Much LAZIER than your average blogger  
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4.03.2008 - 25 comments 

I don't know how many of you watch much TV, but Mrs. LZ and I like to watch some of the reality TV Shows. One that we have been watching ("The Biggest Loser") had this week’s episode from Sydney, Australia. Of course as we watched the finalists climbing the Sydney Harbour Bridge and doing their version of a Triathlon in the Botanical Gardens, it brought back many fond memories of Sydney and especially of the Botanical Gardens. I thought I would go back into my photo archives’ from the trip and see what I could find that might be interesting to you all.

The gardens themselves are very easy to find. If you are at what is known as the Circular Quay (pronounced key) area of the Sydney Harbour (where all the ferries start from) and if you are looking north, the Harbour Bridge would be on your left and the Opera house would be on your right. All you have to do is follow the path around and toward the Sydney Opera House and then just keep going around it to the East and there taking up a very large area, is the Royal Botanical Gardens. It is just about the only thing around there without a high rise on it.

The history of the Royal Botanic Gardens is very interesting as well. The first farm on the Australian continent, ‘nine acres in corn’ at Farm Cove, was established in 1788 by Governor Phillip. Although that farm failed, the land has been in constant cultivation since that time, as ways were found to make the relatively infertile soils more productive.

The Botanic Gardens were founded on this site by Governor Macquarie in 1816 as part of the Governor’s Domain. Our long history of collection and study of plants began with the appointment of the first Colonial Botanist, Charles Fraser, in 1817. The Botanic Gardens is thus the oldest scientific institution in Australia and, from the earliest days, has played a major role in the acclimatization of plants from other regions.

In this same area, there is a place that is referred to as Mrs. Macquarie's Point. It is really at the far side of what is called Farm Cove where the Harbour's water goes in all around the front of the Gardens. Almost like a small port within the Harbour. This point is also at the top of what is called Mrs. Macquarie's Chair, because if you look at it on a map, that is sort of what it looks like. Both of these places were obviously name after the first Governor's wife.

After a succession of colonial botanists and superintendents, including the brothers Richard and Allan Cunningham, both also early explorers, John Carne Bidwill was appointed as the first Director in 1847. He was succeeded the following year by Charles Moore, a Scotsman who had trained in the Botanic Gardens of Trinity College, Dublin. Moore, Director for 48 years (1848–96), did much to develop the Botanic Gardens in their modern form. He boldly tackled the problems of poor soil, inadequate water and shortage of funds to develop much of the Gardens in the form we see today. The Palm Grove, in the heart of the Royal Botanic Gardens, is a reminder of his skill and foresight, as is the reclaimed land behind the Farm Cove seawall which added a significant area to the Royal Botanic Gardens.

In 1862 Sydney’s first zoo was opened within the Botanic Gardens and remained there until 1883, when most of it was transferred to Moore Park. During these years much of the remnant natural vegetation of the surrounding Domain was removed and planted as parkland. The Moreton Bay Figs, one of the major elements of this planting, continue to dominate the landscape.

In 1879 a substantial area of the Domain, south of the Government House stables (now the Conservatorium of Music), was taken for the building of the Garden Exhibition Palace. This building, ‘an outstanding example of Victorian architectural exuberance, with towers and turrets deployed around a giant dome 100 feet in diameter surmounted by a lantern 200 feet above the ground’, dominated Sydney’s skyline and covered over two hectares. The International Exhibition held in the Palace attracted over one million visitors. However, the building was destroyed by fire in 1882 and the land, now known as the Palace Garden, was added to the Botanic Gardens.

Towards the end of his time as Director, Moore, together with Ernst Betche, published the Handbook of the Flora of New South Wales, further establishing the Botanic Gardens as a centre for the science of botany.

Moore was succeeded by Joseph Henry Maiden who, during his 28-year term, added much to Moore’s maturing landscape. He organized the construction of a new herbarium building, opened in 1901 (today part of the Anderson Building), and made major improvements to the Domain. However, the Botanic Gardens suffered from loss of staff positions during the First World War and, in the depression of the 1930s; the position of Director was lost. Both the Herbarium and the living collections languished. From 1945 Robert Anderson worked to reunify the two. In 1959 the title ‘Royal’ was granted and the Herbarium and Royal Botanic Gardens were administratively reunified under the title Royal Botanic Gardens. Knowles Mair (1965–70) achieved reunification and the Royal Botanic Gardens began its return to eminence.

The breadth of activities increased over these decades with the formation of the Friends of the Royal Botanic Gardens; educational and ecological programs; the Flora of New South Wales; the scientific journals Telopea and Cunninghamia and programs of computerized documentation of both the living and herbarium collections.

The Royal Botanic Gardens celebrated its 175th anniversary in 1991. During Professor Chambers’ ten years as Director, the Rose Garden (1988), the Fernery (1993), the Herb Garden (1994), and the Oriental Garden (1997) were opened and the Rare and Threatened Species Garden (1998) was commenced to further enrich the experience of visitors. The Royal Botanic Gardens Foundation was established to seek a wider range of support for future needs.

In 2003 the business name of the organization, comprising the three Botanic Gardens and the Domain and administered by the Royal Botanic Gardens & Domain Trust, was changed from the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney to the Botanic Gardens Trust.

There were many wonderfully unique things in these Botanical Gardens, but some of the ones that blew our minds were the huge amount (and size) of the fruit bats that seemed to be everywhere in the park. Many of the gardens' numerous fruit bats (aka flying foxes) choose a spot high up on these palm trees.

We were told that the bats were NOT indigenous to the area, but they sure were everywhere. The first time one of them flew closely over our heads, I thought is was a USAF B-2 Bomber on patrol. The bats seemed to be harmless and mostly just hung around hanging from the trees that they seemed to prefer. Here are some more shots I took of the gardens. There was a really cute little tea room not far from where the majority of these fruit bats liked to hang out and although we did stop there and had a little something to eat, we made sure we stayed under the roof while eating.

You may also notice that Mrs. LZ is on the first car of this little train that actually took us on a trip around and through the Gardens, but then when we got back to the start we went back in a walked all over the Gardens rather than running and biking through this place like the "Biggest Loser" contestants did. Notice also that Mrs. LZ couldn't wait to get her seat right behind the engineer? That is her sticking her blonde head out of the train with the pink sweatshirt on. This place was much like New York's Central park in size, but much prettier and the fact that it was right on Sydney Harbour, didn't hurt either!

"I would maintain that thanks are the highest form of thought, and that gratitude is happiness doubled by wonder." ~ Gilbert K. Chesterton