Friday, July 25, 2008

Peacehaven Park at Highfields

The Toowoomba Society for Growing Australian Plants (SGAP) outing last Sunday was to the new Peacehaven Botanic Park in Kuhl’s road at Highfields, and what a delight it was!
I had never explored the far reaches of this park. At first glance, it’s not one that reaches out to native plant buffs. The planting near the front is ordinary to the point of being offputting, and I had weakly allowed myself to be offput.
I was rewarded for this (undeservedly, you probably feel, if you already know Peacehaven’s virtues) by the joy of fresh discovery.
We had the usual kind of SGAP leisurely stroll - in good company with lots of conversation about plants - around the circuit path. We admired old Crows Ash tree (Flindersia australis) that you see here from a distant viewpoint across the dam.

We had time to stand around each individual plant, local native and otherwise, that attracted our attention. I learned heaps, as I usually do on SGAP outings. There is a wealth of knowledge in the members’ heads which becomes part of the talk as we stroll about looking at plants. Did you know that Wollemi pines form a little protective blob of resin on the end of each branchlet? That they are branching pines, producing major low branches early in life? Or that their large female flowers, high on the tree, bloom before the males lower down, so that the trees don’t self-fertilise?
For me, however, the most exciting thing about Peacehaven was that here, at last, we have a garden which features local native plants in a big way. So little is known about their garden potential that experimental plantings, from which we can learn, have been badly needed for a long time. The high-quality labelling lets us know just what we are looking at. (This one is a Rose Apple, Owenia venosa)

The plants are well cared-for, providing a good example of how they would perform in gardens as opposed to doing it tough in the bush. Some are already above head-height, so already we can learn which species are faster-growing.
What a wonderful resource this park is for those who want to use local natives in their own gardens, or just for those who want to find out what those plants are that we see in our local bushland.

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