Mt Coot-tha Botanic Gardens is located to the west of Brisbane and the Brisbane river and roughly 6km from the city centre. Further to the west of the garden is the beautiful Mt Coot-tha forest which is Brisbane’s largest natural area with over 1600 hectares of eucalypt forest and rainforest gullies. The garden itself, however, sits smack bang in between the M5 (motorway to the south) and a large quarry (to the north) but the tranquility of this place is still breathtaking. This is no tiny garden it covers 56 hectares (this can make it hard to do with just one visit) and features many different garden communities both exotic and Australian native for people to enjoy. It is actually Brisbane’s second botanic garden. Established in 1970 and opened to the public in 1976. The garden was first decided upon by the Brisbane City Council as an alternative to the flood prone original botanic gardens (at Kangaroo Point) after 8 major floods had devastated these gardens. Obviously a hill seemed a good option.
My first visit to the garden was in 2000 and over numerous visits I have noticed it has been increased and improved upon considerably. There is no fee to visit and I would probably suggest you bring some water and food for your walkabout although there is a cafe here. Mina and myself set out from the Gold Coast (about an hours drive south) on a very humid, rainy day hoping that it would not remain that way for all of it, we were lucky because it only rained for a short period which was no big drama because it is rarely cold in this part of the world.
Today I am going to take you through the many gardens (within the garden) we visited in the order that we visited them. As you first walk into the gardens from the car park there is the cafe area and what I call the older part of the gardens with the iconic Tropical display Dome and Cactus House.
- Arid Zone and cactus house:
This area represents the dry regions of Central America and Africa. There is a small hill that has been created here (my guess is to promote maximum drainage) with a maze of tracks running through many different succulent species such as Euphorbia, Jatropha, Aloe, Kalanchoe and Lampranthus just to name a few. The cactus house is as it sounds, a house, to protect the cactus from the sub-tropical Queensland weather where there is too much rain for cacti. Reminded me of our road trip through the deserts of California and Nevada. Most of all, though, it reminded me of ‘Warner Brothers’ Road Runner cartoon (even the botanical names reminded me of the Road Runner). From here we moved around to the tropical display dome but there was a big note on the door saying it was temporarily closed. Hmm temporarily all day or one hour, who knows, any how we will come back here later on.
- Fern House:
The Fern House was first opened in 2002 and is open between 9am and 4pm so if your a fern fan don’t be too late or early for that matter. It has more than 80 different species of ferns on display and is beautifully landscaped with a creek running through it and shade cloth above to protect the ferns (not to mention the visitors) from the harsh sun.
From here we went up a rather large hill past the entrance and Fragrant Plant and Herb Garden. We had a bit of a sniff around but didn’t stay too long because at that moment a big storm came across and we headed for shelter at the top of the hill. At the top of the hill there is a lookout with sweeping views of Brisbane City. On the verges of the path leading up to the lookout is some of the most horrible, shaley, dry, hot (well not hot and dry today but you know what I mean) ground you have ever seen bathed in hundreds of different varieties and colours of Bougainvillea. An example of right plant for the right place.
We waited around for a while and let the storm pass. While we waited Mina took some arty photos (above) and I had cookies and tea with a bus load of senior citizens having a little party here. The rain passed and we continued on our journey, soon to be confronted with a fork in the road or three rusty works of art anyway. Actually its more of a junction with four directions to take. We decided to have a look at the ‘National freedom Wall’ first.
- National freedom Wall
The National Freedom Wall was built to celebrate 50 years of freedom in the Pacific and honours service men and women who both fought and gave their lives for our nation. It is also a memorial to those who brought freedom to Australia, including workers on the land and organisations such as the Red Cross. There is the names of hundreds of soldiers in this place in alphabetical order enclosed by gardens representing land, sea and divide . The first time I came here I was surprised to find a plaque with my grandfathers name on it that none of my family seemed to know about, living in Victoria. I always pay a visit to this memorial, everytime I come to these gardens.
After this we headed back around and down to the newest section of the gardens.
- Australian plant comunities
The Australian plant communities garden is 27 hectares in area and highlights native Australian plants, majority from Queensland. The area features many different Australian forests that seem to effortlessly merge into one another and include many rare and endangered species (there are more than 40 rare and threatened species throughout the entire gardens). When I first came here many years ago much of the rainforest section of this garden was covered in trees no more than a meter tall. Although the sign says it is the newest part of the garden there is actually a newer section now that we will visit later on. It would more accurate to call this the newest established section. I would, once again, like to highlight that this area is basically nestled between a major motorway and open-cut quarry and for all intents and purposes apart from the beautifully maintained track and retaining walls you would think that you are in the middle of a natural forest.
From here we walked back to the junction at the top of the hill and back down into the temperate garden.
- Temperate Garden:
The temperate garden is one of my favorites. It is only a rather small area (well small compared to 56 hectares) but is one of the best examples I have ever seen, so far anyway, of a temperate garden. The garden consists mostly of conifers and pines and as you approach there is that distinct smell that confers and pines give off. With the clever landscaping that depicts a mountain stream cascading down the hill, you can easily imagine yourself in a mountainous region of Canada or Europe. You probably wouldn’t be too surprised if a bear popped out of the woods. From here it was only about a 10 second walk and we were back in the exotic jungles of Asia, now it was time to worry about tigers rather than bears. We were starting to get hungry now so headed back to the cafe for an enjoyable meal on the deck that has a great view over a lagoon (refer second picture in this article). This area can be hired out for weddings and other functions with its perfect back drop.
After we had our fill we headed back to ‘the dome’.
- Tropical Display Dome:
Well second time round the dome was opened, which is good because I would have hated to do this article without it. The Tropical Display dome is 9m high and 28m in diameter and was opened to the public in 1977. Once inside there is a path that winds up and around a central pond that is filled with water plant. As the name imply’s the dome is a dome displaying tropical plants. As I have already mentioned in this article, this is sub-tropical Brisbane, in the middle of summer so this is not a place that you want to spend all day in. Lucky for us today was a little overcast so we managed to stay in there a little longer than usual and look around (I still lost 3 kilos in sweat).
- Japanese Garden: The Japanese Garden was originally a feature of World Expo 88 and was a gift from the government of Japan. It was designed by one of Japans leading architects, the late Kenzo Ogata in the tsuki-yama-chisen style (mountain, pond stream) and combines a mixture of native and exotic plants suitable for the Brisbane climate. Unsurprisingly, Mina seemed to fit right in here.
From here we went to our last port of call for the day.
- The Bonsai House:
The Bonsai House (located, as you would expect, next to Japanese Garden) is opened weekdays from 10am-12noon and 1pm-3pm and weekends 10am-3pm. It is worth noting this if you have a keen interest in Bonsai. The house itself is made from rammed earth from the original sight. When you enter the house you are presented with a plastic coated paper tablet. The Bonsai plants are numbered and written on the tablet so you can recognize their species and age. Some of the incredible plants here are over 80 years old and include figs, conifers, camellias, azaleas and maples. We had a look around for awhile then proceeded to have a look at what is obviously a new section to the garden. It consists of an interesting curved track that leads down from a large (I’m guessing) water tower to a water reservoir at the bottom. The area runs along the M5 and I noticed there is a pedestrian and bicycle overpass from Anzac park so you don’t have to risk your life getting here from the south. The new section has a very modern kids playground and many Australian native rainforest trees so will be very interesting to see this develop over the years. The last little place we visited for the day was a vege garden that was located right next to picnic area and BBQ.
Well I hope you enjoyed this weeks walkabout, as I said in the beginning, it is definitely a full days mission and if you have a bit of time, be worth do it over 2 day. Thats all for now and I will see you next week on ‘My Walkabout Plants’.