Inverawe Native Gardens
When you visit Inverawe Native Gardens, just a 15 minute drive for Hobart, spend some time on Rabbit Hill. You'll have a view of a large slice of south eastern Tasmania. The bay to your left is North West Bay, first mapped and named by Admiral Bruni D'Entrecasteaux's French expedition of 1792-93. The high point across the bay is Mount Louis.
To the south is Bruny Island, named for the Admiral. In the middle distance is Dru Point. "Dru" is French for dense, thick, in the sense of undergrowth. There were lots of native plants here then, as now. Imagine for a moment that it is 1802-03 and there, anchored off Dru Point are two sailing ships - Captain Nicolas Baudin's French ships. They're refilling their water casks from the river at the bottom of the garden.
Sit for a moment and experience what they experienced. Just sit. And listen. Can you hear the noisy chatter of the birds? They're at home here, scores of bird species, twelve of them only found in Tasmania. Catch those fugitive scents, the delicate, distinctive aroma of essential oils being teased out of our natives by the warm Tasmanian sun. Then there are the flowers.
"When is the best time to come?" people ask. "Come when you're ready." I tell them. There are always flowers here. Touch the crisp beauty of paper daisy petals. Stroke a Banksia and imagine the astonishment of those first European visitors.
Notice, too, the pattern of light and shade filtering through the tree canopy. European trees block out the sun: these trees, so adapted to sunlight, let it through.
Inverawe stand in the great tradition of European landscaped gardens.
When you visit, look for:
- The use of the long view, using the inspiring scenery
- The changes of mood as you move around the garden
- The waterwise, low chemical, low maintenance character of the garden - native gardens work with the environment, not against it.
More than that, there's a serenity that visitors often comment on.
Two hundred or more years ago, Tasmania was a hotspot for the new science of botany. Despite the fact that you couldn't get any further from Europe without falling off the edge of the earth, the best botanists came. Labillardiere, that peerless French botanist, was here with D'Entrecasteaux and named over 500 Australian species.
The dour Scot, Robert Brown, was here a decade later and he too, named over 500 species. You can see some of those plant species growing here, bearing the same names.
Tasmania stands at the intersection of two overlapping plant communities. There are plants that also occur in the south east mainland and they are well represented at Inverawe.
Tasmania also has plants that have more affinity with plant communities in New Zealand, New Caledonia and parts of South America. You can see some of those, too.
Walk in the footsteps of those early visitors, in a garden that acknowledges its descent from the great European gardens.
I'll see you in the garden sometime.