The Gardener, the Palace and the Bushranger

Big round green Waterlily platters float on the surface of the water with some purple flowers in the foreground.

What do you think links Sir Joseph Paxton, the Crystal Palace and Captain Moonlite together? The answer is an intriguing one - the giant leaves of the Victoria Amazonica waterlily!

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The Various uses for the Prickly Pear

Prickly pear hedge with Vaucluse House in the background

One of the most interesting plants growing at Vaucluse House today is the Prickly Pear. This curious succulent had a variety of uses for the early colonists in Sydney.

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Arthur Phillip’s gardener

A 1791 drawing from William Bradley of First Government House Sydney

Much has been written about our first Governor, Captain Arthur Phillip. A lot less is known about the other members of his household, which included his own personal French chef and his personal servant, Henry Dodd (1748-1791).

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Winter kitchen garden update

Gardener in garden setting.

There are still plenty of plants to grow in the garden during winter. Here are just a couple of varieties growing in the kitchen garden at Vaucluse House right now. Maybe you might like to give them a go too?

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Fruit and vegetables with a history

Bunch of small red tomatoes on the vine.

The kitchen garden at Vaucluse House boasts an impressive variety of fruit and vegetables year round. Here are just a few varieties currently growing and an insight into their back stories.

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Some Philosophical Musings on Camellias

A pure white camellia sasanqua 'early pearly' hangs carefully on the end of the branch

As I watch the riotous camellias in my autumn garden bud, bloom and drop, I am often reminded of a wonderful poem my dad taught me as a young girl:

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Billbergia nutans 'Queen's tears'


As it's bursting into bloom right now in SLM’s gardens, we are revisiting a bromeliad with the evocative name of ‘Queen’s tears’. This showy plant can be seen in several large pots at Elizabeth Farm, and at Vaucluse House. It makes a very pretty addition to a plant-stand, where its elevated flowers can be admired more easily

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Aloe arborescens ‘candelabra aloe’

The red-orange flower spikes look striking against the yellow clay colour of the lime washed walls at Elizabeth Farm.

Tours at Elizabeth Farm often start alongside a large bed of succulents, dominated by towering cactus. It can be quite a surprise for visitors to discover that colonial gardens contained such a wide variety of plants.

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Autumn Blooms at Meroogal

A bright purple flower which has small yellow disk florets in its centre

Last week I visited Meroogal to find the gardens draped in fabulous Autumn colour.

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It's Tecoma Time Again

Bright orange-red flowers surround the shiny green foliage of the Tecoma crowing over the timber arbour at Rouse Hill House and Farm

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In this Plant your history blog, Sydney Living Museums’ gardening staff and curators share their knowledge and observations about the gardens at SLM. From basic plant information, gardening techniques and tips, through historic versus contemporary understanding of gardens, to what’s currently in bloom at our sites, they have plenty of insights for you.

More about Plant your history.