The Roma Street Parkland is another one of those places that I visited during my Horticultural school days and in the numerous visits since, it never ceases to impress me with its ever changing and developing landscape. It is located (literally) next to Brisbane’s CBD, skirting the north west of the city, along side Roma St Railway Station. This park along with the Royal Botanical Gardens to the South East, Southbank just over the river and Mt Coot-tha a short drive to the west and you get the feeling that Brisbane is fast becoming a very green, sub-tropical city with a lot going for it. There are numerous pedestrian and bicycle tracks around town so its comfortable and safe to move about without a car and on the day we went, there was a food festival in the Queen Street Mall so we enjoyed a sensational lunch before our walk.
A Brief History: The local Aboriginal people (Turrbal tribe) originally used the Roma St area for thousands of years as a place for meetings, ceremonies, hunting, camping and recreation. It is recorded that in the 1840’s it was used for a major gathering of Aboriginals from all over south-eastern Queensland which was probably also the last in the Brisbane area.
After European settlement the area was used as an orphanage, Brisbane Grammar School and as a municipal sales yard. In 1875 the Roma St Railway was opened with a market adjoining (the market was closed in 1964). The railway was built to help move people and goods between Brisbane, Ipswich and Toowoomba. Then in 1877 (on the hilly northern part of today’s gardens) the Albert Park and recreational ground was gazetted. Being that the Roma Street railway yard was the major goods yard of the period in a fast growing population it was redeveloped in 1911 and in 1920, 554,300 cubic meters of rock and earth were removed to try and level the uneven terrain. Further redevelopments took place in 1934 and during the 1960’s and 70’s until the areas limitations became apparent and the rail freight side (of the railway) was moved to Acacia Ridge in 1991, leaving a significant part of the yards vacant.
In 1999 the Queensland Government joined the former rail and ‘Albert Park’ to create the ‘Roma Street Parkland’ which was opened in 2001. Since then over 100,000 plants of all varieties has been planted in this magnificently landscaped garden that is a major local and tourist attraction for the city.
We started today’s walk along the Albert Street Walkway that runs alongside the Roma Street Station and a remarkable display of Allamanda’s that are gradually taking over (a rather ugly) concrete bank. This leads past the station entry (which drops down to another level) and on into the garden itself. As you enter from this end you will see a developing fig garden to the left and to the front a giant waterfall that drowns out any city noises and is beautifully cool on a hot summers day. The waterfall has a little gully towards one end that invites you into a bamboo forest taking you through to the next stage in the garden.
There is a BBQ area, toilets and a large collection of Staghorns, Elkhorns and other epiphytes on the wall. From here we travelled down towards ‘Flying Duck Lake’ and on towards one of my favourite spots of the garden, fern gully. This area is obviously part of the original excavation for the old train rail having steep banks that create a natural gully. The designers have used this to create, using natives, a beautiful natural looking forest with large tree ferns, Alocasia’s, Birds nest ferns, etc, etc. They have a boardwalk running through it and have installed a misting system that (at intervals) blankets the whole area in a cooling hazy mist, magnificent on a hot day. I wonder if the Cloud Forest designers got their idea from here.
The northwestern end of the parkland is on the side of a hill. This area has been tied together with the lower part of the gardens with clever boardwalks, overpasses and lookouts. Today we walked up and over this area that is filled with beautiful Australian natives and many dry climate plants . There is a very impressive display of Ponytail palms (Beaucarnea recurvata) here as well. The last time we visited Roma Street the local ‘Golden Orb spider’ had taken up residence in among these plants creating a roof of webs and spiders, but they appeared to be gone this time round. Probably removed for the arachnophobics. I did get a picture of them last time around but this had nothing on actually being there.
After touring around this area we were lead back to the centre of the garden to an area known as ‘Colin Campbell Place’. This garden is named after the Gardening Australia presenter who was the one who lobbied two state governments to have the disused railway yards transformed into a world-class garden in the first place. This area is filled with interesting gardens and landscaping with a clever concrete river running through the middle. The river reminds me somewhat of the one at the Cranbourne Gardens. ‘Colin Campbell Place’ is a mixture of more permanent gardens and spectacular flower gardens that are ever-changing with the seasons. If you are visiting Brisbane this garden is an absolute must. I hope you have enjoyed this edition of ‘My Walkabout Plants’. I have left you with some photos of the rest of our days walk, see you next time.
Sources of Information:
- Photography by Simon Schubert and Minako Howarth.
- Roma Street Garden Information Guide and Map.