Arid Garden Revival
Set to open in spring this year, the revived collection has been designed by one of Australia’s leading landscape architects, Andrew Laidlaw, the visionary behind the Ian Potter Foundation Children’s Garden and the rejuvenation of the lush Fern Gully.
The new collection will feature more than 3000 cacti and succulents, including 400 different species, with many sourced from world-renowned international collections.
“As with all designs there must be a beginning point, so something I looked at early on was the cellular structure of plants,” says Andrew Laidlaw. Aesthetically, these specimens are very dramatic. Their forms, textures and colours deliver real impact when contrasted with each other. Resilient and requiring little water, they are also well suited to our changing climate.
“The Arid Garden is a contemporary take on the classic 16th century parterre garden design, which describes a large space which is broken into smaller spaces with pathways to wander and look at plants. These landscapes tend to be quite inward facing, which is something we’re implementing in the Arid Garden. It’s all about being in the garden and looking at the plants.”
At the heart will sit specimens donated from the extensive Fields collection. Created by Robert Fields in Tennyson, north-central Victoria, this collection was brought to Australia in the 1930s by German Explorer and botanist Harold Blossfeldt, who collected cacti and succulents from South America.
The arid landscapes of the Americas will also greatly influence the design, including the strong, vertical lines of the pole cactus and the vistas of the Saguaro National Park in Arizona, where many of the plants were originally sourced from.
While the gates at Melbourne Gardens are currently closed to visitors, work on the new Arid Garden collection continues inside. Earth is being shifted, paths are being set and nursery staff are carefully tending to cacti and succulents so that these precious specimens are ready to sink their roots into their new home come spring.