They sit in the physical and emotional heart of our city, and have done so for 175 years. Most of us have spent time there, and they mean different things to each of us. The Royal Botanic Gardens in Melbourne have been a place of calm, a site for reflection, creative inspiration, discovery, romance and even refuge. Anyone who has visited has a story. Now a range of these stories from Victorians from many fields is gathered in the lavish publication Wonder: 175 Years of Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria
Told through conversations with writers Sophie Cunningham and Peter Wilmoth, there are stories of Nick Cave conceiving the first lines of a novel there, of actor and writer Michael Veitch being taught the classics on its lawns, of a marriage that took place just days before COVID-19 began its grim sweep across the world, closing sites such as the Gardens for the first time in history. Boonwurrung Elder Aunty Carolyn Briggs tells stories of Country that reach back through millennia, while Landscape Architect Andrew Laidlaw shares the inspiration for some of the Gardens’ more recent landscapes. Horticulturalist Gemma Cotterell tells us about her work on the Australian Forest Walk; architect Kerstin Thompson reminds us of the secrets the Gardens hold and the way those secrets transform landscape into dreamscape; and botanist Neville Walsh shares his excitement on the discovery of a new species of wattle.
The important matters of plant extinction and climate change (including water usage) are also addressed, reminding the reader of the critical role played by our public gardens in securing the future of the planet through its science, irreplaceable collections and conservation action.
With superb photography by Leigh Henningham, the book is about the people’s gardens, and these stories will resonate with readers who cherish their own experiences there.