10 highlights of my local neighbourhood park
It’s hard to believe that something around the size of six city blocks could be a hidden secret yet I’m constantly surprised by the number of locals I meet who’ve never been to Roma Street Parkland. Maybe I'm spoiled too - this is my local neighbourhood park, so I'm able to pop in at any time.
This part of Brisbane was an important meeting place for the indigenous Turrbul people, and after European settlement it accommodated markets and railway functions. The design of the parkland reflects the former industrial uses through robust detailing of concrete and timber.
I’ve seen the park in good times, in constant use by people enjoying its rich variety of spaces.
I’ve seen it too in sad times, with huge devastation wrought by summer storms.
I use it constantly as a living plant catalogue, seeing what the form, colour, texture and flowers of different species are like at different times of the year.
So today, allow me to introduce you to 10 things to look out for at Roma Street Parkland.
1. Mature Trees
The existing Albert Park was incorporated into Roma Street Parkland, bringing a wonderful legacy of mature tree planting that provides scale and much-needed shade.
Tucked up high are the arid region plants, including towering ponytail palms, and swathes of aloes, agaves, cacti and other succulents.
As well as the planted beds throughout the park, the so-called Spectacle Garden is laid out to provide a year-round display of colour, with people flocking to see the technicolour flower plantings. Supplementing the constantly rotated bedding plants there are groupings of larger flowering groundcovers and shrubs. If flowers are your thing, this is where to see them.
If flowers are not-so-much your thing, then the Spectacle Garden also has an impressive and beautiful lineup of ornamental grasses, including strappy edibles like chives.
Other edibles appear in the herbs and vegies section, with the herbs handsome in matching terracotta bowls.
6. Black garden
Outside the Spectacle Garden is the newly introduced Black Garden, which nestles a collection of very dark foliage plants in to its partly shady location. Late afternoon sun reveals the red and golden tones underlying the black stems and foliage.
7. How to plant under big shady trees
Mature shade trees often present a problem for gardeners keen to grow something around the base of the trunk. The avenue of figs shows how it can be done, with a sweep of tree ferns and fern varieties that, on a beastly hot day, noticeably dropped the temperature.
8. Rainforest walk
The timber boardwalk takes you alongside a rocky stream, under a canopy of tree ferns. Go at the right time of day and you’ll be walking through a cool veil of mist.
Speaking of water, it’s a critical part of the parkland structure, contributing amenity but also performing as an important piece of urban stormwater infrastructure. Whether in the large central lake, dramatic water wall or the sculptural cascade, visitors are never far from the sight and sounds of water.
10. The water dragons
Which brings us to Number 10, and while the koalas were getting all the attention at the G20 over the weekend, it’s the water dragons who reign supreme at Roma Street. Lounging insouciantly on paths and gardens, the shrieks of unsuspecting tourists give away the presence of the dragons long before you see them. So enthusiastically have they taken to their adopted home that a team of PhD students is now studying the Roma Street colony.