THEME GARDENS

Theme Gardens
PLANT COLLECTIONS
The Gardens’ Plant Collections are predominantly Australian flora and include acacias, Australian plants for the home garden, banksias, hakeas and grevilleas, plants of the Hunter Region, boronias and their relatives, prostantheras, eucalypts (mostly of the Hunter Region), local water plants, native myrtles, palms, rainforest plants, Australian arid plants, conifers, cycads and ferns.

Collections of exotic plants include succulents, bromeliads and camellias.
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EUCALYPTUS LAWN
Eucalypts are part of the Myrtaceae family and are the dominant plants in many Australian landscapes. Eucalypts are noted for their interesting species-specific bark; their prolific flowers; the aromatic oil of their leaves; and their height, which can reach 30-40 metres in some species. The species Eucalyptus robusta, pilularis and gummifera are widespread in the gardens. 

The Garden
The Eucalyptus Lawn was planted to show visitors a range of indigenous species of eucalypt and to provide a shaded area for public use as a venue for picnics, weddings and other events. The rotunda was built by Raymond Terrace Rotary Club. Large specimens found on site are Eucalyptus pilularis, Eucalyptus gummifera and the associated species Angophora costata and Angophora floribunda. Other specimens were planted on the lawn and are now about thirty years old. Eucalypts may be found in other areas of the Gardens, notably Eucalyptus pumila, an endangered species from the Hunter Valley, and the endangered Eucalyptus parramattensis ssp. decadens, which are planted elsewhere in the Gardens to encourage koalas to feed and stay in this safe place. The lawn has a range of other native shrubs and trees and children’s play-sites and picnic tables. 

Highlights
• The magnificent specimens of Eucalyptus grandis, the flooded gum; and Corymbia maculata, the spotted gum, both Hunter trees.
• Eucalypt flowering times vary to some degree according to the weather, but usually some time in spring and/or autumn. Flowers provide food for bees, birds, other insects and small native animals such as possums and gliders.
• The lawn is often grazed by the resident red-necked wallabies (Macropus rufogriseus) especially early morning and late afternoon.
• Aboriginal people use certain species of eucalypt for their smoking ceremonies, and the resin exuded from some species was used for medicinal purposes and as an adhesive. Burls from the tree were used as containers.

For the Home Gardener
• Planting of large eucalypt species is generally not recommended in small suburban gardens. Extensive roots and over-hanging branches create problems and can be unsafe.
• Small cultivars of the genus suitable for home gardens are available from commercial nurseries.
CAMELLIA GARDENS
Camellia is the principal genus of the Theaceae plant family. Camellias are shrubs or small trees which originate in the temperate mountain forests of southern China. They include the tea plant, Camellia sinensis, and the ornamental species such as C. sasanqua, C. japonica and C. reticulata. The ornamental species were cultivated in China and Japan, and were introduced to the west in the late eighteenth century. The family Theaceae also includes similar plants such as Gordonia axillaris.  

Camellias are winter flowering plants which provide colour in the garden when many other plants are dormant. They require well drained acid soils and a relatively mild climate without severe frosts. The ornamental species exhibit extreme genetic variability in their flower types and an enormous range of cultivars and hybrids have been developed. There are currently well over 30,000 registered cultivars. While there are no camellias endemic to Australia, camellias have been popular in the gardens of south eastern Australia since the 1840s, and along with northern California, Australia have been a major centre for the development of new cultivars. 

The Garden
The Gardens collection includes around 60 camellias located in beds adjacent to the Camellia Lawn and on Linnaeus Circuit at the entrance to the Gardens. There are a wide variety of camellias including C. sinensis and examples of the main ornamental species. Plantings along the Botanic Walk include many of the Paradise series of C. sasanqua cultivars and hybrids developed on the NSW central coast. 

Highlights
Camellias are in flower from late March to September, with C. sasanqua predominant from March to May and other species appearing through the winter and early spring.

For the Home Gardener
• Camellias grow best in areas of open shade with well-drained, neutral to acid soils and enjoy a mulch rich in tannins such as pine bark or leaf mould. Paler varieties should not be planted where they receive early morning sun as the damp petals will be damaged. C. sasanqua will thrive in more open conditions than the other species and care is needed in frost-prone areas to select suitable types.
• The main cultivation requirement is regular watering to ensure that the shallow roots do not dry out.
• Camellias are not heavy feeders. A light application of a specialist fertiliser after flowering is useful for potted specimens or in the early years of growth.
• Camellias can be pruned, but pruning is normally only required for shaping or if the plant has been damaged.
WATERFALL GARDEN
The Waterfall Garden is a display garden featuring coastal rainforest plants, particularly plants from Lord Howe Island and Norfolk Island, including Kentia palms (Howea sp.) and ferns. It is a popular location for weddings and photographs.
MYRTACEAE GARDEN
The Myrtaceae family, although worldwide in its distribution, is particularly important in Australian flora because it includes the genus Eucalyptus. However, there are some 80 other genera represented in Australia. These plants have aromatic oils in their leaves and multiple stamens in their showy flowers. 

The Gardens
The two Myrtaceae gardens (one close to the main entrance and the other opposite Banks’ Place) feature a collection of smaller members of the Myrtaceae family, including species of Baeckea, Callistemon, Darwinia, Homoranthus, Kunzia, Leptospermum, Melaleuca and Regelia. The plants come from a variety of eco-systems in Australia, showing the diversity of this family.

Eucalypts and related tree species can be found in the Eucalyptus lawn and throughout the Gardens. 

Highlights
• The smaller Myrtaceae species are very showy, especially in spring and autumn.
• There are some threatened eucalypts growing in the Gardens (e.g. E. pumila) in the Rare and Endangered Plants Garden and on the Eucalypt Lawn.
• Eucalypts which provide food for koalas, such as E. robusta and E. haemastoma, are endemic to the Gardens, and new koala food trees are being planted continually.
• Aboriginal people used some eucalypt resin for medicinal purposes (E. gummifera), bark may be used as a dye (E. pilularis) and some resin was edible (E. punctata). E. paniculata roots were used as a water source; E. piperita leaves yield a peppermint oil.

For the Home Gardener
• Visitors will see many plants that are very suitable for the home garden. These plants come from a wide variety of soils and conditions but are quite tolerant and respond well to pruning so that they can be grown in relatively small spaces. The flowers attract bees, native birds, butterflies and moths. The flowering season may extend into autumn in some genera.
CASUARINA GARDEN
Set in a grassy area behind the carpark is a planting of many of the She-oak (Casuarinaceae) species from the Hunter Region. The Casuarinaceae family (Casuarina and related genera) evolved on the Gondwana supercontinent and is now found in Australia, India and the Pacific. While Casuarinaceae have leaf structures resembling pine needles and seed pods resembling cones, they are in fact flowering plants and occur in most areas and vegetation communities across Australia.
GREVILLEA GARDEN
The objective of the garden is to grow as comprehensive a collection as possible of the species types of Grevillea, rather than the commercial hybrids. 

The Gardens has the benefit of well-drained, slightly acid sandy soil, so it is possible to grow Grevillea from a wide range of habitats in Australia and off-shore islands, although some species have been grafted onto Grevillea robusta stock to promote survival in a coastal area. 

The Garden demonstrates plant diversity and adaptation within the genus, as well as displaying the flower characteristics of this Proteaceae family member, of racemes of paired flowers with prominent pollen presenters in a range of vivid colours and habits ranging from ground covers to tall trees like G. robusta (the silky oak). The garden includes many rare and endangered species from the Hunter Valley and from further afield. Some species display the dramatic and colourful flowers for which Grevillea is known, while there are others which combine less showy flowers with interesting and attractive growth habit. 

Highlights
• Spring is the best time to visit this garden when the flowers are most prolific and attractive to native birds including the eastern spinebill, other honeyeaters and many parrots, bees and butterflies. 

For the Home Gardener
• Grevillea species are ideal for the home garden. They attract the native birds, and selected species or cultivars from local nurseries are tolerant of a wide range of soils. Plants, especially the shrubs, benefit from pruning after flowering.
RUTACEAE GARDEN
The Rutaceae or ‘citrus’ family is a worldwide plant family, which includes the fruiting varieties of citrus such as oranges and lemons. Australian representative of the family include both rainforest and heath-like plants. 

The Garden
This small garden is designed to show the diversity of the Australian members of this plant family. It features shrubby heath plants, such as Boronia, Correa, Crowea, Phebalium, Philotheca and Eriostemon, many of which are from the Hunter Region. Like their well-known citrus relatives, they have highly scented leaves and showy ‘star’ flowers. Other larger Australian members of the Rutaceae family can be found elsewhere in the Gardens, e.g. in the Rainforest or in the south-eastern conservation area.

Highlights
• Visitors will usually find at least one species of these plants in flower throughout the year.
• Aboriginal people made use of the finger-lime fruit (Microcitrus australasica) and made tea from the leaves of Correa alba.

For the Home Gardener
• Members of this family make ideal garden plants, and cultivars of Crowea and Correa are widely available at nurseries.
BANKSIA GARDEN
In Australia the Proteaceae family includes a large number species ranging from trees to heath plants. They show great diversity throughout the continent, but particularly in the southwest of Western Australia. Besides Banksia and Hakea, the family includes Grevillea, Isopogon, Persoonia and Telopea (Waratahs). 

Hakea have flowers similar to the Grevillea; however, the fruits are usually hard and woody. Flowers of Banksia are carried on large ‘spikes’ made up of many smaller flowers. They produce abundant amounts of nectar which attract birds, moths and butterflies, and nectar feeding mammals. 

The Garden
The garden is designed to show members of the Proteaceae other than Grevillea growing in Australia. Many are endemic to the region, while others are from all over Australia, including a number of the more spectacular plants from Western Australia. 

Highlights
• Banksias and Hakeas mainly flower in spring.
• Visitors will see a diverse range of plants from various eco-systems. The sandy soil allows the growing of some of the WA species which may be difficult to grow in east coast gardens.
• There are five endemic species of Banksia and three species of Persoonia from the Hunter Region.
• A number of Hakea from across the country are growing well - look for H. archeaoides, H. nitida near the path in the spring and the ‘pin-cushion hakea’ H. laurina nearby.
• The spectacular Isopogon dawsonii is also a treat in spring, and the fire-wheel tree, Stenocarpus sinuatus, is very showy.

For the Home Gardener
• Banksias and Hakeas respond well to regular pruning in late summer and will often show a flush of growth in autumn.
• Local plants can be grown from seed or cuttings, but the difficult WA species may need to be grafted.
• There is a range of cultivars available from local nurseries which are very suitable for home gardens.
LAMIACEAE GARDEN
This garden is devoted to the Australian members of the Lamiaceae family, a large and worldwide family which contains many of the traditional culinary herbs, such as Melissa (lemon balm), Mentha (mint), Lavandula (lavender), Origanum (oregano and marjoram), Rosmarinus (rosemary), Salvia (sage) and Thyme (thyme) from southern Europe. Members of the family are mostly small to medium size woody shrubs with some small herbs and low trees, and most have aromatic oils in their leaves. 

In Australia there are about 250 species in 38 genera, most of which are unique to Australia. Central New South Wales, including the western part of the Hunter Region, has a high species diversity, particularly in the Prostanthera genus. 

The Garden
The collections in this Garden are predominantly Prostanthera species mainly from the Hunter Region with a few Plectranthus and Westringia species. 

Highlights
• The Lamiaceae Garden provides a mass of flowers in early to mid-Spring, mostly in shades of mauve, blue and but white, but pink, red and occasionally green flowers are also found. 
• Some species spot flower for much of the year, and many offer delicate aromas as the visitor brushes past the leaves.

For the Home Gardener
• Australian members of the Lamiaceae family include tough garden specimens such as Westringia fruiticosa (coast rosemary) which is suitable for coastal and other exposed positions.
• This garden also introduces a range of more delicate and aromatic shrubs which have a place in sheltered garden locations.
• Lamiaceae are useful for encouraging bees and butterflies in the garden.
• Many Lamiaceae are relatively short-lived plants but are easy to propagate and replace.
HUNTER REGION PLANTS
The Hunter Region is home to a wide variety of ecological communities extending from the Great Dividing Range in the West and the Barrington Tops in the North to the edge of the Sydney Sandstone Basin in the South then Eastward to the Coast and encompasses the whole river catchment. Towards the western end of the valley there is a significant incursion of dryer area flora due to a low altitude saddle in the Great Divide and rainfall below 25 cm. Here there are many interesting plants not normally associated with the Hunter Valley including a proliferation of the Genus Prostanthera.

Conversely, there are coastal plants to be found in dryer areas such as the Warrumbungle Ranges, also due to the dip in the Great Dividing Range.

In the Barrington Tops area Temperate Rainforest including stands of Antarctic Beech occur as well as Sub Tropical Rainforest and Sub Alpine Flora.

Southwards, on the Southern reaches of the Valley, the Sydney Sandstone Flora occurs up to the rim of the valley but not into the Valley itself.

In many parts of the region, endemic ecological communities have been heavily impacted by grazing, agriculture, mining and other human activities, with the result that some plants and communities are rare and endangered. The Hunter is a region of great plant diversity, which is represented in the Gardens.

The Garden
Plants in this garden come from the diverse ecological communities within the Hunter Region. The garden is designed to show the wide variety of plants to be found in this region. 

Awareness of the diverse Hunter Flora is not extensive outside special interest groups so it is hoped that eventually there will be a significant collection of Hunter Region Flora here to educate the community at large to the amazing diversity found in Hunter Region plant communities and perhaps also provide a system of off-site conservation.

Hunter Region plants may also be found in the a number of the genus specific theme gardens, including the Rare and Endangered Plants Garden

Highlights
• The flowering of these plants depend of the species and can occur year round. The most prolific flowering can be seen in late winter and spring with some plants flowering in summer and some producing another flush in autumn. 
• Many of the plants in the Garden were used by the Worimi (local indigenous) people for construction of shelter, for weapons or tools, food or medicine.

For The Home Gardener
• The use of indigenous plants from your local area is a particularly rewarding approach to home gardening.
• Most plants’ survival depends on soil type, trace elements and soil organisms. Some will grow in a wide range of conditions while others need conditions as close to their natural conditions as possible. So it is important to know as much as possible about your local conditions as possible before deciding what to plant. 
• If you want to try a garden using Australian plants the best place to start is explore what is already growing in your local area and expand your collection from there. 
• Most indigenous plants are drought tolerant once established and require little attention apart from judicious pruning occasionally. A little research here will be beneficial as some native plants will take hard pruning and others need just tip pruning mainly after flowering.
PARRY PLACE
Parry Place is a small garden cared for by the Australian Plant Society (APS), Newcastle Branch. It contains a wide variety of native plants suitable for the home garden and available from local nurseries. The garden was named after Perc Parry and his family of Kariong, who were pioneers in the field of growing native plants for home gardens. The Parrys established a nursery known as ‘Floralands’ at Kariong which quickly became a mecca for those interested in native plants. 

In the early days of the HRBG, a garden was established in the vicinity of the present Parry Place Garden by the Community Employment Program Workers employed at the time. 

It was then that the idea for a garden to promote those Native Plants suitable for local gardens was conceived. 

It was also decided to name the Garden after Perc Parry. His son Brian Parry was approached regarding the donation of suitable plants and the concept of remembering Perc in this way. Brian was very supportive of the plan, and so Parry Place became a reality and has survived to this day, due in the main to the very generous donations of time effort and plants by the Newcastle Branch of the Australian Plants Society (once named the Society for Growing Australian Plants). 

Some of the plants used here are cultivars as well as species, whereas the Theme Garden areas display mostly species. 

For details of local APS groups, please see the APS website.
CONIFER GARDEN
This garden contains a collection of southern hemisphere conifers including members of the Cupressaceae, Araucariaceae and Podocarpaceae families. It includes plants from Australia, New Caledonia, Norfolk Island and New Zealand. Coniferous plants existed when the Gondwana supercontinent was formed, but they evolved very differently in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres. Many southern conifers did not survive the drying of the environment or were confined to small remnant populations. The exceptions were the southern members of the Cupressaceae family, genus Callitris which are widespread in many areas of Australia.

The garden contains a significant collection of the Araucariaceae family including 8 of the 19 surviving species of the genus Araucaria, 3 of the 21 species of genus Agathis, and specimens of the Wollemi pine, Wollemia noblis. This species was known only from fossil remains prior to its discovery in the Wollemi National Park in 1994. The specimens in the Gardens are part of a long term effort to propagate the species and grow it more widely to prevent extinction.
ACACIA GARDEN
The Acacia (wattles) belong to the family Fabaceae which is characterised by its pod-like fruits, as found in the peas we eat. The Acacia genus originally came from Africa and India and moved from the tropical regions there before Gondwana continents separated. Wattles have diversified in Australia and now are found everywhere except in sub-alpine heaths or tropical rain-forests. Australian acacias mainly have modified leaves (phyllodes) – acacias with true leaves often have large thorns. Acacias are valued for their ability to fix soil nitrogen. 

Acacias are important in Australia, particularly in arid area communities where their seed is used as food for humans and leaves as fodder for animals. The wood is used to make tools and furniture, and the resin is used for glue or medicinal purposes. The large pollen grains are collected by bees. 

The Garden
The garden shows the diversity of Acacia in Australia and the Hunter Region. Locally there are about eighty species of Acacia – five classified as rare and endangered. The acacia garden is situated close to the Northern Wetland and is a favoured habitat for small birds. 

Highlights
• It is said that there is a wattle flowering somewhere in Australia all year round, and this usually applies in our Garden too. However, the best time to see this Garden is at the end of July or beginning of August. National Wattle Day (highlighting Acacia pycnantha, the national floral emblem) is celebrated on September 1, which is too late for NSW plants; we celebrate the wattle on August 1.

For the Home Gardener
• Acacia species are relatively easy to grow after seed is pre-treated, and suitable species, especially those endemic to the area, are decorative and beneficial as nitrogen fixers.
• Contrary to popular belief, wattle pollen is generally too large to cause allergies.
• Acacia species are often fast growing and short-lived, but their life can be extended considerably by regular pruning.
SUCCULENT GARDEN
The succulents form a very large, worldwide group of plants from the low rainfall tropical and subtropical areas of the world, particularly from the Americas and South Africa. They have thick, fleshy parts in which the internal tissue consists of large air-filled cells which are capable of storing moisture. This enables them to withstand long periods of drought. Most succulents have a leathery ‘skin’ and many possess either a waxy coating or dense hairs to help reduce moisture loss in the hot, dry conditions. 

The Garden
The Gardens features the largest Succulent Garden of any botanical gardens in Australia. Most of the plants in the Succulent Garden are exotic, and consist of representatives from the following families:

• Cactaceae, e.g. genus Cactus: Cacti are confined to the Americas. They are perennial herbs in which the leaves have usually been reduced to spines and the green fleshy stems (called cladodes) act as water storage organs and carry out the normal photosynthesis process of leaves. Opuntia is the largest and most widespread genus of the Cactaceae, growing from Canada to Patagonia. They are easily recognised by their large disc-like ‘stems’. The prickly pear, Opuntia ficus-indica, is an environmental weed in Australia, but is used for fruit and stock feed in the Americas.

• Agavaceae, e.g. genera Agave, Sansevieria: These plants have leaves which are arranged in stemless rosettes. They contain fibre, and some varieties are used commercially for fibres and juices.

• Asclepiadaceae, e.g. genus Stapelia: The Milkweed family, comprising soft fleshy plants with unusual flower forms.

• Crassulaceae, e.g. genera Crassula, Echeveria, Kalanchoe, Sedum, Acomium: One of the main decorative genera. They are small plants, often with rosette forms and not prickly. Many have prominent and attractive flowers.

• Euphorbiaceae, e.g. genus Euphorbia: This family of spined succulents may range in size from small plants to tree size and most contain a caustic white milky sap which is poisonous. The flowers are yellow and red, tiny and usually insignificant. Their attraction lies in the unusual shapes of the plants. Southern Africa is their principal habitat.

• Liliaceae, e.g. genera Aloe, Gasteria, Haworthia: Succulents in the liliaceae family typically have long-stemmed conical flowers in pink to red colours and are winter flowering. Some plants have medicinal uses.

• Didiereaceae, e.g. genera Didierea, Alluaudia: Native to Madagascar and are spiny thick-stemmed trees or shrubs similar to cactus. The succulent plant form is a less common adaption among Australian dryland plants than in Africa and the Americas. However, there are some Australian succulents included in the Garden, such as Brachycytons (Queensland bottle trees), Sarcostemma australe (stick plant) and Mesembryanthiums (pigfaces).  Many of the plants growing here are very rare, and some are extinct in their native habitats. 

Highlights
• The Aloe collection is a unique collection in Australia consisting of approximately 90 species which are native to Africa and Madagascar.
• The Golden Barrels (Echinocactus grusonii) occur naturally in southern USA and Mexico. The garden has a number of these spiky plants which may not flower until they are 20 years old. They may live to 100 years and grow to one metre in diameter.
• Pony tails (Nolina recurva) are native to Mexico, and as can be seen by the larger 40 year old plant in the garden, they can grow to a large size. The large bunches of small pink flowers appear when the plant is quite large.
• Three Dragon's Blood trees (Dracaena draco) which are native to the Canary Islands. The stems exude a red resin when rubbed or damaged – hence dragon's blood. This resin was considered to have magical properties by the inhabitants of the islands.
• Chorisia speciosa: A tall tree from South America with a spiky trunk. Look up for the striking display of large pink flowers in late winter.

For the Home Gardener
• Succulents have become increasingly popular with home gardeners over the last two decades because of their architectural forms and low water requirements. Many are well suited to pots and courtyard areas.
• Succulents generally require a bright sunny position in a well-drained soil such as a mix of river sand and potting mix. Use a slow release fertilizer in moderation during summer.
• The commonest cause of death in succulents is overwatering. Water once a week in summer, and do not water excessively or during winter or cold weather.
ARID GARDEN
The majority of the Australian continent is arid, and this garden is devoted to growing a selection of plants endemic to arid areas.  

Plants from a variety of families have evolved strategies to cope with dry conditions ranging from storing water in various organs such as leaves and roots, to flowering after rain and then becoming dormant, to having narrow leaves with stomata oriented to minimise water loss. On the humid east coast where fungi and other organisms are prolific, it is possible to grow only a few of these plants. 

The Garden
Growing conditions in this garden have been modified to suit the needs of plants from arid Australia. Plant survival in this garden is promoted by addition of a mounded gravel covered surface to the base which is old dune sand. Where needed, soil acidity has been modified by addition of limestone chips. Visitors will see a variety of plants, mainly from Central and Western Australia. These include Acacia, Hakea, Banksia and Eremophila species. 

Highlights
• Flowering of these plants is mainly in summer and very much dependent on the weather. Flowers that do appear are usually quite spectacular.

For the Home Gardener
• These plants are not recommended for east-coast gardens as they can have short lives being subject to disease. However, in suitable conditions of good drainage, full sun and suitable soils, success is possible!
GRASS GARDEN
Monocotyledons are division of flowering plants is characterised by a single seed leaf, parallel veined leaves and flower parts in threes or multiples of three. They range from small herbs and grasses to large plants such as palms. Moncot herbs and grasses are a feature of many Australian landscapes ranging from salt marshes to open woodlands and arid landscapes. However, native grassland ecosystems are under threat from development and the introduction of improved pasture on grazing lands.

Grasses belong to the family Poaceae. Poaceae is a very important plant family. The cereals, which include wheat, oats, barley, corn and rice, are plants of this family. Plants are also the major food for grazing animals.

The Garden
This garden features a range of Australian native grasses and herbs.

Some of the grasses in the garden are: kangaroo grass (Themeda australis), wallaby grass (Rytidosperma caespitosum), smooth blue snow grass (Poa fawcettiae), and swamp foxtail (Pennisetum alopecuroides).

The native herbs on display in the gardens range from the Gymea lily, which has large leaves and an inflorescence (or flowers) borne on a stalk up to 5 metres tall, to small herb such as the purple flag lily. Herbs in the garden include: Gymea lily (Doryanthes excelsa), mat rush (Lomandra species), flax lily (Dianella species), purple flag lily (Patersonia sericea)

For the Home Gardener
• Australian native grasses are increasingly used in home gardening. Clumping or tussock species of grasses add variety and texture to a garden, and many species are very hardy.
• Pennisetum is a popular grass for gardens, however it has the potential to become very weedy, so it is best to grow sterile hybrids.
• Poa tussock (Poa fawcettiae) is an interesting small tussock grass with blue/grey leaves.
• Lomandra and small sedges have also become popular garden and landscaping plants.
• These and other grasses, as well as other monocots, can be obtained from commercial nurseries.
• It is best to prune tussock grasses back after they have finished flowering.
GUNDABOOKA ABORIGINAL PLANTS TRAIL
The Aboriginal people of Australia have close association with the plant life of the continent. The Gundabooka Trail shows plants which were used for: food, utensils, clothing, dwellings, medicine, weapons. The principal focus of the trail is on plants from the Hunter Region, however some plants used by Aboriginal people in other areas are also grown.

A labelling program is currently underway to provide signage to identify plants and their uses.
GONDWANA GARDEN
Gondwana was the great supercontinent consisting of South America, Africa, Madagascar, Arabia, India, Australia, New Zealand and Antarctica which was formed some 250 million years ago. This gave rise to many common features of plants in this southern area which are reflected in modern plants.

The Continents began to drift apart – South America from Africa, Africa from Antarctica then New Zealand, India and Australia.

The Gondwana trail attempts to show the common relationships of plants and the differences as flora developed in the separate continents, with particular reference to Australian plants.

Families represented are those of Ferns, Palms, and Conifers and Angiosperms (flowering plants), which includes – Casuarinaceae, Fabaceae, Loranthaceae, Proteacaeae, Myrtaceae, Restionaceae, Rutaceae, Winteraceae and Xanthorrhaceae.
THE RAINFOREST
Rainforests were once widespread along the eastern Australian coast from Queensland to Victoria and Tasmania, but they have now been much reduced by land clearing. 

Most of the rainforests of the Hunter Valley are of the Subtropical type and normally occur below 900m altitude, with Warm Temperate Rainforests at higher altitudes and Cool Temperate Rainforests confined to the high moist mountains of the Barrington Tops above 1200m. Dry Rainforests occur in lower rainfall areas, and/or on poorer soils and extend to the central parts of the Hunter Valley. Representatives of all of these types are in the Gardens' collection. 

Other Australian rainforests include the Tropical and Monsoon Rainforests of northern Australia. 

Cool Temperate Rainforests have the least diversity and are often dominated by a single species, whilst the Tropical Rainforests and to a lesser extent the Subtropical Rainforests are the most diverse and complex. 

The Garden
The Rainforest Area shows a naturally living collection of trees, shrubs and small herbaceous plants which are found in eastern Australian rainforests from Cape York to Tasmania. 

The Rainforest Area is much larger than the other theme gardens, covering some 7 hectares. The collection includes over 50 plant families and a very much larger number of species, showing the great diversity which exists in Australia. 

Highlights
• Visitors will see a range of growth from established areas with tall trees to current plantings. In the older gardens, a rainforest microclimate is developing which has encouraged rainforest birds to occupy the area, e.g. Satin Bowerbirds, Golden Whistlers, Eastern Yellow Robins and White Headed Pigeons.
• Look for group planting such as the Tropical Rhododendron Virosum (found in North Queensland).
• Each species has its own peak time for flowering and fruiting, but these events are less prevalent in winter. Many species produce spectacular new foliage either in winter or after rain.
• Many rainforest species have edible fruit, roots and leaves which were used by aboriginal people, and a number of these useful plants such as native ginger, mountain pepper, and Davidson plum can be grown in home gardens.
• The Fern Gully within the Rainforest area is a delightful area which contains a number of interesting Australasian ferns and tree ferns as well as many epiphytic orchids and ferns growing on the trees. The ferns with the very large fronds are Angiopteris evecta from Queensland.

For the Home Gardener
• Many species of rainforest plants can be grown in the Newcastle and Lower Hunter area away from heavy frosts.
• The type of plants that can be grown depends on the size of the garden, with smaller trees and shrubs being suitable for urban areas and larger species in areas where space is not a problem. Many species such as Rosewood and Queensland Maple are excellent cabinet timbers.
• Specimens may be selected for flowers, scent, nectar (for birds), fruit or foliage. Some species may be trained as hedge plants.
• A range of rainforest plants and their cultivars are available from commercial nurseries; however, there are still many less well known species which have potential for home gardeners.
• Since most rainforest plants are low in volatile oils, they are not as flammable as eucalypts, and their dense shade reduces the number of weeds and undergrowth.
• Rainforest plants often require deep soils, a good water supply, and protection from strong winds and heavy frost. Regular fertilising and the use of decomposing mulch to enrich poor soil is important. Avoid mulching with fresh wood or bark chips, as these remove nitrogen from the soil during decomposition.
PALM GARDEN
Palms represent the only large group of tree-sized monocotyledons. This division of flowering plants is characterised by a single seed leaf, parallel veined leaves and flower parts in threes or multiples of three. Many palms are single trunked and will die if the shoot at the apex of the trunk is destroyed. The leaves are usually divided (pinnate or palmate) with a few having simple, undivided leaves. The flowers are mostly small and inconspicuous, however the fruit can be large and colourful. Flowering patterns in palms are highly diverse. Palms may occur as male and female plants (dioecious), or with separate male and female flowers on the same inflorescence (monoecious) or they may have bisexual flowers.

While many palms are associated with wet tropical areas, there are others which thrive in temperate and arid climates. 

Useful products derived from palms include sago, palm sugar, palm wine, palm cabbage, coir fibre, raffia, oils and waxes. Date and coconut palms produce edible fruit.

Australia has about 60 native palm species, over 80 per cent of which are unique to Australia. Palms were found in the rainforests which covered the Australian continent when it was separated from Gondwana some 65 million years ago. As the continent gradually dried, many palm populations were isolated, and distinct species evolved, many endemic only to small areas.

The Garden
The palm garden contains some 30 species which represent about half the palms occurring naturally in Australia. Species in the genus Livistona (Cabbage Palms), include L. australis, which occurs locally, along with a range of other rarer species collected from desert oases and other isolated habitats. These include L. rigida from the Roper River in the Northern Territory; and Queensland species including L. sp. ‘Carnarvon Gorge’, L. sp. ‘Blackdown Tablelands’, L. decipens from the central Queensland coast, L. sp. ‘Cape River’ from the Charters Towers area, and L. muelleri and L. drudei from Northeast Queensland. 

Also in the garden are Archontophoenix species include the local A. cunninghamiana (Bangalow Palm); Linospadix species (the small Walking stick palms) and the related, but somewhat larger, Laccospadix australasica from the highlands of North Queensland; Normanbya normanbyi (the Queensland Black Palm with plume-like leaves); Wodyetia bifurcata (Foxtail Palm); Licuala ramsayi (Queensland Fan Palm) and a Ptychosperma species from the wet tropics of Cape York. 

Two species from Lord Howe Island, Howea forsteriana and H. belmoreana, (the "Kentia" palms); the Norfolk Island palm Rhopalostylis bauera; and the related R. sapida, the most southern naturally occurring palm from New Zealand, are also grown in the Gardens. 

Highlights
• The garden features stands of mature palms (many around 30 years old) in a bushland environment.
• Palms provided food, medicines and other resources for the aboriginal people. The growing tip of most Australian palms is edible and provides a nutritious food. It is likely that juvenile and small palms were preferred because of their ease of collection. Some of the palms known to have been used by the Aborigines and growing in the Palm Garden include Archontophoenix cunninghamiana, Livistona australis, Linospadix monostachyus, Calamus sp.

For the Home Gardener
• Australian native palms, including Archontophoenix, Livistona and the Kentia palms from Lord Howe Island, offer options of a suitable size and habit for growing in home gardens, and provide good alternatives to the Cocos palm (Syagrus romanzoffiana) which has been used widely in recent years. The Cocos palm is a fast-growing, high maintenance species which can invade local bushland.
RARE & ENDANGERED PLANTS
This garden is dedicated to Australian plants that have generated a degree of concern about their status in nature. Although plants in this category may be found in any area of Australia, the Gardens concentrates on rare and endangered plants from the Hunter Region.

There may be a number of reasons for plants to be considered in this category. Often it is the destruction of natural habitat, by agriculture, mining or urban development that has causes a plant to be threatened. Pressures on the environment where the plants are found may make them less likely to survive, or the population might be below a critical level that would ensure survival. In some cases, a plant may be rare in one area and abundant in another. If this is the case then the plants would be considered locally rare and are of importance because of the need to protect genetic diversity. A lack of pollinating agents may also force a population of plants to be reduced in number and so become endangered.

As the list of plants considered endangered steadily grows, so will the need for some form of protection to prevent extinction of the species.

Botanic gardens can perform a crucial role in helping to preserve biodiversity and protect endangered plants by learning about the plants requirements and techniques to be used in cultivation and propagation. Botanic gardens also maintain populations of specimens away from the threatened environment to act as a source of plant material for propagation and perhaps form a basis for replanting programs.

Most plant Genera include plants that are threatened, some may be endangered in the wild, yet are relatively easy to propagate in a controlled environment, for example the Acacias or members of the Pea Family. 

Endangered plants are found in the Rare and Endangered Garden but may also be seen in the other Theme Gardens.

Wherever these plants come from, ensuring their survival should be of concern to all Australians.

For the Home Gardener
• Some of the plants which are rare and endangered in the wild, have been cultivated, and are available from nurseries for planting in the home garden.
• There is legislation in place to protect threatened species. Collecting plants from National Parks and other protected areas in NSW is forbidden. Collecting plants outside these areas requires a licence issued by the Office of Environment and Heritage.
• For further information about threatened species protection in NSW, consult the OEH web-site
ORCHID HOUSES
Orchidaceae is one of the largest and one of the most complex families of flowering plants in the world. There are nearly 30,000 species of orchids in nature (with more still being discovered), and well over 100,000 hybrids which vary in size, shape and colour. They can be found in almost any part of the world with the exception of the frozen and arid regions.

Orchids are noted for their dramatic flowers, which have evolved because orchids are highly dependent on having a pollinator to work for them. They have developed flowers specifically designed to trick a particular insect, bird or even mammal to collect pollen from one orchid and carry it to another.

Orchids have four main growth habits, examples of which are found in the Gardens:

Epiphytes: Aerial rooted plants, that grow on other plants and depend on them for support but not food. Epiphytes get moisture and nutrients from the air or from small pools of water that collect on the host plant. These are most common in tropical and sub-tropical regions.

Lithophytes: Grow on or among rocks or cliffs. These plants feed off nutrients from rain water and nearby decaying plants, including their own dead tissue. 

Terrestrial: Plants that naturally grow in the ground. Ground orchids have an underground root system of either tubers or rhizomes.

Saprophytes: Have no leaves and do not produce chlorophyll. They are generally terrestrial - two species in Australia grow completely underground, not even appearing in the open to flower.

The Garden
The Tropical Orchid House is a north-facing building designed with special thermal properties and light conditions to protect and display a vast collection of orchid species from around the world. The tropical orchid collection and tropical orchid house were donated by a long-serving Gardens volunteer and orchid collector, Noel Winney. 

On entering, in the centre garden, you will be greeted by one of the magnificent Angraecum species from Madagascar, Angraecum eburneum v. superbum. Its white flowers start to appear in late autumn. On ground level are: Phragmipedium schroederae (May/June), Arpophyllum giganteum, Dendrobium species (Pike) (May flowering), Vanda, Proiphys amboinensis (lily), Phaius, Schomburgkia tibicinis. On the metal tree there are hanging a variety of orchids including hard cane Dendrobiums (May/June), Oncidiums, and Vandas. Climbing the trunk of the tree is the red flowering Hoya macgillivrayi, a species from Queensland. 

A very wide range of orchid genera are represented on the shelving around the orchid house including Phalaenopsis, Dendrobiums, Oncidiums, Cymbidiums, Vandas and Cattleyas.

Interpretive signs in the entry to the orchid house provide more detailed information about the species on display.

The Temperate Orchid House contains a variety of Australian and exotic orchids, both epiphytic and terrestrial, displayed in a landscape setting. At any time of the year you can expect to find at least some orchids in flower in the Temperate Orchid House.

The entrance displays a variety of ferns and Hoya (including the white flowering variety). Walking further in, on the left, are large specimens of the Australian Phaius tankervilleae, Thunia marshalliana, the deciduous Australian Pterostylis, summer flowering Calanthe triplicata, Vandas, Coelogne species, Australian and Asian Dendrobiums and hybrids. At the back of the House are suspended baskets containing Stanhopeas (summer), the interesting genus where flowers appear below their baskets. Also suspended are various Dendrobiums and a Pitcher plant, Dionaea sp. On the shelving either side of the House is displayed various species and hybrids including Cymbidiums, Dendrobiums, Oncidiums and Brassias. Around the pond is planted a Laelia grandis, together with Oncidiums and ferns. On the right hand side in the ground is the deciduous Chinese orchid Bletilla striata which flowers in spring and summer. 

  Surrounding the Temperate Orchid House are Bromeliads, Australian Dendrobiums and a wall of various coloured Epidendrums. Between the two orchid houses there is an outdoor orchid garden where various species have been planted in the ground, on trees, in tree stumps and on rocks. Orchids can also be found in various parts of the Gardens in trees, on rocks and in garden beds.

Highlights
• There is always something in flower in the Orchid Houses. The peak flowering period in the Tropical Orchid House is in autumn and early winter, while the Temperate Orchid House has its peak in spring and summer.

For the Home Gardener
• Various types of orchids have quite specific growing requirements in terms of light, warmth, water and soils. Once these requirements are met, many orchids are hardy plants which are quite easy to care for.
• Orchids must be given ample air and light, often in a north-facing position with morning sun. Orchids grown under dark stuffy conditions will be weak and lack the strength to fight disease or will be unable to produce quality flowers. Move pots around if not getting good results. Shifting or raising the plant can result in a temperature difference, more shade or light, more or less circulating air, or more or less humidity.
• Orchids need plenty of water while growing – at least once a week in summer, once every two weeks in autumn, then next to no water during winter while the orchids are dormant. Drainage must be perfect for orchids at all times. Use a compost that allows water to pass through quickly.
• Fertilise orchids with a weak nutrient solution frequently during the growing season.
BROMELIAD HOUSE
Bromeliads (Bromeliaceae family) are unique to the Americas. They are found from the southern states of the USA through Central America, the Caribbean, and the countries of South America as far south as Argentina and Chile. Bromeliads are a very diverse family. Many are epiphytic, deriving their moisture and nutrients from the air, rain, and debris accumulating around the plant, while others such as the edible pineapple, Ananas comosus, are terrestrial. They are found in habitats ranging from hot dry deserts to warm dark rainforests or cool exposed mountainsides.

Bromeliads have been cultivated as ornamental plants for centuries, and the first examples were brought to Europe by Christopher Columbus. In the twentieth century, American botanists and collectors advanced the cultivation of these plants by introducing many new species and abundant hybrids.

The Garden
The Gardens has an impressive display of bromeliads which demonstrates the diversity, beauty and adaptability of these plants. The plants are grown naturally in the shade of palms or under the natural Eucalypt, Angophora and Banksia flora of the Gardens as well as in the Bromeliad Shade House. The bromeliad display in the gardens was developed and planted by the Hunter District Bromeliad Society.

Highlights
• Many bromeliad species maintain colourful and dramatic leaves and inflorescences over long periods so there is something to see in most seasons. However, the most active period for display is in spring.
• Look for the large Portea petropolitana at the rear of the garden displays.
• The largest specimens in the Bromeliad Shade House are Aechmea orlandia but there are interesting specimens of all sizes.

For the Home Gardener
• Bromeliads are popular because they are easy to grow, provide unusual colours and forms and are often suitable for shaded areas and poor soils.
• Bromeliads take two to three years to grow to maturity, they flower once, and then gradually die. During this decline the parent plant produces several offshoots (called pups) which in turn become mature plants. Bromeliads can be left as a clump or the pups can be separated when they are about half the size of the parent plant.
• Bromeliads need open well-drained soil (such as orchid compost) or may grow directly on host plants. They need regular watering and occasional applications of low-strength liquid fertiliser.
• The main cultivation issue is to provide the correct light level for each variety. Bromeliads need sufficient light to encourage flowering and leaf colour without burning the foliage. Observation of the Gardens collection will assist you in selecting the right conditions for your bromeliads.
WETLANDS VIEWING AREA
The two wetlands, located at the northern and southern ends of the Gardens, are shallow swamps perched in the swales of the old sand dunes on which the Gardens are situated. Viewing platforms and sites provide access for viewing of the wetlands, and a boardwalk has been constructed across the southern wetland. 

The Wetlands
These wetlands support a succession of plants from the deepest water to the damp edge. In the deepest parts are tall clumps of Spike Rush (Eleocharis sphacelata), Lepironia articulata, and Sword Grass (Gahnia sieberiana), while in the shallower waters the Water Ribbons (Triglochin procerum) grows, whilst near the edge are thick masses of Gahnia clarkei. In the damp peaty sand above the normal water level are the ferns Blechnum indicum, and Gleichenia species and the large leafed Banksia robor, and the soft green masses of curly Baloskion tetraphyllum, (syn. Restio tetraphyllus). 

Also around the wetland edges are Swamp Mahogany (Eucalyptus robusta) and the Broad-leafed Paperbark (Melaleuca quinquinervia), as well as the shrubby species Banksia spinulosa, Leptospermun juniperinum and Callistemon citrinus. The Swamp Mahogany trees are an important food source for the local koala population. 

Highlights
• Paperbarks and swamp mahogany flower in autumn and attract honey-eating birds.
WETLAND BOARDWALK
A boardwalk has been constructed to enable visitors to view the rich plant life of the southern wetland and to allow access to the south eastern section of the Gardens site, currently an area of open woodland, where future development is planned. 

The boardwalk, which is 2.4m wide and constructed of hardwood, was designed and built in 2006 by Gardens volunteers, with financial support from Lake Macquarie Council and Tomago Aluminium. Pile driving equipment was lent by the Kooragang wetlands project. 

The south eastern conservation area of the Gardens site is currently the subject of a major regeneration program including lantana removal and planting of rainforest and endemic species.
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