Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria Unveils Garden for a Future Climate

New Arid Garden opens at Melbourne Gardens featuring over 3000 cacti and succulents

Arid Garden

Melbourne has a new place for wellbeing and relaxation. The Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria’s new Arid Garden was recently unveiled. Over 100 years in the making, the garden features over 3000 cacti and succulents of 400 different species donated by private collectors, some over 80 years old and weighing over 200 kg.

Arid Garden

Over one hundred years ago, in 1908, Ralph Field (Robert’s father), aged 12, visited Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria with his father, returning home with a wagonload of cacti and succulents. Propagating cacti became this young boy’s hobby, which he passed onto his son. Many of the cacti seen today began with Ralph’s collection.

Director and Chief Executive, Tim Entwisle, says that staff at Melbourne Gardens were delighted when Robert approached them to create a new home for this important collection.

“Botanic Gardens have both the capacity and the expertise to display these large collections of rare and unusual plants.” “Without organisations like ours, many species would be lost from nature and from our gardens – we care for the rare, and the rarely grown,”

Professor Tim Entwisle, Director & Chief Executive.
Professor Tim Entwisle, Director & Chief Executive.

The collection was added to between 1936-38, when Ralph Field bought a share a South American expedition by German explorer and botanist Harold Blossfeld. The rest of the plants came from succulent and cacti collectors, including Collectors Corner and the entire collection of the late Robert Stevenson, former President of the Cacti and Succulent Society of Australia. A generous donation by Mrs Joan Darling also made the garden possible.

Robert Field

The Gardens’ Landscape Architect Andrew Laidlaw, says the Arid Garden will be a contemporary take on the classic 16th Century parterre garden design, which describes a large space which is broken into smaller spaces, with pathways on which to wander and view plants. These landscapes tend to be quite inward facing, which is the same for the Arid Garden.

“As a Landscape Architect, the opportunity to design a project with plant material as remarkable as the cacti from the Field and Stevenson collections, with their array of different forms, colours and textures, is a dream come true,”

Andrew Laidlaw, Landscape Architect
Andrew Laidlaw, Landscape Architect

Educational signage and children’s activities embedded into the footpaths will encourage visitors of all ages to understand the wonders of these plants and their importance in a warming climate.

It is one of a number of exciting projects under way at Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, outlined in the new Melbourne Gardens Master Plan 2020–2040.

For those unable to visit, a Live Virtual Tour is available on the gardens Facebook page.

Live tour of the new Arid Garden

Tim Entwisle takes you on a behind-the-scenes tour of the beautiful new Arid Garden, chatting to the team of horticulturists, collectors, designers, and storytellers who brought it to life. The team talk about their individual roles in creating this masterpiece and share some entertaining stories. 🌵

Posted by Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria on Monday, 7 December 2020

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Damian Holmes is the Founder and Editor of World Landscape Architecture (WLA). He is a registered landscape architect (AILA) working in international design practice in Australia. Damian founded WLA in 2007 to provide a website for landscape architects written by landscape architects. Connect on Linkedin at