Yesterday we took our boys for a picnic and "bushwalk" at Sylvan Grove Native Garden in Picnic Point. This pocket native garden slopes down towards the Georges River and is a lovely spot to wander in for a few hours. I heard that it was open through the newsletter of the Australian Plants Society: the hours vary through the year, so check the website before you set off.
The first plant I saw was this lovely white waratah. Orchids were blooming everywhere, though the gardener on duty told me we had missed the peak season. I suppose we did miss the showy Sydney Rock Orchid, but there were smaller pink, white and cream orchids in profusion, mostly Dendrobium kingianum. There was also a species of Greenhood. The Prostanthera family were certainly making their presence felt in all the dryer patches. It is a pity that I can't stand the smell of the foliage as the white, pink or mauve blooms are so showy (see the bottom picture).
The garden, as I mentioned, is on sloping Sydney sandstone country. Most of the plants are native to this area, and 'foreigners' are given sunnier or shadier spots depending on temperament. The path wends back and forth across the slope, making the garden feel considerably larger than 1.5ha (3.7 acres). Traditional bush gardens in Australia tend to take a 'stroll garden' style, and this spacious feeling is one of the advantages. Many plants are named. Species of particular interest (rare and endemic species, bush-tucker plants) are numbered so that you can refer to details in the little guide-book.
The boys enjoyed zooming along the path to the next number; they have not developed an interest in plants yet (come to think of it, I hadn't either, at their age). In fact, the Twig lectured me at the start: "Now Mummy, we aren't here to study every plant in detail. The purpose of this bushwalk is to get exercise!" Well, they exercised and I wandered!
There is a cool, shady rainforest gully with lots of different types of ferns -- including one I hadn't seen before. The Geek commented that it looked as if it had been made in China; the leaflets had a peculiar flatness to them, as if stamped from a sheet of green plastic! The boys also had the chance to feel a sandpaper fig. The rough leaves were used by Aboriginal people to smooth spears and the like.
I was also impressed with the enormous flowers on this Geraldton Wax -- they're about 3cm across! Not sure if it's a cultivar or just really well-cared-for.
The endemic Boronia mollis, with its musk-stick-pink flowers, shows up clearly in sandstone country in spring.
I was very impressed to see a big Chorizema cordatum (Heart-leaf Flame-pea) in dry but heavy shade near the top of the slope. This small open shrub is a native of the very different climate and soil of WA. I'm afraid I haven't done very well with the colours -- the flowers are much more shockingly orange and pink than you see here. And as they prefer shade, the colours are quite eye-popping!
This garden is an excellent place to get a good look at both sandstone flora and Western Sydney species in an afternoon, as well as a few others. The majority of plants are clearly marked and the garden is lovingly maintained, though I felt some shrubs could do with pruning to improve the shape. There are a few parking spaces at the entrance, or you can park in the street. There are toilets at the top of the block and a selection of useful gardening leaflets is available there, along with a visitor's-book. While there are seats scattered through the gardens, it's a place to take your sandwiches rather than the full picnic spread as there isn't much open space -- certainly no lawns or barbecues. There is no kiosk. The garden is quite shady, due to good tree cover and its easterly aspect. The duty gardener told me that the shade is a little too heavy for really good flowers on some species, but it is therefore more comfortable in the summer months. While the garden has no steps, a person with mobility problems would still find some undulating parts difficult to negotiate. The Sprig managed to take a tumble on a sloping path, and now has a grazed nose -- but that's what four-year-olds do. If your children are a bit young to go on proper bushwalks, this garden will satisfy them for the afternoon. It is a pity Sylvan Grove Native Garden is not better known. Highly recommended.