The wonderful thing about gardening is that it can be done at any age and there is always more to learn, no matter how experienced a gardener is. In this post, I will be discussing a variety of gardens, which can be loosely collected under the category of ‘Education Gardens’. I have started with children’s gardens and progressed through school gardens to tertiary institutions offering horticulture courses like Burnley, Victoria and research like the Waite Institute, South Australia. Community gardens, plant shows and sustainable house days also provide valuable learning opportunities, especially for those interested in organic vegetable gardening, sustainability and permaculture.
Children’s gardens have become increasingly important these days with the shrinking size of the backyard. In my generation’s childhood, we all had our own gardens, in which to develop our gardening skills, but these days , the house blocks are much smaller and often low maintenance with lots of hard surfaces, due to the fact that both parents are working and have little time to spend in the garden. Poor urban planning and the disappearance of open space, increased street traffic, parental fear for their child’s safety and the proliferation of electronic communications, to the extent that many children spend more time in front of screens (television, computer, mobile phones) than outside in the natural world, all contribute to decreased exercise and contact with nature, resulting in an obesity epidemic and a newly described syndrome: ‘Nature-Deficit Disorder’ . See the Children and Nature Network website at: http://www.childrenandnature.org/.
Children’s gardens have been specifically set up to help counteract these problems. I have already briefly touched on the Ian Potter Foundation Children’s Garden in the Melbourne Botanic Garden in my post on early 19th Century Gardens: https://candeloblooms.com/2015/10/08/favourite-early-19th-century-botanic-gardens-in-australia/ . Also see : http://www.rbg.vic.gov.au/visit-melbourne/attractions/children-garden.
The garden is open from 10am-sunset, 7 days a week, during school holidays. During term time, it is only open Wednesday-Sunday and public holidays, while Mondays and Tuesdays are reserved for school groups. It is closed for 8 weeks just after the July school holidays for restoration and maintenance.The garden provides an interactive environment for children of all ages, backgrounds, physical abilities and cultures to play, explore and discover the natural world. It is designed to encourage creative unstructured play and imagination with a number of small, child-sized spaces, each with a different planting theme including : a jungle and rain forest ; a ruin garden; a bamboo forest; a gorge with rocks, gum trees and grasses; a tea tree tunnel; a wetland area, a rill which runs through the garden; and a meeting place with a spiral fountain.Lastly, there is a Kitchen Garden, full of food plants, which delivers classes on sustainable gardening, composting and mulching and worm farming and companion planting to a wide variety of ages from preschoolers to school children right up to tertiary students and adult education classes.
A similar garden is now being is being developed in Sydney’s Centennial Park. For more details about The Ian Potter Wild Play Garden, see : http://www.centennialparklands.com.au/about/parklands_projects/the_ian_potter_childrens_wild_play_garden
School gardens also do a wonderful job exposing children to gardening and the source of their food. We visited a terrific example in the Dandenongs in Victoria.
The Patch Primary School
53 Kallista Emerald Road,
The Patch Victoria 3792
The Patch has a very impressive 2 acre school garden, which includes a 1 acre fenced wetland, as well as an eco-centre, orchard, specific gardens and chooks, and it plays a major part in the children’s education.It was planned and established and is totally managed by the students with the guidance of environmental education teacher, Michelle Rayner, who incidentally is the wife of John Rayner, who lectures at Burnley. The students spent a whole year from 2006-2007, doing site surveys and analysis, including orientation, levels and soil type and pH, so that they really understood the environmental conditions of the site. They researched school and community gardens throughout the world and factored their requirements into the final design eg animals; fruit trees; edible produce; baking; creative activities and construction.The garden is divided up into separate areas :
Produce garden : onions; tomatoes; capsicum; cucumbers; beans and strawberries
Dry Garden : Drought-tolerant plants
Koorie Garden : dianellas and themedas; Bush food
Alphabet Garden : Prep-Grade 2: Literacy eg V is for violets; P is for PoppiesChickens and Ducks : the chook house has a living roof of hardy succulents; Eggs are incubated and kids learn about egg hygiene; fertility rates; incubation; weight and body development of different breeds; life cycles; behaviour; movement; courtship; habitat; physical features; chook handling/ feeding/ care.Eco-Centre : for formal learning and resources. Animals include bearded dragons and blue-tongue lizards, stick insects, green tree frogs, guinea pigs and budgies.There is artwork throughout the garden, as well as willow structures like tepees; scarecrows; a wood-fired pizza oven; and a grass maze.
The kids can join a number of different groups including the following
: Weed Group
: Chook Group : looks after the poultry
: Pizza Oven : manages the pizza oven when in use
: Food Forest Group : prunes and maintains the orchard
: Willow Weavers Group : prunes and weaves the willow
: Animal Carers group : looks after the animals in the eco-centreBecause they are involved in every aspect of the garden, the kids have a strong sense of ownership and pride in their garden. They learn so many gardening skills from soil preparation, propagation and planting to watering, mulching and harvesting. The garden also functions as an outdoor classroom, where the lessons learned in class can be applied in a practical sense. For example :
Mathematics : measurement of perimeters and circumference; measurement of tree height for a tree survey and habitat census; depth/ spacing/ plant size
Literacy : lots of writing and reflection; scientific nomenclature of plants
Art and Design : artwork; building living willow sculptures; scarecrows
Science : animals/ plants/ habitats; native animals : butterflies; native bee species; wetland species and the insect world. Entomology experts visited the school in December 2014 for a BioBlitz with the students. See : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zJ3wM8PTEcU. Land crayfish, giant earthworms,the great yellow slug, native bees, wombats, scorpions, freshwater eels, satin bowerbirds, wedge-tailed eagles, sugar gliders and water rats are just some of the animals that live on and around the school grounds.
: Sustainability and environmental science are important subjects at the Patch and the school was chosen as one of three finalists in the ‘Education’ category of the 2013 Premier’s Sustainability Awards, as well as winning the Eastern Metropolitan Region division of the School Gardens Awards in 2012.
Creativity and problem solving, innovation, teamwork and interpersonal skills are all valuable learning outcomes.It is well worth visiting the school on one of their annual open days. It is a lovely day out with live music, wood-fired pizzas and food made with produce from the garden; plant and produce stalls; tours by the students and talks and demonstrations eg scarecrow making; plant propagation; making miniature gardens and art.
Here are 2 excellent videos about The Patch :
2009 : http://splash.abc.net.au/home#!/media/30753/the-patch-school-garden
Tertiary Institutions :
Burnley, University of Melbourne
500 Yarra Boulevard Richmond 3121
Burnley is a world class research and teaching facility, specializing in horticulture, only 7km from Melbourne’s CBD. It is one of the oldest colleges in Australia and this year celebrates 125 years of continuous horticultural education (1891-2016). See : http://ecosystemforest.unimelb.edu.au/burnley125years
Originally established in 1861 by the Horticultural Society of Victoria on the Richmond Survey Paddock, Burnley Gardens were experimental gardens to trial plants for the new colony. The 6 acre gardens were highly decorative and laid out in a geometric style. They were officially opened in 1863 and included 1400 fruit trees, many of which were lost in a great flood later that year and had to be replanted. Vegetables were trialled in 1874. The gardens were extended, a pavilion built and annual horticultural shows were held until the 1930s.
The Victorian Department of Agriculture took over the gardens in 1891 and started the first horticultural school in Australia. The first headmaster was Charles Bogue Luffman, an English landscape designer, who favoured a more natural style of garden design, so the geometric layout was changed to a more informal style with curved and sunken paths; shrubberies and deciduous trees; open lawns and ponds; cool shady areas and separate Winter and Summer gardens and paddocks of wildflowers. Production and ornamental horticulture were taught, but the college also had a dairy herd, poultry trials and bee hives. Women students were encouraged and the shool has produced a number of famous female garden designers including Edna Walling, Olive Mellor, Emily Gibson, Grace Fraser and Margaret Hendry.In 1983, Burnley was amalgamated with the other colleges owned by the Department of Agriculture under the name of the Victorian College of Agriculture and Horticulture (VCAH), then in 1997, it was absorbed into the School of Land and Environment of the University of Melbourne.
Today, Burnley includes :
9 ha ornamental heritage garden (see map from : http://www.fobg.org.au/blog/about-the-gardens/burnley-map/. The garden is listed on the Victorian Heritage Register 2003 for 7 significant trees (now 6) and 3 buildings. Four trees are also on the National Trust Register of Significant Trees.
IN THE GARDENS
- Summer House
2. Lily Ponds
3. Rock Point and Bergenia Walk
4. Grey Garden
5. Ficus macrophylla Bed
6. BBQ and Sugar Gum table
7. Pine Bed
8. Sunken Garden and Wisteria Walk
9. Herb Garden
10. Shady Walk
11. Orchard Gates
12. Orchard Border
13. Ficus obliqua Bed
14. Old Cypress Bed
15. Azalea Lawn
16. Fern Garden
17. Bog Garden
18. Wild Garden
19. Rose Garden
20. Native Rainforest Garden
21. Perennial Border
22. Oak Lawn
23. Island Beds
24. Native Shrub Garden
25. Native Garden Ponds
26. Mud Brick Hut
27. Native Grasslands Garden
28. Citriodora Courtyard
29. Ellis Stones Garden
31. Bull Paddock
32. Roof Garden
- Reception / Main Administration Building
B. Student Amenity Building
C. MB 10 (FOBG meetings)
G. Classrooms / laboratories
Burnley also contains : a unique collection of indigenous and exotic plants; landscape construction areas; a pruning garden; experimental plots for master and PhD students; research areas; container and field nurseries; training gardens for design and maintenance; a graphics studio; a horticultural library and a plant tissue culture and genetics laboratory.Burnley conducts cutting-edge research into the changing needs of contemporary horticulture, especially with the influences of climate change. Current projects include the reduction of energy consumption for heating and cooling; rainwater absorption; the reduction of urban air temperatures; and the creation of wildlife habitats. New additions to Burnley include native grasslands; a rain forest garden; indigenous gardens and most recently, the Burnley Living Roof, a Green Roof and Green Wall demonstration centre with areas for succulents, vegetables and natives. Green infrastructure is used to reduce energy consumption with its insulation properties, cool the urban environment and provide wildlife habitat for biodiversity. See :
https://thegirg.org/burnley-green-roof/This contemporary approach is reflected in the wide range of courses offered. See : http://ecosystemforest.unimelb.edu.au/study/degrees and http://www.fobg.org.au/blog/whats-on-2/for-your-diary/.
These include :
1.Short courses : Urban food growing
2.Specialist certificates :
A.Green Roof Walls:
3.Discovering Horticulture : Introductory 10 week course
4.Graduate Certificate in Garden Design (1 year)
This course has four units
: Landscape Design, which I studied in 2012- covers topics like the landscape industry; design process and principles; garden history and contemporary and traditional garden designers; and the use of form, texture and colour.
: Landscape Construction and Graphics
: Horticultural Principles- plant function, structure, production and nutrition; site evaluation; soil composition, texture, structure and management; planting, propagation, transplanting and water use; and environmental and ecological considerations including sustainability
: Plants for Designed Landscapes- use and selection
I loved my course and learned so much, especially about Arts and Crafts gardens and the Geelong Botanic Garden- two of my assignments. Andrew Laidlaw was an enthusiastic and knowledgeable teacher and we had some interesting field trips to Edna Walling’s Bickleigh Vale Village and the Melbourne Botanic Gardens. We also had an enjoyable creativity and design workshop, where we divided up into groups to solve design challenges. Each group had to create a garden, specifically for each of the senses. I was in the ‘sound garden’ group. We suspended buckets of water in the trees to create the sound of a waterfall and the other students were led through the garden with their eyes shut. We also had to work on individual projects too like the warmup exercise of creating a design from precut vegetation.5.Associate Degree in Environmental Horticulture (2 years) https://coursesearch.unimelb.edu.au/majors/141-environmental-horticulture
6.Associate Degree in Urban Horticulture (2 years)
7.Master of Urban Horticulture (Coursework)
8.Master of Philosophy (Research)
9.Doctor of Philosophy (Research)
The staff are excellent and there is a strong Alumni network, which offers employment and mentoring opportunities. The Friends of Burnley Gardens includes staff and former and present students. They provide guided tours of the gardens, as well as courses and workshops, for example botanical illustration and creating bee hotels. See : http://www.fobg.org.au/blog/.
Urrbrae House Historic Precinct Gardens
Waite Historic precinct, Waite Campus, University of Adelaide
Part of the Waite Campus of the University of Adelaide, a leading agricultural and teaching facility only 10 minutes from the city centre of Adelaide, the property was bequeathed to the university by Peter Waite, a prominent South Australian pastoralist, in 1922.The Waite Campus includes :
1.Waite Arboretum : Open from dawn till dusk every day except in extreme fire danger, the 30 ha arboretum contains 2300 plants of 800 species and 200 genera, all growing with an annual natural rainfall of 624mm and less.
2.Waite Conservation Reserve : 121 ha of Grey Box Grassy Woodland and home to hundreds of native plant species, as well as kangaroos, koalas and echidnas. Also open dawn to dusk daily, except in extreme fire danger.3.Urrbrae House Historic Precinct
Open Monday/ Tuesday and Thursday 10am-4pm, except on days of extreme fire danger. Entrance is free.
Urrbrae House is a two-storey bluestone mansion, built in 1891 as the family home for Peter and Matilda Waite and is now used as a working museum, as well as an exhibition, conference and social function venue. The restored ballroom housed the National Textile Museum of Australia until 1999.The 1880s coach house was the site of the first laboratory of the Waite Agricultural Research Institute and much work on the deficiencies of trace elements in South Australian soils was conducted there in the 1920s to 1930s. The garage is the oldest purpose built garage in South Australia, while the battery house is believed to be the first purpose built domestic powerhouse in South Australia.I love visiting the gardens, especially for the peak flowering season of the Old Roses in October and November. I will write more about the 20th Century Rose Garden in a future post on my favourite rose gardens. It portrays the history and development of the rose and has more than 200 types of roses, including many species roses. I loved the circular rose garden, which inspired our Soho Bed, the formal parterre and all the arches covered with climbing roses.The sensory garden beside the coach house was built in 1998 and was designed to stimulate all the senses with plants of many different colours, textures, aromas and tastes. Birds, butterflies and bees love it!The Garden of Discovery is a fascinating spot with a scientific discovery trail, supported by soundscapes, outdoor books and interpretive signage, which highlights the significant achievements of South Australian scientists at the Waite Institute in environmental and agricultural science over 75 years. Some of these achievements include :
Genetic studies and plant breeding and evaluation projects from 1949-1955
Constance Eardley’s work with the arid lands of Australia
James Davidson’s research into insect pest management and Tom Browning’s work on understanding insects, sustainable development and biodiversity.
The use of biological controls to manage insect populations as an alternative to the use of chemical pesticides.
Future research includes work on biotechnology and DNA sequencing; molecular marker development; the management of plant diseases; land use technology and horticultural and viticultural production and processing.
The Waite Institute is home to the Australian Wine Research Institute, responsible for research and education in viticulture. Major research areas include : the selection of and biochemistry of wine yeasts and bacteria; the importance of viticultural practices to grape quality; the molecular improvement of grapes, wine quality assessment and varietal evaluation, wine colour and phenolic chemistry and the development of sensory procedures for wine assessment.
We enjoyed the display of different wheat varieties from early spelt to the latest varieties.The Labyrinth (2010) is the latest addition to the garden and is built on the site of the old tennis court. Dr Jennifer Gardner, the Curator of the Waite Arboretum, designed the labyrinth, basing it on an ancient Finnish 9-circuit stone labyrinth, and it is made of 921 timber rounds, recycled from trees from the Arboretum. There are also a number of outdoor sculptures around the garden and arboretum.
More informal learning opportunities are offered by practical experience in community gardens, as well as visiting plant shows and Sustainable House Days.
Community Gardens :
We have visited a number of very inspiring community gardens during our time in Victoria. including Geelong West and Mornington. Community gardens are a wonderful resource for those with limited space at home to grow vegetables and are strong supporters of sustainability and organic gardening. Not only do they promote good health through healthy eating and physical activity, but they provide valuable opportunities for people of widely differing backgrounds and abilities to share their knowledge and ideas and develop friendships and a sense of community.
Geelong West Community Garden
129-131 Autumn St Geelong West
https://www.geelongaustralia.com.au/directory/item/551.aspxFormed in 1985, Geelong West Community Garden has : 34 plots including raised beds; 3 equipment sheds and tools; a shelter area for workshops; an outdoor kitchen and pizza oven; a children’s play area and sandpit; and fruit trees and herb gardens.Mosaic art sculptures made by community members under the guidance of Helen Millar : http://www.flockofbirdsmosaics.org/.Membership is $35 per year. Meetings, workshops and courses. I loved my 2 workshops with Helen Millar- really inspiring and a great venue. There is an Open Day last Saturday in February as part of Pako Fest.Dig-It Community Garden, Mornington, Victoria
http://dig-it-garden.weebly.com/Started in 2000, this garden has 50 plots, including : Four raised beds for the elderly and the disabled; propagating igloos; composting areas and worm farms; an orchard and a vineyard; a berry house; a demonstration wicking bed; an edible sensory garden; a chook palace; a natural habitat area including ducks and a frog pond; an outdoor kitchen and cob oven; a sandpit and even a special asparagus patch.Membership is $30 per annum and includes food swap, educational workshops and the sale of produce, seeds and seedlings. It also has an annual Open Day.
I loved all the artwork in this garden from the hand-painted signs and quirky mail boxes to the scarecrows and this giant snail!Plant Shows
Plant shows are also an excellent way to learn about plants. We have already discussed the large International Flower and Garden show in Melbourne, but smaller shows are often held for specific plants like peonies or wildflowers. Here are a few photos from our visit to the 2012 Peony Show in Melbourne- a great opportunity to compare these luscious blooms and dream about future purchases of favourite peonies. I particularly loved the blooms of the hebaceous peony ‘Coral Charm’. During the wildflower season, there are often wildflower shows, in which wildflowers are identified. We had a wonderful trip to Western Australia in Spring 2008, where we were introduced to our first wildflower show at Albany Flower Show and it whetted our appetite for further shows. In Victoria, we loved the internationally significant Anglesea Heath area, which is full of colour from the Epacris and Banksias in Winter and the orchids and wild flowers in Spring.
The community host the Anglesea Spring Wildflowers Show, which we attended in in 2011 and 2013. See: http://www.angair.org.au/activities/annual-wildflower-weekend-and-art-show and http://www.angair.org.au/about-angair/news-archive/324-wildflower-weekend-a-art-show-sp-1932479854Not only are there wonderful displays of native wildflowers, but also art and craft exhibitions, indigenous plants for sale and guided wildflower walks and bus tours. There are also exhibits of other Australian natives, for example the Tamara Rose (Diplolaena grandiflora), a species endemic to Western Australia, seen in the bottom photo. We used to love finding all the wild orchids, though I must admit we did have a little help with the odd flag or help from a guide.The Angair Wildflower Show and Art Exhibition will be held in 2016 on Saturday and Sunday 17 and 18 September from 10.00am to 4.30pm at the Anglesea Memorial Hall, McMillan Street, Anglesea
Students and Pensioners $2
Sustainable House Days
And finally, Sustainable House days are wonderful ways to see other people’s homes and gardens and learn about sustainability, organic vegetable gardening, raised beds, espaliering, herb gardening and quirky sculptures, as well as meet like-minded individuals. They are held all over Australia on the 2nd Sunday of September each year from 10am-4pm. See : http://sustainablehouseday.com/.Here are some more photos from some of our local days in Geelong with great ideas from raised beds and protective guards to garden seating, water features, focal points and even quirky home-made outdoor sculptures. For this year’s Sustainability House Day in Geelong, see : http://www.geelongsustainability.org.au/shd.