The Garden Guide

Book: History of Garden Design and Gardening
Chapter: Chapter 5: Gardens in Asia, America, Africa, Australia

Garden design in Western Australia

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936. Western Australia, or the Swan River, is said to possess, in some places, an excellent soil, and a climate suitable for all the productions of Europe, including that species of sugar-cane and those palms which are cultivated in Spain. The government garden at Perth is really well worth the inspection of the curious. His excellency takes great interest in it. There are several rare specimens of various descriptions of plants, amongst which is the tea tree. The vines that have been planted in this colony have succeeded admirably. ' The town of Perth,' Mr. Backhouse observes, ' consists of several streets, in most of which there are but few houses. The streets are of sand, mixed with charcoal, from the repeated burning of the scrub, which formerly covered the ground on which the town stands. The principal street has a raised causeway slightly paved, by which the toil of wading through the grimy sand may be avoided. Many beautiful native shrubs grow in the borders of the gardens; most of which (in 1837) were in a neglected state. A few, on the slope to the head of Melville Water, have the advantage of being moistened by filtration from some lagoons at the back of the town : these are well cultivated, and produce fine crops of grapes and melons. The lagoons are much filled with the cat's-tail reed (Typha latifolia), the root of which is eaten by the natives. They are bordered by blue lobelias, various species of Drosera and Villarsia, and other pretty plants.' (Backhouse's Narrative, p. 531.) The soil in this district is sandy, and the herbage rigid, consisting chiefly of 'a stemless Xanthorrh£'a, called there the ground blackberry.' Nuytsia floribunda grows in the loose poor sand to the height of forty feet, with a trunk six feet in circumference ; it is called in the colony the cabbage tree, from a faint resemblance in the texture of its branches to cabbage stalks; its upper part is covered with a mass of golden yellow or orange flowers, while the lower part is a bright green. Banksia grandis grows twenty feet high, and some of the other species of the genus attain a still greater elevation. ' Much of the country near Freemantle,' observes Mr. Backhouse, ' is of limestone, covered with sand ; it is unproductive of herbage adapted for flocks,' and unlikely, in a state of nature, to yield much, but with good culture it produces excellent vegetables, especially potatoes, which in some situations produce three crops in the year. Vines and figs thrive even in the town, where the limestone rock is only covered with sand.