First Graders in the First Farm

Yesterday I was out recording my regular interviews with Simon Marnie from the ABC Sydney Radio (702AM) Weekend Show. I'm sure I'm not giving away any trade secrets by saying we do a few at a time.

I try to find a plant or place relevant to each story. For example we visited the Cadi Jam Ora garden to find a Magenta Lilly Pilly (or Daguba), eaten raw by the Cadigal and made into jams by more recent inhabitants of this land.

For a chat about wild carrots, and their colour - purple or red rather than orange (more about this in my Passion for Plants posting in a few weeks) - the First Farm was the obvious location. Although we don't have carrots at the moment, there are asparagus, corn, coffee, bananas...etc.

Unexpectedly, and pleasantly, the garden was full of young children and their parents. There were family groups picking and tasting asparagus. Imagine that, someone under 5 years old tasting a new vegetable! Another child had a paper bag with as many corn cobs as they were years old (4).

Normally we don't eat or pick our garden. Robert Dessaix in his intriguing Night Letters (1999) laments that "botanical gardens aren’t really gardens at all, of any kind. They somehow contrive to be neither orchards nor flower gardens, nor kitchen gardens, nor physick gardens, nor even parks. They’re static, nothing’s happening – no flowers are being picked, no fruit eaten, no medicines boiled up, there’s no one picnicking or admiring the view. It’s a museum, not a garden. Paradise was never a museum."

Dessaix was sipping a cappucino outside the botanic gardens in Padua, the oldest botanic garden in the world (dating back to 1545 - the botanic garden in Pisa was established a few years earlier but has since moved...). In the end he decided not to visit the botanic garden, deciding that if you've seen one you've seen them all.

Tough words, and not quite true of course. For the observant there is something new happening every day, whether the plants, events or just visitors living out their lives. There is certainly picnicking in the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney, and sunbaking, and a whole lot of things I can't record here.

Still, it's good to be tested on these things and to be provoked. In the First Farm garden yesterday, there were people picking and eating plants. It is a special place and special activity, but it was great to see.

If you want to pick a plant in one of our botanic gardens, and you are under 5, come along to Dandy Lions, 'gardening, activities and storytelling for 0-5 year olds'. As our website says, 'Bring your wild thing and come out to play!'

Dandy Lions is held every Thursday (except 8 and 16 April), from 10 am - 12 noon, weather permitting (not when raining, high winds or temperatures above 35 degrees C...). It costs $11 per family, with a maximum of two children, and this even include a coffee for one at the Gardens Cafe! For more information contact Community Education, ph: 9231 8134.

So Mr Dessaix, we have picnics, plants being picked and eaten, and even a decent cappuccino. This is a botanic garden worth a visit...

Image: some very cute kids and a lion, from the Dandy Lions webpage.