By 2050, it is estimated 68% of the global population will live in cities. As populations grow and concrete jungles expand ever higher, green spaces are becoming more important than ever to not only mitigate the effects of pollution, but to keep us healthier and happier. One such green space, in Peppermint’s hometown of Brisbane no less, has been doing just that for 20 years.
And to celebrate, as part of Roma Street Parkland’s 20th birthday celebrations, the glorious green space is throwing a springtime shindig throughout the month of September. Think free guided tours, live music, plant markets curated by our friends at BrisStyle, workshops for kids and the garden’s pièce de résistance – a cake display made of almost 2000 plants.
We caught up with Paul Hoffmann, the park’s manager, to go beyond the greenery and learn more about the Spring Showcase.
Happy birthday Roma Street Parkland! Tell us about some of your favourite moments from the last 20 years…
There have been the high-profile moments, like welcoming HM Queen Elizabeth II during her Golden Jubilee tour (she planted a Golden Flame Tree in the parkland!) or hosting a breakfast in the Spectacle Garden for over 150 guests from all over the world attending the International Horticultural Congress in 2014.
Then there are smaller moments which are just as memorable – seeing young people learn about the fish that live in the lake; watching one of our eastern water dragons waiting for a worm when we replant the garden displays; seeing an apprentice who has perfected a technical skill after months of learning from their colleagues; visitors enjoying an event such as The Enchanted Garden; or one of our dedicated volunteers proudly showing visitors the parkland on a guided tour.
[The] smaller moments are just as memorable – seeing young people learn about the fish that live in the lake; watching one of our eastern water dragons waiting for a worm…
Plant lovers might be surprised to learn that Roma Street Parkland is the world’s largest subtropical garden in a city centre! For those who haven’t experienced its magic, can you paint us a picture of the parkland and what visitors might experience…
Roma Street Parkland is a showcase of the subtropical world of horticultural splendour. When the parkland opened in 2001, it brought the 1877 gazetted Albert Park together with a contemporary garden, showcasing plant communities of the subtropical world in a comparative display setting.
The rainforest replicates elements of a Queensland subtropical rainforest featuring a lush fern gully including the rare Angiopteris evecta or king fern. Large expanses of lawn also feature in the lower parkland – we think Celebration Lawn is the best lawn in Brisbane!
Then there’s Spectacle Garden in Colin Campbell Place which comprises of 26 “garden rooms”: showcasing an ever changing seasonal flower display, which in Brisbane is generally three times a year in Brisbane, rather than the usual four!
The upper parkland includes a number of heritage fig trees which are over 100 years old, and provide a natural shaded canopy over our children’s garden and playground. The children’s garden encourages children to interact with nature and explore the tree house, bamboo tunnel and productive kitchen garden, where you’ll find a worm farm and seasonal edible plants along with sugar cane, tea, coffee, ginger, bananas and pineapples.
The 11 hectares of park have recently been protected and will be expanded by another two hectares. What other sustainability initiatives do you have in place?
Sustainability is really important to Roma Street Parkland. We collect stormwater, which is redirected into our lake, treated and then passed through to our underground 400,000 litre water tank which enables us to be self-sufficient for our irrigation needs. Over 100,000 worms eat our food waste from our onsite cafe and produce nutrient rich liquid fertiliser. We compost all of our green waste, plus the dehydrated food waste from the Brisbane Convention and Exhibition Centre, which creates around 225 tonnes of beautiful compost for use in our gardens. And since 2014, we’ve been accredited through the Green Flag Award – the international quality marque for parks. In 2020, we were voted by members of the public as one of their 10 favourite Green Flag Award parks throughout the world, and the only one in Australia.
Why do you think green spaces are so important for city centres?
There are so many reasons. Green spaces add to a city’s liveability, they provide a human connection to nature and allow us to rest, relax and unwind from our busy lives and can actually help people live longer. Green spaces cool cities, create shade and a haven for nature, reduce pollution and, importantly, provide an opportunity to bring people together.
Green spaces add to a city’s liveability, they provide a human connection to nature and allow us to rest, relax and unwind from our busy lives and can actually help people live longer.
How do you design with nature in mind?
We ensure that our plant selection is appropriate to our subtropical climate. We plan for our changing climate and ensure we have a selection of plants that support the biodiversity on the land and in the water. Recently, we have been trialling wildflower seed meadows, creating strips of uninterrupted grassed areas for wildlife to flourish. The 35,000 European and native bees in the Spectacle Garden have enjoyed that!
There are some great events on offer as part of the spring celebrations. What are you most looking forward to?
That’s like choosing a favourite plant! Spring is the best time to visit Roma Street Parkland. The flowers are in full bloom and the weather is just right which provides a fantastic opportunity to have a picnic on the beautifully manicured lawns and listen to some great music, or just to wander around the gardens with one of our knowledgeable volunteers… some of which have been here for nearly 20 years too!