Native garden hidden among the trees

Artist Ian Wallace's Banksia collection can be viewed all summer in the Karwarra gallery space. Pictures: MIKAYLA VAN LOON.

By Mikayla van Loon

Hidden off the beaten track in Kalorama and tucked away among the trees, with a casual view out over the valley, is an exploration of native Australian beauty.

The Karwarra Native Plant Garden, Nursery and Gallery, located within the Kalorama Memorial Reserve, is the perfect pit stop to appreciate native flora.

Over summer, as the blooms begin to come out, wander through the self guided garden and discover the Banksia artworks of Ian Wallace in the gallery space.

“[The Banksias are] from all over Australia and he started with one and then just did all the species. So some are from Eastern Australia, some Western Australia and they’re really detailed. We’re lucky to have them,” Karwarra gardener Shelley Graham said.

Mr Wallace began drawing in the 1960s with just pencil and paper, first beginning with plants like bulrushes, he moved onto camelias, rhododendrons and petunias before eventually moving onto his modality of watercolours.

“I bought a few tubes of watercolours and quickly found the green I squeezed from the tube was nothing like the leaf colour I needed, so I started mixing colours and learning,” the exhibition brochure reads.

“I never had any lessons in art, so after nearly 20 years, I am still doing just that.”

This is one of the first exhibitions to return to Karwarra after the pandemic lockdowns and Ms Graham said she hopes it garners some interest from the community and visitors, being purely an Australian flora and fauna gallery.

“There’s plenty of galleries you can go see and gardens too where you can see exotic plants and galleries where you can see all sorts of paintings but just to have it relating to the garden we think is good,” she said.

Stepping back outside, Ms Graham said when the sun shows itself, which was sparse over spring, the butterflies really come to life particularly the dainty swallowtails and macleay’s swallowtail.

Because these butterflies are so territorial it gives people an opportunity to snap a photo should they be standing near their chosen patch of habitat.

With spring being quite delayed this year, Ms Graham said the late flowering plants like kangaroo paw and strawflowers have been even later in reaching their full bloom, which means they should be marvelling in the warmer months.

Among the colours of the kangaroo paw and strawflowers, the Veronica species provide elements of blues and purples all throughout.

Of the six acre property half of it is garden beds, making it quite the experience to learn about native plants and hopefully inspire some garden designs elsewhere.

“It’s nice to be able to see Australian plants in a garden setting. So you could do lots of little garden beds that you could then get ideas for yourself,” Ms Graham said.

“For people from overseas just to be able to see what an Australian garden can look like. Not just wandering through the bush but actually seeing what a native garden could look like.”

The Karwarra Australian Native Botanic Garden is open Tuesday to Friday 10am to 4pm and Saturday and Sunday 1pm to 4pm. It can be found at 1190-1196 Mt Dandenong Tourist Road, Kalorama.