I've just returned from a three day visit to see my Sister on the Sunshine Coast and learn from her photographical expertise and extensive knowledge (aka; pick her brains).
Part of the visit also included a trip to the Maleny Botanical Gardens.
Here's her take on our visit. You can see who the photographer is in the family.
Don’t go to a garden with a gardener.
I’ve been wanting to go to Maleny Botanic Gardens for ages. They’ve been around since 2012 so it’s taken me 4 years to get there. Owned by a multi-millionaire South African who, according to articles on the site, has aspirations to make the best Botanic Gardens in the world. I went with my brother who is an experienced gardener and an amateur critic. He raised his eyebrow at the $16 entry fee (each) and we set off on the path the friendly lady at the entry directed us to. We didn’t pay the extra to go in the Aviary. With 16 acres of garden to investigate I figured that would be enough for one day. I had my 100mm macro lens on and it was a nice bright overcast day. Pretty good for flower photos.
Keep in mind that winter, even on the Sunshine Coast, is not the ideal time if you want to see a garden at its best. As a long time resident of the Sunny Coast I was pretty impressed with the views of the glasshouse mountains. Stew pointed out we could get the views for free just up the road.
“What?” I asked.
“Look at this” he says, pointing a toe toward a patch of dirt.
“What?” I say again, looking around.
“This” he says with emphasis as I shrug and look like the ignorant gardener I am.
And then he starts.
“If you’re gonna charge people to enter and make claims aiming for the best botanic garden in the world, you don’t have dead patches left in the garden. You don’t leave branches and fronds and shit lying around. It’s untidy, poorly maintained and there are diseased plants.”
“Oh”, I say, looking around me.
"There’s no design”, he goes on. “I had high expectations and I’m completely underwhelmed”.
“Oh” I say again, casting a more critical eye around. It still looks pretty impressive to me. I can see what he’s saying but I’m far more forgiving. The gardens are huge. It would be a massive job to keep everything in order. There are lots of grassy areas, ponds, waterfalls, statues, sculptures, strategically placed seats and plenty of picnic tables. I grin and keep taking photos. Plenty to keep me busy.
We meander up paths and over bridges. Discover a quaint little fairy garden. Stew finds some cactus he likes.
The garden is designed in stages and we must have entered a different section as Stew suddenly gives a half approving nod.
“This looks better,” he says, "There’s more cohesion in the design and the plantings."
It appears we’re in the oriental inspired garden. He did concede that perhaps it was just a style difference but he was still critical of what he considered the poor maintenance in the earlier section.
We discovered a mass planting of Tibouchina that was like a pink version of a Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow plant.
We disagreed on the arched walk. Stew thinks it should have been one long tunnel of the same plant. I quite liked going from one to the next.
I’m more of a patch work style and Stew is clearly a mass plantings kind of guy.
He argues when you have this much space you could have a whole row of each kind.
More paths, ponds, waterfalls and picnic tables.
I’m having a lovely time. Stew says it’s nice, just didn’t live up to his expectations.
We wander up to one of many gazebos and are spoilt with a bloody lovely Devonshire Tea for $11ea. For the number of people who have now turned up I think it would be good if they could offer a bit more variety on the menu for lunch.
We didn't pay to go in the Aviary but it looks like it would be worth the investment. There were birds at the reception and a few chooks scratching around. The kookaburras were eager to join in the conversation too.
Stew goes to see if he can buy any plants. Apparently they sometimes have a table with plants on it (but not today), but obviously not a fully stocked nursery like Stew was hoping for. (He hadn’t considered how he was going to get any plants back to Toowoomba on his motorbike).
We head off in another direction, past the Aviary and animal enclosure toward the Monet Pond and gazebo. I’m guessing this section is still evolving or I don’t know much about Monet, but it didn’t inspire me and we kept walking. There’s a cute Monet bridge but the surroundings don’t lend themselves to making great photos of it. Hopefully that will come in a future stage.
We headed back up through what was most likely the first stage of the garden. Stew is impressed by the (mass planting!) white Tibouchinas. He concedes that the gardens are getting to him and his earlier judgement of 4 out of 10 may have been a bit harsh. He upgrades it to a 6. (Just between you and me, I think there may be just a little bit of garden envy going on.) He still has a lot of gripes but I think the garden has won him over. It turns out there is a plant identification system, although it's not obvious. He can't find the names of the plants he wants anyway so resorts to good ol' facebook for help.
I’m happy to give it an 8.5. I’ll be bringing my mum here to check it out. Fortunately, there are golf buggies available for hire to get around. There’s no way she’d make it otherwise. The grounds are huge. It’s awesome. I loved it. Can’t wait to go back in Spring.