Arid Garden Interpretation and Storytelling

Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria

2021: Winner – Projects over $150,000

The Arid Garden at Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria’s Melbourne Gardens is a recently redeveloped cactus and succulent garden located on the eastern end of Melbourne Gardens. Inside, we share the heart-warming and inspirational story behind many of the spectacular plants in this garden. Between 2015 and 2016, the Field family from northern Victoria, handed over plants that were like members of their family to the Gardens for safeguarding and display. Spanning two generations, this collection was of such extraordinary depth and diversity that it deserved careful consideration, in both landscape design and storytelling.

Melbourne Gardens’ horticulture, design, storytelling teams and collaborators, worked together with the Field family to design this new space and the interpretation within to showcase and share this collection in a space where design and storytelling seamlessly intersect, each supporting the other.

The Arid Garden tells a story of the power of collecting and childhood wonder; celebrates the intriguing adaptations of a group of plants; and explores how plant form and function inspire architecture, art and design.

The storytelling connects deeply and powerfully, is unexpected, curious, colourful and playful.

Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria (RBGV) worked with Fiona Rice and Alex Miles in developing the stories and interpretation for the Arid Garden, creating a beautiful, memorable, accessible and immersive experience into the intriguing world of cacti and succulents.

Awards Submission

Part B Supporting Documentation

Project Team: 

Emer Harrington, Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, Head of Programming and Audience Development
Sally McPhee, Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, Creative Producer, Placemaking and Interpretation
Mark Lowrey, Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, Producer
Philip Bowyer-Smyth, Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, Project Manager – Arid Garden Redevelopment
Maggie McNamara, Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, Wayfinding and Signage Officer
Andrew Laidlaw, Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, Landscape Architect
Bret Pritchard, Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, Curator, Horticulture
Fiona Rice, Consultant – Visitor Experience Specialist
Alex Miles, Consultant, Designer
Patrick Cronin, Idomatic Arts, Sound artist, Sonica Botanica

EyeSpy, Signage Manufacture
Dynamic Welding, Sculpture and hardware manufacture

Clare Hart, Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, Manager, Horticulture
Alastair Robinson, Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, Manager, Biodiversity Services
Val Stajsic, Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria. Scientist (Identification Botanist)
Alice Molan, Royal Botanic Gardens Victoria, Head of Development, Marketing, Communications