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The Story of Araluen
How the Seed of a Beautiful Idea Grew
In the late 1920s the founder of the Young Australia League JJ “Boss” Simons was drawn to this valley in pursuit of his dream to create a weekend retreat where YAL members could experience the outdoor life. Whenever YAL members travelled the world they were encouraged to bring back plants for Araluen as they developed the Park gardens which was to complement the aesthetic appeal of the Canadian-style log cabins, water features, and pergolas.
The YAL took over the Park with little to no infrastructure apart from tracks left as a result of timber clearing during the 1800’s. Over 20+years the YAL constructed a series of buildings and several unique garden features. Construction methods varied but commonly used locally sourced, materials which became a major influencing contributor to the current unique style of Araluen and the Park.
The Margaret Simons Memorial Pergola (late 1930’s) remains one of the largest pergolas in the southern hemisphere, it is constructed of 8 tonnes of granite stone and large Jarrah timber logs. There is 38 pillars which support 80 climbing roses of many varieties. The pergola was opened by Lieutenant-Governor Sir James Mitchell on Mother’s Day, 1940. It was designed by W. G. Bennett and built by Jack Italiano in 1940. Built to commemorate Mrs. Margaret Simons, the mother of J. J. Simons. Mrs Simons, who died in 1937 at the age of 77, was an ardent worker for the League with a keen interest in Araluen and roses.
After the YAL later faded and Araluen fell into disrepair until 1990, when a group of Perth gardeners who could see the potential of Araluen persuaded the WA government to purchase the property.
So began Araluen’s new life as a truly unique and beautiful garden under the management of the Araluen Botanic Park Foundation. The ABPF’s vision is;.
“To create a unique world-class botanic park of great natural beauty and tranquillity which is accessible to and remembered by all who visit”
There is currently more than 30 heritage buildings and structures in the Park. These are a magnificent collection of West Australian history and always spark awe and interest to the many visitors who flock to the Park. The log cabins and structures are a reflection and the spirit of community and years of dedicated efforts of the YAL and the current management team Araluen Botanic Park Foundation, its staff and volunteers. Those who come to see the garden will discover and learn more about these structures on the interpretive panels.
In 1985, the Young Australia League sold Araluen. After the YAL later faded and Araluen fell into disrepair until 1990, when a group of Perth gardeners who could see the potential of Araluen persuaded the WA government to purchase the property. It was then that the Araluen Botanic Park Foundation (the Foundation) with strong community support was formed. For the next 30 years the Foundation worked with the Governments support and some financial backing, and the commitment of community to restore and revive Araluen.
The Foundation is committed to preserving Araluen Botanic Park to enable West Australians to continue to enjoy it for generations to come.
Much was achieved in the early days, particularly in the restoration of heritage structures, gardens, paths, steps and terraces and creating more green space for visitor enjoyment as a main central lawn. In more recent years the foundation has implemented and delivered on capital works projects. Building new carparks, the Forest View Deck function area, installing public Wifi a Telstra Tower, a solar powered Bore and CCTV for Public Safety.
The foundation is working toward continual improvement to sustain the Park for future generations. Maintaining the asset that includes over 30 buildings and structures across the site, fourteen hectares of cultivated gardens, and supporting infrastructure. With the community’s support, the Foundation is fast achieving it’s vision;
Araluen Botanic Park showcases heritage unlike any other natural environment across the State. There are more than 30 buildings and structures. From the log cabins and structures highlighting the spirit of community and years of dedicated efforts of the Young Australian League, to our Chalet Healy Café, established as Tearooms in 1937, wherever you walk you will stumble upon history and heritage. Throughout the Park, interpretive panels will complement the historic buildings, structures and landmarks.
- Margaret Simons Memorial Pergola – established in the late 1930’s, the Pergola remains one of the largest pergolas in the southern hemisphere. It is constructed of granite and large Jarrah timber logs.
- Chalet Healy Tea Rooms (1937) Brisbane Cottage, Log Cabin and Shepherdson Cottage were all built in Canadian log cabin style using granite foundations, granite chimneys and tile roof. The latter two buildings were demolished (pre 1990) The Tea Rooms now operates as the Chalet Healy café under a tenancy agreement. In 2021, the Foundation has undertaken a heritage restoration to revive the original jarrah timber floors, installing bush timbers to the verandah. In 2021 ABPF completed a heritage restoration to revive the original jarrah. Visitors to the Café enjoy breakfast or lunch from the verandah overlooking the Stinton Creek. Twice a year, the verandah beams are covered by a stunning flowering wisteria, which also happens to be one of the oldest plants in the Park.
- Totterdell Cottage (1931) serves as our administration building for Foundation staff. Originally built for Jack Italiano and his family, the original stonemason who helped Boss Simons build the stone colonnades for the original structures in the Park.
- Aspro Cottage (c1930’s) is complemented by an original terraced garden cut into the hillside north of the head of the Grove, built from funds donated by the Aspro family.
- The Round House was the original cookhouse for the Arlauen pioneers constructed with granite walls and ash concrete lintels, timber windows and a castellated roof. It has since been renovated and restored with a tile roof in keeping consistency with the other buildings.
The Grove of the Unforgotten (Simon’s Legacy)
Built in memory of 88 Young Australia League members killed in World War I, The Grove of the Unforgotten still remains today. The Grove is a series of terraces, framed by pencil pines that form the shape of a lyre, the international symbol of music. Water cascades down the terraces to the pool of reflection.
In the beginning, as is the case today, Araluen Botanic Park is a sea of colour as the tulips planted on terraces and at The Grove of the Unforgotten bloom.
Find delight in every season
at Araluen Botanic Park
Situated in the Perth hills Araluen Botanic Park showcases an unmatched collection of exotic and cool climate plants from other parts of Australia and the world. The Parks location is close to the coastal plain, however its topography, soil and climate set it apart and allow for growing a wide and unique range of ornamental plants.
Araluen is an internationally-acclaimed garden for particular species, including Camellias and Roses. Araluen’s Tea Roses drew acclaim through the highly respected US Rosa Mundi magazine. The 2008 Spring/Summer edition referred to Araluen as ‘…one of the finest collections of Tea Roses in the world reside…’ yet a key element to the garden is the natural flora of the northern and western parts of the Park. It is the view of the current custodians that these areas play a crucial role in the Araluen Garden experience.
History of the Camellias
Australia: Early settlers brought camellias to New South Wales in the early years of settlement and the Macarthur family bred new camellias still grown in gardens today.
Western Australia: In Western Australia early pioneers brought many garden and productive plants which would have included at least some camellias grown around early houses and farms.
The earliest camellias were planted at Totterdell Cottage (Administration) and The Chalet Healy Cafe, and one of the surviving camellias from this time still thrives in the gardens surrounding the cafe. At 90 years old, this camellia plant is the oldest in Araluen. It’s full name is Camellia Japonica “Alba Plena”
The Early Years
Camellias Australia records that by the year 1936 the Newman Nursery in Perth was the first nursery to sell and propagate a wide range of camellias. The owner Charles A. Newman propagated a number of camellias of which several are located at Araluen in the Park including one named after the nurseryman himself – Camellia japonica Charles A Newman.
All the cultivars known to date from those early plantings were available for sale prior to 1940, some being very old cultivars, so could have been available in Perth. They include: Lady Loch, Mariana, and Wrightii around Totterdell Cottage. The largest ones at the Chalet Healy are Mine-no-yuki, Incarnata /Lady Hume’s Blush, Alba Plena, and Hikarugeni. Some of the smaller ones may be the same age but have been crowded out by the more vigorous cultivars -Mariana, Apollo(Pauls).
Camellias From Afar
Many of our camellias that were not bred locally or in other parts of Australia were originally developed and released in California and their success here indicated an inherent ability to cope with a Mediterranean climate. The remaining originated in New Zealand, other parts of the USA, Japan, Europe and the UK.
A number of the camellia collection were bred locally by several breeders including Charles A Newman, Roy Campbell, Keith Abbott, D J Blythe, W Hebiton and many of these have now been included on the International Camellia Register. The collection also includes some unknowns, several local seedlings and a number of true wild species.
The Camellia Collection
During the 1990s and early 2000s Roy Campbell provided the Park with many camellias he had propagated. He also contributed by planting many of these camellias eg on Hydrangea Hill – HH-S and HH-T.
Donations from many people in those early years are identifiable in the Park by their larger established size and abundant mature flowering in season. There are several unnamed seedlings.
The Collection Grows
While some of the camellia variations in the park are descendants of the original variations from previous generations, many of the camellias are generously donated, and Araluen Botanic Park continues to receive private donations of camellias.
The funds raised at Araluen, aside from the maintenance of the park, also contribute to the furthering of our magnificent camellia collection. With the support from local nurseries, such as the John Coles Garden Centre, and the Pioneer Gardens, supported by Ms Jean Evans, our camellia gardens have grown over the past ten years.
To thank our dedicated supporters and those who have donated camellias to us in the past, we keep a record of all the camellias contributed to Araluen. There is a map available on request of Araluen Botanic Park that demonstrates the garden areas where the camellias are growing, so supporters can visit the plants they have donated.