Canberra’s regional botanic garden..STEP

Canberra is known as the Bush Capital of Australia, as it is a city interspersed by bushland, and surrounded by forests and national parks.

However, the devastating bushfires of 2003 not only destroyed over five hundred homes in Canberra, but also burnt through forests around Canberra.

As a result the ACT government decided to develop the National Arboretum in Canberra, as a centenary gift to the city.

48 000 trees have been planted in 94 forests on a 250 hectare site.

View of Lake Burley Griffin, and surrounding mountains from the National Arboretum of Canberra

Amongst the developing forests of the National Arboretum is a wonderful regional botanic garden called STEP (Southern Tablelands Ecosystem Park).

I took this photo of STEP four years ago…and still flourishing today

We recently visited STEP early one spring morning…..

The Sulphur Crested Cockatoos have a dawn gathering at the small dam near STEP….

and feed on the grasses nearby. As usual, they are very noisy, but it is lovely to see them in their natural environment…

At STEP an enthusiastic group of volunteers have gradually designed and developed an area to represent the native plants and trees typical of the Southern Highlands.

Built into the landscape is a rock amphitheatre. It is used as a gathering place for educational groups and others visiting STEP. On this cool morning, the smooth rocks ringed by the Eucalyptus trees make this a very peaceful place to visit..

The Eucalyptus trees are characteristic of those found in the region’s hills, slopes and valleys, and as it is spring it is wonderful to see some flowering Eucalyptus in the gardens ..


A wasp feeding off the flowers.

After a long dry winter, the spring blossoms have arrived, and not just on eucalyptus trees…the colours of the bush change from muted greens and greys to yellows, fuchsia, purples and whites..


Hardenbergia violacea

I took a photo of this wonderfully coloured  shrub, (Mirbelia xylobioides) on Sunday morning, and by the following Thursday it had finished flowering ….you have to be quick..

Shrub Mirbelia xylobioides


Solanum linearifolium (Kangaroo Apple)



Pelargonium australe


Ammobium alatum


Leucochrysum albicans

When I arrived on Thursday for a second visit,  the day after much needed rain,  everything looked fresh and green and shiny..


Carex appressa

Some shrubs have finished flowering and others have just begun..

Wahlenbergia stricta


Podolepis hieracioides

In recent years,  through blogging, and travelling,  I have read about and seen grasses being used in design and landscapes all over the world.  Now I have a new appreciation of grasses in Australia.

Carex tereticaulis




Cullen microcephalarm

One of the volunteers called me over to look at and feel these young grasses, Poa Induta. They are soft to feel with long silky stems and delicate seed heads.. my absolute favourite for the day…

Poa induta

The gardens have some impressive metal sign posts to mark various areas around STEP. Here you can see the flowers of the She-oaks (Casuarina) sculptured  into the metal.

Unfortunately I missed the opportunity to take a photo of the friendly and very knowledgeable volunteers sharing morning tea under the shade of some of the bigger trees.

However, here is a photo from my visit a few years ago, the shady trees have grown and are still a welcoming spot for morning tea.

The volunteers come to STEP every Thursday,  rain, hail or shine and work tirelessly to keep this wonderful regional botanic garden growing and developing.

STEP has a very interesting newsletter for Members, and it is very easy to become a member and/or a volunteer.

Copyright Geraldine Mackey: All Rights Reserved.









19 Replies to “Canberra’s regional botanic garden..STEP”

  1. What a fabulous place! Full of plants I have never seen. And those cockatoos! From your previous posts, I have learned they can be very pesky, but how pretty they are. Wish I could send some rain your way (and to California!). So far, November has been a rainy month. No danger of drought here.

  2. Gerrie another great post on STEP. As a volunteer there I appreciate another pair of eyes looking at our efforts. It’s fun, always giving us new insights what we can do in our gardens, wherever they may be.

  3. How I LOVE your cockatoos! Some beautiful spring plants and grasses here, such a wonderful place too. I do enjoy seeing your mountains. Well done to all those volunteers, they are doing a great job. xxx

  4. Beautiful gardens and, of course, I loved the birds. It was nice to enjoy my coffee and see all these beautiful plants while looking outside at a sea of white. I really love grasses, but as I ‘mature’ maintaining them including dividing when needed is more effort than I want. I finally divested myself of all of mine last year and donated them to our annual plant sale. I miss them, but not the work. Glad you received some much needed rain. 🙂

    1. Yes, I am not really tempted to plant grasses in our garden, as you say, dividing them would be a nightmare (Agapanthus is bad enough!) and during our hot summers, grasses can look very dry…I prefer some colour in the garden.

  5. Such beautiful flowers! I am so pleased you have had rain at last; I hope that it continues and the ground is replenished. The cockatoos are lovely-looking birds but I’m glad they don’t visit my garden!
    When my elder daughter was little there was a programme she used to enjoy watching that had been written by and was narrated by an Australian (I can’t remember his name). He introduced us to all sorts of Australian birds and animals, including Suphur-crested Cockatoos. We knew all his songs off by heart!

    1. A few years ago I taught young immigrants, newly arrived in Australia, and they loved songs (such a good way to learn a language) and their favourite CD was ”Feather Fur and Fins” by Don Spencer….so I’m glad you and your daughter had a similar enjoyable time with Aussie songs.

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