The Canberra Discovery Garden

The Canberra Discovery Garden was opened last Sunday as part of the National Arboretum Canberra (see my previous post). While its current location is rather rubble-y, it is sited next to the arboretum visitors centre (currently under construction), so will have a prominent position once the arboretum is permanently opened to the public.


The garden is described as a “blueprint for the perfect Canberra garden” and is designed to be water efficient and display a variety of plants, including lawn grasses, that are suitable for the Canberra climate. The garden was created by Taylor Cullity Lethlean, the same team that designed the rest of the arboretum.They have designed a space divided into three areas (you can see the full design at the link above). The garden is built into the hillside and is backed by gabion walls – you know the wire cages filled with rocks that you’ve seen on Grand Designs.

The first area is focussed on water use, turf displays and composting. I was immediately struck by the raised orange planters, but in a good way, because I love orange! The styling is definitely ‘retro’ but in a ‘knowing’ up to date way. At the rear of this area is a wading pool which was getting some pretty heavy attention from the younger set on the day.


Another feature of the area are the compost bins, very luxe indeed, but then I don’t suppose that the old black plastic bins used at Chez Fork are really a go-er in such a garden. It was encouraging to see that one vistor at least had left a suitable contribution to get those pristine bins happening.


Walking into the central area you will see the plant displays. A succulent and cactii garden runs down the centre of the space. Many small fingers were exploring some of the spikier offerings but without any damage to either the plants or the children.


To one side is the garden showing plants suitable for both full sun


and on the other are displays of plants for part shade.


This next photo is taken through one of the ‘windows’ from the display area into the central space. In the foreground is the water trough. The stainless steel trough, rather reminiscent of my primary school days, looks very smart against the black wire ‘room’ dividers.


The last area of the garden is where short term plantings (veggies are on the list), displays and demonstrations will be held. Now in my excitement to photograph the amazing artificial ‘arbours’ in this section I only got a limited shot of the central raised garden bed.


The arbours are large metal disks that have been cut into a variety of designs that cast beautiful patterns when the sun shines through them.


I was hooked, I thought these were an amazing feature of the garden. I couldn’t stop taking photos of them.


Along the back wall of the display area is seating on stained timber benches. You can also see the gabion walls and on the edge of the photo a very bespoke set of tool and storage cupboards.


Another feature of this area which had me dead envious were the moveable planter boxes made out of galvanised iron. You can see the hose attachment at the front of the planter. Watering is through a series of drippers lying under the mulch. They are on large castors so moving them is quite easy on hard surfaces. Is anyone out there making these? Maybe the Friends of the Arboretum could get a production line going as a fundraiser.


On the less serious side of the days activities the arboretum staff had the kids (and plenty of adults) amused by their remote controlled snail. Thank heavens they’re not this big in real life!.


Clearly is was convincing to many as one tot was overheard telling another “not to touch it on the head” or it would retreat into its shell!

I loved the design of this garden and should I ever have several spare lots of thousands of dollars I might just call the team in to do some work for me. The quality of the finishes and the clean design was really appealing. I will wait to see how those orange planters hold up under the Canberra sun, but apart from that quibble I think another exceptional element in our new arboretum has been delivered.

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