Rainforest for Rehab

29 12 2008


It’s no secret the Adelaide Botanic Gardens were founded on land adjacent to the Royal Adelaide Hospital, at the eastern end of North Terrace, as a therapeutic resource for patient convalescence, but it’s probably far less-known that Flinders Medical Centre, Adelaide second largest hospital, has something similar, if on a smaller scale.


The hospital, a teaching institution complimenting Flinders University, which crowns the hill at Bedford Park, was opened in 1976. The core buildings’ square planform (conceptually the same layout as the university’s main buildings) have open courtyard areas at their hearts. Thirty-three years on, one of these contains a fully-grown and developed artificial rainforest.


Bricked walkways and picnic areas circle an artificial hill, from which waterfalls flow between towering trees, broadleaf plants and palm fronds, a haven for ducks and other birds which on any day entertain patients, staff and visitors with their antics. Often the only sound from the outside world will be the infrequent beat of the air ambulance approaching the landing pad.


The garden is easily accessed from the main entrance and all visitors are welcome. Walk in from the bus exchange, go up the broad stairs to Level 2, pick up a snack at the coffee shop, and you’ll find the door to the garden just beyond the elevator shafts.


It’s a pleasant place to kill an hour waiting for that connection, to read a magazine or have a coffee, and it’s a marvelous reminder that even large-scale urban development does not necessarily have to shut out the natural world.





A tropical paradise in the midst of the city

5 12 2008

Tucked away in a corner of downtown that you might not even notice is one of Adelaide’s jewels. The Adelaide Botanic Gardens is a snippet from a tropical rainforest, in the midst of the city. Through the gates and into the shade of massive trees — some of which were planted over 150 years ago — and you can forget you’re in the city at all.


In 1855, 41 acres of land (16 hectares) were set aside for a park, and the Botanic Gardens opened in 1857. The design is said to have been influenced by Kew Gardens in London, and also by the gardens of Versailles.


According to the Garden’s excellent website (http://www.environment.sa.gov.au/botanicgardens/adelaide.html) “over 1.3 million people visit each year.” Of this number, around twenty-five thousand visitors are school students. Many visitors are locals, including office and retail workers who take their lunch break there each day. And of course, if you’re visiting Adelaide from overseas, the Botanic Gardens are a must-see.


You’ll be astonished that this tranquility … this marvellous collection of rare plants … this apparent rainforest … exists just off North Terrace, literally in the shadow of the Royal Adelaide Hospital. Massive old trees stop the road noise, and you can barely hear the traffic, though you know the city is bustling close by.


The Palm House (above) is a joy to behold — a piece of history. It’s a Victorian design, imported from Bremen in Germany in 1875, and so far as we know, it’s utterly unique. Nothing else exactly like it in the world…


At least some of the flora on display inside are from Madagascar, and the interior of the Palm House is so tranquil, you could stay an hour.

The Gardens offer much more than this: collections, displays, conservatories, museums, lakes, walks, pavilions, rose gardens … and a fully licensed restaurant. To top it off, admission is free, the bus stops right outside, and the Gardens are open seven days!