Sunday, October 17, 2010

The Ian Potter Foundation Children's Garden

Some gardens are so full of ideas, so full of joy, that it's hard to take everything in. The Ian Potter Foundation Children's Garden is one such garden, and you know it's going to be good as soon as you see the gate. How many different implements can you see?

Then there are these mysterious creatures outside the gate. They make me think of Patricia Wrightson. The curve on the path is part of a spiral that falls both inside and outside the gate. (By the way, I've never seen Asparagus Fern looking so respectable before -- it turns into a hideous weed in Sydney!)

All the parts of this garden have names. The first thing the boys saw -- and ran straight into -- was the Tunnel, made of Leptospermum laevigatum (Coastal Tea-Tree) saplings planted a metre or less apart and woven together. I presume that the same method could be used on Babingtonia virgata (which has softer leaves) or some of the smaller Melaleuca species. The tunnel was long and curved enough to be fun, and formed the boundary of the Children's Garden.

This fountain is the head of the rill that runs through the garden. I think it's a rather ugly-but-safe thing, but the significance of its "bubbler" style became apparent as soon as children came near. It's fun to put your hand over a jet and spray someone! Also note the bare-bottomed toddler: the garden information says, "For safety and hygiene reasons, children must be clothed at all times." But the Australian tradition of letting small children dabble naked in water continues regardless. The rill, by the way, meanders through the garden to a large pond, which would be very unsafe indeed if it didn't have heavy mesh just below the water surface.

This wonderful ancient redgum stump was extracted from the Murray, where it had lain undisturbed for years. It is raised so children can crawl underneath and look up through the hollow.

Across the campsite from it is the stone bridge/tunnel, part of a "ruin". My children loved this area as there were cut logs that could be moved around and stacked, as well as various hiding places to enjoy.

But I admired The Gorge the most. A path wends through standing basalt shards, surrounded by Snow Gums (Eucalyptus pauciflora) and tussock grasses. I could imagine playing hide-and-seek here, and aren't the colours wonderful? It evokes the gorges of Central Australia, but uses different species -- I doubt Ghost Gums and spinifex would cope with the Melbourne climate.

Nearby are the Magic Pudding and his mates. And a few more mates. Behind are some Gymea lilies used as a screen, and the popular picnic area.

New Zealand flax, Gymea lilies and what looks like Dianella are mass-planted as screens between the various "rooms". There was a whole area of bamboo, delightful to walk through, and a lookout tower. The only plant that puzzled me was this one. It looks horribly like an Equisetum, but I suppose it can't be.

The children's vegetable garden is off to one side, appropriate as its formal layout does not suit the rest of the space. There is a sand-pit in one of the boxes, and plenty of watering-cans to enable children to "help". I love the way the trellis crosses the beds to form tunnels.

The boys could probably have spent the whole day here and so could I. Now I'm preoccupied with working out how to realise some of the ideas from this garden in my own.
The Ian Potter Foundation Children's Garden is part of the Melbourne Botanical Gardens, which I'll deal with in my next post.


Liz said...

My parents don't live far from the gardens but like many locals we don't go there often. Really must organise a meetup there one Sunday when the weather is more reliable. Thanks for the reminder!

Anonymous said...

I'm loving the garden gate. and your boys are so cute!

Wicked Gardener said...

That place looks awesome!! (my 7 year old agrees!)

Yolanda Elizabet Heuzen said...

What a fab garden and such fun too. I would love to go and play there even though I'm not a kid anymore. Some gardens bring your inner child out and this one is most definitely one of those gardens.

Love the gate!

Unknown said...

I love your blog! And the thriving plant geek in me couldn't help but notice that the picture you have that looks like Equisetum is a plant from South Africa called Restio Rhodocoma capensis. Keep up the great work!