Explore Western Australia

Our horticulturist Catherine talks through some of the botanical wonders in the garden.

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What to look for in August

Outdoor Gardens

Despite the summer heat and drought conditions, our Outdoor Gardens are looking healthy, bold and beautiful. The prairie is alight with vibrant colour, with a sea of wildflowers blooming on their tall stems. Bold yellows take centre-stage, with Silphium, Rudbeckia, Helianthus, Solidago and other daisies, but you can also see the blues, whites and pinks of Veronicastrum virginicum, Tradescantia ohiensis, Baptisia alba var. macrophylla and Echinacea pallida. Our Dahlia exhibit is also in bloom, and will continue flowering well into the autumn. Look out for Dahlia varieties ‘Moonflower’ and ‘Twyning’s After Eight’, both complemented by chocolate-coloured foliage. 

Red-hot pokers, Kniphofia, are on display in Bright Sparks, in a myriad of vibrant and exotic colours – from reds, oranges and yellows, to pinks, browns and even greens. In the Global Gardens you can find chillies in abundance, along with lemongrass, fig leaf gourds and AmaranthusKerala Red’ – a beautiful amaranth from the Indian state of Kerala, where it is a popular garden crop which makes great stir-fries. 

Rainforest Biome

Our new orchid pergola, which opened last month, is looking beautiful with a stunning display of moth orchids, Phalaenopsis. The steamy Amazon pool is home to the giant water lily, Victoria cruziana, whose flowers are slowly emerging from beneath the enormous flat leaves lying on the water’s surface. Surrounding the pool you’ll find Heliconia psiticorum, blue ginger, Dicorisandra thyrsiflora and Pachria aquatic, a beautiful tree with large buttress roots growing in the water.

The anthuriums are in flower, showing off their large, shiny red, heart-shaped spathes, and the tall cannonball tree, Couroupita guianensis, which is native of South America, is also in bloom – its large, spherical woody fruits resembling rusty cannonballs.

Mediterranean Biome

Our Ethiopian black bananas, Encete ventricosumMaurelii’, have trebled in size since planting earlier in the year, and make a stunning architectural statement as you enter the Biome. Many crop plants are reaching their peak this month – prickly pears (Opuntia ficus-indica) are a species of cactus that has long been an important domesticated crop plant throughout arid and semiarid parts of the world, and are now in flower in the Med. 

Among the many tomatoes on display, there are varieties for sun-drying, stuffing, passata and puree, slicing and eating fresh from the vine. The massive beef tomatoes are ripe and delicious, and ready for harvesting.

A new planting of sunflowers, Helianthus annuusSoraya’, will be setting the Biome alight later this month, highlighting their many uses, including in cosmetics, food, plastics, fuel, dyes and cut flowers. 

The coastal wattle, Acacia cyclops, is flowering in Western Australia – a tree that can be found all along the coast of the country. Down in South Africa, the white protea, or forest sugarbush, Protea mundii, is also blooming – not as eye-catching or flamboyant as the king protea, but it has its own discreet charm.

Highlights over the coming year…

What to look out for in spring

Outdoor Gardens

Fresh blues predominate in early spring, with gorgeous displays of Scilla, Anemone, Pulmonaria and Iris. The scent of blossom from Magnolia ‘Leonard Messel’ fills the air in the Japanese Swale, while drifts of Erythronium and late-flowering Narcissus adorn the Plane Tree Steps. 

The Plants for a changing climate beds are the very essence of spring, as the handsome Euphorbia characias displays its chartreuse-green blooms amongst spring bulbs. Giant alliums appear in beds and borders alongside Aquilegia, Camassia, Campanula and Digitalis

Rainforest Biome

The beautiful jade vine, Strongylodon macrobotrys, displays its turquoise flowers in early spring followed by purple Ipomoea and peace lilies, Hibiscus and Heliconia

The Rainforest Canopy Walkway provides access to life in the forest canopy, with its splendid collection of orchids, and our quirky luffa vines are in fruit

Mediterranean Biome

Rock roses (Cistus), adorn the Mediterranean landscape in early spring and tulips are beginning to flower in a blaze of vibrant colour. 

In Western Australia, the iconic grass trees sit among Acacia, Banksia, Grevillea, Hardenbergia, Melaleuca and Callistemon, while the black and green kangaroo paw blooms beneath. 

In the Perfume Garden, the beautiful Damask rose is in flower, with its heavenly perfume, and South Africa is showing off its princess protea, Protea grandiceps. In late spring, Persian buttercups, Ranunculus asiaticus bloom, just as the tulips begin to fade.

What to look out for in summer

Outdoor Gardens

There are some exciting additions to Bright Sparks this year, with new species of fiery Kniphofia, Watsonia and Dierama. Changes in the landscape see lavender and sunflowers in close proximity, providing a wonderful view from below. 

The Plants for a changing climate beds come into their own during the summer months, with magnificent Puyas, Agaves, and a myriad of tender flowering plants to admire, and in the Veg Garden, Global Gardens and Cornish Crops, there are always tasty new varieties to be found. 

Rainforest Biome

The ginger family always put on a show at this time of year – pungent, aromatic and beautiful, you will be able to see ginger itself, turmeric, torch ginger and many others. 

The Aerial Walkway provides access to a host of orchids hiding in the treetops, and in Tropical Crops there are always novelties to be found, like the warty gourd, Momordica charantia

Giant waterlilies from tropical South America, Victoria cruzian, are displaying their beautiful flowers, nestled among enormous leaves. See a video of them online.

Mediterranean Biome

King proteas, brugmansias, and the bird of paradise, Strelitzia reginae, can all be admired this summer, along with a host of wildflowers adorning California and Western Australia, creating rich tapestries of colour and texture. 

New for this year is an exhibit showcasing many types of beans, including borlotti, haricot, faba, navy, broad and yard-long beans. There will also be an edible flower meadow, and a Mediterranean vegetable garden, containing a few curiosities, like agretti, chenopodium and rapunzel

The beautiful Perfume Garden with its collection of aromatic plants provides a feast for all the senses.

What to look out for in autumn

Outdoor Gardens

Bright Sparks continues to look great, with late-flowering species and cultivars of Kniphofia and Crocosmia. Berkleya, Grevillea and Fasicularia provide interest in Plants for a Changing Climate, while salvias bring vibrant colour to the Sense of Memory Garden

Liquidambar, zelkovas and acers are resplendent in rich autumn colour, and in the Veg Garden, Cornish Crops and Global Gardens, the last of the summer harvest is being gathered in, to make way for an array of brassicas and other winter veg.

Rainforest biome

In the humidity of autumn, coffee berries are beginning to ripen, and chocolate bears masses of small pods. 

The beautiful blue ginger, Dichorisandra thrysiflora, is flowering profusely in Amazonia, and in West Africa, our agroforestry exhibit tells the story of saving the soil, producing more food and making money for local communities.  

There is plenty to see in our spice exhibit, with turmeric, ginger, cinnamon, black pepper and vanilla

Mediterranean Biome

In South Africa, Amaryllis belladonna is looking gorgeous, and banksias are beginning to flower in Western Australia, including Banksia menziesii. There are chillies galore, representing cuisines from different cultures, and juicy tomatoes for different uses. 

In the Perfume Garden, night-scented jasmine, Cestrum nocturnum, is flowering, and the grapevines are ablaze with autumn colour. Warm shades can also be found in Western Australia where kangaroo paw, Anigozanthos, are in full flower. The vigorous climber, Podranea ricasoliana, is in bloom, and the first snowdrops and Narcissus have begun to appear in the Mediterranean landscape.

What to look out for in winter

Outdoor Gardens

Shimmering grasses, like the beautiful Deschampsia flexuosa, glow beneath the spooky white stems of Rubus cockburnianus, while fiery dogwood stems illuminate Eco-Engineering and Myth and Folklore.

The Street and Ice rink are decorated with a festive array of horticultural delights, and the scents of Hammamelis x intermedia ‘Jelena’ and Daphne bholua ‘Jacqueline Postil’ linger in the air. 

Drifts of sweetly-scented Narcissus ‘Treglisson’, bred here in Cornwall, decorate beds and borders, while delicate hellebores adorn path edges. 

Rainforest Biome

The Life in the Treetops area has been planted up with 52 different species of orchid, including the beautiful Brassia

Amidst luxuriant foliage, tropical gems, Solandra maxima and Calliandra haematocephala bloom, along with the stunning purple Crinum. The cola tree,  Cola acuminata, is displaying its beautiful, bell-shaped flowers, and the glorybower, Clerodendrum, is putting on a show. A new collection of bromeliads adorns the Rainforest Canopy Walkway.

Mediterranean Biome

‘Christmas trees’ of vibrant Cyclamen herald the arrival of the festive season, and a bed overflowing with paper-white Narcissus provides a cool contrast to over 50 different species of tender Salvia.

The scarlet and gold inflorescences of Aloe ferox, light up South Africa, along with a host of beautiful proteas, ericas and zantedeschias, enhanced by the ‘scent of Africa’ – the aromatic Agathosma. Bulb species are beginning to appear across the Biome.