Beautiful Bountiful Bamboo

grens and yellows are the main colors of the bamboo that towers above Vaucluse House

One of the most recognisable plants growing at Sydney Living Museums today is bamboo. This colourful plant has a long history in colonial gardens

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Queen of the Night

Arm extended with hand holding red spiky flower head.

The Queen of the Night is an epiphytic spineless cactus that originates from the rainforests of Central America. It is considered to be epiphytic (a non-parasitic plant that use other plants as support while getting nutrients from surrounding air) as they grow in the treetops in their natural environment.

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The living collection at Meroogal

Front verandah of green wooden house with garden wrapping around.

Just as the interiors of Meroogal were assembled over a century, so too its living collection – the garden - reflects the four generations of women who called the Nowra house home.

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A New Weapon in the War on Weeds

a yellow and black sign reads "caution spraying in progress" anlongside a sandstone wall and path

On a crisp winter’s morning, in the gravel driveway between The Mint and the North Range of the Hyde Park Barracks, SLM Horticulturists Steve Halliday, Helder Esteves and Craig Field appear and disappear behind a shape shifting white cloud. A black and yellow sign warns me there is “Spraying in Progress”, and I wonder for a moment why no one is wearing a mask, or even gloves. But the dangerous looking mist enveloping these men is not what it seems.

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The Incredible Chinese Elm Tree at Elizabeth Farm

the large leaning grey brown trunk of the very old Elm tree at Elizabeth Farm

At Sydney Living Museums our gardens are living links with the past. This is especially true of the venerable Chinese Elm Tree at Elizabeth Farm.

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The Yulan Magnolia is a Jewel in Winter's Crown at Vaucluse House

the Pleasure gardens at Vaucluse House with the Yulan magnolia blooming in the gardens. Its early morning so the light is low and you can see the white petals on the ground

This is my third winter working on the gardens of Vaucluse House. Each year this amazing tree catches me by surprise. Of course I notice the velvety buds developing on its bare angular stems, but I expect the flowers to come a bit later like they do with other magnolias. Instead the flowers start to appear not long after the winter solstice, when we humans barely perceive the days lengthening.

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The Acanthus - An Apt Symbol for The Mint

Large glossy green leaves of Acanthus mollis fill a large garden bed at The mint, in Sydney. There is a tall cordyline in the center of the bed and it is fenced in by sandstone and black iron bars.

Look at any classical building today, anywhere in the world and chances are you will find an acanthus leaf lurking somewhere: either on the capital of a Corinthian column, on friezes and borders of a Greek ruin, in countless William Morris designs, on the famous Warwick vase (which is a model for many sporting trophies notably the Australian Open), or indeed as a beautiful plant in many gardens. It’s everywhere!

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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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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.