Martin has received ARC funding from the Australian Research Council for projects that focus on the environment and gardens. One of these is the current project ‘Parched: Cultural Expressions from Drought Regional Victoria’. She is an active part of Landcare.
Can we justify the need to maintain water-hungry botanic gardens in the face of climate change and increasing prices for water?
Maybe these gardens aren’t better suited to the changing climate, even if they were.
It’s not difficult to argue Australian Botanic Gardens are huge remnants of European plants, an ever unpleasant memory of British colonisation.
But gardens, and the gardeners aren’t static. They’re constantly changing.
A brief overview of the history
The majority of Australian botanical gardens were created in the 19th century, beginning with the garden at Sydney Domain. Sydney Domain around 1816.
The gardens of the beginning served various purposes.
They were considered to be food gardens. They were gardens that were used for testing to test the viability of the crops and vegetables brought in from Europe and other colonies.
The Sydney Botanic Gardens, photographed in this area between 1880 and 1879 They were founded in 1816. Trove
The nostalgia of European concepts of beauty and a desire to test new varieties led to botanic gardens that were planted with the trees that were known for British visitors. Conifers, elms, and oaks were all planted, as were the various varieties of shrubs and flowers that were naturalized in British public and private gardens.
Introduced trees and plants were given to the new settlers to aid in acclimatization and introduce exotic plants aimed to change the Australian landscape into a more familiar one, and to transform it into “productive”.
Botanic gardens also reversed this process by acquiring, cultivating and international distribution of Australian native plants that are thought to be valuable or attractive.
Australian public gardens were influenced by the latest concepts of European social reformers as well as progressive politicians. They were thought of as healthy air sources for people living in increasingly overcrowded cities. They also grew out of earlier ideas of commons and the provision of open public spaces to allow recreation for those in the lower classes.
Botanic gardens in Australia were public areas. State Library South Australia.
The different purposes sometimes fought. Ferdinand Mueller, director of the Melbourne Botanic Gardens, was likely to be removed from his position due to his idea of the park was that it was an educational nursery for plants. The public’s demand was shifting towards a desire to create a more attractive and a garden that was usable.
Faced with the challenge of a climate emergency
The water supply for trees and ornamental plants that are sourced from very diverse climates was always a problem with these plants.
From 1885 onwards, Richard Schomburgk in his position as Director of Adelaide Botanic Gardens. Adelaide Botanic Gardens told Nature about the city’s drought and the severe impact it had “upon many of the trees and shrubs in the Botanic Garden, natives of cooler countries”.
It is worth a visit to the Melbourne Royal Botanic Gardens have the “climate ready” rose display that is a reframement of the depleted collection of roses by species that adjusts exotic plant species to changing weather conditions, without having to wash the baby in the (diminishing) bathing water.
Certain European, Mediterranean, North and South American plants are exactly designed for Australian climates or are able to adapt to changing conditions that include the possibility of increased heat and drying in a variety of zones, and also the possibility of higher humidity in previously dry zones.
There is an lately a movement to erase any traces from our past colonial era.
Are the most beneficial lessons to be learned from the removal of colonial monuments or from revising their purpose? Take down the huge trees and exotic landscapes, or use them to show the mistakes and assumptions of the past as well as to create the future.
Different garden exhibits, like the traveling Garden Variety photography exhibit and the Garden Variety photography exhibition, also do this by highlighting the controversial past as well as the future potential of the garden.
Many gardens are now incorporating Indigenous acknowledgment and information. Heritage tours, walks, and talks given of Indigenous owners to explain the long-running history, names, and use of native plants that challenge their colonial position.