I’ve been to quite a few botanical gardens in the past, and it was with that arrogance that I went into the Australian National Botanical Gardens. After all, it’s just a garden, I thought. What could be new?
It turns out that the Australian Botanical Gardens pay more attention to aspects of Australian geography and heritage. As I walked into the gardens, I first passed the gift shop, which—like any other gift shop—carried extensive and expensive trinkets for the tourist soul. Even though I didn’t purchase anything, I spend a good 15 minutes walking around, admiring local handicrafts. I had no idea how much the indigenous people’s artwork and culture permeated the Australian lifestyle. Despite battling discriminatory issues, Australia as a country makes conscious effort to recognise and even promote its indigenous roots.
After shuffling through coasters, notebooks, and bookmarks engraved with local birds and wildlife, I was ready to see the actual gardens.
Unlike the other gardens I visited, the Australian National Botanical Gardens appeared smaller by area. Looking at the map, I realised there’s a single main trail that went through the whole garden—ideal for people who just wanted to walk. For the others, the plant seekers, plenty of subordinate trails led from and across the main path. It was great because I could follow any trail to the smaller lawns and picnic areas, and still get on the main trail to continue through the garden. Here and there, leading from the main path were smaller and more concentrated enclosures—like the rock garden, the rainforest gully, the eucalyptus lawn, and the red centre garden.
Each of these gardens had one common aspect. The rainforest gully, for instance, showcases plants and creepers from Tasmania, the coldest and greenest state of the country. Even as I walked through the plants that spread their branches over my head, I could feel the temperates falling and the chilly breeze kissing my cheeks.
When I stopped at the rock garden, looking around trying to find my way back onto the trail, I got lost amidst rocky plants. Weird enough, however, despite seeing nothing but identical rocks, I felt a serene calmness overcome me. I was lost, but happy about it too. My heart skipped with joy looking at the odd plants that clung to the rocks—their life depends on them. Humans are the same. Even though we don’t realise or acknowledge it, we hold on to nature because our lives so depend on their survival.
That thought became even more profound when I arrived at the red centre garden. A massive landscape spread in front of me, its red sand, dry plants, and searing radiance almost blinding my eyes. It wasn’t a hot day—it was the ideal temperature for a day out. However, the moment I saw those desert plants and their habitat, I saw a tiny sample of the real heat that the Outback gets throughout the year. Everywhere I turned redness stared back, reflecting the emptiness of the landscape. To my surprise, though, the garden also featured a massive structure of a lizard native to the deserts. Here and there were also busts of smaller animals that call the desert home. Walking around the garden, I realised that even a lot of Australian children don’t see or experience the Outback—which makes up for almost one-fifth of the entire country.
As I headed back to the main trail, I couldn’t help but wonder at the marvel that is Australia. In a single garden, I managed to observe the various temperatures, plant life, and lifestyles that this country contains. I enjoyed the afternoon exploring the gardens. And each moment will remain in my mind just as pleasant as the herbs and eucalyptus plants, just as incredible as the rancid cacti, and just as beautiful as the chilling rainforests.