A brief tour around this famous Botanic Garden,
'Down Under'. by Adam St. Clair Chamaerops No.18, published online 23-07-2002
Top: City skyline, with palms: Royal Melbourne
Botanic Gardens, with skyscrapers and Phoenix palms.
Bottom: Xanthorrhoea australis (Black Boy), the Palm
Lawn, and hidden Fern Gully.
Forget your preconceptions about Australia despite
the fact that they're all probably true. While a third of the country
lies within the tropics there are lots of deserts and sunshine here
at the bottom of the continent, we have a warm-temperate climate
that is, well, a little bit disturbed. Well, certifiably psychotic
really. Despite our latitude being similar to that of Athens, Australia
looks at Melbourne's weather the same way that southern Europe looks
at Britain's. Their condescension aside, our only climatic hazards
to horticulture are occasional light frosts, roaring summer heat
waves and unreliable rainfall. No snow.
These unbelievable gardens turn 150 in 1996. I could
happily ramble on about the beautiful vistas, sweeping lawns, hills
and lakes, but you want palms; what's hot and what's not, what thrives
and what dies. There are three palms that are common throughout
Livistona australis (Victoria's only native palm), the C.I.D.P.
(Canary Island Date Palm - Phoenix canariensis) and Archontophoenix
cunninghamiana. They seem to pop up everywhere and are producing
seedlings freely (at least, mine were free). It's surprising to
see CIDP's so much in abundance around the gardens as they are so
common anyway around Melbourne. The frequency of Livistona australis
is also surprising as they are very rarely planted around Victoria,
Washingtonia being preferred (which it much resembles). Pity.
The other Aussie, Archontophoenix cunninghamiana,
called the Bangalow Palm, is a handsome one. They all seem to have
different coloured crownshafts; green, brown, purple. This, when
combined with the masses of bright red fruit makes for a very attractive