Botanic Gardens Trust, Sydney, Australia

25th anniversary of the Australian Botanic Garden, Mount Annan



Lakes in 1988 (top) and 2009 (bottom)

Garden celebrates a significant milestone

This year marks the 25th anniversary of the Australian Botanic Garden, Mount Annan, a significant milestone indeed for the country’s largest botanic garden. From former farmland, the Garden has been transformed into a site of excellence in horticulture, conservation, scientific research and education, as well as an inspirational haven for relaxation and recreation.

Since its opening, the Garden has attracted more than 2.4 million visitors and has undergone substantial development to make it the impressive Botanic Garden it is today. To celebrate this anniversary, a program of exciting events has been planned for spring, including a digital exhibition documenting the Garden’s history and development to date.

The Garden was a NSW Government Bicentenary project and was officially opened to the public on Sunday 2 October 1988 by the Duke and Duchess of York in front of 850 invited guests on a very hot and windy day. The couple politely commented that they would return when ‘things had grown a bit’.

The history of the Garden is both unique and interesting. The original custodians of the land were the D’harawal people who gave the name Yandel’ora to Mount Annan, meaning ‘land of peace between peoples’.

In 1818, magistrate William Howe was granted 3000 acres of land on the eastern side of the Nepean River and established the Glenlee estate (Glenlee House can be seen from Caley Drive). In the 1850s, Glenlee was acquired by James Fitzpatrick whose descendants managed a dairy farm until the late 1970s, before the land was leased as a riding school.

On 22 September 1984, then Premier of New South Wales, Neville Wran announced the development of more than 400 hectares south-west of Campbelltown as a native botanic garden. The following year a concept plan was submitted and endorsed for the first stage of development of the Garden to begin.

Planning and construction of roads, fences, dams and the nursery and depot began in 1985. Initial plantings occurred in three of the major theme Gardens and construction of the Terrace Garden, now known as the Connections Garden, commenced. After three years of hard work and dedication by all involved, the Garden was officially opened as Mount Annan Botanic Garden to a delighted audience.

The year of 1990 was a rather busy year for the Garden. This year saw the opening of a Visitor Centre (now the site of Melaleuca House Café), the completion of Cunningham Drive which opened the northern section of the Garden, the dedication of Lake Howe in the Wattle Garden and first sightings of wallaroos in the Garden. The Garden is now home to a healthy and abundant wallaroo population.

In 1995, a research program was established for the recently discovered Wollemi pine. Adequate material was sourced on a collection trip to set the basic requirements for propagation by seed, cuttings and tissue culture on site. The program included projects to develop an ex situ collection of individual trees, as well as development of a system to release propagated plants to the horticulture industry. This was also the year that massed paper daisy displays were introduced as a spring attraction.

In 1999, the NSW Seedbank was redeveloped to incorporate a seed-drying room, walk-in coolroom and freezer and seed testing room, making it one of the finest seedbanks in Australia. The horticultural research section gained a tissue culture lab, climate controlled glasshouses and several shadehouses.

To commemorate the NSW Centenary of Federation in 2001, the ‘Federation Maze’ was developed by Garden staff and constructed on the upper part of Lakeside Lawn. The design is based on the flannel flower, Actinotus helianthi which was the floral emblem for the NSW Centenary of Federation.

In 2002, the Natural Heritage section was created and programs were introduced for the control of weeds on site including African olive, Olea europaea ssp. cuspidata. To date, more than 40 hectares of dense African olive has been removed, revealing striking hills, gullies and remnant eucalypts that had been previously hidden by olive forest. Some of these areas will become horticultural displays and others, restored conservation areas.

In 2006, the Wollemi Walk of Discovery was officially opened, a Bureau of Meteorology weather station was introduced to the site and the dry stone wall sculpture ‘The Knot’ was constructed. It was also the year that the Big Idea Garden was launched (formerly Bottlebrush Garden), displaying examples of sustainable urban horticulture.

The Stolen Generations Memorial was opened on the 19th anniversary of the Garden in 2007. This memorial is designed to take visitors on a ‘journey of healing and reflection’, through Cumberland Plain Woodland, the original forest of the Cumberland Plain, then to a series of boardwalks.

Free entry to the Garden was announced in April 2011 and the Garden has experienced a significant growth in visitation since. In the same year, the Garden was rebranded as the Australian Botanic Garden, Mount Annan and the Narellan Road entrance to the Garden was opened by the Premier of NSW Barry O’Farrell and Minister for Environment and Heritage Robyn Parker. 

The Garden is still quite a young botanic garden and in a very exciting stage of development. The opening of the Australian PlantBank this season will be a major milestone for the Trust. Join us at the Public Open Day on Saturday 12 October, one of the first opportunities to see this impressive internationally significant scientific research facility. There will also be festivities on the day to mark the Garden’s 25th anniversary!

For more on the history and development of the Australian Botanic Garden, Mount Annan, visit the free 25th Anniversary digital exhibition in the Visitor Centre or join a free themed tour with a volunteer guide.

25th Anniversary Exhibition

Visitor Centre, Oct - Dec, 10 am - 4.30 pm

25th  Anniversary Tour

13, 20 and 27 Oct and 3, 10 Nov, 11.00 am - 12.00 pm