Centennial Park’s formal gardens were initiated by the Park’s first Director, Charles Moore. It was no easy task – the land set aside for the Park was semi-wild swamp, scrub and rock. Moore’s staff were hindered by winds, drought, floods, sandy soil, damage from straying stock and vandalism.
The failure of many of the exotic plants selected by Moore led to his successor, the energetic and progressive Joseph Maiden, to experiment with native plantings. Maiden was also a believer in the Park’s educational value and early in his tenure he declared that he wanted 'an artificial plantation exclusively devoted to Australian plants, duly labelled'.
Maiden employed the promontories established around Busbys Pond by Moore as the main sites for his horticultural experimentation. By 1910 the native flower garden he established in today’s Column Garden contained 661 species, all labelled for students and park visitors.
The Column Garden is the location of two historic sandstone columns erected on the Busby Pond promontories in 1890. The columns originated from the demolished portico of the James Barnet designed William Street Wing (constructed between 1866 and 1868) of the old Australian Museum.
The Garden was planted by Joseph Maiden around 1900, primarily as an experimental Native Flower Garden for scientific and educational use. Later the Garden was used for horticultural displays.
Maiden's original planting designs enclosed the western part of the Garden with a hedge of Coprosma repens, this was later replaced with Murraya paniculata.
Today one column stands in the Column Garden and the other on the promontory to the Garden’s west.
The Rose Garden is adjacent to Busbys Pond in Centennial Park's historic heart. Joseph Maiden planted a Rosarium on this site in 1909 and it has been delighting our visitors ever since. On one Sunday in 1917 an estimated 20,000 people traversed its fragrant rows.
In an ironic twist, Rose lovers have proven to be the biggest threat to the Garden's survival. Over one two-week period in 1916, thieves stole an enitire bed of roses comprising more than 90 varieties. Theft, pests (birds and rabbits) and difficult weather conditions are ongoing challenges for the cultivation of roses in the Parklands today.
The Rose Garden was renovated in 2003-04 and many new varieties including Olympic God, Brass Band and Blueberry Hill were added to the existing varieties: Double Delight, Avon, Mister Lincoln, Just Joey and Queen Elizabeth.
Frog Hollow was originally the site of an open drain and established as a garden around the turn of the 20th century. It is currently home to nine circular garden displays planted with coloured and patterned foliage providing year-round interest for visitors.
Parkes Drive plantings
Joseph Maiden established his grandest flower bed along Parkes Avenue (now Parkes Drive) in 1911. Beds ‘some 30 feet in diameter, others measuring 50 feet long and 18 feet wide’ flanked the avenue, with round beds positioned, much as they are today at the Busbys Pond promontories and Frog Hollow.
Today the Parkes Drive displays balance modern taste with the spirit of the native and exotic plantings pioneered by Maiden.