate to meet with the garden’s Curator Manager, Greg Bourke, to learn about the garden proper as well as its premiere interpretative display, the Botanists Way Discovery Centre. Completed in recent years, the Discovery Centre provides active and passive educational experiences to an international audience of all ages and walks of life. Synchronized with the garden’s mission statement to connect people with plants through imaginative horticulture, beautiful landscapes, and transformative learning experiences, the shared stories focus on a historic mission to find rare plants in the local uncharted territory. The garden projects a future vision for the continued advancement of this interpretive tool, which may include interactive displays to encourage local community visitors to return again and again.


The bog garden’s kaleidoscope of color draws the attention of visitors and is home to a few carnivorous plants

Booderee Botanic Gardens

The Longwood Fellows were up bright and early this morning for their day at Booderee Botanic Gardens and National Park.

The Fellows’ goal for this International Experience is to explore how Australian public gardens are evaluating the impact of educational and outreach programs, and Booderee Botanic Gardens is a unique example.

Originally an annex of the Australian National Botanic Gardens, the land containing Booderee Botanical Gardens and National Park was successfully acquired by Wreck Bay Aboriginal community in 1995, and is the only Aboriginal owned botanical garden in Australia (and possibly the world).

The Fellows began the day with Stig Pedersen, Booderee’s Acting Botanic Gardens Curator, who provided valuable context in the form of the history and structure of the botanical gardens. Booderee Botanic Gardens carries out its mission of cultural education through Indigenous led interpretive tours, as well as educational programs and training for the local Wreck Bay community.

The Fellows were able to experience one of these tours, led by Indigenous interpreter Kain Ardler, who has an extensive knowledge of Aboriginal plants that has been handed down through the generations. A favorite of the day was learning about the uses of the Paperbark Tree, which can be wrapped around fish before cooking.

The Fellows would like to thank Stig Pedersen, Kain Ardler, and the rest of the staff at the Booderee Botanic Gardens and National Park, for a warm welcome to the land.

Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney

Another busy day down under! Today the First Year Fellows visited the spectacular Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney, followed by a tour of the Sydney Opera House.

At one of Royal Botanic Garden Sydney's 15 entrances!

At one of Royal Botanic Garden Sydney’s 15 entrances

RBG Sydney is the largest public garden in the southern hemisphere, with over 4 million visitors annually, and with good reason. These gorgeous grounds are located in the middle of the city center, right on Sydney Harbor.

The Fellows spent the morning meeting with representatives from RBG Sydney, as well as staff from Australian Botanic Garden Mt Annan. It was a great opportunity to hear more about the overall vision of the organizations and get more information about their strategic planning efforts, governance structures and programming. After a delicious lunch at RBG’s café, we strolled around the grounds for a more in depth look at the garden with Paul Nicholson, RBG Site Coordinator of Community Education. Paul has a vast knowledge of plants and the Garden that he generously shared with us.

Paul talks palms

Paul talks palms

Fellows especially enjoyed the tour of Cadi Jam Ora: First Encounters, a display that interprets the Aboriginal cultural heritage of RBG Sydney. The garden is celebrating it’s 200 anniversary, but Aboriginal people have a 40,000 year history with the site, including roughly 28,000 years of managing the land through techniques including burning.

Garden Interpreter Etta with Aboriginal cultural artifacts

Garden Interpreter Etta with Aboriginal cultural artifacts

The Fellows would like to thank Kim Ellis, Executive Director of Botanic Gardens and Centennial Parklands, Jimmy Turner, Director of Horticultural Management at RGB Sydney, Paul Nicholson of RBG Sydney, John Siemon, Curator Manager of Australian Botanic Garden Mt. Annan, and Rebecca Anderson, Visitor Experience Manager at ABG for their time and a great discussion.

G’day Mates!

First Year Fellows here, checking in from Sydney, Australia.

We made it! No speed bumps so far (except for one lost piece of luggage). We hit the ground running today with an amazing afternoon at Taronga Zoo. The ferry across Sydney Harbour provides a picturesque approach to the zoo site. We were able to see gorgeous views of the Sydney Opera House, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, and the zoo itself.


On our way to Taronga Zoo with the Sydney Harbour Bridge in the background.

The Fellows spent the afternoon in conversation with Taronga’s Institute and Project Manager, Education Manager, Aboriginal and Community Programs Manager, and the Community Conservation Manager. Thank you to the generous Taronga Zoo staff for their time and wisdom; we are excited to continue these conversations! After our meeting we spent some time bonding with the Australian wildlife. Some of my personal favorites were the echidnas and the quolls. Unfortunately, the platypus didn’t make an appearance for us today; he was relaxing in his nest-box after a long day of happy visitors.


When you’re at Taronga, don’t forget to look up! This ropes course provides a fun activity for a wide range of ages.

Our time at Taronga Zoo really set the stage for a fantastic trip. Stay tuned! We’ll keep you up to date throughout our journey.

Follow along with us on social media using twitter (@ElizabethTau) and our trip hashtag: #LGPDownUnder



International Experience 2016: Australia

Holiday season is usually filled with hot chocolate, winter coats, and hibernation. But this year the First Year Fellows are packing sunscreen and summer gear in anticipation of their International Experience to Australia in January 2016!

Since July, the Fellows have been researching and developing an itinerary to explore the social impact of Australian gardens in Sydney, Melbourne, and Adelaide. Longwood Gardens is finalizing a new strategic plan which prioritizes efforts to measure the effect of our education and community engagement programs on the wider world. In support of this, the Fellows will be traveling to Australia to learn how gardens down under are evaluating the short- and long-term impacts of their own programs. The Fellows will be visiting a variety of destinations in Australia, including world class zoos, gardens, and national parks.

The Red Sands Garden of Cranbourne Gardens, a branch of the Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria. Photo courtesy of R.Reeve.

The Red Sands Garden is one of the many beautiful features of Cranbourne Gardens Photo courtesy of R.Reeve.

Fellows will be researching specific programs at each organization that focus on community engagement and education. Through tours and meetings with local staff, the Fellows hope to learn more about Australian garden’s efforts to measure the impact of work they do and to build relationships with gardens on the other side of the world.The Fellows will be departing from the United States on January 10th to begin their exciting two-week research expedition through Australia. There will be daily updates of the journey on this blog, so check back here soon!

International Experience New Zealand Day 14: Akaroa: Taunton and Fisherman’s Bay

After driving through dry scenery with spectacular hills and the ever-present sheep farms, we arrived at the understated entrance of Taunton Gardens. We weren’t sure what to expect when we exited the van; all we could see was a well worn plant nursery area.

As soon as we passed under an archway of vines, however, we knew we had entered a special place. Barry Sligh came out of his 1852, rebuilt stone house to meet us and lead us through forest openings, around curves, and over bridges to show us his plant treasures.

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He moved onto the property in the 1970’s, and within his first two years, he planted over 1000 trees. With no background in horticulture, he quickly learned how to care for many plants in a naturalistic setting, and in the nursery.


Some of the more interesting plants were: an Auraucaria witch’s broom, a hosta that he developed for Prince Charles (after which Barry was invited to the Prince’s garden) and a variegated maple tree with red/pink on the undersides of the leaves. This unusual coloration created a stunning display in the sun’s rays.

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Our final garden of our New Zealand trip was a lush oasis on a dry, windy cliff. Fisherman’s Bay Garden was created by Jill Simpson at her home nine years ago, but because New Zealand has no winter, the plants have grown in quickly. Jill is very conscious of her plantings since a nature preserve shares borders with her 100 hectares; she tries very hard to stick to natives and non-invasive plantings. Standing out among the many interesting hillside gardens, she has a myriad of hebes that vary in size, shape, and color. She attributes their vigor to the nearly frost-free climate and the salt carried by the wind.


Whether driving, helicoptering, or boating in, it is a lovely experience to enjoy a cup of tea while overlooking the turquoise waters of the Pacific Ocean.


Text by Sara Helm Wallace, photos by Bryan Thompsonowak

International Experience New Zealand Day 13 – Christchurch Botanic Garden with Jeremy Hawker


We set out with the sun casting its warmth through the midst of the chilly morning breeze as we made our way towards the Christchurch Botanic Garden. We were greeted by the pleasantly warm and friendly Jeremy Hawker, who is the team leader for the Garden and Heritage Parks in Christchurch. Jeremy has an impressive fourteen years of horticulture and management experience for the Botanic Gardens such as Christchurch Botanic Garden; City Heritage Parks such as Hagley Park; and other Central Business District Parks that have been placed under his care. Some of these gardens and parks are currently undergoing major re-development due to the earthquake damage during 2010 and 2011.

IMG_2208Christchurch Botanic Garden has over 1.1 million annual visitors to its 17 hectares garden. It was established in 1963 and is in its 150th year anniversary this year. It is mostly funded by the City Council and held events such as musical concerts, a wine festival, changing plant displays for the Flower Festival, and public education for the schools and community. At any one time, these events attract about 100,000 visitors to the Garden. Christchurch Botanic Garden has suffered its pain through the horrendous earthquakes in 2010 and 2011 and is painstakingly in the midst of recovery. During the tremors of the earthquakes, Jeremy had to relocate the staff who were left homeless and provide additional support and counseling for them. The visitor center had to be relocated to the entrance of the Botanic Garden, while the bus depot was relocated to another end of the Garden. A police recovery center was set up to provide assistance to anyone who seeks it.   

IMG_2197Jeremy recalled that all the electricity was cut off and he suggested that a hard-copy of important telephone numbers and documents should be kept since all the computers were down due to the electrical failure. Water supply was no longer available to the plants, which struggled through the strenuous period of the aftermath of the earthquakes. Capital funding was utilized to re-build damaged recreation facilities and infrastructure such as the tennis courts at Hagley Park. Underground sewage spilled into the river system that flowed through the Botanic Garden and remained a priority for repairs as the staff scrambled to remove the spills from the river. Jeremy described with awe that during the earthquake, the water in the shallow rivers was seen bubbling furiously as if in a volcano eruption and then suddenly disappeared into the grounds below. 


Spontaneous pallet pavilion with bucket seats built immediately after the earthquakes of 2010 & 2011.

IMG_2254We left Christchurch Botanic Garden and walked around the city as Jeremy explained that the government is still in the midst of deciding whether to re-build the same damaged building or to replace the building with a brand new look. The damage around the city is being repaired and Jeremy estimated that the recovery for the entire Christchurch city would be within 25 – 30 years. Though the city looks devastating, the people of Christchurch lifted the dull and empty atmosphere with cheerful and creative art instruments, such as hand-made musical instruments made out of boards, brushes and pipes; enormous green and velvety furniture were erected and stand-up cafes were made out of shipping containers. The Christchurch city may be greatly damaged, but unity and love can definitely be seen and felt within each person’s heart. 

Blog by Felicia Chua, photos by Sara Helm Wallace

International Experience New Zealand Day 12: Into the wild

Dodging the early morning rain showers, we made our way to Tasman Glacier, which was a 20-minute drive from our hotel. Our intrepid driver, Colin, took us to our destination amid snowy mountains and fast moving rivers. The glacier is fairly large and feeds the Tasman Lake, which is a milky color due to the dissolved mineral content in the water.  After admiring the scenery and native flora, it was time to make our 5-hour journey to the east coast city of Christchurch.


The drive included snowy mountain views, bright blue lakes, golden meadows and dark green pine forests. Our half way-point was the Astro Café, located at the top of a large grassy hill adjacent to an observatory. The views were spectacular, and really showcased the diverse beauty of New Zealand.


IMG_2785We arrived at Christchurch Botanic Garden (CBG) at around 4 pm where we met John Clemens, the Curator of CBG. This Garden has been in existence for 100 years and, interestingly, 2014 will be its 150th anniversary. The age of CBG can clearly be seen by the impressive stature of the fine tree specimens currently thriving there. Unfortunately, several trees were destroyed by the recent earthquakes and by a severe storm last year, however, enough large specimens remain to continue the ambiance of the garden.

IMG_2515A project that sparked my interest was the implementation of a purely Gondwanan Garden that will showcase plants that are relics from a prehistoric era.  One example, the Wollemi pine, was only recently discovered in a canyon in Australia. John seemed to be very passionate about this project, but stipulated that other projects need to be completed first. The CBG has also had to revamp its nursery and office areas, leaving current staff without proper working space – a difficult situation for any organization. These building will be more ‘’earthquake safe’’ than previous structures on the property.IMG_2801

After our brief introduction to Christchurch, we looked forward to more exploration over the next few days.