SPRING is upon us, and as our gardens blossom with new life, they carry the scent of stories of old.
One novel way to interact with our region’s storied past is through the Museum of the Riverina’s history garden, Flourish. Situated outdoors at our Botanic Gardens site on Lord Baden Powell Drive, Flourish uses living plants to evoke the region’s history. At present, it tells the story of life on the Home Front during World War I, and showcases some staple Wiradjuri foods.
Being as 2017 is part of the centenary of the Great War, a range of local viewpoints on wartime are told within the museum’s Botanic Gardens site. The exhibition He Belonged to Wagga relates the stories of local soldiers, while an adjoining display, titled Worth Their Weight in Gold recalls the experience of the wives and mothers that contributed to the war effort from home. The hardships and triumphs of returned soldier-settlers in Tarcutta and Wantabadgery are explored in a third exhibition, From Barbed Wire to Boundary Fences.
Flourish sits in the Museum’s outdoor exhibition area, and draws these stories together. An heirloom vegetable garden demonstrates the seasonal plants that were grown to supplement the rationed food supplies of the war years. Visitors are welcome to touch, smell and taste the produce (and pull a weed or two while you’re there) and learn about life a century ago.
War was also a cross-pollinator, and growing within the garden are living specimens of Turkish Rosemary and Gallipoli Rose – plants that were brought home by returning soldiers, which would become popular in Australian gardens. In time Flourish will explore more migration stories, once again showing the plants that came from afar to give the Riverina its distinctive flavour.
Also growing in Flourish are some significant native plants. The Silver Banksia, for example, is a bird-attracting shrub that once grew on sandhills in central Wagga. Wiradjuri people used the nectar of this plant to make a drink, and could make fires with its dried cones.
Visitors to Flourish are can continue their botanical musings by following the miniature railway line under Lord Baden Bowell Drive right into the Botanic Gardens. A ten minute walk can take you through the heart of the Botanic Gardens, and to the entrance of Wagga’s magnificent zoo. As the weather warms, remember you can get outdoors and go to the museum!