Keep your children close, if you dare to visit the cactus and succulent garden at the Hunter Region Botanic Gardens. After exploring familiar territory (the impressive displays of Australian native and exotic plants), crossing the threshold into this garden, feels like stumbling onto the surface of a somewhat scary planet. Grotesque life forms, and danger, are lurking everywhere.
My visual sense is overloaded as I take in the remarkable collection of plants whose shape, texture, colour and habits of growth are fantastic, exciting, challengingly discordant.
Things that look like trees are covered with dangerous spikes and spines. No tree hugging here!
Things that look like soft fluffy toys, are actually waiting to impale your innocent child’s skin with thousands of tiny, painful needles.
Things that look like plants appear to have hatched, rather than grown, out of the clean sand!
Compared to the domesticated pots of succulents in my garden at home, the specimens here are like new life forms waiting to escape!
The precision of the geometric shapes is almost unsettling, even macabre in some cases.
Flowers aren’t a major feature of the majority of these plants. Those that do occur are pleasing and varied, but don’t be fooled. They’re there to entice you into danger that’s lurking close by!
Visit this garden, it’s incredible. But make sure your children stay on the path, and be sure to do a head count, before you leave for home!
Are these plants beautiful?
Is this a dream garden, or a nightmare?