Friday, March 15, 2013


All of us need to frolic sometimes. With the weather finally normal, I headed off today to The Children's Garden at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Melbourne. Above is the wonderful sculpture by Louis Laumen "unveiled by the children of Victoria, Thursday 16 November 2000, in the presence of Norman Lindsay's grandchildren" of the key characters from Norman Lindsay's runaway classic, The Magic Pudding, published in 1918.
Most immediate entry is though The Observatory Gate. The Observatory itself, no longer state-of-the-art, has become instead a splendid folly, setting the tone.
You're met by this glorious sculpture, which I'd almost steal if I had a shopping trolley large enough...
...past this, a former residence, which I like for its subtle colouring and humility.
Outside the Visitors' Centre, the wackiest of wattles, Acacia glaucoptera, from Western Australia.
The Gardens are beautifully maintained. Since I used to nip in here while still at school, I still find them disarmingly gracious.
Outside The Children's Garden are these inexplicit, organic topiary. The creeper here is a Muehlenbeckia species.
Enter all. I've not seen children so naturally playing, without tantrums, as I did here, for a long time. The idea is to get involved with the landscape, a hard thing not to do.
You would, wouldn't you, with a tree trunk like this to explore? I remember we had something like it as children, my brother being the only one brave enough to defy the spiders.
These are gardens specifically designed that children feel free to run and play. Most of the planting is soft, muted, inviting...
and native. A flowering Corymbia, closely related to the Eucalypts, above, shows itself as a colourful, encouraging personality.
Not everything's softly, softly - nor should it be. The world is the world, and to grow and become capable, children need to be allowed to encounter a certain realism. Here, children can climb and run and muck about. I remember having that right. It seems to me, today, in this fearful world, that's something that's being denied them, some naturalness.
This is Australia, after all, land of the robust. "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger" sounds callous, but who would want to become feeble? Here, in this gentlest of spaces amongst the snow-gums, where mothers  chat, children are allowed to be themselves.
This wonderful cubby house is made from bamboo. Perfectly suitable for any adult too, I'd say.
Here's the hapless, surly pudding himself, "Albert", known in this rollicking story to prefer to be eaten, having the propensity to re-form any part taken from him, and being able to be whatever type of pudding its eater would like.
And here, along with Bill Barnacle the sailor and Sam Sawnoff the penguin, is Bunyip Bluegum, koala, a protector of the unending pud.
This aint Disneyland, no offence to all of you who prefer your culture with saccharine. This is where the strong evolve and the meek are welcome.
From outside of the Gardens, and in the domain of the neighbouring Shrine of Remembrance, where the fallen of Australia's battles are honoured, this statue represents innocence worth fighting for. If I were a guardian angel, this is where I'd like my realm. 


  1. Replies
    1. It is, Matthew. I never feel more at home than in our Gardens.

  2. Real cane sugar and steel and rocks is fine with me. Thanks for the visit. Hope you find that big shopping trolley!

  3. Roger, merci. The shopping trolley must be here, somewhere! I'm glad you too prefer The Real Thing.

  4. What a delightful visit to The Gardens! You've chosen well with your photos, from Magic Puddings to wacky wattles. I must visit when next in Melbourne. The final photo is very moving indeed.

    1. Carol, you're a breath of fresh air! I don't know how well you know the Gardens. The Children's Garden are a special part, but then, to me, all of it is special. Come down asap!

  5. Oh how I would love to visit this garden. I would especially enjoy running through it with my school children. I agree today's children are hovered over and not allowed to.....well, be children. In so many ways we have striped our children of the confidence that should come naturally. Thank you for sharing this wonderful place. Bonnie

  6. Bonnie, something tells me you're just the sort of person who'd feel at home here, though really, I can't imagine anyone who wouldn't be. It has a very calming atmosphere. From what I know, children running about here don't get hurt or turn nasty.
    I remember when I was young we were allowed to go out for hours, and there was no concern at all we'd come to any harm. In hindsight, that's a wonderful gift. Even our dog was free to roam, and nothing untoward ever happened to her either.