Gardening Magazine

A Gong for the Gong

By Gardenamateur

We finally did it. Visited the Wollongong Botanic Garden. I'm not proud to say that it has only taken us 20 years to get here, even though it's only a bit over an hour south of Sydney. Until recently, this wonderful garden was something we must have driven past a hundred times on the highway south, always saying to each other "we must visit that place one of these days".
It was worth the wait, too. Pammy and I visited Wollongong recently to attend an art show, and having stayed there one night we weren't in a hurry to get home. A nice long garden visit, followed by an easy drive home. The perfect Sunday for garden lovers. And Huey, the weather god, turned on the record warmest-ever midwinter July day for the Sydney/Gong region that Sunday, with the thermometer climbing over 26°C. Thank you Huey!
A gong for the GongThe first pleasant surprise was that the garden was much bigger than we imagined ...

A gong for the Gong... you'd need half a day just to do one complete lap.

A gong for the GongI suspect Australia gets the better end of the bargain with our many "sister city" relationships with Japanese cities, and in the Gong's garden the Kawasaki bridge is a magical thing to behold, even if walking over it isn't such a sure-footed experience. 
A gong for the GongIt's not only everywhere you go in these gardens that Mount Keira looks down on you, it's pretty much the same feeling everywhere you go in the Gong. Mount Keira is watching ...
On with the show ...
A gong for the GongWell, for starters, the orchids in the Sir Joseph Banks greenhouse thought it was nice here in Darwin (we didn't break the news to them that they were a long way from the tropics).
A gong for the GongAnd though this young Queensland bottle tree (Brachychiton rupestris) was also a long way from home, it was showing all the signs of turning into a perfect specimen over the next hundred years or so.
A gong for the GongHowever, on our midwinter visit, the undoubted stars of the show were the collected weirdos and misfits of ... you guessed it ... the succulent and cacti collection. They even have a sign there saying June and July are the best times to visit this section. Lucky us!
A gong for the GongA bunch of aloes in bloom. Not exactly pretty but definitely striking.
A gong for the GongThis one is Aloe marlothii
A gong for the GongNearby a ponytail palm couldn't keep its heavy corsage upright
A gong for the GongAnd spikies wouldn't be spikies without cute masses of little guys to frighten the nervous, such as these 'Tiger Tooth' Aloe juvenna ...
A gong for the Gong... or this incredible sea of tightly clustered Euphorbia pulvinata, the pin cushion euphorbia
A gong for the GongJust as you think you've escaped spiky world, there's the other end of the Sir Joseph Banks greenhouse, the ultra-dry but very warm desert end, where the Mexican, Madagascan and other wonderfully weird spiky collection spends its days. (This is one of my special iPhone panoramas, so if you click on the photo, it should pop up nice and widescreen bigly.)
A gong for the GongMeanwhile, under the dappled, restful shade of an ancient melaleuca (paperbark) tree, en plein air artist Pammy spent an enjoyably long time capturing the scene in succulent land.
A gong for the GongThis allowed me to go for a very long wander all around the gardens while Pammy used her paintbrush to mix work, pleasure and watercolours.

So, if you're like Pam and me and have passed by the turnoff to the gardens many times as you've whizzed by on the Princes Highway, these gardens are the perfect spot to plan a picnic lunch. Set aside a couple of hours for a really good look at the gardens, and I am sure you'll come away with many good memories and, hopefully, some nice photos too.

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