The Weekend Australian - Life - - GARDENING -

Royal Botanic Gar­den Sydney

200th birth­day Mrs Mac­quar­ies Road, Sydney Open daily 7am-8pm Free en­try

Kim El­lis, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor, Botanic Gar­dens and Cen­ten­nial Park­lands

DE­SCRIBE THE GAR­DEN: The Royal Botanic Gar­den Sydney cov­ers 30ha on Sydney Har­bour, nes­tled be­tween the Opera House and Mrs Mac­quarie’s Point, on the doorstep of the busiest CBD in Aus­tralia.

It is the old­est botanic gar­den in Aus­tralia, and this year cel­e­brates its 200th birth­day. We had al­most four mil­lion visi­tors last year and it’s in the top 10 at­trac­tions for in­ter­na­tional visi­tors.

The gar­den fea­tures a world-class liv­ing col­lec­tion of na­tive and ex­otic plants. It also houses the Na­tional Herbar­ium of NSW, with 1.2 mil­lion spec­i­mens, and Aus­tralia’s finest botanic li­brary.

WHAT’S YOUR ROLE: It’s a broad role en­com­pass­ing 100ha of some of the most sig­nif­i­cant lands in NSW, in­clud­ing the three botanic gar­dens (Sydney, Mount Tomah and Mount An­nan) and pub­lic park­lands that are the lungs and recre­ation space of Sydney. It’s a bit hum­bling to re­alise the re­spon­si­bil­ity of that cus­to­dial role. I want to make them as good and loved and well­main­tained as I pos­si­bly can be­fore pass­ing them to the next cus­to­dian.

WHAT MAKES IT SPE­CIAL: Apart from the su­perb lo­ca­tion, the lead­ing sci­en­tific work here con­trib­utes to global un­der­stand­ing and con­ser­va­tion prac­tice for many thou­sands of plant species, as well as re­search on food se­cu­rity, biose­cu­rity and adap­ta­tion to a world of chang­ing cli­mate. The Plant Pathol­ogy Lab — or, as we like to un­of­fi­cially call it, CSI: Botanic Gar­den — un­der­takes a range of plant foren­sic projects, in­clud­ing be­ing part of the crime in­ves­ti­ga­tion process for NSW Po­lice. We also play a lead­ing role in the fight against plant diseases, us­ing cut­ting-edge DNA ex­trac­tion

tech­niques, and we of­fer a plant dis­ease di­ag­nos­tic ser­vice to the pub­lic, in­dus­try and gov­ern­ment agen­cies.

BIG­GEST CHAL­LENGES: Fund­ing is a chal­lenge as we are now more than 50 per cent self-funded. We raise funds through our own pro­grams, phi­lan­thropy, spon­sor­ship, be­quests, grants and do­na­tions to re­search projects.

YOU HOPE VISI­TORS WILL: Be amazed. If you think you know the Royal Botanic Gar­dens, you don’t. This place has an amaz­ing 200-year history full of sto­ries of achieve­ment, strug­gle, dis­as­ter and change. I would like all visi­tors to walk away hav­ing been en­gaged and en­livened by the ex­pe­ri­ence, and not only come back but tell some­one else to.

WHAT’S IN STORE FOR 2016: Part­ner­ing with our cul­tural neigh­bours, we will de­liver a year of vis­ually stun­ning and in­spi­ra­tional events.

A few high­lights are the Tomato and Chilli Fes­ti­val in Fe­bru­ary, and Treecy­cle, a dis­play of hand­crafted works from valu­able tim­bers sal­vaged from the gar­dens. The Night Gar­den is a new event dur­ing Vivid Sydney. The Ca­lyx, our new ex­hi­bi­tion space, opens in June, built around the site of the Arc Glasshouse. Sweet

Ad­dic­tions is the first ex­hi­bi­tion there. Our of­fi­cial 200th birth­day on June 13 will be marked with a spe­cial birth­day party.

Later in the year is the Kal­dor Pub­lic Art team’s thought-pro­vok­ing reimag­in­ing of the Gar­den Palace, which stood here in the 19th cen­tury. We’ve just launched a com­mem­o­ra­tive book (see Flora col­umn, op­po­site), and there will be a com­mem­o­ra­tive stamp and 200th birth­day plant release.

The Royal Botanic Gar­dens, on the shore of Sydney Har­bour

The Sydney Fern­ery is a favourite es­cape for El­lis.

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