Though the weather is wet and grey, spring is starting to show itself across Sydney, with blooms and fronds poking through the soil. Jimmy Turner, director of horticulture for the Royal Botanic Garden and Centennial Parklands, reckons now is the best time to visit one of the three botanic gardens in greater Sydney.
“There’s really no bad time to go to them, because the weather can change everything,” he tells Broadsheet. “Every time you visit there might be a little something different.”
Here are our three picks for the best gardens to visit this spring – from an inner-city favourite to a getaway in the Blue Moutains.
The Royal Botanic Garden, Sydney
It’s a year-round tourist attraction, but nothing beats the city’s Royal Botanic Garden in the spring. This 30-hectare garden bordering the CBD and the harbour contains flora from almost every continent in the world, with multiple displays and areas to visit.
The garden’s Spring Walk – an annual highlight since it was first established in 1856 – has just begun to blossom.
“It's been going on for over 160 years, so it’s got quite a bit of history. Lots of different things [are] tucked under there,” explains Turner. There are buttercups, China pinks, snapdragons, pansies, wisteria and orchids lining either side of the path.
The garden’s iconic jacaranda trees will begin blossoming with their distinctive purple flowers next month. There are 20 of these trees here, including a rare white variety at Lawn 34 and the oldest jacaranda tree in Australia, which dates back to the 1850s.
The Trial Garden (where new specimens are tested out), Palace Rose Garden and begonias will be at their best in November, at the end of the season.
The Australian Botanic Garden, Mount Annan
Less than an hour’s drive south-west of the city, The Australian Botanic Garden is perfect for a quick jaunt in the countryside. It’s known for its annual blanket of Western Australian paper daisies: more than a million blooms that cover almost 2000 square metres. The million-plus seeds are sown in May and the ground is carefully tended in the following months. The flowers blossom in spring in vibrant displays of pink, yellow and white.
“This is possibly the most popular display here, just because of the sheer volume of the flowers,” says Turner. “A lot of people go out their way just for the daisies, to take photos and have a picnic.”
The garden also has a wattle display with more than 260 species, including the golden wattle (Australia’s national flower). Later in the season, check out the Banksia Garden and the Queensland waratahs in full, red bloom.
While you’re there, explore the 20 kilometres of walking tracks that wind around lakes, themed gardens, picnic areas and outdoor sculptures.
Blue Mountains Botanic Garden, Mount Tomah
The highest-altitude botanic garden in the country is at the edge of Blue Mountains National Park, with more than 5200 species of cool-climate plants.
Its annual daffodil display finished at the beginning of September, but the waratah festival begins at the end of the month. Australian growers of waratah (which happens to be the NSW state flower), will be bringing their blooms from all over the country to show off.
The garden’s spiky blue puya plants, which grow up to three metres tall and bloom with jade-coloured flowers, will be on display until December, attracting local birds and bees with their nectar. From October to December, more than 200 dahlia and peony varieties will also be in bloom.
Turner recommends making a full weekend of it, stopping at the gardens before exploring the rest the region has to offer.
“It’s part of human nature, who we are – we want to be in the sun, see the flowers, and interact with nature in the spring,” he says.
And there’s one simple thing you can do to make your spring flower experience that little bit better (whichever garden you choose to visit): bring a friend.
“I think you enjoy the plants more when you see them with family and friends, your kids or grandkids,” says Turner.