Five Unexpected Things to Do in the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney This Winter
Stock up on honey made in the garden or explore Sydney's newest world class horticultural structure.
June 29, 2016
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You might think that during winter Sydney's Royal Botanic Garden takes a little time out to relax, while the greenery lies dormant and Sydneysiders head indoors. But you'd be wrong. Winter hides a hidden trove of activities, exhibitions and delights best enjoyed in the cold, without the summer crowds. Alright, Vivid Sydney brought crowds to the garden, but that's just one.
Sydney's 200-year-old public garden is far from dormant in the cooler months. Don't spend your winter staring out the window, pining for summer. Rug up in your woollens and head down to the Garden to discover a whole new world that's a riot of colour and life.
EXPLORE THE CALYX
Sydney's Royal Botanic Garden turns 200 in 2016 — and it's landed itself one humdinger of a birthday present. Meet The Calyx, the Garden's new world-class horticultural experience. Opened to coincide with the official opening date of the Garden on June 13, 1816, 200 years ago, this dazzling new UFO-shaped public space not only houses thousands and thousands of plants, but gives Sydneysiders an escape from the city's busy streets and relentless traffic.
It also provides a new outdoor home for fun, innovative exhibitions. The first, open from June 11, is Sweet Addiction, an interactive adventure through the botanic story of chocolate, from bean to bar. Starting your journey deep in a tropical rainforest, you'll see, touch and smell your way through ancient lands and chocolate plantations, before reaching a tasty pop-up shop — the site for many future chocolate activities and tastings.
Also part of the show is a collection of 18,000 plants, which have been arranged as living artworks. Together, they form the biggest contiguous green wall in the Southern Hemisphere, measuring six metres in height and 285 square metres in area. Move over, Patrick Blanc. (Mind you, we can't deny that One Central Park's wall is looking prettier with every passing day.
Treecycle is an exhibition designed for the 200th birthday celebrations of the Royal Botanical Garden (after all, 200 is the new 40). The exhibition, running August 12-21, is an exploration of the amazing skills of Sydney's carpenters, wood carvers and artisans. Curators Leon and Ginny Sadubin will display all the wooden furniture, instruments, jewellery and sculptures that have been produced to honour the trees that once stood in the gardens. All proceeds from sales will go to support conservation, so if you've been meaning to invest in some Australian-made furniture, grab your ticket to the opening night auction and get your bid on.
Want to school yourself on Australia's cornucopia of delicious native ingredients and the culture of the Aboriginal People of Australia? An Aboriginal Heritage Tour is the perfect activity for you. The Garden was an important ceremonial site for many of the Sydney Aboriginal Nations, and home to the Cadigal people of the Eora Nation.
The tour is designed to clue you in on the culture and artefacts of the Aboriginal People of Australia as well as teach you about traditional bush tucker and where to find it. Your Aboriginal tour guide will lead you around the gardens and open your eyes to the bounty of native food on your doorstep and you'll even get to taste some as well. Book your tour here.
Our bee populations have been doing it rough lately, worrying scientists and honey-lovers the world over with their dwindling numbers. But the bees living in the Royal Botanical Garden are thriving. They have access to a huge array of healthy native flora and exotic flowering plants, so the raw honey (available in the Garden Shop) produced by the in-house beehives has a unique flavour you won't find in your standard Capilano squeezy bottle. Raw honey has a well documented array of health benefits, so winter is the perfect time to guzzle it down with tea and hope like hell it staves off the sniffles. Plus, all income generated from the honey goes back into plant conservation programs, so you can rest easy knowing Captain Planet is very happy with you.
VISIT GLASSHOUSE LATITUDE 23 AND FERNERY
If you miss the high humidity of summer or just need to step in from the cold, a visit to a glasshouse may be just what you need. Latitude 23 is a tropical display, housed in two greenhouses next to the Fernery in the southern end of the garden. It's almost otherworldly as you enter, crammed full of exotic plants and flowers that will transport you away from winter to warmer climes. Next door the Fernery is even more impressive, with high vaulted ceilings and over 200 species of ferns in residence making it the perfect place to spend a quiet afternoon.