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Australian Garden

Large botanic garden that integrates bold sculpture and creatively displays indigenous flora.

The Australian Garden is Australia’s Botanic Garden and is located 30km south of Melbourne at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Cranbourne. It is a garden that displays Australian flora in creative, interactive and educative ways.

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© T.C.L – Taylor Cullity Lethlean

The Australian Garden uses the Australian landscape as its inspiration to create a sequence of powerful sculptural and artistic landscape experiences that recognize its diversity, breadth of scale and wonderful contrasts. Via creative landscape compositions, the project seeks to stimulate and educate visitors of the potential use and diversity of Australian flora.

A primary theme through the garden design is the exploration and expression of the evolving relationship between Australians and their landscape and flora. The garden expresses this tension between our reverence and awe for the natural landscape and our innate impulse to change it, to make it into a humanly contrived form, beautiful yet our own work.

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© T.C.L – Taylor Cullity Lethlean

The garden imaginatively responds to the brief which asked:

  • Explore and illustrate the role of native flora in shaping the nature of Australia.
  • Display native flora in creative ways.
  • Celebrate the role of Australian plants in Australian life and culture.

Via bold immersive garden experiences, dramatic sculptural forms, subtle detailing, rich and diverse plantings, visitors are invited to take a journey into the breadth and beauty of the Australian landscape and flora. Garden experiences such as the Sand Garden, Rockpool Waterway, Arid Gardens and the Eucalypt Walk, celebrate and capture some of the quintessential qualities of this vast landscape canvas. Utilizing 100,000 species of flora, some never before seen in cultivation, the garden illustrates the enormous potential of our flora in creating distinctive, bold and memorable garden experiences.

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© T.C.L – Taylor Cullity Lethlean

The Garden is considered to be at the forefront of emerging environmental concerns regarding biodiversity, low water dependent horticulture, water sensitive design and sustainable material choices. These issues are integrated into the overall composition, demonstrating that design is more than the sum of its parts but instead a totally holistic and creative outcome.

The Australian Garden demonstrates how landscape architecture can lead and curate the integration of diverse teams of artists, sculptors, horticulturalists, architects, and an array of other specialist disciplines to achieve an integrated designed outcome.

Finally, the project demonstrates the potential of a successful collaborative client relationship. The guidance, expertise and creative expectations of the Royal Botanic Gardens challenged, provoked and rewarded the design team with their expert horticultural knowledge and enriched the final realization with their expert stewardship, implementation and maintenance regimes.

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© T.C.L – Taylor Cullity Lethlean

Segments of the Garden:

As the design process proceeded with each stage, and as each segment of the garden design develops, so the definition of the species used increases. The stage one design is composed of five precincts, the Carpark, Entry Garden, Rockpool Walk, Arid or Sand Garden and the Eucalypt walk. The carpark of heavy soil is designed to harvest water off of the road surface to water the plantings. Plant selection here is of species that will tolerate the extremes of wet and dry and grow in heavier soil than the rest of the garden. These are mostly Melaleuca, Callistemon, Leptospermum and various tufting species for the drainage lines. On approaching the entry space one finds a large screening band and a clump of Callitris (Native Pines). This conifer character that enframes the entry approach is an unexpected look for Australian plants. Commonly eucalypts would be expected. The progression to the entry is through a forest of visually neutral Allocasuarina (She-oak) softening the approaches to a more verdant leafy surround of the Visitor Centre. Selection overall has to be very particular, to develop a design with certain planned aesthetics, to meet functional needs and varied growing conditions.

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© T.C.L – Taylor Cullity Lethlean

Red Sand Garden:

Red Sand Garden where the simple planting is mostly grey saltbush discs and a changing line of daisies. To the south is an intensive garden called the Ephemeral Lake containing small floriferous species that offer an impression of the regrowth of the drainage lines in the dry centre after rain. Leading into this space is a long recessed garden called the Dry River Walk where low free form lines of shrubs cross over each other in a linear organic pattern. These shaped soft hedge-like forms have a myriad of tiny plants at foot. Here the overall tone is blue green to differentiate the larger open space to the north where the shrub layer is mostly grey green or silver. Finding reliable structural plants to suit a particular range of criteria such as in the arid zone can test ones research at times. These plants were selected firstly for foliage texture and colour then secondly for reliable growth that responds to pruning allowing showy smaller species to display beneath. This is typical of the increased design complexity as one moves from Masterplan to final built design and is typical of complexity in nature.

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© T.C.L – Taylor Cullity Lethlean

The Arid Garden:

The Arid Garden is the largest garden and is planned to contain the greatest diversity, intended to be about 350 species. During stage one documentation it was decided that here it was possible to make the majority of the species plants that naturally occur in the arid zone (which is a large part of total area of Australia). Here the design character called for a dominance of silver or grey plants. This garden is mostly of small growing species both permanent and annual. Some plants are yet to be added as supply and conditions permit. This part of the garden is subdivided into five different spaces the largest being the central.

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© T.C.L – Taylor Cullity Lethlean

The Eucalypt Walk:

In the Eucalypt Walk there are more complex areas especially in the Fire Zone where the plants are to show some response to fire or in the Rock Garden where the many tiny pretty low plants give an impression of the floriferous dry rocky leached zones that abound in our country. There is a segment in the Eucalyptus Walk where fragrance is the theme. Here fragrance both pleasant and unpleasant is contained either in the flowers, foliage or bark.

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© public domain

There is a very special compact garden called the Weird and Wonderful that will intrigue and delight. This offers plants of unexpected form or habits, plants with odd stories and properties plus special plants with exquisite flowers, foliage or form. Selection for this area has a longer list of exciting species that there is space to use them. Final selection will be most rigorous as the visual design and the practical considerations are tightly entwined. Some listed species that miss being included are likely to be included in the broader garden. The interpretation potential both today and tomorrow is closely connected to the final outcome. This space is the centre of the garden and in so many ways it may be seen as the synthesis of the special nature of our flora.

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© public domain

The stage one Eucalypt Walk is extended in stage two where a selection of typical types of a few large Eucalyptus, Angophora and Corymbia will enframe dense coverings of a rich diversity of lower story plants. Tall species will be found in many other areas of the garden except the regions dedicated to lower mallee Eucalyptus. Nearly half the 1000 or so Gum trees are either low growing or mallee species. These have been sorted through to determine a most successful, representative and distinctive range. Selection has given preference to those that produce a Lignotuber. This is a woody growth at the base of trunks where new growth occurs. This type is thought to be more stable, longer lived and able to be regenerated. Attention has also been given to those that have been cultivated successfully at latitudes close to the Cranbourne site. Most of the lower growing species are from southern Western Australia whilst the taller species in our selections are from the Eastern States. A few species of Corymbia from the north of Australia are marginally possible. The northern Corymbias assist in the story of plant evolution. There are many more beautiful Gum trees that deserve to be in this garden than there is space. Diversity of form and type is key to initial selection. Trunk and foliage character will have as much importance as flowering time and type. Representation of different sub-genera and the geographic spread of Eucalyptus over Australia is another aim.

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© public domain

T.C.L – Taylor Cullity Lethlean

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne has created a major new botanic garden on a 25-hectare site at Cranbourne on the south-eastern outskirts of Melbourne.

This garden builds on established design principles, construction practices, and community recreation patterns, while addressing contemporary environmental and cultural issues to bring a new type of garden experience to visitors.

The garden seeks to create an environment in which specific qualities of flora are highlighted in a manner that will inspire visitors to further explore Australian plants. A common theme through the garden design is the exploration and expression of the evolving relationship between the Australian people and our landscape and flora.

Water is the mediating element between these natural and human derived gardens.

The garden highlights the tension between the natural landscape and our human impulse to steadily change it. This tension is not eliminated; rather it is the driving creative impulse for exploration, expression and interpretation of the landscape and its flora.

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© T.C.L – Taylor Cullity Lethlean

“The Australian Garden captures the essence of what is great landscape architecture. Distinctly Australian landscape patterns have been referenced in a bold, graphic and sensitive way to provide a unique visitor experience. In doing so, the project has successfully reinterpreted what an Australian landscape is”. – Jury Citation. AILA Vic 2007 Award of Excellence

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© public domain

Project Data:

Project name: Australian Garden
Location: Botanic Gardens at Cranbourne (30 km south of Melbourne CBD) 1000 Ballarto Road, Cranbourne, Australia
Coordinates: -38.129345,145.269835
Type: Park
Themes: narrative structure, iconography of landscape, Australian landscapes
Project Area: 40 Hectares
Status: Built
Construction budget: $11,000,000
Completion Date: stage 1: 2005, stage 2: 2012

Awards:

  • 2009 – International Federation of Landscape Architects (IFLA APR Award) – Asia Pacific Region – Design Excellence Award
  • 2008 – Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA Awards) – National Award – Category: Design – Design Excellence
  • 2007 – Cement Concrete and Aggregates Australia (CCAA Public Domain Award) – Precincts Commendation
  • 2007 – Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA Awards) – AILA Victoria Awards – Overall Landscape Excellence Award
  • 2007 – Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA Awards) – AILA Victoria Awards – Excellence in Design
  • 2006 – Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA Awards) – AILA National Merit Award – Design in Landscape Architecture
  • 2006 – The Australian Tourism Awards – Best New Tourism Development
  • 1998 – Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA Awards) – AILA National – Project Award – Master planning Category
  • 1998 – Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA Awards) – AILA Victoria Awards – Masterplanning Project Award
  • 1997 – Australian Institute of Landscape Architects (AILA Awards) – AILA Victoria Awards – Overall Landscape Excellence Award

The people:

Client / Owner / Developer: Royal Botanic Gardens, Cranbourne
Landscape Architecture and Lead Consultants:

Collaborators: Paul Thompson, Edwina Kearney, Mark Stoner, Greg Clarke and Mish Eisen
Architecture:

  • Rockpool Shelter – Greg Burgess Architects
  • Visitor Centre – Kirsten Thompson Architects

Engineering: Structural and Civil: Meinhardt
Irrigation: Irrigation Design Consultants
Water Feature: Waterforms International
Cost Planning: Donald Cant Watts Corke
Sculpture:

  • Ephemeral Lake – Mark Stoner and Edwina Kearney
  • Escarpment Wall – Greg Clark

Soil Consultants: Robert van de Graaff
Lighting: Barry Webb and Associates
Text Description: © Courtesy of T.C.L – Taylor Cullity Lethlean, AILA
Images: © T.C.L – Taylor Cullity Lethlean, John Gollings, Peter Hyatt, Ben Wrigley, Dianna Snape

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Australian Garden / T.C.L - Taylor Cullity Lethlean and Paul Thompson
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