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Cranbourne

Photos by Richard Mawrey

The Visitor Centre was designed in weathered timber, and manages at the same time both to make a statement and also to blend discreetly into its surroundings. There is a particularly fine view of the vast Red Sand Garden, around which all the other areas of the Australian Garden are laid out. The extraordinary vibrating colour of this space, a sort of deep, purpley Burgundy red, represents the Red Centre of Australia, that massive desert which blooms only rarely but which is symbolic of the ancient heart of the country.

Visitors are not allowed to walk in the Red Sand Garden, and must choose to go round it on one side or the other. The path to the left (the west) takes you along the Eucalypt Walk, passing through a series of five woodland gardens, laid out in ‘rooms’, each planted with one species of this defining Australian tree or shrub

A Grass Tree (Xanthorrheoa johnsonii).

The Rockpool Waterway runs, starting in small pools, then widening out, and ending in four waterfalls and a pool representing a waterhole. Its margins are planted with rushes and swamp lilies, while groups of Water Gums (Tristaniopsis laurina) will provide shade as they mature. Visitors are allowed access to the Waterway; they can paddle in the water or hop across the stepping stones. The old sand mine workings had cut into the local water table, though now this fortunately provides a source for the water, which is circulated.

Another aspect of enlightening the public (one that is not usually covered in botanic gardens) is the way the botanic elements here are linked to myths and stories about the Australian land. The local Aboriginal people, the Mayone-Bulluk clan of the Boonerwurring tribe, are not forgotten, and children can climb on the ‘Hortasaurus’ – a climbing frame based on the mythical creature called the bunyip, that every Australian child is told stories about.



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