Garden inspiration: Illawarra Rhododendron Gardens

The Illawarra Rhododendron Gardens on the escarpment in Mount Pleasant are a local treasure, and well worth a visit when they open on the weekends and on Tuesdays. The formal parts of the garden are very special and full, as you'd expect, of Rhododendrons, Azaleas and other stunning exotics. 

[I should have included a few Rhododendron pictures here, but forgot to take any.]

But I go there for the native plants, and the wonderful well-preserved bushland and rainforest at the back of the site. It has the advantage of being completely fenced off, so is not suffering the same damage from deer that is affecting the rest of the escarpment. The formal gardens and the lightly landscaped area above them are particularly good places for seeing local specimen trees.

A grove of Cooper's Tree Ferns (Cyathea cooperi) growing in the formal part of the gardens, surrounded by exotics. Image by Emma Rooksby.
Rough Tree Fern (Cyathea australis), happy in a shady position in an area of landscaped rainforest plantings. Image by Emma Rooksby.
There are many Brush Box (Lophostemon confertus) in the landscaped areas of the park, right near the entrance. They are stunning trees when not grown under power lines and pruned into miserable, stunted shapes. Image by Emma Rooksby.
And this is a Brush Mutton Wood (Myrsine howittiana, formerly Rapanea howittiana). You don't usually see
 them looking so large, handsome and tree-like, but this just shows what the species is capable of in the right conditions. Image by Emma Rooksby.
Slightly cheating, as this shot is from an earlier visit, but the Illawarra Flame Trees are numerous in the
 Gardens and some flower wonderfully. Image by Emma Rooksby.
There is, or there was, a large Buff Hazelwood (Symplocos thwaitesii) in these gardens. Buff Hazelwood is uncommon in the Illawarra region, so it was handy to have a tree that could be easily visited. But I and my walking companion spent about two hours diligently hunting for it without success. So I can't post a photo of it! Here's a shot of the search party. 
In search of the elusive Buff Hazelwood. Image by Emma Rooksby. 
There was a consolation prize, though outside of the gardens proper.
Is it me you're looking for? Image by Leon Fuller. 
You can find out more about the Rhododendron Gardens at this website. They are maintained by volunteers, so if you want to get fit and contribute to your local community and environment, this is a good place to do so!

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