New Shoots – plant inspired poetry at the Sydney Botanic Garden


New Shoots celebrates and cultivates poems inspired by plants. Created by The Red Room Company, New Shoots, is a poetic partnership with the Royal Botanic Garden Sydney, Sydney Olympic Park and Bundanon Trust. Discover poetic pathways and create your own plant-inspired poems here at Red Room.

This event forms a small part of the program honouring the 200 year history of the Botanic Garden, and  was part of the Sydney Writers Festival.


I was extremely privileged to be among the audience for the inaugural poetic tour for New Shoots. On May 21, we met at the Lion Gate Lodge and chose a coloured string which would divide us into three smaller groups. We also received poetic packages to spread our own new shoots of Acacia cultriformis – also known as Knife-leaf Wattle, Dog-tooth Wattle, Half-moon Wattle or Golden-glow Wattle – from seeds collected at the Australian Botanic Garden, Mount Annan.



Paul was our garden guide whose passion for plants is reflected in his long standing work at the garden over many decades. We wandered to the Fern House and listened to early career poet Eileen Chong. IMG_7647

In between reading her poems, Eileen discussed her heritage and influences behind these works.


A temporary display of a significant poem will remain in-situ until permanent displays are installed. Poetic responses and future works will also be placed in the garden, reminding us the potential of this project over the next few years – well worth visiting and re-visiting.


The Lotus Pond was the setting for award winning Mark Tredinnick, who spoke of the links between his poetry for this project and both eastern and western spiritual traditions.



Skirting the restaurant and shop precinct of the garden, we were intrigued by the strains of haunting violin drifting toward us.

This final stop on our ramble was potent and emotionally moving. Emerging indigenous musician and poet Eric Avery shared his interpretation of Bach’s classical music and recollections of the trauma witnessed on this site since the white invasion. We gathered on mats, under a paperbark supporting a smothering strangler fig and considered the impact of humans. Eric drew our attention to the concreted stream bordering this space that had once been untouched.

Eric explained his playing of Bach – sonata in G minor – is his way of playing to the spirits, connecting classical music in its beauty of composition with the conflicting harm and trauma of the past. He mentioned that there were so many projections onto the meaning of classical music, and that he hoped to bring a different flavour to the playing of Baroque pieces.


Our return to the Lion Lodge took us past a transplanted Wollemi pine that has replaced a Norfolk pine which occupied the founding place of the Botanic Garden. This mix and moving forward of the native and introduced offers a positive path for our society.IMG_7664


Dr Tamryn Bennet and the The Planthunter’s Georgina Reid host the panel discussion at the Lion Lodge.


Eric Avery, Mark Tredinnick and Eileen Chong share their perspectives during a ‘Q & A’ after the tour.

*hopefully, I’ll revisit and include my notes of the ideas shared at this panel …

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s