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14 Dec 2022

Biggest bloom for the Wildflower Meadow

The Wildflower Meadow at the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney is a key summer attraction for artists and visitors alike, and after years of tweaking, is putting on its best bloom ever.   

European wildflower meadows are naturally filled with grasses, flowers, and other non-woody plants where cows graze on the upper layers of wild vegetation, allowing other seeds and species of plant to grow through the next season.

However, because of agriculture and the introduction of weeds, they are not a common sight in Australia. That’s what makes the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney’s carefully crafted Wildflower Meadow display so special, especially in December and January, when some flowers grow over a metre tall, and dance in the wind to the buzzing and chirping sounds of summer.

Visitors can immerse themselves in the meadows through special pathways

The power of promoting pollination

The different flower bed mixes of the meadows sound like a DJ play list. There is the ‘All-year-round’ mix, the ‘Made-for-shade’ mix, the ‘Summer cut flower’ mix, the ‘Groundcover’ mix, the ‘Mini Monet’ mix and the ‘Bee-friendly’ mix.

Horticulture supervisor, Kayte Wilkie, said establishing the meadow is so rewarding because the sequential flowering of many attractive species goes on for months with so many vibrant colours on display.

However, Kayte said the display is more than just a beautiful collection of flowers, it was an integral part of sustaining and increasing beneficial bugs and pollinators within the cityscape.

“Meadow-style gardens not only look spectacular, but they also play a vital role in creating habitat and food for foraging insects that are so important for pollination,” Kayte said.

“About one third of the food we eat relies on pollinators and the wildflower meadow shows visitors how pollinators like bees and butterflies do their thing.”
Kayte Wilkie
Cosmos bipinntus (Garden Cosmos) come in a variety of pinks and mauve flowers, which sway in the wind 

Sow, grow, show and mow

The horticulture team took a fresh approach for this year’s display by mowing the garden beds in early autumn 2021 to allow the organic materials to die to create shelter and feed the plants, which featured both annuals and perennials. Annuals complete their complete life cycle in one season while perennials live for more than two years.

Most of the previous mixes were just annuals, which means they flower and die within the year and drop their seeds to create a seedbank over time.

This time perennials have been incorporated into the mix, which allow the annuals to perform well in the first year while the perennials grow, take root, and perform their best next year.

“We mowed the bed in early autumn last year let the material die down to create shelter and feed the plants,” Kayte said.

“The perennials become invigorated and burst through when it starts to warm up. This allows a variety of plants to shine.”

The purple Campanula medium (Canterbury Bell flower) and the yellow Coreopsis lanceolata (Lance leaf Tickseed) provide a complementary palette of colours in the meadow

Wildflower Meadow is a work of art

Along with attracting pollinators, the wildflower meadow is also a magnet for painters and artists who enjoy sitting down to capture the collection of colours.

They often sit under the large, established trees at the southern part of the meadow that gives them plenty of shade to paint and draw all day.

Local Sydney artist Hans Madoery said the wildflower meadow triggers childhood memories of the beautiful natural settings in his home country of Switzerland despite it being in the heart of the Sydney CBD.

“This part of the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney is very special for me because it reminds me of the wonderful wildflower meadows of the Swiss Alps, yet there is Sydney Centrepoint and the city skyline in the background,” Hans said.

“Artists are like bees – we are drawn to the power of flowers,” Hans said.

Sydney artist Hans Madoery says the wildflower meadows reminds him of the natural settings of his home in Switzerland
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