The gardens were originally intended solely to compliment the miniatures, although over the years they have become a striking attraction in their own right. Overseas visitors often compare them favourably with famous gardens in other countries.
To separate pathways from displays, a spectacularly colourful collection of annual flowers is grown. Almost 35,000 flowers are planted each year to add colour to the display. These annuals are propagated and grown on the premises. New varieties are trialled each season, and plantings are staged to allow for the longest possible flowering period.
The display lawns in our miniature landscapes also attract a great deal of attention. In fact one of the most frequent questions our garden staff hear is “Is the grass real?” It is indeed. We use three varieties of Bent grass —Highland, Brown Top and Cobra — mowed once or twice a week to maintain it as a lush, fine carpet in proportion to the displays. While the lawns are definitely high maintenance, the effort is certainly worth it!
The almost two-acre display area also features many trees and shrubs with miniature growth characteristics. Generally we define ‘miniature’ plants as those having a growth rate of up to 600mm in ten years, although plants with faster growth rates are also used for shorter periods.
Conifers have been used extensively because of the wide range of shapes and colours available in the miniature varieties and because they are naturally suited to the Canberra climate. They are also easily transplanted, which means that any given plant may be moved several times during its life in the Cockington Green Gardens display. A typical life-cycle will begin with use as a specimen tree in a miniature display landscape, then as a ‘background’ tree behind the display, then perhaps as part of an outer garden area. Most miniature conifers in the display have been purchased from the Dandenong Ranges area in Victoria.
Many other kinds of miniature trees and shrubs are used, including dwarf Elms and Maples, many varieties of Box, Kurume Azaleas, and an increasing number of Australian native plants.