A freelance writer and traveller who likes to explore the spiritual, literary and hidden gems of Adelaide and beyond.
Published May 13th 2015
A Native Wonderland
The Australian Arid Lands gardens are well-established gardens in Port Augusta, about one and a half kilometres north on the Stuart Highway. They have been set out to feature our often underrated arid land native landscape and plants. The gardens have been provided by the city of Port Augusta and corporate funding and have free entry.
I was fortunate to attend the gardens after several large rainfalls, so the native plants were quite refreshed but all the plants are suited to an arid environment and are drought tolerant. It is refreshing to see this huge collection of our native plants so alive with flora, birdlife and visitors from far afield.
Entrance to the Arid Lands Botanic Gardens. Photo Jenny Esots
Arriving at the car park the visitor is greeted by Sturt Desert Peas, eremophila and the sounds of the bush. The sky seems so big and wide, as much a part of this ancient landscape as the plants and trees.
Sturt Desert Peas at the Arid Lands Botanic Gardens – Photo Jenny Esots
The Arid Lands Botanic Gardens feature a eremophila garden, which contains around 155 different varieties, one of the largest collections of its kind. There are flowers in shades of pastels, brilliant bright yellows and orange and vivid purples. I was struck by a variety that had rust coloured flowers with silvery foliage. It is a garden that richly rewards the viewer who seeks a closer look at what these hardy plants have to offer.
Eremophila at the Arid Lands Botanic Gardens – Photo Jenny Esots
Landscape The most spectacular feature is just being out among the natural landscape, looking out at the wide open skies and breathing in the scents of the native foliage. The Australian Arid Lands Botanic Garden was designed by the landscape architect, Grant Henderson to feature plants from arid environments. The arid-zone conservation has a strong feature here.
Arid Lands Botanic Gardens. How wide is the sky? Photo Jenny Esots
Visitor Centre The gardens feature a modern Visitor Centre with information on the arid lands gardens, art works, interactive projects for children and surrounding stunning views of the gardens. The Centre includes a café, plant nursery and retail shop. In 1988, a herbarium and meeting room for groups meetings and conferences was opened.
Arid Lands Botanic Gardens. Visitor Centre Photo Jenny Esots
The café has light meals, which are reasonably priced, and the venue is licensed. The café had just begun to trial a new system of ordering at a counter, which seemed to work well. It is a very popular venue due to the glorious outlook to the gardens. Patrons can sit alfresco and watch the birdlife across the gardens.
Shop The retail area has many high quality gifts, clothing, souvenirs and food items for sale. All very tempting if you would like to take home something more than pictures on your iPhone. There is a concession for pensioners.
One of the highlights of the gardens is being able to buy some of the plants grown throughout the gardens, particularly the featured Eremophila. Eremophila is better known by the common names emu bush, poverty bush, and fuchsia bush.
Eremophila and a huge range of plants for sale at the Arid Lands Botanic Gardens – Photo Jenny Esots
Rammed Earth Walls
The visitor is greeted by an entrance of small rammed earth walls imprinted with wrought iron designs. It is rustic and impressive and that quality of design and craftsmanship is evident throughout the gardens. Rammed earth is made from a combination of earth on the building site and a concrete mix. It has a solid and timeless feel about it. The walls form parts of the visitor centre and other landscape design elements in the gardens.
Gorgeous Rammed Earth Walls – a building and landscape feature. Photo Jenny Esots
There are easy walks all around the gardens that are well signposted from the visitor centre. The gardens also provide a fantastic place to just sit, relax & enjoy the natural beauty. There are picnic areas, which also includes a water spot for your four legged friends. **Please note that dogs on a leash are allowed in this picnic area & also at the Matthew Flinders Red Cliff Lookout but not in the remainder of the garden. **
The gardens have an interesting collation of sculptures. These have been featured in the biennial scultpure festival and become part of the gardens. The sculpture festival showcases art and the environment. The next festival is scheduled for Spring 2016 and includes exhibitions, workshops, entertainment and fun for the whole family.
Unique sculpture at the Arid Lands Botanic Gardens. Photo Jenny Esots