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.