The collection at our RBG is modest despite its grand title. Sometimes one wonders: is that all we have? Well, no. Some plants are not on display due to their rarity (here) or their special needs. Spaces for display are often inadequate in size and in the condition they can provide.
Our government funds 50% of the cost of running the RBG. It is generous considering the low priority Australians place on horticulture: it is not taught at any of our universities though one can obtain training at a trade school.
Fortunately the RBG attracts tourists: if we don’t care, other people do. After all, it is right on top of the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the Opera House –hence the funding, I suppose. When I paid $25 to see some tropical plants that are kept away from the public, I found myself amongst people who don’t live here. The event was hosted by the Friends who raise funds to pay for the other half of RBG’s expenses.
The glasshouse was so small that most of the time I couldn’t see our guide nor the plants that he was describing so I must be content to take photographs. I did hear one question that embarrassed our guide: where would he place the RBG in comparison to Kew (!) and other botanic gardens around the world? The answer is nowhere but our guide valiantly defended it by saying: even Kew is struggling with funding and on a decline. He didn’t mention RBG’s advantageous location.
He did tell stories about how an entire collection of orchids was lost due to an air conditioner breaking down and petty theft and brazen robbery of plants. I am surprised they didn’t check our bags on the way out.
Outside the glasshouse a kookaburra was wondering what the fuss was all about.
At the end of the day I decided to become a member of the Foundation and Friends of the Botanic Gardens. It is a privilege to have such a space in the middle of the city but someone has to pay for it.