Lion Gate Lodge in Mrs Macquaries Road was the setting for Sydney’s Royal Botanic Garden to launch the celebrations for their 200th Birthday Programme in 2016 and showcasing the year long plans they have in store for this historic milestone through events, projects and a range of new opportunities for the community to enjoy.
200th Birthday Patron, His Excellency General The Honourable David Hurley AC DSC (Ret’d), Governor of New South Wales gave an informative speech, detailing the history of the Royal Botanic Garden through to future plans that will enhance both visitor numbers and scientific usage.
The Garden is already among the top ten tourist destinations in Australia and is recognised as one of the top ten most beautiful botanic gardens in the world. In 2016 everyone will be encouraged to come and discover what makes the Garden such an iconic destination.
As Australia’s oldest continuously operating scientific institution, the Garden has been at the heart of Sydney’s horticultural, cultural, educational and scientific life for 200 years.
Naturalist Charles Darwin visited the Garden in 1836, 23 years before his ground breaking book, “On The Origin Of Species” was published. Darwin maintained a long distance working relationship with Charles Moore, Director of the Royal Botanic Garden. A signed first edition of Darwin’s book is stored at the Garden today.
The Garden was also home to Sydney’s first zoo, which opened in 1862. Monkeys, an anteater and a Chinese deer were among the many exotic animals on display. The zoo relocated to Moore Park in 1883.
In 1901 a Herbarium was added to the Garden which today stores over 1.2 million preserved specimens and has samples from Sir Joseph Banks and Dr Daniel Solander’s collections, dating back to 1770.
Before the advent of DNA research, archives from plants and seeds kept at the Garden famously helped NSW Police crack the Graeme Thorne kidnapping/murder case of the 1960’s, amongst other crimes.
Kim Ellis, Executive Director, Botanic Gardens & Centennial Parklands advised that celebrations will start with a special surprise during the Sydney New Year’s Eve fireworks, then will move into the award winning Tomato Festival, the fantastic Treecycle exhibition and the prestigious Florilegium. The Garden will be lit up during Vivid and will bring the International Garden Photographer of the Year exhibition to Sydney.
The key legacy of the 200th Birthday programme will be the opening of The Calyx, an engaging and inspirational living art gallery with state of the art, rotating botanical interactive exhibitions that will excite and educate. This new world class attraction will be the first of its kind in Australia and will feature the largest indoor green wall in Australia.
The 200th Birthday programme will also see the Garden leap into the 21st century digitally, with a cutting edge new website, social platforms, blog and an extension of its eLearning programs that will enable regional communities to benefit from the Garden’s expertise through eConference facilities that have delivered education programs into China.
Sandra Tiltman Photos: John Pond